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  1. Coming off such an uncompetitive 2021 Major League Baseball season, there’s no doubt that Rocco Baldelli and the Twins front office hoped to turn the page in 2022. For a matter of months it looked like they would be the darling of a bad division, but ultimately, injury and poor performance caught up to them. When looking back at the year that was, there was still plenty of things to be excited and thankful for. In no particular order, here’s five things that Twins fans can give thanks for as they cut into their turkey this week: Byron Buxton Got Paid Despite an offseason of uncertainty, and lockout uncertainty, the Minnesota Twins did what they had to and paid Byron Buxton. Sure, he’s injured a whole lot. Sure, you never know when he’s going to miss a boatload of games. There’s also the reality that when he’s on the field he’s among the best players in the entire sport. His 92 games in 2022 were the most he’s played in a season since 2017, and despite injuring his knee early on and having to play through what ultimately required surgery, he was an MVP candidate for much of the campaign. Buxton proved his worth again, and though all parties are hoping he can be on the field more, the front office absolutely did the right thing in getting a dynamic talent at a discount. Carlos Correa Was Fun Knowing that Minnesota had money to spend and replacing Andrelton Simmons at shortstop was a must, there was plenty of late spring excitement regarding Trevor Story. Then in the middle of the night Derek Falvey and Thad Levine struck a deal with Scott Boras client Carlos Correa. It was a three-year deal that was never going to matter beyond year one. Sure, it would be great if the parties came together for a long term pact this offseason, but even if they don’t, we’ll always remember the time that the Twins signed the best free agent available in a given season. Royce Lewis Appeared From the moment that Royce Lewis was the Minnesota Twins number one overall draft pick, there was hope he would become a superstar. He dealt with injuries and a pandemic that set him back while in the minors, but he returned from a torn ACL to light the farm system on fire. When Correa went down, he forced the organization’s hand. He was so good in fact, that the Twins needed to reposition him to keep him in the lineup. A second flukey ACL injury was certainly suboptimal, but we saw the talent that has been anticipated all along. He’ll be back at some point in 2023, and if the rehab goes smoothly, Minnesota certainly has a star in the making. Jose Miranda Cemented His Performance There hasn’t been a minor league season as good as Miranda had in 2021 for Minnesota in quite some time. His .973 OPS between Double and Triple-A was something to behold. Even with that, he didn’t crack the Opening Day roster. Once he was given an opportunity at the big leagues, Miranda was determined not to go back. His 116 OPS+ wasn’t otherworldly in 2022, but the slash line was even gaudier before a late season swoon. The rookie still managed to blast 15 homers in his first 125 Major League games, and he’ll be an integral part of the 2023 roster. Jhoan Duran Lights It Up, Literally You can go back as far as you’d like in Minnesota Twins history, and you won’t find a pitcher throwing triple-digits consistently. Not expected to make the Opening Day roster, Duran not only did that, but also emerged as the best arm in Minnesota’s pen and one of the best across baseball. He certainly could’ve been voted an All-Star as a rookie, and should expect to see more than a few of those games during his career. While the abnormal sprinkler is a pitch that drew plenty of discussion, his ridiculous fastball is what you show up for. He earned his own entrance music at Target Field, and is must-watch baseball every time he steps on the mound. What else would you include in your list? What are you most thankful for as a Twins fan over the past year?
  2. Many national outlets will rank Brooks Lee as Minnesota’s top prospect entering the 2023 season. However, Royce Lewis still sits in the top spot here at Twins Daily. The franchise’s long-term performance is tied to both players. Arguments can put both players in the top spot, so let’s examine what separates these two players from each other. Arguments for Brooks Lee Minnesota drafted Lee with the eighth overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, and the club had to be surprised that Lee was still on the board. Entering the draft, evaluators considered him the best collegiate bat, and he showcased that ability in his professional debut. Lee got his feet wet in four games with the FCL Twins before skipping Low-A and heading to Cedar Rapids. In 25 games with the Kernels, he hit .289/.395/.454 (.848) with four doubles and four home runs. But Cedar Rapids wouldn’t be his final stop, since the Twins' Double-A team, the Witchita Wind Surge, was heading for the playoffs. Lee was over three years younger than the average age of the competition at Double-A, but he was indeed able to hold his own. He helped Wichita make a run to the Texas League Championship before the team eventually fell short of the title. It was an impressive start to his professional career, and there is plenty of optimism surrounding his future. Lee is a switch-hitter with a tremendous ability to make consistent contact. In 115 collegiate games, he had more walks (64) than strikeouts (63). He has shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields, and he will likely improve his power numbers as he continues to mature. His dad is a college coach, so he has grown up around the game, which will help him continue to rise through the Twins system. The Twins drafted Lee as a shortstop, and there is some thought that he will need to move to third base when he adds more muscle to his frame. If Lee isn't going to be a shortstop at the big-league level, that's why some rank Lewis as a higher prospect. Arguments for Royce Lewis The Twins took Lewis with the number one overall pick back in 2017. A lot of pressure comes with being selected 1-1, but Lewis continues to show promise. The pandemic and a torn ACL meant he didn’t play in a competitive game for over two years. He returned from injury in 2022 and made a strong first impression at the Triple-A level. In 34 games, he hit .300/.405/.534 (.940) with 12 doubles, a triple, and five home runs. Some may have thought his knee surgery would hamper his speed, but he was successful in 12-of-14 stolen base attempts. It certainly looked like Lewis was ready for the big-league level. When a pitch hit Carlos Correa, it looked like the Twins may need to turn shortstop over to Lewis for multiple months. Instead, Correa didn’t suffer any broken bones, and Lewis made a brief but impactful debut. In 12 games, he went 12-for-40 (.300 BA) with four doubles and two home runs. Unfortunately, he crashed into the center field wall, tearing his ACL for the second consecutive season. Lewis will not be ready to start the season, which has the Twins searching for other shortstop options. His defense has significantly improved since joining the Twins organization, with some evaluators thinking he can stick at shortstop in the big leagues. There is no way to know how he will respond to a second ACL surgery, but he lost little speed from the first surgery. Minnesota will test the free agent waters this winter for one of the top shortstops, but the front office may also be comfortable with Lewis being the shortstop of the future. Currently, I have Lee ranked higher than Lewis because of his age and potentially elite bat. Who do you think is Minnesota’s top prospect? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  3. Earlier this offseason I touched on a belief that the Minnesota Twins would open 2023 with Jose Iglesias as their starting shortstop. Even had I not been told from a front office source that “someone like Jose Iglesias” would be their eventual target, the fit just makes too much sense. Carlos Correa signed a $35.1 million deal with the Twins, giving him the largest average annual value for a Major League Baseball infielder. He’s going to get paid a boatload on a long-term deal this winter, and while the Twins should be in the running, their offer almost certainly will not be the largest. If they aren’t going to pay on the devil they know, then paying on the devil they don’t such as Trea Turner or Dansby Swanson makes even less sense. Entering the stopgap category, knowing that Royce Lewis will be back midseason, Austin Martin has shown well in the Arizona Fall League, and Brooks Lee was their first-round pick this past year, the options are whittled down even further. In this vein, the Twins should be expected to connect with a veteran who can do a bit of everything while not commanding a substantial price tag. Again, enter Jose Iglesias. After splitting time with the Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox a season ago, Iglesias signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Colorado Rockies for 2022. He will be 33 years old in 2023 and has played 1,096 games across his Major League career. Iglesias has familiarity with the AL Central division having spent a career-most five seasons with the Detroit Tigers, and he’s played 28 games at Target Field. Unlike Andrelton Simmons a year ago, Iglesias doesn’t represent a one-sided player for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Simmons was brought in to shore up the left side of an infield defense that was poor. Iglesias owns a decent .701 career OPS and his .279 batting average reflects an ability to get himself on base. He’s a far cry from the .956 OPS posted during the 2020 season, but there’s offensive ability here where Simmons had none. Iglesias is not an on-base stalwart without generating base hits, however. He owns just a .319 career OBP and his 502/173 K/BB suggests that while he may strike out a bit less, he’s certainly not choosy enough to draw free passes either. If there’s a redeeming quality to his game, it’s in the well-roundedness while also presenting cost certainty. Defensively, FanGraphs defensive runs saved (DRS) don’t view Iglesias particularly well. Last season he posted an abhorrent -22 mark in just shy of 1,000 innings. This season, in equivalent sample size, Iglesias tallied -4 DRS. Maybe Colorado’s shifting and positioning was more beneficial than that of the Angels or Red Sox, but it’s certainly a step forward year-over-year. By Statcast’s outs above average (OAA) metric, Iglesias has never been anything worse than average and his 14 OAA career high came as recently as 2019 with the Cincinnati Reds. Realistically, Iglesias should give Minnesota an opportunity to include a trusted veteran that isn’t a black hole in either facet of the game, while also not blocking Lewis from his eventual return. Iglesias can also play the hot corner and second base down the stretch, and his years of experience could benefit a Twins team looking for a silent leader that routinely does their job. It’d be hard to get excited about Iglesias as the alternative to Correa, but given what the worst-case scenario could be, this is far from it.
  4. Corey Seager and Scott Boras secured a massive 10-year, $330 million contract with the Rangers just before the lockout started in 2021. Few were surprised, as Seager was just 27 years old and coming off two seasons where he hit .306/.381/.545 in 147 games for the Dodgers. Seager was expected to earn a boatload, and he did. Boras, after negotiating Carlos Correa’s unique three-year, two opt-outs deal with the Twins, is seeking another huge payday. Correa is surely looking for a very similar contract to what Seager inked with Texas. Correa is a better defender, more durable and through his age-27 season, much more valuable than Seager. Seager’s bat is the draw but even there, Correa stands toe-to-toe. Seager posted a 131 OPS+ through his age-27 season, while Correa sits at 129. Defensively, Seager has posted negative-8 Defense Runs Saved at short, while Correa has saved a positive-70. Add in Correa’s incredible postseason pedigree and he’s worth every penny (and probably more) of the $330 million Seager received. The largest contract the Twins have ever handed out was to their homegrown future Hall-of-Famer Joe Mauer. Mauer’s eight-year, $184 million extension is worth 56% of what Seager signed for. The Twins have never signed a free agent for even $100 million and their largest spree (Josh Donaldson ) resulted in a salary dump halfway through the deal. The Twins are likely to make Correa a considerable offer but it’s almost certain to fall well short of the final price. Is there a world where you see the Twins handing out a $300 million contract? Correa’s return feels futile. Enter a much more affordable and viable happy medium: Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts, 30, is the oldest of the four premier shortstops on the market. Because of his age and defensive questions, Bogaerts is unlikely to receive a contract on the level of Seager and Correa. The Twins may not be willing to splurge for $330 million, but would they do $100 million less? Among the four top shortstops on the market, Bogaerts has been the best hitter over the last five seasons. He leads Correa, Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson in on-base percentage (.373), slugging percentage (.508), home runs (105) and RBI (400). Adjusting for league and ballpark, Bogaerts’ 133 OPS+ is the best of the bunch. Bogaerts has posted an OPS at 28% or better than the league average for five straight years while appearing in 641 of 708 games (90%). Bogaerts hits for a high average, doesn’t really strike out and has hit 20 or more homers in three of the last five seasons. He's been the face of the Red Sox, already logging over 1,000 games in a Boston uniform. So why won’t he get as big of a payday as Correa? Well, Bogaerts is now into his 30s and isn’t hitting for as much power as he once did. Bogaerts’ slugging percentage has slowly declined since its high-mark in 2019 (.555), with 2022 marking his lowest slug and barrel rate since 2017. Bogaerts hit only 15 homers in 150 games while ranking in just the 35th percentile in average exit velocity. Defensively, Bogaerts has the lowest dWAR of the four since 2018 (1.6). While he saved a career high four runs in 2022, Bogaerts has been a shaky defensive shortstop in his career. Did he turn a corner in 2022? Or was it a true outlier on an otherwise shoddy track record with a weaker-than-average arm? Those questions shouldn’t concern the Twins as much as other clubs. Bogaerts is a perfect segue to Royce Lewis or Brooks Lee , the Twins’ hopeful shortstop(s) of the future. Bogaerts could man short for a year or two before moving to second or third base. Teams shouldn’t sign Bogaerts expecting him to play short for the next decade and in the Twins’ case, that’s OK. Even in a down power year, Bogaerts posted 5.7 b-Wins Above Replacement, tied for seventh most in the American League. Bogaerts hit .307/.377/.456 in arguably the best division in baseball. The 1-2 punch of Luis Arraez and Bogaerts would be a major headache for pitchers at the top of a lineup, with the thump of Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco and José Miranda lurking. It’s difficult to pinpoint just how much Bogaerts will receive in free agency and whether his incumbent Red Sox will work hard to keep him. Boston just signed Trevor Story to a $140 million contract, presumably expecting him to play short upon Bogaerts’ departure. Boston was unable to lock Bogaerts up before the season and now it feels more real than ever that this long-standing relationship is coming to an end. The most interesting (and encouraging) aspect of this free agent class is the questionable involvement of the top markets. The Yankees clearly believe top prospect Anthony Volpe is close, while the Dodgers could just re-sign Turner. The Mets have Francisco Lindor on a $341 million deal and the Red Sox may move Story back to his position. The Cubs, Phillies, Braves, and Cardinals are among the likeliest suitors for the top four. A decent contract comp for Bogaerts could be Marcus Semien, who signed a 7-year, $175 million deal with the Texas Rangers last winter. The Twins have clean books and a desire to avoid long contracts, so could they woo Bogaerts with a five-year, $175 million deal ($35 million per year)? It feels more viable than Correa, at least. Bogaerts, like Correa, is represented by Boras. It should be fascinating to see how this winter plays out for both of them, with the Twins a viable suitor for each. What do you think? Is Bogaerts a happy medium for the Twins, in both price and position projection? Comment below!
  5. This offseason Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are faced with a decision as to how much money they will offer Carlos Correa to remain in a Twins uniform. It probably won’t be the most money he gets offered, and it’s ultimately unlikely that he returns to Minnesota. Even if he does though, he’d join Jorge Polanco and Pedro Florimon as the only shortstops to start consecutive Opening Day games since Cristian Guzman in 2004. Looking back at the list for Minnesota, it’s been a revolving door at one of baseball’s most important positions. Prior to Correa, it was Andrelton Simmons, Polanco, Eduardo Escobar, Danny Santana, Florimon, Jamey Carroll, Alexi Casilla, J.J. Hardy, Nick Punto, Adam Everett, Jason Bartlett, and Juan Castro. It’s a group that features zero superstars, and even fewer regular talents. Over the past two decades, Terry Ryan, Bill Smith, and Derek Falvey have all but punted on continuity for one of the most important positions on the diamond. Signing Correa to a long-term deal is the only way to snuff this scenario out. The Twins are faced with an interesting situation this offseason. Correa’s $35.1 million deal for 2022 was always looked at like a one-year agreement. Despite being a three-year contract, the player options following each of the first two years allowed the former Houston Astros superstar an opportunity to get paid. Yes, the Twins could’ve done that during the season, or immediately after, but his best bet was always to consult the open market. Yes, Royce Lewis looked the part of an eventual superstar, but we’re dealing with a very small sample size. Austin Martin doesn’t appear to be a long-term answer at shortstop, and while Brooks Lee might be, he certainly isn’t ready to take over the position on Opening Day in 2023. Again, we revert back to Correa as the lone answer for continuity going forward. As good teams go, so do their superstars. The Twins are again in a position to figure out where they turn. Another star starting pitching option is probably necessary, and if Correa isn’t the answer at shortstop, then someone else has to be. They shored up the centerfield position with Byron Buxton, even if he’s only available for a portion of the season. For the Minnesota fan, you have to be hoping an emergence of the next Guzman happens sooner rather than later. To be fair, Guzman was not a good player. He posted an 80 OPS+, well below league average offensively. He held down the position until someone else was available, however, and was a mainstay during a period in which baseball was evaluated differently. Now knowing how integral the up-the-middle positions are, it’s time for Falvey and Levine to get the spot right. If they aren’t going to pay Correa, there better be a rock-solid belief in one of the internal option's ability to be a multi-year starter into the foreseeable future.
  6. There were rumors and reports prior to the 2022 MLB season that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine may entertain Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletics in hopes of dealing for Frankie Montas. The popular “Where’s Frankie” monkey reared its head all over Twitter. One avenue toward making that happen seemed to be acquiring Elvis Andrus’s $14.25 million deal. As you all know, it never happened. Eventually, the Athletics released Andrus after the 33-year-old posted a .673 OPS across 106 games. That equated to just a 96 OPS+ in a year in which Major League Baseball saw offense down as a whole, but the terrible Athletics had no use for an aging veteran posting numbers below the league average. When Tim Anderson was injured, the Chicago White Sox signed Andrus and made him their starting shortstop. In 43 games, Andrus posted a .271/.309/.464 slash line with 17 extra-base hits including nine home runs. He’s a free agent coming off an eight-year, $120 million deal signed by the Texas Rangers, and now there’s the question as to whether he can (or should) be a stopgap option with any remaining upside for a team like the Twins. Although the Twins' best bet for production is a new contract with Carlos Correa, they’ll likely explore all options. Andrus could be an answer until Royce Lewis returns midseason, and he won’t block the likes of Austin Martin or Brooks Lee. In his time with the White Sox, Andrus was largely the same player. His 30/9 K/BB was still far too out of whack when it comes to getting on base, and the .464 slugging was hardly an overwhelming tradeoff. Despite being a 14-year veteran, Andrus has never hit more than 20 homers in a season, and his 17 this year seems relatively uncharacteristic. After launching just eight homers in more than 100 games with the Athletics, Andrus somehow blasted another nine dingers with Chicago in just 43 contests. To categorize Andrus’ season as positive offensively, you have to look at his numbers with the White Sox in a vacuum. They aren’t in line with his career norms from a power perspective, and you’d be kidding yourself to suggest a 34-year-old is now entering his prime having reinvented himself. The last time Andrus posted a positive Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) was 2018, but his Outs Above Average (OAA) do equate to him being above average. Realistically, the offensive production shouldn’t be expected to continue, and while he can be average or slightly above defensively, that’s where the payday needs to derive from. When it comes to aging veteran stopgap options for the Twins, Andrus will be among them. They simply can’t get drawn into what he should ask for from his time with the White Sox, and must instead pay for what remains likely based on the workload as a whole.
  7. Few players can handle the rigors of shortstop at the big-league level. There is pressure to perform offensively and defensively while being a leader on the field. It is arguably baseball’s most important position, and that’s why many young players are considered shortstops during their amateur careers. The Twins have struggled to cultivate shortstops throughout the franchise’s history, but one of these players has a chance to stop that trend. Triple-A: Royce Lewis (ETA: 2022) Lewis returned from ACL surgery in 2022, and Minnesota was aggressive with Lewis to start the season by sending him to Triple-A. Lewis looked like he hadn’t lost a step as he hit .313/.405/.534 (.940) with 18 extra-base hits in 34 games. His first taste of the big leagues went well too. In 12 games, he posted an .867 OPS before running into the outfield wall and undergoing a second ACL surgery. Lewis will be back in 2023, and the Twins can sign a placeholder shortstop until he is ready to return. Double-A: Brooks Lee (ETA: 2024) Austin Martin (ETA: 2023) Lee and Martin will be a fascinating duo to watch in the years ahead. Both were top-10 picks and considered the best college bats in their draft class. Martin struggled through most of 2022 (.685 OPS) before having a redeeming September. His performance has improved in the Arizona Fall League by going 18-for-38 (.474 BA) with three extra-base hits and 11 runs. He was recently named the league's Hitter of the Week. Martin hopes to follow in Matt Wallner’s footsteps from last year’s AFL season. The Twins should have Martin start at Triple-A next season. The Twins drafted Lee in June, and he quickly put himself on the prospect map. He played games at three different levels and used his college experience to post a .839 OPS. Lee saw his stock already rising in his professional debut. Many top prospect lists will consider him the organization’s best prospect, and he has a chance to be a consensus top-40 prospect entering 2023. Lee likely starts next year at Double-A, but Lee and Martin have a chance to debut next season. High-A: Wander Javier (ETA: 2024) Minnesota signed Javier back in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic, so his name has been on Twins prospect lists for most of the last decade. Some projected him to be a five-tool talent during his early minor league career, but he’s never put it all together. As a 24-year-old, he played most of 2022 at High-A, but he saw late-season action at Triple-A when there was a shortstop need. Over the last two seasons, he has failed to compile an OPS over .700, and his time might be running out in the Twins organization. If he stays with the Twins, he will start the year at Double-A. Low-A: Noah Miller (ETA: 2025), Keoni Cavaco (ETA: 2025) The Twins took Miller with the 36th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, and the 2022 season marked his full-season debut. As a 19-year-old, he was over two years younger than the average age of the competition in the FSL. He hit .212/.348/.279 (.627) with 18 extra-base hits and 110 strikeouts in 108 games. There were positive signs during the season, as he posted a .964 OPS during May. It seems likely for him to start next season at Low-A while continuing to refine his swing. Minnesota’s current front office took Cavaco with the 13th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. As that draft approached, he was a late riser, but the Twins projected he had the tools to succeed. Last season, he hit .231/.275/.397 (.672) with 34 extra-base hits in 99 games. It was his second straight season at Fort Myers, and he was slightly younger than the competition. With Miller in the same line-up, Cavaco played all of his defensive innings at third base. He likely heads to Cedar Rapids in 2023 to see if he can live up to his first-round pedigree. The names above are just some of the organization’s shortstop options. In rookie ball, other names like Danny De Andrade, Yilber Herrera, and Bryan Acuna will garner more attention as they get deeper into their careers. Baseball’s best teams usually have players with a shortstop background at multiple positions on the field. Minnesota hopes the club’s shortstop of the future is in the group mentioned above. Which prospect plays the most career games at shortstop with the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. Minnesota’s injury woes forced the team to utilize more rookies than the club had planned. Some rookies were impressive in their debuts, while others will need more time to showcase their future value. Frankly, some of these guys debuted because there were so many injuries, not necessarily because they were ready or part of future planning. Overall, there are some bright futures for the names described below. Jose Miranda 2022 Stats (125 G): .268/.325/.426 (.751), 116 OPS+, 25 2B, 15 HR Miranda was one of Minnesota’s highest-rated prospects entering the season because of a massive 2021 campaign. His big-league career started slowly when he posted a .512 OPS through his first 22 games. Things finally clicked for him at the beginning of June. He has an .807 OPS over his last 99 games, which is well above the league average this season. Miranda’s debut makes it easy to project him being a middle-of-the-order bat for multiple seasons. MLB Debut (May 2): 0-for-4 Royce Lewis 2022 Stats (12 G): .300/.317/.550 (.867), 144 OPS+, 4 2B, 2 HR Everything was going great. Lewis returned from his torn ACL that cost him the 2021 season. He posted a .940 OPS at Triple-A after not appearing in a competitive game since the 2019 Arizona Fall League. After a pitch hit Carlos Correa, it looked like Lewis might get an extended look at the big-league level. Instead, Correa returned, and the Twins started using Lewis around the diamond including in the outfield. In his first game back to the big leagues, he smashed into the wall and tore his ACL for a second time. It was a tragic end to a tremendous debut. MLB Debut (May 6): 1-for-4 Mark Contreras 2022 Stats (28 G): .121/.148/.293 (.441), 23 OPS+, 1 2B, 3 HR Contreras was never considered one of the team’s top-rated prospects, but the Twins needed outfield depth this season. He has struggled offensively in limited big-league action, including a 20-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Next season, he will be 28 years old, and the outfielder may have limited upside left to provide to the club beyond depth. There is a chance the team designated him for assignment as part of the season’s annual 40-man roster clean-up. MLB Debut (May 11): 0-for-2, RBI, R Jermaine Palacios 2022 Stats (30 G): .143/.184/.229 (.413), 19 OPS+, 0 2B, 2 HR Palacios’ calling card is his strong defense, which is why the Twins brought him back to the organization on a minor-league contract in 2021 and again in 2022. He was needed at the big-league level when Correa went on the COVID restricted list and Lewis headed to the IL. Palacios had an .803 OPS at Triple-A in 102 games, so his bat isn’t as bad as his big-league performance might indicate. If Correa opts out, the Twins may need Palacios as infield depth for the 2023 season. MLB Debut (May 31): 0-for-3, BB, R, K Caleb Hamilton 2022 Stats (22 G): .056/.227/.222 (.449), 31 OPS+, 1 HR Hamilton has hung around on the Twins roster much of the second half, but he has been given limited playing time. He seemed to put things together at Triple-A to start the 2022 campaign. In 62 games, he hit .233/.367/.442 (.808) with ten doubles and 11 home runs. Hamilton also seemed to be controlling the strike zone better with a 67-to-43 strikeout to walk ratio. It’s hard to know if that performance was legitimate with how little playing time he has received for the Twins. Will the Twins trust Hamilton in a backup role next season, or will the club look for a veteran? MLB Debut (July 17): 0-for-1 Matt Wallner 2022 Stats (18 G): .228/.323/.386 (.709), 105 OPS+, 3 2B, 2 HR Wallner was the easy choice for the TD Minor League Hitter of the Year, and he has shown some of his power potential since being called up. Unfortunately, the club waited a confusing amount of time to call him up as the team’s division lead slipped away. Wallner may have surpassed Minnesota’s other young outfielders with his performance this season, especially if he can stay healthy in the future. He can join Miranda in the middle of the Twins line-up over the majority of the next decade. MLB Debut (September 17): 1-for-3, HR, R, RBI, K Which rookie performance stands out to you? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  9. In a parallel dimension of the multiverse – where there was no pandemic-ruined season, no ACL tear suffered on a freak offseason incident, no ACL re-tear suffered on an outfield wall collision – Royce Lewis would already be an established MLB player. He finished 2019 in Double-A before all that went down. He's a big-league talent, as we saw in a limited glimpse this year. Alas, just as he was getting going, calamity struck and Lewis had another season wiped out. He never pouted about it. And here as this lost season winds down, it's been noticeable to me how present he's been in the dugout. Whenever the camera flashes down in that direction during a game, you seem to see Lewis – with his whole 12 games of major-league experience – leaning over the railing, smiling, engaged in a conversation with some veteran teammate he's barely shared the field with. Somehow it's like he's been there for years. He's a natural. But as we discussed, Lewis hasn't been there for years. He's been sidetracked and derailed at every turn. So he can relate to anyone trying to savor that moment of triumphant accomplishment. The trials he's gone through give him a unique empathy and relatability to so many players throughout this organization, which is a strength he shares with the manager. I tend to think Lewis is gaining a lot of value from spending so much time around the big-leaguers and soaking in the experience. It will help prepare him for a role he's set to inherit that seems equally unfilled as starting shortstop: the more energetic and active clubhouse leader to counterbalance Byron Buxton's quiet confidence. A genuinely humble former first overall pick who's gained the perspective of going through hell injury-wise, and seems equally comfortable talking to an MVP-caliber veteran or a fringy minor-leaguer. That's Royce Lewis. He can become the connective glue of a clubhouse that figures to soon begin transitioning from a veteran core featuring the likes of Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler to an emerging young wave headlined by Lewis as well as fellow former first-rounders Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Brooks Lee, and Austin Martin. The timing of his knee rehab, which will carry over into the 2023 season, makes things a bit challenging, but the Twins would be silly not to make Lewis a central part of their plan. With a central locker location in the clubhouse. [EDITOR'S NOTE; This story was updated to remove a mistaken reference to Royce Lewis and Caleb Hamilton embracing in the dugout. Turns out they just look similar from behind.]
  10. It was a vastly different experience going to that little ballpark compared to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, but watching unknown minor leaguers play on those fields always filled my mind with delusions of grandeur to be like them one day—a professional baseball player chasing their dream to become a Major Leaguer. That is the main reason I do a little bit different of a list heading into a new season than all those “Top Prospects” lists you see here at Twins Daily, on MLB.com, or at other outlets like FanGraphs and Baseball America. There are so many of them these days I don’t think this amateur scout can tell you anything you haven’t already heard. Instead, I want to recognize all those guys who have worked hard to get where they are, whether they’re a top prospect or not, and whom you might see make their MLB debut at Target Field during the upcoming season—those ready to make their childhood dreams like mine come true. Across all of Major League Baseball during the 2021 season, 265 players made their Major League debut, with eight members of the Minnesota Twins organization contributing to that number. They included pitchers Charlie Barnes, Griffin Jax, Jovani Moran, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan, as well as position players Gilberto Celestino, Nick Gordon, Trevor Larnach, and Ben Rortvedt. All four of those hitters and pitchers Jax and Ober were profiled in this same column before the start of the 2021 season, and you’ll see some of the same names in this list below for the 2022 calendar year that didn’t quite make the jump. So, who are the prospects that could make their Major League debut and become the next Minnesota Twins during the 2022 season? ON THE 40-MAN ROSTER: The Twins enter the 2022 season with a 40-man MLB roster that does not have much room for position players yet to make their MLB debut. That list is just two players, but any fan should be excited about the names that are included in this section. There is, however, much more room for pitchers in both the starting rotation and the bullpen, and the top end talent is almost all at the top of their system to start the 2022 season. Royce Lewis (22 years old on opening day), IF/OF – Twins Daily’s #2 Prospect (Lewis made his MLB debut on 5/6, playing SS against the Oakland Athletics and batting 7th. He finished 1-for-4, picking up a single in the 8th inning of a 2-1 win) It’s hard to gauge where Royce Lewis is at in his development, given he’s missed two entire years’ worth of time due to Covid and tearing his ACL. But when we last saw him, he was crushing in the Arizona Fall League to the point he took home the league’s MVP award. He has continued to work on his swing while off the field, and I expect big things during the 2022 season when he finds his footing. The biggest question continues to be what position he will play when he reaches the majors. I have been critical of his shortstop play in the past, but there is no doubt he can be an elite defender in the outfield. He excelled at third base in the AFL as well if that does not work out. That is to say, if he’s hitting well and anyone in the outfield or middle infield on the Major League roster goes out for an extended period, it would not surprise me at all if Lewis is the name that gets called to fill in if he is hitting. Plus, he looked good at short for the Saints on Tuesday if you were wondering: Jordan Balazovic (23), RHP – TD’s #4 Prospect Balazovic is ticketed for the starting rotation with the St. Paul Saints in 2022, though he will start the season on the Injured List with a left knee strain. While he does not necessarily get the accolades around his pure “stuff” that some of the other guys on this list do, he has been one to get better results as he’s climbed the ladder. That can be attributed some to having better command, but he has also shown steady improvement with his offerings year over year, showcased by his fastball averaging around 96 MPH with Wichita last season. One thing going against him is innings, as his 97 in 2021 were a career high after missing the first two months with a back injury. There is little doubt when it comes to Balazovic that he will break through as a starting pitcher and stay there when he reaches the majors, compared to others further down this list. Jose Miranda (23), 3B – TD’s #3 Prospect (Miranda made his MLB debut on 5/2, playing third base and batting sixth against the Baltimore Orioles. He was 0-for-4 in a 2-1 Twins win) The thing with Miranda was never about talent, as the Twins had always seen a good bat in the infielder from Puerto Rico. However, before the 2021 season that bat had never quite lived up to expectations, producing just one season with an OPS above .750 and that was all the way back in rookie ball. But coaches continued to encourage him to alter his approach and wait for pitches he could do damage with, instead of swinging first and asking questions later. He took it to heart and ran with it for the 2021 season, enroute to one of the most impressive Minor League seasons you have ever seen from a Twins prospect. He led all of the minors in total bases, clubbing 32 doubles and 30 home runs in 127 games between Wichita and St. Paul. He finished with a .344/.401/.572 slash line and rocketed up prospect lists by the end of the year. He’s basically only a corner infielder and won’t win any Gold Glove awards with his defense, but if he’s even close to repeating those hitting numbers in 2022 at triple-A, his bat will force the issue sooner rather than later. Jhoan Duran (24), RHP – TD’s #7 Prospect (Duran made his MLB debut on opening day, pithing two innings against the Seattle Mariners. He allowed two hits, walked one, and struck out four in a scoreless outing) Whether they’ve been trying or not, since I’ve been a fan of the Twins they have always had a velocity problem. Duran is one of the pitchers who can continue to change that, whether that comes as a starter or a reliever. He has size, is capable of hitting 100+ MPH with his fastball, and throws a weird sinker he can play off that velocity to get swings and misses. Like many young hurlers, consistency is key and despite his stuff he has had trouble maintaining that start-to-start in the past. When he is on Duran is fully capable of dominating an outing, but has thrown only 16 innings in live games since the end of the 2019 season. If you were asking me before the start of Spring Training, I would have fully expected Duran to begin the season in the St. Paul Saints rotation. Instead, he has been absolutely dominant in his outings thus far and will come North with the Twins to start the year! Josh Winder (25), RHP – TD’s #9 Prospect (Winder made his MLB debut on 4/12, pitching one inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He allowed one run on two walks and struck out one. He made his first MLB start on 5/1, and picked up the win with 6 innings of shutout baseball. He allowed just two hits, walked one, and struck out seven against the Tampa Bay Rays) A casual fan may not recognize Winder’s name as much as others, but I recommend paying a lot more attention to him this season. I have seen evidence from the Twins over the past two years that they may think he is the best of the starting pitching bunch they have approaching the majors. Plus, as of writing this he is still on the bubble to come North to Minneapolis instead of St. Paul to start the 2022 season. While he only threw 72 innings last year, they were so good that he was the Twins representative to play in the Futures Game during All Star Weekend. He was promoted to triple-A immediately after that and made four starts for the Saints before being shut down for the rest of the season with a shoulder impingement. He was solid in his outings this spring, starting three games (meaning he was facing mostly MLB players) and allowing just two runs on seven hits and two walks, while striking out nine in eight total innings pitched. While there is no reason for the Twins to put him in the bullpen permanently, it would not shock me to see him as part of a 16-man pitching staff to start the season in a piggy-backing role. I can even envision him performing better than whomever he follows to the point he takes over when rosters get cut down from 28 players. Cole Sands (24), RHP – TD’s #13 Prospect (Sands made his MLB debut on 5/1, pitching two innings of relief against the Tampa Bay Rays. He allowed two earned runs on three hits, and struck out two.) Making his professional debut during the 2019 season, Sands was a standout performer and as a result pitched at three levels, reaching double-A for one start to end the year. He finished the season with a 2.68 ERA and struck out 108 hitters over 97 1/3 innings. He followed that up in 2021 by dominating with Wichita to the tune of a 2.46 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 80 1/3 innings. He missed some time due to an injury, but will be in the Saints rotation to start the 2022 season. His path reminds me a bit of one Bailey Ober and if the Twins can get more of that, they would be ecstatic. Since he is on the 40-man roster, you never know—if he is lined up to pitch on the right day, an injury on the Twins could spur a cab ride across the river to Target Field at any point. Drew Strotman (25), RHP The second half of the trade package the Twins received from the Tampa Bay Rays for Nelson Cruz, Strotman was thought by some evaluators to be the better prospect in the deal at the time. I do not think that is the case now, considering Joe Ryan is slated to pitch opening day for the Twins while Strotman fell off a bit after coming over, but it should give you an idea of how well the Twins did in that trade to get both of those guys. He throws in the mid-90s with a good cutter that catches the attention of scouts, but command has been a bit of an issue since having Tommy John Surgery back in 2018. He is being fully transitioned to the bullpen in 2022 and could turn into another high-octane option there as the season progresses. Ronny Henriquez (21), RHP – TD’s #16 Prospect (Henriquez made his MLB debut on September 19th against the Cleveland Guardians, pitching four innings of long-relief. He allowed three runs on four hits while walking two and striking out two.) With the flurry of trade activity that happened after the lockout ended, the Twins ended up with an intriguing right-hander from the Texas Rangers in sending off Mitch Garver. You will hear a lot about his size or lack thereof, but there is a lightning arm attached to his right shoulder that hits the mid-90s with ease. He has consistently piled up strikeouts and limited baserunners, but the long ball has been a bugaboo as he gave up nearly two per nine innings pitched in double-A last season. He has primarily started games in his pro career thus far and should continue to do so with the Twins, but his profile sounds a lot like a future reliever when it is all said and done. Chris Vallimont (25), RHP The moniker of the “Vallimonster” is apt for the right-hander, as he can perform quite the Jekyll and Hyde routine whenever he is on the mound. He paired a 13.0/9IP strikeout rate with a 5.8/9IP walk rate during the 2021 season and if you go game to game, you will see that up and down nature in his stat lines as well. A switch to the bullpen to maximize his pure stuff in shorter stints is something to watch for during the season if that pattern continues. TOP PROSPECTS: Consider this entry more of a “not-yet-on-the-40-man-roster” section heading into this season since a lot of the top prospects have already appeared above, but what remains below still holds the theme that these guys are close to Major League ready. All three of them are on the double-A roster of the Wichita Wind Surge to start the year, with a few of them sure to move up quickly when the 40-man depth above is called upon by the Twins. Austin Martin (23), IF/OF – TD’s #1 Prospect The top prospect on our board, it is slightly odd that Martin returns to double-A to start the season after spending all of the 2021 season there, but he does have some things to work on. Those being his defense at shortstop (or elsewhere), and tapping into some power that may have been hindered by a wrist injury throughout last year. That said, he posted a .414 on-base percentage in 93 games that led all of double-A and you would be hard-pressed to find a more prototypical leadoff hitter anywhere in the minors. As soon as a spot opens up in St. Paul I expect Martin to be promoted, but the depth the Twins have when it comes to position players pushes a debut timeline out to later in the summer. He is the type of talent who can force that issue sooner rather than later, however. Simeon Woods Richardson (21), RHP – TD’s #8 Prospect (Woods Richardson made his debut on 10/2 on the road against the Detroit Tigers. He went 5 innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits, walked two, and struck out three in a 5-2 loss.) Plenty of people seem to be down on SWR going into the 2022 season, but I am not one of them. You cannot blame him for the 2020 season being canceled or for competing in the Olympics (though he didn’t pitch at all) in the middle of the 2021 campaign. There was absolutely some rust to shake off by the time he put on a Wind Surge uniform, but he did flash what makes him highly regarded as well: A key point to consider with him in comparison to every other player on this list is his age. Even after missing a full season, he was only 20 years old and pitching in double-A at the beginning of last year. Especially for the Twins, this is a rare occurrence. Jose Berrios, for example, had turned 21 a couple of months before he reached double-A and was the quickest moving pitcher the Twins had produced in a long time. If he can reign back in his control, Berrios is also a great comp for the type of ceiling we are talking about for Woods Richardson, who has dwarfed any strikeout rates the former Twins pitcher ever produced in the minors. Matt Canterino (23), RHP – TD’s #6 Prospect Canterino finds himself in double-A to start the 2022 season despite pitching only 23 total innings last year with Cedar Rapids. That was due to elbow troubles, which is a legitimate concern moving forward given his history coming out of Rice University and herky-jerky mechanics, but you cannot deny the numbers. He struck out over half the hitters he faced while walking only four in his time on the mound, resulting in a 0.78 ERA and 0.61 WHIP. His stuff is electric, with a fastball that can reach the high 90’s and a slider and changeup that are both legitimate swing-and-miss offerings as well. Due to those health concerns, there are many evaluators who see the bullpen in his future, but if you are looking for a pitcher that can make some serious noise during the 2022 campaign, Canterino is your guy. MINOR LEAGUE DEPTH: While these players may not necessarily be top prospects, they are at or near the top of the system and have performed well to get themselves there. It could be a situation where a pitcher is lined up to pitch on the right day the Twins need a spot-start across the river at Target Field, or an injury leads to needing a specific position covered and there is no other ready replacement available. Maybe something new has clicked and they have improved their stock from internal evaluators. No matter how it happens, players like these are always needed at some point during the MLB season. Ryan Mason (26), RHP Mason has been a standout performer in the bullpens of Twins affiliates since being taken in the 13th round of the 2016 draft. Missing the 2020 season hurt guys like him more than most, but he came back in 2021 to post stellar numbers and finished the final two months of the season in St. Paul. While there, he posted a career-high strikeout rate of 12.1/9IP, and guys like him are always among my favorites to root for. Yennier Cano (27), RHP (Even though he didn't throw a pitch as the game was suspended, Yennier Cano was credited with his MLB debut on 5/11 against the Houston Astros. When he did take the mound the next day, he delivered two perfect innings before running into some trouble in his third. In total, he allowed three runs on three hits, and struck out two.) A sneaky international signing all the way back in 2019, Cano finally got to showcase his talents for a full season during the 2021 campaign, spending the bulk of it in St. Paul. He boasts a mid-90s fastball and deep repertoire, as well as an intimidating mound presence that reminds me a lot of Aroldis Chapman (both are around 6’4” and 230 lbs). He will need to reign in the walks that spiked once he reached triple-A, but certainly looks the part of a bullpen horse. Mark Contreras (27), OF (Contreras made his MLB debut on 5/12, when the suspended game from the day before resumed he took over for Byron Buxton, playing left field. He finished 0-for-2, but scored a run and drove in one with a sac fly in the 11-3 loss to the Houston Astros.) Contreras made his mark in the Twins organization with his defense, taking home a MiLB Gold Glove award after the 2019 season, but something clicked for him in the batter’s box in 2021. Spending the bulk of the year with St. Paul, the lefty nearly matched his career home run total to that point (23) with 20 on the year, 18 of them coming in his 95 games at triple-A. I would not expect Contreras to get the call as a long-term starter in the majors, but you can do a lot worse with a fourth outfielder type as he can play all the outfield positions well, including center in a pinch. Jermaine Palacios (25), IF (Palacios made his MLB debut on 5/31, playing SS in both games of a doubleheader. He picked up his first run scored, and hit, by finishing the day 1-for6 with a BB) Palacios is a bit buried on an organizational depth chart with the names Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis, and Austin Martin in the fold, but what he has above the other two prospects is that he is definitely a shortstop. That fact plays against him a little for the 2022 season as those two prospects above him need the work, but he is in triple-A where he will be moved around the infield depending on the day. He also showed some pop with 19 home runs for Wichita last year, and was also spectacular in the Venezuelan Winter League during the offseason, posting a .987 OPS in 42 games. DARK HORSES: There always seems to be a player or two who comes out of nowhere to make a surprise debut during the season. They might be a known name but are not that far up the ladder at the season’s outset, returning from an injury so they have been forgotten some, or have a unique skill set or background that is intriguing and could pay big dividends if something else falls into place. These are my shots in the dark at guys that could be in 2022. Jordan Gore (27), RHP The former shortstop begins the season as a high-leverage option out of the St. Paul Saints bullpen. He split time between Cedar Rapids and Wichita during the 2021 season, picking up seven saves and striking out 11.7/9IP with a WHIP below 1.00. Plus, he has great hair. Louie Varland (24), RHP – TD’s #14 Prospect (Varland made his MLB debut on 9/7 against the New York Yankees on the road. He was fantastic, going 5 1/3 innings, striking out Aaron Judge for his first career strikeout. He allowed two runs on three hits, walked one, and struck out seven) First of all, he is #OneOfUs, growing up in Maplewood and being drafted out of Concordia University in St. Paul in the 15th round of the 2019 draft. Second of all, he is the reigning Twins and Twins Daily’s, Minor League Pitcher of the Year. That is because he struck out 142 hitters in 103 innings pitched last season split between Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids. He is buried on a starting pitching depth chart at this point, but if he continues that type of dominance in double-A and eventually triple-A this season, there will be a spot for him at some point. Edouard Julien (22), OF – TD’s #19 Prospect I have long been a fan of the type of player Julien was during the 2021 season, where he led all of the minors in walks (110 in 112 games) and had an on-base percentage flirting with .500 for a large chunk of the season. He also tapped into some power upon being promoted to Cedar Rapids, launching 15 homers in 65 games after getting out of the Florida State League. He starts the 2022 season with Wichita, and he and Austin Martin should prove extremely annoying to double-A pitching for much of the summer. So, there you have it, my picks for some of the minor league players I think could be called up to the majors and put on a Minnesota Twins uniform for the first time during the coming season. When do you think any of them will show up at Target Field? Who are you looking forward to the most? And who are some of the prospects you think I have missed that could make that jump? Let’s play ball!
  11. Last winter, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine hammered out a deal with Carlos Correa’s agent Scott Boras. Having previously assumed Isiah Kiner-Falefa would be their Opening Day shortstop, the Twins pivoted after dealing Josh Donaldson and freeing up substantial money for the payroll. Correa was never the expected plan for Minnesota, and he probably didn’t see himself here either. When a $300 million mega-deal didn’t materialize, the opportunity to secure a Major League-record deal for an infielder arose and he had to take it. Boras and the Twins structured the deal in a way that Correa could once again explore the open market this winter. That had to always be his plan and is why he’ll opt out. Sure, the Twins could’ve made more aggressive actions towards an extension (and maybe they have), but this front office would’ve been negotiating against itself. Knowing that Correa’s true intentions are a long-term pact, it behooves the organization to throw out a number and see where it lands amongst the competition. Maybe the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers are more interested this time around. Maybe the San Francisco Giants or Chicago Cubs bite. Maybe Correa decides to return for a longer period of time in the Twins Cities. No matter what, Minnesota needs (and likely has already started) thinking about succession plans. It’s pretty hard to replace a player the caliber of Correa, and internally there are few options. Royce Lewis won’t be ready on Opening Day as he returns from a second season in which he underwent surgery for a torn ACL. Noah Miller has been heralded as an MLB-ready defender, but he’s hardly handled that bat at the Low-A level for Fort Myers. 2022 top pick Brooks Lee is finishing this season at Double-A, but it’d be beyond aggressive for him to start at the Major Leagues in 2023. The developmental staff and front office will have to blueprint a game plan as to what the timeline of succession looks like. Do they want a long-term shortstop brought in from outside? Is Lewis the man waiting in the wings, or is there a different position he’s more suited for? How about Lee? Is he the shortstop of the future, and will that future begin in the season ahead? Much of what the front office has done from a talent acquisition perspective this season has been with a focus on more than just one season. As they enter into 2023, they’ll be positioned to start kicking in their window with the developed youth. Jose Miranda is a big-leaguer. Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff will hopefully be healthy. Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan have now all seen how the highest level works. Punting on the shortstop position with a roster on the brink doesn’t seem like the way they’ll go about things. It’d be great if Correa was back manning the middle for Minnesota next season, but if and when he’s not, the blueprint to surviving his absence must be ironclad.
  12. Last winter's lockout may not have been all bad for baseball because one new aspect of the collective bargaining agreement is a change to MLB's Draft. Recently, the team with baseball's worst record received the first overall pick and the highest pick in each subsequent round. For many reasons, tanking became a common practice by many organizations looking to rebuild a franchise. The Houston Astros may be the most famous example, as they lost over 100 games in three consecutive seasons before eventually rebuilding into an American League powerhouse. Starting in 2023, the first six picks in each year's draft will be assigned through a draft lottery. All 18 teams that fail to qualify for the postseason will have a chance to move into the top six picks. Odds for each team receiving the number one selection are assigned in reverse order of regular season winning percentage. If a team doesn't receive a lottery selection, they will pick in reverse order of winning percentage from the previous season. The odds of receiving the draft's top pick are as follows: Worst record: 16.5% 2nd-worst record: 16.5% 3rd-worst record: 16.5% 4th: 13.25% 5th: 10% 6th: 7.5% 7th: 5.5% 8th: 3.9% 9th: 2.7% 10th: 1.8% 11th: 1.4% 12th: 1.1% 13th: 0.90% 14th: 0.76% 15th: 0.62% 16th: 0.48% 17th: 0.36% 18th: 0.23% Adding a lottery helps to deter tanking, but other rules were added to deter tanking even further. Teams that receive revenue sharing can't receive a top-six pick for more than two consecutive seasons. On the opposite side, clubs that pay revenue sharing can't get a lottery pick more than one year in a row. Organizations are significantly helped by adding talent at the top of the draft, and Minnesota's system has dropped according to national rankings. The Twins' top two prospects, Royce Lewis and Brooks Lee, were both top-8 picks in the first round of their respective draft. Lewis looked fantastic in his first taste of the big leagues, and Lee's already seen his stock rise since joining the Twins organization. The more times the Twins can get a top-10 pick, the better their chances of adding impact talent to a farm system that needs a boost. Entering play on Monday, the Twins have a .500 record which translates to baseball's 15th worst record. Minnesota would have a 0.62% chance of earning the first overall pick if the season ended today. Minnesota trails Boston by two games for the 14th spot and San Francisco by 3.5 games for the 13th worst record. Gaining ground on these teams helps increase Minnesota's odds, but it's only a small jump for teams that have been in contention. If you'd like to simulate MLB's draft lottery, Tankathon has updated its site to include a simulation tool for the lottery. My first lottery scored the Twins the third overall pick, but the team never won the top overall pick in over 200 simulations. Minnesota has time to help their odds over the season's final weeks, so it will be interesting to see how the team fares in their first chance at the draft lottery. Do you like MLB's new lottery system? Do you think it will deter teams from tanking in the years ahead? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  13. Rocco Baldelli has done everything he can to hold this Twins team together. With the injured list total mounting, and lackluster output coming on the field, it’s been a perfect storm of negative outcomes this season. Unfortunately the bad omens came early on this year, and the hits really didn’t stop. Emilio Pagan takes his first loss On April 12 the Minnesota Twins faced the Los Angeles Dodgers at Target Field. It was an absolutely dominant series from the NL West champs, one in which Clayton Kershaw nearly threw a no-hitter. The front office flipped closers right before Opening Day, and Emilio Pagan was making his second appearance. He gave up a single hit and walk while being credited with a loss. The Dodgers rallied for six runs in the 8th inning and the game went up in smoke. In and of itself, that loss wasn’t entirely damning. It was foreshadowing though, and Pagan has all but sunk the Twins season. He’s racked up six blown saves and is also responsible for six losses. He’s routinely coughed up games against the Guardians, Minnesota’s toughest competition, and all season it’s been a belief in stuff that hasn’t provided any positive results. Byron Buxton jams his knee On April 15 playing against the Boston Red Sox, Byron Buxton slid awkwardly and jammed his knee into the ground. It looked awful and he reacted as such. Being lifted from the game, but walking off the field under his own power, Minnesota’s newly extended $100 million man seemed destined for the injured list. Instead, Buxton was back less than a week later and playing through general knee soreness. Sure, Byron has compiled 4.0 fWAR this season and has been worth every bit of his extension, but it’s been a constant battle as to whether the knee will hold up. He’s had it drained routinely throughout the year, and there have been fears of further damage due to the number of injections. Ultimately a hip injury landed him on the injured list and may end his season. Even with as good as he’s been, it’s hard not to think “what if” given a clean bill of health. There’s no denying the amount of strength this man has to play through what he did in 2022. Royce Lewis goes down The Minnesota Twins found themselves in a bind when record-setting free agent Carlos Correa was hit by a pitch. Despite having missed all of 2021 due to a torn ACL, Royce Lewis established himself immediately on the farm this season and forced his debut at the highest level. In an 11-game cameo, he posted an .889 OPS and looked solid at shortstop. Sent back when Correa returned, Lewis then sought to enter the lineup elsewhere. Playing centerfield for Byron Buxton a leap at the wall on May 29 sent him to the ground. After some waiting on the swelling, it was determined he’d torn his ACL for a second time. Lewis looked like the breakout rookie Twins Territory could get behind. His debut had been heavily anticipated for some time, and then it all came crashing down in a matter of weeks. He’s on the road to recovery, but it’s not likely that he’ll be ready for Opening Day 2023. Minnesota will get their star prospect back, but waiting will be involved. Alex Kirilloff undergoes season-ending surgery, again On August 9 it was announced that Alex Kirilloff would again go under the knife in an attempt to fix his nagging wrist issues. After surgery last year shut him down, a more extensive procedure was required this time around. Kirilloff had looked like a shell of what expectations are, and aside from a brief hot stretch at Triple-A, he never found his power this year. After thinking things were trending in a better direction following the first surgery, Kirilloff revealed that his wrist had never fully recovered. He shut things down in the offseason, and was clearly bothered at the plate for Minnesota. After having to break and shorten his wrist, the hope would be that Kirilloff’s healing process goes smoothly and he can tap back into the player he was prior to the injury. Baserunning and Clutch Situations Without pointing to a specific circumstance, the Twins have been horrid once reaching base this year. Fangraphs keeps track of baserunning via the BsR metric, and only the Washington Nationals rank lower across the league than Minnesota this season. While aggressiveness is desirable, being thrown out by a longshot or running into outs has been something far too regular this season. There's also the ineptitude that Minnesota has displayed when hitting with runners in scoring position. Despite a lineup that should've been expected to score with regularity this season, the Twins have been shut out in nearly 10% of their games and routinely have taken poor at bats with runners in scoring position. What other lowlights come to mind for you this season?
  14. 2021 and 2022 held a lot of similarities for Trevor Larnach. In both cases, he burst onto the scene showing a glimpse of the lineup-changing hitter he’s capable of being. Unfortunately in both cases he tailed off in his production only for an injury to eventually come out as the main cause. So what do we think of Larnach moving forward? In 2021 Larnach began his season with a .845 OPS in May before the league adjusted. He posted a .704 mark in June and a brutal .518 in July. He would finish the season in St. Paul eventually being shut down with a hand issue, an injury that turned out to be nagging him for longer than Twins fans had known about. In 2022 Larnach looked even more encouraging. In March and April, Larnach posted a modest .703 OPS, actually above average for the offensive environment at the time. Then in May he posted an absurd 1.077 OPS. In addition to his hitting, his brief time in the majors was enough for teams to stop running on him in the outfield, as his throwing arm became a weapon against runners trying to get an extra base. Once again, however, he faded off in a huge way, posting an OPS of .429 in June before getting shut down at the end of the month for a core muscle injury he had been dealing with for the entire month. His timeline was 6-8 weeks putting him at a mid to late August return. At the time of this writing in mid-September, however, Larnach is finally making his first rehab appearance in the minors. With the calendar dwindling, it's likely at this point that Larnach’s 2022 season has come to an end, but he finishes with a modest .231/.306/.406 batting line which was heavily weighed down by a brutal final month. His 1.1 Wins Above Replacement in just 51 games played alludes to the possibility of an everyday regular in the lineup moving forward. But can we trust Larnach to fill such a role? The first concern at this point has to be health. Larnach has failed to reach 100 games played in each of the last two seasons due to injury. The hand contusion in 2021 may have been a fluke, but 2022's core muscle injury that cost him half the season is more of a concern. Larnach relies on such muscles for every swing he takes, every route to a fly ball he runs, and every rocket he throws into a base. The delay on his return alludes to the Twins making sure he’s at as little risk of aggravating this injury as possible. Headed into 2023 we have to hope it pays off. The second concern is whether Larnach can consistently channel his talent into on-field production. While injury has hampered his numbers to an extent these last two years, it’s easy to be concerned about him long-term given his swing-and-miss tendencies. Easily the biggest knock on his offensive profile, his incredible power and fantastic eye at the plate can easily be outweighed if he fails to make contact with pitches in the strike zone as we’ve seen at times in his young career. It would be nice if Larnach was more of a known commodity after two years of MLB exposure, especially given the murky futures of fellow top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. Of the three, Larnach appears to be the most stable however due not only to the flashes of offensive and defensive value, but because of the nature of the injuries that have ended each of their seasons. Headed into 2023 it’s hard to be 100% confident in Larnach, but there has to be some hope that he can be the Opening Day left fielder and hold onto the job for the next 4-5 years. He’s shown a tremendous ceiling but he doesn’t have to reach it to be a valuable player. Max Kepler has spent the last three years providing league average offense at best and has still added value because of his defense. Larnach’s 2022 should provide hope that he can at the very least do the same while providing a much more balanced offensive profile aside from the strikeouts. Certainly, we have to be disappointed with Larnach’s 2022, but like most disappointing seasons, there are some redeeming qualities. Headed into 2023 it’s hard to argue against handing Larnach the keys to a starting job and seeing if it’s finally the year that it comes together. The Twins don’t have any immediate alternative options and it’s safe to say that if they want to prioritize replacing any outfielder, it should be the aforementioned Max Kepler. Larnach should be given another chance to make himself a piece of the Twins future. Do you agree?
  15. First and foremost, yes Derek Falvey and Thad Levine should and will be back for the Twins in 2023. Now that that’s out of the way, there’s absolutely more to dissect here. Coming into 2022, Carlos Correa fell into the Minnesota Twins' lap. He needed a place to play, and the Twins had money to spend. $35.1 million allowed Correa to claim the richest contract by average annual value for an infielder across Major League Baseball history. He’s now produced to a point worth that valuation, and he’s going to get paid this offseason. The Twins structured his contract to allow for the length he sought last year, and the opt-outs allow him to capitalize on timing. Yes, he’s opting out. No, that doesn’t mean Minnesota can’t find a way to bring him back. Just because Correa was on this team didn’t mean that the front office was going all in. Jhoan Duran was not intended to make the Opening Day roster, and Jose Miranda started the year in St. Paul. Despite swinging a trade for Sonny Gray, Minnesota’s pitching depth included Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer rounding out the rotation. Joe Smith, an aging veteran, was the only bullpen addition. In short, there were some big moves made, but this was a rather conservative stance on talent acquisition. The goal from the beginning for this front office has been to create a sustainable winner. While they haven’t necessarily done that, they certainly haven’t failed either. Minnesota has been consistently competitive for the bulk of the past few years, and the farm system has begun to bear fruit. The Twins minor league rankings have dropped in large part due to the graduations. The development of names like Jose Miranda and Joe Ryan has been substantial, and being able to turn prospects like Cade Povich and Spencer Steer into big-league assets is a testament to growth. Falvey and Levine have consistently focused on the future though, and as they barrel towards it, now would be a misguided time to pull the plug. The core of Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano was not their group. That talent was a catalyst during the Bomba Squad season, and they remain intact now, but the pairing of what this front office has developed is where they want to go. Royce Lewis, Miranda, and a fast emergence of Brooks Lee, Matt Wallner, Trevor Larnach, and Alex Kirilloff are what Falvey and Levine see in the lineup. They’re hoping to have the likes of Simeon Woods Richardson, Jordan Balazovic, Ronny Henriquez, Blayne Enlow, and Cole Sands give them real starter innings. Everyone mentioned there is close, and they all should provide a higher ceiling than the depth thrust onto the Twins roster this season. Of course, no plans are guaranteed, so maybe this wave flops or fails to develop, but after years of Terry Ryan or his referred successors, there’s just very little reason for ownership to pull the plug now.
  16. The purpose of this article is try and lay out, in no uncertain terms, the insurmountable magnitude of injuries and medical odysseys to which this year's Twins roster has been subjected. There are worthwhile conversations to be had about the way this team is managing players physically, evaluating new acquisitions, and handling rehab plans. But let's take a step back. When you acknowledge that, to a large degree, injury rates and recoveries are driven by luck and uncontrollable forces, I don't see much of a case for holding the manager or even the front office primarily accountable for what's gone down this season. There's no planning for, or adapting, to the way injuries have impacted this roster. There's no managing a bunch of backups and fourth-string options to sustained contention. I recognize this is very unsatisfying for those who demand accountability and want to see heads roll in the wake of such a disappointing turn of events. But when you remove emotion and try to see the situation objectively, I'm not sure how much more you could expect from the execs and decision makers dealt an unwinnable hand. Could they have done certain things better? Of course. Was it going to turn the unstoppable tide that has plunged this ship asunder? No. This side-by-side comparison of the injured lists for Cleveland and Minnesota, here in the heart of the stretch run, kind of says it all. Sixteen Twins players on IL, including several vital cornerstones, compared to three Guardians. How do you realistically overcome that? Let's review all these injuries that have torpedoed a promising season, and the context behind them. I've tried to order them from most devastating to least. Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. When people talk about the 2022 season and what's gone wrong, I feel like this calamity gets glossed over way too much. To me, it is the '1A' headline for all the team's unmet potential. This horrible twist of fate is what I would categorize as unthinkably disastrous. Lewis and Kirilloff are two of the most important assets for this franchise. (I ranked them #3 and #4 during the offseason, behind Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco – also both currently on IL.) They are at the ages and junctures of development where you'd expect them to start making a real impact the major-league level, and both showed that ability in brief flashes this year. However, both of their seasons were ended in premature fashion. And in BOTH cases, major surgery was required to address the SAME injury that knocked them out for the previous season. (Did I mention this is essentially the third straight lost season for both?) Kirilloff's wrist surgery from last year didn't take, so now he's undergone a more invasive, last-ditch operation to try and alleviate the debilitating issue. Lewis, during his first game back in what appeared to be a permanent call-up, tore the very same ACL he had reconstructive surgery on last year. You can't make this stuff up. And what's most crushing about it all is that both of these absolutely critical players will inevitably be shrouded in doubt going forward. Can Lewis rebound from a second straight surgery on the same knee, especially when his game is founded on agility and foot speed? Will this somewhat experimental surgery for Kirilloff correct a problem that's been plaguing him for years now, sapping his most elite skill? Realistically, it's hard to feel much assurance on either front, and for that reason it's hard to feel optimistic about the Twins' immediate future. It really can't be overstated how disruptive these unforeseeable developments are for a front office trying to build a championship. Tyler Mahle and Chris Paddack. We all understand that Mahle and Paddack came with known injury risk to varying degrees. At the same time, so do a lot of trades. You've got to believe a club carefully reviews medicals and gains a level of comfort before pulling the trigger on significant deals like these ones. Yeah, it's easy to scream "incompetence" in hindsight. Too easy. There are a lot of top-of-field experts involved in these decisions. Maybe, taking each player on his own, it shouldn't be all that surprising that Mahle or Paddack succumbed to (likely) season-ending arm injuries. But for both to do so? And not only that, but for it happen SO quickly in both cases? Paddack made it to his fifth start before his partially torn UCL gave way, requiring elbow surgery. Mahle lasted only three before his velocity nosedived and a mysterious shoulder injury threatened to end his campaign. A combination of worst-case injury scenarios. Of course. And it really hurts, because the talent evaluation in both cases was sound. I genuinely believe that if healthy these would be the Twins' two best starters. Alas, much like Lewis and Kirilloff, their uncertain futures complicate the front office's planning going forward. Paddack will be coming back from a second Tommy John surgery. Who knows what's going on with Mahle but it seems impossible we'll go into the offseason feeling confident about his shoulder, with one year of team control left. Byron Buxton. Look, we know injuries for Buxton have to be expected and accounted for. They're baked into his legacy, and his new contract. Still, this year the gravity of his durability issues came into sharper focus than ever, primarily because it constitutes a "healthy" season for Buxton. He's already made the second-most plate appearances of his career. He avoided the injured list until August. He still might get to 100 games! And yet, that old injury phantom has conspicuously followed Buxton all year, ever since he came up slamming his hand into the dirt at Fenway one week in. Despite his mightiest efforts, he couldn't outrun his eternal tormentor, and now this season is wrapping up like so many before it: Buxton on the sidelines, watching his team fall short. I guess the point of this blurb is not so much about the micro misfortune of injuries sabotaging another year for Buxton, but more an observation about his appropriateness as face of the franchise: The Twins to lost their way into drafting one of the most talented, electric, special players in modern baseball history who also happens to be the (?) single-most injury prone at that level. Ryan Jeffers and Trevor Larnach. I group these two together because while neither injury was totally unforeseeable – catchers get hurt a lot by nature, and Larnach was also sidelined for much of last year – they definitely qualify as bad luck, and both absences led to huge drop-offs in terms of backup plans. Jeffers was having a reasonably solid season before suffering a thumb fracture in mid-July, which may cost him his entire second half. Larnach developed a sports hernia requiring surgery in mid-June, and still hasn't made it back yet. In both cases, the path to returning has arduously dragged well beyond original estimates, and continues to do so – another unfortunate commonality. With Jeffers sidelined, the Twins were left at catcher with the husk of Gary Sánchez and trade acquisition Sandy León, who'd been toiling in the minors for Cleveland. It's been ugly, much like the outfield in the absence of Larnach, Kirilloff and Buxton. Bailey Ober and Josh Winder. Winder is no longer on the injured list, but I view him much as the same as Ober: a homegrown talent, 25 years old and coming off a great season, clearly a core part of the Twins pitching plans. Granted, they both had their own warning labels coming into this season, but no clear red flags. As it turns out, both will end up maxing out around 50 innings pitched in the majors – big setback seasons for developing pitchers who will now be challenged to rebuild their workloads once again. In each case, the injury seems not well understood. Ober went down with a groin injury first framed as minor that never seemed to heal. Winder's had recurring bouts with an impinged, but structurally sound, shoulder dating back to last year. On their own, these are losses you could withstand, which is why they're relatively low on this list. But combined with all of the above? Getting almost nothing from Ober, or Winder, or Paddack, or their marquee deadline acquisition Mahle? How do you cobble together a decent rotation through all of that? The only Twins starting pitchers that have truly managed to stay healthy are the guys they signed cheaply to fill the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Jorgé Alcala and Matt Canterino. These two are lumped as high-upside relievers who could have had transformative impacts on the Twins bullpen, but instead fell victim to essentially worst-case scenarios with their elbows. Alcala missed all of this season; Canterino never made it to the majors and will likely miss all of the next one. Maybe these blows would've been easier to sustain if some of the relief contingency plans held up. However... Danny Coulombe, Cody Stashak, and Jhon Romero. None of these three were projected to be pivotal late-inning weapons, but they were all viewed as important parts of the depth mix. Coulombe and Romero were on the Opening Day roster, and Stashak a late cut. All suffered season-ending injuries early on. Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak. I have these two at the bottom because, unlike everyone above, no one realistically expected much out of them this year. But it would have been nice to get something, *anything* from either. Both have been derailed so much for both that it's easy to forget that, coming out of the 2020 season, we were envisioning each as key long-term pieces for the pitching staff. You can look back now and say, "Well the front office shouldn't have been planning around these guys." Or they shouldn't have traded for Paddack or Mahle and the associated risk. Or they shouldn't have committed to Buxton as a centerpiece, or they should have better medical personnel and training philosophies, and so on. There may be truth to these things. But you bet on players you like, and you accept a certain amount of risk. Otherwise, you end up where the previous front office was for so long, treading water in a pointless middle ground. At the end of the day, injuries happen. They're never as predictable or controllable or correctable as people want to believe. Sadly, this scourge has been especially prevalent for the Twins and, more sadly, a lot of these health woes are going to carry forward in terms of their implications. I firmly believe the front office built a team capable of winning the division this year, and Rocco Baldelli was the guy to lead that group. For a while, it was all coming together as planned. Unfortunately, the current team barely resembles what was built.
  17. The American League Central Division has been nothing short of an abomination this season. The Cleveland Guardians have done little to assert themselves as favorites, despite having overtaken the lead late in the year. Tony La Russa’s Chicago White Sox may have the most talented roster, but it’s certainly been the most poorly managed thus far. Rocco Baldelli has been given an opportunity for his team to rebound from 2021, but they’ve struggled to break through. Looking at the state of the division it’s easy to suggest that any of the three clubs in contention to take it will be wiped off the map come Postseason action. Diving into the Twins specifically, however, it’s worth trying to understand why September returns seem so immeasurable. As of September 3rd, the Twins had been forced to use 24 different position players and had 33 separate pitchers on the mound. Despite operating just from a 40-man roster, the Twins had a total of 17 players on varying injured lists after putting deadline acquisition Tyler Mahle on it. To say every team goes through injury waters down a bit of what Minnesota has been dealing with. Early on this season the club’s most important player, Byron Buxton, seemingly suffered a season-ending knee injury. Sliding against the Boston Red Sox on Jackie Robinson Day, Buxton looked to have suffered something gruesome. Instead, he never hit the injured list and played into late August while routinely getting his knee drained. There were multiple instances where a shutdown seemed likely. Concerns as to whether an infection could develop were real. What level of pain tolerance even the best athlete could endure was a question. All of that was taking place despite Buxton posting a team-leading 4.0 fWAR. The front office dealt for Chris Paddack, and Emilio Pagan, right before Opening Day. The former made just five starts but the stuff was so good his 0.9 fWAR remains 6th among pitchers still into September. Carlos Correa, the superstar shortstop, missed time with a hand that appeared to be broken. A superstar prospect in Royce Lewis stepped up before suffering a second straight ACL tear. Again, it may be sugarcoating it to suggest that every team goes through injury. It’s probably fair to understand there’s varying degrees of maladies suffered throughout a season, but it certainly seems as though Minnesota has been bit harder than most. For a team looking to reverse course following a bad 2021 season, far more has to go right from a health perspective alone to push the envelope. The Twins front office never viewed this season as one in which they’d push all the chips in, and that was evident at the deadline when they doubled-down dealing almost exclusively for players under team control. There’s still hope the clubhouse can continue responding to the adversity they’ve been dealt but each new name to hit the shelf seems like another knockout punch.
  18. An immediate note on Carlos Correa opting out should be that it does not mean his time with the Minnesota Twins is done. He’s going to opt out because it makes sense for him to do so from a longevity standpoint. Soon-to-be 28-years-old, Correa would be better off landing a long-term deal as opposed to playing next season at $35.1 million. If he kept this current contract, he’d hit the market again at 30-years-old, making the long-term expectation that much more contentious. This offseason Correa had Scott Boras angle for $35.1 million. That extra $100,000 landed Correa the highest paying deal for a Major League infielder by average annual value. It came in ahead of another Boras client in Anthony Rendon. To a certain extent, Correa has already earned a record deal. Now, what does he want to do from here? Looking at things as they stand currently, Correa would be no better than the 4th best option in terms of 2022 fWAR among 2023 free agents. Dansby Swanson (5.2) leads the position, with Trea Turner (4.7) just behind him and Xander Bogaerts (4.2) coming in third. Correa’s 2.2 fWAR checks in 13th among qualified shortstops. Age wise, Turner is a bit older at 29 while Swanson is less than a year separated from Minnesota’s shortstop. Bogaerts paces the group at nearly 30-years-old, which could provide an interesting case study for Correa should he surprisingly choose to play out the string on his deal now. Making just $20 million through 2024, Bogaerts is all but certain to opt out of his contract with the Boston Red Sox, and it seems there’s been little dialogue regarding an extension. I think you can make the case that Turner is a superior player to Correa, while Swanson’s emergence has been more recent. Bogaerts is probably ahead of the Puerto Rican as well, but again, has a bit of age constraints going against him. Then there’s the understanding that the market would need to shift substantially. Last year Correa was looking for that big $300 million deal. He never found it, and instead signed with the Twins. Sure, the Los Angeles Dodgers could be in play needing to replace Turner, but that’d be pretty awkward given the reality that he’s the fanbase's favorite player to boo. It’s tough to see the New York Yankees getting in after opting for Isiah Kiner-Falefa instead, and having Anthony Volpe as their top prospect near ready to go. With that, you’ve immediately taken out two of the top spenders. Oh, and Steve Cohen already has Francisco Lindor with the New York Mets. So, where does that leave Correa? If last winter was a cold shoulder, maybe this one is even moreso. There’s no denying he’s an elite talent, and he’s going to get paid, but maybe not to the extent he hopes. A five or six year deal may happen, but it will come at a substantially lesser average annual value. A six-year deal at $200 million isn’t much of a drop, still $33.3 million. I don’t know that $150 million gets it done, but over five years that’s still $30 million per season. The decision probably lands on what level of future security is desired, and how much the average annual value matters. Anything close to either of those scenarios would be a record spend for Minnesota, but given the current financial obligations, it’s a pool they could certainly play in. Not having to fight against the biggest markets, Correa opting-out could ultimately result in him choosing to return to a place he’s stated feeling comfortable. Noted as a homebody, maybe weight is placed on not moving again, and this is certainly a fanbase that would embrace him for the long term. Having a left side of the infield that includes Royce Lewis and Correa for something like the next handful of years would be quite the stabilizing force for a team looking to take another step forward.
  19. National rankings of a team's farm systems can be taken with a grain of salt. A lot of hope and high expectations are tied to the team's top prospects, but most fans will focus on whether or not the big-league team is consistently winning. Front offices must find a balance between building homegrown talent and trading for pieces that can help the current roster. Baseball America updated its farm system rankings based on changes from this year's draft and the trade deadline. Minnesota's system ranked 25th, the team's lowest ranking since 2017. Baseball American and MLB Pipeline have three Twins prospects in their top 100, including Brooks Lee, Royce Lewis, and Emmanuel Rodriguez. So, why did the Twins drop so much? Trades Minnesota was active at the 2022 trade deadline by dealing away some of the organization's most improved prospects. Spencer Steer, Cade Povich, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Steven Hajjar were all top-30 prospects in the system. Last winter, the Twins also traded Chase Petty, the team's 2021 first-round pick, to acquire Sonny Gray. Losing that kind of talent will hurt any organization's farm system ranking. Luckily, there are some obvious reasons why Minnesota's ranking dropped. Under 25 Big-League Players When looking at the health of an organization, it's essential to look at young players that are no longer prospects but are impacting the big-league roster. The Twins have gotten plenty of production this season from players that are 25 years old or younger. During his rookie campaign, Jose Miranda emerged as a middle-of-the-order bat. On the pitching side, Jhoan Duran completely altered how the team approaches late-inning pitching situations. However, the list of players that are 25 or younger doesn't stop there. Gilberto Celestino, a 23-year-old, has allowed the Twins to give Byron Buxton more regular days off from center field. Cole Sands, Josh Winder, and Jovani Moran have impacted the team's rotation and bullpen. Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff have shown how good their bats can be when they are healthy. Even regulars like Ryan Jeffers and Luis Arraez are in their age-25 season. Obviously, the Twins will need to continue to see continued development from these players while they help the team win. Injuries and Underperformance Injuries to key prospects are another reason the team's ranking continues to drop. Royce Lewis, Emmanuel Rodriguez, and Matt Canterino are all out for the year. Lewis was already impacting the big-league roster before undergoing his second ACL surgery in the last two seasons. Rodriguez had a breakout season before suffering a knee injury on a slide. Canterino's elbow health has been an issue throughout his professional career, and the hope is that Tommy John surgery will get him back on track. All three players should return at some point during the 2023 season. Multiple top prospects have also underperformed during the 2022 campaign. Austin Martin was widely considered one of the organization's top prospects after he was acquired as part of the Jose Berrios trade. In 65 Double-A games, he is hitting .244/.372/.306 (.678) with 11 extra-base hits. Minnesota added Jordan Balazovic to the 40-man roster last winter, but he has struggled throughout the 2022 season. In 15 Triple-A appearances, he has a 9.26 ERA with a 2.17 WHIP across 45 2/3 innings. Both of these players have seen their prospect stock drop significantly. Luckily, the Twins are keeping their winning window open despite the perceived talent drop in the farm system. Minnesota's trades have added controllable talent to the big-league roster, and the team has plenty of young talent up-and-down the roster. Are you concerned about the farm system's drop in national rankings? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  20. Injuries impact every farm system, but the Twins have had three of their top-10 prospects suffer season-ending injuries. All three players should return over the next year with various timelines to impact the big-league level. Matt Canterino, SP Injury: Tommy John surgery Expected Return: Fall 2023 On Wednesday, it was announced that Matt Canterino would undergo Tommy John surgery which usually has a 12-month recovery timeline. Canterino has missed significant time throughout his professional career, and there's hope that this surgery will be able to solve those issues. In three minor league seasons, he has posted a 1.48 ERA with 13.8 K/9, but injuries have limited him to 85 innings. Canterino has a chance to get into game action at the end of 2023, and the Twins have to decide whether or not to add him to the 40-man roster before this winter's Rule 5 Draft. Royce Lewis, SS/OF Injury: ACL surgery Expected Return: June 2023 Lewis has already gone through this surgery and has shown a positive mindset throughout the process. Last month, he was already ahead of schedule in his rehab, so that is a positive sign for when he may return in 2023. ACL surgery is typically a 12-month recovery, but Lewis told MLB.com that he hopes to be ready in 10-11 months. During his debut, Lewis was fantastic as he hit .300/.317/.550 (.867) with four doubles and two home runs. What made it even more impressive was the fact Lewis hadn't appeared in a game throughout the 2020 or 2021 seasons. At Twins Daily, Lewis is still considered the organization's top prospect, so his health is critical to the team's future success. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF Injury: Knee surgery Expected Return: Spring 2023 Rodriguez was in the midst of a breakout season at Low-A before suffering a knee injury on a slide. In 47 games, he hit .272/.493/.552 (1.044) with five doubles, three triples, and nine home runs. He did all of this while being over two years younger than the average age of the competition in the Florida State League. Throughout the season, he only faced younger pitchers in four plate appearances. His surgery puts him on track to be back on the field early next season, so he will still be young for the FSL if the team sends him back to that level. Injuries have also impacted other young players that have graduated from prospect lists. Alex Kirilloff, one of the team's former top prospects, is out for the year after having wrist surgery. His wrist had been bothering him over the last two seasons, so the hope is this will put him back on track for 2023. Not every prospect pans out at the big-league level, but the Twins are hoping all of these players have healthy careers moving forward. Which recovery worries you the most? Who will be back earlier than expected? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  21. Last week, I looked at what the Twins well has in it. The reality is this farm system checks in somewhere between 12-18 across the league. There’s depth, but with graduations, many of the high-level performers aren’t there. Royce Lewis is hurt. Austin Martin is underperforming. Matt Canterino is a reliever. Brooks Lee and Connor Prielipp aren’t being moved this quickly, probably. There’s no doubt Minnesota would hope that teams are interested in hitters Spencer Steer and Matt Wallner, but I think it’s safe to say their ceilings are somewhat muted. Any GM worth their salt is starting high-return discussions with the likes of Alex Kirilloff and Jose Miranda. Both of them are at the major-league level, and removing them would hurt, but it’s a decision that the Twins may need to weigh. On Kirilloff, Minnesota finally has a player that’s found out how to deal with his wrist issues. Whether he’s got a clean bill of health or not, he’s making things work. Kirilloff is an asset in both left field and at first base defensively, but it’s his bat that’s always been the carrying tool. Over his last 30 games since returning from Triple-A, Kirilloff is slashing .301/.339/.456 with seven doubles and three homers. Though the home run potential is nowhere near where it will likely be, Kirilloff has continued to drive the ball to all fields. He’s a middle-of-the-order hitter and still just 24 years old. Despite a horrid start, Kirilloff has rebounded well and is under team control through 2027. Baseball Trade Values puts Kirilloff’s median value at 24.3 which ranks him as the 6th most valuable Twins asset. There’s no denying that moving him would hurt, but if Minnesota did choose to do so, they’d be looking for a substantial haul. On the other side of the infield, or sometimes sharing the same position, Jose Miranda has established himself as a legitimate big-league talent. He put up a ridiculous .973 OPS across Double and Triple-A last season to really break out and put himself on the national scene. Things started extremely slow for him this season, and on May 29th he was optioned in favor of Royce Lewis. Miranda owned a .183/.216/.338 line through his first 20 games but things turned when he never actually made it to St. Paul. Immediately returned to the Twins, Miranda was again in the lineup on May 30. Since that point he’s played in 40 games and owns a .313/.358/.531 slash line. Miranda has seven doubles and seven homers in that span, and while the K/BB ratio isn’t great, he looks every bit the competent power hitter on a corner that he appeared to be during his breakout. There’s no denying that Minnesota has Miranda penciled as a long-term fit at the hot corner, considering his deficiencies at first base, but teams will be trying to acquire his services in any blockbuster type of deal. Miranda is just 24-years-old, still has three options remaining, and still has his rookie status intact. Seen slightly less valuable by Baseball Trade Values, Miranda’s 20.3 median value is 8th amongst Twins players. So, with the real answer being neither, which of these two untouchables are you willing to allow an opposing team to acquire if the return is everything you want?
  22. Prospect lists can be exciting, especially as the trade deadline approaches at the beginning of August. Contending teams must part with some of the top-rated prospects so they can add veteran pieces to their roster. Minnesota expects to be active in the trade market, and these are the prospects considered the best in the system. Royce Lewis, SS Minnesota saw the type of impact Royce Lewis could have on the big-league roster during his first call-up in 2022. In 12 games, he hit .300/.317/.550 (.867) with four doubles and two home runs. He was also destroying the baseball at Triple-A with a .940 OPS, which is tremendous considering the amount of time he missed during the 2020-21 seasons. He also made some solid defensive plays at shortstop, which may quiet some of his critics. Unfortunately, another knee injury means he is out until late June or July 2023. Lewis has gone through this rehab before, and the hope is he can return next season and look just as strong. Austin Martin, SS/OF Around this time last season, the Twins acquired Austin Martin as the centerpiece of a trade for Jose Berrios. He was a top-5 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft and considered the best college bat in his draft class. Martin's stock has dropped over the last two seasons as he has failed to showcase the power he had at Vanderbilt. He is repeating Double-A this season, but he is putting up career lows in nearly every category. In 63 games, he is hitting .249/.378/.313 (.691) with 11 extra-base hits. Martin is still over a year younger than the average age of the competition at his level. Emmanuel Rodriguez, CF Emmanuel Rodriguez was off to a tremendous start to the 2022 season as he firmly established himself as a breakout prospect. As a 19-year-old, he hit .272/.493/.552 (1.044) with 17 extra-base hits in 47 games. What makes his performance even more impressive is the fact that Rodriguez was over two years younger than the average age of the competition in the Florida State League. Unfortunately, he tore the meniscus in his right knee when sliding into a base in the middle of June. Rodriguez is out for the season, but he's certainly in the conversation as one of the team's best overall prospects. Brooks Lee, SS Minnesota's front office was ecstatic when the draft board played out in their favor, and Brooks Lee was still on the board. Baseball America ranked Lee as the second-best prospect in the draft, and the Twins snagged him with the eighth overall pick. He has tremendous bat-to-ball skills as he hit .357/.462/.644 (1.106) with 15 homers and 25 doubles in 58 games during his junior season. Defensively, there are questions about whether he can stick at shortstop, but his bat will play at any defensive position. Lee is similar to Martin in their draft position and strong hitting reputations from college. As he enters the Twins system, few prospects will compare to Lee and his overall potential. Other names are certainly in the conversation at the top of the Twins system. Second-round pick Connor Prielipp was the potential number one pick in this year's draft before missing the season due to Tommy John surgery. Spencer Steer has been dominating the upper levels of the minors as he is a frontrunner for the team's minor league player of the year. Cody's Current Top-5 Twins Prospects 1. Royce Lewis 2. Brooks Lee 3. Austin Martin 4. Emmanuel Rodriguez 5. Connor Prielipp How would you rank the names listed above? Does a different prospect make your top-5 list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  23. Now, to be completely fair, the Minnesota Twins farm system has plenty of talent. While the group may not be topping charts across the league as a whole, there’s a glut of future Major Leaguers within the ranks. The larger question here is to what extent are Minnesota’s prospects coveted by other organizations, and what can they realistically bring in return. That question is not easy because so many of the Twins top prospects have recently graduated. Jose Mirnada is thriving at the Major League level. Alex Kirilloff looks healthy and competitive. Gilberto Celestino may be near his ceiling, but it’s clear he’s a capable big-league outfielder. Trevor Larnach is currently hurt, but has flashed being an impact bat. There shouldn’t be any desire to trade Royce Lewis, and Jhoan Duran may wind up as Minnesota’s best rookie. The top of the farm system is now being coached by Rocco Baldelli. After recently updating my top 30 prospects following day one of the Major League Baseball Draft, each of Minnesota’s three picks has found their way into the group. I can’t imagine a scenario in which any of them are considered in a package right now, and that’s before considering the complications limiting any of them being moved. At the top of the group, you find Austin Martin. Looking to increase his power potential, Martin has changed his swing and approach this season. What was once a high-average hitter is a guy posting a .691 OPS and no longer a shortstop. He’s far too young to suggest this is a bust, but the prospect luster around him when acquired in exchange for Jose Berrios has worn a bit. Simeon Woods-Richardson has taken over for Jordan Balazovic as Minnesota’s top pitching prospect, but he’s currently on the injured list and his rebound has been just to the tune of 53 innings this season. Matt Canterino looks like he could be a dominant reliever, but there has to be a better string of health there. Speaking of Balazovic, he’s looked completely lost at Triple-A and couldn’t be dealt at a time where his value looks any lower. Realistically speaking, the first two names that come to mind when constructing a trade package are Spencer Steer and Matt Wallner. The former is following a path similar to that of Miranda last season and has done incredibly well at both Double and Triple-A. Steer should absolutely be a name that the Twins start conversations with, but I don’t know that a recent addition to the back half of top 100 lists will be enough of a building block to land a big-name starter like Frankie Montas. In Wallner, Minnesota has a better version of what Brent Rooker could have been. Wallner is a massive power bat that has made strides when it comes to controlling the strike zone. It will be interesting to see if he can keep that up while remaining at Triple-A, but there’s a saving grace in the outfield. Wallner isn’t exactly Max Kepler out there, but his massive arm provides plenty of assist opportunity. The Twins didn’t work him as a pitcher in pro ball, but that could be a fallback option for an acquiring team if need be. Ultimately I think it’s evident that Minnesota has the pieces to acquire just about any amount of relief help they need. On the starting front though, especially the big-name talents, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which prospects alone are enough to get a deal done.
  24. Stepping in for an injured Carlos Correa back in May, Royce Lewis was brilliant, slashing .300/.317/.550 in 11 games while filling in at shortstop. Upon Correa's healthy return, the Twins made the logical decision to option Lewis to the minors. This raised a great deal of consternation among fans who wanted to see the electric rookie stick around. At the time, I tweeted out a question: If you wanted Lewis to stay, who was getting bumped from the roster to make room for Correa? I was stunned by the number of responders casually casting their votes for Nick Gordon – even with the understanding he is out of options and would thus be lost from the organization. It's true that Gordon had worn off much of his prospect shine in the eight years since being drafted No. 5 overall. And it's true he was unspectacular as a rookie in 2021, albeit while training in as a utilityman on the fly. But he's also a 26-year-old whose development was derailed by physical issues, and who'd shown some genuinely positive signs in his checkered MLB play. Looking back, calls for waiving Gordon to keep Lewis illustrate the danger of short-sighted, emotional thinking. Had they done so, only to have Lewis suffer a season-ending knee injury, they'd now be without both. And that would really suck because, as it turns out, Gordon has basically turned into exactly the player we wanted Lewis to be. In 34 games since May 18th, the date of Lewis' demotion, Gordon is slashing .289/.330/.505 with five doubles, two triples, and four home runs. He has played all over the field: center, left, second base, even a little shortstop. His speed and range have been highly valuable in the outfield. His undisciplined and aggressive approach at the plate (22 K, 3 BB) is paying off with a bunch of power and consistent productivity. If Lewis had stayed healthy and produced the following Statcast measurables over the past five weeks, I think we'd have all been pretty much over the moon: This is not to say it doesn't suck Lewis is gone. But it's a very good thing Gordon is still here, and to his deep credit, he is helping fill the void of expectations set (perhaps optimistically) for Lewis as a free-swinging, speedy 800-OPS utilityman who makes contributions from all over the field. If he were a little better defensively at short, I'd almost say Gordon is building a case to serve as interim fill-in while Lewis rehabs in early 2023, but I think that's a stretch. Even so, the late-blooming first-rounder and top prospect is finally fortifying his fit with the organization that drafted him. And it's a beautiful thing to see.
  25. Over the weekend Joel Sherman wrote a piece for the New York Post taking a look at the free-agent shortstop class that was, and the one that is to come. The tandem of the two may go down to be one of the best back-to-back case studies in free-agent history. It’s not rocket science to suggest that Carlos Correa will opt out with Minnesota, but Sherman reiterates it again saying, “Barring catastrophic injury, Correa will opt out of the final two years at $70.2 million owed by the Twins. That will send him right back into the market, along with Bogaerts, Turner and Dansby Swanson.” That’s always been the expectation and should’ve been from the moment Scott Boras negotiated the contract with those terms to Derek Falvey and Minnesota’s front office. Although the certainty of Correa opting out is there, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s gone. What happened this offseason was a reflection of the Twins being the best, and maybe most creative, bidder. They could certainly pony up the money again in order to keep their superstar. Minnesota has only $108 million on the books next year and that includes Correa’s $35.1 million. Their $73 million tied to 24 is virtually halved after Correa opts out. In short, there’s plenty of room for them to again, Pay. The. Man. This would obviously be the best case outcome. A few weeks ago Twins Daily’s Cody Christie wrote about options Minnesota has at the position in the wake of Royce Lewis being lost due to a second torn ACL. We know that he’ll be out for around 12 months, and the only thing guaranteed is that he won’t be ready for Opening Day. What a second substantial knee injury does to a player is anyone’s guess though. One of the greatest strengths to Lewis’ game is his speed. He came back faster and stronger from his last injury, but there’s no telling if the body will respond the same this time around. Whether he’s a shortstop at all after this rehab will be something all parties must take a wait and see approach on. While Minnesota has to decipher what they will do, and Cody’s options are among those they are weighing, Sherman’s story goes on to paint a cautionary tale when it comes to free agents as a whole. The reality is that money spent with multiple suitors for services often far outweighs actual production. Correa is the lone player from last year’s class performing admirably, but he’s doing so having missed substantial time due to injury and health related issues. As Sherman points out, Correa and Story were both there for Twins fans to clamor over because their markets weren’t what was expected. We’re only talking about this opt-out because Correa’s deal was set up with an ability to kick the can down the road for a year and hope a more lucrative and longer-term situation played out. With the production tied to nearly $1 billion in spending on shortstops last offseason coming nowhere close in terms of equal value, it’s certainly fair to wonder how teams will respond. In summing up his piece Sherman says, “In short, the next class at short again is going to be star-studded. Will the previous free-agent class and the coming class of prospects hurt the coming market?” In that, there’s maybe hope that even with an opt-out, Correa finds himself between opportunity and familiarity. Very few instances will ever find the Minnesota Twins as a top bidder, but given needs by all parties in this scenario, there may be reason to believe an agreeable situation can be struck for all. Carlos Correa is going to opt-out, but then what?
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