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  1. Two Catcher Rotation Last season, the Twins used a two-catcher rotation with tremendous success. Mitch Garver played in 93 games on his way to winning the AL’s Silver Slugger Award for catchers. Jason Castro was a veteran secondary option and he played in 79 contests. Together, these two helped Twins catchers to lead baseball in home runs (48), SLG (.503) and wOBA (.351). One of the more impressive stats might have been that Twins catchers scored 33 more runs than any other catching combination in the big-leagues. Minnesota brought in Alex Avila this off-season to fill the catcher spot vacated by Jason Castro. Avila has been an All-Star and won a Silver Slugger, but that was almost a decade ago. This season he has put together professional at-bats and he has done that by getting on base over 40% of the time. The problem is Jeffers might be better than advertised. Stealing Strikes One of the biggest criticisms throughout Garver’s professional career has been his defensive play behind the plate. He has improved greatly, and his catcher framing is one of his biggest areas of improvement. According to Baseball Savant, there are three zones where he ranks above average over the last two seasons, at the bottom of the zone and to the left and right of the plate. Jeffers might be even better at coaxing strikes from umpires, especially pitches on the outer edges. Jose Berrios had been in a season long slump and Jeffers helped to get a few extra borderline pitches to go his way. This might have gone a long way in helping Berrios look like his former self. Defensively, Jeffers has come a long way especially considering he didn’t have a catching coach in college, and he had to watch YouTube videos to improve behind the plate. https://twitter.com/HagemanParker/status/1297289522024271872?s=20 Just watching him pull those balls back into the zone is a thing of beauty if you’re a Twins fan. Catch You Later It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Garver and Jeffers become Minnesota’s catching duo behind the plate. This season might be hard to make that happen, because no one knows how long Garver will be out with his current injury, a right intercostal strain. The Twins will get multiple weeks to see what Jeffers can do both offensively and defensively. Following this year’s draft, I had Jeffers ranked as the number six overall prospect in the Twins organization. Over the last two seasons, the Twins have used Garver with a veteran left-handed catcher. This made it easier to platoon the two hitters even if Garver was used more than a traditional platoon. Jeffers struggles more against lefties as his OPS was over 110 points lower versus southpaws. On the other hand, Garver destroyed lefties last season with a 1.170 OPS in over 100 at-bats. Garver can’t reach free agency until 2024 where he will be almost into his mid-30s. Jeffers is over six-years younger than Garver and he has the potential to be a solid contributor on both sides of the ball. No matter how the team uses their duo moving forward, it’s clear the team’s catching duties are in good hands. How do you feel about Minnesota’s future behind the plate? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. It’s no secret that Mitch Garver has had a ‘character building’ 2020 season so far. Despite coming off a Silver Slugger season where he batted a career-high .274 with 31 HR and 61, Garv Sauce has hit rock bottom at the plate this year with his .154 AVG. To make matters worse, his campaign to turn things around was put on hold this week when he was placed on the 10-Day IL for a right intercostal strain. But if there’s any position that has dual roles in baseball it’s the man behind the plate. The defense of a catcher can make or break a play, inning, or game. In an era where catchers like Molina, Posey, and (2019) Garver have given light to a position not typically known for offense, the defensive lore of the ‘quarterback of the diamond’ is often forgotten. One of the most important of those defensive roles may be Pop Time (POP). To put it simply, POP is measured when there is a steal/pick off attempt and measures the time elapsed from the moment the pitch hits the catcher's mitt to the moment the intended fielder is projected to receive his throw at the center of the base. Check on the Statcast description and definition. Seems like a pretty basic stat, how is this new? In theory it certainly is pretty simple. And it’s not something that is technically new. Coaches and scouts have been timing catchers’ throws down to second (and third) base since sliced bread was invented. However, POP did not become an official recorded stat until March of 2018 when the MLB debuted Pop Time numbers thanks to the wide world of Statcast. Since 2018 MLB has kept track of pop time of every catcher across the league. And while the stat wasn’t technically recognized until 2018, the database features pop times dating back to 2015. Okay, what does POP look at and why is it significant? POP combines three dynamics of the catcher’s skill set; How quick his footwork is (to get into throwing position), how quickly he exchanges the ball from his mitt to his throwing hand and how fast he throws the ball (in mph). Of those three components the first two (footwork, and exchange from mitt to hand) are combined into “Exchange” on the stat list. The speed of the throw is measured as arm strength and listed under “Arm.” There’s a lot that goes into gunning down a runner at second base, especially if that runner has Buxton-like speed. Certainly a catcher with a cannon of an arm is going to toss out his fare share of runners. But POP factors in one of the most crucial parts of being a successful catcher; quick transition time. A catcher who has a gun of an arm but is slower than molasses is going to be less attractive and oftentimes less successful than a catcher who has weaker arm strength but can float like a butterfly behind the plate. Still, throwing out a runner is very difficult. The Major League average for catcher pop time in 2019 was 2.01 seconds. J.T Realmuto of the Phillies had the best pop time average last season, sitting at 1.89 seconds. 92 runners attempted to steal on Realmuto in 2019 and he threw out 43 of them; a crazy good number. Still, that's only a 46% success rate. What POP really covers is how well the catcher covers his leg of the relay race. Even if the catcher has a cannon and is very quick the throw could be off target, the middle infielder could make a poor tag, or the base runner could just be too damn fast. So how do Garver, Avila, and Jeffers stack up? To be frank, not too great. With the Diamondbacks last season Alex Avila averaged a 2.01 pop time, ranking him 31st in the league (minimum 10 attempts). Garver averaged a 2.04 pop time last season, ranking him 37th in the MLB. While Jeffers does not have MLB numbers out for POP yet his 2020 scouting report indicates that he has a strong arm and improved quickness, throwing out 26% of runners last season in AA Pensacola. When it comes to arm strength Garver holds a slight advantage over Avila, averaging 82.9 mph compared to Avila’s 81.5 mph. However, Avila holds the title of quicker catcher, averaging a 0.74 second Exchange compared to Garver’s 0.78. Big Picture How much does it matter that the Twins’ catchers don’t fare well when it comes to POP? Well, it depends on how much of a perfectionist you are. Baseball is a game of inches and the extra tenths of a second on someone’s POP can certainly change a big game. But at the end of the day let’s keep in mind that the gap between league POP leader Realmuto and Mitch Garver is .15 of a second; that is a sliver of an amount of time. While POP is certainly an important stat when it comes to recruiting, scouting, and measuring the level of a catcher, there are still so many other factors that go into stealing a base. And even though Avila has the better POP for the Twins, don’t expect it to push him over the edge to become the Twins starter. That decision will come down to the health of Mitch Garver and if he is able to pick up his offense. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. Let’s close our eyes for a second to forget about the pitiful season that Mitch Garver has had at the plate so far this year. While his numbers on offense aren’t pretty there’s one stat of Garver’s (and most catchers) that hasn’t come to light until recently; Pop Time (POP). Let’s dive into what POP is, why it’s important, and how Mitch Garver, Alex Avila...and Ryan Jeffers stack up to the rest of the MLB.It’s no secret that Mitch Garver has had a ‘character building’ 2020 season so far. Despite coming off a Silver Slugger season where he batted a career-high .274 with 31 HR and 61, Garv Sauce has hit rock bottom at the plate this year with his .154 AVG. To make matters worse, his campaign to turn things around was put on hold this week when he was placed on the 10-Day IL for a right intercostal strain. But if there’s any position that has dual roles in baseball it’s the man behind the plate. The defense of a catcher can make or break a play, inning, or game. In an era where catchers like Molina, Posey, and (2019) Garver have given light to a position not typically known for offense, the defensive lore of the ‘quarterback of the diamond’ is often forgotten. One of the most important of those defensive roles may be Pop Time (POP). To put it simply, POP is measured when there is a steal/pick off attempt and measures the time elapsed from the moment the pitch hits the catcher's mitt to the moment the intended fielder is projected to receive his throw at the center of the base. Check on the Statcast description and definition. Seems like a pretty basic stat, how is this new? In theory it certainly is pretty simple. And it’s not something that is technically new. Coaches and scouts have been timing catchers’ throws down to second (and third) base since sliced bread was invented. However, POP did not become an official recorded stat until March of 2018when the MLB debuted Pop Time numbers thanks to the wide world of Statcast. Since 2018 MLB has kept track of pop time of every catcher across the league. And while the stat wasn’t technically recognized until 2018, the database features pop times dating back to 2015. Okay, what does POP look at and why is it significant? POP combines three dynamics of the catcher’s skill set; How quick his footwork is (to get into throwing position), how quickly he exchanges the ball from his mitt to his throwing hand and how fast he throws the ball (in mph). Of those three components the first two (footwork, and exchange from mitt to hand) are combined into “Exchange” on the stat list. The speed of the throw is measured as arm strength and listed under “Arm.” There’s a lot that goes into gunning down a runner at second base, especially if that runner has Buxton-like speed. Certainly a catcher with a cannon of an arm is going to toss out his fare share of runners. But POP factors in one of the most crucial parts of being a successful catcher; quick transition time. A catcher who has a gun of an arm but is slower than molasses is going to be less attractive and oftentimes less successful than a catcher who has weaker arm strength but can float like a butterfly behind the plate. Still, throwing out a runner is very difficult. The Major League average for catcher pop time in 2019 was 2.01 seconds. J.T Realmuto of the Phillies had the best pop time average last season, sitting at 1.89 seconds. 92 runners attempted to steal on Realmuto in 2019 and he threw out 43 of them; a crazy good number. Still, that's only a 46% success rate. What POP really covers is how well the catcher covers his leg of the relay race. Even if the catcher has a cannon and is very quick the throw could be off target, the middle infielder could make a poor tag, or the base runner could just be too damn fast. So how do Garver, Avila, and Jeffers stack up? To be frank, not too great. With the Diamondbacks last season Alex Avila averaged a 2.01 pop time, ranking him 31st in the league (minimum 10 attempts). Garver averaged a 2.04 pop time last season, ranking him 37th in the MLB. While Jeffers does not have MLB numbers out for POP yet his 2020 scouting report indicates that he has a strong arm and improved quickness, throwing out 26% of runners last season in AA Pensacola. When it comes to arm strength Garver holds a slight advantage over Avila, averaging 82.9 mph compared to Avila’s 81.5 mph. However, Avila holds the title of quicker catcher, averaging a 0.74 second Exchange compared to Garver’s 0.78. Big Picture How much does it matter that the Twins’ catchers don’t fare well when it comes to POP? Well, it depends on how much of a perfectionist you are. Baseball is a game of inches and the extra tenths of a second on someone’s POP can certainly change a big game. But at the end of the day let’s keep in mind that the gap between league POP leader Realmuto and Mitch Garver is .15 of a second; that is a sliver of an amount of time. While POP is certainly an important stat when it comes to recruiting, scouting, and measuring the level of a catcher, there are still so many other factors that go into stealing a base. And even though Avila has the better POP for the Twins, don’t expect it to push him over the edge to become the Twins starter. That decision will come down to the health of Mitch Garver and if he is able to pick up his offense. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebookor email Click here to view the article
  4. Box Score Hill: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K Home Runs: Rosario (1) Top 3 WPA: Hill .281, Cruz .123, Rosario .064 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs): Rich Hill finally made his first start in a Twins uniform, after being scratched from his scheduled start on Saturday. For Twins fans who didn’t know what they could expect from the 40-year-old Hill, they should take nothing but positives from this start. Hill pitched five scoreless innings with two strikeouts, all while allowing just two hits and one walk. Hill barely had to work up a sweat, throwing just 68 pitches before Rocco Baldelli decided that was a job well done, and turn the game over to the bullpen. His catcher on Wednesday was fellow veteran Alex Avila who said, "With him (Hill), it's not too difficult to call a game. Two pitches. Knowing when to go in, stay away, go up, stay down." He later added, "He was great. I barely broke a sweat." Hill noted, "It felt great to get back out there." Hill tipped his cap to the doctors that completed his surgery, then noted the work put in to come back. "There were a lot of days at home, throwing by myself at a field with a net to throw my bullpens." Luis Arraez got his first start in the leadoff spot this season and played the role to perfection, drawing a leadoff walk in the first. However, he was still stranded at first with two-outs when Nelson Cruz came up and drove him in with a double into the right-field gap, giving the Twins an early 1-0 lead. A big part of this at-bat was Cruz working the count full, after falling behind 1-2. This allowed Arraez to leave early from first and scored easily on the Cruz double. The Twins added to their lead with two more runs in the bottom of the 4th. They got their first run of the inning on Eddie Rosario’s first home run of the season. Rosario said after the game, "In the last couple of games, I wanted to select good pitches to hit, but I felt a little late on strikes. So today I wanted to be a little more aggressive tonight." The bottom of the order was then able to put together a two-out rally, as Jake Cave and Marwin Gonzalez reached on a hit-by-pitch and a walk, respectively, before Alex Avila picked up his first RBI with the Twins on a soft single to left, scoring Cave from second. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1288647773366231047 Tyler Duffey looked very impressive in his inning of work, sitting down the top of the Cardinals’ lineup 1-2-3, all three coming on strikeouts. Dick Bremer and Roy Smalley mentioned on the broadcast how confident Duffey looks when he is out there pitching, and it is hard not to be with the success he has had since the beginning of the 2019 season. At this point, an argument can be made that Duffey is the second-best reliever, behind Taylor Rogers, in what is a very deep Twins bullpen. After Duffey worked the 6th, Baldelli called on Sergio Romo in the 7th for his second consecutive night of work, and like Duffey, Romo set the Cardinals hitters down 1-2-3. The second and third outs of the inning came on flyballs to newly inserted centerfielder Aaron Whitefield, who replaced Miguel Sano in the lineup, and moved Jake Cave over right and Marwin Gonzalez in to first. Regarding the move, Baldelli said it was all planned out, "Everything is great with Miggy. There's a few reasons why we make that move. While we have a 30-man roster, we're able to take advantage of some real strengths of our guys. Today's a day where - we weren't going to talk about it before the game - but a day we were going to try to keep Buck off of his feet. A day were were going to keep Kep off his feet. What were were able to do is bring in a really fast, really good outfielder and play him out there for a couple of innings, in Whitefield and he went out there and did a really nice job. In order to do that, we have to make a move during the game. You look at our lineup, and you really don't want to take any of our guys out of the game, but today it was going to be Miggy. I'm sure we'll see him back in there very soon. He's doing fine." In the bottom of the inning the Twins had an excellent chance to add onto their lead, after getting 1st and 3rd with only one out, after singles from Marwin Gonzalez and Luis Arraez. However, the Twins were unable to get a run across, as Josh Donaldson grounded into a fielder’s choice, getting Gonzalez out in a rundown between home and third, before Jorge Polanco fly out to end the inning. Tyler Clippard got the call in the 8th inning and gave the Twins a bit of a scare to start the inning. After giving up a leadoff single to Dexter Fowler, Clippard fell behind Matt Carpenter 3-0 before coming back to strike Carpenter out. He then got the pinch-hitter Matt Wieters to pop out to Luis Arraez, who doubled-up a stealing Fowler at first to end the inning. https://twitter.com/SethTweets/status/1288668937094406146 In the 9th, Taylor Rogers came in for his first appearance of the season, picking up the save in what was an easy inning of work for the Twins closer. The brass of the Twins bullpen, which includes Rogers, along with Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Tyler Clippard and Cody Stashak have been very impressive to start the season. So far, they have combined to pitch 13 innings, while allowing just one run and striking out 19 batters. Baldelli acknowledged after the game, "Our guys are really good baseball players. They know that we're not going to come out and put up five or ten runs every single game. That's not how it works. Especially when you play good teams." Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Postgame Pint After the game, Nick Nelson, Matthew Braun, Lucas Seehafer and John Bonnes discussed the game, looked forward to the Cleveland series and answered questions from a live virtual audience. You can download the podcast or watch the video below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-oXUViOhI4&feature=youtu.be Seth Stohs contributed the post-game player and manager quotes to this article.
  5. Rich Hill capped a nice string of Twins pitching debuts by delivering five innings of shutout ball, surrendering just a pair of hits in the process. The new-look Twins rotation is off to a strong start, as Hill, Homer Bailey and Kenta Maeda each earned a victory the past three games.Box Score Hill: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K Home Runs: Rosario (1) Top 3 WPA: Hill .281, Cruz .123, Rosario .064 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs): Download attachment: Winchart.png Rich Hill finally made his first start in a Twins uniform, after being scratched from his scheduled start on Saturday. For Twins fans who didn’t know what they could expect from the 40-year-old Hill, they should take nothing but positives from this start. Hill pitched five scoreless innings with two strikeouts, all while allowing just two hits and one walk. Hill barely had to work up a sweat, throwing just 68 pitches before Rocco Baldelli decided that was a job well done, and turn the game over to the bullpen. His catcher on Wednesday was fellow veteran Alex Avila who said, "With him (Hill), it's not too difficult to call a game. Two pitches. Knowing when to go in, stay away, go up, stay down." He later added, "He was great. I barely broke a sweat." Hill noted, "It felt great to get back out there." Hill tipped his cap to the doctors that completed his surgery, then noted the work put in to come back. "There were a lot of days at home, throwing by myself at a field with a net to throw my bullpens." Luis Arraez got his first start in the leadoff spot this season and played the role to perfection, drawing a leadoff walk in the first. However, he was still stranded at first with two-outs when Nelson Cruz came up and drove him in with a double into the right-field gap, giving the Twins an early 1-0 lead. A big part of this at-bat was Cruz working the count full, after falling behind 1-2. This allowed Arraez to leave early from first and scored easily on the Cruz double. The Twins added to their lead with two more runs in the bottom of the 4th. They got their first run of the inning on Eddie Rosario’s first home run of the season. Rosario said after the game, "In the last couple of games, I wanted to select good pitches to hit, but I felt a little late on strikes. So today I wanted to be a little more aggressive tonight." The bottom of the order was then able to put together a two-out rally, as Jake Cave and Marwin Gonzalez reached on a hit-by-pitch and a walk, respectively, before Alex Avila picked up his first RBI with the Twins on a soft single to left, scoring Cave from second. Tyler Duffey looked very impressive in his inning of work, sitting down the top of the Cardinals’ lineup 1-2-3, all three coming on strikeouts. Dick Bremer and Roy Smalley mentioned on the broadcast how confident Duffey looks when he is out there pitching, and it is hard not to be with the success he has had since the beginning of the 2019 season. At this point, an argument can be made that Duffey is the second-best reliever, behind Taylor Rogers, in what is a very deep Twins bullpen. After Duffey worked the 6th, Baldelli called on Sergio Romo in the 7th for his second consecutive night of work, and like Duffey, Romo set the Cardinals hitters down 1-2-3. The second and third outs of the inning came on flyballs to newly inserted centerfielder Aaron Whitefield, who replaced Miguel Sano in the lineup, and moved Jake Cave over right and Marwin Gonzalez in to first. Regarding the move, Baldelli said it was all planned out, "Everything is great with Miggy. There's a few reasons why we make that move. While we have a 30-man roster, we're able to take advantage of some real strengths of our guys. Today's a day where - we weren't going to talk about it before the game - but a day we were going to try to keep Buck off of his feet. A day were were going to keep Kep off his feet. What were were able to do is bring in a really fast, really good outfielder and play him out there for a couple of innings, in Whitefield and he went out there and did a really nice job. In order to do that, we have to make a move during the game. You look at our lineup, and you really don't want to take any of our guys out of the game, but today it was going to be Miggy. I'm sure we'll see him back in there very soon. He's doing fine." In the bottom of the inning the Twins had an excellent chance to add onto their lead, after getting 1st and 3rd with only one out, after singles from Marwin Gonzalez and Luis Arraez. However, the Twins were unable to get a run across, as Josh Donaldson grounded into a fielder’s choice, getting Gonzalez out in a rundown between home and third, before Jorge Polanco fly out to end the inning. Tyler Clippard got the call in the 8th inning and gave the Twins a bit of a scare to start the inning. After giving up a leadoff single to Dexter Fowler, Clippard fell behind Matt Carpenter 3-0 before coming back to strike Carpenter out. He then got the pinch-hitter Matt Wieters to pop out to Luis Arraez, who doubled-up a stealing Fowler at first to end the inning. In the 9th, Taylor Rogers came in for his first appearance of the season, picking up the save in what was an easy inning of work for the Twins closer. The brass of the Twins bullpen, which includes Rogers, along with Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Tyler Clippard and Cody Stashak have been very impressive to start the season. So far, they have combined to pitch 13 innings, while allowing just one run and striking out 19 batters. Baldelli acknowledged after the game, "Our guys are really good baseball players. They know that we're not going to come out and put up five or ten runs every single game. That's not how it works. Especially when you play good teams." Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Download attachment: Bullpen.png Postgame Pint After the game, Nick Nelson, Matthew Braun, Lucas Seehafer and John Bonnes discussed the game, looked forward to the Cleveland series and answered questions from a live virtual audience. You can download the podcast or watch the video below: Seth Stohs contributed the post-game player and manager quotes to this article. Click here to view the article
  6. Seth Stohs

    Rest for Success

    The catcher position is really difficult. Not only is the backstop responsible for calling a game with each day’s pitcher, but he gets beat up physically over a long baseball season. With all the responsibility placed on a catcher behind the plate, it’s understandable that hitting has been considered a luxury for catchers throughout most of MLB history. In 2019, Twins catcher Mitch Garver not only improved his defense immensely, but he had a monster season at the plate too. How much did rest factor into his success? His manager, Rocco Baldelli, recently pointed out. “One thing that we know and we’ve had some brief discussions with Alex (Avila) about it as well. We try to make sure that our guys feel good when they take the field. I think one thing that we haven’t done a lot in the game is take our catchers into consideration and actually think, ‘Hey, if these guys could actually feel their legs, maybe they’d be able to perform better.’” He continued, “We don’t really think about it like that in baseball. We run our guys out there a lot, and I think we were able to see some of those benefits last year and the guys really showed up and stepped up and really seemed to come alive when given a day here and there. They’re able to recharge a little bit, take care of themselves.” We’ll dive more into that in a bit, but first, let’s take you back in time just a bit to see where Mitch Garver’s career has come over the past six years. Mitch Garver was the Twins 9th round draft pick in 2014 out of the University of New Mexico. He was a senior sign. He was touted as a bat-first (or to many, a bat-only) catcher and worked slowly up the minor league system. Twice Twins Daily named him the Twins minor league hitter of the year. He was recognized for his season in Cedar Rapids in 2014, and for his terrific 2017 season with the Rochester Red Wings during which he also made his MLB debut. In 2018, he struggled behind the plate. He saw the pitch framing stats and noticed that he was one of the worst-ranked in all of baseball. He went to work, as has been well documented, with former Twins minor league catching coordinator Tanner Swanson. A new approach and set up behind the plate, and Garver made himself into a league average defensive catcher. That’s more impressive since the ‘average’ defensive catcher improved from 2018 to 2019 too. But Garver also continued to work on his offense too. His focus was to swing at strikes, hit the ball in the air and pull the ball. As we all know well, it was a philosophy that worked. First, Garver knows the strike zone really well. He is one of the best in the league at not swinging at balls outside the strike zone. After hitting a respectable .268/.335/.414 (.749) with 19 doules and seven homers in 102 games in 2018, his first major-league season, he was incredible in 2019. In 93 games, he hit .273/.365/.630 (.995) with 16 doubles and 31 home runs. For his efforts, he won his first of hopefully several Silver Slugger Awards for the best catcher in the American League. Sure, maybe his college coach wasn’t surprised, but I think most diehard Garver fans were a little bit surprised at that level of success. You’ll notice the 93 games played. First, remember that he went into the season as a backup to Jason Castro behind the plate. You may remember (and maybe you were one of them) who thought Garver should have even started the 2019 season in the minor leagues with Willians Astudillo the backup. Can you imagine? But back to the 93 games. Remember that gruesome injury to his ankle that he sustained while blocking the plate and keeping an Angels runner from tying the game in the ninth inning. The fear was that he could miss an extended period. Instead, he returned to game action after missing just 17 games. So hey, maybe if not for that, he may have played in another nine or ten games. He played in 93 of the 145 games that he was on the Twins active roster in 2019 about 64% In reality, he started 73 games behind the plate, just over 50% of games that he was on the active roster. There’s no question that the rest helped and contributed mightily to his 2019 success. He was able to stay strong, with fresh legs. But if Mitch Garver starts behind the plate for just 50% of the Twins 60 game season, that would be surprising and disappointing. Both Garver and Baldelli noted that they had not (as of Monday) had any conversation about playing time. Baldelli siad, “I anticipate getting Mitch out there as much as we can. But again, Mitch is going to get his days off. Alex is going to get a fair amount of time out there as well. We’re going to get into a rotation.” Wisely, Baldelli stopped short of giving any sort of estimate of games played. There are many variables in that, plus in this shortened 2020 season, there are COVID-19 concerns along with the regular injury and wear that a catcher’s body goes through. That is a factor that Garver brought up as well. He pointed out the time off. ‘Obviously shutting down the body for a couple of months, then turning it back on. There’s weird things that can happen. You’ll see it across the league.“ But Garver simply wants to play as much as he can. Sure, he wants to play as much as he can, but he understands the bigger picture for himself and for the team. “Obviously everybody wants to play as much as they can. I’d like to play 40-45 games. I think that’s a pretty good number. Maybe even 50 games. That’s a nice number to get to. Obviously I’d like to get out there every chance I can to help contribute, but we’ll see how it goes. Everybody wants to get out there.” Baldelli seemed to acknowledge that Garver has earned the spot and the playing time that comes from it. “I think with the year that Mitch had, he’s definitely proven himself to be not just a capable catcher, but a really productive backstop. It was fun to watch that happen, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to go out there and say ‘Mitch is going to catch four out of five games, here we go.’ There’s a lot more that goes into it than that. We’ll feel it out starting on Day 1.” Four out of five feels like a lot, doesn’t it. Over a 162 games season, that equates to about 130 starts. Few catchers do that, and with the success-with-rest in 2019, he doesn’t need to do that. That would be starting 48 out of 60 games behind the plate. But what about two out of three? That’s 67%, an earned bump from his 50% rate in 2019. That particularly makes sense in a three-game series. Maybe he starts three games during four-game series, and maybe just one game during two-game series? But if Garver can make about 40 starts, veteran Alex Avila can stay fresh with about 20 starts. If Willians Astudillo is on the roster, maybe he gets into the final innings of some blowouts to make sure even a few innings of rest is available. While Garver posted a .902 OPS, with 19 of his 31 homers against right-handers, he was even better facing lefties. He hit .321 with an OPS of 1.170 against southpaws and hit 12 of homers. Meanwhile, in 2019, Avila posted a .795 OPS with 14 of his 17 extra base hits against right-handers. No, I’m definitely not advocating a straight split that would mean very little playing time for Garver, but I am saying that they can be strategic about when Garver gets his days off. And hey, if the Twins find themselves in a division or playoff race down the stretch, hopefully he will be strong enough to play a little more frequently. But now it’s your turn. If you are in charge, how would you handle the Twins catching situation. In an ideal, while still-realistic world, how many games would you like to see Mitch Garver start?
  7. Mitch Garver put up some incredible statistics in 2019. He greatly improved his defensive abilities through a ton of hard and focused work. He also kept working on his offensive approach, and for it, he was named the American League’s Silver Slugger Award as the league’s top hitting catcher. What might we expect from the backstop in 2020?The catcher position is really difficult. Not only is the backstop responsible for calling a game with each day’s pitcher, but he gets beat up physically over a long baseball season. With all the responsibility placed on a catcher behind the plate, it’s understandable that hitting has been considered a luxury for catchers throughout most of MLB history. In 2019, Twins catcher Mitch Garver not only improved his defense immensely, but he had a monster season at the plate too. How much did rest factor into his success? His manager, Rocco Baldelli, recently pointed out. “One thing that we know and we’ve had some brief discussions with Alex (Avila) about it as well. We try to make sure that our guys feel good when they take the field. I think one thing that we haven’t done a lot in the game is take our catchers into consideration and actually think, ‘Hey, if these guys could actually feel their legs, maybe they’d be able to perform better.’” He continued, “We don’t really think about it like that in baseball. We run our guys out there a lot, and I think we were able to see some of those benefits last year and the guys really showed up and stepped up and really seemed to come alive when given a day here and there. They’re able to recharge a little bit, take care of themselves.” We’ll dive more into that in a bit, but first, let’s take you back in time just a bit to see where Mitch Garver’s career has come over the past six years. Mitch Garver was the Twins 9th round draft pick in 2014 out of the University of New Mexico. He was a senior sign. He was touted as a bat-first (or to many, a bat-only) catcher and worked slowly up the minor league system. Twice Twins Daily named him the Twins minor league hitter of the year. He was recognized for his season in Cedar Rapids in 2014, and for his terrific 2017 season with the Rochester Red Wings during which he also made his MLB debut. In 2018, he struggled behind the plate. He saw the pitch framing stats and noticed that he was one of the worst-ranked in all of baseball. He went to work, as has been well documented, with former Twins minor league catching coordinator Tanner Swanson. A new approach and set up behind the plate, and Garver made himself into a league average defensive catcher. That’s more impressive since the ‘average’ defensive catcher improved from 2018 to 2019 too. But Garver also continued to work on his offense too. His focus was to swing at strikes, hit the ball in the air and pull the ball. As we all know well, it was a philosophy that worked. First, Garver knows the strike zone really well. He is one of the best in the league at not swinging at balls outside the strike zone. After hitting a respectable .268/.335/.414 (.749) with 19 doules and seven homers in 102 games in 2018, his first major-league season, he was incredible in 2019. In 93 games, he hit .273/.365/.630 (.995) with 16 doubles and 31 home runs. For his efforts, he won his first of hopefully several Silver Slugger Awards for the best catcher in the American League. Sure, maybe his college coach wasn’t surprised, but I think most diehard Garver fans were a little bit surprised at that level of success. You’ll notice the 93 games played. First, remember that he went into the season as a backup to Jason Castro behind the plate. You may remember (and maybe you were one of them) who thought Garver should have even started the 2019 season in the minor leagues with Willians Astudillo the backup. Can you imagine? But back to the 93 games. Remember that gruesome injury to his ankle that he sustained while blocking the plate and keeping an Angels runner from tying the game in the ninth inning. The fear was that he could miss an extended period. Instead, he returned to game action after missing just 17 games. So hey, maybe if not for that, he may have played in another nine or ten games. He played in 93 of the 145 games that he was on the Twins active roster in 2019 about 64% In reality, he started 73 games behind the plate, just over 50% of games that he was on the active roster. There’s no question that the rest helped and contributed mightily to his 2019 success. He was able to stay strong, with fresh legs. But if Mitch Garver starts behind the plate for just 50% of the Twins 60 game season, that would be surprising and disappointing. Both Garver and Baldelli noted that they had not (as of Monday) had any conversation about playing time. Baldelli siad, “I anticipate getting Mitch out there as much as we can. But again, Mitch is going to get his days off. Alex is going to get a fair amount of time out there as well. We’re going to get into a rotation.” Wisely, Baldelli stopped short of giving any sort of estimate of games played. There are many variables in that, plus in this shortened 2020 season, there are COVID-19 concerns along with the regular injury and wear that a catcher’s body goes through. That is a factor that Garver brought up as well. He pointed out the time off. ‘Obviously shutting down the body for a couple of months, then turning it back on. There’s weird things that can happen. You’ll see it across the league.“ But Garver simply wants to play as much as he can. Sure, he wants to play as much as he can, but he understands the bigger picture for himself and for the team. “Obviously everybody wants to play as much as they can. I’d like to play 40-45 games. I think that’s a pretty good number. Maybe even 50 games. That’s a nice number to get to. Obviously I’d like to get out there every chance I can to help contribute, but we’ll see how it goes. Everybody wants to get out there.” Baldelli seemed to acknowledge that Garver has earned the spot and the playing time that comes from it. “I think with the year that Mitch had, he’s definitely proven himself to be not just a capable catcher, but a really productive backstop. It was fun to watch that happen, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to go out there and say ‘Mitch is going to catch four out of five games, here we go.’ There’s a lot more that goes into it than that. We’ll feel it out starting on Day 1.” Four out of five feels like a lot, doesn’t it. Over a 162 games season, that equates to about 130 starts. Few catchers do that, and with the success-with-rest in 2019, he doesn’t need to do that. That would be starting 48 out of 60 games behind the plate. But what about two out of three? That’s 67%, an earned bump from his 50% rate in 2019. That particularly makes sense in a three-game series. Maybe he starts three games during four-game series, and maybe just one game during two-game series? But if Garver can make about 40 starts, veteran Alex Avila can stay fresh with about 20 starts. If Willians Astudillo is on the roster, maybe he gets into the final innings of some blowouts to make sure even a few innings of rest is available. While Garver posted a .902 OPS, with 19 of his 31 homers against right-handers, he was even better facing lefties. He hit .321 with an OPS of 1.170 against southpaws and hit 12 of homers. Meanwhile, in 2019, Avila posted a .795 OPS with 14 of his 17 extra base hits against right-handers. No, I’m definitely not advocating a straight split that would mean very little playing time for Garver, but I am saying that they can be strategic about when Garver gets his days off. And hey, if the Twins find themselves in a division or playoff race down the stretch, hopefully he will be strong enough to play a little more frequently. But now it’s your turn. If you are in charge, how would you handle the Twins catching situation. In an ideal, while still-realistic world, how many games would you like to see Mitch Garver start? Click here to view the article
  8. Short Leash For managers, there’s always been a fine line between leaving a starting pitcher in the game or going to the bullpen. This line will become even more blurred during the 2020 campaign as each game will have increased importance. Managers will likely turn to their bullpens earlier, especially if a starting pitcher is struggling. There isn’t going to be room in the schedule to drop a game here or there because of a poor pitching performance. Teams striving for the playoffs are going to need to get hot quickly and stay hot for the duration of the season. One clunker from a starting pitcher could put the team into a tailspin that could be tough to recover from. Managers are going to treat games more like the postseason and starters aren’t going to be given as many liberties as would be allowed in a typical regular season. Bullpen Usage Bullpens have taken on even more importance in recent years and that will only increase in a season where there might be fewer off-days. Players will likely need to be prepared to enter games earlier because managers are going to have a short leash (mentioned above) with starters. Another consideration for relief pitchers is the new three-batter minimum rule. This will throw another wrinkle into an already unique season. Luckily for Twins fans, Minnesota’s bullpen was considered a strength entering the 2020 season. This could be a silver lining for Rocco Baldelli if he needs to turn to his bullpen earlier and more often in games. Adding Tyler Clippard and a full season of Sergio Romo will likely help to improve the ‘pen. Those two are likely going to be middle relievers with Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, and Tyler Duffey getting the bulk of the late-inning work. Bench Pressed Managers bench usage might not be thought of very often and most bench decisions are something that can fly under the radar. Minnesota’s bench would likely consist of some combination of players like Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave, Willians Astudillo, Ehire Adrianza, and Alex Avila. Do they send up a pinch hitter late in the game? When do you make a defensive substitution? If Nelson Cruz singles, should you put in a better runner? Minnesota’s catching situation is certainly something to keep an eye on during a shortened season. Last season, Baldelli saw the value in giving each catcher regular rest. This worked well for Mitch Garver as he had a break-out season on the way to winning his first Silver Slugger. In a full season, it seemed likely for Garver to get more of the workload, but now that might not be the case. Avila and Astudillo could see a higher percentage of games because of the shortened schedule. It’s hard to know how each manager will approach the 2020 season. The Twins had playoff aspirations in 2020 and that isn’t going to change with fewer games on the schedule. Those high hopes will only magnify each pitching change and other in-game decisions by the reigning AL Manager of the Year. How do you think managing will change in a shortened season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. Projected Starter: Mitch Garver Likely Backup: Alex Avila Depth: Willians Astudillo, Tomas Telis Prospects: Ryan Jeffers, Ben Rortvedt THE GOOD When analyzing this position last spring, I called Twins catchers a collection of "promising question marks." Then, the backup Garver went on to enjoy a breakout year of epic proportions. This spring, in the words of MLB.com's Mike Petriello, "there's only one question Twins fans are interested in: Can he do it again?" Petriello's article notes that Garver's emergence in 2019, while out-of-nowhere, carried plenty of legitimizing traits: he ranked sixth among MLB hitters in hard-hit rate, seventh in average exit velocity, 14th in barrels per batted ball, and rated as one of the best fastball hitters in recent history. There was nothing misleading about Garver's spectacular results last year – he took terrific ABs and hit the ball hard consistently, thus he did tons of damage. Not only that, but Garver made massive strides defensively, implementing changes in technique to go from a 5th-percentile pitch framer to the 80th percentile (per Baseball Prospectus) in a one-year span. There isn't much, other than the ingrained skepticism from watching many isolated "breakouts" come and go, to suggest Garver is due for overwhelming regression in 2020. He figures to be a solidly above-average starter at the very least. But even if he doesn't lose a step, the Twins have made clear they are going to limit his game reps in efforts to preserve his body for the long haul. So a quality timeshare partner is needed, and it appears the front office identified a good one. Avila could be viewed as a question mark I suppose, in the sense that he's a newcomer, but he's about as established and reliable a commodity you could ask for in this role. He's played in the majors for more than a decade, has a good rep as a receiver, and is accustomed to learning new staffs, having played for four teams in the past four years. As a part-time backstop facing mostly right-handed pitching, Avila will be an asset. He's one of the league's more patient hitters and a fine producer at the dish. He's only here for one year, but that's by design. Jeffers has solidified his standing as Twins catcher of the future. He finished at Double-A last year and could very well get a look in the big leagues this summer. All signs are very encouraging with the 22-year-old at this time. ("I think he's getting to the point where he becomes an option for our Major League team if we need him at some point in the near future," Rocco Baldelli said recently.) THE BAD The Twins suddenly find themselves quite dependent on Garver. They have the offensive firepower to succeed in his absence, but he's certainly become a key part of their lineup. The drop-off at catcher is immense from starter to backup, in a way that is probably unmatched across the rest of the roster. That's almost always going to be the case when you have an elite starting catcher, but depth is a bit of a murky issue. Avila would be palatable but stretched as a starter. Astudillo lost much of his luster in 2019, posting a sub-700 OPS as pitchers began to routinely exploit his extreme lack of discipline. Telis is next in line and while he's played in the big leagues a fair amount, he has hit .230/.267/.298 there. It's not that the Twins have especially shallow depth at catcher. There's just not much to get excited about after Garver until Jeffers is ready, which is probably a ways off. And while the incumbent enters this season in good health, his history reminds us how dangerous his position can be. In 2018, Garver missed most of September after suffering a concussion on a foul-tip. And last summer, he suffered a high ankle sprain on a scary home-plate collision. In both cases he was fortunate enough to avoid more serious trauma, and the Twins do an admirable job of protecting him to the extent they can, but there's only so much to be done. Playing catcher in the major leagues might be the most dangerous job in pro sports this side of the NFL. THE BOTTOM LINE The Twins have a top-tier starter, a qualified and complementary veteran backup, and a high-caliber prospect nearing readiness in the pipeline. There's not much more you an ask for. Minnesota is poised to have an advantage over virtually every opponent at catcher. Much hinges on people staying healthy. And as we know all too well, that can never be assumed at this position. So with fingers crossed (and mitt perfectly positioned to receive a pitch on the edge of the strike zone), we proceed with the best laid plans. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. One year ago, the catcher position was in a serious state of flux for the Twins. Starter Jason Castro was entering his last season under contract. Mitch Garver was still seeking to fully establish himself. Willians Astudillo was a complete wild card. Today, the Twins can confidently count themselves as one of the strongest teams in the league at catcher, if not No. 1 on the list.Projected Starter: Mitch Garver Likely Backup: Alex Avila Depth: Willians Astudillo, Tomas Telis Prospects: Ryan Jeffers, Ben Rortvedt THE GOOD When analyzing this position last spring, I called Twins catchers a collection of "promising question marks." Then, the backup Garver went on to enjoy a breakout year of epic proportions. This spring, in the words of MLB.com's Mike Petriello, "there's only one question Twins fans are interested in: Can he do it again?" Petriello's article notes that Garver's emergence in 2019, while out-of-nowhere, carried plenty of legitimizing traits: he ranked sixth among MLB hitters in hard-hit rate, seventh in average exit velocity, 14th in barrels per batted ball, and rated as one of the best fastball hitters in recent history. There was nothing misleading about Garver's spectacular results last year – he took terrific ABs and hit the ball hard consistently, thus he did tons of damage. Not only that, but Garver made massive strides defensively, implementing changes in technique to go from a 5th-percentile pitch framer to the 80th percentile (per Baseball Prospectus) in a one-year span. There isn't much, other than the ingrained skepticism from watching many isolated "breakouts" come and go, to suggest Garver is due for overwhelming regression in 2020. He figures to be a solidly above-average starter at the very least. But even if he doesn't lose a step, the Twins have made clear they are going to limit his game reps in efforts to preserve his body for the long haul. So a quality timeshare partner is needed, and it appears the front office identified a good one. Avila could be viewed as a question mark I suppose, in the sense that he's a newcomer, but he's about as established and reliable a commodity you could ask for in this role. He's played in the majors for more than a decade, has a good rep as a receiver, and is accustomed to learning new staffs, having played for four teams in the past four years. As a part-time backstop facing mostly right-handed pitching, Avila will be an asset. He's one of the league's more patient hitters and a fine producer at the dish. He's only here for one year, but that's by design. Jeffers has solidified his standing as Twins catcher of the future. He finished at Double-A last year and could very well get a look in the big leagues this summer. All signs are very encouraging with the 22-year-old at this time. ("I think he's getting to the point where he becomes an option for our Major League team if we need him at some point in the near future," Rocco Baldelli said recently.) THE BAD The Twins suddenly find themselves quite dependent on Garver. They have the offensive firepower to succeed in his absence, but he's certainly become a key part of their lineup. The drop-off at catcher is immense from starter to backup, in a way that is probably unmatched across the rest of the roster. That's almost always going to be the case when you have an elite starting catcher, but depth is a bit of a murky issue. Avila would be palatable but stretched as a starter. Astudillo lost much of his luster in 2019, posting a sub-700 OPS as pitchers began to routinely exploit his extreme lack of discipline. Telis is next in line and while he's played in the big leagues a fair amount, he has hit .230/.267/.298 there. It's not that the Twins have especially shallow depth at catcher. There's just not much to get excited about after Garver until Jeffers is ready, which is probably a ways off. And while the incumbent enters this season in good health, his history reminds us how dangerous his position can be. In 2018, Garver missed most of September after suffering a concussion on a foul-tip. And last summer, he suffered a high ankle sprain on a scary home-plate collision. In both cases he was fortunate enough to avoid more serious trauma, and the Twins do an admirable job of protecting him to the extent they can, but there's only so much to be done. Playing catcher in the major leagues might be the most dangerous job in pro sports this side of the NFL. THE BOTTOM LINE The Twins have a top-tier starter, a qualified and complementary veteran backup, and a high-caliber prospect nearing readiness in the pipeline. There's not much more you an ask for. Minnesota is poised to have an advantage over virtually every opponent at catcher. Much hinges on people staying healthy. And as we know all too well, that can never be assumed at this position. So with fingers crossed (and mitt perfectly positioned to receive a pitch on the edge of the strike zone), we proceed with the best laid plans. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  11. In his second start, Jose Berrios worked three scoreless innings. On a cold night in Ft. Myers, the Twins bats were also kept quiet. The Twins lost 2-0 to give former bench coach Derek Shelton his first managerial win.The Twins were ready for Derek Shelton to return to Hammond Stadium. When the Twins were done with batting practice, the Pittsburgh Pirates came onto the field for their pregame work. When Shelton came out, he was met in the middle of the infield by a large contingent of Twins, starting with Rocco Baldelli. Derek Falvey wished him well. Shelton was given hugs by many Twins personnel. In addition, there were a few photos put into a slide show format on the stadiums video board. In addition, several chatted with Rick Eckstein, the Pirates hitting coach. He was the Twins minor league hitting coordinator in 2018 before getting the Pirates job before the 2019 season. Even after the Pirates made a change with their manager, Eckstein retained his job. Jose Berrios started and threw three scoreless innings. He gave up one hit, walked two and struck out two batters. It took him a little to get going at the beginning. "I tried to do the same thing I did last time. Throwing my four-seam fastball. Using the changeup, too. Trying to throw good changeups. But in the beginning, the first inning, I had issues with the grip because of the weather. Because I was thinking about it, I was being too fast with my first side. But other than that, I felt good about the outing." In addition, Berrios was working on a couple of things. "Yeah. I threw a couple of fastballs well, running up. That's something we've been practicing so far in spring training." He is also working on a spiked curveball, the more 12-6 variety, to go with his sweeping slider. It's something that his manager thinks will really help him, especially working in concert with his elevated fastball. Said Baldelli, "Being able to use those pitches off of each other, I think, is certainly a trick that Jose is aware of, and he's used, but I think he's still perfecting that kind of stuff and gaining even more feel for it. He can definitely sweep that breaking ball across the zone and that can be effective for some hitters, but if he can also be able to spin it up and down. We're talking slight adjustments here, but if he can do some different things with the breaking ball, that can come in in a useful way." Berrios said that he spent some time with Alex Avila after his outing. "After our outing, we talked and obviously, it's the first time we've played together. He said, 'The more I know you, the more comfortable it will be for me.' Today, I think we did great work." Asked if he and his staff has strategically aligned pitchers and catchers who have not worked with each other to work with each other early in camp, Baldelli said, "Yes. It doesn't always work out [perfectly where you get to match everybody up with exactly who you want them to work with. But I think it is important. know Wes and Mac and Bill also think it is important. We will ty to get Alex out there with as many of our pitchers as we possibly can throughout the spring. Hopefully he sees everyone. Hopefully he will see most of them multiple times. And the same with Bailey and Kenta with all of our guys, just trying to get feel for all these guys. It starts in the bullpens early on in camp and goes into live b.p. then obviously real games The more they can work together the better off we are going to be once the season starts." Littell Velocity Do Hyoung Park from twinsbaseball.com chatted with Zack Littell about his bullpen role. He told pitching coach Wes Johnson that he wants to hit 100 mph. Littell has really taken to the bullpen role. On Saturday night, he tossed two scoreless innings and struck out three. Nelson Cruz(es) Several of the players kids were in the clubhouse before the game on Saturday night. Nelson Cruz's son - also Nelson - was pretty involved in the night. When the Twins were taking infield practice, he was in line with the other Twins third basemen and fielded grounders and made the throws to (or most of the way to) second or first base. Whatever the other guys were doing. They stood together for the national anthem, and Nelson (the younger) got to spend time as a bat boy. Notes Rocco Baldelli did say that Jorge Polanco is expected to start at DH on Sunday afternoon. It will mark his first game of the spring. Marwin Gonzalez is expected to make his first appearance this week as well. Please feel free to ask questions. I've done several interviews and I have several more planned. They definitely won't all be published by the time I leave here next week. One thing is for sure. We will have a lot of pictures to use with the Twins Daily articles. Be sure to follow Twins Daily on Twitter. Click here to view the article
  12. The Twins were ready for Derek Shelton to return to Hammond Stadium. When the Twins were done with batting practice, the Pittsburgh Pirates came onto the field for their pregame work. When Shelton came out, he was met in the middle of the infield by a large contingent of Twins, starting with Rocco Baldelli. Derek Falvey wished him well. Shelton was given hugs by many Twins personnel. In addition, there were a few photos put into a slide show format on the stadiums video board. In addition, several chatted with Rick Eckstein, the Pirates hitting coach. He was the Twins minor league hitting coordinator in 2018 before getting the Pirates job before the 2019 season. Even after the Pirates made a change with their manager, Eckstein retained his job. Jose Berrios started and threw three scoreless innings. He gave up one hit, walked two and struck out two batters. It took him a little to get going at the beginning. "I tried to do the same thing I did last time. Throwing my four-seam fastball. Using the changeup, too. Trying to throw good changeups. But in the beginning, the first inning, I had issues with the grip because of the weather. Because I was thinking about it, I was being too fast with my first side. But other than that, I felt good about the outing." In addition, Berrios was working on a couple of things. "Yeah. I threw a couple of fastballs well, running up. That's something we've been practicing so far in spring training." He is also working on a spiked curveball, the more 12-6 variety, to go with his sweeping slider. It's something that his manager thinks will really help him, especially working in concert with his elevated fastball. Said Baldelli, "Being able to use those pitches off of each other, I think, is certainly a trick that Jose is aware of, and he's used, but I think he's still perfecting that kind of stuff and gaining even more feel for it. He can definitely sweep that breaking ball across the zone and that can be effective for some hitters, but if he can also be able to spin it up and down. We're talking slight adjustments here, but if he can do some different things with the breaking ball, that can come in in a useful way." Berrios said that he spent some time with Alex Avila after his outing. "After our outing, we talked and obviously, it's the first time we've played together. He said, 'The more I know you, the more comfortable it will be for me.' Today, I think we did great work." Asked if he and his staff has strategically aligned pitchers and catchers who have not worked with each other to work with each other early in camp, Baldelli said, "Yes. It doesn't always work out [perfectly where you get to match everybody up with exactly who you want them to work with. But I think it is important. know Wes and Mac and Bill also think it is important. We will ty to get Alex out there with as many of our pitchers as we possibly can throughout the spring. Hopefully he sees everyone. Hopefully he will see most of them multiple times. And the same with Bailey and Kenta with all of our guys, just trying to get feel for all these guys. It starts in the bullpens early on in camp and goes into live b.p. then obviously real games The more they can work together the better off we are going to be once the season starts." Littell Velocity Do Hyoung Park from twinsbaseball.com chatted with Zack Littell about his bullpen role. He told pitching coach Wes Johnson that he wants to hit 100 mph. Littell has really taken to the bullpen role. On Saturday night, he tossed two scoreless innings and struck out three. Nelson Cruz(es) Several of the players kids were in the clubhouse before the game on Saturday night. Nelson Cruz's son - also Nelson - was pretty involved in the night. When the Twins were taking infield practice, he was in line with the other Twins third basemen and fielded grounders and made the throws to (or most of the way to) second or first base. Whatever the other guys were doing. They stood together for the national anthem, and Nelson (the younger) got to spend time as a bat boy. Notes Rocco Baldelli did say that Jorge Polanco is expected to start at DH on Sunday afternoon. It will mark his first game of the spring. Marwin Gonzalez is expected to make his first appearance this week as well. Please feel free to ask questions. I've done several interviews and I have several more planned. They definitely won't all be published by the time I leave here next week. One thing is for sure. We will have a lot of pictures to use with the Twins Daily articles. Be sure to follow Twins Daily on Twitter.
  13. After a busy and fruitful offseason, the Twins will have several new faces entering the fold in 2020. As they get to know their new teammates in Fort Myers, let's get to know a little more about them. Read on to learn five revealing facts about newly acquired players, each of which tells a bigger story.1: Tyler Clippard won a World Series in 2017 ... but didn't pitch in the playoffs. Marwin Gonzalez has received a lot of attention for playing a role in the Astros' tainted 2017 championship. That make sense; the numbers make it quite clear he was a prime beneficiary of the cheating. One player who's receiving less attention is Clippard. That also makes sense; he was a pitcher and he wasn't even on the postseason roster. But the veteran reliever was on the 40-man roster, and with the team during their run, so he got a ring. It's unfortunate that Clippard's time with Houston coincided with one of the worst stretches of performance in his career. The Astros had acquired him from the White Sox in mid-August, hoping he could assist in their World Series pursuit, but the right-hander failed to earn confidence, posting a 6.43 ERA in 14 innings. So, he wasn't a contributor in October. But he was out there on the field celebrating as the Astros reveled in their title*. Unlike Rich Hill, who is singularly focused on winning a World Series after coming just short against those Astros in 2017, Clippard does have the coveted accomplishment checked off. But something tells me he'd like to do it again and play an actual role this time around. (Oh, and like Hill – plus almost every other free agent the Twins signed – Clippard does have postseason experience: a 4.26 ERA in 12 2/3 innings with the Nationals and Mets.) 2: Kenta Maeda's medicals raised red flags when he first came over from Japan. When looking back at the initial coverage of Maeda's signing with the Dodgers back in 2016, I found this tidbit rather ironic. Much has been made of the new starter's highly appealing contract, which includes low guarantees and heavy incentives. But the reasons behind this unusual deal architecture are interesting in light of all the drama that unfolded with the recent trade. Physical exams at the time of Maeda's signing revealed irregularities in right elbow, leading to a "strong suspicion ...he will need Tommy John reconstruction at some point." "It's factored into the length and structure of the contract," which maxed out at more than $100 million but guaranteed less than a quarter of that, according to Dodgers head exec Andrew Friedman at the time. Maeda was 27 then. Four years later, he's thrown 589 innings over 137 appearances for Los Angeles and had not one issue with his pitching elbow. All three of his stints on the injured list in LA were due to lower-body injuries. It's just another data point to illustrate that the human body is unpredictable, and medical prognosticating is an incredibly inexact science. So whatever concerns arose in Boston's eyes when they looked at Brusdar Graterol's medicals, causing them to sour on him and back out of the original trade, were flimsy at best. 3: Jhoulys Chacin has a better career ERA+ than Jose Berrios or Jake Odorizzi. His 108 ERA+ mark in the contextualized metric (100 is average) over 1,300 career innings edges that of either incumbent All-Star. Berrios (105) and Odorizzi (106) have been solid in aggregate, as has Michael Pineda (103), but Chacin's body of work surpasses them all. ERA+ shines a positive light on the former Rockie because it accounts for his six years spent in the league's toughest pitching environment. Chacin's 3.78 ERA in Colorado was even more impressive than it looked. Per ERA+, he's been above-average in six of his nine seasons with 50+ IP, including two of the past three. He has also been very durable of late, logging 100+ innings and 22+ starts in four straight campaigns. Because he's coming off a rough year, Chacin is being slept on as one of the most underrated additions in the Twins offseason. Tabbing him for the fifth rotation spot with a non-guaranteed deal is a completely risk-free proposition with very real upside. 4: Josh Donaldson was a childhood friend of former Twin P.J. Walters. I came across this factoid in a profile on Donaldson from 2013. In his junior year of high school, the Florida native transferred to Faith Academy in Mobile, AL, partially because Walters – "one of Josh's best friends," per MLB.com's Jane Lee – had enrolled there a year earlier. At the time that article published, Walters was pitching in the Twins organization. The right-hander threw 152 total innings in the majors, and 101 of them came with Minnesota, where he made 20 starts in 2012 and '13. It was a real low point in the franchise's recent history, as Walters epitomized the perpetual struggle of Terry Ryan's front office: throwing fringe arms at the wall in desperate hopes of adhesion. Walters was one of many misfires, posting a 5.79 ERA and 1.60 WHIP for the Twins, and never again appearing in the majors afterward. Donaldson, meanwhile, represents just how much things have changed for the Twins since those dark days. He's the marquee addition to a 101-win division champ, assembled by an overhauled front office that has elevated the club's operational sophistication drastically. 5: Alex Avila developed a rep as "The Titanium Catcher" ... and as a lightning rod for foul tips. In January of 2014, months after the Twins announced Joe Mauer would be moving away from catcher, an article on Fox Sports Detroit boasted of this nickname for Avila, who missed two weeks the prior season due to headaches and nausea resulting from a foul tip (incidentally, sustained just 11 days before the one that ended Mauer's catching career). "One thing Avila did do after he returned from the disabled list," according to the writeup, "was start wearing a heavier mask to absorb more of the impact from the foul tips he seems to get so frequently." His ability to bounce back from the bell-ringers earned Avila a rep for imperviousness, and he has gone on to start 387 games at catcher in the six years since. But as Twins fans know all too well, just one foul tip can change everything, especially when there is a history at play. Mauer moved to first base permanently in 2014, and later retired at age 35 following another flare-up of symptoms. Mitch Garver suffered a concussion on a foul-tip in September of 2018, and didn't catch again for the final three weeks of the season, casting some doubt on his own future behind the plate. Thankfully, he avoided any further issues or complications in a breakout 2019. The Twins will hope that Avila can continue to be titanium-grade this year, so he can help lighten Garver's load and continue the productivity of Minnesota's catching unit. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  14. 1: Tyler Clippard won a World Series in 2017 ... but didn't pitch in the playoffs. Marwin Gonzalez has received a lot of attention for playing a role in the Astros' tainted 2017 championship. That make sense; the numbers make it quite clear he was a prime beneficiary of the cheating. One player who's receiving less attention is Clippard. That also makes sense; he was a pitcher and he wasn't even on the postseason roster. But the veteran reliever was on the 40-man roster, and with the team during their run, so he got a ring. It's unfortunate that Clippard's time with Houston coincided with one of the worst stretches of performance in his career. The Astros had acquired him from the White Sox in mid-August, hoping he could assist in their World Series pursuit, but the right-hander failed to earn confidence, posting a 6.43 ERA in 14 innings. So, he wasn't a contributor in October. But he was out there on the field celebrating as the Astros reveled in their title*. https://twitter.com/dcsportsbog/status/925937167834271744 Unlike Rich Hill, who is singularly focused on winning a World Series after coming just short against those Astros in 2017, Clippard does have the coveted accomplishment checked off. But something tells me he'd like to do it again and play an actual role this time around. (Oh, and like Hill – plus almost every other free agent the Twins signed – Clippard does have postseason experience: a 4.26 ERA in 12 2/3 innings with the Nationals and Mets.) 2: Kenta Maeda's medicals raised red flags when he first came over from Japan. When looking back at the initial coverage of Maeda's signing with the Dodgers back in 2016, I found this tidbit rather ironic. Much has been made of the new starter's highly appealing contract, which includes low guarantees and heavy incentives. But the reasons behind this unusual deal architecture are interesting in light of all the drama that unfolded with the recent trade. Physical exams at the time of Maeda's signing revealed irregularities in right elbow, leading to a "strong suspicion ...he will need Tommy John reconstruction at some point." "It's factored into the length and structure of the contract," which maxed out at more than $100 million but guaranteed less than a quarter of that, according to Dodgers head exec Andrew Friedman at the time. Maeda was 27 then. Four years later, he's thrown 589 innings over 137 appearances for Los Angeles and had not one issue with his pitching elbow. All three of his stints on the injured list in LA were due to lower-body injuries. It's just another data point to illustrate that the human body is unpredictable, and medical prognosticating is an incredibly inexact science. So whatever concerns arose in Boston's eyes when they looked at Brusdar Graterol's medicals, causing them to sour on him and back out of the original trade, were flimsy at best. 3: Jhoulys Chacin has a better career ERA+ than Jose Berrios or Jake Odorizzi. His 108 ERA+ mark in the contextualized metric (100 is average) over 1,300 career innings edges that of either incumbent All-Star. Berrios (105) and Odorizzi (106) have been solid in aggregate, as has Michael Pineda (103), but Chacin's body of work surpasses them all. ERA+ shines a positive light on the former Rockie because it accounts for his six years spent in the league's toughest pitching environment. Chacin's 3.78 ERA in Colorado was even more impressive than it looked. Per ERA+, he's been above-average in six of his nine seasons with 50+ IP, including two of the past three. He has also been very durable of late, logging 100+ innings and 22+ starts in four straight campaigns. Because he's coming off a rough year, Chacin is being slept on as one of the most underrated additions in the Twins offseason. Tabbing him for the fifth rotation spot with a non-guaranteed deal is a completely risk-free proposition with very real upside. 4: Josh Donaldson was a childhood friend of former Twin P.J. Walters. I came across this factoid in a profile on Donaldson from 2013. In his junior year of high school, the Florida native transferred to Faith Academy in Mobile, AL, partially because Walters – "one of Josh's best friends," per MLB.com's Jane Lee – had enrolled there a year earlier. At the time that article published, Walters was pitching in the Twins organization. The right-hander threw 152 total innings in the majors, and 101 of them came with Minnesota, where he made 20 starts in 2012 and '13. It was a real low point in the franchise's recent history, as Walters epitomized the perpetual struggle of Terry Ryan's front office: throwing fringe arms at the wall in desperate hopes of adhesion. Walters was one of many misfires, posting a 5.79 ERA and 1.60 WHIP for the Twins, and never again appearing in the majors afterward. Donaldson, meanwhile, represents just how much things have changed for the Twins since those dark days. He's the marquee addition to a 101-win division champ, assembled by an overhauled front office that has elevated the club's operational sophistication drastically. 5: Alex Avila developed a rep as "The Titanium Catcher" ... and as a lightning rod for foul tips. In January of 2014, months after the Twins announced Joe Mauer would be moving away from catcher, an article on Fox Sports Detroit boasted of this nickname for Avila, who missed two weeks the prior season due to headaches and nausea resulting from a foul tip (incidentally, sustained just 11 days before the one that ended Mauer's catching career). "One thing Avila did do after he returned from the disabled list," according to the writeup, "was start wearing a heavier mask to absorb more of the impact from the foul tips he seems to get so frequently." His ability to bounce back from the bell-ringers earned Avila a rep for imperviousness, and he has gone on to start 387 games at catcher in the six years since. But as Twins fans know all too well, just one foul tip can change everything, especially when there is a history at play. Mauer moved to first base permanently in 2014, and later retired at age 35 following another flare-up of symptoms. Mitch Garver suffered a concussion on a foul-tip in September of 2018, and didn't catch again for the final three weeks of the season, casting some doubt on his own future behind the plate. Thankfully, he avoided any further issues or complications in a breakout 2019. The Twins will hope that Avila can continue to be titanium-grade this year, so he can help lighten Garver's load and continue the productivity of Minnesota's catching unit. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  15. Spring has finally sprung with Twins pitchers and catchers reporting to Fort Myers this week. Many of the players are already working out at the team’s facility and media members are on the way down to sunny Florida. For Minnesota, the catching situation looks different than last year and there are some questions surrounding the team’s catchers this season.How much will Mitch Garver regress? Mitch Garver had a breakout season in 2019 as he compiled 31 home runs with a .995 OPS in only 93 games. Because of his offensive output, he was be awarded a Silver Slugger. Now entering his age-29 season, it’s going to be tough for him to repeat those numbers in 2020 so some regression can be expected. So how much will he come back to the pack? Baseball Reference projects him hitting .263/.342/.510 (.852) with 22 home runs and 20 doubles in 413 plate appearances. This would be an increase of 54 plate appearances over last year when he set a career high with 359 PA. FanGraphs Steamer projections have him hitting .254/.333/.464 (.797) with 16 home runs and 18 doubles. They also see him getting into 90 games and having 378 plate appearances. Most likely, Garver will be somewhere in the middle of these two different projections. It could also depend on what kind of baseball is being used throughout the big leagues. Either way, it seems unlikely for Garver to hit more than 30 home runs for the second consecutive season. Will Alex Avila be used as much as Jason Castro? In his first year as manager, Rocco Baldelli stressed the importance of rest for all his players and this was especially true for his two catchers. In fact, Jason Castro and Garver basically split the catching duties with Garver starting just one more game behind the plate than Castro. Minnesota brought in Alex Avila to replace Castro as the team’s second catcher, but how much will he be used during the season? Baseball Reference projects Avila to get just over 320 plate appearances which would equate to roughly 80 games played. Steamer projections have him appearing in 51 games and getting 205 plate appearances. After Garver’s 2019 season, Baldelli might want to use him on a more regular basis but rest certainly seemed to help both catchers last year. It seems likely for Garver to catch roughly 60% of the team’s games with Avila catching 35% and Willians Astudillo picking up the rest of the starts. Will the Twins carry three catchers? Because of a rule change this year, teams will now be able to carry 26 players on their active roster. This makes it easier for a team to consider carrying three catchers. Astudillo played in 58 games for the Twins last season, but only 17 of his starts came behind the plate. He was used at every infield position besides shortstop and in both corner outfield spots. This defensive flexibility could be one reason the Twins keep Astudillo on the roster. In my initial Twins roster projection, I only had the Twins carrying two catchers with Astudillo being used in Rochester. The final battles for bench spots will be between Ehire Adrianza, Jake Cave and Astudillo. Adrianza is the team’s best defensive middle infielder, so he should have a bench spot. This leaves Cave and Astudillo fighting for the last spot, but realistically both players will be used at different points during the 2020 campaign. What other questions do you have about the Twins catching situation? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  16. How much will Mitch Garver regress? Mitch Garver had a breakout season in 2019 as he compiled 31 home runs with a .995 OPS in only 93 games. Because of his offensive output, he was be awarded a Silver Slugger. Now entering his age-29 season, it’s going to be tough for him to repeat those numbers in 2020 so some regression can be expected. So how much will he come back to the pack? Baseball Reference projects him hitting .263/.342/.510 (.852) with 22 home runs and 20 doubles in 413 plate appearances. This would be an increase of 54 plate appearances over last year when he set a career high with 359 PA. FanGraphs Steamer projections have him hitting .254/.333/.464 (.797) with 16 home runs and 18 doubles. They also see him getting into 90 games and having 378 plate appearances. Most likely, Garver will be somewhere in the middle of these two different projections. It could also depend on what kind of baseball is being used throughout the big leagues. Either way, it seems unlikely for Garver to hit more than 30 home runs for the second consecutive season. Will Alex Avila be used as much as Jason Castro? In his first year as manager, Rocco Baldelli stressed the importance of rest for all his players and this was especially true for his two catchers. In fact, Jason Castro and Garver basically split the catching duties with Garver starting just one more game behind the plate than Castro. Minnesota brought in Alex Avila to replace Castro as the team’s second catcher, but how much will he be used during the season? Baseball Reference projects Avila to get just over 320 plate appearances which would equate to roughly 80 games played. Steamer projections have him appearing in 51 games and getting 205 plate appearances. After Garver’s 2019 season, Baldelli might want to use him on a more regular basis but rest certainly seemed to help both catchers last year. It seems likely for Garver to catch roughly 60% of the team’s games with Avila catching 35% and Willians Astudillo picking up the rest of the starts. Will the Twins carry three catchers? Because of a rule change this year, teams will now be able to carry 26 players on their active roster. This makes it easier for a team to consider carrying three catchers. Astudillo played in 58 games for the Twins last season, but only 17 of his starts came behind the plate. He was used at every infield position besides shortstop and in both corner outfield spots. This defensive flexibility could be one reason the Twins keep Astudillo on the roster. In my initial Twins roster projection, I only had the Twins carrying two catchers with Astudillo being used in Rochester. The final battles for bench spots will be between Ehire Adrianza, Jake Cave and Astudillo. Adrianza is the team’s best defensive middle infielder, so he should have a bench spot. This leaves Cave and Astudillo fighting for the last spot, but realistically both players will be used at different points during the 2020 campaign. What other questions do you have about the Twins catching situation? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. In 2019, Mitch Garver and Jason Castro combined to form one of the most productive catching tandems in MLB history. Tough act to follow. In 2020, Garver will be back, coming off an historic sophomore campaign, but he'll have a new partner in pitch-receiving. Will Alex Avila represent an upgrade?This is not an insignificant question. As I wrote when sizing up the catching market two weeks ago, "The decision here bears more importance than your standard backup catcher pickup, because the Twins appear committed to a balanced timeshare." I estimate there will be at least 70-80 starts up for grabs at catcher. That load could potentially be split between three players (an easier proposition with 26 roster spots), but in any case, Avila will be in line for substantial run – especially if the team decides to start using Garver occasionally at other positions. So where might fans notice an improvement in Avila, compared to his predecessor? Let's dig a bit deeper into what the newcomer brings on both sides. OFFENSE All the way back in 2011, a 24-year-old Avila burst onto the scene as Detroit's sudden star catcher, just as the Tigers were launching a mini-dynasty in the AL Central. Slashing .295/.389/.506 in 141 games, Avila was an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and 12th-place finisher in the AL MVP balloting. A prodigious offensive threat, the young backstop piled up 19 homers, 33 doubles, 82 RBIs, and 73 walks in 551 plate appearances. Eight years later, all of those numbers remain career highs for Avila, who wasn't able to sustain his initial brilliance with the bat. However, the traits that drove his success continue to endure. He's extremely patient (his 16.6% BB rate over the past three years leads all catchers with 500+ PA), he's got some pop (nine homers in 68 games last year), and he excels against right-handed pitching (.775 OPS career, .795 in 2019). Offsetting these strengths, he hits very poorly against lefties (.617 OPS career, .681 in 2019) and strikes out at an exorbitant rate – like, almost Miguel Sano territory. (In fact, Sano is one of just seven MLB players with a higher K-rate than Avila's 34.3% over the past three years in 500+ PA.) Castro is similar to Avila in many ways, but to lesser extremes. He strikes out a lot but not that much. He walks a lot but not that much. Both are considerably better against righties than lefties, so the functional platoon utility is the same. This year, 84% of Castro's 275 plate appearances came against right-handers, almost identical to Avila's 82% in Arizona. Both Castro and Avila have had two good offensive seasons and one bad in the past three years; in both cases, strong showings in 2017 and 2019 sandwiched a dud in 2018. But Avila was better at his best, and not as bad at his worst; his total .752 OPS over that span easily beats Castro's .715. I think it's fair to say the Twins have upgraded modestly offensively with this swap, though similar overall production should be expected from Avila. DEFENSE This feels like the more pertinent matter. It'd be nice to get some offensive punch out of Garver's timeshare partner but the starter already specializes on that front. Castro's biggest value to the Twins came from his veteran defensive presence, game-calling prowess, and pitch-framing skills. How will Avila measure up on these fronts? Avila certainly has a wide breadth of experience, having spent time with four different teams since leaving Detroit (including another stint with the Tigers). He'll obviously need to build rapport with a new set of pitchers, but as a respected vet who's been around the block, that shouldn't be an issue. The most obvious asset for Avila defensively, and a point of contrast with Castro, is his ability to control the running game. Avila's caught-stealing percentage has been better than league average in each of the last three years, and five the last six. This year he gunned down a career-high 52% of thieving runners. Castro, meanwhile, has been below average (albeit it slightly) in three of the last four years and is coming off a career-low 19%. Pitch framing is the hot topic. It was Castro's major selling point when Minnesota signed him three years ago, and he made good on it. Here's how he stacked up during his Twins tenure according to the Adjusted Framing Runs Above Average metric via Baseball Prospectus: 2017: 16th out of 111 2018: 30th out of 117 2019: 25th out of 113 He wasn't elite at the level of a Yasmani Grandal or Austin Hedges, but Castro was consistently in the top quartile of pitch framers. From an observational standpoint, it was noticeable the way he would steal strikes for his pitchers on a semi-regular basis (especially with the likes of Kurt Suzuki serving as our baseline). Avila's FRAA rankings over the same span are kind of fascinating: 2017: 102nd out of 111 2018: 22nd out of 117 2019: 30th out of 113 Over the past two seasons, he's been almost Castro's exact equivalent. Prior to that, he rated as a completely awful framer. And 2017 was no isolated case – Avila ranked 88th in 2016, and 103rd in 2015. He experienced a complete turnaround upon signing with the Diamondbacks in 2017. This is almost the exact same leap Garver made from 2018 to 2019, with support from now-departed instructor Tanner Swanson: 2017: 73rd out of 111 2018: 110th out of 117 2019: 28th out of 113 Losing Swanson hurts, but it helps to have another self-made framing specialist in the house who committed to improving himself and did it. Perhaps Garver and Avila can learn from one another's contrasting strengths in this department: Based on all the evidence we've reviewed here, it's hard to say that Avila is definitively an upgrade over Castro, but this is at worst a lateral switch with a bit more upside. When you look at the very favorable terms of his deal – an inexpensive one-year pact that preserves flexibility to move top catching prospect Ryan Jeffers aggressively – there's really no knocking Avila as the choice. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  18. This is not an insignificant question. As I wrote when sizing up the catching market two weeks ago, "The decision here bears more importance than your standard backup catcher pickup, because the Twins appear committed to a balanced timeshare." I estimate there will be at least 70-80 starts up for grabs at catcher. That load could potentially be split between three players (an easier proposition with 26 roster spots), but in any case, Avila will be in line for substantial run – especially if the team decides to start using Garver occasionally at other positions. So where might fans notice an improvement in Avila, compared to his predecessor? Let's dig a bit deeper into what the newcomer brings on both sides. OFFENSE All the way back in 2011, a 24-year-old Avila burst onto the scene as Detroit's sudden star catcher, just as the Tigers were launching a mini-dynasty in the AL Central. Slashing .295/.389/.506 in 141 games, Avila was an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and 12th-place finisher in the AL MVP balloting. A prodigious offensive threat, the young backstop piled up 19 homers, 33 doubles, 82 RBIs, and 73 walks in 551 plate appearances. Eight years later, all of those numbers remain career highs for Avila, who wasn't able to sustain his initial brilliance with the bat. However, the traits that drove his success continue to endure. He's extremely patient (his 16.6% BB rate over the past three years leads all catchers with 500+ PA), he's got some pop (nine homers in 68 games last year), and he excels against right-handed pitching (.775 OPS career, .795 in 2019). Offsetting these strengths, he hits very poorly against lefties (.617 OPS career, .681 in 2019) and strikes out at an exorbitant rate – like, almost Miguel Sano territory. (In fact, Sano is one of just seven MLB players with a higher K-rate than Avila's 34.3% over the past three years in 500+ PA.) Castro is similar to Avila in many ways, but to lesser extremes. He strikes out a lot but not that much. He walks a lot but not that much. Both are considerably better against righties than lefties, so the functional platoon utility is the same. This year, 84% of Castro's 275 plate appearances came against right-handers, almost identical to Avila's 82% in Arizona. Both Castro and Avila have had two good offensive seasons and one bad in the past three years; in both cases, strong showings in 2017 and 2019 sandwiched a dud in 2018. But Avila was better at his best, and not as bad at his worst; his total .752 OPS over that span easily beats Castro's .715. I think it's fair to say the Twins have upgraded modestly offensively with this swap, though similar overall production should be expected from Avila. DEFENSE This feels like the more pertinent matter. It'd be nice to get some offensive punch out of Garver's timeshare partner but the starter already specializes on that front. Castro's biggest value to the Twins came from his veteran defensive presence, game-calling prowess, and pitch-framing skills. How will Avila measure up on these fronts? Avila certainly has a wide breadth of experience, having spent time with four different teams since leaving Detroit (including another stint with the Tigers). He'll obviously need to build rapport with a new set of pitchers, but as a respected vet who's been around the block, that shouldn't be an issue. The most obvious asset for Avila defensively, and a point of contrast with Castro, is his ability to control the running game. Avila's caught-stealing percentage has been better than league average in each of the last three years, and five the last six. This year he gunned down a career-high 52% of thieving runners. Castro, meanwhile, has been below average (albeit it slightly) in three of the last four years and is coming off a career-low 19%. Pitch framing is the hot topic. It was Castro's major selling point when Minnesota signed him three years ago, and he made good on it. Here's how he stacked up during his Twins tenure according to the Adjusted Framing Runs Above Average metric via Baseball Prospectus: 2017: 16th out of 111 2018: 30th out of 117 2019: 25th out of 113 He wasn't elite at the level of a Yasmani Grandal or Austin Hedges, but Castro was consistently in the top quartile of pitch framers. From an observational standpoint, it was noticeable the way he would steal strikes for his pitchers on a semi-regular basis (especially with the likes of Kurt Suzuki serving as our baseline). Avila's FRAA rankings over the same span are kind of fascinating: 2017: 102nd out of 111 2018: 22nd out of 117 2019: 30th out of 113 Over the past two seasons, he's been almost Castro's exact equivalent. Prior to that, he rated as a completely awful framer. And 2017 was no isolated case – Avila ranked 88th in 2016, and 103rd in 2015. He experienced a complete turnaround upon signing with the Diamondbacks in 2017. This is almost the exact same leap Garver made from 2018 to 2019, with support from now-departed instructor Tanner Swanson: 2017: 73rd out of 111 2018: 110th out of 117 2019: 28th out of 113 Losing Swanson hurts, but it helps to have another self-made framing specialist in the house who committed to improving himself and did it. Perhaps Garver and Avila can learn from one another's contrasting strengths in this department: https://twitter.com/ParkerHageman/status/1202952333400907791 Based on all the evidence we've reviewed here, it's hard to say that Avila is definitively an upgrade over Castro, but this is at worst a lateral switch with a bit more upside. When you look at the very favorable terms of his deal – an inexpensive one-year pact that preserves flexibility to move top catching prospect Ryan Jeffers aggressively – there's really no knocking Avila as the choice. 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  19. In the hustle and bustle of a busy offseason, it can be tough to stay on top of all the Twins news and developments – especially if you're not following along obsessively (how dare you). To keep folks up to speed, we'll be running occasional offseason updates on the 2020 roster, payroll, and big-picture progress.With Michael Pineda and Alex Avila now added to the fold, here's a snapshot of the 2020 roster and payroll as they stand today: Download attachment: roster12719.png Figures in blue are arbitration estimates via the Offseason Handbook, so the $98.5 million number isn't precise, but it should be in the ballpark. This means the Twins are still $25M short of their 2019 Opening Day payroll, and $40M short of the target John Bonnes reasonably set at the beginning of the offseason. There's plenty of flexibility to sign or trade for a high-priced starter like Madison Bumgarner, AND make a big splash elsewhere (say, signing Josh Donaldson?). The Winter Meetings get underway this week in San Diego. TWINS COACHING STAFF The major-league coaching staff had three different members poached – hitting coach James Rowson by Miami, assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner by the Mets, and bench coach Derek Shelton by Pittsburgh. The Twins promoted minor-league field coordinator Edgar Varela to replace Rowson, but is still seeking to fill the other roles. Here's the present staff makeup: Manager: Rocco Baldelli Hitting Coach: Edgar Varela Assistant Hitting Coach: Rudy Hernandez Pitching Coach: Wes Johnson Assistant Pitching Coach: [VACANT] Bench Coach: [VACANT] On the surface, Bill Evers seems the most obvious choice to replace Shelton. A 65-year-old longtime baseball man who served as the eighth MLB coach on Baldelli's staff this year, primarily assisting the catchers, Evers was bench coach in Tampa Bay during Joe Maddon's first two years as manager (2006-07). Evers also managed Baldelli as a minor-leaguer in the Rays system. Additionally, the Twins are working to replace a few departures from their minor-league instructional ranks, and have infused some new personnel throughout the org. Michael Salazar came aboard as head athletic trainer after serving in an assistant role for San Diego last year. Mark Moriarty, who is "widely known for using cutting-edge technology to successfully develop pitchers," was plucked out of a small private university in North Dakota to run the Twins' minor-league pitching program. More recently, the team hired a coach from Yale named Tucker Frawley to become their Assistant Field Coordinator/Coordinator of Skill Development. TRENDING OFFSEASON TOPICS Check out some of the latest and greatest articles on Twins Daily covering key storylines: Wheeler’s Gone, But Bumgarner Would Give the Twins Plenty to Work WithFree Agent Faceoff: Madison Bumgarner Is Not Who You Think He Is EditionTwins Villains: 3 Free Agents Who Love Terrorizing MinnesotaJust How Good is Blake Treinen, and Should the Twins Sign Him? Click here to view the article
  20. With Michael Pineda and Alex Avila now added to the fold, here's a snapshot of the 2020 roster and payroll as they stand today: Figures in blue are arbitration estimates via the Offseason Handbook, so the $98.5 million number isn't precise, but it should be in the ballpark. This means the Twins are still $25M short of their 2019 Opening Day payroll, and $40M short of the target John Bonnes reasonably set at the beginning of the offseason. There's plenty of flexibility to sign or trade for a high-priced starter like Madison Bumgarner, AND make a big splash elsewhere (say, signing Josh Donaldson?). The Winter Meetings get underway this week in San Diego. TWINS COACHING STAFF The major-league coaching staff had three different members poached – hitting coach James Rowson by Miami, assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner by the Mets, and bench coach Derek Shelton by Pittsburgh. The Twins promoted minor-league field coordinator Edgar Varela to replace Rowson, but is still seeking to fill the other roles. Here's the present staff makeup: Manager: Rocco Baldelli Hitting Coach: Edgar Varela Assistant Hitting Coach: Rudy Hernandez Pitching Coach: Wes Johnson Assistant Pitching Coach: [VACANT] Bench Coach: [VACANT]On the surface, Bill Evers seems the most obvious choice to replace Shelton. A 65-year-old longtime baseball man who served as the eighth MLB coach on Baldelli's staff this year, primarily assisting the catchers, Evers was bench coach in Tampa Bay during Joe Maddon's first two years as manager (2006-07). Evers also managed Baldelli as a minor-leaguer in the Rays system. Additionally, the Twins are working to replace a few departures from their minor-league instructional ranks, and have infused some new personnel throughout the org. Michael Salazar came aboard as head athletic trainer after serving in an assistant role for San Diego last year. Mark Moriarty, who is "widely known for using cutting-edge technology to successfully develop pitchers," was plucked out of a small private university in North Dakota to run the Twins' minor-league pitching program. More recently, the team hired a coach from Yale named Tucker Frawley to become their Assistant Field Coordinator/Coordinator of Skill Development. TRENDING OFFSEASON TOPICS Check out some of the latest and greatest articles on Twins Daily covering key storylines: Wheeler’s Gone, But Bumgarner Would Give the Twins Plenty to Work With Free Agent Faceoff: Madison Bumgarner Is Not Who You Think He Is Edition Twins Villains: 3 Free Agents Who Love Terrorizing Minnesota Just How Good is Blake Treinen, and Should the Twins Sign Him?
  21. So far, the Minnesota Twins have committed something like $30 million in 2020 contracts to three players this offseason. Two pitchers and a backup catch mean the 26-man roster is quickly closing in on finality. At this point, there’s nothing left but the big bang. Jake Odorizzi returning to the Twins was a great development. A longer-term deal is probably better than the qualifying offer situation, but it’s negligible nonetheless. Michael Pineda is a guy that made sense to QO, and instead Minnesota’s front office gets him on a two-year deal for less than the one-year tag. Alex Avila replaces Jason Castro as the backup catcher, and he provides a logical platoon partner for star starter Mitch Garver. Although Odorizzi and Pineda are returning talents, their abilities represent some of the best on the market. Disappointment in the lack of a new name doesn’t hold much weight when the accomplishment of high-quality assets is the goal. Avila isn’t flashy, but it’s a pretty lofty expectation for catcher number two being able to accomplish that. In the moves they've made this front office has gotten the job done and nailed each and every acquisition. Now comes the big wave. At this point the Twins have something just shy of $100 million committed to 2019. Needing to push the payroll to no less than $135 million, there’s a significant chunk of change yet to be doled out. A reliever and corner infielder seem to still be on the docket, but it’s that key starter still twisting in the wind that has everyone wondering. Maybe it’s Madison Bumgarner or maybe it’s Hyun Jin Ryu, but no matter who it is, a fat check is getting cut. I still think that the Twins are best served by both paying and trading for starters. The latter isn’t going to jump the bottom line much given the goal should be a level of youth and team control, which generally has a muted price tag. No one has ever gotten more in a free agent deal from Minnesota than Ervin Santana’s 4/$54 million in 2014, but both the total and AAV should be blitzed by in the immediate future. There has been somewhat of a back to front way about attacking this offseason cycle from Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. They’ve shored up the holes with some of the lesser coveted assets, and now they can focus solely on positioning of the big guns. It seems to be only a matter of time before it happens, but the reality of when and not if has started to sink in. Expect the Twins to land a player with an AAV of $15-20 million yet, and another $15-20 million split on the final assets to follow. It’s been fun seeing clubs cut checks before Christmas, and just maybe we’ll get back to the days of the Winter Meetings being some sort of exciting frenzy. We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see how and what all transpires, but the monumental move looks to be on the horizon. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  22. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Ep_456_Pineda_Avila.mp3
  23. Aaron and John talk about the Twins re-signing Michael Pineda, replacing Jason Castro with Alex Avila, and how they can stick the landing of a great offseason with Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, or a big trade. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click this link. Click here to view the article
  24. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine did a good job identifying some underrated free agents last off-season. Nelson Cruz had a monster season and Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Schoop also provided value. This off-season there will be plenty of other undervalued free agents, so could any of these names wind up in Minnesota?Richard Justice of MLB.com identified the following eight players as being underrated. With multiple outfielders and corner infield options, only a few of the names would be a fit with the Twins. 1. Howie Kendrick, UTIL, Nationals Kendrick helped the Nationals to their first World Series title, and he was an offensive threat the entire season. According to Baseball Savant, he ranked in the 92nd percentile or higher in exit velocity, xBA, Hard Hit %, xwOBA, and xSLG. He will turn 37 next season and he seems more valuable to a team that could use him as a designated hitter. The Twins have multiple players for that role. Twins Fit: No 2. Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals Ozuna never really lived up to expectations after being traded to the Cardinals. His last season in Miami saw him accumulate a .924 OPS and his two years in St. Louis resulted in a .779 OPS. His Exit Velocity and Hard Hit % were both above the 92nd percentile. He will be 29-years old throughout next season so there might be some room for him to continue to grow. That being said, the Twins outfield is pretty full unless the team makes a trade. Twins Fit: No 3. Rich Hill, LHP, Dodgers Hill is coming off an injury-plagued season that limited him to 13 starts. This isn’t exactly promising for a player set to turn 40 in March. Over the last three seasons, Hill has amassed a 3.30 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 3.89 FIP while averaging almost 110 innings per season. Minnesota needs as many rotation arms as possible so taking a flyer on a veteran pitcher could help to shore-up the rotation until some of the younger arms are ready to step-in. Twins Fit: Yes 4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals Zimmerman had to deal with plenty of regular season and playoff woes before finally seeing the Nationals raise the World Series trophy. It feels weird to think of him outside of a Nationals uniform and he hasn’t played in over 85 games since 2017, his last All-Star season. With limited defensive flexibility and an aging body, Zimmerman likely won’t be calling the Twin Cities home. Twins Fit: No 5. Hunter Pence, OF, Rangers Pence was an All-Star last season at the ripe age of 36. He was forced to sign a minor league deal and earn his spot on the Rangers roster. A back issue limited him to 83 games, but he posted a .910 OPS when he was on the field. Plenty of rebuilding clubs could take a flyer on Pence, but Minnesota likely wouldn’t have a need for him unless an injury were to arise. Twins Fit: No 6. Eric Thames, 1B, Brewers Thames came back from Korea three seasons ago and he reestablished himself as a very good power hitter on some strong Milwaukee teams. Like many others on this list, he has little defensive value and that could make his free agent market disappear quickly. His Exit Velocity and Hard Hit % were both in the 80th percentile, but Minnesota has multiple corner infield options at this point. Twins Fit: No 7. Alex Avila, C, Diamondbacks I’m in love with the idea of a catching duo of Alex Avila and Mitch Garver. Avila will turn 33 this winter and he could fall into a similar role as Jason Castro this season. Avila showed some of the best catch framing skills in all of baseball last season and that fits what the Twins were looking for when they signed Castro a few seasons ago. Garver could also start to see some time at first base when Avila would be behind the plate. I want the Twins to make this signing yesterday. Twins Fit: Yes 8. Tyler Clippard, RHP, Indians Clippard had quite the bounce-back season in Cleveland last year as he posted a sub-3.00 ERA for the first time since 2015. Taylor Rogers was relied on heavily in Minnesota’s bullpen and Clippard could help to add a late-inning arm from the right side. Minnesota did little to address their bullpen issues last off-season and I think the club will sign at least one veteran arm in the weeks ahead. Twins Fit: Yes If you were running the Twins, would you sign Avila? What about Clippard or Hill? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  25. Richard Justice of MLB.com identified the following eight players as being underrated. With multiple outfielders and corner infield options, only a few of the names would be a fit with the Twins. 1. Howie Kendrick, UTIL, Nationals Kendrick helped the Nationals to their first World Series title, and he was an offensive threat the entire season. According to Baseball Savant, he ranked in the 92nd percentile or higher in exit velocity, xBA, Hard Hit %, xwOBA, and xSLG. He will turn 37 next season and he seems more valuable to a team that could use him as a designated hitter. The Twins have multiple players for that role. Twins Fit: No 2. Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals Ozuna never really lived up to expectations after being traded to the Cardinals. His last season in Miami saw him accumulate a .924 OPS and his two years in St. Louis resulted in a .779 OPS. His Exit Velocity and Hard Hit % were both above the 92nd percentile. He will be 29-years old throughout next season so there might be some room for him to continue to grow. That being said, the Twins outfield is pretty full unless the team makes a trade. Twins Fit: No 3. Rich Hill, LHP, Dodgers Hill is coming off an injury-plagued season that limited him to 13 starts. This isn’t exactly promising for a player set to turn 40 in March. Over the last three seasons, Hill has amassed a 3.30 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 3.89 FIP while averaging almost 110 innings per season. Minnesota needs as many rotation arms as possible so taking a flyer on a veteran pitcher could help to shore-up the rotation until some of the younger arms are ready to step-in. Twins Fit: Yes 4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals Zimmerman had to deal with plenty of regular season and playoff woes before finally seeing the Nationals raise the World Series trophy. It feels weird to think of him outside of a Nationals uniform and he hasn’t played in over 85 games since 2017, his last All-Star season. With limited defensive flexibility and an aging body, Zimmerman likely won’t be calling the Twin Cities home. Twins Fit: No 5. Hunter Pence, OF, Rangers Pence was an All-Star last season at the ripe age of 36. He was forced to sign a minor league deal and earn his spot on the Rangers roster. A back issue limited him to 83 games, but he posted a .910 OPS when he was on the field. Plenty of rebuilding clubs could take a flyer on Pence, but Minnesota likely wouldn’t have a need for him unless an injury were to arise. Twins Fit: No 6. Eric Thames, 1B, Brewers Thames came back from Korea three seasons ago and he reestablished himself as a very good power hitter on some strong Milwaukee teams. Like many others on this list, he has little defensive value and that could make his free agent market disappear quickly. His Exit Velocity and Hard Hit % were both in the 80th percentile, but Minnesota has multiple corner infield options at this point. Twins Fit: No 7. Alex Avila, C, Diamondbacks I’m in love with the idea of a catching duo of Alex Avila and Mitch Garver. Avila will turn 33 this winter and he could fall into a similar role as Jason Castro this season. Avila showed some of the best catch framing skills in all of baseball last season and that fits what the Twins were looking for when they signed Castro a few seasons ago. Garver could also start to see some time at first base when Avila would be behind the plate. I want the Twins to make this signing yesterday. Twins Fit: Yes 8. Tyler Clippard, RHP, Indians Clippard had quite the bounce-back season in Cleveland last year as he posted a sub-3.00 ERA for the first time since 2015. Taylor Rogers was relied on heavily in Minnesota’s bullpen and Clippard could help to add a late-inning arm from the right side. Minnesota did little to address their bullpen issues last off-season and I think the club will sign at least one veteran arm in the weeks ahead. Twins Fit: Yes If you were running the Twins, would you sign Avila? What about Clippard or Hill? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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