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  1. The Minnesota Twins have four catchers in the conversation for the 2022 season that I can see - even if some of those conversations aren’t going to be very long. Let’s start with what I consider one of those quick ones. Willians Astudillo La Tortuga is a folk hero, and we love him. Everyone loves our relief pitching, chubby base-running, helmet losing backup-backup-backup catcher. But at this point, keeping him on the 40 man is pretty much just keeping someone else with more value off of it. He doesn’t have a defensive upside apart from being able to plug a hole at most fielding positions - not any of them particularly well - and batted at .238 in the Majors this year, which really isn’t good enough to leapfrog other waiting catchers with long term defensive upside. I just don’t see a realistic expectation that he is going to play out as an average or better member of the team, and should probably be signed to a Minors deal. The fact that he’s listed on the 40-man as a 1B is a pretty good indicator of how he ranks in terms of Minnesota catchers. 2022 Prediction - Will not break camp with Twins, will not make 40-man roster. Now onto the catchers that I figure will be involved in the plans for the Twins. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that I mean Garver, Jeffers and Rortvedt. I’ve included their stats for the year as a refresher (via FanGraphs). Offensive Stats 2021 Defensive Stats 2021 Mitch Garver Mitch is my Do Not Trade catcher. Whilst he pretty much grades out average in terms of catcher defense, his 2019 season and the mid to latter half of the 2021 season (barring That Injury We Don’t Like To Think About) make him by far - and I mean far - the most productive catcher we have offensively. He ranked 13th amongst catchers in AVG (min 50 PA), 7th in OBP and 5th in slugging, finishing the year on .256/.358/.517. He was definitely struggling at the plate early on, but he did settle in and he was playing pretty darn well before he spent five weeks dealing with that groin injury and another four with back tightness. If someone honestly wants to take Garver off our hands, I see it taking an extremely sizeable haul because at the moment he’s our safest bet. Yes he’s older than the other two and has had some injury, and a veteran catcher to split time with them wouldn’t cost much if we do trade him, but like I’ve said - unless the promised return is huge I don’t see why we’d deal a catcher who hits like that. 2022 Prediction - will not be traded, breaks camp as Opening Day catcher for the Twins. Ryan Jeffers Jeffers actually took the lion’s share of games this year thanks to Garver’s injuries and whilst he is projected to end up as the better defensive catcher (though this year Garver was ranked 93rd percentile in pitch framing per Baseball Savant to Jeffers’ 74), his bat just did not carry this year. To the point where - had we had another catcher ready - I imagine he would have been sent to St Paul to work it out. He managed an average of just .199 across 267 at-bats. I have faith though, that his bat will grade out to average and in my mind, he’s probably the one who will end up taking the most time behind the plate if the Twins attempt to rotate the DH role for the 2022 season (which I think they will). Let’s not forget he had a pretty darn good 2020 season with his bat, finishing with a stat line of .273/.355/.436/, which was a tick above league average. He’s got the goods, I just think he caught a bad case of the sophomore slump. Hard work required, but Jeffers will hang around long term. 2022 Prediction - he will break camp with the Twins and split catching duties with Garver. Ben Rortvedt I’m just going to get this out of the way. He’s got huge arms, okay? We’ve seen them. And defensively, he’s projected to have the highest upside of all four catchers. But in terms of Major League production, he’s just not ready. Batting at .169 for the year (over 87 PA), his OBP was a paltry .227, far below the league average .317, and slugged at just .281. This places him second last in all Twins hitting categories with just Gilberto Celestino ranking lower in AVG and OBP, and Andrelton Simmons ranking last in SLG. His defense has him ranked above Jeffers in terms of overall WPA for the year, but the bat is going to need to improve drastically if he’s going to make league average, or even a low-offense/high-defense combo. There is the chance a team could carry a slightly below average hitter if he has a huge defensive upside (Simmons anyone?) but there’s not many that would take that kind of offensive shortage. He needs to start 2022 in the minors, have a solid spring, and work on his offense. 2022 Prediction - he’ll probably make the 40-man, but will spend the year in St Paul working on his bat skills. Let me talk a minute on a Garver trade. As I already said, I don’t like the idea at all. And honestly, is he valuable enough to another team (apart from the Marlins, who Cody Christie wrote about already) for them to trade with proven, high quality pitching? Because that’s what the return needs to be. The Twins have a whole heap of prospect arms at/about to be tested in the Majors in the upcoming season but we need impact rotation pitching now. I don't know if Garver on his own would bring enough back for us... maybe if he was in a package deal? If the 2022 season includes a universal DH, Mitch Garver becomes more valuable. His average this season was only just above league average, but his slugging percentage - when viewed with his 2019 Silver Slugger - mean he might draw interest from a National League team looking to possibly platoon through the DH, or who struggle to find a bat only DH at good value. He’s still in arbitration, made less than $2M this year, and is projected to make a hair over $3M next year. Compare that to the $13M we paid Nelson Cruz just to hit, and he becomes a much more valuable piece to a broader audience. I like the combo of Garver and Jeffers for next year. They seem to have a decent balance sorted out and provided Jeffers can get his bat to click in 2022, there’s no need to create a problem at catcher when we have enough things we need to address.
  2. The reports are that Miguel Sanó is about ready to come off the injured list. Sanó was one of the major disappointments of April, logging a .111 batting average and .555 OPS. The Twins are otherwise as close to full strength as they have been since the first inning of the first game of the season. Among the position players, the club has switched out Ben Rortvedt for the struggling Ryan Jeffers and added Alex Kirilloff to essentially take Sanó's spot. Kirilloff is an outfielder/first baseman. He's logged most of his minor league innings in right field, then first base and lastly left field. The question on many Twins fans' minds is what the team will do next and the followup is what they should do next. Here are my thoughts in no particular order on the possible scenarios for the Twins next move: 1) Option Kirilloff back to the minor leagues. It has been an interesting ten days for the Twins former #1 draft choice. Alex Kirilloff is hitting .184 with only one walk and 11 strikeouts in 40 plate appearances. He's got two singles, a double and four homers and has a BABIP of .125. Kirilloff isn't going to homer once per 10 plate appearances, but he also isn't going to keep hitting the ball this hard and not find the grass for singles and doubles. Next to signing the other Alex (Columé) to an extension, I think the most unpopular move the Twins' front office could make would be to demote Kirilloff. 2) Option Jake Cave to St. Paul. With Kirilloff's emergence, Jake Cave won't be getting much playing time. Cave is a capable outfielder, who has been the manager's choice to fill in for Buxton in center field whenever Buck has been unable to play. Cave runs pretty well and in his career has hit right handed pitching quite well. The numbers this year and last have been poor, however. Max Kepler has played a lot of center field and could cover for Buxton for a short absence. I think this is the popular choice with the Twins' fan base. 3) Option Kyle Garlick to St. Paul. Garlick had a strong spring training and won a spot on the Opening Day roster as a backup corner outfielder who would get his chances versus left handed pitching. The early results were promising, but Garlick first slowed and then was placed on the COVID list. He's had only one start since being reinstated and was hitless. Garlick's strength is hitting, particularly against lefties. From a roster makeup point of view, it makes sense to have somebody who might pound LH pitching as a backup outfielder, since Kirilloff, Kepler, Cave and Arraez all hit left handed and it would appear that all are vulnerable to same side pitchers. 4) Option Willians Astudillo to St. Paul. The short, stout pony-tailed Turtle is popular and totally exasperating. We know La Tortuga will grab a glove and play anywhere. For a guy with that body, he does okay wherever he is put in the field and he is insurance so that the team can hit or run for their catchers. Astudillo will get some hits, no walks and lots of first-pitch popups, but he doesn't strike out either. Again, given this roster's construction, it probably makes sense to have a versatile right handed hitter as a bench player. 5) Demote a pitcher (or place him on IL). That would mean going with 11 pitchers--what a concept. Oldtimers like me can remember going with nine-man pitching staffs and four-man rotations. That's not going to happen, but going one pitcher short for a few days could work. I doubt this front office would take that "risk" and they probably are correct. 6) Send Sanó on a rehab assignment. Sanó has been out less than two weeks, but always seems to take a while to find his swing. It would be a de facto demotion for the Twins' slugger, but it would buy time for the team to figure out how to proceed. 7) Find an injury. Someone who has been underperforming or who might otherwise be demoted might have a sore pinky or nerve irritation in their non-throwing arm. All the clubs do it to some degree and if the Twins don't want to burn an option on a player, they well may find an injury.
  3. He appears to be good for the Twins and for baseball. From the Wall Street Journal 3/6/19: "Astudillo has a strange skill set in today’s major leagues: He actually hits the ball. Fifty-nine players struck out more before the All-Star break last season than Astudillo has in his entire minor-league career." "This man is baseball’s most unlikely, yet most reliable, viral sensation. In a game last September, his mad dash from first to home in 11.63 seconds—cheeks puffing, tongue dangling, long, curly hair swept in the wind—was like “Chariots of Fire”-meets beer-league softball. Astudillo said later he “wanted to show that chubby people also run.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/la-tortuga-is-here-to-save-baseball-11551877201
  4. There are some people on this site that have preached that Twins players should be flexible. This year with a couple of new players (Arraez and Marwin Gonzalez) and a new manager, the Twins have demonstrated that they have a roster of players who are flexible. Four players have started at at least four positions, and four more players have started at at least two positions. I've followed the Twins since they moved to Minnesota and I've never seen a more versatile position player roster. Marwin Gonzalez--1B (8), 2B (2), SS (1), 3B (32), LF (7), RF (7) Ehire Adrianza--1B (2), 2B (7), SS (11), 3B (11), RF (2) Luis Arraez--2B (7), SS (2), 3B (4), LF (5) Willians Astudillo--1B (4), 2B (1), 3B (8), RF (3), LF (1) C (13) Max Kepler--RF (59), CF (17) Eddie Rosario--LF (69), CF (1) Jake Cave--RF (13), LF (4), CF (2) Miguel Sanó--3B (33), 1B (2)
  5. I have been out and about and tried to catch up on the Twins Daily site here at 8:45, I have some thoughts that might spur on conversations. Feel free to comment on any of these thoughts. Minor League Injuries and Disappointments--Today's announcements about a season-ending injury to Akil Baddoo, surgery for Luke Raley plus two of the better starting pitching prospects (Gonsalves and Graterol) are going on the injured list adds to an already long list of missed time due to injuries. Royce Lewis, Wander Javier, Nick Gordon, and Alex Kirilloff, all top prospects, have all missed time and there are others. These injuries sap the depth available and also reduce the number of trade chips available at the trading deadline. In addition, the players named are missing valuable development time. Seth has also written about this in the minor league forum. Adalberto Mejía--When he was placed on the Injured List, it looked to me (and most on TD) that he was being "stashed". It's been two weeks since he went on the IL and according to media reports, Mejía won't begin throwing until next month. I believe the young man has potential and he could be in the starting rotation next year. First of all, maybe the nagging injury caused his ineffectiveness. Secondly, he has three decent pitches and maybe he would be better served to be a starter. If he could be an effective reliever, there is a need for another lefty in the bullpen. Position Players--Two players are on the Injured List and the Twins still have quality players top to bottom. With less than 20 plate appearances, it can't be said that Arraez is a good player, but every indication is that he is. Nominal bench players Adrianza, Astudillo, and super-utility player Marwin Gonzalez are good players and all have stepped up when they have an opportunity. Jake Cave is toiling at Rochester and could be recalled in the event of an injury. I believe this club has enough talent and depth to withstand a normal amount of injuries and ineffectiveness and remain among the very best offenses in MLB. BTW, Astudillo has shown me enough to believe he is a good enough receiver to stay in the majors only as a catcher (another good pitching performance today with the Turtle behind the plate). Kyle Gibson--Since I had a two-minute conversation with him at Spring Training, I've been a Gibson fan. He's received criticism here for being a "nibbler" and not being able to get deep into games. I think some of that is justified, but Gibson can't throw pitches in the middle of the zone, he needs to own the corners. When he's sharp, he gets ahead and gets weak contact and swings and misses. Gibson has morphed from a pitch-to-contact sinkerballer into a guy who uses all his pitches and gets his share of strikeouts. While he probably won't ever be an ace, he is a competent, durable starter who will most likely get paid. I hope the Twins keep him beyond this year. Bullpen--Things haven't exactly gone as planned. Hildenberger flopped in May, Romero wasn't good in the spring, hasn't been good enough to stay in the majors so far, and a couple of other arms have failed to impress in major league auditions, but the bullpen has been okay so far. I don't anticipate that they'll be successful throughout the season. Tyler Duffey and Matt Magill are throwing hard enough to be capable relievers in this day and age. If Magill can keep pitches in the strike zone, I think he can be a valuable high-leverage reliever. I do think the Twins definitely need to upgrade in the bullpen to have success beyond the regular season and probably to help the club make postseason. My, the first 51 games have been fun! It would be great to keep it up all year and beyond that, it would be fun to have a top-tier team for years to come.
  6. It was announced that Martín Pérez is on paternity leave and that Kohl Stewart will replace Pérez. The Twins have a doubleheader scheduled today and no off days in the next ten days. I would assume Stewart will start the makeup game this evening. Berríos could start on Sunday on normal rest and Gibson could go on Monday, but then the team would need another starter for Tuesday unless Pérez is back. With Pineda scheduled to start this afternoon's tilt (and considering his recent struggles) it would seem that suddenly an eight-man bullpen makes sense. Is that why Astudillo hasn't been activated? It appears that Marwin Gonzalez won't miss much time, but with a doubleheader scheduled today, it would be nice if he was available immediately Who will the extra player be for the nightcap tonight? I would assume it is a relief pitcher. What seemed pretty straightforward is now pretty jumbled. I'd hate to see the Twins' roll ended because of substandard play by their temporary callups.
  7. ESPN did an article yesterday on what every team needs to do in MLB. I looked with interest at the suggestion of what the Twins should do, expecting maybe that they get another starter or another bullpen arm. I was surprised to see that the writer said that the Twins should improve their bench. The article mentioned that Gonzalez has been playing third, but not that the presumed regular (Sanó) was on rehab assignment and expected back this month. I have mentioned on a couple other threads that I really like the Twins bench, presuming that the eventual four-man bench would be Marwin, la Tortuga, Adrianza, and whoever isn't playing between Garver and Castro. There is a tremendous amount of versatility, first and foremost, plus a couple of guys who should be able to step in for full-time work. Also, having Cave as the next man up works out because he is a big league player, and can replace any injury vacancy because of the versatility of the bench players on hand now. Cave can be shipped the Triple A whenever needed and recalled immediately if there are injuries. Let's examine the bench: Marwin Gonzalez--he's been a regular at third base thus far, but when Sanó returns, he can be freed up to play all over. Gonzalez has demonstrated a good glove at third and in cameos at first and left field. He only yesterday got his batting average above .200, but I'd call him a proven major league average hitter. To me, Gonzalez is a "tenth regular", who will get innings and at-bats at many positions even if there are no disabling injuries among the regular position players. Willians Astudillo--beyond being popular for making the big leagues with a physique of a church league softball player, Astudillo has a unique skill set. He can play first, third, left and right (and has started games at second and played center field) while being so far a competent catcher. In addition, the Turtle has hit very well in his 150 MLB plate appearances, collecting an OPS+ of 136, despite almost never drawing a walk. He also has insane contact skills and almost never strikes out (4 Ks in those 150 plate appearances). I don't know if 150 plate appearances is enough to prove he's a really good hitter, but he's certainly done enough for the team to keep him around, and I think he is slowly making believers of the doubters. Astudillo has been on the injured list for over a week and is due to come off soon. Ehire Adrianza--More of the typical three-position infielder with a light bat, Adrianza has over 900 career plate appearance and has a lifetime .649 OPS. He's off to a slow start this year, hitting only .146. Adrianza is a minor league shortstop who has transitioned to utility player. He defends decently at second, short and third and has logged innings at first and left field. It appears that manager Rocco Baldelli prefers Adrianza to Gonzalez at short and second defensively, although the regulars at those two positions haven't missed many games. Adrianza is out of options, so he can't be shuttled back and forth to the minor leagues. Alternate catcher--Mitch Garver and Jason Castro have split starts at catcher almost evenly. The one not starting would be the fourth member of the bench. Castro is a lefty bat, while Garver hits righty, but has played first and a bit of outfield since coming to the Twins late in 2017. Having a third catcher (Adrianza) means that the second catcher can be used without the fear of having a non-catcher behind the dish. To summarize, the Twins figure to have a "tenth regular", an intriguing player with a unique skill set who has so far been an elite hitter, a versatile infielder and an alternate catcher as their bench. If there is any position players on the injured list, the next man up is a fourth outfielder who had a 114 OPS+ in over 300 plate appearances last year. Gonzalez and Adrianza are switch hitters. I think that in the era of thee- and four-man benches, this group is excellent.
  8. The Twins have played 3% of the scripted schedule, and are on pace to eclipse 130 wins, and a meager 32 losses. Not to mention the Twins are well on their way to capture the division title, but would only be slated to the second seed in the conference seeding chart, playing the mediocre, (but good?) Seattle Mariners in the divisional round. HOLD YOUR HORSES, PEOPLE Consider this. If the entire season was tabulated in the form of a baseball game, meaning that each of the 54 outs recorded in a game would be translated to represent each of the 162 scheduled games, the Twins haven’t even recorded the second out of that very game. That’s a super complicated way of synthesizing that the season is grueling monster, and that 4 games can't really convey any semblance of what the Twins midseason form might be, much less their state come season’s end. Sample size is a word occasionally tossed around as a gauge to what’s legit or not, and no matter how much of a buzzkill word sample size is, it's a small sample size. You can’t go wrong with 4-1, but playing a awfully decimated Indians club and the tantalizingly pesky and obnoxious, but inferior Royals rosters does nothing in solidifying or cementing our far-fetched hopes to a stellar season. So people don't get all worked up or hyped that Byron Buxton’s hitting .500, or that Marwin Gonzalez cannot hold the trigger on a curveball for his life, or that Willians Astudillo is current sizing up as the best hitter in the history of baseball, because the reality of it is that these players either scorching hot or ice cold will eventually fall in line with their typical production outputs, UNLESS there's some superior extraneous force that might mitigate someone’s (wink*wink*Logan Morrison wink*wink*) career slashline. Typically in baseball you don’t see dramatic changes in someone’s batting line for example, and prospect development is a great indicator of this, unless there’s a change in scenery, or shift in a regime (managerial usually). Here is one physical scenario. I wanted to chose someone someone semi-millennial, preferably still active to debate this debate or myth of the hot-hand effect. *(Statistics calibrated in the American League) During the 2013 season, Jose Altuve didn’t have a firm-grip in the major leagues. On a rather atrocious Astros club that had stunk for a long time, spanning back to the Carlos Beltran days, they were scuffling and being spanked in the shadows of their unforsaken superstar. Under manager Bo Porter, unbeknownst to the Astros that they would have 2 MVP candidates and Hank Aaron best hitter awards, under their 2013 disposal (JD Martinez and Jose Altuve), they wound up a travesty rather than a juggernaut, drowning under 4 consecutive seasons of sub-60 win play. After Martinez was run outta town, Jose Altuve barely scraped by as a undrafted free agent and frankly played above expectation with all-star accolade to this credit. Nonetheless he hit .276 during the beginning month of April in 2014, pretty accurate representation of his career to that point. From that point on, Altuve wound up hitting a whopping .357, and vaulting his name into the MVP conversation, and having the best batting average, most hits, and 10th best OPS in the AL for what it's worth. A bargain in my boat, for a player that hadn’t exceeded an average above .290 and amassed a 6.1 WAR after a 2013 WAR of just 1.0! That’s one way you could express how little the first handful of games has on the rest of the season. The Twins postseason road down look as bleak as it did a few years back, however there’s little doubt that the behind the Yanks or Sox, their is a tier of about 3-5 clubs that could contest for the final spot and courtesy to play the latter of the loaded brethren in the AL East. The Rays and Athletics are also both, ballclubs that could collectively catch fire at any point if all things go right respectively, and the Angels aren’t a snooze themselves with perennial sluggers who could easily foil the Twins plan. The final spot should be hotly contested and the Twins need to orchestrate a bunch of runs, and configure somewhat of a capable staff, that has room for improvement. So, if your left partly conforming, or a down the middle perception on this club, that’s okay. I reckon that is the first team in years, that in every department of the roster I could point to that position group carrying the load. The offense is as dynamic and stacked in this century as it ever will be, the starting pitching staff possesses some electric and bat-missing stuff, and the bullpen has the makings of a shutdown backend if things goes according to plan. Not enough yet to be playoff or bust, but something around the ballpark would be fair. So I caution those jumping on the bandwagon and already scoreboard watching, to take the opening week of games with a grain of salt. So those needless stats of the 1 HR, and the insane 0-fer that Eddie Rosario snapped don’t really have tangible effect through the course of a season. Jose Berrios’s 10k, 7⅔ outing was impressive and all that, but really does it do a testament on Jose’s stuff or really just crucifies how mishmashy the Cleveland lineup is in its patchwork. How many times have we heard that the road to the Twins postseason runs will go as far as Buxton and Sano goes? Well the reality check is, Buxton is showing signs of improvement and candidly is playing as purposefully as I've ever seen and Sano isn’t on the roster. More or less, to the antithesis of Sano’s and Buxton’s liability to this team, is how important the newcomers need to perform to keep this team from falling off a cliff. Is it to early to say, that I sense collapse over the horizon? Regardless of how explicitly I may tread to heed caution, I can’t even refrain from excitement, myself. What’s for certain though? That this season will go haywire, for good or bad, and whatever of which will only the heighten the scope of interest on this club. So, (Don’t Jinx it, Don’t Jinx it, DON’T JINX IT) this season gonna be crazy good. The Phillies will provide a great litmus test of superior competition nearing the weeks end, and let’s just hope we give it to them good, and scurry to the Bronx with something more than a .500 record. From the Outer Galaxy of Fantasy, Sabir Aden
  9. Again, less than an hour before game time and no thread in sight. Here's my take today: Kind of a big game with the Twins' ace (Berrios) slated to start against a really tough Phillie lineup. If the Twins win this one and take their third series in a row (and second on the road), I will be impressed and optimistic going forward. I haven't seen the starting lineup and there should be some intrigue. Cruz hasn't played since Kansas City, but Rosario had a day off yesterday (and homered coming off the bench), Kepler has homered in two straight games and is stinging the ball and Buxton showed his overall value yesterday (hitting, base stealing, and throwing a runner out at the plate). It would be an ideal game to move Kepler to first base for a day, but he didn't play there at all in the spring. Where to put La Tortuga? With three catchers, it is unlikely he would start again today. The Twins paid a lot of money for Marwin and it is in their best interest to get him going, so what happens today? We shall see. Enjoy the game friends. I'll post a lineup ASAP.
  10. The love that the fans and now the media have for Willians Astudillo is great. It is fun, inspiring, laughable and also good baseball. Out of nowhere Astudillo has risen to mythic levels for his speed, his body, his smile, his hitting skills, and his ability to play everywhere. It got me thinking – who else has had this unique position on the Twins roster – beloved for the style and character that they bring to the team. Puckett was a similar build and a similar smile. If we forget the off the field issues we see Puckett in that ambassador of baseball position. Of course Puckett was also a HOF centerfielder and hitter who would have been great even if he did not smile so much. But his HOF ballot was stamped with a collective smile and laugh. He was beloved within the game and brought joy – one stat that still cannot be measured. Hrbek enjoyed his life and gave us a lot including some professional wrestling moves on the field, but he cannot rank with the two above. Going back in history I am reminded of the great Piranhas. Thanks to Ozzie Guillen for this wonderful label. The Piranhas were four players who were all fast and played the kind of ball that Ron Gardenhire really enjoyed – as did the fans. The names are not exceptional in Twins history – Jason Bartlett, Jason Tyner, Luis Castillo and the head piranha – Nick Punto. Guillen said, "All those piranhas -- blooper here, blooper here, beat out a ground ball, hit a home run, they're up by four. They get up by four with that bullpen? See you at the national anthem tomorrow. When I sit down and look at the lineup, give me the New York Yankees. Give me those guys because they've got holes. You can pitch around them, you can pitch to them. These little guys? Castillo and all of them? People worry about the catcher, what's his name, Mauer? Fine, yeah, a good hitter, but worry about the little [guys], they're on base all the time.” Punto was an all-around utility player who did not have the same charisma with the fans as he did with the manager, but he lasted a long time on the skills and work ethic that he did possess. Going to the early days of the franchise it was Cesar Tovar that everyone loved. Cesar played everywhere and he played better than Punto and any other Jack-of-all-trades player in team history. He is the first Twin to have an every position day and he did it well. César Leonardo Tovar, nicknamed "Pepito" and "Mr. Versatility", was a Venezuelan professional baseball player. He also played for the Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, and New York Yankees. He shined shoes in Venezuela before signing as a ballplayer at age 19. Billy Martin called him “my little leader” and used Tovar to motivate the team. In twelve years the 5’ 9” Tovar hit .278 with 46 homers and 226 stolen bases. The Twins got him because Pete Rose came up for the Reds and took the position that Tovar was going to have. ony Oliva said, “Tovar plays the game hard. He runs, he chases down groundballs, dives at the ball, steals bases. And he sure can hit.” When Carl Yaztrezemski missed getting a unanimous vote for MVP in 1967, it was Max Nichols, beat writer who gave Tovar his vote. ““He played six positions for the Twins and I saw him win games for them at all six positions. We didn’t have the best of player relations on our club, but Tovar never got mixed up in any of the clubhouse politics. He kept plugging away, no matter where they put him, and to me he did a tremendous job. If I wanted to be a ‘homer,’ I would have voted for Harmon Killebrew. But Tovar was my choice and, if I had to do it all over again, I’d vote for him again.” Billy Martin said he would have had his vote too! Five times he got the only hit to ruin no-hitter bids. Then he was traded to Philadelphia where they wanted him to keep 3B warm until Mike Schmidt took over. Then Billy Martin took over for the Rangers and said get me Tovar, “I didn’t want him back just because I had him before. That’d be foolish sentiment. I wanted him because of his leadership and his hustle and his ability. He’s always played for me – given 100 percent – and I know he will. The little guy can beat you so many ways – his bat, his feet, his brains, his hustle.” Will Astudillo have a career to match Tovar? I know that like Punto and Tovar that when he is given a chance he will hustle and produce. Like Hrbek and Puckett he can be a winner.
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