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  1. Gio Urshala hit his second home run in as many days and chipped in a couple of excellent defensive plays as the Minnesota Twins beat the Guardians 3-1 at Target Field Sunday. Down on the farm, Bailey Ober made a rehab start for the Saints. Also featured in this video are Joe Ryan, Byron Buxton, Jermaine Palacios, Alex Kirilloff, Curtis Terry, Alerick Soularie and more.
  2. Gio Urshala hit his second home run in as many days and chipped in a couple of excellent defensive plays as the Minnesota Twins beat the Guardians 3-1 at Target Field Sunday. Down on the farm, Bailey Ober made a rehab start for the Saints. Also featured in this video are Joe Ryan, Byron Buxton, Jermaine Palacios, Alex Kirilloff, Curtis Terry, Alerick Soularie and more. View full video
  3. Entering play on Wednesday, May 4, the Minnesota Twins owned the ninth-best starting rotation in terms of fWAR, and the fourth-best group in terms of ERA. For a unit that was expected to need the most help this offseason, it’s been a great development. Now the question becomes how sustainable is this? Rather than opting for an ace on the free-agent market like Carlos Rodon or Kevin Gausman, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine swung a deal for Sonny Gray. They flipped relief pitching for Chris Paddack. They came to terms on a low-risk offer for Dylan Bundy. They trusted both Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Now a month in, it’s hard to suggest they were anything but right. That said, there’s no denying that pitchers have had the upper hand thus far. When pitching in cooler temperatures the ball travels shorter distances and hitters are less comfortable. Those things will both change as the game-time temperatures warm up, so some level of regression is to be expected. How can each be evaluated individually thus far, though? Joe Ryan 5 G 27.2 IP 1.63 ERA 3.08 FIP 9.1 K/9 2.3 BB/9 The Twins Opening Day starter has done nothing to suggest he wasn’t deserving of that nod. He’s been all but dominant in each of his four turns, and despite a FIP that suggests some regression may come, he’s still pitching well above what you’d expect from a lower-velocity fastball. Ryan’s expected ERA is 2.94 which is a slight step backward, but still a dazzling number. Although he’s giving up slightly more hard-hit contact, he’s halved the barrel rate opponents are putting up against him from last season. He’s actually dialed back the fastball usage about 15% and poured it into his slider, a pitch Minnesota's coaches love. He’s throwing about one mph harder this season, and he’s upped the whiff rate to 12.7%. Ryan is giving up even less contact than last season, and although batters are chasing a bit less often, they just haven’t been able to figure him out. There’s little opportunity for Ryan not to go down as the greatest trade return in Twins history. Flipping two months of an aging veteran for a guy profiling as a staff ace is incredible. Statcast seems to agree, and no level of regression should knock him out of being a significant contributor. Sonny Gray 2 G 6.1 IP 5.68 ERA 7.03 FIP 7.1 K/9 4.3 BB/9 It’s pretty impossible to draw conclusions on Gray from two short starts and then a stint on the Injured List. If anything, it’s heartwarming to feel like a better version will return for Minnesota. Gray’s velocity was down in the time he has spent on the mound, but again he pitched in cold and through injury. There’s not much reason to spend time here breaking down what was. The Twins traded for Gray because getting him out of Cincinnati should mean better production in a more friendly ballpark. This is all still to be determined. Bailey Ober 4 G 19.2 IP 2.75 ERA 3.54 FIP 7.3 K/9 2.3 BB/9 Of the two Twins holdovers, it may have been Ober that was more questionable despite the longer track record. He had less prospect pedigree and made it work to the tune of a 4.19 ERA last season. In year two, he’s been more stingy with the home runs, although walks are up and strikeouts are down. That said, he’s still showing plenty of reason to believe in the FIP category and it’s because of deception. Ober has a fastball that plays up because of his stature. Being so tall means the 92 mph pitch gets on batters quicker. He’s limited hard-hit contact, and while his stuff isn’t overpowering, the 37.7% chase rate means batters are playing into his pitches. Allowing Ober to expand the zone gives him more ways to beat you, and he’s been successful doing that thus far. Like Ryan, Minnesota has taken a chunk of fastball usage and put it into Ober’s slider. The results have been positive so far, and it makes for a guy whose floor continues to rise. Dylan Bundy 4 G 21.1 IP 2.95 ERA 2.94 FIP 8.0 K/9 1.3 BB/9 A guy that finished in the top 10 for Cy Young voting just two seasons ago shouldn’t be considered a breakthrough, but Bundy looked lost last year with the Angels. Now he’s still striking guys out, not giving up walks, and being tight with the longball. Bundy’s velocity is about the only thing on his Statcast profile that doesn’t scream amazing. He’s avoiding the barrel, confusing batters, generating soft contact, and everything about the results suggests sustainability. The 89.7 mph average fastball velocity is a career-low, but he’s only using the pitch 38.9% of the time. The splitter/slider combination is serving him well and everything else aligns with career norms. Minnesota didn’t have Bundy reinvent the wheel, but sequencing and pitchability have led him to a place where contact has avoided an opportunity for damage. The Twins have a strong infield defense and generating ground balls 48% of the time is only going to help turn batted balls into outs. Chris Paddack 4 G 20.0 IP 3.15 ERA 1.93 FIP 7.2 K/9 0.9 BB/9 Swinging a deal for Paddack, the Twins sought to find the guy who posted a 3.33 ERA for the Padres as a rookie. A few tweaks in and they may have unlocked something. Rather than having him pitch in the middle of the zone, Minnesota has elevated his target on fastballs and the results have been encouraging. Despite pitching in cold weather to start the season for the first time, Paddack has only seen a minor dip in velocity. The Twins have also pushed their new arm to utilize a slider and his curveball more, which has taken focus away from an exceptional changeup. He’s been among the best in baseball when it comes to limiting walks, and keeping runners off the basepaths has allowed him to avoid significant damage. Paddack’s numbers are good as they are, and they’d be even better if not for bad 1st innings in each of his first two starts. Getting this type of pitcher under team control in exchange for a reliever was always going to be a win, but Minnesota’s changes could bear significant fruit for both parties. There’s a lot of good news across this rotation. That’s not to say steps backward won’t happen, because the level they are currently competing at is truly extraordinary. That being said, it’s not as though the numbers are backed by truth, and even a bit of evening out looks to stay within a good place. When everyone was clamoring for the big names, Minnesota’s front office instead trusted the process to show big improvements derived from their internal belief. View full article
  4. Rather than opting for an ace on the free-agent market like Carlos Rodon or Kevin Gausman, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine swung a deal for Sonny Gray. They flipped relief pitching for Chris Paddack. They came to terms on a low-risk offer for Dylan Bundy. They trusted both Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Now a month in, it’s hard to suggest they were anything but right. That said, there’s no denying that pitchers have had the upper hand thus far. When pitching in cooler temperatures the ball travels shorter distances and hitters are less comfortable. Those things will both change as the game-time temperatures warm up, so some level of regression is to be expected. How can each be evaluated individually thus far, though? Joe Ryan 5 G 27.2 IP 1.63 ERA 3.08 FIP 9.1 K/9 2.3 BB/9 The Twins Opening Day starter has done nothing to suggest he wasn’t deserving of that nod. He’s been all but dominant in each of his four turns, and despite a FIP that suggests some regression may come, he’s still pitching well above what you’d expect from a lower-velocity fastball. Ryan’s expected ERA is 2.94 which is a slight step backward, but still a dazzling number. Although he’s giving up slightly more hard-hit contact, he’s halved the barrel rate opponents are putting up against him from last season. He’s actually dialed back the fastball usage about 15% and poured it into his slider, a pitch Minnesota's coaches love. He’s throwing about one mph harder this season, and he’s upped the whiff rate to 12.7%. Ryan is giving up even less contact than last season, and although batters are chasing a bit less often, they just haven’t been able to figure him out. There’s little opportunity for Ryan not to go down as the greatest trade return in Twins history. Flipping two months of an aging veteran for a guy profiling as a staff ace is incredible. Statcast seems to agree, and no level of regression should knock him out of being a significant contributor. Sonny Gray 2 G 6.1 IP 5.68 ERA 7.03 FIP 7.1 K/9 4.3 BB/9 It’s pretty impossible to draw conclusions on Gray from two short starts and then a stint on the Injured List. If anything, it’s heartwarming to feel like a better version will return for Minnesota. Gray’s velocity was down in the time he has spent on the mound, but again he pitched in cold and through injury. There’s not much reason to spend time here breaking down what was. The Twins traded for Gray because getting him out of Cincinnati should mean better production in a more friendly ballpark. This is all still to be determined. Bailey Ober 4 G 19.2 IP 2.75 ERA 3.54 FIP 7.3 K/9 2.3 BB/9 Of the two Twins holdovers, it may have been Ober that was more questionable despite the longer track record. He had less prospect pedigree and made it work to the tune of a 4.19 ERA last season. In year two, he’s been more stingy with the home runs, although walks are up and strikeouts are down. That said, he’s still showing plenty of reason to believe in the FIP category and it’s because of deception. Ober has a fastball that plays up because of his stature. Being so tall means the 92 mph pitch gets on batters quicker. He’s limited hard-hit contact, and while his stuff isn’t overpowering, the 37.7% chase rate means batters are playing into his pitches. Allowing Ober to expand the zone gives him more ways to beat you, and he’s been successful doing that thus far. Like Ryan, Minnesota has taken a chunk of fastball usage and put it into Ober’s slider. The results have been positive so far, and it makes for a guy whose floor continues to rise. Dylan Bundy 4 G 21.1 IP 2.95 ERA 2.94 FIP 8.0 K/9 1.3 BB/9 A guy that finished in the top 10 for Cy Young voting just two seasons ago shouldn’t be considered a breakthrough, but Bundy looked lost last year with the Angels. Now he’s still striking guys out, not giving up walks, and being tight with the longball. Bundy’s velocity is about the only thing on his Statcast profile that doesn’t scream amazing. He’s avoiding the barrel, confusing batters, generating soft contact, and everything about the results suggests sustainability. The 89.7 mph average fastball velocity is a career-low, but he’s only using the pitch 38.9% of the time. The splitter/slider combination is serving him well and everything else aligns with career norms. Minnesota didn’t have Bundy reinvent the wheel, but sequencing and pitchability have led him to a place where contact has avoided an opportunity for damage. The Twins have a strong infield defense and generating ground balls 48% of the time is only going to help turn batted balls into outs. Chris Paddack 4 G 20.0 IP 3.15 ERA 1.93 FIP 7.2 K/9 0.9 BB/9 Swinging a deal for Paddack, the Twins sought to find the guy who posted a 3.33 ERA for the Padres as a rookie. A few tweaks in and they may have unlocked something. Rather than having him pitch in the middle of the zone, Minnesota has elevated his target on fastballs and the results have been encouraging. Despite pitching in cold weather to start the season for the first time, Paddack has only seen a minor dip in velocity. The Twins have also pushed their new arm to utilize a slider and his curveball more, which has taken focus away from an exceptional changeup. He’s been among the best in baseball when it comes to limiting walks, and keeping runners off the basepaths has allowed him to avoid significant damage. Paddack’s numbers are good as they are, and they’d be even better if not for bad 1st innings in each of his first two starts. Getting this type of pitcher under team control in exchange for a reliever was always going to be a win, but Minnesota’s changes could bear significant fruit for both parties. There’s a lot of good news across this rotation. That’s not to say steps backward won’t happen, because the level they are currently competing at is truly extraordinary. That being said, it’s not as though the numbers are backed by truth, and even a bit of evening out looks to stay within a good place. When everyone was clamoring for the big names, Minnesota’s front office instead trusted the process to show big improvements derived from their internal belief.
  5. The winning streak now stands at seven games as the Twins topped the Tigers to complete the sweeps of two AL Central competitors at Target Field over the past week. See how Carlos Correa came up big, and Gilberto Celestino played a big part in another win. Box Score SP Bailey Ober: 3.2 IP,6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (73 pitches, 49 strikes (67.1%) Home Runs: None Top 3 WPA: Trevor Larnach (.150), Gilberto Celestino (.141), Cody Stashak (.096) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Pregame Notes/Lineup Decisions (with Results) #1: Facing left-hander Tarik Skubal, Rocco Baldelli started Luis Arraez, Trevor Larnach and Max Kepler. How it went? Against Skubal, Arraez and Kepler each went 0-for-3. Larnach, however, went 2-for-2. #2: After DHing on Tuesday and playing center field on Wednesday, Byron Buxton was not in the starting lineup on Thursday afternoon. Gilberto Celestino, who is certainly a candidate to be sent back to St. Paul when rosters are reduced after Sunday’s games, is making his second start in center field in the past three games. How it went? Celestino reached base in each of his first three plate appearances. He had an RBI infield single in his first at-bat. He laid down a nice bunt in his second plate appearance and reached on a throwing error. In his third at-bat, he hit a 100 mph line drive down the right-field line for a double. With Celestino, the defense is always solid. In addition, he ranged to the gap to make a very nice sliding catch in the 8th inning. #3: There were hopes that Gary Sanchez could start behind the plate on Thursday. He was not quite ready so Ryan Jeffers started his third straight game behind the plate, including the day game after the night game. How it went? Well, Jeffers was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, but he did a nice job behind the plate. Miguel Sano has a minor knee strain. That is why he is not starting against the left-hander and Arraez is back at first base. Ober Labors, Leaves with Injury Bailey Ober clearly didn’t have his best stuff on Thursday afternoon. It’s not that he was bad. He wasn’t. He threw strikes at a good rate (67%). He missed 12 bats. But he really had to work to strand base runners. He gave up six hits and two walks and somehow worked his way out of those situations and gave up just one run. Unfortunately, Ober left the game early. With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, right after a balk, he gave up a single that gave the Tigers their first (and only) run. After the pitch, Ober hobbled off the mound, grabbed his upper right leg, and bent at the waist. Clearly, he was not going to proceed. Cody Stashak came in and stranded another Tigers runner. Tyler Duffey worked a scoreless inning. Griffin Jax ended the game with three strong innings to record the save. The team, a couple of innings later, confirmed that it was right groin tightness for Ober. Correa’s Biggest Hit… So far. Yeah, I know that his home run was crushed and immensely impressive, but Carlos Correa came through with the biggest hit of his short Twins career. Leading 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Correa came up with the bases loaded. In his two previous at-bats, he had exit velocities of 95 and 106 mph. On a 3-2 count, Correa hit a ball 108 mph toward the gap in left-center field, over Willi Castro’s head. With the Tigers’ fourth error of the game tacked on, the bases were emptied and the Twins led 5-1. Gio Urshela followed with a single to left field for a 6-1 Twins lead. To this point, Correa is hitting the ball really hard, as you can see from the top row in the chart below. However, it appears that he is hitting a lot of ground balls. He also came into Thursday’s game having struck out 32.8% of the time. For his career, Correa has struck out just under 21% of his plate appearances. In 2021, he struck out just over 18% of the time. In other words, he's going to be just fine. Three hits and four balls hit over 100 mph on this day should help him relax and start putting up the numbers that he has over his career. In addition, despite his offensive woes early in the season, Correa's defense has been consistently terrific. What’s Next? The Twins will travel to Tampa to take on the Rays this weekend. Pitching matchups for the series include: Friday 6:10: Dylan Bundy (3-0, 0.59 ERA) vs RHP Corey Kluber (0-1, 3.68 ERA) Saturday 3:10: Chris Archer (0-0, 3.18 ERA) vs LHP Shane McClanahan (1-1, 2.45 ERA) Sunday 12:10: Chris Paddack (0-2, 3.68 ERA) vs TBD Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage SUN MON TUE WED THUR TOT Winder 61 0 0 0 0 61 Jax 0 0 10 0 46 56 Thielbar 0 0 27 0 0 27 Duffey 0 0 19 0 8 27 Pagán 0 0 23 0 0 23 Smith 13 0 0 10 0 23 Coulombe 0 0 0 20 0 20 Duran 18 0 0 0 0 18 Stashak 0 0 0 0 18 18 View full article
  6. Box Score SP Bailey Ober: 3.2 IP,6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (73 pitches, 49 strikes (67.1%) Home Runs: None Top 3 WPA: Trevor Larnach (.150), Gilberto Celestino (.141), Cody Stashak (.096) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Pregame Notes/Lineup Decisions (with Results) #1: Facing left-hander Tarik Skubal, Rocco Baldelli started Luis Arraez, Trevor Larnach and Max Kepler. How it went? Against Skubal, Arraez and Kepler each went 0-for-3. Larnach, however, went 2-for-2. #2: After DHing on Tuesday and playing center field on Wednesday, Byron Buxton was not in the starting lineup on Thursday afternoon. Gilberto Celestino, who is certainly a candidate to be sent back to St. Paul when rosters are reduced after Sunday’s games, is making his second start in center field in the past three games. How it went? Celestino reached base in each of his first three plate appearances. He had an RBI infield single in his first at-bat. He laid down a nice bunt in his second plate appearance and reached on a throwing error. In his third at-bat, he hit a 100 mph line drive down the right-field line for a double. With Celestino, the defense is always solid. In addition, he ranged to the gap to make a very nice sliding catch in the 8th inning. #3: There were hopes that Gary Sanchez could start behind the plate on Thursday. He was not quite ready so Ryan Jeffers started his third straight game behind the plate, including the day game after the night game. How it went? Well, Jeffers was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, but he did a nice job behind the plate. Miguel Sano has a minor knee strain. That is why he is not starting against the left-hander and Arraez is back at first base. Ober Labors, Leaves with Injury Bailey Ober clearly didn’t have his best stuff on Thursday afternoon. It’s not that he was bad. He wasn’t. He threw strikes at a good rate (67%). He missed 12 bats. But he really had to work to strand base runners. He gave up six hits and two walks and somehow worked his way out of those situations and gave up just one run. Unfortunately, Ober left the game early. With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, right after a balk, he gave up a single that gave the Tigers their first (and only) run. After the pitch, Ober hobbled off the mound, grabbed his upper right leg, and bent at the waist. Clearly, he was not going to proceed. Cody Stashak came in and stranded another Tigers runner. Tyler Duffey worked a scoreless inning. Griffin Jax ended the game with three strong innings to record the save. The team, a couple of innings later, confirmed that it was right groin tightness for Ober. Correa’s Biggest Hit… So far. Yeah, I know that his home run was crushed and immensely impressive, but Carlos Correa came through with the biggest hit of his short Twins career. Leading 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Correa came up with the bases loaded. In his two previous at-bats, he had exit velocities of 95 and 106 mph. On a 3-2 count, Correa hit a ball 108 mph toward the gap in left-center field, over Willi Castro’s head. With the Tigers’ fourth error of the game tacked on, the bases were emptied and the Twins led 5-1. Gio Urshela followed with a single to left field for a 6-1 Twins lead. To this point, Correa is hitting the ball really hard, as you can see from the top row in the chart below. However, it appears that he is hitting a lot of ground balls. He also came into Thursday’s game having struck out 32.8% of the time. For his career, Correa has struck out just under 21% of his plate appearances. In 2021, he struck out just over 18% of the time. In other words, he's going to be just fine. Three hits and four balls hit over 100 mph on this day should help him relax and start putting up the numbers that he has over his career. In addition, despite his offensive woes early in the season, Correa's defense has been consistently terrific. What’s Next? The Twins will travel to Tampa to take on the Rays this weekend. Pitching matchups for the series include: Friday 6:10: Dylan Bundy (3-0, 0.59 ERA) vs RHP Corey Kluber (0-1, 3.68 ERA) Saturday 3:10: Chris Archer (0-0, 3.18 ERA) vs LHP Shane McClanahan (1-1, 2.45 ERA) Sunday 12:10: Chris Paddack (0-2, 3.68 ERA) vs TBD Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage SUN MON TUE WED THUR TOT Winder 61 0 0 0 0 61 Jax 0 0 10 0 46 56 Thielbar 0 0 27 0 0 27 Duffey 0 0 19 0 8 27 Pagán 0 0 23 0 0 23 Smith 13 0 0 10 0 23 Coulombe 0 0 0 20 0 20 Duran 18 0 0 0 0 18 Stashak 0 0 0 0 18 18
  7. The Twins completed an emotional three-game sweep of the reigning American League Central champion White Sox, while the Tigers lost two of three to the Rockies at home. Let’s preview this upcoming three-game series at Target Field. Growling Expectations The Tigers, coming off five straight losing seasons, expect to compete in 2022. They won 77 games in manager A.J. Hinch’s first season with the club, finishing in third place in the Central in 2021. While the Tigers surprised with nearly 80 wins, they feasted off a historically bad division. It hasn’t been a clean start, as the Tigers have won only six of their first 15 games. The offense has been poor, and they’ve dealt with many injuries. So far, performance hasn’t met the loftiest expectations Tigers fans have had since they won four straight AL Central titles from 2011 to 2014. How Detroit won 77 games in 2021 is somewhat remarkable. Tigers position players accounted for 9.4 fWAR, the third-lowest in MLB. The pitching staff accumulated 10.2 fWAR, tied for 8th-lowest. It wasn’t a good team, but it was a significant step forward in a new era with Hinch. There is reason for optimism in the Motor City. The Tigers' hopes start with former No. 1 pick Casey Mize, who is currently on the injured list with an elbow sprain. Lefty Tarik Skubal is off to a terrific start and harnesses a fastball in the mid-90s. The Twins have trouble against velocity-oriented lefties, and they’ll see Skubal in Thursday’s finale. Current Twins do have six homers in 73 plate appearances against him. Speaking of lefties, the Tigers signed former Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodríguez for five years and $77 million this offseason. Rodríguez has given up eight runs in 13 innings with an elevated fly-ball rate. He's set to pitch the series opener on Tuesday. Many Twins fans thought the team should bring back veteran Michael Pineda to round out the rotation. Instead, Pineda signed with the Tigers for one year and $5.5 million, and he pitched well in his first start, throwing 60 pitches and holding the Yankees down for five innings. Pineda will return to the Target Field mound Wednesday in a different uniform. The Tigers also added a new shortstop in Javier Báez on a six-year, $140 million deal. Báez is a divisive but highly talented player and can carry an offense for prolonged periods. He’s also an elite defender at shortstop, saving 46 runs since his debut in 2014. Of course, that comes with extreme swing-and-miss and long stretches of slumps Detroit’s offense posted a measly 93 wRC+ in 2021 (100 in league average), even with a Jeimer Candelario breakout and strong seasons from rookie Akil Baddoo and career minor-leaguer Eric Haase. This year, 2020’s first overall pick Spencer Torkelson joins the lineup. Torkelson looked like a complete hitter in the minors, and he enters the series hitting .217/.345/.435 in 15 games. The Tigers have a dynamic and semi-dangerous set of hitters, especially after the late addition of Austin Meadows. Mr. 3000 Miguel Cabrera is always a focus, and the Tigers have a group that could cause problems for the Twins. THREE SERIES X-FACTORS: 1. Carlos Correa Byron Buxton frankly took control of the Twins’ sweeping of the White Sox over the weekend. He leads the American League with 1.3 fWAR and a .946 slugging percentage. He can completely flip any game, and the Tigers certainly know the damage he is capable of. Carlos Correa, meanwhile, is hitting a light .192 with minimal power. If he can get going behind Buxton, the Tigers will have trouble keeping this lineup down for three games. 2. Javier Báez Báez is back after a thumb injury landed him on the 10-day injured list. He has the highest upside of any Tiger and is hitting the middle of the order. Báez, like Buxton, can heat up and dominate in a hurry. The Twins will feed him a steady diet of breaking balls, but if they hang it, he’ll bang it. Báez presents a simple but not easy challenge. 3. The bullpens The Tigers’ bullpen ranks first in the American League with a 2.30 ERA. Gregory Soto is evolving into an elite closer, and Michael Fulmer has found a new (and successful) home as a reliever. The Twins sport the 7th-highest bullpen ERA in MLB (4.16). If current trends hold, the Twins may be in trouble in the late innings. Pitching Probables Tues (6:40 CT): RHP Chris Paddack (0-2, 5.00 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA) Wed (6:40 CT): RHP Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) Thurs (12:10 CT): RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81 ERA) vs LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) What do you think the keys to this week's series are? View full article
  8. Growling Expectations The Tigers, coming off five straight losing seasons, expect to compete in 2022. They won 77 games in manager A.J. Hinch’s first season with the club, finishing in third place in the Central in 2021. While the Tigers surprised with nearly 80 wins, they feasted off a historically bad division. It hasn’t been a clean start, as the Tigers have won only six of their first 15 games. The offense has been poor, and they’ve dealt with many injuries. So far, performance hasn’t met the loftiest expectations Tigers fans have had since they won four straight AL Central titles from 2011 to 2014. How Detroit won 77 games in 2021 is somewhat remarkable. Tigers position players accounted for 9.4 fWAR, the third-lowest in MLB. The pitching staff accumulated 10.2 fWAR, tied for 8th-lowest. It wasn’t a good team, but it was a significant step forward in a new era with Hinch. There is reason for optimism in the Motor City. The Tigers' hopes start with former No. 1 pick Casey Mize, who is currently on the injured list with an elbow sprain. Lefty Tarik Skubal is off to a terrific start and harnesses a fastball in the mid-90s. The Twins have trouble against velocity-oriented lefties, and they’ll see Skubal in Thursday’s finale. Current Twins do have six homers in 73 plate appearances against him. Speaking of lefties, the Tigers signed former Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodríguez for five years and $77 million this offseason. Rodríguez has given up eight runs in 13 innings with an elevated fly-ball rate. He's set to pitch the series opener on Tuesday. Many Twins fans thought the team should bring back veteran Michael Pineda to round out the rotation. Instead, Pineda signed with the Tigers for one year and $5.5 million, and he pitched well in his first start, throwing 60 pitches and holding the Yankees down for five innings. Pineda will return to the Target Field mound Wednesday in a different uniform. The Tigers also added a new shortstop in Javier Báez on a six-year, $140 million deal. Báez is a divisive but highly talented player and can carry an offense for prolonged periods. He’s also an elite defender at shortstop, saving 46 runs since his debut in 2014. Of course, that comes with extreme swing-and-miss and long stretches of slumps Detroit’s offense posted a measly 93 wRC+ in 2021 (100 in league average), even with a Jeimer Candelario breakout and strong seasons from rookie Akil Baddoo and career minor-leaguer Eric Haase. This year, 2020’s first overall pick Spencer Torkelson joins the lineup. Torkelson looked like a complete hitter in the minors, and he enters the series hitting .217/.345/.435 in 15 games. The Tigers have a dynamic and semi-dangerous set of hitters, especially after the late addition of Austin Meadows. Mr. 3000 Miguel Cabrera is always a focus, and the Tigers have a group that could cause problems for the Twins. THREE SERIES X-FACTORS: 1. Carlos Correa Byron Buxton frankly took control of the Twins’ sweeping of the White Sox over the weekend. He leads the American League with 1.3 fWAR and a .946 slugging percentage. He can completely flip any game, and the Tigers certainly know the damage he is capable of. Carlos Correa, meanwhile, is hitting a light .192 with minimal power. If he can get going behind Buxton, the Tigers will have trouble keeping this lineup down for three games. 2. Javier Báez Báez is back after a thumb injury landed him on the 10-day injured list. He has the highest upside of any Tiger and is hitting the middle of the order. Báez, like Buxton, can heat up and dominate in a hurry. The Twins will feed him a steady diet of breaking balls, but if they hang it, he’ll bang it. Báez presents a simple but not easy challenge. 3. The bullpens The Tigers’ bullpen ranks first in the American League with a 2.30 ERA. Gregory Soto is evolving into an elite closer, and Michael Fulmer has found a new (and successful) home as a reliever. The Twins sport the 7th-highest bullpen ERA in MLB (4.16). If current trends hold, the Twins may be in trouble in the late innings. Pitching Probables Tues (6:40 CT): RHP Chris Paddack (0-2, 5.00 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA) Wed (6:40 CT): RHP Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) Thurs (12:10 CT): RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81 ERA) vs LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) What do you think the keys to this week's series are?
  9. On yet another terrible game by the Twins offense, Bailey Ober and the bullpen kept chances alive until the end. The White Sox made a horrific defensive blunder and allowed Minnesota to steal the game in the eighth. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Bailey Ober, 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (79 pitches, 56 strikes, 70.8%) Home Runs: none Top 3 WPA: Carlos Correa (.462), Emilio Pagán (.152), Bailey Ober (.104) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Ober pitches solid five innings, but gets no help from the offense Earlier today, the Twins official Twitter account sent out the tweet below, which could’ve somehow put a little pressure on young starter Bailey Ober: But that’s exactly what didn't happen. The sophomore had a solid start to this game, dominating the White Sox lineup. With solid command, he threw over 72% strikes in the first three innings allowing only two hits. Unfortunately for the Twins, Chicago’s starter Michael Kopech also feasted off recently weakened Minnesota’s offense through the first portion of the game. Luis Arráez opened up the first inning with a leadoff single, but Carlos Correa grounded into a double play immediately afterward. In that same inning, Jorge Polanco reached on a walk but was caught trying to steal second, ending the threat. The first man in scoring position of the game was a Twin. Trevor Larnach hit a two-out double in the second, but Kopech followed that up by retiring the next eight batters, including four strikeouts. Ober pitched a clean fourth inning, but the White Sox got to him in the fifth, with Andrew Vaughn smashing a leadoff home run to center to make it 1-0 Chicago. Ober got into a bad spot when Reese McGuire followed that homer with a double, prompting an immediate mound visit by Wes Johnson. That helped him get back on track and he retired the next three batters to limit the damage to just the one run. Ober’s night was done after that inning, with Griffin Jax coming in to pitch the sixth. With tonight’s outing, Ober lowered his season ERA to 2.81 and the Twins rotation continues to be one of the best in the majors. You know, as we all have predicted a month ago, right? Jax, Bullpen perform brilliantly; wild defense from Chicago gives Twins the lead Griffin Jax came in trying to keep this a one-run game and he couldn’t have done a better job. He threw two scoreless and hitless frames on 29 pitches – 24 sliders (83%). He pitched around a leadoff walk in the sixth and went on to retire the next six batters, causing them to swing and miss 46% of the time. After a rough outing in Kansas City on Tuesday that cost the Twins a win, Tyler Duffey got a much-needed clean inning in the eighth. He retired the top of Chicago’s lineup in order on 13 pitches, including two strikeouts, giving the offense a chance to redeem itself in the bottom of the inning. Could they do it? Well, yes and no. The inning started out atrociously for Minnesota, with Miguel Sanó and Nick Gordon quickly retired on ten pitches. Ryan Jeffers stepped up to the plate and, also quickly, was down 0-2 in the count. Suddenly, things started to change in a wild way. In the third pitch of the at-bat, Jeffers crushed a ground-rule double to left-center, bringing Arráez to the plate. Luis worked a nice six-pitch walk to keep the inning alive and bring Correa to the plate. Slumping really hard on the season so far, “C4” swung on the second pitch and grounded to the hole in deep shortstop, enough to score Jeffers. But to make things better, Tim Anderson and José Abreu made a couple of awful throws that allowed Arráez to also score and Correa to make second. (Just watch this...) Emilio Pagán was brought in to pitch the ninth and try to earn the save, but things didn’t start well for him. He gave up a leadoff double to Eloy Jiménez and loaded the bases with only one out. After a hard-fought, nine-pitch at-bat, he got McGuire to pop out. Then, he almost lost Jake Burger for the last out but managed to strike him out on a full count. What’s Next? Game two of the series is tomorrow at 3:05 pm CDT, when Dylan Bundy (2-0, 0.87 ERA) tries to keep his hot start going facing righty Vince Velasquez (0-1, 4.15 ERA). Byron Buxton is expected to be back in the lineup. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Jax 47 0 0 0 29 76 Pagán 0 0 0 9 34 43 Duran 23 0 0 15 0 38 Romero 0 30 0 0 0 30 Duffey 0 15 0 0 13 28 Smith 6 2 0 16 0 24 Stashak 0 0 21 0 0 21 Thielbar 0 0 15 0 0 15 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 0 0 View full article
  10. Ryan Jeffers kept the eight inning going by hitting a two-out double, affording the Minnesota Twins a chance to turn things around against the White Sox Friday night. After a chaotic bottom of the eighth, Jeffers also helped secure the victory with some stellar work behind the plate as the Twins won 2-1. Also included in this video are highlights of Bailey Ober, Mark Contreras, Michael Helman, Spencer Steer, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and more.
  11. Ryan Jeffers kept the eight inning going by hitting a two-out double, affording the Minnesota Twins a chance to turn things around against the White Sox Friday night. After a chaotic bottom of the eighth, Jeffers also helped secure the victory with some stellar work behind the plate as the Twins won 2-1. Also included in this video are highlights of Bailey Ober, Mark Contreras, Michael Helman, Spencer Steer, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and more. View full video
  12. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Bailey Ober, 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (79 pitches, 56 strikes, 70.8%) Home Runs: none Top 3 WPA: Carlos Correa (.462), Emilio Pagán (.152), Bailey Ober (.104) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Ober pitches solid five innings, but gets no help from the offense Earlier today, the Twins official Twitter account sent out the tweet below, which could’ve somehow put a little pressure on young starter Bailey Ober: But that’s exactly what didn't happen. The sophomore had a solid start to this game, dominating the White Sox lineup. With solid command, he threw over 72% strikes in the first three innings allowing only two hits. Unfortunately for the Twins, Chicago’s starter Michael Kopech also feasted off recently weakened Minnesota’s offense through the first portion of the game. Luis Arráez opened up the first inning with a leadoff single, but Carlos Correa grounded into a double play immediately afterward. In that same inning, Jorge Polanco reached on a walk but was caught trying to steal second, ending the threat. The first man in scoring position of the game was a Twin. Trevor Larnach hit a two-out double in the second, but Kopech followed that up by retiring the next eight batters, including four strikeouts. Ober pitched a clean fourth inning, but the White Sox got to him in the fifth, with Andrew Vaughn smashing a leadoff home run to center to make it 1-0 Chicago. Ober got into a bad spot when Reese McGuire followed that homer with a double, prompting an immediate mound visit by Wes Johnson. That helped him get back on track and he retired the next three batters to limit the damage to just the one run. Ober’s night was done after that inning, with Griffin Jax coming in to pitch the sixth. With tonight’s outing, Ober lowered his season ERA to 2.81 and the Twins rotation continues to be one of the best in the majors. You know, as we all have predicted a month ago, right? Jax, Bullpen perform brilliantly; wild defense from Chicago gives Twins the lead Griffin Jax came in trying to keep this a one-run game and he couldn’t have done a better job. He threw two scoreless and hitless frames on 29 pitches – 24 sliders (83%). He pitched around a leadoff walk in the sixth and went on to retire the next six batters, causing them to swing and miss 46% of the time. After a rough outing in Kansas City on Tuesday that cost the Twins a win, Tyler Duffey got a much-needed clean inning in the eighth. He retired the top of Chicago’s lineup in order on 13 pitches, including two strikeouts, giving the offense a chance to redeem itself in the bottom of the inning. Could they do it? Well, yes and no. The inning started out atrociously for Minnesota, with Miguel Sanó and Nick Gordon quickly retired on ten pitches. Ryan Jeffers stepped up to the plate and, also quickly, was down 0-2 in the count. Suddenly, things started to change in a wild way. In the third pitch of the at-bat, Jeffers crushed a ground-rule double to left-center, bringing Arráez to the plate. Luis worked a nice six-pitch walk to keep the inning alive and bring Correa to the plate. Slumping really hard on the season so far, “C4” swung on the second pitch and grounded to the hole in deep shortstop, enough to score Jeffers. But to make things better, Tim Anderson and José Abreu made a couple of awful throws that allowed Arráez to also score and Correa to make second. (Just watch this...) Emilio Pagán was brought in to pitch the ninth and try to earn the save, but things didn’t start well for him. He gave up a leadoff double to Eloy Jiménez and loaded the bases with only one out. After a hard-fought, nine-pitch at-bat, he got McGuire to pop out. Then, he almost lost Jake Burger for the last out but managed to strike him out on a full count. What’s Next? Game two of the series is tomorrow at 3:05 pm CDT, when Dylan Bundy (2-0, 0.87 ERA) tries to keep his hot start going facing righty Vince Velasquez (0-1, 4.15 ERA). Byron Buxton is expected to be back in the lineup. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Jax 47 0 0 0 29 76 Pagán 0 0 0 9 34 43 Duran 23 0 0 15 0 38 Romero 0 30 0 0 0 30 Duffey 0 15 0 0 13 28 Smith 6 2 0 16 0 24 Stashak 0 0 21 0 0 21 Thielbar 0 0 15 0 0 15 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 0 0
  13. The Twins front office has been averse to committing to free agent starting pitchers. Why? Clues can be found in the development of Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. The void in quality in the rotation of the Minnesota Twins was obvious looking back on a miserable 2021 season. Derek Falvey, arriving from the Guardians with a sterling reputation for developing a pipeline of pitching talent, presided over a season in which everything went wrong, particularly pitching. Most Twins fans assumed the rotation would be a priority in a truncated off-season before 2022. At the very least, the Twins would strengthen their rotation with a solid mid-rotation free-agent starter, right? Wrong. While Twins territory lamented, the organization passed on the likes of Jon Gray, Carlos Rodon, Kevin Gausman, and Robbie Ray. Instead, the Twins signed Dylan Bundy before the lockout. Since the lockout ended, they added Chris Archer as a free agent and traded for Chris Paddack. While this iteration of the rotation is undoubtedly improved, it hardly inspires confidence. Twins fans know arms are on the way; Cole Sands, Louie Varland, Simeon Woods-Richardson, and Matt Canterino, to name a few. But why do the Twins seem so averse to committing to free-agent pitchers for any length of time? While it is likely that part of the reason is simply striking out on free agent offers, other clues lie in the development of Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Derek Falvey uttered his now-famous desire to ‘build a sustainable winner’ in Minnesota upon arriving at Target Field. It’s accepted that developing a pipeline of pitching talent takes 5-6 years. The Twins' front office is now entering year six, and fans are starting to see the impact of that development. My argument is that the Twins are attempting to be loosely competitive in 2022; their real goal is a window of 2023 and beyond. We can examine the development of Ryan and Ober as a proxy for organization principles of pitcher development. Here are three common practices the Twins have leveraged to maximize Ryan and Ober that will be evident in the next wave of starting pitching talent that hits Target Field. Maximize Velocity Bailey Ober has a unique set of tools. He amassed a 32% K% throughout his MiLB career, an impressive number he combined with a 3.4% BB%. While Ober has had strong command since being drafted in the 12th round in 2017 (Falvey’s first draft), his fastball velocity was consistently at or below 90 mph throughout his MiLB career. When he reached the majors, Ober’s fastball velocity had increased to 92.3 mph. Ober’s height (he’s 6’9) allows him a top ten release extension in major league baseball. Put simply, Ober’s so tall he releases the ball closer to the plate than most pitchers, speeding batters up. Adding velocity, (via release extension or refining mechanics) is a skill-set the Twins have mastered and shown an ability help their pitchers translate onto the field. Work the Fastball Up It’s notable that five out of six members of the Twins rotation in 2022 have a track record of excellent control. In 2021 the average BB/9 across major league baseball was 3.3. Consider the Twins' internal rotation members and their numbers in 2021; Ryan 1.69, Ober 1.85. Ryan and Ober have fastball spin percentiles of 34 and 38, respectively. While it’s been well documented that Ryan has a flat fastball, his VAA (vertical attack angle) allows it to thrive and gives it a rising effect, a tendency that is maximized with fastballs up in the zone. While not all fastballs have the ability to outperform their inputs in the way Ryan’s does, the Twins have found success in going up in the zone, particularly for pitchers who don’t have elite velocity. You can see how this plays out in how Ober leverages his excellent control to locate his fastball up The Slider Revolution Throwing fastballs up in the strike zone is not a good plan in isolation, particularly if the pitch doesn’t benefit from the deception that Joe Ryan’s does. For Ober, this meant revamping his slider. Midway through 2021, he debuted a new slider, reworked to appear more distinct in velocity than his curveball. Ober added velocity to the pitch and more depth to the break. In the final month of Ober’s old slider, it surrendered a .294 xBA; this dropped to .270 the following month and .215 the month after that. In his first start of 2022, he threw the pitch 29%, compared to just 18% in 2021. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober are good pitching prospects and will likely have long, meaningful MLB careers with Minnesota. The Twins development staff has done excellent work with both, turning them into roughly 1.5 fWAR pitchers. Ultimately, they serve as placeholders at the front of the Twins' rotation. Soon they will be supplemented by Josh Winder, Louie Varland, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Cole Sands, and Jordan Balazovic. A number of the pitchers joining Ryan and Ober have the better raw velocity and stuff and, therefore, a higher ceiling as starting pitchers. It’s easy not to believe in the pitching factory Falvey has worked to develop in Minnesota. I do. It’s likely we’ll know who will lead the front of the Twins rotation by the end of 2022. View full article
  14. The void in quality in the rotation of the Minnesota Twins was obvious looking back on a miserable 2021 season. Derek Falvey, arriving from the Guardians with a sterling reputation for developing a pipeline of pitching talent, presided over a season in which everything went wrong, particularly pitching. Most Twins fans assumed the rotation would be a priority in a truncated off-season before 2022. At the very least, the Twins would strengthen their rotation with a solid mid-rotation free-agent starter, right? Wrong. While Twins territory lamented, the organization passed on the likes of Jon Gray, Carlos Rodon, Kevin Gausman, and Robbie Ray. Instead, the Twins signed Dylan Bundy before the lockout. Since the lockout ended, they added Chris Archer as a free agent and traded for Chris Paddack. While this iteration of the rotation is undoubtedly improved, it hardly inspires confidence. Twins fans know arms are on the way; Cole Sands, Louie Varland, Simeon Woods-Richardson, and Matt Canterino, to name a few. But why do the Twins seem so averse to committing to free-agent pitchers for any length of time? While it is likely that part of the reason is simply striking out on free agent offers, other clues lie in the development of Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Derek Falvey uttered his now-famous desire to ‘build a sustainable winner’ in Minnesota upon arriving at Target Field. It’s accepted that developing a pipeline of pitching talent takes 5-6 years. The Twins' front office is now entering year six, and fans are starting to see the impact of that development. My argument is that the Twins are attempting to be loosely competitive in 2022; their real goal is a window of 2023 and beyond. We can examine the development of Ryan and Ober as a proxy for organization principles of pitcher development. Here are three common practices the Twins have leveraged to maximize Ryan and Ober that will be evident in the next wave of starting pitching talent that hits Target Field. Maximize Velocity Bailey Ober has a unique set of tools. He amassed a 32% K% throughout his MiLB career, an impressive number he combined with a 3.4% BB%. While Ober has had strong command since being drafted in the 12th round in 2017 (Falvey’s first draft), his fastball velocity was consistently at or below 90 mph throughout his MiLB career. When he reached the majors, Ober’s fastball velocity had increased to 92.3 mph. Ober’s height (he’s 6’9) allows him a top ten release extension in major league baseball. Put simply, Ober’s so tall he releases the ball closer to the plate than most pitchers, speeding batters up. Adding velocity, (via release extension or refining mechanics) is a skill-set the Twins have mastered and shown an ability help their pitchers translate onto the field. Work the Fastball Up It’s notable that five out of six members of the Twins rotation in 2022 have a track record of excellent control. In 2021 the average BB/9 across major league baseball was 3.3. Consider the Twins' internal rotation members and their numbers in 2021; Ryan 1.69, Ober 1.85. Ryan and Ober have fastball spin percentiles of 34 and 38, respectively. While it’s been well documented that Ryan has a flat fastball, his VAA (vertical attack angle) allows it to thrive and gives it a rising effect, a tendency that is maximized with fastballs up in the zone. While not all fastballs have the ability to outperform their inputs in the way Ryan’s does, the Twins have found success in going up in the zone, particularly for pitchers who don’t have elite velocity. You can see how this plays out in how Ober leverages his excellent control to locate his fastball up The Slider Revolution Throwing fastballs up in the strike zone is not a good plan in isolation, particularly if the pitch doesn’t benefit from the deception that Joe Ryan’s does. For Ober, this meant revamping his slider. Midway through 2021, he debuted a new slider, reworked to appear more distinct in velocity than his curveball. Ober added velocity to the pitch and more depth to the break. In the final month of Ober’s old slider, it surrendered a .294 xBA; this dropped to .270 the following month and .215 the month after that. In his first start of 2022, he threw the pitch 29%, compared to just 18% in 2021. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober are good pitching prospects and will likely have long, meaningful MLB careers with Minnesota. The Twins development staff has done excellent work with both, turning them into roughly 1.5 fWAR pitchers. Ultimately, they serve as placeholders at the front of the Twins' rotation. Soon they will be supplemented by Josh Winder, Louie Varland, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Cole Sands, and Jordan Balazovic. A number of the pitchers joining Ryan and Ober have the better raw velocity and stuff and, therefore, a higher ceiling as starting pitchers. It’s easy not to believe in the pitching factory Falvey has worked to develop in Minnesota. I do. It’s likely we’ll know who will lead the front of the Twins rotation by the end of 2022.
  15. The Twins entered the offseason with an aggressive need for high-end pitching – one which they basically half-addressed with their trades and signings. For better or worse, the front office will lean hard this season on an internal pipeline it's spent half a decade developing. Projected Rotation: Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer Depth: Josh Winder, Chi-Chi Gonzalez, Cole Sands, Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak Prospects: Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods Richardson, Louie Varland, Blayne Enlow THE GOOD There's a lot of talent in this pipeline. It started coming to fruition a year ago, when Bailey Ober emerged as the team's steadiest starter and Joe Ryan arrived late with an eye-opening first impression. The Twins will be looking for more of where that came from this year, with a bevy of their top prospects in the high minors and at an age (23-25) where players tend to enter the big-league ranks. Whether or not it was their plan from the start to rely heavily on this group, it clearly is now after the club mostly whiffed on impact rotation additions during the offseason. One notable exception is Sonny Gray, who was acquired from Cincinnati in exchange for Chase Petty and instantly becomes the team's most accomplished starter. Gray gives the Twins some serious juice and cred at the top of the rotation. The 32-year-old owns a career 3.61 ERA and is a two-time All-Star – most recently in 2019 when he posted a 2.87 ERA and was worth 4.5 fWAR for the Reds. Gray was a successful starter in his early seasons with Oakland, but reinvented himself as a strikeout pitcher in Cincy, posting the three highest K-rates of his career while raising his swinging strike rates from the mid-20% range to low-30%. He was lights-out in his official spring debut on Sunday. Despite his track record and rep, Gray won't be the club's Opening Day starter come Thursday at Target Field. Instead that honor goes to Ryan, who is still technically a rookie after making five starts in 2021. Per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com, he becomes just the third player since 1961 – and first in 35 years – to draw an Opening Day nod within the first six starts of his career. This decision probably has much more to do with Gray's readiness than anything else, but Ryan's done enough to earn it on his end. He's been spectacular everywhere in the minors, with a 2.67 ERA and 13.0 K/9 in three seasons. He looked great for the Twins late last year, flirting with a no-hitter in his second MLB start. He's been excellent this spring, allowing no runs on three hits over five innings with a 5-to-1 K/BB ratio. Following Ryan and Gray in the rotation, presumably, will be Ober. The big right-hander established himself and solidified his roster spot with an outstanding rookie performance. The question, of course, is whether he can back it up, but on the surface there is little reason to think Ober can't sustain as a solid mid-rotation starter. At the back end, the Twins are hoping to catch lightning with a pair of buy-low veteran free agents. Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer are interesting in that both were once heralded young arms and have earned top-10 Cy Young finishes at various points. But both are pretty far removed from sustained success. Realistically, the Twins are hoping that Bundy rebounds to his pre-2021 baseline, which was roughly an average pitcher (98 ERA+) who was reliable from a durability standpoint, while Archer – who hasn't posted an above-average ERA since 2017 – finds some semblance of his previous form. Neither is a total longshot. Either of these guys could turn into assets. But really their function is to handle early innings while prospects in the minors get up to speed and make their cases. Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, and Cole Sands are all among the high-upside pitchers with a very real chance of making an impact for the Twins this season. It's an exciting time. THE BAD I read the words now and they haunt me. Like corrosive acid, they eat away at my very soul. "If the Twins have ever fielded a better and deeper rotation than the one they're set to line up this year, I can't remember it," I wrote when introducing last year's starting pitching analysis. "From top to bottom (and beyond) this unit looks stacked." If I meant it in terms of a Jenga stack ready to topple, I would've been on the right track. But I didn't. After breaking through as one of the best in the league in 2019 and 2020, the pitching staff totally fell apart last year, and the rotation was a prime culprit. Twins starters ranked 25th in fWAR and ERA, and 24th in FIP and WHIP. One of their rotation mainstays, Kenta Maeda, struggled before requiring Tommy John surgery (he MIGHT make it back late this year) and the other was traded away at the deadline. Losing José Berríos hurts. A whole lot. While perhaps not living up to the lofty title of "ace," he was a clear front-line starter – one of the league's most consistent and durable pitchers. He basically never missed a start with the Twins and combined quantity with quality. La MaKina, who would've been under contract with Minnesota this year, was the real deal and he will be greatly missed. Berríos was the Twins' Opening Day starter in 2019 and 2020. Maeda took that honor last year, earning it with a Cy Young runner-up performance in '20. Now both are out of the picture, and the shift to Ryan as Opening Day starter epitomizes the front office's strategy with the rotation: shifting from proven high-caliber veterans to risky unproven minor-leaguers who aren't all that highly regarded outside of the Twins braintrust. I'm not saying it can't work. But there's a good chance it won't, and if so, this will not reflect well at all on a front office that seemingly straddled the line of reloading and rebuilding, trading their 2021 first-rounder for Gray and throwing $35 million at Carlos Correa. What's the point of all this if your rotation won't give you a chance? The optimistic side of me can buy into the idea of a rotation the features Ryan, Gray, Ober, Bundy and Archer offering enough to support a strong lineup en route to a playoff berth. But as alluded before, it's the depth behind them that frightens me. Aaron Gleeman mentioned on a recent episode of Gleeman and the Geek that Twins teams have needed an average of 17 different starters per season. With so few stable assets in place, the Twins are going to be heavily reliant on their existing talent for reinforcements beyond a thin and questionable front line. It's a bold and high-stakes vote of self-confidence. THE BOTTOM LINE Last year, it seemed like the Twins had starting pitching depth. They didn't. This year, it seems like the Twins don't have starting pitching depth. Maybe they do. Really, it comes down to largely to health, which is in many ways uncontrollable and luck-driven. The front office has left itself little margin for error on this front by investing in reclamation projects and handing the team's destiny to a stable of unproven commodities. Injuries and ill-fated signings ravaged the club's depth in 2021 and left the Twins scrambling for answers. It was understandable as a one-year blip. Another season of dreadful pitching performance will not be nearly as tolerable, and would leave Derek Falvey and Thad Levine open to all the criticism they'll receive. Their defiantly minimalist approach to the offseason pitching market will only be excusable if their methodically developed pitching pipeline pays off, and fast. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base Position Analysis: Shortstop Position Analysis: Left Field Position Analysis: Center Field Position Analysis: Right Field Position Analysis: Designated Hitter View full article
  16. Projected Rotation: Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer Depth: Josh Winder, Chi-Chi Gonzalez, Cole Sands, Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak Prospects: Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods Richardson, Louie Varland, Blayne Enlow THE GOOD There's a lot of talent in this pipeline. It started coming to fruition a year ago, when Bailey Ober emerged as the team's steadiest starter and Joe Ryan arrived late with an eye-opening first impression. The Twins will be looking for more of where that came from this year, with a bevy of their top prospects in the high minors and at an age (23-25) where players tend to enter the big-league ranks. Whether or not it was their plan from the start to rely heavily on this group, it clearly is now after the club mostly whiffed on impact rotation additions during the offseason. One notable exception is Sonny Gray, who was acquired from Cincinnati in exchange for Chase Petty and instantly becomes the team's most accomplished starter. Gray gives the Twins some serious juice and cred at the top of the rotation. The 32-year-old owns a career 3.61 ERA and is a two-time All-Star – most recently in 2019 when he posted a 2.87 ERA and was worth 4.5 fWAR for the Reds. Gray was a successful starter in his early seasons with Oakland, but reinvented himself as a strikeout pitcher in Cincy, posting the three highest K-rates of his career while raising his swinging strike rates from the mid-20% range to low-30%. He was lights-out in his official spring debut on Sunday. Despite his track record and rep, Gray won't be the club's Opening Day starter come Thursday at Target Field. Instead that honor goes to Ryan, who is still technically a rookie after making five starts in 2021. Per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com, he becomes just the third player since 1961 – and first in 35 years – to draw an Opening Day nod within the first six starts of his career. This decision probably has much more to do with Gray's readiness than anything else, but Ryan's done enough to earn it on his end. He's been spectacular everywhere in the minors, with a 2.67 ERA and 13.0 K/9 in three seasons. He looked great for the Twins late last year, flirting with a no-hitter in his second MLB start. He's been excellent this spring, allowing no runs on three hits over five innings with a 5-to-1 K/BB ratio. Following Ryan and Gray in the rotation, presumably, will be Ober. The big right-hander established himself and solidified his roster spot with an outstanding rookie performance. The question, of course, is whether he can back it up, but on the surface there is little reason to think Ober can't sustain as a solid mid-rotation starter. At the back end, the Twins are hoping to catch lightning with a pair of buy-low veteran free agents. Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer are interesting in that both were once heralded young arms and have earned top-10 Cy Young finishes at various points. But both are pretty far removed from sustained success. Realistically, the Twins are hoping that Bundy rebounds to his pre-2021 baseline, which was roughly an average pitcher (98 ERA+) who was reliable from a durability standpoint, while Archer – who hasn't posted an above-average ERA since 2017 – finds some semblance of his previous form. Neither is a total longshot. Either of these guys could turn into assets. But really their function is to handle early innings while prospects in the minors get up to speed and make their cases. Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, and Cole Sands are all among the high-upside pitchers with a very real chance of making an impact for the Twins this season. It's an exciting time. THE BAD I read the words now and they haunt me. Like corrosive acid, they eat away at my very soul. "If the Twins have ever fielded a better and deeper rotation than the one they're set to line up this year, I can't remember it," I wrote when introducing last year's starting pitching analysis. "From top to bottom (and beyond) this unit looks stacked." If I meant it in terms of a Jenga stack ready to topple, I would've been on the right track. But I didn't. After breaking through as one of the best in the league in 2019 and 2020, the pitching staff totally fell apart last year, and the rotation was a prime culprit. Twins starters ranked 25th in fWAR and ERA, and 24th in FIP and WHIP. One of their rotation mainstays, Kenta Maeda, struggled before requiring Tommy John surgery (he MIGHT make it back late this year) and the other was traded away at the deadline. Losing José Berríos hurts. A whole lot. While perhaps not living up to the lofty title of "ace," he was a clear front-line starter – one of the league's most consistent and durable pitchers. He basically never missed a start with the Twins and combined quantity with quality. La MaKina, who would've been under contract with Minnesota this year, was the real deal and he will be greatly missed. Berríos was the Twins' Opening Day starter in 2019 and 2020. Maeda took that honor last year, earning it with a Cy Young runner-up performance in '20. Now both are out of the picture, and the shift to Ryan as Opening Day starter epitomizes the front office's strategy with the rotation: shifting from proven high-caliber veterans to risky unproven minor-leaguers who aren't all that highly regarded outside of the Twins braintrust. I'm not saying it can't work. But there's a good chance it won't, and if so, this will not reflect well at all on a front office that seemingly straddled the line of reloading and rebuilding, trading their 2021 first-rounder for Gray and throwing $35 million at Carlos Correa. What's the point of all this if your rotation won't give you a chance? The optimistic side of me can buy into the idea of a rotation the features Ryan, Gray, Ober, Bundy and Archer offering enough to support a strong lineup en route to a playoff berth. But as alluded before, it's the depth behind them that frightens me. Aaron Gleeman mentioned on a recent episode of Gleeman and the Geek that Twins teams have needed an average of 17 different starters per season. With so few stable assets in place, the Twins are going to be heavily reliant on their existing talent for reinforcements beyond a thin and questionable front line. It's a bold and high-stakes vote of self-confidence. THE BOTTOM LINE Last year, it seemed like the Twins had starting pitching depth. They didn't. This year, it seems like the Twins don't have starting pitching depth. Maybe they do. Really, it comes down to largely to health, which is in many ways uncontrollable and luck-driven. The front office has left itself little margin for error on this front by investing in reclamation projects and handing the team's destiny to a stable of unproven commodities. Injuries and ill-fated signings ravaged the club's depth in 2021 and left the Twins scrambling for answers. It was understandable as a one-year blip. Another season of dreadful pitching performance will not be nearly as tolerable, and would leave Derek Falvey and Thad Levine open to all the criticism they'll receive. Their defiantly minimalist approach to the offseason pitching market will only be excusable if their methodically developed pitching pipeline pays off, and fast. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base Position Analysis: Shortstop Position Analysis: Left Field Position Analysis: Center Field Position Analysis: Right Field Position Analysis: Designated Hitter
  17. I share my motto for the upcoming Twins season with '90's science fiction TV show "The X-Files." I want to believe. However, looking at this pitching staff, I am having a hard time suspending my disbelief to buy in with this team. Who the heck is going to pitch? Who will play in the outfield when Buxton and/or Kepler are inevitably injured at some point this season? Who is the closer? Before the internet, folks would prepare for the upcoming season by reading one of the many preview magazines that cost an arm and a leg at the grocery store. My dad would always say that you could tell how good a team would be by how many times the preview of it said "if." There are way too many "ifs" this year for me to take the Twins seriously. I don't think they will be awful, but I don't think they are in any way a World Series team this season. Of course I am also on record as saying I thought the Wild would stink this season. So it goes. "If" Byron Buxton stays healthy... "If" Bailey Ober can be successful... "If" Dylan Bundy is one of the few reclamation projects this FO has tried that works... "If" Joe Ryan, Josh Winder, etc can be stretched out for a full season... "If" Chris Archer can provide competent innings, let alone return to his all star form... "If" Alex Kirilloff develops into an impactful, everyday player... "If" Gary Sanchez cuts down on his strikeouts... "If" Jorge Polanco can repeat his monster 2021 season... "If" Ryan Jeffers can be a solid full time catcher... There are too many "ifs" this year. I think there will be high points this season and I hope that the team is competitive well into October. But they will need a lot of things to go their way. I have been a Twins fan since I was born, and I always WANT the team to do well. I just don't know how to convince myself that they will be good this season.
  18. The Twins still haven’t acquired another starting pitcher as Opening Day nears. With only a few fringe free-agent options even available to fill the fifth rotation spot, fans have called for adding yet another rookie to the rotation when the season begins. This may be a mistake. Josh Winder gained a lot of prospect steam last season as he performed incredibly well at Double-A with a sub 2.00 ERA in 50+ innings before getting promoted to Triple-A. He may have been well on his way to his MLB debut before being shut down with shoulder issues, but he looks healthy and effective so far this spring. Winder finds himself in the conversation for a rotation spot due to what can only be described as a massive disappointment in regards to the Twins addressing their rotation this winter. They currently have four starting pitchers penciled in with Opening Day less than two weeks away. Led by Sonny Gray, the rest of the rotation consists of reclamation project Dylan Bundy and two rookies in Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, the latter of which has only five MLB starts under his belt. The fifth spot at this point is unspoken for. Candidates include Devin Smeltzer who isn't currently on the 40 man roster. Lewis Thorpe and Griffin Jax have been moved into bullpen roles but could find themselves competing due to a lack of other options. Then of course we have Josh Winder who has yet to debut. It’s fair to grab ahold of the shiny new prospect when reading that list of names. The other three, of course, have all had their opportunities and haven’t exactly flourished. It’s absolutely possible that the Twins see this decision the same way if they fail to bring in one more arm. It’s worth noting that Winder winding up in the Opening Day rotation, however, should be viewed with much more disappointment than excitement. From Minnesota to the rest of the league, rookie pitchers fail all the time (or at least most often) in their debut. It should almost be expected at this point. Some need a bit more time in the minors such as when Jose Berrios debuted with his 8+ ERA. Others just never figure it out despite being highly touted all throughout the minors such as Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero. It’s important to remember this not just to be pessimistic, but to keep expectations in check. Winder hadn’t pitched above A ball until 2021 when he posted those 54 2/3 innings in AA, and not only did he put up only 17 innings in AAA, but they weren’t all that effective. His K% fell from 31.3% to 22.4%. He allowed two home runs in those 17 innings and posted a 4.67 ERA before being shut down. Surely a small sample size, but not exactly a performance that screams “MLB ready”. The point being, if the Twins don’t add another starting pitcher to the roster and go with Winder right out of the gate, they may very well be following up an offseason failure with a decision that damages one of their top pitching prospects as well as their season. They’d likely be better off mixing and matching with arms they know everything about than a rookie pitcher who hasn’t shown he’s quite MLB ready yet. Winder would make a great Plan B for any struggling or injured arms after the season begins assuming he’s doing reasonably well in St. Paul. It’s fair to assume that he makes his debut in some way in 2022. It just shouldn’t be as the third rookie starting pitcher on an Opening Day roster that considers themselves contenders. Am I just a thief of joy, or do you agree? Leave your COMMENTS below. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here View full article
  19. Josh Winder gained a lot of prospect steam last season as he performed incredibly well at Double-A with a sub 2.00 ERA in 50+ innings before getting promoted to Triple-A. He may have been well on his way to his MLB debut before being shut down with shoulder issues, but he looks healthy and effective so far this spring. Winder finds himself in the conversation for a rotation spot due to what can only be described as a massive disappointment in regards to the Twins addressing their rotation this winter. They currently have four starting pitchers penciled in with Opening Day less than two weeks away. Led by Sonny Gray, the rest of the rotation consists of reclamation project Dylan Bundy and two rookies in Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, the latter of which has only five MLB starts under his belt. The fifth spot at this point is unspoken for. Candidates include Devin Smeltzer who isn't currently on the 40 man roster. Lewis Thorpe and Griffin Jax have been moved into bullpen roles but could find themselves competing due to a lack of other options. Then of course we have Josh Winder who has yet to debut. It’s fair to grab ahold of the shiny new prospect when reading that list of names. The other three, of course, have all had their opportunities and haven’t exactly flourished. It’s absolutely possible that the Twins see this decision the same way if they fail to bring in one more arm. It’s worth noting that Winder winding up in the Opening Day rotation, however, should be viewed with much more disappointment than excitement. From Minnesota to the rest of the league, rookie pitchers fail all the time (or at least most often) in their debut. It should almost be expected at this point. Some need a bit more time in the minors such as when Jose Berrios debuted with his 8+ ERA. Others just never figure it out despite being highly touted all throughout the minors such as Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero. It’s important to remember this not just to be pessimistic, but to keep expectations in check. Winder hadn’t pitched above A ball until 2021 when he posted those 54 2/3 innings in AA, and not only did he put up only 17 innings in AAA, but they weren’t all that effective. His K% fell from 31.3% to 22.4%. He allowed two home runs in those 17 innings and posted a 4.67 ERA before being shut down. Surely a small sample size, but not exactly a performance that screams “MLB ready”. The point being, if the Twins don’t add another starting pitcher to the roster and go with Winder right out of the gate, they may very well be following up an offseason failure with a decision that damages one of their top pitching prospects as well as their season. They’d likely be better off mixing and matching with arms they know everything about than a rookie pitcher who hasn’t shown he’s quite MLB ready yet. Winder would make a great Plan B for any struggling or injured arms after the season begins assuming he’s doing reasonably well in St. Paul. It’s fair to assume that he makes his debut in some way in 2022. It just shouldn’t be as the third rookie starting pitcher on an Opening Day roster that considers themselves contenders. Am I just a thief of joy, or do you agree? Leave your COMMENTS below. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  20. Bailey Ober was arguably Minnesota’s most critical starting pitcher after the team dealt away other starting rotation members at the trade deadline. To find more success in 2022, one pitch may make all the difference. Ober is coming off a strong rookie campaign where he made 20 starts and posted a 4.19 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP. At the season’s end, he was named the team’s rookie of the year, which likely resulted in higher expectations for him entering 2022. Minnesota’s only offseason additions to the rotation include Sonny Gray and Dylan Bundy, so Ober will be relied on to accumulate innings. The Twins likely want him to take on an even more critical role, and his slider is the pitch that can help him take the next step. Ober used a four-pitch mix during his rookie campaign, including a four-seam fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball. His second most utilized pitch was his slider, as he threw it 18.4% of the time. Last season, batters posted a .264 batting average and a .542 slugging percentage. At Baseball Savant, his slider resulted in a 38.2 Hard Hit % and a 7 Run-Value. His Run-Value on his slider ranked as the 17th worst in baseball. One of Ober’s biggest strengths is controlling the strike zone and limiting walks. His BB% ranked in the 94th percentile, and his slider was the pitch he threw most regularly out of the zone. His slider is almost exclusively used against right-handed hitters (86%), while he regularly turns to his other offspeed offerings against southpaws. His OPS versus righties was over 100 points lower than lefties, and he had a 9.17 SO/W rate versus right-handed hitters. Last season, Ober made specific changes to his slider to add more velocity so the pitch would look more like a fastball to hitters. There were visible changes to the pitch, which helped improve his other offspeed pitches. In an interview with FanGraphs, Ober said, “I started throwing a new slider [in early-to-mid-August]. I wanted something a little bit harder. It had been around 78-80 [mph], and I wanted to give hitters something different. It was kind of blending with my curveball, too. Basically, the idea was something with a bigger speed difference between my curveball and my slider.” He went on to say, “Before, I had it a little deeper in my hand, and it had a lot more horizontal movement on it. It wasn’t as depth-y as my new one. My new one is harder [82-84] and has a little more depth, and it’s also not as horizontal anymore.” In the minor leagues, Ober could pound the strike zone with fastballs and get consistent outs. As he establishes himself at the big-league level, he will need to continue to make adjustments and rely on his secondary pitches. Minnesota’s front office identified the changes mentioned above, and he made improvements over his final seven starts, including a 3.63 ERA and a 34-to-3 strikeout to walk ratio. If Ober can continue to make adjustments, he will establish himself as a long-term rotational option for the Twins. All of his other pitches are tied to the success of his slider. How important do you think Ober’s slider is to his 2022 season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  21. Ober is coming off a strong rookie campaign where he made 20 starts and posted a 4.19 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP. At the season’s end, he was named the team’s rookie of the year, which likely resulted in higher expectations for him entering 2022. Minnesota’s only offseason additions to the rotation include Sonny Gray and Dylan Bundy, so Ober will be relied on to accumulate innings. The Twins likely want him to take on an even more critical role, and his slider is the pitch that can help him take the next step. Ober used a four-pitch mix during his rookie campaign, including a four-seam fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball. His second most utilized pitch was his slider, as he threw it 18.4% of the time. Last season, batters posted a .264 batting average and a .542 slugging percentage. At Baseball Savant, his slider resulted in a 38.2 Hard Hit % and a 7 Run-Value. His Run-Value on his slider ranked as the 17th worst in baseball. One of Ober’s biggest strengths is controlling the strike zone and limiting walks. His BB% ranked in the 94th percentile, and his slider was the pitch he threw most regularly out of the zone. His slider is almost exclusively used against right-handed hitters (86%), while he regularly turns to his other offspeed offerings against southpaws. His OPS versus righties was over 100 points lower than lefties, and he had a 9.17 SO/W rate versus right-handed hitters. Last season, Ober made specific changes to his slider to add more velocity so the pitch would look more like a fastball to hitters. There were visible changes to the pitch, which helped improve his other offspeed pitches. In an interview with FanGraphs, Ober said, “I started throwing a new slider [in early-to-mid-August]. I wanted something a little bit harder. It had been around 78-80 [mph], and I wanted to give hitters something different. It was kind of blending with my curveball, too. Basically, the idea was something with a bigger speed difference between my curveball and my slider.” He went on to say, “Before, I had it a little deeper in my hand, and it had a lot more horizontal movement on it. It wasn’t as depth-y as my new one. My new one is harder [82-84] and has a little more depth, and it’s also not as horizontal anymore.” In the minor leagues, Ober could pound the strike zone with fastballs and get consistent outs. As he establishes himself at the big-league level, he will need to continue to make adjustments and rely on his secondary pitches. Minnesota’s front office identified the changes mentioned above, and he made improvements over his final seven starts, including a 3.63 ERA and a 34-to-3 strikeout to walk ratio. If Ober can continue to make adjustments, he will establish himself as a long-term rotational option for the Twins. All of his other pitches are tied to the success of his slider. How important do you think Ober’s slider is to his 2022 season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  22. Last season the Minnesota Twins went through starting pitchers at an alarming rate, and it wasn't until the emergence of Bailey Ober that they found an unlikely source to stick. The numbers were all great, but the expectations never made headlines. Who follows that path in 2022? The Twins drafted Bailey Ober in the 12th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft. He was taken from the College of Charleston and went to Elizabethton as a 21-year-old. After posting a 3.21 and 3.84 ERA, respectively, in each of his first two professional seasons, 2019 saw a massive leap. Compiling a 0.69 ERA across 78 2/3 inning from Rookie-ball to Double-A, Ober had announced his presence. At 6’9”, it’s pretty hard not to notice Ober, and while he doesn’t reach triple-digits, that frame allows his fastball to get on hitters quickly. He had a track record of high strikeout rates with few walks in the minors. Despite not being invited to the Twins alternate site during the 2020 minor league shutdown, Ober continued to put in work. Dominating quickly at Triple-A in 2021, he earned a big-league promotion after just 7 innings. Looking back at Ober’s track record before his promotion, there is no evidence of sustained innings. He had never pitched more than his 2019 total and had the entire 2020 season without games. What that suggests is that Minnesota would be willing to allow an opportunity for an arm they feel is ready, even if it’s not battle-tested or proven through longevity. Right now, the Twins have no less than two open rotation spots. Whether they’re filled externally or not, it’s a good bet that someone will emerge and turn heads sooner than expected. Although not a 12th rounder, my bet this season is Florida State product, Cole Sands. Arguably the most significant thing working against Sands at the moment is his recent inclusion to the Twins 40-man roster. Subject to the lockout, he cannot get the season going with other minor leaguers currently down in Fort Myers. However, Sands substantiated a strong 2019 and worthy draft position with an even greater step forward last season. Following 75 innings of work at Florida State in 2018, Sands didn’t debut professionally until 2019. He posted a 2.68 ERA and made starts from Low Single-A to Double-A. A 10.0 K/9 was paired with a 1.8 BB/9 and a 1.027 WHIP. The production looked every bit the reason why he was targeted so early in the draft. Getting back to professional games following the 2020 shutdown, Sands spent all of 2021 at Double-A Wichita. His 2.46 ERA solidified the strong debut and again was combined with a double-digit strikeout rate. He did allow an alarming number of walks at 3.9 BB/9, but the missed bats and lack of hard contact allowed him to keep opposing lineups at bay. Sands should begin at Triple-A St. Paul this year, and he could be knocking at the Major League door quickly. While the development may not be as surprising as that of Ober, this is still a guy that’s a borderline top-20 prospect for Minnesota on most national lists. He’s not going to be an ace, but a strong contributor in the middle of a rotation exists here. Ober turned in 20 starts to the tune of a 4.19 ERA in his rookie season with Minnesota, and seeing Sands do that or better might not be a crazy thought. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email View full article
  23. The lockout has sucked the joy out of baseball fans everywhere, and with Opening Day canceled and an end out of sight; we turn our attention to the impact on the Twins' roster. BetOnline recently released an over/under of 120.5 games for each team this summer. That means there’s an expectation of at least 40 games lost due to the ongoing lockout. There is no end in sight. That’s a terrible outcome, and the fear of losing half or even the *entire* season is valid. Plenty of Twins are hoping to leave 2021 in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, they can’t show off their hard work until the season starts. It’s a crucial year for a handful of Major and Minor leaguers, but these five stick out in particular, with futures both with the team and in the league at stake. 5. Bailey Ober Ober went from a surprise addition to the 40-man roster to a rotation building block in 2021. Ober especially shined over his last ten starts, pitching to a 3.31 ERA with 51 strikeouts and just six walks in 49 innings. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound breakout averaged only 73 pitches per outing over his last 12 starts, with the Twins highly cautious of his workload. Ober had never thrown 80 innings in a season before last year. With a lengthy injury history, does a delay benefit Ober’s health, or does the loss of games hurt his chances of building up? 4. Jhoan Duran Speaking of innings, Duran must get a fair amount in 2022. After a solid 115 innings in 2019, Duran has all-of-a-sudden fallen behind, with only 16 game innings on his arm over the last two seasons. This summer, a hybrid Major-League role seemed perfect, but a delay could derail those plans. Ultimately, the Twins need to decide whether Duran is a future starter or reliever. This summer, he must catch up and log at least 60-80 innings to win a job in the Opening Day rotation in 2023. The lockout may dictate otherwise. 3. Taylor Rogers Contrary to some belief, Rogers had a terrific season before an untimely grand slam and injury threw a wrench in his bounce-back campaign. Rogers boasted a 2.45 ERA and 2.02 FIP with a 35% strikeout rate through July 8th. The Twins tendered Rogers in his final season of arbitration, expressing confidence that his middle-finger injury is in good shape. What the standout lefty needs is a complete and healthy season. The results will be there, but Rogers is likely desperate to show off his health with free agency looming next winter. 2. Miguel Sanó The Twins extended Sanó after a monstrous 2019 season where he hit .254/.362/.578 with 21 homers in the second half. The story is the same with Sanó: when he’s on, he’s lethal. When he’s off, he’s hardly playable. 2022 is the last guaranteed year on Sanó’s contract, with a $14 million Twins option for 2023. Alex Kirilloff looks like the first baseman of the future, and the Twins were not scared to demote Sanó to a platoon role during his first-half struggles in 2021. Sanó was excellent as usual in the second half, but an entire, productive season might be enough for the Twins to invest in his future with the club. 1. Royce Lewis It’s been a ruthless three years for Lewis, who is ready to go for a critical summer. Lewis’ journey has been anything but linear, with plate struggles in 2019, a canceled 2020, and a season-ending injury in 2021. Now, a lockout that restricts him from playing. There’s a chance Lewis won’t appear in a real game for *three* years because of factors out of his control. It’s a terrible break for a fantastic person, and there’s no question Lewis is the most impacted by this fiasco. What do you think? Comment below! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  24. BetOnline recently released an over/under of 120.5 games for each team this summer. That means there’s an expectation of at least 40 games lost due to the ongoing lockout. There is no end in sight. That’s a terrible outcome, and the fear of losing half or even the *entire* season is valid. Plenty of Twins are hoping to leave 2021 in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, they can’t show off their hard work until the season starts. It’s a crucial year for a handful of Major and Minor leaguers, but these five stick out in particular, with futures both with the team and in the league at stake. 5. Bailey Ober Ober went from a surprise addition to the 40-man roster to a rotation building block in 2021. Ober especially shined over his last ten starts, pitching to a 3.31 ERA with 51 strikeouts and just six walks in 49 innings. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound breakout averaged only 73 pitches per outing over his last 12 starts, with the Twins highly cautious of his workload. Ober had never thrown 80 innings in a season before last year. With a lengthy injury history, does a delay benefit Ober’s health, or does the loss of games hurt his chances of building up? 4. Jhoan Duran Speaking of innings, Duran must get a fair amount in 2022. After a solid 115 innings in 2019, Duran has all-of-a-sudden fallen behind, with only 16 game innings on his arm over the last two seasons. This summer, a hybrid Major-League role seemed perfect, but a delay could derail those plans. Ultimately, the Twins need to decide whether Duran is a future starter or reliever. This summer, he must catch up and log at least 60-80 innings to win a job in the Opening Day rotation in 2023. The lockout may dictate otherwise. 3. Taylor Rogers Contrary to some belief, Rogers had a terrific season before an untimely grand slam and injury threw a wrench in his bounce-back campaign. Rogers boasted a 2.45 ERA and 2.02 FIP with a 35% strikeout rate through July 8th. The Twins tendered Rogers in his final season of arbitration, expressing confidence that his middle-finger injury is in good shape. What the standout lefty needs is a complete and healthy season. The results will be there, but Rogers is likely desperate to show off his health with free agency looming next winter. 2. Miguel Sanó The Twins extended Sanó after a monstrous 2019 season where he hit .254/.362/.578 with 21 homers in the second half. The story is the same with Sanó: when he’s on, he’s lethal. When he’s off, he’s hardly playable. 2022 is the last guaranteed year on Sanó’s contract, with a $14 million Twins option for 2023. Alex Kirilloff looks like the first baseman of the future, and the Twins were not scared to demote Sanó to a platoon role during his first-half struggles in 2021. Sanó was excellent as usual in the second half, but an entire, productive season might be enough for the Twins to invest in his future with the club. 1. Royce Lewis It’s been a ruthless three years for Lewis, who is ready to go for a critical summer. Lewis’ journey has been anything but linear, with plate struggles in 2019, a canceled 2020, and a season-ending injury in 2021. Now, a lockout that restricts him from playing. There’s a chance Lewis won’t appear in a real game for *three* years because of factors out of his control. It’s a terrible break for a fantastic person, and there’s no question Lewis is the most impacted by this fiasco. What do you think? Comment below! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  25. The Twins drafted Bailey Ober in the 12th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft. He was taken from the College of Charleston and went to Elizabethton as a 21-year-old. After posting a 3.21 and 3.84 ERA, respectively, in each of his first two professional seasons, 2019 saw a massive leap. Compiling a 0.69 ERA across 78 2/3 inning from Rookie-ball to Double-A, Ober had announced his presence. At 6’9”, it’s pretty hard not to notice Ober, and while he doesn’t reach triple-digits, that frame allows his fastball to get on hitters quickly. He had a track record of high strikeout rates with few walks in the minors. Despite not being invited to the Twins alternate site during the 2020 minor league shutdown, Ober continued to put in work. Dominating quickly at Triple-A in 2021, he earned a big-league promotion after just 7 innings. Looking back at Ober’s track record before his promotion, there is no evidence of sustained innings. He had never pitched more than his 2019 total and had the entire 2020 season without games. What that suggests is that Minnesota would be willing to allow an opportunity for an arm they feel is ready, even if it’s not battle-tested or proven through longevity. Right now, the Twins have no less than two open rotation spots. Whether they’re filled externally or not, it’s a good bet that someone will emerge and turn heads sooner than expected. Although not a 12th rounder, my bet this season is Florida State product, Cole Sands. Arguably the most significant thing working against Sands at the moment is his recent inclusion to the Twins 40-man roster. Subject to the lockout, he cannot get the season going with other minor leaguers currently down in Fort Myers. However, Sands substantiated a strong 2019 and worthy draft position with an even greater step forward last season. Following 75 innings of work at Florida State in 2018, Sands didn’t debut professionally until 2019. He posted a 2.68 ERA and made starts from Low Single-A to Double-A. A 10.0 K/9 was paired with a 1.8 BB/9 and a 1.027 WHIP. The production looked every bit the reason why he was targeted so early in the draft. Getting back to professional games following the 2020 shutdown, Sands spent all of 2021 at Double-A Wichita. His 2.46 ERA solidified the strong debut and again was combined with a double-digit strikeout rate. He did allow an alarming number of walks at 3.9 BB/9, but the missed bats and lack of hard contact allowed him to keep opposing lineups at bay. Sands should begin at Triple-A St. Paul this year, and he could be knocking at the Major League door quickly. While the development may not be as surprising as that of Ober, this is still a guy that’s a borderline top-20 prospect for Minnesota on most national lists. He’s not going to be an ace, but a strong contributor in the middle of a rotation exists here. Ober turned in 20 starts to the tune of a 4.19 ERA in his rookie season with Minnesota, and seeing Sands do that or better might not be a crazy thought. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
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