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  1. We’re now through the Rookie of the Year and Most Improved awards handed out by the Twins Daily staff for the Minnesota Twins 2021 performance. Turning our attention to the mound, it’s the since departed Jose Berrios as the Pitcher of the Year. Before diving into Berrios as the award winner, let’s take a look at some of those that finished just short. Nearly Beat Him Bailey Ober 3-3, 4.19 ERA, 92.1 IP, 9.4 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 9.0 H/9, 1.9 HR/9 Coming up just short of picking up a second award in this cycle, Bailey Ober finished only three points behind Berrios in the voting. While the Puerto Rican is no longer with the organization, Ober coincidentally finished 2021 with the same amount of starts, 20. Ober was not a top prospect at any point during his run on the farm, and enough can't be said about the work he put in with no minor league season a year ago. Ober made just four starts for Triple-A St. Paul before being called up by the Twins, and those were to the tune of a 2.81 ERA. Always a high strikeout guy, Ober punched out 11.8 per nine in his 16 innings to earn the big league call. With the Twins, his numbers didn’t slide substantially as he still struck out 9.4 per nine and dropped the walk rate down to 1.9. If there was a bugaboo in his debut season, it was the 1.9 HR/9 that was compiled by allowing 20 dingers in just north of 90 innings pitched. Going into 2022, it’s hard not to look at Ober as the current ace of the staff. With Kenta Maeda on the shelf and Berrios since departed, Ober will be relied on internally when it comes to immediately present options. He put forth an excellent rookie showing, and while the 4.19 ERA may be uninspiring, a guy who’s dealt with injuries looking this good and this healthy is plenty to drool on for Twins brass. Out Of Nowhere Caleb Thielbar 7-0, 3.23 ERA, 64.0 IP, 10.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 7.7 H/9, 1.1 HR/9 In this space, it’s probably a bit weird to see a reliever’s name show up. Someone pitching out of the pen being present probably speaks volumes to the impact starting pitching ultimately had. That said, Thielbar didn’t back in to this space by any means. Nearly retired from baseball and coaching a college team, the Minnesota native emerged in 2020 and substantiated his place this season. Across 64 innings, Thielbar posted a 3.23 ERA and a career-best 10.8 K/9. The soft-tossing lefty became one of Minnesota’s best relief arms and routinely was a guy Rocco Baldelli could turn to in critical spots. Despite never owning a blistering fastball, his stuff produced a career-best 32.3% whiff rate. The eight homers were a bit uncharacteristic for him when considering the career as a whole, but if there’s a step forward taken there in 2022, Minnesota will have created one of baseball’s best relief arms. And The Winner Jose Berrios 7-5, 3.48 ERA, 121.2 IP, 9.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 7.0 H/9, 1.0 HR/9 It’s hard to write about an award that a guy wins when he’s no longer with the organization. It stings a bit more when it’s Jose Berrios. A fan favorite who was drafted, developed and grew up with the Twins. That’s where we are, though, and there’s no denying that he was the best pitcher to throw for Minnesota in 2021. Evidenced by the return Derek Falvey got from the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s plenty apparent that the league thinks highly of the former Twins ace as well. Across 121 2/3 innings, compiled in 20 starts, Berrios posted a 3.48 ERA. His 9.3 K/9 was a slight step backward from 2020, but he remained a pillar of consistency. The 1.04 WHIP was a career-best, and so was the 7.0 H/9. Combined with his time in a Blue Jays uniform, Berrios’ 204 strikeouts were a new career-high, and he was once again in consideration for the American League All-Star team. Although the season didn’t go as planned for the Twins, and that was by no fault of Berrios, he started things well during his debut against Milwaukee. One of the season highlights, Jose punched out 12 Brewers in six no-hit innings. That was quite the opening act and a number he would never match again on the year. Berrios recorded double-digits again when he notched ten strikeouts against the White Sox on July 6. Entering the final season of arbitration eligibility, Berrios is in line for a big payday. Whether that comes with the Blue Jays or someone else on the open market, a season like this will set him up nicely at the negotiating table. As hard as it was to see him go, Berrios being worthy of this honor on the way out means he leaves on the highest of notes. Others Receiving Votes: Taylor Rogers, Michael Pineda, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala, Joe Ryan MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Preorder 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
  2. Before diving into Berrios as the award winner, let’s take a look at some of those that finished just short. Nearly Beat Him Bailey Ober 3-3, 4.19 ERA, 92.1 IP, 9.4 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 9.0 H/9, 1.9 HR/9 Coming up just short of picking up a second award in this cycle, Bailey Ober finished only three points behind Berrios in the voting. While the Puerto Rican is no longer with the organization, Ober coincidentally finished 2021 with the same amount of starts, 20. Ober was not a top prospect at any point during his run on the farm, and enough can't be said about the work he put in with no minor league season a year ago. Ober made just four starts for Triple-A St. Paul before being called up by the Twins, and those were to the tune of a 2.81 ERA. Always a high strikeout guy, Ober punched out 11.8 per nine in his 16 innings to earn the big league call. With the Twins, his numbers didn’t slide substantially as he still struck out 9.4 per nine and dropped the walk rate down to 1.9. If there was a bugaboo in his debut season, it was the 1.9 HR/9 that was compiled by allowing 20 dingers in just north of 90 innings pitched. Going into 2022, it’s hard not to look at Ober as the current ace of the staff. With Kenta Maeda on the shelf and Berrios since departed, Ober will be relied on internally when it comes to immediately present options. He put forth an excellent rookie showing, and while the 4.19 ERA may be uninspiring, a guy who’s dealt with injuries looking this good and this healthy is plenty to drool on for Twins brass. Out Of Nowhere Caleb Thielbar 7-0, 3.23 ERA, 64.0 IP, 10.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 7.7 H/9, 1.1 HR/9 In this space, it’s probably a bit weird to see a reliever’s name show up. Someone pitching out of the pen being present probably speaks volumes to the impact starting pitching ultimately had. That said, Thielbar didn’t back in to this space by any means. Nearly retired from baseball and coaching a college team, the Minnesota native emerged in 2020 and substantiated his place this season. Across 64 innings, Thielbar posted a 3.23 ERA and a career-best 10.8 K/9. The soft-tossing lefty became one of Minnesota’s best relief arms and routinely was a guy Rocco Baldelli could turn to in critical spots. Despite never owning a blistering fastball, his stuff produced a career-best 32.3% whiff rate. The eight homers were a bit uncharacteristic for him when considering the career as a whole, but if there’s a step forward taken there in 2022, Minnesota will have created one of baseball’s best relief arms. And The Winner Jose Berrios 7-5, 3.48 ERA, 121.2 IP, 9.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 7.0 H/9, 1.0 HR/9 It’s hard to write about an award that a guy wins when he’s no longer with the organization. It stings a bit more when it’s Jose Berrios. A fan favorite who was drafted, developed and grew up with the Twins. That’s where we are, though, and there’s no denying that he was the best pitcher to throw for Minnesota in 2021. Evidenced by the return Derek Falvey got from the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s plenty apparent that the league thinks highly of the former Twins ace as well. Across 121 2/3 innings, compiled in 20 starts, Berrios posted a 3.48 ERA. His 9.3 K/9 was a slight step backward from 2020, but he remained a pillar of consistency. The 1.04 WHIP was a career-best, and so was the 7.0 H/9. Combined with his time in a Blue Jays uniform, Berrios’ 204 strikeouts were a new career-high, and he was once again in consideration for the American League All-Star team. Although the season didn’t go as planned for the Twins, and that was by no fault of Berrios, he started things well during his debut against Milwaukee. One of the season highlights, Jose punched out 12 Brewers in six no-hit innings. That was quite the opening act and a number he would never match again on the year. Berrios recorded double-digits again when he notched ten strikeouts against the White Sox on July 6. Entering the final season of arbitration eligibility, Berrios is in line for a big payday. Whether that comes with the Blue Jays or someone else on the open market, a season like this will set him up nicely at the negotiating table. As hard as it was to see him go, Berrios being worthy of this honor on the way out means he leaves on the highest of notes. Others Receiving Votes: Taylor Rogers, Michael Pineda, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala, Joe Ryan MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Preorder the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. Rookie players’ performances can be a roller-coaster ride as teams and the league adjust to unproven players. Following a turbulent 2021 season, here are the five Twins rookies with the most long-term value. Minnesota saw some solid performances from rookie players this season. However, their current value might not match up perfectly with their long-term value. 5. Bailey Ober, SP Ober was one of the most critical rookies for the 2021 Twins. In fact, earlier this week he was named the team's Best Rookie by Twins Daily. He stepped into the rotation that saw multiple players dealt away at the trade deadline. Ober has never ranked as one of the team’s top prospects, but his 2021 performance proves he can be a back-end of the rotation starter for multiple years. This provides value to the club, especially since the 2022 Twins have many rotational holes to fill. 4. Ryan Jeffers, C Like many Twins players, Jeffers had a disappointing 2021 season, but he is a prime candidate to rebound in 2022. Minnesota drafted Jeffers as a hit-first catcher with defensive skills that the Twins scouts believed in more than national publications. His defense has vastly improved since joining the Twins organization. Also, Jeffers is only 24-years-old, and he won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2024. There is a lot of defensive value associated with catchers, and Jeffers has to be average at the plate to provide long-term value. 3. Joe Ryan, SP Ryan was the top pitching prospect acquired from the Rays for Nelson Cruz, and he was impressive during his first taste of the big leagues. He pitched five innings or more in four of his five starts and allowed three runs or fewer. His most impressive start came in Chicago, where Ryan struck out 11 Cubs batters in five innings. Like Ober, Minnesota likely has Ryan penciled into the back-end of the rotation for 2022, but he has the chance to be a top-half of the rotation starter. 2. Trevor Larnach, OF In his rookie season, things didn’t go perfectly for Larnach. After a strong start, the team demoted him after some mid-season struggles. Things didn’t go much better in St. Paul where he hit .176/.323/.373 (.695) in 14 games. Larnach was a first-round pick for a reason, and he showcased his high-ceiling during the 2019 season when he posted an .842 OPS between High-A and Double-A. That performance led him to be named the 2019 Twins Daily Minor League Player of the Year. He can get back to that level and hit in the middle of the line-up for most of the next decade. 1. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Kirilloff was impressive in the middle months of the season as he posted an OPS of .760 or higher in May and June. In July, a wrist injury sapped some of his power, and he underwent season-ending wrist surgery. MLB Pipeline thinks Kirilloff has one of the highest long-term values among all 2021 rookies. Unfortunately, injuries have been part of his professional career. If Minnesota moves him to first base, he will be an above-average hitter and defender for the majority of his big-league career. How would you rank this year’s rookies when it comes to future value? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  4. May the court come to order: Here we will seek to determine the rightful Twins 2021 top rookie. Many worthy contenders will be considered but only one shall be crowned. Let us begin the proceedings. JUDGE: It is my understanding that six different parties would like to have their petitions heard before us. Is that correct? COLLECTIVE MURMURING: Yah JUDGE [fidgeting with reading glasses]: Okay, first name I have here is ... Ryan Jeffers, catcher. [JEFFERS REP APPROACHES THE PODIUM, SHUFFLES PAPERS] JEFFERS REP: Ahem. Your Honor. Esteemed ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Good evening. My client Ryan Jeffers might have won this award last year, but dang it folks he deserves it once again. He still technically qualified as a rookie and he was a very reliable one, starting nearly half the team's games at catcher and putting up some very strong defensive metrics! Jeffers was also an offensive force, launching 13 home runs ... OPPOSING COUNCIL: Objection, Your Honor! [Glances at data sheet] Jeffers batted .199 with a .270 on-base percentage, negating much of the value from his power. JEFFERS REP: Ah, be that as it may ... OPPOSING COUNCIL [heightening intensity]: Furthermore, Your Honor, Jeffers struck out at the highest rate on the team and his OPS+ of 83 shows he was in fact substantially below-average as an offensive producer. JUDGE [banging gavel]: I've heard enough! Thank you Mr. Jeffers, but you've had your day in this spotlight, you may move along. Who's next? [LARNACH'S REP LOOKS UP FROM FILES, SLOWLY STEPS TO PODIUM AND BEGINS SPEAKING] LARNACH REP: Production speaks for itself folks. And my client, Trevor Larnach, is a producer, despite his lack of experience. He came up far earlier than expected and proved he's a major-league player. In his first 50 games with the Twins, Mr. Larnach batted .261 with a .361 on-base percentage and .445 slugging. By this time his advanced and mature approach at the plate was earning him regular appearances at the No. 3 spot in the batting order. A remarkable rookie effort without question, and as such, I rest my case. JUDGE [peering skeptically]: Mm-hm. And as for the period following this 50-game sample? LARNACH REP: Come again, Your Honor? JUDGE: Your case seemed to conspicuously exclude any results beyond July the 7th, when your client hit his last home run. I'm just wondering what happened afterward. LARNACH REP: ... Afterward? Well [chuckles nervously] OPPOSING COUNCIL: If I may, Your Honor, I have the numbers here. [Starts reading] Following the date of July 7th: 29 games, a .156 batting average and .188 slugging percentage, with 47 strikeouts and 11 walks. This stretch lowered Mr. Larnach's overall OPS to a decidedly sub par .672, prompting a demotion to Triple-A in mid-August. JUDGE [considers briefly]: Mmm, yes. A promising showing in some regards but not the stuff Rookies of the Year are made of. Thank you, Mr. Larnach, you may depart. [Glances at agenda] It sounds as if a Mr. Ryan would like to be heard? [SILENCE] JUDGE [gazes around room, looks back at list]: A Mister ... Joe Ryan? [INCREASINGLY AWKWARD SILENCE] JUDGE [taps finger impatiently]: Well, if Mr. Ryan's case is not ready ... [RYAN'S REP BURSTS THROUGH DOOR, SHIRT HALF-TUCKED AND TIE HANGING LOOSELY ASTRAY] RYAN REP: Your Honor! Fine people of the jury! How are you all doing. Listen, I know I'm a little late, and that's true of my client as well. Let's get down to brass tacks. Was Joe Ryan a member of the Twins organization in March? No he wasn't. Was he here in June? He was not folks! Was Mr. Ryan in the big leagues in August, even? [Locks eyes with random elderly woman in jury] Was he Doris? Was he?? [ELDERLY WOMAN SLOWLY SHAKES HEAD] RYAN REP: He wasn't! My client did not receive an opportunity in the majors until the month of September! But that's only because he was busy representing our wonderful country in the world's greatest international competition, the Olympics. And you know what? He kicked some ass. For America! Do you love America or don't you, Doris?? [ELDERLY WOMAN SLOWLY NODS] RYAN REP: Then all he did was come back, acclimate instantly to a new organization, debut with amazing poise, flirt with a perfect game in his second MLB start, strike out seven straight men in his fourth, and altogether rack up six times as many walks as strikeouts. That fastball is something, ain't it! [SPORADIC APPLAUSE RISES FROM COURTROOM] JUDGE [bangs gavel]: Order, ORDER! You said your client made how many major-league starts this year? RYAN REP: I didn't, Your Honor, but thanks for inquiring! OPPOSING COUNCIL: Five starts, Your Honor. Twenty-six total innings. JUDGE: Too little volume for legitimate consideration I'm afraid, Mr. Ryan. But please, try again next year. Who do we have next? [GORDON REP STANDS, CLEARS THROAT] GORDON REP: What is a Rookie of the Year, really? Is it the player who has the best stats? The guy with the gaudy heralded status who brings all the buzz? Is this award made for the silver spoon prospect who's been on cruise control through the minors and into majors? Or are we trying to recognize the underdog who overcame the odds and silenced the doubters? The kid who went through hell and was written off, only to re-emerge as a legitimate factor in the team's plans. My client, Nick Gordon, did everything that was asked of him, even learning entirely new positions on the fly. He sat silently while less deserving players got opportunities. He fought and clawed his way to at-bats and increasingly made the most of them, posting a .752 OPS in September while earning the team's confidence at shortstop. He brought speed and athleticism to a team that was sorely lacking in both, stealing 10 bases on 11 tries. If that's not a Rookie of the Year, well I don't know what is. JUDGE [leans back in chair pensively]: You make a good argument, and recent trends work in your favor. The young man certainly looked more impressive as time passed. However, it is this court's duty to look at the full body of evidence and so we cannot ignore that a .647 overall OPS is rather lackluster. And while Mr. Gordon's versatility is noted, it doesn't seem clear to me that he truly excelled at any of these positions. I'm afraid that this worthy candidate cannot be our choice. Thus it comes down to the final two. [KIRILLOFF REP PACES BACK AND FORTH FOR A WHILE, FINALLY WALKS TO PODIUM, SETS STACK OF NOTES FACE-DOWN] KIRILLOFF REP: May I ask you a question, Your Honor? JUDGE [impatiently]: You may not. On with it, please. KIRILLOFF REP: Oh. Fine then. Well if I WERE to ask you a question I'd inquire about how well you could bang your little gavel there with a torn tendon in your wrist, and I bet the answer would be, not very well! My client, Alex Kirilloff, carried enormous expectations as the team's No. 1 prospect and he was sure making good on them before this whole wrist thing came along and threw a wrench. Prior to that he was launching missiles all over the field and lighting up the Statcast charts. Mr. Kirilloff slugged .500 in his first 18 MLB games and that's WITH an 0-for-14 start to his career! He looked good in left, and like an absolute natural at first base. Even while hampered by the wrist injury, he posted an OPS+ of 99 overall, meaning he was basically a league-average MLB hitter at age 23 despite no real experience at Triple-A. Pretty good, right? JUDGE: Pretty good indeed. There's a lot to like here. I just wonder about the lack of total volume combined with numbers that can only be described as ordinary. Fifty-nine games and an average OPS? What's special about this season? I'd like to hear the final case. [OBER'S REP STRIDES UP CONFIDENTLY] OBER REP: Good day Your Honor. And to all of you in the jury as well. What we have here is really an open-and-shut case. While many of the previous candidates we've heard from showed positive signs and offered heartwarming stories this year, could any of their seasons really be described as 'good'? Let's be honest with ourselves. The data is clear on this matter. [PULLS UP A POWERPOINT THAT SIMPLY LISTS TWINS ROOKIES AND THEIR WINS ABOVE REPLACEMENT FOR 2022] OBER REP: As we can see, according to the website FanGraphs.com, my client Bailey Ober was worth one full win above a replacement player this year, a mark that no other rookie came close to matching. After stepping into a needy rotation in early June, he took the ball every fifth day, becoming a stable and steadfast presence in a unit that otherwise lacked for one entirely. Mr. Ober's 5.05 K/BB ratio was one of the best in major-league history for a first-year starter. All this from a former 12th-round pick who wasn't on the prospect radar prior to this season. Whether you want to talk about situational impact, inspirational narrative, long-term implications, or simply pure performance, my client is the obvious choice for best Twins rookie. Thank you. JUDGE [deliberates briefly]: I don't think we're even going to need to send this one to the jury. I agree with the ultimately conclusion that Mr. Ober is a clear choice for this award. Congratulations sir on this well deserved honor. This court is now adjourned ... We'll see you all tomorrow when we convene to settle upon a Most Improved Twin of 2021. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Preorder 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
  5. Minnesota saw some solid performances from rookie players this season. However, their current value might not match up perfectly with their long-term value. 5. Bailey Ober, SP Ober was one of the most critical rookies for the 2021 Twins. In fact, earlier this week he was named the team's Best Rookie by Twins Daily. He stepped into the rotation that saw multiple players dealt away at the trade deadline. Ober has never ranked as one of the team’s top prospects, but his 2021 performance proves he can be a back-end of the rotation starter for multiple years. This provides value to the club, especially since the 2022 Twins have many rotational holes to fill. 4. Ryan Jeffers, C Like many Twins players, Jeffers had a disappointing 2021 season, but he is a prime candidate to rebound in 2022. Minnesota drafted Jeffers as a hit-first catcher with defensive skills that the Twins scouts believed in more than national publications. His defense has vastly improved since joining the Twins organization. Also, Jeffers is only 24-years-old, and he won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2024. There is a lot of defensive value associated with catchers, and Jeffers has to be average at the plate to provide long-term value. 3. Joe Ryan, SP Ryan was the top pitching prospect acquired from the Rays for Nelson Cruz, and he was impressive during his first taste of the big leagues. He pitched five innings or more in four of his five starts and allowed three runs or fewer. His most impressive start came in Chicago, where Ryan struck out 11 Cubs batters in five innings. Like Ober, Minnesota likely has Ryan penciled into the back-end of the rotation for 2022, but he has the chance to be a top-half of the rotation starter. 2. Trevor Larnach, OF In his rookie season, things didn’t go perfectly for Larnach. After a strong start, the team demoted him after some mid-season struggles. Things didn’t go much better in St. Paul where he hit .176/.323/.373 (.695) in 14 games. Larnach was a first-round pick for a reason, and he showcased his high-ceiling during the 2019 season when he posted an .842 OPS between High-A and Double-A. That performance led him to be named the 2019 Twins Daily Minor League Player of the Year. He can get back to that level and hit in the middle of the line-up for most of the next decade. 1. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Kirilloff was impressive in the middle months of the season as he posted an OPS of .760 or higher in May and June. In July, a wrist injury sapped some of his power, and he underwent season-ending wrist surgery. MLB Pipeline thinks Kirilloff has one of the highest long-term values among all 2021 rookies. Unfortunately, injuries have been part of his professional career. If Minnesota moves him to first base, he will be an above-average hitter and defender for the majority of his big-league career. How would you rank this year’s rookies when it comes to future value? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. JUDGE: It is my understanding that six different parties would like to have their petitions heard before us. Is that correct? COLLECTIVE MURMURING: Yah JUDGE [fidgeting with reading glasses]: Okay, first name I have here is ... Ryan Jeffers, catcher. [JEFFERS REP APPROACHES THE PODIUM, SHUFFLES PAPERS] JEFFERS REP: Ahem. Your Honor. Esteemed ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Good evening. My client Ryan Jeffers might have won this award last year, but dang it folks he deserves it once again. He still technically qualified as a rookie and he was a very reliable one, starting nearly half the team's games at catcher and putting up some very strong defensive metrics! Jeffers was also an offensive force, launching 13 home runs ... OPPOSING COUNCIL: Objection, Your Honor! [Glances at data sheet] Jeffers batted .199 with a .270 on-base percentage, negating much of the value from his power. JEFFERS REP: Ah, be that as it may ... OPPOSING COUNCIL [heightening intensity]: Furthermore, Your Honor, Jeffers struck out at the highest rate on the team and his OPS+ of 83 shows he was in fact substantially below-average as an offensive producer. JUDGE [banging gavel]: I've heard enough! Thank you Mr. Jeffers, but you've had your day in this spotlight, you may move along. Who's next? [LARNACH'S REP LOOKS UP FROM FILES, SLOWLY STEPS TO PODIUM AND BEGINS SPEAKING] LARNACH REP: Production speaks for itself folks. And my client, Trevor Larnach, is a producer, despite his lack of experience. He came up far earlier than expected and proved he's a major-league player. In his first 50 games with the Twins, Mr. Larnach batted .261 with a .361 on-base percentage and .445 slugging. By this time his advanced and mature approach at the plate was earning him regular appearances at the No. 3 spot in the batting order. A remarkable rookie effort without question, and as such, I rest my case. JUDGE [peering skeptically]: Mm-hm. And as for the period following this 50-game sample? LARNACH REP: Come again, Your Honor? JUDGE: Your case seemed to conspicuously exclude any results beyond July the 7th, when your client hit his last home run. I'm just wondering what happened afterward. LARNACH REP: ... Afterward? Well [chuckles nervously] OPPOSING COUNCIL: If I may, Your Honor, I have the numbers here. [Starts reading] Following the date of July 7th: 29 games, a .156 batting average and .188 slugging percentage, with 47 strikeouts and 11 walks. This stretch lowered Mr. Larnach's overall OPS to a decidedly sub par .672, prompting a demotion to Triple-A in mid-August. JUDGE [considers briefly]: Mmm, yes. A promising showing in some regards but not the stuff Rookies of the Year are made of. Thank you, Mr. Larnach, you may depart. [Glances at agenda] It sounds as if a Mr. Ryan would like to be heard? [SILENCE] JUDGE [gazes around room, looks back at list]: A Mister ... Joe Ryan? [INCREASINGLY AWKWARD SILENCE] JUDGE [taps finger impatiently]: Well, if Mr. Ryan's case is not ready ... [RYAN'S REP BURSTS THROUGH DOOR, SHIRT HALF-TUCKED AND TIE HANGING LOOSELY ASTRAY] RYAN REP: Your Honor! Fine people of the jury! How are you all doing. Listen, I know I'm a little late, and that's true of my client as well. Let's get down to brass tacks. Was Joe Ryan a member of the Twins organization in March? No he wasn't. Was he here in June? He was not folks! Was Mr. Ryan in the big leagues in August, even? [Locks eyes with random elderly woman in jury] Was he Doris? Was he?? [ELDERLY WOMAN SLOWLY SHAKES HEAD] RYAN REP: He wasn't! My client did not receive an opportunity in the majors until the month of September! But that's only because he was busy representing our wonderful country in the world's greatest international competition, the Olympics. And you know what? He kicked some ass. For America! Do you love America or don't you, Doris?? [ELDERLY WOMAN SLOWLY NODS] RYAN REP: Then all he did was come back, acclimate instantly to a new organization, debut with amazing poise, flirt with a perfect game in his second MLB start, strike out seven straight men in his fourth, and altogether rack up six times as many walks as strikeouts. That fastball is something, ain't it! [SPORADIC APPLAUSE RISES FROM COURTROOM] JUDGE [bangs gavel]: Order, ORDER! You said your client made how many major-league starts this year? RYAN REP: I didn't, Your Honor, but thanks for inquiring! OPPOSING COUNCIL: Five starts, Your Honor. Twenty-six total innings. JUDGE: Too little volume for legitimate consideration I'm afraid, Mr. Ryan. But please, try again next year. Who do we have next? [GORDON REP STANDS, CLEARS THROAT] GORDON REP: What is a Rookie of the Year, really? Is it the player who has the best stats? The guy with the gaudy heralded status who brings all the buzz? Is this award made for the silver spoon prospect who's been on cruise control through the minors and into majors? Or are we trying to recognize the underdog who overcame the odds and silenced the doubters? The kid who went through hell and was written off, only to re-emerge as a legitimate factor in the team's plans. My client, Nick Gordon, did everything that was asked of him, even learning entirely new positions on the fly. He sat silently while less deserving players got opportunities. He fought and clawed his way to at-bats and increasingly made the most of them, posting a .752 OPS in September while earning the team's confidence at shortstop. He brought speed and athleticism to a team that was sorely lacking in both, stealing 10 bases on 11 tries. If that's not a Rookie of the Year, well I don't know what is. JUDGE [leans back in chair pensively]: You make a good argument, and recent trends work in your favor. The young man certainly looked more impressive as time passed. However, it is this court's duty to look at the full body of evidence and so we cannot ignore that a .647 overall OPS is rather lackluster. And while Mr. Gordon's versatility is noted, it doesn't seem clear to me that he truly excelled at any of these positions. I'm afraid that this worthy candidate cannot be our choice. Thus it comes down to the final two. [KIRILLOFF REP PACES BACK AND FORTH FOR A WHILE, FINALLY WALKS TO PODIUM, SETS STACK OF NOTES FACE-DOWN] KIRILLOFF REP: May I ask you a question, Your Honor? JUDGE [impatiently]: You may not. On with it, please. KIRILLOFF REP: Oh. Fine then. Well if I WERE to ask you a question I'd inquire about how well you could bang your little gavel there with a torn tendon in your wrist, and I bet the answer would be, not very well! My client, Alex Kirilloff, carried enormous expectations as the team's No. 1 prospect and he was sure making good on them before this whole wrist thing came along and threw a wrench. Prior to that he was launching missiles all over the field and lighting up the Statcast charts. Mr. Kirilloff slugged .500 in his first 18 MLB games and that's WITH an 0-for-14 start to his career! He looked good in left, and like an absolute natural at first base. Even while hampered by the wrist injury, he posted an OPS+ of 99 overall, meaning he was basically a league-average MLB hitter at age 23 despite no real experience at Triple-A. Pretty good, right? JUDGE: Pretty good indeed. There's a lot to like here. I just wonder about the lack of total volume combined with numbers that can only be described as ordinary. Fifty-nine games and an average OPS? What's special about this season? I'd like to hear the final case. [OBER'S REP STRIDES UP CONFIDENTLY] OBER REP: Good day Your Honor. And to all of you in the jury as well. What we have here is really an open-and-shut case. While many of the previous candidates we've heard from showed positive signs and offered heartwarming stories this year, could any of their seasons really be described as 'good'? Let's be honest with ourselves. The data is clear on this matter. [PULLS UP A POWERPOINT THAT SIMPLY LISTS TWINS ROOKIES AND THEIR WINS ABOVE REPLACEMENT FOR 2022] OBER REP: As we can see, according to the website FanGraphs.com, my client Bailey Ober was worth one full win above a replacement player this year, a mark that no other rookie came close to matching. After stepping into a needy rotation in early June, he took the ball every fifth day, becoming a stable and steadfast presence in a unit that otherwise lacked for one entirely. Mr. Ober's 5.05 K/BB ratio was one of the best in major-league history for a first-year starter. All this from a former 12th-round pick who wasn't on the prospect radar prior to this season. Whether you want to talk about situational impact, inspirational narrative, long-term implications, or simply pure performance, my client is the obvious choice for best Twins rookie. Thank you. JUDGE [deliberates briefly]: I don't think we're even going to need to send this one to the jury. I agree with the ultimately conclusion that Mr. Ober is a clear choice for this award. Congratulations sir on this well deserved honor. This court is now adjourned ... We'll see you all tomorrow when we convene to settle upon a Most Improved Twin of 2021. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Preorder the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. The Minnesota Twins 2021 season is now in the books, and most of us will be more than happy to leave it there. With that said, as a postmortem, I'd like to document six milestones that will define this immensely disappointing campaign when we look back at it. These are the lasting memorable moments from a forgettable year. April: That Loss in Oakland (4/21) In Twins lore, this was a game that will forever live in infamy. In fact, it probably needs a nickname for eternal reference. Bayside Blunderfest? Catastrophe in the Coliseum? The Oaktown Meltdown? Whatever you want to call it, this was the clear low point in a gut-punch of a first month for the Twins. I don't say so lightly, because there was no shortage of brutal blows from which to choose, but this game was the cream of the crap. It wasn't just the dire implications of that 13-12 result itself, sealing a sweep for the A's and marking Minnesota's ninth loss in 10 games. No, what made this one an L for the ages – to the extent you knew exactly which game I was talking about when you read "that loss in Oakland" – was the almost comically painful way in which it all unfolded. I won't torture you with a full recap, but the gist is this: With the team playing short-handed due to a COVID outbreak, Kenta Maeda digs a deep hole by allowing seven runs (an early sign something is amiss for the reigning Cy Young runner-up); the offense mounts a big rally; Byron Buxton attempts to will the team to victory single-handed with a huge catch and home run; and then ... Alex Colomé happens. As these Twins stumbled out of the gates and fell flat on their faces, Colomé was a deserving figurehead for the failure. The front office's big-ticket bullpen pickup was an incomprehensible disaster, repeatedly giving away games that were in hand. On this special occasion, he did so twice in a two-inning span! Minnesota led 9-8 heading into the bottom of the ninth when Colomé entered. He gave up a run. The game went to extras. Buxton launched a dramatic two-run homer in the 10th. Then Colomé promptly walked the bases loaded in the bottom half, and watched the infield defense implode behind him as the A's rallied to score three runs on back-to-back errors and walk it off. *chef's kiss* May: Twins Drop 12th Out of 15 Games (5/20) Damaging to our collective psyches as it may have been, the above game was not fatal to the team's hopes of contending. While a 6-11 start wasn't ideal, the Twins were padded by a strong first week. This was just a good team going through an ugly April funk ... right? Nah. Turns out they were just bad. From May 8th through May 20th they went 3-12, turning in lifeless outing after lifeless outing as their season crumbled into nothingness, a mere seven weeks after getting started. Prior to this stretch the Twins were modestly climbing toward .500; by the end they were 14-28, and 11 ½ games out of first place. The last of the dozen losses during this 16-day stretch – a 7-1 doubleheader matinee against the Angels – was not especially noteworthy, save for how typical it was. Lewis Thorpe made a spot start and got lit up. The bullpen was bad. The offense did nothing. It was obvious from early on the Twins were going nowhere in this one, which is a suitable summarization of their season as a whole. June: Buxton Breaks His Hand (6/21) As things devolved in the early weeks, there was one redeeming storyline for Twins fans. Buxton was playing out of his mind. In April he became the first Twins player to earn Player of the Month honors in more than a decade. Unlocking his long-simmering potential at last, the center fielder was a must-watch attraction on a team that was otherwise hard to stomach. In early May, a hip injury shut Buxton down, leading to more than a month on the Injured List. He returned in mid-June, fighting through obvious pain and physical limitation, but was nonetheless productive for three games. Then, a freaking fastball hit his hand and fractured it. The team's fate was already more or less sealed by this point, but seeing their most likable player suffer another unthinkable setback was almost too much to take. I'll never forget Rocco Baldelli's somber postgame press conference, which conveyed empathy for his snakebit center fielder, as well as a general sense of dazed bewilderment at the state of his club's shattered season. This was going to be the year Buxton pulled it all together. Instead, it'll go down as yet another fleeting glimmer of greatness. And perhaps his final hurrah in a Twins uniform. July: Berríos Dealt on Deadline Day (7/30) We've already seen that final hurrah from José Berríos, who was drafted the same year as Buxton and rose to similarly impressive heights. The blockbuster deal that sent Berríos to Toronto for two top prospects was among the most significant deadline trades in franchise history, and a bellwether moment. Trading Berríos affirmed a full-on changing of the guard, following the less surprising Nelson Cruz trade a week earlier. Factor in coinciding reports of fruitless extension negotiations with Buxton, and this year's deadline openly signaled an oncoming identity shift for the Twins. This changing identity was evident in the final two months, during which we'd see these Twins play some of their very best ball. August: Ober Blanks Boston at Fenway (8/25) No Berríos. No Cruz. No Maeda. No Taylor Rogers. And yet the Twins were a .500 team after the trade deadline. That's not anything to write home about but, all things considered, it's kind of eyebrow-raising. How'd they do it? Bailey Ober played a big part (figuratively and literally) in the quality results, and the long-term implications of his sudden ascent from organization filler to rotation fixture are difficult to overstate. The month of August saw Ober pitch to a 2.30 ERA and 27-to-3 K/BB ratio in 27 ⅓ innings. The Twins went 4-1 in his five starts. While veteran pitchers around him got injured, got traded, and got blown up, Ober remained steady, with his newfound velocity boost and 6-foot-9 frame proving a sustainable formula. His most memorable outing in an excellent month came in Boston on the 25th. One year prior, no one would've realistically expected Ober to be pitching in the big leagues, so the rookie must've been feeling some nerves as he took the mound against a powerhouse at legendary Fenway Park for his 15th MLB start. You would've never known it from the way he pitched. Ober tossed a leisurely five shutout innings, striking out seven and walking one. At this moment he's the presumed Opening Day starter in 2022. September: Polanco Tallies 4 Extra-Base Hits (9/6) While Ober's emergence as a rotation staple was the most consequential unexpected development of the 2021 season, Jorge Polanco's rejuvenated slugging prowess may be a close second. For better or worse, the Twins are contractually tied to Polanco through at least 2023, and that was tilting in the "or worse" direction when his punchless 2020 production spilled over to April. But as he became more comfortable on his twice-surgically-repaired ankle, and began to find his stride once again, Polanco's long-absent power came rushing back. Suddenly, the switch-slugging All-Star from early 2019 was back and better than ever. And this was no flash in the pan. Polanco consistently kept pounding baseballs for the rest of the season – reflected by the fact that his most memorable highlight arrived in September. On this day in Cleveland, Polanco tallied a season-high four of his 70 extra-base hits, doubling three times and homering in a 5-2 win. During the previous series in Tampa, he launched two home runs and two doubles. Five days later against the Royals, he'd go deep twice. Polanco relentlessly slugged and produced all the way through to the end, playing at an MVP level while the team around him acquiesced to sub-mediocrity. It's reminiscent, in some ways, of Brian Dozier in 2016. One year later, Dozier was the veteran star and leader on a team that shocked everyone, improving by 26 wins and reaching the postseason. A precedent that is perhaps worth carrying forward. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Preorder 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
  8. April: That Loss in Oakland (4/21) In Twins lore, this was a game that will forever live in infamy. In fact, it probably needs a nickname for eternal reference. Bayside Blunderfest? Catastrophe in the Coliseum? The Oaktown Meltdown? Whatever you want to call it, this was the clear low point in a gut-punch of a first month for the Twins. I don't say so lightly, because there was no shortage of brutal blows from which to choose, but this game was the cream of the crap. It wasn't just the dire implications of that 13-12 result itself, sealing a sweep for the A's and marking Minnesota's ninth loss in 10 games. No, what made this one an L for the ages – to the extent you knew exactly which game I was talking about when you read "that loss in Oakland" – was the almost comically painful way in which it all unfolded. I won't torture you with a full recap, but the gist is this: With the team playing short-handed due to a COVID outbreak, Kenta Maeda digs a deep hole by allowing seven runs (an early sign something is amiss for the reigning Cy Young runner-up); the offense mounts a big rally; Byron Buxton attempts to will the team to victory single-handed with a huge catch and home run; and then ... Alex Colomé happens. As these Twins stumbled out of the gates and fell flat on their faces, Colomé was a deserving figurehead for the failure. The front office's big-ticket bullpen pickup was an incomprehensible disaster, repeatedly giving away games that were in hand. On this special occasion, he did so twice in a two-inning span! Minnesota led 9-8 heading into the bottom of the ninth when Colomé entered. He gave up a run. The game went to extras. Buxton launched a dramatic two-run homer in the 10th. Then Colomé promptly walked the bases loaded in the bottom half, and watched the infield defense implode behind him as the A's rallied to score three runs on back-to-back errors and walk it off. *chef's kiss* May: Twins Drop 12th Out of 15 Games (5/20) Damaging to our collective psyches as it may have been, the above game was not fatal to the team's hopes of contending. While a 6-11 start wasn't ideal, the Twins were padded by a strong first week. This was just a good team going through an ugly April funk ... right? Nah. Turns out they were just bad. From May 8th through May 20th they went 3-12, turning in lifeless outing after lifeless outing as their season crumbled into nothingness, a mere seven weeks after getting started. Prior to this stretch the Twins were modestly climbing toward .500; by the end they were 14-28, and 11 ½ games out of first place. The last of the dozen losses during this 16-day stretch – a 7-1 doubleheader matinee against the Angels – was not especially noteworthy, save for how typical it was. Lewis Thorpe made a spot start and got lit up. The bullpen was bad. The offense did nothing. It was obvious from early on the Twins were going nowhere in this one, which is a suitable summarization of their season as a whole. June: Buxton Breaks His Hand (6/21) As things devolved in the early weeks, there was one redeeming storyline for Twins fans. Buxton was playing out of his mind. In April he became the first Twins player to earn Player of the Month honors in more than a decade. Unlocking his long-simmering potential at last, the center fielder was a must-watch attraction on a team that was otherwise hard to stomach. In early May, a hip injury shut Buxton down, leading to more than a month on the Injured List. He returned in mid-June, fighting through obvious pain and physical limitation, but was nonetheless productive for three games. Then, a freaking fastball hit his hand and fractured it. The team's fate was already more or less sealed by this point, but seeing their most likable player suffer another unthinkable setback was almost too much to take. I'll never forget Rocco Baldelli's somber postgame press conference, which conveyed empathy for his snakebit center fielder, as well as a general sense of dazed bewilderment at the state of his club's shattered season. This was going to be the year Buxton pulled it all together. Instead, it'll go down as yet another fleeting glimmer of greatness. And perhaps his final hurrah in a Twins uniform. July: Berríos Dealt on Deadline Day (7/30) We've already seen that final hurrah from José Berríos, who was drafted the same year as Buxton and rose to similarly impressive heights. The blockbuster deal that sent Berríos to Toronto for two top prospects was among the most significant deadline trades in franchise history, and a bellwether moment. Trading Berríos affirmed a full-on changing of the guard, following the less surprising Nelson Cruz trade a week earlier. Factor in coinciding reports of fruitless extension negotiations with Buxton, and this year's deadline openly signaled an oncoming identity shift for the Twins. This changing identity was evident in the final two months, during which we'd see these Twins play some of their very best ball. August: Ober Blanks Boston at Fenway (8/25) No Berríos. No Cruz. No Maeda. No Taylor Rogers. And yet the Twins were a .500 team after the trade deadline. That's not anything to write home about but, all things considered, it's kind of eyebrow-raising. How'd they do it? Bailey Ober played a big part (figuratively and literally) in the quality results, and the long-term implications of his sudden ascent from organization filler to rotation fixture are difficult to overstate. The month of August saw Ober pitch to a 2.30 ERA and 27-to-3 K/BB ratio in 27 ⅓ innings. The Twins went 4-1 in his five starts. While veteran pitchers around him got injured, got traded, and got blown up, Ober remained steady, with his newfound velocity boost and 6-foot-9 frame proving a sustainable formula. His most memorable outing in an excellent month came in Boston on the 25th. One year prior, no one would've realistically expected Ober to be pitching in the big leagues, so the rookie must've been feeling some nerves as he took the mound against a powerhouse at legendary Fenway Park for his 15th MLB start. You would've never known it from the way he pitched. Ober tossed a leisurely five shutout innings, striking out seven and walking one. At this moment he's the presumed Opening Day starter in 2022. September: Polanco Tallies 4 Extra-Base Hits (9/6) While Ober's emergence as a rotation staple was the most consequential unexpected development of the 2021 season, Jorge Polanco's rejuvenated slugging prowess may be a close second. For better or worse, the Twins are contractually tied to Polanco through at least 2023, and that was tilting in the "or worse" direction when his punchless 2020 production spilled over to April. But as he became more comfortable on his twice-surgically-repaired ankle, and began to find his stride once again, Polanco's long-absent power came rushing back. Suddenly, the switch-slugging All-Star from early 2019 was back and better than ever. And this was no flash in the pan. Polanco consistently kept pounding baseballs for the rest of the season – reflected by the fact that his most memorable highlight arrived in September. On this day in Cleveland, Polanco tallied a season-high four of his 70 extra-base hits, doubling three times and homering in a 5-2 win. During the previous series in Tampa, he launched two home runs and two doubles. Five days later against the Royals, he'd go deep twice. Polanco relentlessly slugged and produced all the way through to the end, playing at an MVP level while the team around him acquiesced to sub-mediocrity. It's reminiscent, in some ways, of Brian Dozier in 2016. One year later, Dozier was the veteran star and leader on a team that shocked everyone, improving by 26 wins and reaching the postseason. A precedent that is perhaps worth carrying forward. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Preorder the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. The Minnesota Twins are creeping up on the 90-loss mark with one week left to go, and are all but assured of a last-place finish, but a modest four-game winning streak and a few encouraging individual showings provided glimmers of positivity as the light dims on this forgettable 2021 campaign. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/20 thru Sun, 9/26 *** Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 69-87) Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: -109) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (19.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 151 | MIN 9, CHC 5: Twins Notch 16 Hits in Wrigley Game 152 | MIN 5, CHC 4: Ryan Fans 11 as Kepler Powers Offense Game 153 | MIN 7, TOR 2: Gordon Goes Off, Twins Top Jays Game 154 | MIN 3, TOR 1: Ober and Bullpen Shut Down Toronto Game 155 | TOR 6, MIN 1: Ray Shuts Down Twins, Snaps Win Streak Game 156 | TOR 5, MIN 2: Bats Go Silent Once Again NEWS & NOTES Before he had a single chance to appear in a big-league ballgame, Drew Maggi was optioned back to Triple-A on Monday, sucking some steam out of the fun 32-year-old rookie narrative. Replacing him on the roster was Mitch Garver, fully recovered from a back strain. Garver's return also bumped Ben Rortvedt back to St. Paul, with Andrelton Simmons reactivated from the restricted list. John Gant's stay on the Injured List was brief, as the abdominal strain he suffered was evidently quite minor. He was activated on Saturday, just after the 10-day minimum, and started against the Blue Jays that night, allowing one earned run over three innings of work. HIGHLIGHTS Yet another highly encouraging week for the dynamic rookie duo in the Twins rotation. It's no exaggeration to say that, with all of the starting pitching setbacks Minnesota has experienced this year, the emergences of Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober have been season-saving developments. Ryan continues to flat-out dominate as a 25-year-old getting his first taste of MLB competition. On Wednesday against the Cubs, the right-hander struck out 11 over five innings of two-run ball, including the last seven men he faced. As usual, he relied on a fastball-heavy mix, with stellar command compensating for so-so velocity. The rookie now owns a 2.45 ERA, 0.59 WHIP and 25-to-3 K/BB ratio through 22 innings in his first four major-league starts. Simply incredible. Of course it bears noting that all of those starts have come against Cleveland or the Cubs, both sub par offenses. But we're talking about MLB hitters, and in both cases these teams have had the chance to see Ryan – and his ostensibly gimmicky approach – twice in a short span, while showing little improvement the second time around. On Friday, Ober got back on track following a bit of a rocky stretch in September (6.57 ERA through his first three turns). Taking on a potent Toronto lineup, the big righty allowed just one run on four hits over 5 ⅓ innings, striking out six with no walks. While Ober won't quite eclipse 100 innings – he'd need to throw 7 ⅔ in his final start this coming week – he's going to come very close, and most importantly, he's poised to finish the year strong and healthy. Ober and Ryan have essentially cemented roles for 2022 with their performances this year. Meanwhile, another less-expected rookie is angling to do the same with a breakout September. I've admittedly been a bit skeptical of Nick Gordon's value going forward given his limited profile – a versatile yet unspectacular defender who can't really play short, and a hitter lacking for power or patience. The Twins face a tricky decision during the offseason because they'll be needy for 40-man spots, and Gordon's out of options next spring. But for me, he's doing enough to earn a shot. To their credit, the Twins are giving Gordon plenty of looks down the stretch, and he's stepping up to take advantage. Last week he started all six games, appearing in each of the three outfield positions and getting a nod at shortstop on Sunday. Gordon went 8-for-25 with two home runs, six RBIs, and two steals. He enjoyed the best game of his young career on Thursday, notching three hits including a homer while driving in four as the Twins won. I don't necessarily believe Gordon can be much of an asset with his current physical makeup, but he's still only 25 and he's gone through a lot over the past couple years. Given a relatively normal offseason ahead, it wouldn't surprise me if he showed up next spring bulked up and looking like a bit of a different player. His clutch moments are gaining him some early affinity. A few other performances worth highlighting: Following a nightmarish first full week in the big leagues, Jovani Moran reminded us why he's a relief prospect worth getting excited about. The lefty entered after a short start from Gant on Saturday and tossed two perfect innings, striking out four of the six batters he faced with nine swinging strikes on 19 pitches. His changeup was in full form. Pure dominance. Max Kepler went off at Wrigley, notching six hits in 12 at-bats during the two-game series against the Cubs. He homered twice in a 5-4 victory on Wednesday. With a .214/.311/.425 slash line as the end of the season nears, Kepler has basically turned back into the exact player he was before his 2019 breakout (slashed .233/.314/.418 from 2016 through 2018), which isn't a terrible thing but is rather disappointing. Garver had a strong return to action, notching three hits on Tuesday in his first game in nearly a month, then adding another three-hit game on Thursday. He doubled and walked on Sunday. While his ability to stay healthy will remain a question mark going forward, Garver has basically eliminated any concerns around his bat. If the Twins are going to field a decent bullpen in 2021, they'll likely need Tyler Duffey and Jorge Alcala to factor in as key right-handed arms. As such, it's good to see them each pitching well in the waning weeks of the season. Duffey fired three hitless innings last week and owns a 2.70 ERA in September. Alcala contributed 2 ⅓ shutout frames and has a 0.96 ERA this month. The two combined for nine strikeouts and zero walks. LOWLIGHTS While his fellow rookie rotation-mates continued to excel, things again didn't go so well for Griffin Jax in his two starts. He lasted only three innings against the Cubs on Tuesday, coughing up three runs on a pair of homers, and then gave up two more bombs in a loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday. Astoundingly, Jax has now surrendered 23 long balls in 77 major-league innings. In some aspects, Jax has looked pretty good. The slider in particular shows potential, with a 37.8% whiff rate and .182 xBA. But his proneness to home runs is a crippling weakness at this point it's there is no clear path to resolving it. Jax may have a big-league future in the bullpen, but there will be no counting on him in any capacity heading into 2022, and he turns 27 in November. Brent Rooker, unlike Gordon, is not doing much to build his case for filling a role next year. He started four of the team's six games and went 2-for-14, striking out twice after subbing in for Jake Cave on Sunday. Rooker is slashing .201/.294/.397 as a defensively limited rookie. Like Jax, he turns 27 in November. Short as his time as been, Rooker may already be reaching the end of the line in Minnesota. TRENDING STORYLINE As we segway into the offseason, Byron Buxton will take center stage – a critical crux point in the front office's strategy and vision for next year. Buxton has impressively played almost every day since returning from a broken hand, although his production hasn't remotely stacked up to the previous sample. (Buck is slashing .215/.282/.449 since returning from his latest IL stint, after putting up a .369/.409/.767 line in his first 27 games.) With that said, he's coming off an excellent week – 7-for-19 with two homers and two doubles – and if Buxton can stay hot through the final slate of games it'll do much to assuage any concerns around his diminished second-half output. The league is watching closely. If Buxton is truly on the trade market this winter he'll likely be its biggest prize. LOOKING AHEAD We're almost at the finish line. Ryan was on track to start two games in the final week – including the season finale next Sunday – but his schedule was disrupted a bit by traveling on bereavement leave for a few days, and the Twins are surely intent on playing it safe with workload. They announced he'll start on Thursday in the final home game. Without knowing how the schedule will adjust around him, I'm employing some guesswork in the probables listed below, but it should be close to accurate. TUESDAY, 9/28: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Alexander v. RHP Michael Pineda WEDNESDAY, 9/29: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Casey Mize v. RHP Bailey Ober THURSDAY, 9/30: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tarik Skubal v. RHP Joe Ryan FRIDAY, 10/1: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP John Gant v. RHP Jon Heasley SATURDAY, 10/2: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Griffin Jax v. LHP Kris Bubic SUNDAY, 10/3: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Jackson Kowar 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
  10. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/20 thru Sun, 9/26 *** Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 69-87) Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: -109) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (19.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 151 | MIN 9, CHC 5: Twins Notch 16 Hits in Wrigley Game 152 | MIN 5, CHC 4: Ryan Fans 11 as Kepler Powers Offense Game 153 | MIN 7, TOR 2: Gordon Goes Off, Twins Top Jays Game 154 | MIN 3, TOR 1: Ober and Bullpen Shut Down Toronto Game 155 | TOR 6, MIN 1: Ray Shuts Down Twins, Snaps Win Streak Game 156 | TOR 5, MIN 2: Bats Go Silent Once Again NEWS & NOTES Before he had a single chance to appear in a big-league ballgame, Drew Maggi was optioned back to Triple-A on Monday, sucking some steam out of the fun 32-year-old rookie narrative. Replacing him on the roster was Mitch Garver, fully recovered from a back strain. Garver's return also bumped Ben Rortvedt back to St. Paul, with Andrelton Simmons reactivated from the restricted list. John Gant's stay on the Injured List was brief, as the abdominal strain he suffered was evidently quite minor. He was activated on Saturday, just after the 10-day minimum, and started against the Blue Jays that night, allowing one earned run over three innings of work. HIGHLIGHTS Yet another highly encouraging week for the dynamic rookie duo in the Twins rotation. It's no exaggeration to say that, with all of the starting pitching setbacks Minnesota has experienced this year, the emergences of Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober have been season-saving developments. Ryan continues to flat-out dominate as a 25-year-old getting his first taste of MLB competition. On Wednesday against the Cubs, the right-hander struck out 11 over five innings of two-run ball, including the last seven men he faced. As usual, he relied on a fastball-heavy mix, with stellar command compensating for so-so velocity. The rookie now owns a 2.45 ERA, 0.59 WHIP and 25-to-3 K/BB ratio through 22 innings in his first four major-league starts. Simply incredible. Of course it bears noting that all of those starts have come against Cleveland or the Cubs, both sub par offenses. But we're talking about MLB hitters, and in both cases these teams have had the chance to see Ryan – and his ostensibly gimmicky approach – twice in a short span, while showing little improvement the second time around. On Friday, Ober got back on track following a bit of a rocky stretch in September (6.57 ERA through his first three turns). Taking on a potent Toronto lineup, the big righty allowed just one run on four hits over 5 ⅓ innings, striking out six with no walks. While Ober won't quite eclipse 100 innings – he'd need to throw 7 ⅔ in his final start this coming week – he's going to come very close, and most importantly, he's poised to finish the year strong and healthy. Ober and Ryan have essentially cemented roles for 2022 with their performances this year. Meanwhile, another less-expected rookie is angling to do the same with a breakout September. I've admittedly been a bit skeptical of Nick Gordon's value going forward given his limited profile – a versatile yet unspectacular defender who can't really play short, and a hitter lacking for power or patience. The Twins face a tricky decision during the offseason because they'll be needy for 40-man spots, and Gordon's out of options next spring. But for me, he's doing enough to earn a shot. To their credit, the Twins are giving Gordon plenty of looks down the stretch, and he's stepping up to take advantage. Last week he started all six games, appearing in each of the three outfield positions and getting a nod at shortstop on Sunday. Gordon went 8-for-25 with two home runs, six RBIs, and two steals. He enjoyed the best game of his young career on Thursday, notching three hits including a homer while driving in four as the Twins won. I don't necessarily believe Gordon can be much of an asset with his current physical makeup, but he's still only 25 and he's gone through a lot over the past couple years. Given a relatively normal offseason ahead, it wouldn't surprise me if he showed up next spring bulked up and looking like a bit of a different player. His clutch moments are gaining him some early affinity. A few other performances worth highlighting: Following a nightmarish first full week in the big leagues, Jovani Moran reminded us why he's a relief prospect worth getting excited about. The lefty entered after a short start from Gant on Saturday and tossed two perfect innings, striking out four of the six batters he faced with nine swinging strikes on 19 pitches. His changeup was in full form. Pure dominance. Max Kepler went off at Wrigley, notching six hits in 12 at-bats during the two-game series against the Cubs. He homered twice in a 5-4 victory on Wednesday. With a .214/.311/.425 slash line as the end of the season nears, Kepler has basically turned back into the exact player he was before his 2019 breakout (slashed .233/.314/.418 from 2016 through 2018), which isn't a terrible thing but is rather disappointing. Garver had a strong return to action, notching three hits on Tuesday in his first game in nearly a month, then adding another three-hit game on Thursday. He doubled and walked on Sunday. While his ability to stay healthy will remain a question mark going forward, Garver has basically eliminated any concerns around his bat. If the Twins are going to field a decent bullpen in 2021, they'll likely need Tyler Duffey and Jorge Alcala to factor in as key right-handed arms. As such, it's good to see them each pitching well in the waning weeks of the season. Duffey fired three hitless innings last week and owns a 2.70 ERA in September. Alcala contributed 2 ⅓ shutout frames and has a 0.96 ERA this month. The two combined for nine strikeouts and zero walks. LOWLIGHTS While his fellow rookie rotation-mates continued to excel, things again didn't go so well for Griffin Jax in his two starts. He lasted only three innings against the Cubs on Tuesday, coughing up three runs on a pair of homers, and then gave up two more bombs in a loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday. Astoundingly, Jax has now surrendered 23 long balls in 77 major-league innings. In some aspects, Jax has looked pretty good. The slider in particular shows potential, with a 37.8% whiff rate and .182 xBA. But his proneness to home runs is a crippling weakness at this point it's there is no clear path to resolving it. Jax may have a big-league future in the bullpen, but there will be no counting on him in any capacity heading into 2022, and he turns 27 in November. Brent Rooker, unlike Gordon, is not doing much to build his case for filling a role next year. He started four of the team's six games and went 2-for-14, striking out twice after subbing in for Jake Cave on Sunday. Rooker is slashing .201/.294/.397 as a defensively limited rookie. Like Jax, he turns 27 in November. Short as his time as been, Rooker may already be reaching the end of the line in Minnesota. TRENDING STORYLINE As we segway into the offseason, Byron Buxton will take center stage – a critical crux point in the front office's strategy and vision for next year. Buxton has impressively played almost every day since returning from a broken hand, although his production hasn't remotely stacked up to the previous sample. (Buck is slashing .215/.282/.449 since returning from his latest IL stint, after putting up a .369/.409/.767 line in his first 27 games.) With that said, he's coming off an excellent week – 7-for-19 with two homers and two doubles – and if Buxton can stay hot through the final slate of games it'll do much to assuage any concerns around his diminished second-half output. The league is watching closely. If Buxton is truly on the trade market this winter he'll likely be its biggest prize. LOOKING AHEAD We're almost at the finish line. Ryan was on track to start two games in the final week – including the season finale next Sunday – but his schedule was disrupted a bit by traveling on bereavement leave for a few days, and the Twins are surely intent on playing it safe with workload. They announced he'll start on Thursday in the final home game. Without knowing how the schedule will adjust around him, I'm employing some guesswork in the probables listed below, but it should be close to accurate. TUESDAY, 9/28: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Alexander v. RHP Michael Pineda WEDNESDAY, 9/29: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Casey Mize v. RHP Bailey Ober THURSDAY, 9/30: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tarik Skubal v. RHP Joe Ryan FRIDAY, 10/1: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP John Gant v. RHP Jon Heasley SATURDAY, 10/2: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Griffin Jax v. LHP Kris Bubic SUNDAY, 10/3: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Jackson Kowar MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. The Twins welcomed José Berríos for the first time as an opponent at Target Field. Everything went Minnesota’s way, especially from the mound, and the Twins were able to hand their former ace a loss. Box Score Ober: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (71.9% strikes) Home Runs: Buxton (15) Top 3 WPA: Ober .202, Arráez .156, Buxton .106 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Twins welcome Berríos with a three-run third For the first time, José Berríos took the mound at Target Field as the visiting pitcher, five days after earning a win in Toronto against his former team. Back in Canada on Sunday, the Twins offense couldn’t produce much against “La Makina,” scoring three runs on only four hits. Could tonight’s outcome be different? After Bailey Ober tossed a scoreless top of the first, pitching around a Marcus Semien double, Minnesota posed an immediate threat to Berríos. Luis Arráez singled on the very first pitch, moments before Byron Buxton drew a five-pitch walk, putting two men on with no outs. But José responded by shutting down the Twins lineup, retiring the next six batters. But in the third inning, the offense ambushed their former teammate. Andrelton Simmons worked a leadoff walk, and Arráez got his second hit of the night, scoring Simba on an RBI-triple down the right field line. In the very next at-bat, Buxton took Berríos deep, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead. Ober cruises through four, pulled early after a home run Perhaps Ober took advantage of the fact that all eyes were on the visiting starter, putting together a brilliant start. He did give up a couple of doubles, one in the first and another one in the third. But, other than that, he retired every other batter he faced, completing four innings on only 51 pitches – exactly twenty pitches fewer than Berríos, in case you were wondering. Ober pitched into the sixth very economically. He stranded yet another runner to deliver a scoreless fifth. But after giving up a one-out solo home run to Marcus Semien in the sixth, Rocco Baldelli removed him from the game at only 82 pitches (59 strikes). As he walked away from the mound, his body language indicated that he might not have been happy with the decision. This was Ober’s 20th start of the season and only once this year was he allowed to toss more than 82 pitches in a game (Jul 5, against the White Sox). Has Rocco’s approach towards him been too conservative throughout the season? After hitting back-to-back singles to open the fourth, the offense really quieted down. The bats went 1-for-15 with a walk to close out this game. That could’ve put a lot of pressure on the bullpen, who needed to take care of the slim two-run lead the rest of the way. But that wasn’t a problem for Minnesota’s relievers, who are having a fantastic month of September. Coming into tonight’s game, the Twins bullpen were posting a 2.82 ERA in September, which ranks second in baseball. Jorge Alcalá, Juan Minaya, Tyler Duffey dominated one of MLB’s strongest lineups, holding them scoreless and hitless for 2 2/3 innings. Alexander Colomé was even more effective, closing out the game on only five pitches, all for strikes. With tonight’s outing, the Twins bullpen ERA in September is now down to 2.70. After taking the first two games, the Twins go for a series win tomorrow. They take on Toronto tomorrow at 6:10 pm CDT on Justin Morneau’s Twins Hall of Fame induction night. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SUN TUE WED THU FRI TOT Minaya 36 0 13 0 19 68 Vincent 40 0 0 13 0 53 Farrell 34 0 0 19 0 53 Thielbar 22 16 0 14 0 52 Duffey 0 11 12 0 17 40 Colomé 0 7 24 0 5 36 Barraclough 0 35 0 0 0 35 Alcalá 0 10 10 0 6 26 Coulombe 0 17 0 0 0 17 Garza Jr. 0 0 0 16 0 16 Moran 0 0 0 0 0 0 View full article
  12. Byron Buxton hit a home run off former Minnesota Twins teammate José Berríos in a 3-1 Twins victory Friday. Highlights of that blast plus Bailey Ober, Jose Miranda, Beau Burrows, Jermaine Palacios, Austin Schulfer, Aaron Whitefield, DaShawn Keirsey, Edouard Julien and Alex Isola. View full video
  13. Byron Buxton hit a home run off former Minnesota Twins teammate José Berríos in a 3-1 Twins victory Friday. Highlights of that blast plus Bailey Ober, Jose Miranda, Beau Burrows, Jermaine Palacios, Austin Schulfer, Aaron Whitefield, DaShawn Keirsey, Edouard Julien and Alex Isola.
  14. Box Score Ober: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (71.9% strikes) Home Runs: Buxton (15) Top 3 WPA: Ober .202, Arráez .156, Buxton .106 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Twins welcome Berríos with a three-run third For the first time, José Berríos took the mound at Target Field as the visiting pitcher, five days after earning a win in Toronto against his former team. Back in Canada on Sunday, the Twins offense couldn’t produce much against “La Makina,” scoring three runs on only four hits. Could tonight’s outcome be different? After Bailey Ober tossed a scoreless top of the first, pitching around a Marcus Semien double, Minnesota posed an immediate threat to Berríos. Luis Arráez singled on the very first pitch, moments before Byron Buxton drew a five-pitch walk, putting two men on with no outs. But José responded by shutting down the Twins lineup, retiring the next six batters. But in the third inning, the offense ambushed their former teammate. Andrelton Simmons worked a leadoff walk, and Arráez got his second hit of the night, scoring Simba on an RBI-triple down the right field line. In the very next at-bat, Buxton took Berríos deep, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead. Ober cruises through four, pulled early after a home run Perhaps Ober took advantage of the fact that all eyes were on the visiting starter, putting together a brilliant start. He did give up a couple of doubles, one in the first and another one in the third. But, other than that, he retired every other batter he faced, completing four innings on only 51 pitches – exactly twenty pitches fewer than Berríos, in case you were wondering. Ober pitched into the sixth very economically. He stranded yet another runner to deliver a scoreless fifth. But after giving up a one-out solo home run to Marcus Semien in the sixth, Rocco Baldelli removed him from the game at only 82 pitches (59 strikes). As he walked away from the mound, his body language indicated that he might not have been happy with the decision. This was Ober’s 20th start of the season and only once this year was he allowed to toss more than 82 pitches in a game (Jul 5, against the White Sox). Has Rocco’s approach towards him been too conservative throughout the season? After hitting back-to-back singles to open the fourth, the offense really quieted down. The bats went 1-for-15 with a walk to close out this game. That could’ve put a lot of pressure on the bullpen, who needed to take care of the slim two-run lead the rest of the way. But that wasn’t a problem for Minnesota’s relievers, who are having a fantastic month of September. Coming into tonight’s game, the Twins bullpen were posting a 2.82 ERA in September, which ranks second in baseball. Jorge Alcalá, Juan Minaya, Tyler Duffey dominated one of MLB’s strongest lineups, holding them scoreless and hitless for 2 2/3 innings. Alexander Colomé was even more effective, closing out the game on only five pitches, all for strikes. With tonight’s outing, the Twins bullpen ERA in September is now down to 2.70. After taking the first two games, the Twins go for a series win tomorrow. They take on Toronto tomorrow at 6:10 pm CDT on Justin Morneau’s Twins Hall of Fame induction night. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SUN TUE WED THU FRI TOT Minaya 36 0 13 0 19 68 Vincent 40 0 0 13 0 53 Farrell 34 0 0 19 0 53 Thielbar 22 16 0 14 0 52 Duffey 0 11 12 0 17 40 Colomé 0 7 24 0 5 36 Barraclough 0 35 0 0 0 35 Alcalá 0 10 10 0 6 26 Coulombe 0 17 0 0 0 17 Garza Jr. 0 0 0 16 0 16 Moran 0 0 0 0 0 0
  15. It’s easy to be negative when the Twins are heading for 90-losses or more for the sixth time in the last decade. Even if you turned away, there were plenty of things that went right for the 2021 Twins. Why have you continued to watch the Twins in the second half? Have you tuned in for Jorge Polanco’s hot bat? Did you watch some of the young pitching making their MLB debuts? Below is a ranking of the top three things that went right for the 2021 Twins. 3. Jorge Polanco Jorge Polanco has been one of the most prominent bright spots this season. After having ankle surgery the past two off-seasons, there were plenty of question marks about his long-term role for the Twins. The team moved him away from shortstop, and other players on the roster can fit into the plan at second base. He faced these challenges head-on and is ending the season as the team’s most valuable player. Polanco set the franchise record for home runs by a switch-hitter after a slow start to the season. He will end the year with more than 30 homers, 30 doubles, and ten steals, which are numbers only a few MLB players have accumulated this year. Baseball Reference has him with the sixth-highest WAR total among AL position players. His at-bats have become one of the main reasons to watch the Twins in the second half. 2. Aggressive Trade Deadline Minnesota’s front office said the Twins will compete in 2022, so trading away players like Jose Berrios can be tough to make that a reality. An argument could have been made to retain players and take another run in 2022. Instead, the Twins were able to get two top-100 prospects for Berrios and two big-league ready arms for Nelson Cruz’s expiring contract. These aren’t the only parts of the trade deadline that impacted the team’s long-term outlook. Besides Cruz and Berrios, Minnesota dealt away J.A. Happ and Hansel Robles for pitching prospects. Happ and Robles were on expiring deals, and neither had performed exceptionally well during their Twins tenure, so getting value was an impressive feat for the front office. Minnesota also held on to players like Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson, and Max Kepler. All of these players can help the Twins to be competitive in 2022. 1. Experience for Young Players In a lost season, big-league experience can be invaluable for the players who make up the core of the next winning Twins team. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach were thrust into the Twins line-up with some bumps and bruises along the way. Kirilloff fought through a wrist injury and was still able to produce a 98 OPS+. Larnach held his own in the season’s first half (.755 OPS) before the team needed him to rediscover his swing in St. Paul. Both players will be in the middle of Minnesota’s line-up for most of the next decade. On the mound, starters like Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan have shown they can more than hold their own at the big-league level. As of right now, no members of the 2021 Opening Day starting rotation will be with the Twins next year. Minnesota likely feels comfortable with both of these pitchers penciled into the back of the 2022 rotation. Starting pitching depth was an issue in 2022, so the front office has plenty of work to do on this front over the next couple of months. How would you rank these positives from 2021? What would you add to the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  16. Why have you continued to watch the Twins in the second half? Have you tuned in for Jorge Polanco’s hot bat? Did you watch some of the young pitching making their MLB debuts? Below is a ranking of the top three things that went right for the 2021 Twins. 3. Jorge Polanco Jorge Polanco has been one of the most prominent bright spots this season. After having ankle surgery the past two off-seasons, there were plenty of question marks about his long-term role for the Twins. The team moved him away from shortstop, and other players on the roster can fit into the plan at second base. He faced these challenges head-on and is ending the season as the team’s most valuable player. Polanco set the franchise record for home runs by a switch-hitter after a slow start to the season. He will end the year with more than 30 homers, 30 doubles, and ten steals, which are numbers only a few MLB players have accumulated this year. Baseball Reference has him with the sixth-highest WAR total among AL position players. His at-bats have become one of the main reasons to watch the Twins in the second half. 2. Aggressive Trade Deadline Minnesota’s front office said the Twins will compete in 2022, so trading away players like Jose Berrios can be tough to make that a reality. An argument could have been made to retain players and take another run in 2022. Instead, the Twins were able to get two top-100 prospects for Berrios and two big-league ready arms for Nelson Cruz’s expiring contract. These aren’t the only parts of the trade deadline that impacted the team’s long-term outlook. Besides Cruz and Berrios, Minnesota dealt away J.A. Happ and Hansel Robles for pitching prospects. Happ and Robles were on expiring deals, and neither had performed exceptionally well during their Twins tenure, so getting value was an impressive feat for the front office. Minnesota also held on to players like Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson, and Max Kepler. All of these players can help the Twins to be competitive in 2022. 1. Experience for Young Players In a lost season, big-league experience can be invaluable for the players who make up the core of the next winning Twins team. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach were thrust into the Twins line-up with some bumps and bruises along the way. Kirilloff fought through a wrist injury and was still able to produce a 98 OPS+. Larnach held his own in the season’s first half (.755 OPS) before the team needed him to rediscover his swing in St. Paul. Both players will be in the middle of Minnesota’s line-up for most of the next decade. On the mound, starters like Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan have shown they can more than hold their own at the big-league level. As of right now, no members of the 2021 Opening Day starting rotation will be with the Twins next year. Minnesota likely feels comfortable with both of these pitchers penciled into the back of the 2022 rotation. Starting pitching depth was an issue in 2022, so the front office has plenty of work to do on this front over the next couple of months. How would you rank these positives from 2021? What would you add to the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. The Rule 5 Draft has given the Twins several key players including Shane Mack and Johan Santana. Most years, however, the actual impact to teams isn’t huge. Last year’s Rule 5 draft gave the Twins office some tough decisions. Let’s take a quick look at how it went for the Twins. Every November, teams determine which minor leaguers they will add to their 40-man roster and hence, protect from losing in December’s Rule 5 draft. The decisions sometimes are difficult. Who might be selected? Who would be able to stick on the big-league roster throughout the season if they were selected? Twins Daily's Nash Walker breaks it down in the following video: Those decisions were made even more difficult last offseason by the lost minor league season due to the global pandemic. There weren’t as many data points for teams to evaluate, and in some cases, players had been away from team activities for six to eight months. Let’s just jump into it. AKIL BADDOO The Tigers selected outfielder Akil Baddoo with the second pick of the Rule 5 draft. Baddoo was an immensely talented prospect selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft. In 2018 at Cedar Rapids, he hit .243/.351/.419 (.770) with 22 doubles, 11 triples, 11 homers and 24 stolen bases. The season showed his skill set. He had a combination of speed and power, and while he didn’t hit for average, he knows the strike zone and took his walks. Unfortunately after just 29 games in Ft. Myers in 2019, in which he hit .214/.290/.393 with three doubles, three triples, four homers and six steals, Baddoo needed Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of the season. As the 2020 season approached, I talked to Baddoo in spring training. He felt great, but he would have started the season DHing and gradually getting more time in the outfield. With outfielders such as Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Brent Rooker, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Gilberto Celestino ahead of him on the depth chart, the Twins took a chance by leaving him off the 40-man roster. There’s no doubt the team knew he could be taken, but could he make an opening day roster and stick in the big leagues for a full season after so much missed time, and limited production in A-ball. Baddoo had a big spring training, showing a lot of power, and he made the Tigers Opening Day roster. As important, he got off to a fast start. In his first nine games, he hit .370/.379/.963 (1.342) with two doubles, a triple and four home runs. Of course, Twins fans will recall that he had some huge moments early against his former organization. In his first game against his former teammates, he hit a grand slam. In his second game, he had a walk off single. In his third game, he had a big, RBI triple. The Twins played the Tigers going into the All Star break and then coming out of the break. In the pre-break game, he had a homer and three RBI. In the first game back from the break, he had a triple and three RBI. To say that he has performed well against the Twins might just be an understatement. In 14 games against the Twins, he has hit .327/.340/.673 (1.013) with five doubles, two triples, three homers and 14 RBI. In 97 games against all other teams, he has hit .244/.322/.410 (732) with 29 extra base hits. In 111 total games, Baddoo has hit .255/.324/.448 (.772) with 20 doubles, 12 homers and 49 RBI. He has 14 steals and leads the league with seven triples. At age 23, he has made himself into a key cog in a Tigers team that has a lot of young players and appears ready to start contending in the AL Central in the coming years. TYLER WELLS Baddoo got all of the fanfare early in the season, and understandably so, but the Twins lost a second player in the Rule 5 draft too. With their second pick in the Rule 5 draft, the Baltimore Orioles selected RHP Tyler Wells. Wells had been the Twins 15th round pick in 2016 out of Cal State-San Bernadino. At 6-8, Wells stands out on the mound but also has really good stuff. In 2018, he went 8-4 with a 2.80 ERA in 16 starts at High-A Ft. Myers before making six appearances in Double-A Pensacola where he posted a 1.65 ERA. In 119 1/3 innings, he struck out 121 batters. He was chosen the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2018 as well as the Harmon Killebrew Award winner for the Miracle. Unfortunately, in spring training 2019, Wells hurt his elbow. After trying to rehab, he needed Tommy John surgery and missed the 2019 season. Based on his rehab from surgery, he may have been able to make a few appearances late in the 2020 season, but obviously was unable to do so. So again, the Twins took a chance, leaving him unprotected, and the Orioles took a shot. While Wells started out slowly, getting irregular innings, he has become a bright spot in the Orioles 2021 roster. In 40 games, he is 2-3 with two saves. He has a 4.17 ERA and a 0.93 ERA. In 54 innings, he has given up just 38 hits, walked just 12 and struck out 64 batters. In the past two weeks, Wells has become the Orioles’ closer. He recorded two saves before having two blown saves in his past two outings. However, in a 25 game stretch before those two games, he has a 1.74 ERA, a 0.52 WHIP and opponents hit just .132 against him. In that time, he gave up just 14 hits, walked two and struck out 36 batters in 31 innings. Wells has a mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup, a slider and a slow curveball. With that pitch mix, could he return to being a starter moving forward, or will he remain a potentially-dominant reliever. BAILEY OBER Adding Jordan Balazovic to the Twins 40-man roster last November was the easy decision, to be sure. Ben Rortvedt, as a top catching prospect, was also an easy addition as well. However, I would assume many (or most) Twins fans were probably surprised when they learned that Bailey Ober had been added to the 40-man roster. Like others, Ober missed the 2020 season completely. He was not at the team’s alternate site. He did not participate in the Instructional League. In 2019, he went 8-0 with a 0.69 ERA between High-A Ft. Myers, Double-A Pensacola. In 78 2/3 innings, he walked nine batters and struck out 100 batters. Ober pitched little during spring training and made just four starts at St. Paul before getting called up to the big leagues in mid-May. Since then, he has been terrific. In 18 starts, he is 2-2 with a 4.12 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. In 83 innings, he has walked 17 and struck out 87 batters. As impressive as he has been, the Twins have found a way to keep him healthy following a missed season. He is currently at 99 innings and should make two or three more starts before the end of the season. I’d say that the Twins front office was right in adding Ober to the 40-man roster. JOSE MIRANDA In 2016, the Twins took prep hitters Alex Kirilloff, Ben Rortvedt, Akil Baddoo and Jose Miranda all within the first 74 picks of the draft. Kirilloff and Rortvedt had been added to the 40-man roster. Baddoo was lost in the Rule 5 draft to the Tigers. And, the Twins also left infielder Jose Miranda unprotected. Like others, Miranda was not invited to big league spring training in 2020. He was not a participant at the alternate site last year. He went to Instructional League, and then he put up some big numbers playing winter ball in Puerto Rico last offseason including playing in the Caribbean Series. As the Rule 5 draft was approaching, there were definitely indications that Miranda could be selected. Fortunately, when the MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft concluded, Miranda’s name had not been called. Can you imagine if the Twins had lost Jose Miranda in the Rule 5 draft too? Scouting reports always indicated that Miranda had immense power potential. In 2018, he had 27 doubles and 16 homers. In 2019, he had 26 doubles and eight homers. This season, the power has come together. He began the season with 47 games at Double-A Wichita. He hit .345/.408/.588 (.996) with eight doubles and 13 homers. In 67 games since joining the St. Paul Saints, he has hit .341/.395/.564 (.959) with 19 doubles and 15 home runs. Speaking of putting it all together, Miranda has hit .343/.400/.574 (.974) with 27 doubles, 28 homers and 86 RBI in 114 games. Miranda’s prospect stock has increased as much as any hitter in the Twins system in 2021, and he finds himself on the edge of the big leagues. If it doesn’t happen by the end of the season, he is a given to be protected this November. OTHERS I thought it might be fun to take a look at my rankings from last November when I ranked (guessed) which players the Twins would add. Here is how I ranked them: RHP Jordan Balazovic - Easy decision, he pitched at Double-A this year. OF Akil Baddoo - see above C Ben Rortvedt - has split the season between Triple-A and the Twins. SS Wander Javier - had ups and downs in High-A Cedar Rapids. Free agent at the end of the season. RHP Luis Rijo - Had visa issues, and soon after his return had Tommy John surgery. 3B Jose Miranda - see above. RHP Griffin Jax - has made his MLB debut in 2021. 2B Yunior Severino - Started season in Ft. Myers, but has crushed the ball since moving up to Cedar Rapids. OF Gabriel Maciel - Spent the full season in Cedar Rapids. LHP Charlie Barnes - has made his MLB debut in 2021. RHP Bailey Ober - see above. LHP Jovani Moran - recently made his MLB debut. RHP Tyler Wells - see above. LHP Bryan Sammons - has split the season between AA and AAA. 1B/OF Trey Cabbage - has hit 27 homers between Cedar Rapids and Wichita. Free agent at season’s end. I’m sure the Twins would want to bring him back. 1B Zander Wiel - Recently Released SUMMARY Most years, only a handful of Rule 5 picks actually make their team’s Opening Day roster and stick through the season. In an unprecedented 2020, 40-man roster decisions were more difficult than usual. Unfortunately, the Twins lost two players who have been impactful for their new organizations. They were lucky not to lose Jose Miranda or Jovani Moran too. However, they did well in recognizing the need to protect Bailey Ober. As we start the process of thinking about who might be added to the team’s 40-man roster this coming November, it should be a bit easier since there has been a season to evaluate players again! View full article
  18. Every November, teams determine which minor leaguers they will add to their 40-man roster and hence, protect from losing in December’s Rule 5 draft. The decisions sometimes are difficult. Who might be selected? Who would be able to stick on the big-league roster throughout the season if they were selected? Twins Daily's Nash Walker breaks it down in the following video: Those decisions were made even more difficult last offseason by the lost minor league season due to the global pandemic. There weren’t as many data points for teams to evaluate, and in some cases, players had been away from team activities for six to eight months. Let’s just jump into it. AKIL BADDOO The Tigers selected outfielder Akil Baddoo with the second pick of the Rule 5 draft. Baddoo was an immensely talented prospect selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft. In 2018 at Cedar Rapids, he hit .243/.351/.419 (.770) with 22 doubles, 11 triples, 11 homers and 24 stolen bases. The season showed his skill set. He had a combination of speed and power, and while he didn’t hit for average, he knows the strike zone and took his walks. Unfortunately after just 29 games in Ft. Myers in 2019, in which he hit .214/.290/.393 with three doubles, three triples, four homers and six steals, Baddoo needed Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of the season. As the 2020 season approached, I talked to Baddoo in spring training. He felt great, but he would have started the season DHing and gradually getting more time in the outfield. With outfielders such as Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Brent Rooker, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Gilberto Celestino ahead of him on the depth chart, the Twins took a chance by leaving him off the 40-man roster. There’s no doubt the team knew he could be taken, but could he make an opening day roster and stick in the big leagues for a full season after so much missed time, and limited production in A-ball. Baddoo had a big spring training, showing a lot of power, and he made the Tigers Opening Day roster. As important, he got off to a fast start. In his first nine games, he hit .370/.379/.963 (1.342) with two doubles, a triple and four home runs. Of course, Twins fans will recall that he had some huge moments early against his former organization. In his first game against his former teammates, he hit a grand slam. In his second game, he had a walk off single. In his third game, he had a big, RBI triple. The Twins played the Tigers going into the All Star break and then coming out of the break. In the pre-break game, he had a homer and three RBI. In the first game back from the break, he had a triple and three RBI. To say that he has performed well against the Twins might just be an understatement. In 14 games against the Twins, he has hit .327/.340/.673 (1.013) with five doubles, two triples, three homers and 14 RBI. In 97 games against all other teams, he has hit .244/.322/.410 (732) with 29 extra base hits. In 111 total games, Baddoo has hit .255/.324/.448 (.772) with 20 doubles, 12 homers and 49 RBI. He has 14 steals and leads the league with seven triples. At age 23, he has made himself into a key cog in a Tigers team that has a lot of young players and appears ready to start contending in the AL Central in the coming years. TYLER WELLS Baddoo got all of the fanfare early in the season, and understandably so, but the Twins lost a second player in the Rule 5 draft too. With their second pick in the Rule 5 draft, the Baltimore Orioles selected RHP Tyler Wells. Wells had been the Twins 15th round pick in 2016 out of Cal State-San Bernadino. At 6-8, Wells stands out on the mound but also has really good stuff. In 2018, he went 8-4 with a 2.80 ERA in 16 starts at High-A Ft. Myers before making six appearances in Double-A Pensacola where he posted a 1.65 ERA. In 119 1/3 innings, he struck out 121 batters. He was chosen the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2018 as well as the Harmon Killebrew Award winner for the Miracle. Unfortunately, in spring training 2019, Wells hurt his elbow. After trying to rehab, he needed Tommy John surgery and missed the 2019 season. Based on his rehab from surgery, he may have been able to make a few appearances late in the 2020 season, but obviously was unable to do so. So again, the Twins took a chance, leaving him unprotected, and the Orioles took a shot. While Wells started out slowly, getting irregular innings, he has become a bright spot in the Orioles 2021 roster. In 40 games, he is 2-3 with two saves. He has a 4.17 ERA and a 0.93 ERA. In 54 innings, he has given up just 38 hits, walked just 12 and struck out 64 batters. In the past two weeks, Wells has become the Orioles’ closer. He recorded two saves before having two blown saves in his past two outings. However, in a 25 game stretch before those two games, he has a 1.74 ERA, a 0.52 WHIP and opponents hit just .132 against him. In that time, he gave up just 14 hits, walked two and struck out 36 batters in 31 innings. Wells has a mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup, a slider and a slow curveball. With that pitch mix, could he return to being a starter moving forward, or will he remain a potentially-dominant reliever. BAILEY OBER Adding Jordan Balazovic to the Twins 40-man roster last November was the easy decision, to be sure. Ben Rortvedt, as a top catching prospect, was also an easy addition as well. However, I would assume many (or most) Twins fans were probably surprised when they learned that Bailey Ober had been added to the 40-man roster. Like others, Ober missed the 2020 season completely. He was not at the team’s alternate site. He did not participate in the Instructional League. In 2019, he went 8-0 with a 0.69 ERA between High-A Ft. Myers, Double-A Pensacola. In 78 2/3 innings, he walked nine batters and struck out 100 batters. Ober pitched little during spring training and made just four starts at St. Paul before getting called up to the big leagues in mid-May. Since then, he has been terrific. In 18 starts, he is 2-2 with a 4.12 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. In 83 innings, he has walked 17 and struck out 87 batters. As impressive as he has been, the Twins have found a way to keep him healthy following a missed season. He is currently at 99 innings and should make two or three more starts before the end of the season. I’d say that the Twins front office was right in adding Ober to the 40-man roster. JOSE MIRANDA In 2016, the Twins took prep hitters Alex Kirilloff, Ben Rortvedt, Akil Baddoo and Jose Miranda all within the first 74 picks of the draft. Kirilloff and Rortvedt had been added to the 40-man roster. Baddoo was lost in the Rule 5 draft to the Tigers. And, the Twins also left infielder Jose Miranda unprotected. Like others, Miranda was not invited to big league spring training in 2020. He was not a participant at the alternate site last year. He went to Instructional League, and then he put up some big numbers playing winter ball in Puerto Rico last offseason including playing in the Caribbean Series. As the Rule 5 draft was approaching, there were definitely indications that Miranda could be selected. Fortunately, when the MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft concluded, Miranda’s name had not been called. Can you imagine if the Twins had lost Jose Miranda in the Rule 5 draft too? Scouting reports always indicated that Miranda had immense power potential. In 2018, he had 27 doubles and 16 homers. In 2019, he had 26 doubles and eight homers. This season, the power has come together. He began the season with 47 games at Double-A Wichita. He hit .345/.408/.588 (.996) with eight doubles and 13 homers. In 67 games since joining the St. Paul Saints, he has hit .341/.395/.564 (.959) with 19 doubles and 15 home runs. Speaking of putting it all together, Miranda has hit .343/.400/.574 (.974) with 27 doubles, 28 homers and 86 RBI in 114 games. Miranda’s prospect stock has increased as much as any hitter in the Twins system in 2021, and he finds himself on the edge of the big leagues. If it doesn’t happen by the end of the season, he is a given to be protected this November. OTHERS I thought it might be fun to take a look at my rankings from last November when I ranked (guessed) which players the Twins would add. Here is how I ranked them: RHP Jordan Balazovic - Easy decision, he pitched at Double-A this year. OF Akil Baddoo - see above C Ben Rortvedt - has split the season between Triple-A and the Twins. SS Wander Javier - had ups and downs in High-A Cedar Rapids. Free agent at the end of the season. RHP Luis Rijo - Had visa issues, and soon after his return had Tommy John surgery. 3B Jose Miranda - see above. RHP Griffin Jax - has made his MLB debut in 2021. 2B Yunior Severino - Started season in Ft. Myers, but has crushed the ball since moving up to Cedar Rapids. OF Gabriel Maciel - Spent the full season in Cedar Rapids. LHP Charlie Barnes - has made his MLB debut in 2021. RHP Bailey Ober - see above. LHP Jovani Moran - recently made his MLB debut. RHP Tyler Wells - see above. LHP Bryan Sammons - has split the season between AA and AAA. 1B/OF Trey Cabbage - has hit 27 homers between Cedar Rapids and Wichita. Free agent at season’s end. I’m sure the Twins would want to bring him back. 1B Zander Wiel - Recently Released SUMMARY Most years, only a handful of Rule 5 picks actually make their team’s Opening Day roster and stick through the season. In an unprecedented 2020, 40-man roster decisions were more difficult than usual. Unfortunately, the Twins lost two players who have been impactful for their new organizations. They were lucky not to lose Jose Miranda or Jovani Moran too. However, they did well in recognizing the need to protect Bailey Ober. As we start the process of thinking about who might be added to the team’s 40-man roster this coming November, it should be a bit easier since there has been a season to evaluate players again!
  19. The Twins made a wise choice in protecting Bailey Ober last offseason. It looks like they made two key mistakes in the same area by not adding Tyler Wells or Akil Baddoo to the 40-man roster. Let’s check in on these former Twins prospects. View full video
  20. The Twins made a wise choice in protecting Bailey Ober last offseason. It looks like they made two key mistakes in the same area by not adding Tyler Wells or Akil Baddoo to the 40-man roster. Let’s check in on these former Twins prospects.
  21. There’s no denying that 2021 has been a year of failed expectations for the Twins. Between ineffective performance and injuries, the team has fallen flat consistently. Looking at 2022, they have some big questions to answer. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will ultimately steer the direction of the 2022 club this offseason. It’s a very stripped-down roster compared to how this season started in terms of expectations, and how the front office decides to rebuild or retool is yet to be determined. However, there are still pieces in place, and answering questions about three key subjects could determine Minnesota’s outlook in the year ahead. Max Kepler Signed to an extension at the same time as Jorge Polanco, Kepler was given the larger contract. He responded by posting a career-best .855 OPS and was a key contributor on the Bomba Squad. In 155 games since he’s posted just a .737 OPS and 103 OPS+. To say he’s failed expectations would be putting it lightly. Still just 28 years old, Kepler does hope for a prime resurgence to be in front of him. Minnesota dreamed of a player ready to take a step forward, and they saw it for just a single season. Much of how the Twins were expected to compete in 2021 and beyond was reliant on the core of Kepler, Polanco, Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton. Those players reaching the peaks of their potential at the same time was always the developmental hope. As pointed out by Twins Daily contributors Nash Walker and Tom Froemming, there’s a lot under the hood to like about Kepler. He’s a strong defender, and the inputs still suggest that production has room for positive regression. It’s getting late early, though, and the reality is results must follow. The Twins outfield could be crowded next season, with Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach joining Buxton and Kepler on more of a full-time basis. This winter, the front office may be tempted by dealing the German-born corner. What is the next step for Kepler, and does it happen with the Twins? Miguel Sano On the books for $9.25 million in 2022, Miguel Sano would seem to be in the Twins plans for the upcoming year fiscally. While there were times he looked essentially unplayable at the beginning of 2021, the reality is that he’s a hulking power hitter that’s always been susceptible to cold streaks. The timing wasn’t there out of the gate, but not playing him has often been fruitless. Since July 4, Sano has posted an .865 OPS, which has jumped up to an .895 OPS in September. He’s an asset at the dish while being a patient and potent slugger. The ability at first base leaves plenty to be desired, but there’s an argument to be made that keeps his head in the game rather than just having him hit. Presumably, the Twins won’t have a consistent designated hitter in 2022, which would seem optimal when it comes to roster construction. With Kirilloff worth taking time at first base and Josh Donaldson benefitting from days off in the field, rotating through bats makes sense. Where Miguel Sano fits into the Twins plans next season remains to be seen. Is he cast entirely as their designated hitter, how much time does he split with Kirilloff at first, and is the club more adequately prepared to ride with him through the low points? Starting Rotation Surprisingly the Twins bullpen has taken a positive turn down the stretch, and a unit that was a complete zero to start the year has produced in the latter half of the season. There are usable pieces there looking ahead to 2022, and even Alex Colome could wind up finding his option selected by Minnesota. When it comes to the rotation, the front office has its hands full. Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan look like future pieces, but counting on either of them to be the Opening Day starter seems like an acceptance of futility. Depth and quality would suggest a need for a higher ceiling option to be brought in, and where or how high Falvey aims should say plenty about the intentions for competitiveness. As was the case coming into 2021, Minnesota has plenty of top prospects on the pitching side. Many were shelved at different points throughout this season after having a year off in 2020, and relying on them as more than a bonus seems foolhardy. However, building a group punctuated with retread veterans shouldn’t be expected to move the needle much either. Derek Falvey’s calling card in coming to the Twins was pitching prowess, and while he’s helped develop some throughout the system, an overhaul like this will take some serious architecting. 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
  22. Every team has players that don't get the credit they deserve. Minnesota's season has been tough to watch, but these three players have made things a little more tolerable. "Underrated" can mean slightly different things to different people. Briefly, it's simply defined as - using baseball players in this example - a player who is not rated as highly by people as you think they should be. So, here are three Twins players that I believe are most underrated by Twins fans. Do you agree? Or, feel free to add your most-underrated Twins in the Comments below. 3. Bailey Ober, SP Following the trade deadline, things could have completely fallen apart for the Twins. The front office had traded away two pitchers from the team's Opening Day rotation. By doing this, the team looked to internal options that might fit into the 2022 starting rotation. Enter Bailey Ober and a boost some fans might not have been expecting. Ober has all but solidified his spot in next year's rotation with a tremendous rookie campaign. According to MLB.com, he has a 5.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio that ranks first among rookie seasons in Twins history (minimum 80 innings). Currently, he ranks among baseball's best in walk percentage (93rd percentile) and chase rate (84th percentile). The Twins have played .500 baseball in the second half, and Ober has provided some rotational stability. 2. Caleb Thielbar, RP Minnesota's bullpen was in shambles at the beginning of the season, but Caleb Thielbar has been one of the team's biggest bright spots in a dull year. Pitch selection has been one of the most significant changes for Thielbar in his second stint with the Twins. He uses his slider nearly 35% of the time, and batters have posted a .172 batting average and a .313 slugging percentage. Out of necessity, Thielbar shifted to a set-up role near the trade deadline, and he has been part of a bullpen turnaround. Since then, the Twins bullpen has posted a 3.20 ERA and has the American League's highest Win Probability Added. Among the AL's left-handed relievers, Thielbar ranks third in WPA. His baseball-playing career was supposed to be over, and now the Twins hope he sticks around for a while. 1. Luis Arraez, UTL There have certainly been multiple reasons to turn off the Twins this season, but Luis Arraez hasn't been one of them. Only two Twins players, Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton, have a higher WAR than Arraez. He is getting on base 36% of the time and hitting close to .300, which has him just outside the AL's top-10. His 106 OPS+ is a career-low, but it also points to a good offensive season, even for a player with minimal power. Defensively, he has also played over 40 games at second base and third base. Minnesota switched Arraez to a utility role because the team wanted to get better defensively. At last check, Arraez ranks as the seventh-best AL third baseman according to SABR's Defensive Index. He likely will never win a Gold Glove, but he has been more than competent at the hot corner. How would you rank these players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  23. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will ultimately steer the direction of the 2022 club this offseason. It’s a very stripped-down roster compared to how this season started in terms of expectations, and how the front office decides to rebuild or retool is yet to be determined. However, there are still pieces in place, and answering questions about three key subjects could determine Minnesota’s outlook in the year ahead. Max Kepler Signed to an extension at the same time as Jorge Polanco, Kepler was given the larger contract. He responded by posting a career-best .855 OPS and was a key contributor on the Bomba Squad. In 155 games since he’s posted just a .737 OPS and 103 OPS+. To say he’s failed expectations would be putting it lightly. Still just 28 years old, Kepler does hope for a prime resurgence to be in front of him. Minnesota dreamed of a player ready to take a step forward, and they saw it for just a single season. Much of how the Twins were expected to compete in 2021 and beyond was reliant on the core of Kepler, Polanco, Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton. Those players reaching the peaks of their potential at the same time was always the developmental hope. As pointed out by Twins Daily contributors Nash Walker and Tom Froemming, there’s a lot under the hood to like about Kepler. He’s a strong defender, and the inputs still suggest that production has room for positive regression. It’s getting late early, though, and the reality is results must follow. The Twins outfield could be crowded next season, with Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach joining Buxton and Kepler on more of a full-time basis. This winter, the front office may be tempted by dealing the German-born corner. What is the next step for Kepler, and does it happen with the Twins? Miguel Sano On the books for $9.25 million in 2022, Miguel Sano would seem to be in the Twins plans for the upcoming year fiscally. While there were times he looked essentially unplayable at the beginning of 2021, the reality is that he’s a hulking power hitter that’s always been susceptible to cold streaks. The timing wasn’t there out of the gate, but not playing him has often been fruitless. Since July 4, Sano has posted an .865 OPS, which has jumped up to an .895 OPS in September. He’s an asset at the dish while being a patient and potent slugger. The ability at first base leaves plenty to be desired, but there’s an argument to be made that keeps his head in the game rather than just having him hit. Presumably, the Twins won’t have a consistent designated hitter in 2022, which would seem optimal when it comes to roster construction. With Kirilloff worth taking time at first base and Josh Donaldson benefitting from days off in the field, rotating through bats makes sense. Where Miguel Sano fits into the Twins plans next season remains to be seen. Is he cast entirely as their designated hitter, how much time does he split with Kirilloff at first, and is the club more adequately prepared to ride with him through the low points? Starting Rotation Surprisingly the Twins bullpen has taken a positive turn down the stretch, and a unit that was a complete zero to start the year has produced in the latter half of the season. There are usable pieces there looking ahead to 2022, and even Alex Colome could wind up finding his option selected by Minnesota. When it comes to the rotation, the front office has its hands full. Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan look like future pieces, but counting on either of them to be the Opening Day starter seems like an acceptance of futility. Depth and quality would suggest a need for a higher ceiling option to be brought in, and where or how high Falvey aims should say plenty about the intentions for competitiveness. As was the case coming into 2021, Minnesota has plenty of top prospects on the pitching side. Many were shelved at different points throughout this season after having a year off in 2020, and relying on them as more than a bonus seems foolhardy. However, building a group punctuated with retread veterans shouldn’t be expected to move the needle much either. Derek Falvey’s calling card in coming to the Twins was pitching prowess, and while he’s helped develop some throughout the system, an overhaul like this will take some serious architecting. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  24. The Twins drop the series rubber match and fall to 63-80 on the season with a 5-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. Buxton, Brent, Bailey, and the Bullpen tried their best but the top of the Royals lineup was too much for the Twins. That and more in today's recap! Box Score Bailey Ober: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 6 K (65.3-percent strikes) Homeruns: none Bottom 3 WPA: Sano (-.409), Alcala (-.184), Astudillo (-.154) Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs) Another Strong Start from Bailey Ober Take out the first six batters that Ober faced today and you would remove three of the five hits he gave up and both earned runs. Whit Merrifield and Nicky Lopez got things going early for the Royals offense with a double and single, respectively, followed by a Salvador Perez sacrifice fly giving the Royals an early 1-0 lead. Ober got out of the jam with back-to-back flyouts before giving up a 403 foot homerun to Adalberto Mondesi to begin the 2nd inning. He settled in quickly after the homerun, striking out six of the next seven batters he faced and retiring nine consecutive batters total, before giving up a single to Ryan O’Hearn to start the fifth. The O’Hearn single, coupled with a single from Sebastian Rivero in the nine hole, would mark the end Ober’s day as he was slated to face Merrifield with one out and runners on 1st and 2nd. Despite being at just 75 pitches, he was pulled in favor of recent call-up and fellow rookie reliever, Jovani Moran rather than being asked to face the top of the Royals lineup for a third time. Sometimes there is more to strong starts than innings pitched and strikeouts, especially when you’re looking for positives in an otherwise awful year. Ober has been a nice surprise for the Twins rotation as today marks his ninth consecutive starts of three earned runs or less. The naysayers will bring up the lack of the innings, many of those starts are five innings or less, but lest not forget he’s supposed to be in St. Paul right now. Instead, he’s pitching in Minneapolis and generated 16 whiffs today, which is elite when he only threw 75 pitches. Moreover, he’s quietly putting together one of the better rookie campaigns that people outside of Twins Territory have never heard of. Offense Can't Survive on Buxton's Multi-Hit Day Despite being a rookie, this was already Kris Bubic’s fifth appearance (fourth start) against the Minnesota Twins, who he has a 4.76 ERA against, but today would be different. After giving up a lead off double to Byron Buxton and a sacrifice fly to Luis Arraez two batters later, he would shut down the Twins giving up just two additional hits (Buxton again, then Simmons) over the next five innings. The Twins would chase him out in the sixth with a Buxton leadoff single, followed by a Rob Refsnyder single, Luis Arraez lineout, and Josh Donaldson walk to load the bases. Righty reliever Domingo Tapia would come on to strikeout Miguel Sano on just three pitches but wouldn’t come away unscathed after a clutch two-out double from Brent Rooker to knot the game at three runs apiece. Aside from Luis Arraez reaching on a Mondesi error in the eighth and a Kepler single in the ninth, the Twins offense went down quietly in the final three innings of the game. Bullpen Usage Chart Moran came on and immediately christened himself as a Twins reliever by allowing an inherited run to score off of a Whit Merrifield double. He settled in to finish the 5th but couldn’t finish the sixth after loading the bases with a lead off single and back-to-back walks with two outs. Ralph Garza Jr., who’s another rookie putting together a solid season, would need just one pitch to get out of the jam and pitched a clean seventh inning. Jorge Alcala pitched the eighth allowing the first two hitters to reach base and ended up allowing one of those runners to score on a Kyle Isbel single. Juan Minaya did more of the same in the ninth which resulted in the Twins chasing two runs entering the last half inning of the game. Despite the rough finish, it was a decent day overall for the bullpen who pitched 4 2/3 innings giving up just two earned runs. WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Minaya 0 0 40 0 17 57 Thielbar 8 0 0 26 0 34 Farrell 0 32 0 12 0 44 Colomé 0 0 12 0 0 12 Coulombe 0 15 0 23 0 38 Duffey 17 0 11 0 0 28 Alcalá 0 0 9 0 18 27 Garza Jr. 0 19 0 0 11 30 Moran 0 0 0 0 37 37 View full article
  25. "Underrated" can mean slightly different things to different people. Briefly, it's simply defined as - using baseball players in this example - a player who is not rated as highly by people as you think they should be. So, here are three Twins players that I believe are most underrated by Twins fans. Do you agree? Or, feel free to add your most-underrated Twins in the Comments below. 3. Bailey Ober, SP Following the trade deadline, things could have completely fallen apart for the Twins. The front office had traded away two pitchers from the team's Opening Day rotation. By doing this, the team looked to internal options that might fit into the 2022 starting rotation. Enter Bailey Ober and a boost some fans might not have been expecting. Ober has all but solidified his spot in next year's rotation with a tremendous rookie campaign. According to MLB.com, he has a 5.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio that ranks first among rookie seasons in Twins history (minimum 80 innings). Currently, he ranks among baseball's best in walk percentage (93rd percentile) and chase rate (84th percentile). The Twins have played .500 baseball in the second half, and Ober has provided some rotational stability. 2. Caleb Thielbar, RP Minnesota's bullpen was in shambles at the beginning of the season, but Caleb Thielbar has been one of the team's biggest bright spots in a dull year. Pitch selection has been one of the most significant changes for Thielbar in his second stint with the Twins. He uses his slider nearly 35% of the time, and batters have posted a .172 batting average and a .313 slugging percentage. Out of necessity, Thielbar shifted to a set-up role near the trade deadline, and he has been part of a bullpen turnaround. Since then, the Twins bullpen has posted a 3.20 ERA and has the American League's highest Win Probability Added. Among the AL's left-handed relievers, Thielbar ranks third in WPA. His baseball-playing career was supposed to be over, and now the Twins hope he sticks around for a while. 1. Luis Arraez, UTL There have certainly been multiple reasons to turn off the Twins this season, but Luis Arraez hasn't been one of them. Only two Twins players, Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton, have a higher WAR than Arraez. He is getting on base 36% of the time and hitting close to .300, which has him just outside the AL's top-10. His 106 OPS+ is a career-low, but it also points to a good offensive season, even for a player with minimal power. Defensively, he has also played over 40 games at second base and third base. Minnesota switched Arraez to a utility role because the team wanted to get better defensively. At last check, Arraez ranks as the seventh-best AL third baseman according to SABR's Defensive Index. He likely will never win a Gold Glove, but he has been more than competent at the hot corner. How would you rank these players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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