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  1. Brian Dozier had a string of seasons for the Minnesota Twins where it was arguable that he was the best second basemen in baseball. That torch has now been passed, and with two options in the mix, it may be one of the strongest roles Minnesota has had in quite some time. From 2013-2018 Brian Dozier played in nearly 900 games and blasted 161 homers for the Twins as their primary second basemen. He took time to settle into the role and changed his approach at the plate, but became an All-Star in 2015 and earned top-15 votes each of the next two seasons. In 2016-17 Dozier combined to hit 76 dingers with an .871 OPS. For a position often seen as an afterthought in the infield, he’d become a beacon of strength. Fast-forward to where we are now, and the Twins have successfully passed the torch to a new pair of talents. Signed to an extension in 2019, Jorge Polanco is potentially under team control through the 2025 season. He dealt with an ankle injury that changed his abilities drastically, but now with a clean bill of health, he looks like one of the best in baseball at the position. Since June 1 this season, Polanco owns a .926 OPS. He was a first-time All-Star in 2019 and has posted an .806 OPS over the past three seasons, even with the dismal 2020 factored in. There were always legitimate concerns regarding Polanco’s range and arm at shortstop. It was a position he had played often, but one he was ultimately miscast in. Sliding over to second base full time this season, Twins coaches talked up the fact that not only would his bat play, but his glove may find gold there. It’s safe to say the experiment has been wildly successful, and the return to offensive prowess is a welcomed shot in the arm. Recently turning 28-years-old, it’s fair to assume Polanco’s best seasons are still ahead of him, and for a Twins team looking to rebound, that’s a great thing to dream on. Then there’s the opposite but an equally successful type of player at second base for the Twins. Luis Arraez may be the second coming of Rod Carew, and he’s here to challenge for a batting title on an annual basis. Nagging knee injuries have kept him off the field at times, but the bat has remained intact when he’s out there. A .317 average this season marks a career-low, but it’s continued to rise, and the .325 mark across his first 205 big-league games is nothing to scoff at. Arraez will never play with the power that either Dozier or Polanco has, and he’s more Dozier (Gold Glove’s are offensive awards sometimes) than Polanco with the leather, but calling second his primary home helps to push this narrative. Luis has done well for himself by establishing utility around the diamond, but make no mistake that the pipeline Minnesota has pushed here is impressive. Add in that Nick Gordon is beginning to realize some of his potential in the big leagues, a converted shortstop moving to the first base side, and this situation continues to be worth monitoring. Spencer Steer is another name down on the farm that’s pushing his way towards the top and watching the Twins develop these athletes is exciting. Second base is often considered the fallback for a shortstop with a lackluster arm. Be that what it may, but Minnesota isn’t simply throwing out good defenders that have little other tools at the position. Rocco Baldelli has employed lineups that can do damage, and even before the current skipper got here, second base has become an area of strength in the system. Maybe Jorge Polanco pushes for the best in baseball title down the line, but even if he doesn’t, he’s currently headlining an impressive position group within this organization. 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
  2. From 2013-2018 Brian Dozier played in nearly 900 games and blasted 161 homers for the Twins as their primary second basemen. He took time to settle into the role and changed his approach at the plate, but became an All-Star in 2015 and earned top-15 votes each of the next two seasons. In 2016-17 Dozier combined to hit 76 dingers with an .871 OPS. For a position often seen as an afterthought in the infield, he’d become a beacon of strength. Fast-forward to where we are now, and the Twins have successfully passed the torch to a new pair of talents. Signed to an extension in 2019, Jorge Polanco is potentially under team control through the 2025 season. He dealt with an ankle injury that changed his abilities drastically, but now with a clean bill of health, he looks like one of the best in baseball at the position. Since June 1 this season, Polanco owns a .926 OPS. He was a first-time All-Star in 2019 and has posted an .806 OPS over the past three seasons, even with the dismal 2020 factored in. There were always legitimate concerns regarding Polanco’s range and arm at shortstop. It was a position he had played often, but one he was ultimately miscast in. Sliding over to second base full time this season, Twins coaches talked up the fact that not only would his bat play, but his glove may find gold there. It’s safe to say the experiment has been wildly successful, and the return to offensive prowess is a welcomed shot in the arm. Recently turning 28-years-old, it’s fair to assume Polanco’s best seasons are still ahead of him, and for a Twins team looking to rebound, that’s a great thing to dream on. Then there’s the opposite but an equally successful type of player at second base for the Twins. Luis Arraez may be the second coming of Rod Carew, and he’s here to challenge for a batting title on an annual basis. Nagging knee injuries have kept him off the field at times, but the bat has remained intact when he’s out there. A .317 average this season marks a career-low, but it’s continued to rise, and the .325 mark across his first 205 big-league games is nothing to scoff at. Arraez will never play with the power that either Dozier or Polanco has, and he’s more Dozier (Gold Glove’s are offensive awards sometimes) than Polanco with the leather, but calling second his primary home helps to push this narrative. Luis has done well for himself by establishing utility around the diamond, but make no mistake that the pipeline Minnesota has pushed here is impressive. Add in that Nick Gordon is beginning to realize some of his potential in the big leagues, a converted shortstop moving to the first base side, and this situation continues to be worth monitoring. Spencer Steer is another name down on the farm that’s pushing his way towards the top and watching the Twins develop these athletes is exciting. Second base is often considered the fallback for a shortstop with a lackluster arm. Be that what it may, but Minnesota isn’t simply throwing out good defenders that have little other tools at the position. Rocco Baldelli has employed lineups that can do damage, and even before the current skipper got here, second base has become an area of strength in the system. Maybe Jorge Polanco pushes for the best in baseball title down the line, but even if he doesn’t, he’s currently headlining an impressive position group within this organization. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. Minnesota was one of the biggest surprises during the 2017 season after losing an MLB high 103-games the previous season. As the calendar turned to July, the Twins found themselves two games behind the Cleveland and the team stayed within striking distance for much of the month. However, as July ended and the trade deadline approached, the club lost seven of nine games and sat 6.5 games back in the division. The team went from buyers to sellers over a few days and that’s how the deadline played out. Falvey and Levine made it clear entering the deadline that the team wasn’t going to sway from their long-term vision. "In order to accomplish that, we maybe started the year not anticipating being a clear buyer at the Deadline," Levine said at the time. "I don't think we feel that's changed dramatically, other than maybe adding his one qualifier: We're probably not going to be inclined to spend lavishly on short-term assets, but we would be very open to spending aggressively on assets that we could use to propel our team forward this year and for years to come.” The 2017 season impacted the team’s decision making at the trade deadline, because it shifted them from being likely sellers to contemplating buying. The team held on to veterans like Brian Dozier, Ervin Santana, and Joe Mauer. There was also the debacle that was the Jaime Garcia trade as the front office went from buyers to sellers in less than a week. After the deadline, the team went on a run to finish in the second Wild Card spot, but there might be some lessons learned by the front office. During the 2021 season, Minnesota is having another surprising season, but it is for all the wrong reasons. The Twins entered the season believing they would be fighting for a third straight AL Central title and now the club sits double digit games out of first. Looking at the team’s upcoming schedule and it’s easy to imagine a scenario where the club might be facing a 2017 decision before the trade deadline. Leading into the All-Star Game, the Twins have 12 straight intra-division games including six against the division leading White Sox. The Twins have too much talent to be this far below .500 for the entire season, so they may accidentally improve as the season progresses. Minnesota’s pitching has improved, and the offense has become more of the force they were expected to be at season’s start. There’s certainly a realistic chance of the Twins being within 6.5 games or better at the trade deadline. This can put them in a similar position as 2017, but this time the team was expected to be a contender. Many expect the Twins to be sellers before the trade deadline, but they hold their destiny in their own hands. Veterans like Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, and Michael Pineda can be dealt, but the club might also find themselves back in the playoff race with plenty of lessons learned from 2017. Do you think the front office learned from 2017 deadline? How will it impact the 2021 trade deadline? 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
  4. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine had some tough decisions to make during their first year at the helm of the Minnesota Twins. Are there any lessons that can be learned from the 2017 trade deadline? Minnesota was one of the biggest surprises during the 2017 season after losing an MLB high 103-games the previous season. As the calendar turned to July, the Twins found themselves two games behind the Cleveland and the team stayed within striking distance for much of the month. However, as July ended and the trade deadline approached, the club lost seven of nine games and sat 6.5 games back in the division. The team went from buyers to sellers over a few days and that’s how the deadline played out. Falvey and Levine made it clear entering the deadline that the team wasn’t going to sway from their long-term vision. "In order to accomplish that, we maybe started the year not anticipating being a clear buyer at the Deadline," Levine said at the time. "I don't think we feel that's changed dramatically, other than maybe adding his one qualifier: We're probably not going to be inclined to spend lavishly on short-term assets, but we would be very open to spending aggressively on assets that we could use to propel our team forward this year and for years to come.” The 2017 season impacted the team’s decision making at the trade deadline, because it shifted them from being likely sellers to contemplating buying. The team held on to veterans like Brian Dozier, Ervin Santana, and Joe Mauer. There was also the debacle that was the Jaime Garcia trade as the front office went from buyers to sellers in less than a week. After the deadline, the team went on a run to finish in the second Wild Card spot, but there might be some lessons learned by the front office. During the 2021 season, Minnesota is having another surprising season, but it is for all the wrong reasons. The Twins entered the season believing they would be fighting for a third straight AL Central title and now the club sits double digit games out of first. Looking at the team’s upcoming schedule and it’s easy to imagine a scenario where the club might be facing a 2017 decision before the trade deadline. Leading into the All-Star Game, the Twins have 12 straight intra-division games including six against the division leading White Sox. The Twins have too much talent to be this far below .500 for the entire season, so they may accidentally improve as the season progresses. Minnesota’s pitching has improved, and the offense has become more of the force they were expected to be at season’s start. There’s certainly a realistic chance of the Twins being within 6.5 games or better at the trade deadline. This can put them in a similar position as 2017, but this time the team was expected to be a contender. Many expect the Twins to be sellers before the trade deadline, but they hold their destiny in their own hands. Veterans like Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, and Michael Pineda can be dealt, but the club might also find themselves back in the playoff race with plenty of lessons learned from 2017. Do you think the front office learned from 2017 deadline? How will it impact the 2021 trade deadline? 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
  5. Dozier’s Path to Late Bloomer Minnesota took Brian Dozier in the eighth round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of the University of Southern Mississippi. With his college experience, he only spent parts of four seasons in the minors. He showed very little power throughout the early professional career as he never hit double digit home runs in the minors. In fact, his highest OPS in any minor league season was .890 when he spent part of the season as an older player in the Florida State League. He wouldn’t debut until his age-25 season and his first full season was a year later (2013). Twins fans are well aware of what Dozier was able to accomplish in his time at the big-league level. He clubbed 18 or more home runs from 2013-2017 including 42 home runs in 2016 and 34 home runs in 2017. His 42 home runs are an AL record for home runs by a primary second baseman in a single season. Dozier was clearly a late bloomer, but the Twins were able to allow him to develop because the team was in the midst of multiple losing seasons. Now the Twins have a variety of options around the infield which might be blocking the next Brian Dozier from emerging. The Next Brian Dozier Nick Gordon wasn’t exactly a late round pick or a player with college experience, but he’s at the point in his career where it might be a surprise if he makes a significant contribution at the big-league level. Gordon has seemed to be on the fringes of the 40-man roster for multiple seasons. There must be a reason the front office has kept him around. Last year, Gordon went through a life changing experience as he was hospitalized after contracting COVID-19. He’s a young, health athlete and the virus still took its toll on him. Now he will enter the 2021 season with something to prove to himself and the Twins organization. Minnesota is easing Gordon into the new season, but it doesn’t mean he won’t get the chance to contribute. In 2019, he played 70 games at Triple-A where he was nearly four years younger than the average age of the competition at that level. Even in a small sample size, he was able to post some impressive numbers. He hit .298/.342/.459 (.801) with 36 extra-base hits. Out of his 87 hits, a third of them were doubles which is impressive when all put 24 of his at-bats came against older pitching. Gordon should spend the year in St. Paul and his continued inclusion on the 40-man roster means he has a chance to make his big-league debut during the 2021 campaign. Unfortunately, he is behind multiple players on the depth chart and the Twins aren’t in the same place they were when Dozier made his debut. Also, it’s tough to know what Gordon will look like as the season begins with no game action last season and his extended COVID battle. Injuries can happen to any player and Gordon will need to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity if it is presented to him. Do you think Gordon can be a late bloomer like Dozier? Will he be given the opportunity? 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. Time can change the view of a trade, so here’s what was said back in 2018 at the time of the deal. What Did People Say at the Time of the Trade? Los Angeles had been interested in Dozier for multiple years, but a deal never materialized. Minnesota’s asking price included Walker Buehler or Cody Bellinger and it’s clear now why the Dodgers wanted to hang on to these young assets. The Dodgers eventually dealt Jose De Leon to Tampa Bay for Logan Forsythe who became part of this trade. "Our lineup against left-handed pitching has been a concern of ours, particularly over the last month or two," said Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi. "When teams can game plan and stack their pitching when they think you have a weakness on a certain side, to bring in a right-handed bat gives our lineup really good balance." Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said, "Brian has been a meaningful part of this franchise. This an opportunity for him to go to a winning ballclub that was in the World Series last year and with their roster is looking to maybe finish it off this time. We just felt like for us as an organization, this was the right time to make this decision. We were able to acquire some talent we feel can help us build toward a championship future." Logan Forsythe was included in the deal to off-set Dozier’s salary and this allowed the Twins to acquire a couple of intriguing prospects in Luke Raley and Devin Smeltzer. Raley was LA’s 26th best prospect entering the season, and this is what Baseball America had to say about him at the time. “Raley is a muscular lefthanded hitter with a potent bat. He shows power to all fields, and has the bat speed and swing path to get to it without sacrificing average…Raley isn’t overly explosive or toolsy, but he does a lot of things well and optimistic evaluators see the chance for him to become an everyday left fielder who hits 20 or more home runs a season” As far as Smeltzer, Baseball America said, “Smeltzer has decent command and an above-average changeup, but his fastball has ticked down from 90-93 mph to 88-90 in his starts this season… Smeltzer throws strikes, and his ticket to the majors will be if he can improve against lefthanded batters (currently batting .289/.326/.446 against him) and rise as a lefty specialist.” Dozier’s Los Angeles Time After joining the Dodgers, Dozier played in 47 regular season games while hitting .182/.300/.350 (.650) with five home runs and nine doubles. Los Angeles made a run to the World Series that year and Dozier played in 11 of the team’s postseason games. He went 2-for-16 with no extra-base hits and five walks. Boston walked away with the title and Dozier walked away in free agency. Baseball Reference gives him a 0.2 WAR for his LA stint, and he had a negative win probability added in the postseason. Minnesota’s Trade Return Forsythe played in 50 games for the Twins and he saw his numbers improve compared to what he had done in Los Angeles that season. He hit .258 with a .356 OBP, but he didn’t hit for much power. He was a free agent following the season and went on to sign with the Texas Rangers. Raley headed to Double-A with the Twins and hit .276/.371/.449 with eight extra-base hits in just under 100 at-bats. He headed to the Arizona Fall League and went 3-for-14 while only appearing in four games. His 2019 season was limited due to a dislocated tendon in his left ankle, which limited him to 38 games. It’s too bad because he was off to a strong start at Triple-A as he already had eight home runs and an .878 OPS. He’d go back to the AFL following the season and hit .244/.312/.439 with nine extra-base hits in 82 at-bats. Last winter, Raley was traded back to the Dodgers as part of the Kenta Maeda deal. This means Smeltzer is the lone piece of this trade still in the Twins organization. While the Dodgers had been using Smeltzer as a reliever, Minnesota gave him an opportunity to start in 2019. Between Double- and Triple-A, he posted a 2.76 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP and 104 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings. At the big-league level, he also showed some promise as he started six games and appeared in 11 games total. As a starter, he had a 4.11 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP over 30 2/3 innings. He struck out 22 and limited batters to hitting .239/.294/.410. This season Smeltzer appeared in seven games and pitched multiple innings in all but one appearance. In his first appearance, he got shelled for five earned runs, but he’d post a 4.50 ERA the rest of the way. Who Won the Trade? At the time, Tom wrote at Twins Daily and gave the Twins a D-grade for this trade. One of his biggest reasons for that was the inclusion of Forsythe in the deal and the possibility that the Twins might not have maximized their return with the other trades that took place leading into the deadline. Hindsight might be 20-20, but this trade is now looking a little more favorable for the Twins. Dozier didn’t do much with his time in LA and the Twins weren’t likely going to extend him a qualifying offer. Minnesota has better corner outfield prospects than Raley, so it was probably easier for the team to include him in the Maeda deal. Plus, the Twins got back the runner-up for AL Cy Young this year, so not too shabby. Smeltzer may never reproduce his 2019 numbers, but he looks like he might be able to fill a big-league role for multiple seasons. Looking back, what do you think about the trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. If you missed any of the previous posts in this series: -Ryan Pressly Trade -Eduardo Escobar Trade MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. FanGraphs went through this exercise while using players drafted (and signed) in the last decade. For the Twins version, it was a little more critical to go further back throughout the team’s history. Spoiler alert... There haven't been that many good starting pitchers in team history. Players were only eligible if they were drafted by the Twins after the fifth round and they had to sign with the club. As the original article said, “To illustrate how much talent is at stake, let’s build some teams of players drafted in rounds that don’t exist in this year’s draft.” Catcher: Mitch Garver (9th Round) Garver was the back-up catcher on the FanGraphs roster, which seems like a slight towards the reigning AL Silver Slugger winner. Their predicting system says that Garver’s 1.8 WAR is just under the 1.9 WAR projected for Tucker Barnhart. Either way, Garver is an easy pick when it comes to the best late round catcher in Twins history. First Base: Kent Hrbek (17th Round) The Twins got lucky by taking a hometown slugger who turned out to be one of the best hitters in team history. He was a key cog in both the team’s World Series titles and he has been a fixture in the Twin Cities since his retirement. Outside of Harmon Killebrew, Hrbek is arguably the best first baseman to ever suit up for the Twins. Second Base: Brian Dozier (8th Round) Dozier was a late bloomer as he didn’t debut until he was 25-years old. He became a fan favorite on some pretty bad Twins teams. From 2015-2017, he averaged 35 home runs including one season with 42 long balls. He won a Gold Glove and even made an All-Star appearance. Third Base: Corey Koskie (26th Round) Koskie was part of a key group of Twins that helped bring the team back from the brink of contraction. Outside of Gary Gaetti, Koskie is the next best third baseman in team history. He played seven years for the Twins and hit .280/.373/.462 with 101 home runs and 180 doubles. His defense at third was also Gold Glove caliber. Shortstop: Jeff Reboulet (10th Round) In five years with the Twins, Reboulet got on base over 33% of the time. He played decent defense at shortstop but having Koskie on the same side of the infield could take some pressure off him. He played on some bad Twins teams in the early 1990’s and went on to have a 12-year big league career. Outfield: Matt Lawton (13th Round), Steve Braun (10th Round), Lyman Bostock (26th Round) Lawton would become a two-time All Star in his career and one of those seasons was with the Twins. That year, he hit .305/.405/.460 with 13 home runs and 44 doubles, a career high. Braun and Bostock might not be as well known to younger Twins fans. Braun played for the Twins from 1971-1976 and had a .757 OPS. Bostock played four seasons at the big-league level and three of them were in Minnesota. For his career, he hit .311/.365/.427 while averaging over 25 doubles per season. From 1976-1978, only Rod Carew and Dave Parker hit for a higher batting average than Bostock. He was tragically murdered near the end of the 1978 season. DH: Jason Kubel (12th Round) During his minor league career, Kubel looked like he might be on a path to join Mauer and Morneau as a middle of the order bat. Baseball America ranked him as the 17th best prospect on their top-100 list entering the 2005 season. A devastating knee injury slowed his prospect status, but he went on to have a decent 10-year career as a big leaguer. Bench: Steve Lombardozzi (9th Round), Rob Wilfong (13th Round), Danny Valencia (19th Round), Rick Dempsey (15th Round) Lombardozzi was one of the regular contributors on the team’s run to the 1987 World Series, which happened to be his best big-league season. Wilfong’s best season were in a Twins uniform as he hit .262/.322/.360. Valencia finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting after posting a .799 OPS back in 2010. Dempsey was a catcher for 24 years at the big-league level and he played until he was 42-years old. He seemed like a natural choice to be the back-up catcher behind Garver. Rotation: Brad Radke (8th), Nick Blackburn (29th), Pat Mahomes (6th), Mark Guthrie (7th), Darrell Jackson (9th) This isn’t exactly a rotation that is destined for greatness. Brad Radke is the lone bright spot and it’s tough to consider that Nick Blackburn might be the second-best pitcher in the rotation. Luckily, the bullpen includes some of the top relief pitchers in team history, so the manager could have the starter go once through the line-up and hand the game over to the bullpen. Bullpen: Pat Neshek (6th), Latroy Hawkins (7th), Taylor Rogers (11th), Eddie Guardado (21st), Mike Trombley (14th), AJ Achter (46th), JC Romero (21st) Since the starters are limited, it’s nice to look at all the options available in the bullpen. Neshek, Hawkins and Romero could be used in the middle innings leading into a late inning tandem of Rogers and Guardado. As Twins fans saw last year, Rogers can be used for multiple innings with plenty of effectiveness. Sign me up for this bullpen. How do you feel like this team would do? 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
  8. As we look at the decade of the 2010s, it was pretty disappointing. The Twins opened Target Field in 2010, and they had a great stretch run to get back to the playoffs. And then there were a lot of struggles the rest of the decade. The team almost got to the playoffs again in 2015. They got to the Wild Card game in 2017. A new batch of young stars took their lumps, but things really came together in 2019. Rocco Baldelli's lineup was strong and set the MLB record for homers in a season on their way to a 102-win season. This group includes at least one future Hall of Famer, several Twins Hall of Famers, some All Stars, and some immensely talented players who will lead the Twins in the new decade. Before we jump to the 2020s, let's take one more look back at the 2010s. C - Joe Mauer (2010-2018) 1,159 games, .294/.376/.412 (.788) with 270 doubles, 71 homers, 526 RBI. If you choose to live in the world of What If, imagine what Joe Mauer’s career trajectory had been if not for the foul tip off of his face mask in 2013. At the time, he was hitting .324/.404/.476 (880). And yes, the numbers were never quite the same. He moved from behind the plate to first base… but he still remained a better than average player. He was an All Star in 2012 when he hit .319 and led the league with a .416 On-Base Percentage. He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger in his shortened 2013 season as well. After 2013, he hit over .282 and posted an OPS over .752 just once. In 2017, he hit .305/.384/.417 (.801). Despite the relative struggles, he finished with an OPS+ below league average just once (2% below in 2015). He retired after the 2018 season with the Twins records in Times on Base and Doubles. He had his number #7 retired by the Twins in 2019. 1B - Justin Morneau (2010-2013) 411 games, .272/.340/.451 (.791) with 99 doubles, 58 homers, 237 RBI. Speaking of What Ifs… Justin Morneau may have been having his best season in 2010 when he slid into second base and took a knee to the head. At the time, he was hitting .345/.437/.618 (1.055) with 25 doubles and 18 home runs in 81 games. He was headed to the All Star game, but instead missed the rest of the season. He returned for a partial season in 2011 then spent all of 2012 with the team. With the Twins, he just didn’t fully recover from the concussion. Late in 2013, he was traded to the Pirates and was on their playoff roster. He won a batting title in Colorado in 2014 (.319) and hit .310 in 2015 before hit career ending after 58 games with the White Sox in 2016. 2B - Brian Dozier (2012-2018) 955 games, .248/.325/.447 (.772) with 202 doubles, 167 homers, 491 RBI. Dozier was the Twins 8th round pick in 2009 from Southern Mississippi. He made his MLB debut as a shortstop in 2012. That offseason, he worked with Paul Molitor and successfully transferred to second base the following season. He continued to get better each year. But his power stroke showed up in 2013 when he hit 18 homers. That was the team record for most homers by a second baseman. He hit 23 homers and 33 doubles in 2014. He hit 28 homers in 2008 (with 39 doubles). He played in the 2015 All Star game and homered in his lone at bat. In 2016, he hit 35 doubles and drilled 42 home runs and drove in 99 runs. In 2017, he hit another 30 doubles and 34 homers. He also won a Gold Glove Award that season. He struggled early in 2018 and was traded to the Dodgers at the July deadline. His 167 homers led the Twins for the decade by nearly 50. His 98 stolen bases was 24 more than Ben Revere stole. He played in the 2018 World Series and won a ring in 2019. He signed with the Padres for the 2020 season. 3B - Trevor Plouffe (2010-2016) 723 games, .247/.308/.420 (.727) with 148 doubles, 96 homers, 357 RBI. This is a tough one. Miguel Sano hit 118 homers in the decade, but we’re going with Trevor Plouffe. He was the Twins first, first-round pick in the 2004 draft. He debuted as a shortstop in 2010. He went up and down throughout the 2011 season. In 2012, he came up and for a stretch in June, he and Josh Willingham put on a major power display. In 2013, he finally made the full-time move to third base after playing all over the diamond and became a plus-defender. Plouffe ended that season with a career-high 24 home runs. He was a regular the next three seasons. His 96 homers ranked fourth in the organization in the decade. He split 2017 between the A’s and the Rays, and played in seven games for the Phillies in 2018. He’s now a star in the media! SS - Jorge Polanco (2014-2019) 441 games, .281/.339/.444 (.783) with 104 doubles, 45 homers, 226 RBI. Polanco signed in July 2009 and worked his way up the farm system. He was added to the 40-man roster in December 2013 after a strong season in Cedar Rapids. In 2014, he was called up from Ft. Myers a couple of times as depth, and again in 2015. He became a regular in the second half of 2016 and has been the primary shortstop since, well, except for that 2018 first-half suspension. He was struggling mightily in the first half of 2017. He couldn’t be sent down, but Paul Molitor gave him a weekend of game off, and he came back on fire, and he hasn’t really stopped hitting since. In 2019, he became the first Twins shortstop to start for the American League in the All Star game since Roy Smalley in 1979. He received MVP votes in 2019. LF - Eddie Rosario (2015-2019) 640 games, .270/.309/.479 (.788) with 127 doubles, 106 homers, 346 RBI. Rosario was the Twins 4th round pick in 2010 from Puerto Rico. He put up some great numbers in the minor leagues. Still, it was a surprise when he was called up to the big leagues early in 2015. An even better surprise? In his first MLB at bat, he homered off of Scott Kazmir. That season, he filled the stat line with 18 doubles, 13 homers, 11 stolen bases and a league-leading 15 triples.He added 16 outfield assists that season, showing off a powerful arm. After an up-and-down 2016 season, he has provided power to the Twins lineup the last three years. In 2017, he hit 33 doubles and 27 homers. In 2018, he missed much of September and still hit 31 doubles and 24 homers. Last year, he hit 28 doubles and added career highs in homers (32) and RBI (109). His 106 homers ranks third for the decade. CF - Byron Buxton (2015-2019) 393 games, .237/.292/.414 (.706) with 74 doubles, 38 homers, 145 RBI. Buxton was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. He became one of the top prospects in the game. He was the Baseball America minor league player of the year in 2013. He was promoted from Double-A in mid-2015 when there was a roster crunch. He became a regular in 2016. In 2017, he played in 140 games and hit .253 with 14 doubles, six triples and 16 homers. He also stole 29 bases. He finished the season very strong and received MVP votes. After that season, he was presented the Gold Glove Award. He also won the Platinum Award for the best defensive player regardless of position. Unfortunately, he missed most of 2018 with injury. In 2019, he was putting together a great season when he ran into a wall and hurt his left shoulder. Through 87 games, he was hitting .262 with 30 doubles, four triples and ten homers. RF - Max Kepler (2015-2019) 553 games, .238/.319/.444 (.763) with 114 doubles, 92 homers, 280 RBI. Like Polanco, Kepler signed with the Twins in July 2009. The Berlin native spent a year in the GCL and then played two seasons in Elizabethton. In 2013, he moved up to Cedar Rapids. In AA Chattanooga in 2015, he hit .322/.416/.531 (947) with 32 doubles, 13 triples, nine homers and 18 steals. He was the Southern League MVP and after winning a league championship, he was promoted to the big leagues where he played in three games at the end of the season. He came up early in 2016 and hit a solid .235/.309/.424 with 20 doubles and 17 home runs. A solid .734 OPS for a rookie. But in 2017, his OPS was .737, and in 2018, it was .727. He hit 17, 19 and 20 home runs. All solid, but a step forward would need to happen. The Twins locked him up to a long-term deal. Kepler went out and earned it in 2019. He hit .252/.336/.519 (.855) with 32 doubles, 36 homers and 90 home runs. And he only was used as a pinch runner after September 14th. DH - Miguel Sano (2015-2019) 486 games, .245/.338/.498 (.836) with 87 doubles, 118 homers, 315 RBI. The most highly touted (maybe controversial) of the international class of 2009, Sano signed with the Twins in October. He was moving up the ladder quickly until he missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. He debuted in July of 2015 and played great, posting a .916 OPS and hitting 17 doubles and 18 homers in 80 games. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. In 2016, he hit just .236, though he had 22 doubles and 25 homers. He returned to his rookie form in 2017, hitting .264 (.859) with 15 doubles and 28 homers. He played in the All Star Game and was runner up in the Home Run Derby. Unfortunately, his season ended early after a slide led to him having a titanium rod put in his leg. That offseason was a rough one. He was unable to work out. He found himself in the center of an MLB investigation. His season started but he really struggled. On June 13th, he was hitting .203 and was sent all the way down to Ft. Myers. He was pushed to lose weight and really work out. He spent time with the Miracle, the Lookouts and then the Red Wings before being called back up in late July. While the numbers didn’t improve much, there was a clear change in his physique and his work ethic (and diet ,and attitude, and…). His 2019 started late because of freak ankle injury. But he put together his best season. In 105 games, he posted a .923 OPS and hit 19 doubles with a career-high 34 homers. His 118 homers is second only to Brian Dozier for the decade. He is scheduled to be the Twins first baseman in 2020 with the addition of Josh Donaldson for third base. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EViDA5abYrU So what do you think about this team of the decade for this past decade? Players like Denard Span and Jim Thome were certainly considered. Eduardo Escobar would certainly be the Utility Player of the Decade. Another season and Mitch Garver may have been the catcher with Joe Mauer at first base. My rule on one-year players not being eligible made decision of potentially adding Nelson Cruz unnecessary. Share your thoughts? For more from this series, see below. Previous Installments Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers) Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers) Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers) Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with Howard Sinker) Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Pitchers) Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Pitchers)
  9. We're approaching the end of our series looking back at all decade teams. Today, we look at the top Minnesota Twins hitters, by position, of the past decade. This group is recent, so the names are familiar to you all. There are a lot of talented players, several of which will continue adding to their numbers in the new decade.As we look at the decade of the 2010s, it was pretty disappointing. The Twins opened Target Field in 2010, and they had a great stretch run to get back to the playoffs. And then there were a lot of struggles the rest of the decade. The team almost got to the playoffs again in 2015. They got to the Wild Card game in 2017. A new batch of young stars took their lumps, but things really came together in 2019. Rocco Baldelli's lineup was strong and set the MLB record for homers in a season on their way to a 102-win season. This group includes at least one future Hall of Famer, several Twins Hall of Famers, some All Stars, and some immensely talented players who will lead the Twins in the new decade. Before we jump to the 2020s, let's take one more look back at the 2010s. C - Joe Mauer (2010-2018) 1,159 games, .294/.376/.412 (.788) with 270 doubles, 71 homers, 526 RBI. If you choose to live in the world of What If, imagine what Joe Mauer’s career trajectory had been if not for the foul tip off of his face mask in 2013. At the time, he was hitting .324/.404/.476 (880). And yes, the numbers were never quite the same. He moved from behind the plate to first base… but he still remained a better than average player. He was an All Star in 2012 when he hit .319 and led the league with a .416 On-Base Percentage. He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger in his shortened 2013 season as well. After 2013, he hit over .282 and posted an OPS over .752 just once. In 2017, he hit .305/.384/.417 (.801). Despite the relative struggles, he finished with an OPS+ below league average just once (2% below in 2015). He retired after the 2018 season with the Twins records in Times on Base and Doubles. He had his number #7 retired by the Twins in 2019. 1B - Justin Morneau (2010-2013) 411 games, .272/.340/.451 (.791) with 99 doubles, 58 homers, 237 RBI. Speaking of What Ifs… Justin Morneau may have been having his best season in 2010 when he slid into second base and took a knee to the head. At the time, he was hitting .345/.437/.618 (1.055) with 25 doubles and 18 home runs in 81 games. He was headed to the All Star game, but instead missed the rest of the season. He returned for a partial season in 2011 then spent all of 2012 with the team. With the Twins, he just didn’t fully recover from the concussion. Late in 2013, he was traded to the Pirates and was on their playoff roster. He won a batting title in Colorado in 2014 (.319) and hit .310 in 2015 before hit career ending after 58 games with the White Sox in 2016. 2B - Brian Dozier (2012-2018) 955 games, .248/.325/.447 (.772) with 202 doubles, 167 homers, 491 RBI. Dozier was the Twins 8th round pick in 2009 from Southern Mississippi. He made his MLB debut as a shortstop in 2012. That offseason, he worked with Paul Molitor and successfully transferred to second base the following season. He continued to get better each year. But his power stroke showed up in 2013 when he hit 18 homers. That was the team record for most homers by a second baseman. He hit 23 homers and 33 doubles in 2014. He hit 28 homers in 2008 (with 39 doubles). He played in the 2015 All Star game and homered in his lone at bat. In 2016, he hit 35 doubles and drilled 42 home runs and drove in 99 runs. In 2017, he hit another 30 doubles and 34 homers. He also won a Gold Glove Award that season. He struggled early in 2018 and was traded to the Dodgers at the July deadline. His 167 homers led the Twins for the decade by nearly 50. His 98 stolen bases was 24 more than Ben Revere stole. He played in the 2018 World Series and won a ring in 2019. He signed with the Padres for the 2020 season. 3B - Trevor Plouffe (2010-2016) 723 games, .247/.308/.420 (.727) with 148 doubles, 96 homers, 357 RBI. This is a tough one. Miguel Sano hit 118 homers in the decade, but we’re going with Trevor Plouffe. He was the Twins first, first-round pick in the 2004 draft. He debuted as a shortstop in 2010. He went up and down throughout the 2011 season. In 2012, he came up and for a stretch in June, he and Josh Willingham put on a major power display. In 2013, he finally made the full-time move to third base after playing all over the diamond and became a plus-defender. Plouffe ended that season with a career-high 24 home runs. He was a regular the next three seasons. His 96 homers ranked fourth in the organization in the decade. He split 2017 between the A’s and the Rays, and played in seven games for the Phillies in 2018. He’s now a star in the media! SS - Jorge Polanco (2014-2019) 441 games, .281/.339/.444 (.783) with 104 doubles, 45 homers, 226 RBI. Polanco signed in July 2009 and worked his way up the farm system. He was added to the 40-man roster in December 2013 after a strong season in Cedar Rapids. In 2014, he was called up from Ft. Myers a couple of times as depth, and again in 2015. He became a regular in the second half of 2016 and has been the primary shortstop since, well, except for that 2018 first-half suspension. He was struggling mightily in the first half of 2017. He couldn’t be sent down, but Paul Molitor gave him a weekend of game off, and he came back on fire, and he hasn’t really stopped hitting since. In 2019, he became the first Twins shortstop to start for the American League in the All Star game since Roy Smalley in 1979. He received MVP votes in 2019. LF - Eddie Rosario (2015-2019) 640 games, .270/.309/.479 (.788) with 127 doubles, 106 homers, 346 RBI. Rosario was the Twins 4th round pick in 2010 from Puerto Rico. He put up some great numbers in the minor leagues. Still, it was a surprise when he was called up to the big leagues early in 2015. An even better surprise? In his first MLB at bat, he homered off of Scott Kazmir. That season, he filled the stat line with 18 doubles, 13 homers, 11 stolen bases and a league-leading 15 triples.He added 16 outfield assists that season, showing off a powerful arm. After an up-and-down 2016 season, he has provided power to the Twins lineup the last three years. In 2017, he hit 33 doubles and 27 homers. In 2018, he missed much of September and still hit 31 doubles and 24 homers. Last year, he hit 28 doubles and added career highs in homers (32) and RBI (109). His 106 homers ranks third for the decade. CF - Byron Buxton (2015-2019) 393 games, .237/.292/.414 (.706) with 74 doubles, 38 homers, 145 RBI. Buxton was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. He became one of the top prospects in the game. He was the Baseball America minor league player of the year in 2013. He was promoted from Double-A in mid-2015 when there was a roster crunch. He became a regular in 2016. In 2017, he played in 140 games and hit .253 with 14 doubles, six triples and 16 homers. He also stole 29 bases. He finished the season very strong and received MVP votes. After that season, he was presented the Gold Glove Award. He also won the Platinum Award for the best defensive player regardless of position. Unfortunately, he missed most of 2018 with injury. In 2019, he was putting together a great season when he ran into a wall and hurt his left shoulder. Through 87 games, he was hitting .262 with 30 doubles, four triples and ten homers. RF - Max Kepler (2015-2019) 553 games, .238/.319/.444 (.763) with 114 doubles, 92 homers, 280 RBI. Like Polanco, Kepler signed with the Twins in July 2009. The Berlin native spent a year in the GCL and then played two seasons in Elizabethton. In 2013, he moved up to Cedar Rapids. In AA Chattanooga in 2015, he hit .322/.416/.531 (947) with 32 doubles, 13 triples, nine homers and 18 steals. He was the Southern League MVP and after winning a league championship, he was promoted to the big leagues where he played in three games at the end of the season. He came up early in 2016 and hit a solid .235/.309/.424 with 20 doubles and 17 home runs. A solid .734 OPS for a rookie. But in 2017, his OPS was .737, and in 2018, it was .727. He hit 17, 19 and 20 home runs. All solid, but a step forward would need to happen. The Twins locked him up to a long-term deal. Kepler went out and earned it in 2019. He hit .252/.336/.519 (.855) with 32 doubles, 36 homers and 90 home runs. And he only was used as a pinch runner after September 14th. DH - Miguel Sano (2015-2019) 486 games, .245/.338/.498 (.836) with 87 doubles, 118 homers, 315 RBI. The most highly touted (maybe controversial) of the international class of 2009, Sano signed with the Twins in October. He was moving up the ladder quickly until he missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. He debuted in July of 2015 and played great, posting a .916 OPS and hitting 17 doubles and 18 homers in 80 games. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. In 2016, he hit just .236, though he had 22 doubles and 25 homers. He returned to his rookie form in 2017, hitting .264 (.859) with 15 doubles and 28 homers. He played in the All Star Game and was runner up in the Home Run Derby. Unfortunately, his season ended early after a slide led to him having a titanium rod put in his leg. That offseason was a rough one. He was unable to work out. He found himself in the center of an MLB investigation. His season started but he really struggled. On June 13th, he was hitting .203 and was sent all the way down to Ft. Myers. He was pushed to lose weight and really work out. He spent time with the Miracle, the Lookouts and then the Red Wings before being called back up in late July. While the numbers didn’t improve much, there was a clear change in his physique and his work ethic (and diet ,and attitude, and…). His 2019 started late because of freak ankle injury. But he put together his best season. In 105 games, he posted a .923 OPS and hit 19 doubles with a career-high 34 homers. His 118 homers is second only to Brian Dozier for the decade. He is scheduled to be the Twins first baseman in 2020 with the addition of Josh Donaldson for third base. So what do you think about this team of the decade for this past decade? Players like Denard Span and Jim Thome were certainly considered. Eduardo Escobar would certainly be the Utility Player of the Decade. Another season and Mitch Garver may have been the catcher with Joe Mauer at first base. My rule on one-year players not being eligible made decision of potentially adding Nelson Cruz unnecessary. Share your thoughts? For more from this series, see below. Previous Installments Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers) Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers) Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers) Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with Howard Sinker) Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Pitchers) Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Pitchers) Click here to view the article
  10. I found myself thinking through recent Twins history today and considered how much volatility there has been in terms of consistency. The Twins have been mostly bad, but when good, the performances have came and went rather quickly. 2020 truly looks like an open window, but it is Brian Dozier that I latched onto as the pinnacle of the roller coaster. After debuting in 2012 as a shortstop, Dozier quickly flamed out at the position after just 84 games there in his opening salvo. He would relocate to second base and it wasn’t until 2015 that he began to make his mark. He was an 8th round pick, and despite an appearance in both the Home Run Derby (2014) and All-Star Game (2015), he didn’t crack an .800 OPS until 2016. That was the year, at age-29, that it seemingly all came together. Dozier reinvented himself into a dead-pull hitter that was determined to find the quickest way over the left field fence. His 42 homers that season were the most by any Twins player during a single year not named Harmon Killebrew. He became a slugger despite a smaller stature, and he had risen to be called one of the best second basemen in the game. It really wasn’t since peak Robinson Cano that baseball had seen someone like Dozier. Brian wasn’t the prototypical uber-prospect, and he certainly wasn’t a five-tool player either. Like Cano, he was an offensive stalwart at an otherwise starved position. Around the league second base had become a destination for poor armed shortstops and was generally a position that you could find someone sitting right at league average. The 2016 Twins were abysmal in every sense of the word. They won just 59 games and manager Paul Molitor couldn’t get any more out of that squad if he tried. Thanks to Dozier’s dinger derby, there was at least something to tune into on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, much of his accomplishment was lost nationally in the vein of his club being so bad. He’d go one to follow up that performance with 34 dingers in 2017, a year in which Minnesota made the Postseason. Now having played for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals since, Dozier’s career has already begun a downturn. He did post a .771 OPS last season while playing in 135 games and eventually winning a World Series ring. He had to settle for a minor league deal heading into 2020, but the expectation would be that he’d make the San Diego Padres Opening Day roster. I’m not sure if we’ll see Brian reach that .800 OPS plateau again or not, but he was a late bloomer that gave us one of the highest peaks in Twins history. The unfortunate reality is that it came during a period of extreme lows and the contributions proved hollow in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully, Dozier was a fan favorite and will not soon be forgotten in Twins Territory. His career will likely come to an eventually end being a rather nondescript one, but the memories will remain among the fondest to take place at Target Field. It will be interesting to see what we get from him in those nice new Padres threads, and what there is yet to come in the future. It will not be a career that’s celebrated with substantial accolades when he hangs em up, but it’s incredible to think how good he was, even if it was for such a brief time. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  11. The Minnesota Twins are celebrating their 60th season and bringing back the powder blues in 2020. A slugger that wore those uniforms prior to them becoming throwbacks was none other than Harmon Killerbrew. Known as Killer, Harmon clubbed a ridiculous 573 career homers. Twice, in 1964 and 1969, he blasted 49 in a single season. As a no-doubt Hall of Famer it’s hard to fathom Sano reaching that rarified air, but matching him for a calendar year? Yeah, I can get behind that. During the 2019 season Sano played in just 105 games. He missed the beginning of the year after suffering a gash on his heel in a freak accident. After debuting in mid-May, the Dominican native posted an .853 OPS through his first 23 games. There were seven longballs hit in that stretch, but it was bookended by an ugly five-strikeout affair in a 0-for-7 performance against the Boston Red Sox. Working with the since departed James Rowson on a teardown and rebuild of his swing while facing Major League pitching, Miguel performed admirably. Given the determination he’d shown throughout the offseason, it shouldn’t be a surprise he’d work tirelessly to get this right. Over his final 82 games he tallied a .944 OPS and 27 homers. From July on that OPS was at .955, and in September alone it was a whopping 1.067. Owning a top five barrel rate and one of the best hard-hit rates in all of baseball, it’s not a surprise to see the pill leave the yard when Miguel makes contact. He’ll obviously whiff plenty, but even a 36% strikeout rate couldn’t keep him down a year ago. The mix tells us everything we need to know. This is a three true outcomes guy that recorded an insane 36% HR/FB rate. Now what happens if he’s on the field more? Moving over to first base could present some challenges for Miguel, and he’ll definitely need to grow into the new position. If he can continue to separate his play on the field from that in the batter’s box, the rigors of the role should put less of a strain on him, however. Also, barring some unfortunate development, he’ll be entering the year with a clean bill of health. Extrapolating Sano’s numbers over the course of a full season surpasses the 50-home run plateau. It’s something that Killebrew never did and reaching 43 would put him beyond Nelson Cruz’s number last year (41) as well as Brian Dozier’s in 2016 (42). For a guy that was sent down to Single-A less than two years ago to now be capable of the heights Miguel is achieving is nothing short of extraordinary. He’s put in the work, he’s committed to be the best version of himself, and in 2020 it could culminate into some chart-topping tallies. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  12. Posed this question on Twitter, so figured I'd ask it here as well: Who was the best Twins player of the 2010s, in terms of performance? Personally, I go back and forth between Mauer and Dozier. Mauer spent much of the decade as an average 1B, but did have a few more years as elite catcher on the front end. Dozier was heart & soul of mid-decade teams, and his 2016 was the decade's best for any Twin. fWAR totals are very close. Mauer: 24.0 (9 yrs), Dozier: 22.6 (~7 yrs) Thoughts? Anyone else who should be mentioned in the conversation?
  13. 10: Outdoor baseball returns to Minnesota (4/12/10) On April 12th, 2010, the Twins christened their new ballpark, hosting the Red Sox on a cloudy and cool Monday afternoon. It wasn't the team's first game at Target Field (a pair of exhibitions against the Cards had been played there 10 days earlier) but this one made it official. For the first time in almost 30 years, Twins fans were able to watch meaningful baseball at home under blue skies rather than a Teflon roof. It was a crisply played 5-2 victory for Minnesota, keyed by Carl Pavano's six strong innings along with three-hit games from Jason Kubel and reigning MVP Joe Mauer. The Twins went on to win their first four series at Target Field and finished 53-28 (.654) at home in the new stadium's inaugural season. 9: Byron Buxton races for record-setting inside-the-park home run (8/18/17) As with many of the moments on this list, I picked this one because it is emblematic of the man behind it. Buxton has had plenty of amazing moments at Target Field since debuting there in 2015, but his inside-the-parker against Arizona in August of 2017 epitomizes the electricity and incredible athleticism that make him such a tremendous joy to watch. Blazing around the bases in 13.85 seconds after his towering drive caromed off the wall in right-center, Buxton set a new Statcast record for the feat, breaking... his own. (Of course.) https://twitter.com/statcast/status/898722220096212992 8: Ben Revere channels Willie Mays in center field (8/22/11) Target Field has seen its share of phenomenal defensive plays, and Mr. Buxton has been responsible for quite a few of them. In my humble opinion, however, none can top this dazzling catch from Revere, which to me is one of those "You remember where you were and who were you with when you saw it" kinds of moments. Defensive play of the decade for Minnesota, from my view. 7: The Rally Squirrel becomes legendary (8/21/19) The beauty of outdoor baseball is that it brings so many variables into play: wind, weather, and the occasional wildlife. In the first year at Target Field, there was the famous moth-eating falcon, which came to be known as Kirby the Kestrel. But the most beloved unticketed visitor waited nearly until the end of the decade to make its appearance: The Rally Squirrel. https://twitter.com/cjzero/status/1163990505140752385 He (or a cohort) had scampered out the previous night, during a losing effort, but this time the squirrel's appearance coincided with a big comeback and flurry of runs for the Twins, who rallied to blow out the White Sox and earn the newly minted mascot its nickname. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1164018758052007937 6: Eddie Rosario homers on first MLB pitch (5/6/15) From the Department of Can't-Make-This-Stuff-Up: Rosario's big-league debut. Stepping up for his first major-league at-bat in 2015, with his family watching from the Target Field stands, Eddie offered at the first pitch he saw from A's lefty Scott Kazmir and sent it over the left-field wall. For fans, it was the perfect introduction to Rosario, conveying his confidence, aggressive approach, and flare for theatrics. 5: Brian Dozier caps epic comeback against Tigers (7/10/15) Two months after his splashy arrival, Rosario played a role in one of the most exhilarating victories of the decade, setting the stage for Dozier's heroics. The Twins, flirting with contention for the first time in years, were looking to finish out the first half strong with a series against Detroit heading into the break. They'd fallen in the first game and were at risk of another setback, with a 6-1 deficit entering the bottom of the ninth. Rosario delivered an RBI single to bring Minnesota within four. A bases-loaded HBP from Kurt Suzuki and two-run single from Danny Santana trimmed the Tigers' lead to one. Then the lineup turned over and up came Dozier – days away from his first All-Star Game – with two on and one out. Joakim Soria hung a breaking ball, and he paid for it. Any "Best Twins Player of the Decade" discussion should probably start with Dozier. He was the beating heart of those upstart, fringy playoff teams in 2015 and 2017. His 42-homer outburst in 2016 was one of the sole positives in a trainwreck campaign. Twins Daily named Dozier team MVP three straight times. That walk-off shot was perhaps the most transcendent moment in a career full of special ones. 4: Johan Santana is elected to Twins Hall of Fame (8/4/18) While it's fun reminiscing about the last 10 years, and thinking back to the days of Ben Revere catching a Vladimir Guerrero drive off of Carl Pavano, it does emphasize just how LONG ago that was. As we head into the 2020s, distance grows from a bygone era of Twins baseball filled with so many great players, moments, and memories. Johan's Hall of Fame induction in August of 2018 was a big highlight of this decade for me, because it channeled so much of the franchise's past into Target Field – if for one fleeting ceremony. Santana will forever be one of the great success stories in Twins history, and to see him celebrated alongside many of those cherished fellow fixtures from the late Metrodome run – Brad Radke, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Eddie Guardado – was cool. Especially on a day where Jose Berrios, who is striving to inherit Santana's mantle (an ace that can ACTUALLY beat the Yankees in October), was Minnesota's starting pitcher. 3: Glen Perkins closes out the 2014 All-Star Game (7/15/14) When he retired after the 2017 season, I wrote that if a Twins Daily Hall of Fame were ever established, Perkins would be the first inductee. He was one of the team's best players throughout the site's early years of existence. He once bought a round of beers from the bullpen for TD Pub Crawl attendees. He's an amazing homegrown success story. Oh, and in his post-playing days he's now being described as "Minnesota's Ron Swanson." Sadly, Perk's career peak aligned directly with the grimmest part of the decade for the club. He was an elite closer on a terrible team, and his shoulder gave out just as the Twins began to finally emerge from the struggle. Perkins flat-out deserved to have things play out exactly as they did when the All-Star Game came to Minneapolis in 2014 and shined a national spotlight on Target Field. Trailing early, the American League came back to take a two-run lead, setting up a save opportunity for Minnesota's shutdown closer. Perkins trotted out to his mound, with Twins batterymate and fellow All-Star Kurt Suzuki on the other end, and retired the side in order to seal a win for the AL. You could have hardly scripted a better sequence for his All-Star appearance in front of the home crowd. 2: Jim Thome blasts first Target Field walk-off HR against White Sox (8/17/10) Choosing just one Thome moment (Thoment?) for inclusion on this list was a challenge. In his brief but spectacular Target Field tenure to start the decade, the Hall of Famer gave us plenty of lasting memories, which would largely come to define the ballpark's early legacy. There was the against the Royals in September of 2010. There was his the next summer, estimated at the time as the longest in the stadium's short history at 490 feet. There were his two jacks against Tampa Bay in July of 2010 to tie and then surpass Harmon Killebrew on the all-time home run list. But for me, nothing can beat the clutch tater that Thome thumped against the White Sox in August of 2010. With the Twins down by a run in the bottom of the 10th, the slugger launched a majestic two-run bomb into the plaza, notching the first walk-off home run in Target Field history. That legendary blast sealed a key division win for a team just three games up in the standings, and led to one of the best photos in Twins history. It's a tough moment for any other to top. More than eight years would pass before it finally happened. 1: Joe Mauer dons catcher's gear for one last time (9/30/18) A lot of things needed to go right, and an array of carefully crafted plans had to reach fruition, for Mauer's farewell to play out as it did. Dan Hayes meticulously detailed the story for The Athletic, and it's one of my favorite things he's written. When everything fell into place on the final day of the 2018 season, pure magic was the result. Mauer hadn't explicitly confirmed he was playing his last game as a big-leaguer, but that , and became crystal-clear in the bottom of the ninth inning. With the Twins leading 5-4, Mauer stepped onto the diamond in catcher's gear for the first time in more than five years. He tearfully saluted fans during a lengthy ovation, received one pitch from Matt Belisle, and then walked off Target Field into the proverbial sunset, leaving behind an extraordinary 15-year career. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1046519774287552512 Mauer's best days came in the Metrodome, no doubt. When Target Field was built, he was widely viewed as the best player in the AL, if not in all of baseball, a distinction he wouldn't hold onto for long. In the eyes of many, the portion of his career spent in Target Field will always be associated more with bilateral leg weakness and concussions and production that failed to live up to his mega-contract, signed a month before the park opened. But don't overlook the many moments he left his mark on Target Field. There was the in May of 2017. The ridiculous catch behind the foul net in 2010. The in 2018 – a seeing-eye single up the middle, naturally.It's only right that from 2020 forward, no Twins player will ever wear No. 7 again. Joe was one-of-a-kind, up until his last day and heartfelt final moments in the uniform. ~~~ I'd love to hear you all sound off. Did I miss any of your favorite moments? Would you change the order? Let's think back to our most cherished summer days as we experience the full brunt of Minnesota's winter.
  14. Much has changed over the past 10 years. The fact really hits home when you consider that, heading into this decade, Target Field had not yet opened its gates. As we turn the page on the 2010s, I thought it might be fun to reflect on some of the best and most memorable moments through 10 years at The Bullseye.10: Outdoor baseball returns to Minnesota (4/12/10) On April 12th, 2010, the Twins christened their new ballpark, hosting the Red Sox on a cloudy and cool Monday afternoon. It wasn't the team's first game at Target Field (a pair of exhibitions against the Cards had been played there 10 days earlier) but this one made it official. For the first time in almost 30 years, Twins fans were able to watch meaningful baseball at home under blue skies rather than a Teflon roof. It was a crisply played 5-2 victory for Minnesota, keyed by Carl Pavano's six strong innings along with three-hit games from Jason Kubel and reigning MVP Joe Mauer. The Twins went on to win their first four series at Target Field and finished 53-28 (.654) at home in the new stadium's inaugural season. 9: Byron Buxton races for record-setting inside-the-park home run (8/18/17) As with many of the moments on this list, I picked this one because it is emblematic of the man behind it. Buxton has had plenty of amazing moments at Target Field since debuting there in 2015, but his inside-the-parker against Arizona in August of 2017 epitomizes the electricity and incredible athleticism that make him such a tremendous joy to watch. Blazing around the bases in 13.85 seconds after his towering drive caromed off the wall in right-center, Buxton set a new Statcast record for the feat, breaking... his own. (Of course.) 6: Eddie Rosario homers on first MLB pitch (5/6/15) From the Department of Can't-Make-This-Stuff-Up: Rosario's big-league debut. Stepping up for his first major-league at-bat in 2015, with his family watching from the Target Field stands, Eddie offered at the first pitch he saw from A's lefty Scott Kazmir and sent it over the left-field wall. For fans, it was the perfect introduction to Rosario, conveying his confidence, aggressive approach, and flare for theatrics. 5: Brian Dozier caps epic comeback against Tigers (7/10/15) Two months after his splashy arrival, Rosario played a role in one of the most exhilarating victories of the decade, setting the stage for Dozier's heroics. The Twins, flirting with contention for the first time in years, were looking to finish out the first half strong with a series against Detroit heading into the break. They'd fallen in the first game and were at risk of another setback, with a 6-1 deficit entering the bottom of the ninth. Rosario delivered an RBI single to bring Minnesota within four. A bases-loaded HBP from Kurt Suzuki and two-run single from Danny Santana trimmed the Tigers' lead to one. Then the lineup turned over and up came Dozier – days away from his first All-Star Game – with two on and one out. Joakim Soria hung a breaking ball, and he paid for it. Any "Best Twins Player of the Decade" discussion should probably start with Dozier. He was the beating heart of those upstart, fringy playoff teams in 2015 and 2017. His 42-homer outburst in 2016 was one of the sole positives in a trainwreck campaign. Twins Daily named Dozier team MVP three straight times. That walk-off shot was perhaps the most transcendent moment in a career full of special ones. 4: Johan Santana is elected to Twins Hall of Fame (8/4/18) While it's fun reminiscing about the last 10 years, and thinking back to the days of Ben Revere catching a Vladimir Guerrero drive off of Carl Pavano, it does emphasize just how LONG ago that was. As we head into the 2020s, distance grows from a bygone era of Twins baseball filled with so many great players, moments, and memories. Johan's Hall of Fame induction in August of 2018 was a big highlight of this decade for me, because it channeled so much of the franchise's past into Target Field – if for one fleeting ceremony. Santana will forever be one of the great success stories in Twins history, and to see him celebrated alongside many of those cherished fellow fixtures from the late Metrodome run – Brad Radke, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Eddie Guardado – was cool. Especially on a day where Jose Berrios, who is striving to inherit Santana's mantle (an ace that can ACTUALLY beat the Yankees in October), was Minnesota's starting pitcher. 3: Glen Perkins closes out the 2014 All-Star Game (7/15/14) When he retired after the 2017 season, I wrote that if a Twins Daily Hall of Fame were ever established, Perkins would be the first inductee. He was one of the team's best players throughout the site's early years of existence. He once bought a round of beers from the bullpen for TD Pub Crawl attendees. He's an amazing homegrown success story. Oh, and in his post-playing days he's now being described as "Minnesota's Ron Swanson." Sadly, Perk's career peak aligned directly with the grimmest part of the decade for the club. He was an elite closer on a terrible team, and his shoulder gave out just as the Twins began to finally emerge from the struggle. Perkins flat-out deserved to have things play out exactly as they did when the All-Star Game came to Minneapolis in 2014 and shined a national spotlight on Target Field. Trailing early, the American League came back to take a two-run lead, setting up a save opportunity for Minnesota's shutdown closer. Perkins trotted out to his mound, with Twins batterymate and fellow All-Star Kurt Suzuki on the other end, and retired the side in order to seal a win for the AL. You could have hardly scripted a better sequence for his All-Star appearance in front of the home crowd. 2: Jim Thome blasts first Target Field walk-off HR against White Sox (8/17/10) Choosing just one Thome moment (Thoment?) for inclusion on this list was a challenge. In his brief but spectacular Target Field tenure to start the decade, the Hall of Famer gave us plenty of lasting memories, which would largely come to define the ballpark's early legacy. There was the against the Royals in September of 2010. There was his the next summer, estimated at the time as the longest in the stadium's short history at 490 feet. There were his two jacks against Tampa Bay in July of 2010 to tie and then surpass Harmon Killebrew on the all-time home run list. But for me, nothing can beat the clutch tater that Thome thumped against the White Sox in August of 2010. With the Twins down by a run in the bottom of the 10th, the slugger launched a majestic two-run bomb into the plaza, notching the first walk-off home run in Target Field history. That legendary blast sealed a key division win for a team just three games up in the standings, and led to one of the best photos in Twins history. It's a tough moment for any other to top. More than eight years would pass before it finally happened. 1: Joe Mauer dons catcher's gear for one last time (9/30/18) A lot of things needed to go right, and an array of carefully crafted plans had to reach fruition, for Mauer's farewell to play out as it did. Dan Hayes meticulously detailed the story for The Athletic, and it's one of my favorite things he's written. When everything fell into place on the final day of the 2018 season, pure magic was the result. Mauer hadn't explicitly confirmed he was playing his last game as a big-leaguer, but that , and became crystal-clear in the bottom of the ninth inning. With the Twins leading 5-4, Mauer stepped onto the diamond in catcher's gear for the first time in more than five years. He tearfully saluted fans during a lengthy ovation, received one pitch from Matt Belisle, and then walked off Target Field into the proverbial sunset, leaving behind an extraordinary 15-year career.
  15. Honorable Mention: Twins open Target Field with win over Red Sox (2010) Kennys Vargas walk-off homer against league-leading Cardinals (2015) Twins come back from 6-0 deficit to beat Orioles (2017) Minnesota defeats Boston in 17 innings (2019) Eddie Rosario hits three homers against Cleveland, including walk-off (2018) 10. Devin’s Day (2019) When Devin Smeltzer was just 9, he was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors found a grapefruit-sized cancerous tumor against his bladder. He had surgery, and went through chemotherapy, and the cancer went into remission in 2012. Smeltzer was selected in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Before the 2018 trade deadline, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins in a deal that sent Brian Dozier to LA. In double-A in 2018, he went 5-5 with a 4.52 ERA. He started at double-A Pensacola in 2019 and was unhittable. He was 3-1 with a 0.60 ERA in five starts. Smeltzer was then promoted to triple-A Rochester, and was flawless again. When Michael Pineda went on to the injured list, Minnesota needed a fill-in pitcher and Smeltzer got the call. It was at home, against the Milwaukee Brewers, led by reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich. The 23-year-old was brilliant, working out of trouble a few times to throw six shutout innings. Minnesota was also held scoreless, so he picked up a no-decision, but he did hold down a high-powered offense until the Twins offense could get going, which it did, and the Twins won 5-3. Many did not think this day would come for Smeltzer, but after fighting to defeat cancer, making the majors did not seem as tough. The Brewers, with a record of 31-24, were a piece of cake considering what he’s gone through. That was evidenced by his three up, three down first inning, mowing through the Milwaukee hitters, striking two out. The three batters are not too bad either: Lorenzo Cain, Yelich and Ryan Braun. With the score still 0-0, Milwaukee catcher Yasmani Grandal hit a triple off the wall to lead off the second. But Smeltzer was fearless, striking out Mike Moustakas, getting Jesus Aguilar to ground out and Hernan Perez to fly out to work around the triple, keeping it scoreless. Smeltzer worked around a one-out single in the third, getting Cain and Yelich out to end the inning, and then a leadoff double in the fourth. He was doing this while the Twins offense was doing nothing against Milwaukee’s Zach Davies. Smeltzer finished off a terrific first start with back-to-back 1-2-3 innings, striking out Cain and Yelich to finish his outing. Just an incredible performance. He would not get a decision, but he put the team in position to win against the ace of the Brewers. Finally, the Twins offense woke up. Two doubles and a two-run homer from Eddie Rosario put Minnesota in front 5-0. The Twins went on to win 5-3, and much of that has to do with the terrific start by Smeltzer. No dream is too big, and he proved it that night. 9. Hader-ade (2019) After a June 2 victory against Tampa Bay, Minnesota was sitting 11.5 games up on Cleveland for the lead in the AL Central. That lead had evaporated on Aug. 11 after the Indians came into Target Field and took three of four. Cleveland took the lead in the division the following day, defeating Boston on a walk-off homer by Carlos Santana, while the Twins were off. Minnesota went into Miller Park a half game behind the Tribe, the first time out of first place since April 18. With Minnesota trailing in the top of the eighth, it was free agent acquisition Marwin Gonzalez who put the Twins back on top in the division for good. Gonzo swung at a first pitch fastball from one of the fiercest relievers in baseball, Josh Hader, and drilled it over the left-center field wall for a three-run homer to give Minnesota a 7-5 win. Coupled with Cleveland’s loss to Boston, the Twins moved back into first place and would stay there for the remainder of the season. Milwaukee came in fighting for a playoff spot, while Minnesota needed to win to keep pace with the red-hot Indians. Martin Perez gave the Twins an excellent outing, allowing just an unearned run in six innings and he handed the ball over to the bullpen with his team in front 4-1. A Mitch Garver two-run bomb got things started and the visitors looked like they would win game one in Milwaukee. Then Ryne Harper happened. Harper had a good spring training, which earned him a spot on the team, but he was scuffling in the second half of the year. Harper allowed a single to Keston Huira and a double to Christian Yelich, and all of a sudden, it was 4-2 with nobody out and the tying runner on base. Then, a catcher’s interference allowed Ryan Braun to reach, and Yasmani Grandal batted with two on and nobody out. Well, Grandal hit a shot over the right field wall and Milwaukee took the lead. Needless to stay, Harper was taken out. One batter too late, though. Tyler Duffey came in and got the team out of the inning without more damage, so the Brewers had the 5-4 lead into the eighth. Normally, the Brewers have a stout bullpen, especially Hader. He has two-inning saves occasionally, so him coming in in would not be a surprise. However, the Brewers brought in Drew Pomeranz to begin the eighth. He allowed a double to Eddie Rosario and walked Miguel Sano to bring the go-ahead runner to the plate. He induced a fly ball from Luis Arraez before giving way to Matt Albers, who struck out the only man he faced. Then, Hader was brought in to face Marwin. The Brewers reliever is known for his great fastball, so he threw a low one on the first pitch to Gonzalez. The Twins utility man swung and did not miss it, send a laser to left-center over the wall for a three-run homer. It was Marwin’s biggest hit since a double off Corey Kluber on opening day to help the Twins defeat Cleveland. The two trade deadline acquisitions closed the door on the Brew Crew, as Sam Dyson threw a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth and Sergio Romo did not allow a hit in the bottom of the ninth and the Twins came away with the 7-5 win. With Minnesota’s win, the Twins moved into first and would remain there for the remainder of the season. 8. Brian’s Song (2017) Minnesota was closing in on its first playoff appearance in seven years. The magic number was two, as the Twins faced the best team in the American League, the Cleveland Indians. It looked like Los Angeles, which was chasing after Minnesota for the second Wild Card, would gain a game as the Angels clobbered the White Sox 9-3 and the Twins were down late. That was until Brian Dozier got ahold of one. With two on and one out in the eighth with the Indians leading by two, Dozier hit an opposite field homer off Brian Shaw to move the Twins in front. The lead was held onto and Minnesota moved the magic number to just one. It was a matchup on suspect starters, as Minnesota’s Bartolo Colon battled against Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin. Minnesota got to Tomlin first, as it took a lead on a Jorge Polanco RBI groundout and Eddie Rosario solo shot. But Cleveland answered in the bottom of the inning with two runs of its own on an Edwin Encarnacion two-run single. It was still 2-2 in the third when Rosario continued his great day at the plate, plating two on a double. But once again, Cleveland answered with two in the bottom of the inning, as back-to-back singles by Encarnacion and Jay Bruce tied it back up. Cleveland scored single runs in the sixth and seventh to put the Tribe in front 6-4, which set the stage for Dozier’s dramatics. The inning did not start promising, as Buxton struck out swinging. But back-to-back singles by Jason Castro and Robbie Grossman put runners on the corners with one out. Then Brian Dozier came up, and Brian did not want the Twins to lose. Dozier hit a 96 mph fastball to the opposite field and it hit the top of the wall and bounced over for a homer. That three-run tater gave the Twins a 7-6 lead. A Buxton single scored another in the ninth, and Trevor Hildenberger and Matt Belisle went six up, six down to slam the door on the Indians, and the Twins were one win or an Angels loss away from clinching. Minnesota would only have to wait until the following day to make the playoffs, as the Twins lost, but so did the Angels, on a walk-off to Chicago. 7. No. 600 for the man with an ox in the batter’s box (2011) In 2010, Minnesota won the AL Central and hosted a playoff series. However, in 2011, nothing was going right. The team had one of the worst records in the league. The only thing that kept fans coming to games was slugger Jim Thome’s pursuit of 600 homers. On August 15, that became a reality when Thome hit not one, but two homers in a 9-6 victory at Detroit. Minnesota was 52-67, while Detroit was 64-56 and fighting for a playoff spot. Thome hit No. 599 in the sixth and in an inning later, Thome put the game away with a three-run shot to left field. It was a terrific night in what was a dismal season for the Twins. Minnesota jumped on Rick Porcello in the third. After former Twin Delmon Young hit a homer in the bottom of the first, the Twins scored three runs on three hits, with the help of two Tigers errors. Victor Martinez tied the game with a homer off Francisco Liriano. In the sixth, Thome hit No. 599 off Porcello to left-center to give the Twins a 5-3 advantage. The Twins scored another on a triple by Ben Revere and it was 6-3. Detroit responded with two in the bottom half of the sixth, and the Minnesota lead was down to one. The Twins put it away with another bomb by Thome. With runners on the corners after a pair of walks and a stolen base, Thome stepped to the plate with two outs in the seventh facing Daniel Schlereth. Daniel is the son of NFL analyst Mark Schlereth. Thome was thrown an offspeed pitch on 2-1 and Thome hammered it to left over the fence and into the bullpen. All the Twins players exited the dugout to congratulate him after he crossed home plate, as well as his family greeted him. Detroit fans, aware of the big moment and milestone, all applauded him, even though it essentially gave the Twins the victory. Minnesota won it 9-6 to improve its record to a woeful 14 games below .500, but everyone remembers this night when Thome hit No. 600. Less than two weeks later, he was traded to his first home, the Cleveland Indians, since the Twins were in fire sale mode. 6. Twins turn the tide in the AL Central (2010) Minnesota came into a mid-July series just after the All-Star break at 3.5 games in back of Chicago for the division lead. It was a four-game series, so a split would not help the Twins, and they absolutely could not lose the series. Chicago came out to Target Field and won the first game 8-7. Minnesota needed to win the next three. The Twins won the next two 7-4 and 3-2 to cut it to a 2.5-game Chicago lead. The next one was huge. It was either a lead of 3.5 or 1.5 for the White Sox. Chicago took a 6-3 lead into the ninth, so it looked like the Twins would not make up any ground in the series. But then, the Twins scored four runs without anybody getting out in a crazy ninth inning, and Minnesota walked away only down 1.5 and had worlds of confidence moving forward. After losing the first one to Chicago in the four-game series, Minnesota won seven of the final nine and ran away with the division. The Twins started the game well, as Delmon Young hit a homer to left to give them a 2-0 lead. It was 3-1 entering the fifth, but the Sox scored one in the fifth and four more in the sixth to take control of the game, and their hope was the division as well. Chicago began the sixth with three straight hits, with the last being a double by Carlos Quentin, to take their first lead of the game at 4-3. They added two more on back-to-back singles later in the inning by Ramon Castro and Gordon Beckham and it was 6-3. That would remain the score until the bottom of the ninth. Back-to-back walks opened the ninth, and if you ask any pitcher, they’ll tell you leadoff walks are killers. But then Jason Kubel singled to score Orlando Hudson, and the Twins had it within two, and the tying run was on base. Then, Michael Cuddyer hit a line drive single to right-center to score Joe Mauer, and the lead was cut to a single run. That knocked out Bobby Jenks and he was replaced by Sergio Santos. After another walk loaded the bases with no one out, Young hit a shallow fly ball to right-center, and the Twins were content with a tie game. But Chicago center fielder Alex Rios tried throwing it to.....a cutoff man, I guess? Well, he airmailed everyone and bounded past the third base line and near the dugout, and Cuddyer jogged home and the Twins had the series win with the 7-6 win. After that season-changing series win, the Twins won 21 of their next 27 to move into first place in the AL Central, and they’d never look back, ultimately winning the division by six games. 5. Garv Sauce (2019) The Twins had regrouped and taken a 6.5-game lead over Cleveland in early September after falling out of place in August, setting up two final series between the two. The Indians took the first game of the critical three-game set to cut it 5.5. The Tribe needed the sweep. Cleveland had a tougher schedule remaining and needed to take at least five of six of the remaining games between the two. With the game tied at two in the seventh, Mitch Garver unloaded on a three-run homer to right field to give the Twins a 5-2 lead. It was his second of the day. They would hold on for a 5-3 victory, keeping distance between them and the Tribe in the division race. Garver hit his first homer in the opening inning to give the Twins an early 1-0 advantage. It stayed that way until the sixth when Cleveland capitalized on two walks with an extra base hit and a wild pitch to take the lead 2-1. That lead lasted just one inning. With Adam Cimber pitching, Willians Astudillo singled, and scored on a Jonathan Schoop triple and the game was tied. Schoop wasn’t known for coming through in big spots, but that was one of his biggest hits of the season. Oliver Perez relieved Cimber and promptly walked Max Kepler on five pitches. Terry Francona then called on Nick Goody to get out of the two on, nobody out jam with minimal damage. His first batter was Garver, who belted a 1-1 pitch just over the overhang in right field to put the Twins back on top, this time for good. Cleveland strung together a couple of hits in the eighth off Sergio Romo to cut it to 5-3, but Romo just allowed the one run and Taylor Rogers slammed the door in the ninth and the Twins had their 6.5 game lead back. 4. In the words of LL Cool J, don’t call it a comeback (2015) It was a surprising season for the Twins, who had been in the cellar of the league since 2011. The Under new manager Paul Molitor, Minnesota was 46-40 and in the thick of the playoff chase at the All-Star break. The Twins had trouble beating the Tigers, dropping eight of the first 10 against the Motor City Kitties during the 2015 season. And Minnesota was on the verge of falling to 2-9, as it trailed 6-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning before magic happened. Minnesota had seven of eight batters reach to start the inning, and the game was capped off by a Brian Dozier walk-off shot. Dozier wasn’t even elected to the All-Star game, but put the finishing touches on this improbable rally in the bottom of the ninth. It also took the hex off the Twins against the Tigers, and Minnesota won the final two games of the series as well to finish off taking three of four against Detroit and head into the break at 49-40. ' Detroit knocked around Ervin Santana, smacking three homers, including a three-run shot, to get its six runs. Justin Verlander, on the other hand, sailed along through seven, not allowing a run, before a Brian Dozier single broke up the shutout and it was 6-1 after eight innings. That would set the stage for the wildest ninth inning in Target Field history. Detroit hit a double and single and it had runners on second and third with nobody out. Trevor May responded by getting Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila to pop up to escape the inning still trailing 6-1. Then came the bottom of the ninth. Joe Mauer led off the inning with what seemed like a meaningless single, but it was followed by a Miguel Sano ground-rule double, so runners were on second and third with nobody out. Rondon struck out Trevor Plouffe, and there were two on, one out. Unfortunately for Detroit, that was the only out recorded in the half-inning. An RBI single by Eddie Rosario knocked Rondon out of the game. That would put runners on the corners with the score now at 6-2. A Joakim Soria walk to Aaron Hicks loaded the bases, and that was followed by hitting Kurt Suzuki to force in a run, and the tying run was on base. Danny Santana, of all people, lined a single to center to bring home a pair and cut it to 6-5, to bring up Dozier. Runners were on first and second with still one out for the Twins second baseman. The tying runner was on second, and winning run on first. Dozier proved he was screwed of an All-Star appearance (he was added later on due to injury) by pouncing on the first pitch from Soria. The Tigers closer threw a hanging breaking ball, which was destroyed by Dozier and deposited into the upper deck and the Twins celebrated the improbable win at home plate after an 8-6 win. As Twins play-by-play announcer Dick Bremer said, it was “the most electrifying moment at Target Field in years.” 3. Sano-doubter daggers Cleveland (2019) The Twins entered the last series against the Indians in front by 3.5 games, but Minnesota had the easier schedule the remainder of the season, so Cleveland needed to sweep to keep pace with Minnesota and make it a race to the finish. Jake Odorizzi was scheduled to start the opening game of the series, but after a few innings, the game was called. Because of that, Odorizzi couldn’t start again in the series. Already needing to play nine innings of bullpen on the second game because of a suspension to Michael Pineda, they were forced to play a double header and both games were to be bullpen games for the Twins. They needed to go 18 innings using relievers……in the biggest series of the year. Minnesota not only threw nine innings of bullpen game one of the day, but six pitchers combined to shut out the Tribe. One win was nice, but the Twins had a chance to really put the Indians in the rearview mirror if it could win one of the next two in Cleveland. In game one, the Twins went all out, pitching most of their shutdown relievers. Lewis Thorpe started against Tyler Clippard and Thorpe allowed five runs in 3.2 innings, digging the team into a 5-2 hole. Nelson Cruz hit a homer in the sixth to cut it to 5-4. While the Twins were crawling back, the pitching staff was putting up zero after zero. Cody Stashak, Brusdar Graterol and Trevor May combined to allow no runs on just one hit in 5.1 innings. The game remained 5-4 heading to the eighth, but that inning became the biggest inning for the Twins of the season. Not in runs, but in significance. Jonathan Schoop began the inning with a single and Kepler grounded out, but advanced on a throwing error. With a runner on second with one out, Jorge Polanco doubled to left to switch places with Kepler and, more importantly, tie the score. Oliver Perez proceeded to walk Nelson Cruz and Eddie Rosario to load the bases for Sano. The big man was 0-3 on the night with a pair of strikeouts, but he could light up a scoreboard at any moment, and the Indians found out the hard way. Just like a few weeks prior when Mitch Garver took him deep, Nick Goody was brought in to pitch in a big spot. The power hitter did not waste long to break open the game. Goody’s first pitch was a breaking ball that could not have been thrown in a worse location. The result was predictable, as Miguel destroyed the baseball into the left field bleachers to break the game open 9-5 and end the AL Central race once and for all. May threw two perfect innings to close the door on a double header sweep. That put Minnesota in front by 5.5 games with 13 games remaining for the Indians. Not only did it damage the division hopes for the Tribe, but also the Wild Card as well. Cleveland actually won seven of eight after the double header sweep, but could only gain 1.5 games on the Twins. The Indians closed out the season by dropping five straight and Minnesota won the division by eight games. Cleveland’s slump at the end of the season knocked them out of the playoffs entirely. 2. Back-to-back walk-off homers (2017) It was a magical season for the Minnesota Twins. In 2016, the Twins were an awful 59-103, which was the worst record in the majors. That record was nine games behind the second worst team. But Minnesota had a turnaround season for the ages in 2017, going 85-77, and earning a Wild Card berth. With the bounce back season, they become the first team in Major League Baseball history to reach the postseason after losing 100 games the previous season. In mid-September, the Twins were clinging to a two-game lead for the second Wild Card spot and the Twins needed some late game heroics to maintain the lead. That would come on back-to-back nights, when they received walk-off homers from Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton against San Diego and Toronto, respectively. The games were very similar. On the first night, the Twins played the San Diego Padres. Minnesota took the lead on a wild pitch in the second, but there wouldn’t be another run scored until the eighth. Minnesota starter Ervin Santana was brilliant, throwing six shutout innings, but would not figure in the decision. That would be because Austin Hedges took Trevor Hildenberger deep in the top of the eighth to tie up the game. Alan Busenitz and Matt Belisle escaped jams in both the eighth and the ninth to keep the game even at 1. Brad Hand blew threw the Twins lineup in the eighth and ninth, and they went to the 10th tied. Belisle had a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 10th, and Rosario made sure there was no 11th. With one on and two out, Rosario worked the count in his favor against Phil Maton. On the 2-0 pitch, Maton tried to go inside with a fastball, but Eddie turned on it and blasted it deep to right. The only question was if it was going to stay fair. It did, and the Twins won 3-1 to keep a bit of distance between themselves and the Angels in the Wild Card race. But Minnesota wasn’t done with the walk-off homers. The next night, it was Buxton’s turn. Like the previous night, Minnesota had a one-run lead late in the game. After a Toronto run in the top of the fifth, Jorge Polanco hit a two-run single to take give the Twins the advantage. That lead would hold up until the ninth. Belisle got the first two batters, including the dangerous Josh Donaldson, on just seven pitches. But then Justin Smoak, with the Blue Jays down to their final out, hammered a homer to right to even the game. Dillon Gee worked around a one-out double in the 10th, and Minnesota came to the plate in their half of the inning. Luis Santos induced a pop-up from Polanco and he struck out Eduardo Escobar, bringing Buxton to the plate with two outs. A few weeks before, he hit three homers in a game at Toronto. This game, he didn’t to hit three, as one did the trick. Santos’ off speed pitch was a hanger and Buxton did not miss it, and launched a no-doubter into the upper deck to keep their distance with the Angels. It was only the second time in Twins history that they have had walk-off homers on consecutive days, and the first time since August 6-7 of 1970 when George Mitterwald and Jim Holt did it to the Angels and A’s, respectively. The two walk-offs helped keep distance between themselves and Los Angeles, and Minnesota would wind up playing in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. 1. Jim Thome. (2010) Minnesota was 68-50, and finally had overtaken Chicago, which led the AL Central for much of the year. The Twins were three games up on the White Sox entering a crucial three-game set in Minneapolis. Minnesota would take 2-of-3 from Chicago, and essentially put the Sox away in the division. It all started with a series-opening win courtesy of free agent acquisition Jim Thome, who hit the first walk-off homer in Target Field history with a two-run shot off Matt Thornton. The Twins started out hot, as the second batter of the game, Orlando Hudson, homered to give Minnesota the early lead. A two-run triple by Jason Kubel and RBI single by Thome pushed the lead to 4-0 after one. But home runs by Mark Kotsay and Twins killer Paul Konerko cut the lead to one. They would later tie up the game on a double by A.J. Pierzynski. Delmon Young homered in the fifth to put the Twins in front 5-4, and they thought the lead would hold up, as it was still 5-4 heading into the ninth inning. But trade deadline pickup Matt Capps served up a home run to Alexei Ramirez leading off the ninth, and they headed to extra innings knotted up. Capps was able to get Konerko to end the ninth on a bases loaded double play. It looked like the lead was being cut to two games when Ramirez (again) hits an RBI single to center and the Sox led 6-5 going to the bottom of the 10th. Thornton was on for his second inning of work after just allowing a harmless two-out single in the ninth. Young led off with a single to give him three hits on the night, and Thome came up with a man on first and nobody out. As a Twins fan, my thinking was that it would either end really good (home run) or really bad (strikeout, double play). There would be no in between. This one ended really well for the home team. After a strike by Thornton on the first pitch of the at-bat, Thornton threw a 93 mph fastball down the middle of the plate. As Pepper Brooks said in Dodgeball, “That’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see how it plays out for them.” Yeah, Thome swung hard, and the ball went far, as he deposited it deep near the American flag at Target Field. That hit was a no doubter by Thome. The win was Minnesota’s 26th in its last 33, and it went 23-10 in its next 33 to sew up the division. Chicago lost 18 of its next 32, and the division race was over.
  16. The American League award for pitchers has been dominated by Dallas Keuchel since 2014 with him winning four of the last five years. Marcus Stroman took home the award back in 2017 to break-up the Keuchel three-year run. Both of those pitchers are in the National League now and this means there will be a first-time winner in the AL. Berrios will be facing off against Chicago’s Lucas Giolito and Seattle’s Mike Leake. Both of these players rank better than him according to SABR’s Defensive Index. According to SABR, the SDI will be used to help select the winners for the seventh consecutive year and it accounts for approximately 25 percent of the selection process. In the last SDI update, Leake led all AL pitchers with a 2.2 SDI, while Giolito (1.0 SDI) came in tied for third. Out of qualifying pitchers, Berrios ranked second to last with a -1.5 SDI. Ranking defenders can be a tough endeavor even in the Statcast era and ranking pitchers can be an even more challenging. In the AL, the league fielding percentage for pitchers was .945 and Berrios was well above that mark with a .969 fielding percentage. Giolito wasn’t charged with an error all season and finished with a perfect fielding percentage. Leake ended the year in the NL, but he accumulated a .966 fielding percentage in his AL appearances. Another important defensive skill for pitchers is the ability to hold runners, but some of this stat is on the catcher too. In the AL, the league caught stealing percentage was 27% for the season. Giolito allowed three stolen bases and had three runners caught for a 50% caught stealing %. Leake had a slightly higher caught stealing percentage (56%) as he allowed five steals and four stolen bases. Berrios had the worst mark by far (8 CS%) as he allowed 12 steals and only had one caught steal. Defensive runs saved is another common defensive metric. Again, Berrios ranks at the bottom when compared to the other two finalists. Leake was worth three defensive runs saved during his time in the AL and Giolito was also able to collect three defensive runs saved. Berrios was worth zero defensive runs saved, his lowest total since he had a negative defensive runs saved in 2017. It seems like there are multiple metrics that put Giolito and Leake ahead of Berrios. Historically, that might not always matter when it comes to voting for the Gold Glove Awards. Brian Dozier was a surprise winner for the Twins back in 2017 when he beat out Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia. Could Berrios surprise and win in 2019? It might not be likely, but there’s always a chance.
  17. Brief Overview: As is to be expected from any National League club, the Nationals are relative strangers to Target Field. This will be their first visit without Bryce Harper, and thankfully for the Twins, Max Scherzer is not scheduled to pitch in this set either. Washington is wrapping up a brief two-city road trip and is just 1-3 after leaving Atlanta with a series loss. What They Do Well: You have to start this section with their resolve and resilience. Expected to be a postseason team when 2019 began, the Washington Nationals raced out to an awful 20-31 start. By the beginning of June it looked like Davey Martinez’s squad was left for dead owning a 24-33 record and trailing in the NL East by nine full games.Since that point they have gone 55-30 being one of the hottest teams in the sport, and are now firmly entrenched in the first wild card spot. It’s not a surprise that a team with Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin in its rotation would pitch well. At fifth in overall fWAR as a staff, it’s the rotation that does the heavy lifting on this club. Washington’s starters own the best fWAR in baseball and have generated a full win more than the second-place Dodgers. Just because they can pitch doesn’t mean they don’t hit as well. Bryce Harper’s departure wasn’t ever going to be inconsequential but the lineup has had plenty of players step up. The lineup has produced a top third fWAR and they’ve scored the seventh most runs in all of baseball. What They Do Not Do Well: Technically we could put fielding in this category as the Nationals own the 19th-rated team in terms of defensive WAR. That’s essentially middle of the pack though, and it’s only two spots shy of the Minnesota Twins. Relief pitching has been atrocious. Washington owns the 25th overall fWAR from a relief perspective, and the poor performances have come from all over the place. Sean Doolittle looked like a lock-down lefty until just shy of the trade deadline, and now he’s got a 4.09 ERA. Tanner Rainey is the only arm with an ERA south of 4.00 to pitch more than 25 innings for the Nationals, and they’ve turned to Oakland Athletics castoff Fernando Rodney as a steadying presence. The bullpen is a hodgepodge of no-names and has-beens, while the group as a whole has hardly lived up to expectations (or performed right on par with them depending on how you look at it.) Individuals of Note: You know all about Strasburg, Scherzer, and Corbin. You probably know that Juan Soto is one of the best young players in the game right now. The outfielder has a .968 OPS through 131 games and he’s making it look incredibly easy. Former divisional foe Yan Gomes is on this club, and previous fan favorite Brian Dozier comes back to town for the first time as well. The most important individual, and one that flies under the radar most often, is none other than Anthony Rendon. Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger have gotten all of the NL MVP hype in 2019, but you best believe the Nationals third baseman is deserving of consideration as well. Rendon is just 29, has a 1.047 OPS and has blasted 32 dingers this season. He hits for average, he hits for power, and he does it all while playing a strong third base. If it’s Gerrit Cole being handed a blank check on the bump this free agency cycle, teams should be lining up to pay Rendon whatever he wants to join their lineup. Recent History: Minnesota last played Washington in 2016 going 0-3 against them. The last time the Nationals were in Minnesota the Twins still played at the Metrodome. In 2008 the Twins swept the Nats over a three-game series in June. Recent Trajectories: Minnesota has gone 6-4 over their last ten games but are coming off a dropped series to begin this six game home swing. The Nats are 5-5 in their last 10 and went 1-4 against the Braves to start this trip. Pitching Matchups: Tuesday: Berrios vs Sanchez Wednesday: Perez vs Strasburg Thursday: Gibson vs Corbin Ending Thoughts: For whatever reason I was convinced that the Twins were scheduled to play the Nationals in 2020. That isn’t the case though, and Stephen Strasburg will be making his Target Field debut this week. Juan Soto was all of 9-years-old when Washington last came to Minnesota. This is going to be a clash of two good, likely playoff-bound, clubs. The Twins need to get healthy, and showing a lineup that resembles that during this series is a must. With the starter tipped in their favor just once, the Twins are in an uphill battle, but this team has risen to the occasion often in 2019. I’ll say the Fightin’ Rocco’s take two and keep the train moving.
  18. The Twins had a lot of questions when it came to replacing Brian Dozier this off-season. Jonathan Schoop seemed to be a nice, short-term solution at second base. Ehire Adrianza has always seemed to fit the role of utility infielder and few could have predicted the impact Luis Arraez would have at the big-league level. Over the last two seasons, Adrianza has hit .254/.319/.384 with 40 extra-base hits in 176 games. He has also shown defensive flexibility by playing all over the infield including over 660 innings at shortstop during that stretch. Schoop is limited to playing second base as he has logged less than 230 innings at other positions throughout his seven years at the MLB level. https://twitter.com/TFTwins/status/1158833346786603008?s=20 The rise of Arraez has also cut into Schoop's time on the field. As a 22-year old, Arraez has put together some unbelievably professional at-bats in his 182 plate appearances. Entering play on Tuesday, he is hitting .356/.429/.444 and he might have a strong argument to be named the AL Rookie of the Year. First year manager Rocco Baldelli certainly has faith in Arraez and if the playoffs started today Arraez would be penciled in at second base. Schoop has compiled some strong numbers in a Twins uniform and Baseball Reference has he accounting for 1.2 WAR. May was a good month for him as he posted an .835 OPS with six home runs and five doubles. He hasn’t had more than four home runs in any other month and his OPS dipped to .622 in June and .787 in July. Since the calendar turned to August, he’s gone 1-for-5 with no extra-base hits. He’s also only started one game in that stretch, Saturday’s contest with the Royals. Currently, the Twins have gotten by with having him relegated to a bench role. What happens if the club needs another relief pitcher? This could force the front office to make a choice between Schoop and one of the other infielders. At this point, Schoop might be the odd man out. While Schoop has been worth more than replacement level when it comes to WAR, his win probability added total is one of the worst totals of his career. He entered play on Tuesday with a -1.28 WPA. His only year with a lower total was 2014 with the Orioles when he accounted for a -3.00 WPA. Schoop has the lowest WPA among qualified batters on the Twins roster and he’s over a full win lower than the next closest qualified batter. Schoop could have some big hits for the Twins in the weeks ahead but he shouldn’t be taking at-bats away from Arraez. At season’s end, Schoop will be a free agent and Arraez will enter the year as the team’s starting second baseman. It helps to have Schoop to add depth to the roster, but it’s getting closer to the point where he might be holding the team back from adding other players (especially pitchers). Do you think it’s time to cut Schoop loose? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  19. Luis Arraez has been a revelation for the Twins offense and at the same time, Ehire Adrianza has been a very strong utility player. Jonathan Schoop was brought in to take over second base from fan favorite Brian Dozier. He’s had some great hot streaks, but it might make more sense to play Arraez and Adrianza at this point. Could Schoop become the odd-man out?The Twins had a lot of questions when it came to replacing Brian Dozier this off-season. Jonathan Schoop seemed to be a nice, short-term solution at second base. Ehire Adrianza has always seemed to fit the role of utility infielder and few could have predicted the impact Luis Arraez would have at the big-league level. Over the last two seasons, Adrianza has hit .254/.319/.384 with 40 extra-base hits in 176 games. He has also shown defensive flexibility by playing all over the infield including over 660 innings at shortstop during that stretch. Schoop is limited to playing second base as he has logged less than 230 innings at other positions throughout his seven years at the MLB level. The rise of Arraez has also cut into Schoop's time on the field. As a 22-year old, Arraez has put together some unbelievably professional at-bats in his 182 plate appearances. Entering play on Tuesday, he is hitting .356/.429/.444 and he might have a strong argument to be named the AL Rookie of the Year. First year manager Rocco Baldelli certainly has faith in Arraez and if the playoffs started today Arraez would be penciled in at second base. Schoop has compiled some strong numbers in a Twins uniform and Baseball Reference has he accounting for 1.2 WAR. May was a good month for him as he posted an .835 OPS with six home runs and five doubles. He hasn’t had more than four home runs in any other month and his OPS dipped to .622 in June and .787 in July. Since the calendar turned to August, he’s gone 1-for-5 with no extra-base hits. He’s also only started one game in that stretch, Saturday’s contest with the Royals. Currently, the Twins have gotten by with having him relegated to a bench role. What happens if the club needs another relief pitcher? This could force the front office to make a choice between Schoop and one of the other infielders. At this point, Schoop might be the odd man out. While Schoop has been worth more than replacement level when it comes to WAR, his win probability added total is one of the worst totals of his career. He entered play on Tuesday with a -1.28 WPA. His only year with a lower total was 2014 with the Orioles when he accounted for a -3.00 WPA. Schoop has the lowest WPA among qualified batters on the Twins roster and he’s over a full win lower than the next closest qualified batter. Schoop could have some big hits for the Twins in the weeks ahead but he shouldn’t be taking at-bats away from Arraez. At season’s end, Schoop will be a free agent and Arraez will enter the year as the team’s starting second baseman. It helps to have Schoop to add depth to the roster, but it’s getting closer to the point where he might be holding the team back from adding other players (especially pitchers). Do you think it’s time to cut Schoop loose? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  20. This is an excerpt of an article originating at Zone Coverage. Click here to read it in full. On the surface, it was just a home run. In a year where 4,588 of them have been hit already, that hardly seems like a real headline-grabber. MLB hitters have been hitting home runs at a rate of 1.39 per game -- by far the most in a season in history. It's not even really close; the 2017 season ranks second at 1.27 long balls per nine, and no other season is over 1.20. The homer also came late in a game that ended 18-7. That type of score is more commonplace in today's game with balls flying out of the park at an unprecedented rate. Also more commonplace in today's game is position players pitching, and in this case, it was a position player serving up the hitter's second home run of the game. Alright, that's enough of that cryptic business. The home run was in Phoenix, and it came off the bat of Eduardo Escobar. That pitch was thrown by perhaps his best friend in all of baseball -- Washington Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier. If Dozier isn't his closest friend in the game, it's possible the guy catching is -- Nationals backstop Kurt Suzuki. So when Dozier -- a right-handed thrower -- attempted to sneak a 69 mph floater past Escobar -- a switch hitter batting from the right side -- the Diamondbacks' jack-of-all-trades crushed it into oblivion, well into the left-field seats. All three guys did a fairly good job of letting the moment play itself out, until Escobar did his customary home run celebration after rounding third. That's when Suzuki had to get involved, as he playfully told Escobar to get back into the dugout while Dozier simply smiled as he watched his former teammate round the bases. The trio was like mismatched socks -- a Hawaiian, a Mississippi boy and a guy from Venezuela -- who drew glee during their Twins days from bouncing around each other like said socks in a dryer.
  21. Each year there are certain products from Topps that collector's circle on their calendar. While there's products that come in all across the pricing spectrum, it's the flagship design that typically draws the most interest across the board. Making an appearance with a shiny finish is the allure of Topps Chrome, and the slight border should provide plenty of unique looks for the 2019 offering. From a checklist standpoint, Topps Chrome is traditionally about the big name rookies. These are some of the cards you'll want to hold in hopes of rising value down the line. Unfortunately for Twins fans neither Jake Cave or Willians Astudillo represent that contingent, but on your search you could certainly land a Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Fernando Tatis Jr. Typically in this space there's an avenue to break down base, insert, and hit offerings targeted towards the Minnesota Twins. This time around there's not an opportunity to do that as the checklist is extremely light. Nabbing seven different base cards the subjects include rookie cards for Astudillo and Cave, with the veterans being Kepler, Polanco, Buxton, Berrios, and Rosario. Just four insert sets are included in the product, so it's not a huge change of pace. No Twins make it into any of those groupings however, so it's simply base and hits. From an autograph standpoint Cave, Astudillo, and Stephen Gonsalves are all signers in the rookie autos checklist. The one other hit inclusion is an interesting one. At one per case the Debut Gear Relics are somewhat of a chase card. Limited to 140 total cards plus an assumed four printing plates, Brian Dozier appears in this checklist. Now with the Washington Nationals, the chrome offering of what should be something to do with his 2012 memorabilia could be a nice little offering. Releasing during the first day of the 2019 National Card Collector Show, 2019 Topps Chrome Baseball will again be a product to seek out. Simple yet attractive design makes rainbows in this product some of the most attractive to go after. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  22. Polanco is setting a record pace to start the season. Since the team moved to Minnesota, Rod Carew is the only middle infielder to post an OPS+ of 144 or more. Polanco entered play on Monday with a 165 OPS+. Polanco is on a record pace, so let’s see how the other top seasons stack up. Honorable Mention Brian Dozier (2016): 134 OPS+ Dozier’s 2016 campaign finished just outside the top-5 on this list but it seems fitting to include him as an honorable mention. He clubbed 42 home runs that season. He’s the only player not named Harmon Killebrew to pop more than 40 long-balls in one season. Unlike the other players on this list, Dozier didn’t hit for a high average. His 134 OPS+ was the highest total of his career. He finished 13th in the AL MVP voting, but five players in front of him had a lower WAR. 5. Chuck Knoblauch (1995): 136 OPS+ The Twins teams of the mid- and late-90’s were tough to watch but these are some of my first concrete baseball memories. During the strike-shortened 1995 season, Minnesota only won 56 games. Knoblauch finished with the second highest batting average of his career. His .911 OPS was aided by 34 doubles and eight triples. He had led the league with 45 doubles in 1994 but some of those balls went out of the park in 1995. He cracked double-digit home runs for the first time in his career. He finished 17th in the MVP voting but his 6.7 WAR ranked him fourth among position players. 4. Chuck Knoblauch (1996): 143 OPS+ Knoblauch’s 1996 campaign was clearly the best season of his career. He finished third in WAR trailing only Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. He hit .341, a career high. In fact, he would never hit above .300 for the rest of his career. He led the AL with 14 triples, but he also had 13 home runs and 35 doubles. Minnesota was closer to .500 as the club finished 78-84. Clearly, the MVP voters paid little attention to the happenings in Minnesota. Knoblauch finished 16th in the MVP race. His 8.7 WAR was more than double that year’s MVP, Juan Gonzalez. 3. Rod Carew (1973): 144 OPS+ There were lots of firsts for Carew during the 1973 season. His first time leading the league in hits. His first time leading the league in triples. He would also finish in the top-5 for the AL MVP for the first time. All 24 first place votes went to Oakland’s Reggie Jackson, but a theme starts to emerge with Carew’s seasons. His WAR total was higher than the players between him and Jackson. Carew’s batting average was over 50 points higher than Jackson. Carew stole 41 bases during the season and the Twins finished 82-80. 2. Rod Carew (1974): 150 OPS+ For the first time in his career, Carew led all of baseball in hits. He would do this one other time during his MVP season. His .364 batting average was the second highest of his career and his .433 OBP was only 16 points behind the 1977 campaign. His 7.5 WAR was the third highest total of his career. He finished seventh in the MVP voting. However, only Fergie Jenkins had a higher WAR total out of the players ahead of him in the voting. 1. Rod Carew (1975): 157 OPS+ Carew’s best season for OPS+ wasn’t even the year he was named AL MVP (1977). For that season, he started all but five games at first base, so that season doesn’t qualify for this list. He posted a 178 OPS+ that year, a career high, and led the league in runs, hits, triples, batting average, OBP, OPS, and OPS+. The 1975 campaign was his last season playing in the middle infield. He won his fourth consecutive batting title and his fifth batting title overall. That season marked on the second time he had led the league on OBP, which was assisted by a league high 18 intentional walks. He was hitting above .400 into the middle of June and flirted with getting back there in late July. He finished ninth in the MVP voting but his 7.9 WAR that season was higher than all but one player ahead of him in the voting. Will Polanco be able to break the record? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  23. Jorge Polanco missed the first half of last year due to a PED suspension, and his arm has always appeared questionable from a position demanding strength. There was thought that Jorge could slide to second with Minnesota filling the void by inking a Freddy Galvis- or Jose Iglesias-type shortstop in the winter. It didn’t play out that way, a second basemen was acquired, and Polanco stayed put. The Baltimore Orioles sent their All -Star second basemen, Jonathan Schoop, to the Brewers midseason. Like Dozier, he was a one-organization player, and had turned himself into a slugger at an offensively deprived position. Also, like Dozier, success was something that slipped away from him after reaching the top of the mountain. An All-Star in 2017 with an .841 OPS, Schoop posted a .720 OPS in 2018 with Baltimore before dropping to .577 in 46 games with the Brewers. When the dust had settled on his season, he was non-tendered even though Milwaukee had no other obvious answer to start in his place. Looking outside the box, and waiting for an opportunity to pounce, Derek Falvey picked Schoop as the answer to Minnesota’s vacancy. Knowing the club wasn’t ready for Nick Gordon to make an impact, and seemingly not keen on the shortstop options, the decision was made to believe in a bounce back. Despite 2017 being the All-Star breakthrough, Schoop owned a .795 OPS from 2015-2017, and did so while averaging 24 long balls a year. If there was going to be a drop from what Dozier was to what Schoop could be, the impact wouldn’t be much. We’re only 20 games into the current season, but Schoop has already outperformed his 0.5 fWAR from a year ago. He’s never been a guy who takes walks, but there’s been a 3% dip in the strikeout rate from 2018. It took a little while for the first ball to leave the yard, but a career best 41.8% hard-hit rate suggests there should be plenty more to follow. We could stand to see a bit more plate discipline in hopes of doing more with the hard-hit rate, but the inputs are in place for a productive year. Manning second base, he follows in the footsteps of Logan Forsythe before him, and so far is proving to be an upgrade for Minnesota. Arm strength isn’t an issue, and Schoop has produced positive DRS numbers each of the past two seasons. It’s not like he’ll be up for any glove-based awards but helping Polanco up the middle is more than a fair expectation. This is the best start Schoop has ever seen, and that’s a positive development for a guy only a year removed from his first All-Star appearance. In his final year of arbitration, Minnesota doesn’t have team control going into 2020. They banked on this working out for this season, and so far, it has. If this is the consistent version we’re set to see the rest of the way, all parties must be thrilled.
  24. Brian Dozier left the Minnesota Twins during the 2018 season. After being dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers following months of speculation, his tenure in Twins Territory had come to an end. There was little reason to expect him back on a free agent deal over the winter, and the reality looked like the organization was ready to move on from the self-made slugger. That conclusion seemed forgone, but there was a question regarding how he would be replaced.Jorge Polanco missed the first half of last year due to a PED suspension, and his arm has always appeared questionable from a position demanding strength. There was thought that Jorge could slide to second with Minnesota filling the void by inking a Freddy Galvis- or Jose Iglesias-type shortstop in the winter. It didn’t play out that way, a second basemen was acquired, and Polanco stayed put. The Baltimore Orioles sent their All -Star second basemen, Jonathan Schoop, to the Brewers midseason. Like Dozier, he was a one-organization player, and had turned himself into a slugger at an offensively deprived position. Also, like Dozier, success was something that slipped away from him after reaching the top of the mountain. An All-Star in 2017 with an .841 OPS, Schoop posted a .720 OPS in 2018 with Baltimore before dropping to .577 in 46 games with the Brewers. When the dust had settled on his season, he was non-tendered even though Milwaukee had no other obvious answer to start in his place. Looking outside the box, and waiting for an opportunity to pounce, Derek Falvey picked Schoop as the answer to Minnesota’s vacancy. Knowing the club wasn’t ready for Nick Gordon to make an impact, and seemingly not keen on the shortstop options, the decision was made to believe in a bounce back. Despite 2017 being the All-Star breakthrough, Schoop owned a .795 OPS from 2015-2017, and did so while averaging 24 long balls a year. If there was going to be a drop from what Dozier was to what Schoop could be, the impact wouldn’t be much. We’re only 20 games into the current season, but Schoop has already outperformed his 0.5 fWAR from a year ago. He’s never been a guy who takes walks, but there’s been a 3% dip in the strikeout rate from 2018. It took a little while for the first ball to leave the yard, but a career best 41.8% hard-hit rate suggests there should be plenty more to follow. We could stand to see a bit more plate discipline in hopes of doing more with the hard-hit rate, but the inputs are in place for a productive year. Manning second base, he follows in the footsteps of Logan Forsythe before him, and so far is proving to be an upgrade for Minnesota. Arm strength isn’t an issue, and Schoop has produced positive DRS numbers each of the past two seasons. It’s not like he’ll be up for any glove-based awards but helping Polanco up the middle is more than a fair expectation. This is the best start Schoop has ever seen, and that’s a positive development for a guy only a year removed from his first All-Star appearance. In his final year of arbitration, Minnesota doesn’t have team control going into 2020. They banked on this working out for this season, and so far, it has. If this is the consistent version we’re set to see the rest of the way, all parties must be thrilled. Click here to view the article
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