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  1. Although the Minnesota Twins had a lackluster showing in 2021 it doesn’t stop the from nearing a completion. As competing teams look towards the postseason, it’s first time to take a look at the individual standouts. Each year I have the privilege of voting through the IBWAA and sharing the selections creates transparency. This season we saw a return to normalcy following an abbreviated run during a global pandemic a year ago. The treat was a two-way player doing unprecedented things within the sport, and some utterly dominant stars. When handing out the hardware, here’s who I went with: American League MVP - Shohei Ohtani (Runner Up: Vladimir Guerrero Jr) In what otherwise would be considered an unmatchable season, the Blue Jays slugger gets trumped by the Angels star that brings something to the sport we will likely never see again. Shohei Ohtani has paced the sport in longballs while being in the middle of a Cy Young conversation. Add his blistering speed to the equation and you’ve got some sort of a robot. National League MVP - Bryce Harper (Runner Up: Fernando Tatis Jr.) Maybe the quietest of the star performances this season, Bryce Harper has been a catalyst for the Phillies. His 1.032 OPS leads the league and his 32 longballs have a chance to threaten his previous MVP season with a strong finish. Tatis Jr. looked like he may run away with this award in the early going, but Harper has been steady and gets the nod here. American League Cy Young - Gerrit Cole (Runner Up: Robbie Ray) The Yankees ace has had little trouble without the use of sticky substances and being good before seems to have continued with the new set of rules. He’s still dominant, striking everyone out, and keeping runs against to a minimum. Blue Jays free agent acquisition Robbie Ray has made plenty of noise and is a worthy choice, but it’s just not quite enough to unseat the man in pinstripes. National League Cy Young - Max Scherzer (Runner Up: Corbin Burnes) Being as dominant as Mad Max has been on two different teams this year is a feat in and of itself. Despite being dealt, the former Nationals ace has relocated and picked up right where he left off. Recently joining the 3,000 strikeout club, Scherzer has earned every bit of his fourth Cy Young. Burnes has been exceptional for the Brewers, and would be a fine choice as well, but I had to side with Scherzer on the coin flip. American League Rookie of the Year - Randy Arozarena (Runner Up: Adolis Garcia) After starring in the postseason last year for Tampa Bar, Arozarena continued to be an incredible asset on the American League’s best team. He’s got the ability to contribute in so many different categories and has been consistent in a lineup needing him to produce. Texas saw plenty of power production from Adolis Garcia, and he’ll be fun to watch as his game develops more in years to come. National League Rookie of the Year - Jonathan India (Runner Up: Patrick Wisdom) A former 5th overall pick, India debut and hasn’t disappointed. With nearly an .850 OPS his power has been on full display. He’s already got 20 longballs and has a shot to finish with 10 steals. At second base the production is a massive boost for Cincinnati, and he’s rounded into a cornerstone type player. The Cubs Wisdom has been a great story, and the home run production has been off the charts. He too has been very fun to watch. American League Manager of the Year - Kevin Cash (Runner Up: Dusty Baker) What more can you say about a man that continues to do more with less? Cash has been given teams requiring managerial talent and positioning. Players needing to develop and be utilized in the correct situations, the man voted as “best looking” continues to push all of the right buttons. What the Astros have returned to is impressive, but they’re still looking up at the Rays. National League Manager of the Year -Gabe Kapler (Runner Up: Dave Roberts) Cast off from the Phillies and coming off a near-.500 mark in his first season with the Giants, Kapler took a team with no considerable shot for the postseason and turned them into arguably the National League’s best team. Having added veteran talents at the deadline, he’s continued to massage egos, time, and talents in an effort for the winning to continue. Part of the new wave, he’s fended off the Dodgers and their loaded roster under Dave Roberts. American League Reliever of the Year - Liam Hendriks (Runner Up: Ryan Pressly) Signed to a big deal over the winter, Liam Hendriks has delivered for the only competitive team in the AL Central. Working as Tony La Russa’s closer, he’s been used traditionally and has held down the role even past the acquisition of Craig Kimbrel. Hendriks has been elite for some time now, but his 34 saves lead the league, and his 14.0 K/9 is a new career high. The Astros Ryan Pressly has pushed himself up into a similar realm. National League Reliever of the Year - Josh Hader (Runner Up: Kenley Jansen) Milwaukee has pitched their way to dominance this season and it’s been in both the rotation and bullpen. Hader has been as good as ever, and Devin Williams was in consideration here as well. The lanky fireballer has racked up 31 saves and complied a whopping 15.3 K/9. Los Angeles has gotten consistent run from Jansen, but it hasn’t quite been a career year. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  2. I’m doing this a bit earlier than normal this year, and that could wind up being a silly decision depending on injuries and how Spring Training plays out. Regardless, we aren’t sitting on a slew of unsigned talent in early March, and I’m confident with the look of many big-league squads going into 2020 at this point. Let’s hand out some hardware. The Washington Nationals will head into the season looking to defend their World Series trophy. That hasn’t been successfully accomplished in 20 years, since the New York Yankees ripped off three in a row. I don’t see that trend changing in 2020, and that should be an exciting reality for baseball fans. The sport has never seen so many young superstars, and the landscape of the league’s best is once again shifting. Here's what I had going into 2019. I got a couple of the awards right, and nailed the World Series, but ultimately came up just short of getting the winner. MVP: American League – Mike Trout (Dark Horse Gleyber Torres) National League – Bryce Harper (Dark Horse Kris Bryant) Until further notice, Mike Trout is the selection in the American League. He’s not only the greatest player in the game right now, but very well could be the best we’ve ever seen do it. There isn’t a hole in his game, and he seems to find ways to take another step forward each year. The Angels star now has a more loaded lineup around him and will look to get back to playing 150+ games. Generating 10+ fWAR for the first time since 2013 seems like a good bet. After signing the massive deal with the Phillies, Bryce Harper had somewhat of a disappointing season. You’ll certainly take an .882 OPS any day of the week however, and now acclimated entering his age-27 campaign, a jump back up to a 1.000+ OPS is something I’m comfortable with. Marry the last two years patience and production to generate something that should be near the total package. On the dark horse side, it’s more about what I like in each situation as opposed to legitimate threats to the actual award. Gleyber looks like an absolute superstar, and the Yankees are already going to be leaning on him heavily. Bryant has been plagued by injuries and underwhelming narratives, but he’s still coming off a .903 OPS. I don’t know what the Cubs will do, but he’ll stir that drink for sure. Cy Young: American League – Gerrit Cole (Dark Horse Jose Berrios) National League – Walker Buehler (Dark horse Jack Flaherty) Switching teams worked out well for Cole the last time he did it, and there’s no reason to expect his dominance to fade in New York. He’s pitched in a hitter’s ballpark before, and the Yankees rotation will count on him heavily. I tabbed Buehler as the pick last year in the National League, and I might have been just a year early. He finished with the 4th best fWAR and could certainly catch the two Nationals arms in the 2020 season. This is still Jacob deGrom’s title to lose, but I like the Dodgers ace. Maybe recycling Jose Berrios as a dark horse here isn’t fair, but he’s truly so close. A strong finish to his 2019 would’ve have him in a much better position, and he still finished 7th among AL starters in terms of fWAR. Minnesota is going to make noise again, and he should be expected to lead the rotation. If you’ve watched the Cardinals at all then there’s nothing under-the-radar about Flaherty. He’s a stud and emerging as one of baseball’s best arms. He mixed into the tier right below elite territory last year, but another step forward would have him second to no one. Rookie of the Year: American League – Luis Robert (Dark Horse Jo Adell) National League – Gavin Lux (Dark Horse Mitch Keller) One of the chief requirements in garnering Rookie of the Year consideration is playing time, and Luis Robert will have that on his side. He’s an uber-prospect and will be with the White Sox from the jump. I’d expect some growing pains, but there’s too much talent not to side with the favorite in the AL. Lux made his debut last season for the Dodgers and will be unleashed fully in 2020. He’s a middle infield stud and should have little issue producing with a star-studded lineup around him. Back to that playing time issue, which is the only reason I don’t like Adell over Robert. I think the Angels start their outfield prospect in the minors and holding him out for a month or two could make the counting stats lag behind. He looks the part of a worth specimen to play in a Mike Trout led outfield, and you can bet he’ll hold his own. Keller’s big-league career began ugly with the Pirates last year, but he’s far too talented to continue going down that road. He still has rookie eligibility and should use the lessons from 2019 to establish himself as a very good arm for Derek Shelton’s squad. Postseason: American League- Yankees, Twins, Astros Wild Card – Angels, Rays National League- Braves, Cubs, Dodgers Wild Card – Reds, Nationals ALCS – Twins over Yankees NLDS – Dodgers over Braves World Series – Dodgers over Twins This probably comes off looking like a homer pick, but the Twins showed they’re for real last year. Sure, they didn’t hit in a three-game sample size against New York, but this is a team that will win less regular season games and ultimately be better positioned in the Postseason. Both New York and Houston are going to be very good, but losing Severino is a big blow, while the Astros are eventually going to be squashed by the scrutiny. One of the most interesting teams in the AL this year should be the Angels. On the National League side, it’s hard to look away from the talent Atlanta has throughout the lineup. Acuna is established, but I think Albies is the guy that takes another step forward. That division will be tightly contested, but I like Washington more than I’ll ever trust the Mets. Chicago is a complete wild card, and Cincinnati is one of those “won the offseason” clubs. It all comes down to how good the Dodgers are, and the only definition needed there is “very.” Los Angeles has come up short two of the past three years. That ends in 2020 regardless of who is across the diamond. Mookie Betts wasn’t even a necessary addition, but with him in the mix, they’ll be an unstoppable force come October. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  3. Should the Twins be interested in signing free agent lefty Dallas Keuchel? What factors should go into that decision? What Should The Front Office Like When healthy, innings pitched: Three times in the last five years, Keuchel has made at least 29 starts and threw at least 200 innings. Control/Command: Keuchel has pitched in seven major-league seasons. He has typically not hurt himself by issuing walks. In his past six seasons, he has walked no more than 3.0 batters per nine innings and averaged just 2.5 walks per nine innings. 2015 Cy Young In 2015, Keuchel went 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA. He received 22 of the 30 first-place votes for AL Cy Young Award. He also pitched in a career-high 232 innings. Four Gold Gloves Keuchel also fields his position well. He has been awarded the American League Gold Glove in four of the last five seasons. Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson are both very good athletes who field their position well. What Should Scare The Front Office Already 31 Keuchel turned 31 years old on January 1st. On its own, that is not a big deal. However, it would certainly be a deterrent to a four or five year deal. Lack of Velocity Keuchel rarely touches 90 mph with his fastball. But as you can see from the chart below, it’s not like his velocity has diminished. He has never thrown hard. https://twitter.com/SethTweets/status/1102061747341611010 Health I have already and will again write the all-important phrase “if healthy.” That’s obviously an unknown and can’t be predicted with exact science (yet?). But Keuchel has had a variety of issues physically. He acknowledged after the 2016 season that he fought shoulder pain the whole year. He had a minor foot injury that cost him some time. He also had a neck injury. Draft Pick Compensation The Astros made a Qualifying Offer to Keuchel, so the team that signs him will have to give up a draft pick. What Signing Him Would Do For the Twins There is little question that, assuming Keuchel is healthy, he would improve the Twins rotation. Essentially Keuchel would take a spot in the Twins rotation and either Martin Perez or Michael Pineda would be moved to the bullpen. That’s not to say that Keuchel would fit in as the Twins fifth starter. But I also think it’s important to realize that he is not an ace, by any means. He would be a 2/3 in the Twins rotation. His 2018 numbers were very similar to those of Kyle Gibson. Again, assuming health, that would give the Twins a pretty solid 1-2-3 in their rotation for a potential playoff rotation with Odorizzi, Pineda and Perez (and all that minor league depth) getting their opportunities. Length of Ideal Contract To be honest, I would prefer a one-year deal between the Twins and Keuchel. Frankly, the (lack of) velocity scares me. If he loses another tick or two in velocity or if he loses even a little bit of command, his productivity could drop dramatically, and quickly. However, if he’s going to sign just a one-year deal, why wouldn’t he return to the Astros? Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are their top two starters. They added Wade Miley this offseason via free agency. Top prospect Forrest Whitley is likely close. Lance McCullers will miss the full season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock could return to their rotation as well. Would you be willing to give Keuchel a second year? I probably would, especially because the Twins don’t have a lot of funds tied up on 2020 yet. But a third year? No, thank you. And a fourth year? Just no. Why Might Keuchel Have Interest in the Twins Keuchel has won and experienced a lot of success. He will want to be part of a team that has a chance to compete for a playoff spot. The Twins certainly fit that category. Keuchel certainly has seen the moves that the Twins have made this offseason. They added Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, CJ Cron and Keuchel’s long-time teammate Marwin Gonzalez. The lineup also includes several mid-20s players who he knows have the potential to add even more offense. Keuchel’s best years came with Jason Castro as his catcher in Houston. He also has to look at the Twins outfield and know that hits turn into outs, especially when Byron Buxton is out there. Like Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel is represented by Scott Boras. Boras and the Twins front office seem to have a solid working relationship, and top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff are also Boras clients. What Would be a Reasonable Offer at this Point So, with all of that in mind, I think the following offers would be fair: Ideally, I would prefer a one-year, make-good contract. One year, $16 million. I would guess that Boras and Keuchel would like to get a second guaranteed season (and probably a third and fourth too), again, similar to the Gonzalez contract. So how about Two Years, $30 million deal? Summary As you read earlier in the week, LaVelle Neal wrote that the Twins will not sign Keuchel (or Kimbrel) unless something drastic changes. There are enough red flags around Keuchel that the Twins (and clearly most MLB teams) have shied away. Personally, I agree with that assessment. For a guy who rarely touches 90 mph with his fastball, Dallas Keuchel has put together a really strong free agent resume with his work in Houston the past six seasons. However, some of his peripheral numbers, understandably, could give teams reason for pause. Clearly they have. The Twins are currently about $12 million below where they started the 2018 season, so the proposed deals above would put them just over those numbers. The front office has to ask themselves which they prefer: A 31 year old lefty with no velocity but a great track record of success. A 27 year old lefty who is hitting 95-97 mph this spring but whose numbers have never matched his stuff. Note that if the Twins signed Keuchel, Perez wouldn’t be lost, just moved to the bullpen. What makes sense to you?
  4. “He was pretty animated,” said Your Stepmom. “He kept going on about how they have all this money to spend and that this Merlin fellow wasn’t going to help them beat Cleveland.” Your Dad, who was heard discussing the effectiveness of Twins reliever “Travis Hamburger” last Labor Day weekend at a family picnic, appears to be weighing a couple options in misremembering the 29-year-old veteran’s name. “Once Wheel of Fortune got done, he was fired up about the whole thing,” said Your Brother, who is living at home after the Bay Area start-up he worked at that sold artisan soaps over the internet went belly up. “It was all Dallas Kutcher (sic) this, Craig Kilborn (sic) that, and here the Twins are signing Merman.” Your Brother confirmed that he meant the former Houston Astros mainstay, and not the fearsome half-man/half-fish. “When he said Merlin earlier, I figured he’d stick with that, but the Merman thing was unexpected,” said Your Brother, who had to know that his former company’s business plan was unsound but has been chasing that big paycheck ever since dropping out of Hamline and breaking off his engagement with Nicole, who, let’s face it, was way too good for him and is probably happier with Nigel, her yoga instructor. “I really want to see how this plays out if Gonzalez signs and plays well.” A person close to the situation said this has the potential to be Your Dad’s greatest Twins-related befuddlement since the Mike Pagliarulo Incident of 1991.
  5. Minnesota's alleged interest in free agent utility man Marwin Gonzalez has sparked speculation on his potential place on the Twins’ 25-man roster. For Your Dad, though, the real guessing game is what he’s going to call him. Sources close to Your Family confirmed on Thursday that conversations about the possible signing concluded with Your Dad wondering why they’re signing “this Merlin Gonzalez character” instead of Bryce Harper.“He was pretty animated,” said Your Stepmom. “He kept going on about how they have all this money to spend and that this Merlin fellow wasn’t going to help them beat Cleveland.” Your Dad, who was heard discussing the effectiveness of Twins reliever “Travis Hamburger” last Labor Day weekend at a family picnic, appears to be weighing a couple options in misremembering the 29-year-old veteran’s name. “Once Wheel of Fortune got done, he was fired up about the whole thing,” said Your Brother, who is living at home after the Bay Area start-up he worked at that sold artisan soaps over the internet went belly up. “It was all Dallas Kutcher (sic) this, Craig Kilborn (sic) that, and here the Twins are signing Merman.” Your Brother confirmed that he meant the former Houston Astros mainstay, and not the fearsome half-man/half-fish. “When he said Merlin earlier, I figured he’d stick with that, but the Merman thing was unexpected,” said Your Brother, who had to know that his former company’s business plan was unsound but has been chasing that big paycheck ever since dropping out of Hamline and breaking off his engagement with Nicole, who, let’s face it, was way too good for him and is probably happier with Nigel, her yoga instructor. “I really want to see how this plays out if Gonzalez signs and plays well.” A person close to the situation said this has the potential to be Your Dad’s greatest Twins-related befuddlement since the Mike Pagliarulo Incident of 1991. Click here to view the article
  6. https://twitter.com/hotts58/status/1094647634290245634 My first thought to this question was I hope so. That being said, the Twins don’t necessarily need him to be what Logan Morrison was supposed to be last year. Morrison was brought in to be the team’s regular designated hitter. Lucas Duda is certainly not going to be give that responsibility with Nelson Cruz on the roster. Plus, Duda isn’t guaranteed any money under his deal with the Twins. He must be on the roster and contributing to get paid. Duda is left-handed so that could help him to find a place on a very right-handed heavy Twins line-up. Last season, he hit .241/.313/.418 with 29 extra-base hits in 107 games between Kansas City and Atlanta. He has a pair of 30 home run seasons under his belt including one as recent as 2017. CJ Cron, Tyler Austin, and Duda will all be battling for time at first base. A platoon with Cron or Austin versus lefties and Duda versus righties could add some power to the Twins line-up. https://twitter.com/MinnFan4Life/status/1094112001775886336 I certainly believe the Twins think they can contend this season especially in a very open AL Central. One of the biggest keys for 2019 is making sure the young core is ready to take the next step. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have plenty to prove after last season. Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios were two of the team’s best players last year but they each could be more consistent this season. Max Kepler destroyed every level of the minor leagues and he hasn’t shown that ability at baseball’s highest level. Prospects don’t always pan out, so the club needs to continue to add depth throughout the minor league system. They were able to do that in last year’s draft and by trading away assets at last year’s deadline. Last year’s club was a good example of why one-year deals don’t typically work. There were a bunch of players with no connection to the club and very little team chemistry. Minnesota is never going to outspend other teams and I doubt many big-name free agents are identifying the Twins as an ideal destination for their talents. As much as fans don’t want to hear it, the Twins need to see what their young core can do this season. Everything could come together and be great or things could crash and burn. We will have to see what players are up to the challenge. https://twitter.com/PaulLovesTacos/status/1094016967755755520 There has been some talk of teams offering Manny Machado and Bryce Harper shorter-term deal with more annual money associated with each contract. I believe both players and their agents are looking for more long-term stability. They are each reaching free agency at a young age so the next contract they sign could take them through the bulk of their formative (and defining) years in the big leagues. They need to make sure the city and team are the right fit and that the contract works for their future. I think there are a few reasons as to why the Twins wouldn’t be interested at four-years and $40 million per season. Adding another $80 million to the payroll seems like quite the jump. Minnesota needs to get into a situation where they can make more money on their television contract and that could help open the coffers for more payroll funding. I also don’t know if these two players want to be on the same team. They both have big egos and each wants to be the face of a franchise. https://twitter.com/gary_pecinovsky/status/1094009443145170944 Nick Gordon is coming off his worst season as a professional. Most of last year, Gordon was playing at Triple-A where he was four and a half years younger than the competition. He struggled mightily with Rochester by hitting .212/.262/.283. His power hasn’t developed, and he doesn’t show much patience in the batter’s box. He’s spent the off-season adding some weight to his frame, which could help him in the power department. He was a consensus top-100 MLB prospect in each of the last four off-seasons, but he didn’t make any top-100 lists this off-season. Here at Twins Daily, he dropped from the organization’s third best prospect to the club’s 12th best prospect. He was added to the 40-man roster this off-season, so I think he will make his big league debut this season. Gordon needs to find his swing at Triple-A and then he will be just a phone call away. https://twitter.com/BlueWahoosBBall/status/1093921281458745346 There are certainly some trickle down effects from the big-league level all the way down to Double-A. Players throughout the system are impacted by those already ahead of them on the organizational depth chart. With that in mind, there are a lot of things that will impact who is starting at which level. I believe pitching continues to evolve and organizations are going to start taking a unique approach to the roles of starters. Chattanooga likely starts the year with a six-man rotation, but the organization most assuredly will be using more openers during the season. The Blue Wahoos’ bullpen will be equally important. If I am picking the rotation today, I think it will include Jorge Alcala, Tyler Wells, Sean Poppen, Daniel Camarena, Charlie Barnes, and Clark Beeker. Alcala was acquired from the Astros last season as part of the Ryan Pressly trade. Wells made five starts at Double-A last season and should start the year there again. Poppen spent the majority of 2018 in Chattanooga but there is depth ahead of him that will likely keep him at Double-A. Camarena was signed as a minor league free agent and hasn’t pitched yet in the Twins organization. Barnes pitched all last year at Fort Myers so he should move up a level. Beeker will be 26-years old this season, so he likely starts in Pensacola. What do you think? Leave a COMMENT and answer any of the questions above.
  7. It’s finally here. Our long national nightmare is over with pitchers and catchers reporting at the end of the week. Spring training can finally begin and that means regular season baseball is a little over a month away. It’s crazy to think the Twins are going to host a regular season home game at the end of March but that’s something that needed to happen with the Final Four being held in Minneapolis at the beginning of April. Thanks to everyone for this week’s mailbag questions. Let’s see what’s in the mailbox. My first thought to this question was I hope so. That being said, the Twins don’t necessarily need him to be what Logan Morrison was supposed to be last year. Morrison was brought in to be the team’s regular designated hitter. Lucas Duda is certainly not going to be give that responsibility with Nelson Cruz on the roster. Plus, Duda isn’t guaranteed any money under his deal with the Twins. He must be on the roster and contributing to get paid. Duda is left-handed so that could help him to find a place on a very right-handed heavy Twins line-up. Last season, he hit .241/.313/.418 with 29 extra-base hits in 107 games between Kansas City and Atlanta. He has a pair of 30 home run seasons under his belt including one as recent as 2017. CJ Cron, Tyler Austin, and Duda will all be battling for time at first base. A platoon with Cron or Austin versus lefties and Duda versus righties could add some power to the Twins line-up. I certainly believe the Twins think they can contend this season especially in a very open AL Central. One of the biggest keys for 2019 is making sure the young core is ready to take the next step. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have plenty to prove after last season. Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios were two of the team’s best players last year but they each could be more consistent this season. Max Kepler destroyed every level of the minor leagues and he hasn’t shown that ability at baseball’s highest level. Prospects don’t always pan out, so the club needs to continue to add depth throughout the minor league system. They were able to do that in last year’s draft and by trading away assets at last year’s deadline. Last year’s club was a good example of why one-year deals don’t typically work. There were a bunch of players with no connection to the club and very little team chemistry. Minnesota is never going to outspend other teams and I doubt many big-name free agents are identifying the Twins as an ideal destination for their talents. As much as fans don’t want to hear it, the Twins need to see what their young core can do this season. Everything could come together and be great or things could crash and burn. We will have to see what players are up to the challenge. There has been some talk of teams offering Manny Machado and Bryce Harper shorter-term deal with more annual money associated with each contract. I believe both players and their agents are looking for more long-term stability. They are each reaching free agency at a young age so the next contract they sign could take them through the bulk of their formative (and defining) years in the big leagues. They need to make sure the city and team are the right fit and that the contract works for their future. I think there are a few reasons as to why the Twins wouldn’t be interested at four-years and $40 million per season. Adding another $80 million to the payroll seems like quite the jump. Minnesota needs to get into a situation where they can make more money on their television contract and that could help open the coffers for more payroll funding. I also don’t know if these two players want to be on the same team. They both have big egos and each wants to be the face of a franchise. Nick Gordon is coming off his worst season as a professional. Most of last year, Gordon was playing at Triple-A where he was four and a half years younger than the competition. He struggled mightily with Rochester by hitting .212/.262/.283. His power hasn’t developed, and he doesn’t show much patience in the batter’s box. He’s spent the off-season adding some weight to his frame, which could help him in the power department. He was a consensus top-100 MLB prospect in each of the last four off-seasons, but he didn’t make any top-100 lists this off-season. Here at Twins Daily, he dropped from the organization’s third best prospect to the club’s 12th best prospect. He was added to the 40-man roster this off-season, so I think he will make his big league debut this season. Gordon needs to find his swing at Triple-A and then he will be just a phone call away. There are certainly some trickle down effects from the big-league level all the way down to Double-A. Players throughout the system are impacted by those already ahead of them on the organizational depth chart. With that in mind, there are a lot of things that will impact who is starting at which level. I believe pitching continues to evolve and organizations are going to start taking a unique approach to the roles of starters. Chattanooga likely starts the year with a six-man rotation, but the organization most assuredly will be using more openers during the season. The Blue Wahoos’ bullpen will be equally important. If I am picking the rotation today, I think it will include Jorge Alcala, Tyler Wells, Sean Poppen, Daniel Camarena, Charlie Barnes, and Clark Beeker. Alcala was acquired from the Astros last season as part of the Ryan Pressly trade. Wells made five starts at Double-A last season and should start the year there again. Poppen spent the majority of 2018 in Chattanooga but there is depth ahead of him that will likely keep him at Double-A. Camarena was signed as a minor league free agent and hasn’t pitched yet in the Twins organization. Barnes pitched all last year at Fort Myers so he should move up a level. Beeker will be 26-years old this season, so he likely starts in Pensacola. What do you think? Leave a COMMENT and answer any of the questions above. Click here to view the article
  8. A young Eden Prairie boy plans to buy a Bryce Harper rookie card this weekend. One area baseball executive is hoping he can change his mind. Jake Evenson, 10, got a $20 bill for his birthday. The young Eden Prairie baseball fanatic knows exactly what he wants, too: a Bryce Harper rookie card.“He’s my favorite player, and there’s one I can get for $15,” said Evenson. “Mom said we could buy it this weekend.” Twins Executive Vice President and Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey wants him to reconsider. “I think he should really take a wait-and-see approach to this purchase,” said Falvey. “He has a solid card collection right now. If it appreciates in value, that’s when he can strike.” Evenson, who was pulled out of science class to take Falvey’s phone call, was confused. “It was pretty weird. This man said I should hold onto that $20 if I needed it down the line. I’m 10. I don’t have bills. I like Bryce Harper and I can afford it. “The last time someone got a call in my class it’s because their dad was in jail,” Evenson added. Falvey, who said the phone call was part of the team’s new Community Outreach program, understands Evenson’s passion, but urged the youngster to take the long view. “What if he really gets into Fortnite or comic books? At that age, your tastes are mercurial. All of a sudden, you have this Bryce Harper card that was cool at the time, but now you want to trade it in for some Claremont-era X-Men issues. Then the market isn’t there and all you can get is a cruddy Daredevil that smells like milk.” Evenson remains adamant. “I like Spiderman, but Mr. Falvey said he’s not an X Man. I want a Bryce Harper card because I have money and he’s awesome.” Falvey remains convinced that he can sway the child to his way of thinking. “Later today we’re sending T.C. Bear to Jake’s after-school program with a dozen pizzas and a personalized t-shirt cannon signed by Jonathan Schoop,” said Falvey. “If he’s still apprehensive, we’ll let him shoot the cannon at TC with whatever he wants: apples, staple guns, you name it. Don’t tell TC that.” _____________________________________________ Twins Daily is THRILLED to welcome Randball Stu as a weekly satirical contributor. Click here to view the article
  9. “He’s my favorite player, and there’s one I can get for $15,” said Evenson. “Mom said we could buy it this weekend.” Twins Executive Vice President and Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey wants him to reconsider. “I think he should really take a wait-and-see approach to this purchase,” said Falvey. “He has a solid card collection right now. If it appreciates in value, that’s when he can strike.” Evenson, who was pulled out of science class to take Falvey’s phone call, was confused. “It was pretty weird. This man said I should hold onto that $20 if I needed it down the line. I’m 10. I don’t have bills. I like Bryce Harper and I can afford it. “The last time someone got a call in my class it’s because their dad was in jail,” Evenson added. Falvey, who said the phone call was part of the team’s new Community Outreach program, understands Evenson’s passion, but urged the youngster to take the long view. “What if he really gets into Fortnite or comic books? At that age, your tastes are mercurial. All of a sudden, you have this Bryce Harper card that was cool at the time, but now you want to trade it in for some Claremont-era X-Men issues. Then the market isn’t there and all you can get is a cruddy Daredevil that smells like milk.” Evenson remains adamant. “I like Spiderman, but Mr. Falvey said he’s not an X Man. I want a Bryce Harper card because I have money and he’s awesome.” Falvey remains convinced that he can sway the child to his way of thinking. “Later today we’re sending T.C. Bear to Jake’s after-school program with a dozen pizzas and a personalized t-shirt cannon signed by Jonathan Schoop,” said Falvey. “If he’s still apprehensive, we’ll let him shoot the cannon at TC with whatever he wants: apples, staple guns, you name it. Don’t tell TC that.”
  10. On Tuesday, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the White Sox offer to Machado was for $175 million over seven years. From the rest of Olney’s tweet, it sounds like Chicago is hoping the market continues to be cold and Machado will eventually agree to their terms. This was a similar situation to the one faced by JD Martinez last year before he eventually signed with Boston. https://twitter.com/Buster_ESPN/status/1085587294730502147 Machado has reached free agency and he is only a year older than Byron Buxton. In the time Buxton has been trying to emerge at the big-league level, Machado has won two Gold Gloves and been selected to four All-Star Games. He’s also finished in the top 10 for MVP voting three times including two top five finishes. Also, he’s mashed 30 or more home runs for four straight seasons. Looking into Minnesota’s future, the club has almost no guaranteed money moving beyond the 2019 season. Younger players will continue to become more expensive through the arbitration process and the organization could look to sign some of the young core to a long-term deal. With Minnesota’s financial flexibility, there is room to add a player of Machado’s caliber. It seems like it would be easy for a club to top the offer on the table from the White Sox. Adding Machado to Minnesota could limit the club’s ability to sign the likes of Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton in the years to come. However, they both have a lot still to prove at the big-league level. How’s this for an Opening Day line-up? 1. Jorge Polanco- 2B 2. Manny Machado- SS 3. Miguel Sano- 3B 4. Nelson Cruz- DH 5. Eddie Rosario- LF 6. CJ Cron- 1B 7. Max Kepler- RF 8. Jason Castro- C 9. Byron Buxton- CF Signing Machado might be a pipe dream, but he’d certainly look better in a Twins uniform than roaming the infield for the South Siders. Chicago is an emerging team in the AL Central and Minnesota is going to be contending with them for the next half a decade. Wouldn’t it be sweet to steal their prized free agent? Let’s dream about that. Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Would signing Machado make sense for the Twins?
  11. Dreams can happen right? Last week, I mused about the possibility of Minnesota making a bid for free agent Manny Machado. He’s young, a five-tool player, and has the potential to impact the game in multiple ways. It also helps that the White Sox have been going after him. If the Twins could steal him from their division rival, it would make the signing that much sweeter. Could the Twins make a splash and sign Machado or Harper?ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting the Twins could be one of a handful of mystery teams interested in signing either Machado or Harper. Olney’s biggest reasons for identifying the Twins is their lack of free agent spending, which gives the club an opportunity to pull off this kind of contract. Over the last week, Minnesota’s payroll has been a hot button topic in Twins Territory. (I wrote a little about it in this week’s Twins Daily mailbag and you can listen to Gleeman and the Geek discuss it in their latest episode). Joe Mauer’s contract came off the books and the organization has few contractual commitments moving forward. According to Forbes, Minnesota ranks 22nd in MLB team valuations. The club made $261 million in revenue last year and spent $133 million on player expenses. Currently, the Twins are projected to start next season with a payroll around $100 million. If it takes longer for these two players to sign, their asking price could continue to drop. It could also drop the length of the contract. Both players are relatively young for reaching free agency since they made their debuts as teenagers. This could allow teams to sign them to a longer contract because the prime of their careers would be throughout most of the new deal. Since these two players debuted in 2012, Harper has the 12th highest WAR total, while Machado comes in at 15th. These are two of the best players of this generation and they are reaching free agency in their prime. All of baseball should be interested… why not the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  12. ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting the Twins could be one of a handful of mystery teams interested in signing either Machado or Harper. Olney’s biggest reasons for identifying the Twins is their lack of free agent spending, which gives the club an opportunity to pull off this kind of contract. Over the last week, Minnesota’s payroll has been a hot button topic in Twins Territory. (I wrote a little about it in this week’s Twins Daily mailbag and you can listen to Gleeman and the Geek discuss it in their latest episode). Joe Mauer’s contract came off the books and the organization has few contractual commitments moving forward. According to Forbes, Minnesota ranks 22nd in MLB team valuations. The club made $261 million in revenue last year and spent $133 million on player expenses. Currently, the Twins are projected to start next season with a payroll around $100 million. If it takes longer for these two players to sign, their asking price could continue to drop. It could also drop the length of the contract. Both players are relatively young for reaching free agency since they made their debuts as teenagers. This could allow teams to sign them to a longer contract because the prime of their careers would be throughout most of the new deal. Since these two players debuted in 2012, Harper has the 12th highest WAR total, while Machado comes in at 15th. These are two of the best players of this generation and they are reaching free agency in their prime. All of baseball should be interested… why not the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  13. Okay, we know we are not in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Be glad. Only Boras can sell him as the $400 million dollar man. If we look closely we know better. What were his stats this year? 1.3 WAR. 248, 34, 100. Yes he had a +133 OPS. Is that worth $40 million a year? He has had 7 years and an accumulated 27.4 WAR - 3.9 per year. What is that worth? Lets me realistic here. The following article says that in this inflated era a player gets $3.8 million per war - that means that for 2018 Harper was worth about $5 Million. If we take his average over his career it means just under $15million. Will he sign for that? Of course not. Boras has the league buffaloed so he will get twice or more for that. https://www.reddit.com/r/baseball/comments/7vwjmy/realistic_war_how_much_should_players_actually/ He will argue that these are his prime years coming up and that is true. However, how long is his prime? Most estimates make 32 the maximum. https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/9933/how-do-baseball-players-age-investigating-the-age-27-theory/ Then what? Look at Pujols. He might be DFA'd now that the Angels have gotten a first baseman and DH. Or Tulowitzki who has been DFA'd with two big years left on his contract. Of course we can always look at the impact that the player has on winning. Harper has been with the Nationals seven years. They have been first 4 times and second 3 times. Of course they also have Scherzer the best pitcher in the NL (I know some like Kershaw) and Strasburg and Rodon and Werth and Turner... Yet they have never made the WS. They lost in the LDS four times 3 - 2. Mr Harper never took them over the top. A team is a team, not a star and bit players. Those who chase Harper or the guy who does not want to play all out, but will play dirty can expend the big bucks, but the Twins have much more affordable options in the next tier. Of course that assumes the Twins want to win and want to spend.
  14. Last winter free agents were met with a depressed market. Despite some players holding out and still finding acceptable deals, there were plenty of solid names to be had late in the game. As organizations see results indicating mega-deals to players at or beyond 30 years of age aren’t good business, the sport has begun to take corrective action. For Minnesota, the acquisitions were mainly of the one-year variety, and it was a plan the front office has since reconsidered. Going into 2019, opportunity is present largely due to Minnesota having the fourth lowest amount of committed money. Accounting for Ervin Santana’s $1MM buyout, the Twins have just $33.5MM in guaranteed salaries for next season. Obviously that number will rise with players arbitration and pre-arbitration values, but regardless, there’s a significant chunk of change to be spent. If the payroll gets to something like $60MM before any additions, the front office should have roughly $50-60MM at their disposal to acquire talent. So, how do they use it? Looking at the free agent landscape this offseason, it’s hard not to stare directly at the top. No one knows yet where Bryce Harper or Manny Machado will go. Pitchers like Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel headline available arms, but it falls off considerably behind them. For Minnesota specifically, the greatest areas of improvement will be focused in the infield. Miguel Sano could stick at third, or he could be asked to take over for Joe Mauer at first base. Nick Gordon doesn’t yet appear ready for the big leagues, and Brian Dozier isn’t in the organization any longer. Although Jorge Polanco appears as though he can hold down short right now, there’s the possibility that a better option may exist. Although it was a lost season for Byron Buxton, you’d have to consider it an upset if he’s not the Opening Day starter in center field. Eddie Rosario is entrenched as an All-Star, and Max Kepler is probably entering a make-or-break season. Jake Cave looks the part of a capable fourth outfielder, and the next emerging prospect could soon enter the picture. When shopping for talent, outfield doesn’t appear to be an area of great concern. Falvey and Levine have helped to establish some relative pitching depth, which is something the Twins haven’t had in quite some time. With four of the rotation spots already accounted for, an upper echelon arm to take the fifth spot could make a good deal of sense. Michael Pineda didn’t debut in 2018 for the Twins, but that acquisition still looks like a worthwhile investment by the front office. With Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell, and a handful of other prospects ready and waiting, there’s reason for optimism on the bump. Really, what it all boils down to, is that the Twins need to knock this winter out of the park. After experiencing the level of turmoil this team did in 2018, a 78-win season is hardly bottoming out. Minnesota should be well positioned among the AL Central in 2019, and the competitionbelow them should continue to be lackluster. Above them, Cleveland’s offseason path might be determined by their playoff performance. Starting the playoffs with a series against the World Champion Astros is no easy task. If you’re planning to bet one way or the other, Bovada will have the latest odds, so make sure to read their review if you’re looking to bet. However it goes, the Indians might conclude they need to add significant pieces now that they’re competing with the big boys. The Twins are not at that level but we hope they will be, depending on the development of the likes of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. That said, this offseason can help to supplement that core and carry the organization into the next era highlighted by Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. If we saw anything from the Minnesota Twins and the divisional foes this season, it’s that this group isn’t all that far away. By locking down key talent both internally and externally, the corner could again be turned towards a situation of sustained excellence. On paper, Falvey and Levine had a stellar offseason going into 2018. They can take the shortcomings that were revealed in game action and utilize that learning process to really nail it this time around. There are expectations now, and responsibility for meeting those expectations hinges on what happens over the next few months, and Minnesota fans should certainly buckle in for what should be an intriguing ride.
  15. Jerry Crasnick, one of ESPN’s national baseball writers, is reporting that contract talks between Brian Dozier and the Minnesota Twins have come to a halt. https://twitter.com/jcrasnick/status/979140242321100800 For those following the Twins this spring, it seemed like Dozier was destined for free agency. When he signed his current contract with Minnesota, the deal only bought out his remaining arbitration eligible seasons. For Dozier, it provided him some financial stability. At the same time, it allowed the Twins to have some cost certainty. Dozier and his agency took a gamble on Dozier being able to produce in his late 20s to set him up for free agency for his age-32 season. This is typically the time when players start to decline but Dozier has been one of the best hitting second basemen over the last two seasons. Barring an injury, Dozier might be headed for a big pay day. Next year’s free agent class looks stacked. Dozier will join a free agent class including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Charlie Blackmon, Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, Cody Allen, Adam Jones, and Andrew McCutchen. Other players like Clayton Kershaw and David Price could be free agents if they opt out of their current contracts. After this year’s cool free agent market, it will be interesting to see how much money will be thrown around next season. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado could get record-breaking deals. Heck, Harper could be headed for the richest contract of all time. For teams that miss out on the top tier free agents, there will be other options like Dozier waiting in the wings. As I wrote about this spring, Minnesota has a multiple top prospects in the middle infield. Nick Gordon will be knocking on the door of the big leagues this season. Other top prospects like Royce Lewis and Wander Javier also play up the middle. If Dozier signs with another organization, one of these players could take over at second base next year. What are your thoughts on a possible Dozier extension? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  16. There is plenty of hope at the dawning of a new season. Every team starts with an equal playing field. No batters have struck out. Pitchers have a perfect ERA. There are 162 games to separate the contenders from the pretenders. It’s an exciting time for every fan. The beginning of a new season also means players want to focus on the season. A lot of players and agents don’t want to be bogged down in contract negotiations. For Brian Dozier and the Minnesota Twins, this seems like the situation they are facing.Jerry Crasnick, one of ESPN’s national baseball writers, is reporting that contract talks between Brian Dozier and the Minnesota Twins have come to a halt. For those following the Twins this spring, it seemed like Dozier was destined for free agency. When he signed his current contract with Minnesota, the deal only bought out his remaining arbitration eligible seasons. For Dozier, it provided him some financial stability. At the same time, it allowed the Twins to have some cost certainty. Dozier and his agency took a gamble on Dozier being able to produce in his late 20s to set him up for free agency for his age-32 season. This is typically the time when players start to decline but Dozier has been one of the best hitting second basemen over the last two seasons. Barring an injury, Dozier might be headed for a big pay day. Next year’s free agent class looks stacked. Dozier will join a free agent class including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Charlie Blackmon, Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, Cody Allen, Adam Jones, and Andrew McCutchen. Other players like Clayton Kershaw and David Price could be free agents if they opt out of their current contracts. After this year’s cool free agent market, it will be interesting to see how much money will be thrown around next season. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado could get record-breaking deals. Heck, Harper could be headed for the richest contract of all time. For teams that miss out on the top tier free agents, there will be other options like Dozier waiting in the wings. As I wrote about this spring, Minnesota has a multiple top prospects in the middle infield. Nick Gordon will be knocking on the door of the big leagues this season. Other top prospects like Royce Lewis and Wander Javier also play up the middle. If Dozier signs with another organization, one of these players could take over at second base next year. What are your thoughts on a possible Dozier extension? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  17. As we did in the Dozier article, research was done to consider comparable deals. It can be more difficult to find guys who have signed long-term deals after just over two years of service time, and how many of them put up over four WAR in large part due to his defense? But we tried and we’ll use the information we find to try to project what it might take to sign Buxton to an extension. For this analysis, let’s start out at the top of the spectrum. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are at the top of the pay scales. One could argue that they are, especially considering their ages and ages at debut, the two more valuable players in the game today. Byron Buxton is at 2.064 years of service. That means, he will be arbitration-eligible following the 2018 season. Mike Trout signed for $1 million in 2014, his final pre-arbitration salary. Following another MVP caliber season, Trout signed a huge six year, $144.5 extension that bought out his three arbitration years and three years of free agency. His three arbitration-year salaries were $5.25 million, $15.25 million and $19.25 million. He then will get $33.25 million each of the next three years (those bought-out free agent years). Bryce Harper was the #1 overall pick in the 2010 draft to a Major League contract. He came up quickly and following the 2014 season, he was already approaching arbitration. Instead, he and the Nationals ripped up the final year of his original deal, and he signed for $2.5 million in 2015 and $5.0 million in 2016. He made $13.625 million this season, and earlier in the year, he signed for $21.65 million in what would have been his fourth arbitration year. *TBD will equal some really, really big numbers Now, Byron Buxton isn’t going to command the same contracts as Trout or Harper if he signs now. Those guys had MVPs and All Star experiences under their belt. Buxton’ hasn’t yet, but his 3.5 bWAR based highly on his defense certainly point in the direction of him being at a level just below those top two guys. So who are some others who signed this type of deal? In the chart below, I’ve listed some players that I think would be pretty comparable to where Buxton is right now, guys who signed long-term extensions. I should note that Christian Yelich signed his deal one year earlier in the process. Justin Upton was the most established at the point of his deal. He was also drafted at the top of his draft. Juan Lugares has won a Gold Glove. Odubel Herrera was an All Star. Christian Yelich was a high-ranking prospect of the Marlins and was part of Team USA this year. I also included Andrelton Simmons. Despite the fact that he’s an infielder, I think he is a good comp for Buxton. Early in Simmons’ career, he really struggled offensively, but his glove was elite. He won several Gold Gloves and was generally considered the best defensive player in baseball for several years. I think Buxton fits into that category, but at the same time, Buxton’s offensive potential is significantly higher. So with that information as the background, he is an estimate of the parameters that might make sense for a Buxton extension. That would equate to a seven year, $76.5 million.Obviously that is a huge investment, but Buxton still has a ton of potential beyond his golden glove and speed. He has power to go with it, and if he can reduce his strikeouts the way he did in 2017 again, he will be a multi-time All Star, and a potential MVP candidate. There is risk for the Twins, but if the Twins choose to go year to year with Buxton, he could cost more per year and could be gone to free agency after the 2021 season. However, the risk for the Twins in not signing him this offseason is that he could take another step forward offensively and end up with 30-50% higher annual salaries if they did a deal in a year. Of course, with Buxton banging into walls with frequency, injury is a potential risk as well. The risk for Buxton is just that. He could potentially make quite a bit more by going year to year and then become a free agent at age 28. At that time, he could look for an eight to ten year deal. So what do you think? Should the Twins consider a multi-year extension for Buxton? At what point would you be less comfortable? How many years of risk would you be willing to take while at the same time being realistic? Discuss. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- COMING SOON! A reminder, Nick Nelson is leading the way in the final steps of creating the Twins Daily Annual Offseason Handbook. More details, and the ability to pre-order, will be made available later this week. As we have in the past, we'll take a look at what options the Twins may have during the upcoming offseason. Trade Targets. Free Agents. Exclusive articles from the Twins Daily owners only available in the electronic book. Definitely something Twins fans will want at their fingertips.
  18. How does this strategy work when creating the starting line-ups? I'm glad you asked... American League All-Star Starters C: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals 1B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers 2B: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros 3B: Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins SS: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros OF: George Springer, Houston Astros OF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels OF: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees DH: Corey Dickerson, Tampa Bay Rays SP: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox There aren't too many surprises on this starting line-up. Catching has become a wasteland across the baseball world but Perez provides some offensive punch and solid defensive skills. At first base, there isn't anyone that stood out to me from the first half so I picked Cabrera, the player likely on his way to Cooperstown. Houston is off to a tremendous start and their core trio of players all deserve starting nods. Trout is injured but he is still the best player in the game and he deserves to be recognized. Miguel Sano is in a tight race with the Indians' Jose Ramirez for the starting job at third. My vote goes to Sano for his bat and what he has meant to the Twins in the first half. Judge had a first half for the ages and his numbers can't be ignored. Dickerson leads a designated hitter pack that doesn't have a lot of standout candidates. Sale seems like the logical choice to be the American League's starting pitcher. Twins' fans saw first hand what he did to Minnesota's line-up when the club was in Boston. He's at the top of the AL in a variety of pitching categories and it makes sense to trot him out for the first couple of innings. National League All-Star Starters C: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants 1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks 2B: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals 3B: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs SS: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers OF: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals OF: Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies OF: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers SP: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals There were a couple of tough decisions on the National League side of the game. There are a handful of players with strong credentials at first base but I eventually settled on Goldschmidt for what he can do on both sides of the ball. Third base was another challenge. Bryant had an amazing 2016 and he has been doing well this season so he gets the starting nod (even though he was just hurt). I'm a big fan of Nolan Arenado so as a fan I would vote for him. Harper and Blackmon stand out as strong candidates in the outfield. With Trout injured, Blackmon might be the best center fielder in the game. Bellinger has been a force since being called up so the only thing holding him back might be his late arrival. Posey, Murphy and Seager were easy choices at their position. Like Sale in the American League, Scherzer is off to a tremendous start. As the reigning NL Cy Young winner, Scherzer looks poised to make another All-Star squad and be the first pitcher on the mound. Clayton Kershaw would be another candidate but Scherzer's numbers are too strong this season. So there's my starters with a few picks that were tough to make. Who would part of your All-Star starting rosters? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  19. Sunday, May 22 was just another day where the Minnesota Twins lost during the 2016 season. It was a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. What made this loss stand out was Toronto's Josh Donaldson. Donaldson launched a first-inning home run off of Phil Hughes. As he crossed home plate, he seemed to stare into the Twins dugout. This stemming from an issue the Twins had with Donaldson during Saturday's game. Phil Hughes would throw at Donaldson during his next at-bat and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons would come out to argue about the situation. He was promptly ejected. Of course. My social media feeds blew-up with comments about Donaldson's "attitude". It annoyed me. More than the bean-ball attempt, more than the stare and more than the Twins terrible play this season. See, guys like Donaldson and Bryce Harper get the label of having "bad attitudes" because they play with an extreme amount of passion and intensity. That sometimes overflows into anger. But it is a passion that teammates get behind. They feed off of that passion. That intensity. It's the type of swagger the Twins don't have. At least not in the "leaders" of the ball club. It is an attitude of "we are better than you and we know it" that hasn't been present in the Twins since Torii Hunter left after the 2007 season. Hunter's attitude wasn't nearly as cocky as that of Donaldson or Harper but it was palpable. He didn't just want to beat you. He wanted you to feel pain. Another guy that comes to mind is A.J. Pierzynski. He was certainly no opponents favorite. However, he's a guy you want on your team because he'd be the first to defend you in any situation. He would do anything to win. The Twins don't have much to be cocky about this season but it would be nice to see some kind of edge from them. This has long been a complain of mine, and other Twins fans, about this franchise. A different attitude doesn't equate into more wins. Talent does. An edge doesn't mean you are going to shut up Donaldson. Better pitching does that. The issues are far deeper than just some dude will to run his mouth on behalf of his team. Once, though, I would like to see a Twins pitcher strike out a dude and stare him down as walks back to the dugout. Or hit a bomb and pimp it because look at what I just did. Show a litter swagger. Maybe, just maybe, it filters through the team.
  20. So, let’s start our prediction segment with my predictions for the AL Central: American League Central Kansas City Royals Minnesota Twins Cleveland Detroit Tigers Chicago White Sox The Royals are now the two-time defending AL champs and now the reigning World Series champs. They return with a very similar team. The Twins and Cleveland will compete with the Royals atop the division as well as for a Wild Card spot. The Tigers continue to do two things, spend crazy money and get older. The White Sox remain a mess and it’s likely Robin Ventura is the first manager let go in 2016, though Brad Ausmus may not be far behind. American League East Toronto Blue Jays Boston Red Sox New York Yankees Tampa Bay Rays Baltimore Orioles The Blue Jays may not have the best pitching, but their lineup will flat-out outscore teams in the regular season. The rest of the division appears weak. The Red Sox should be improved with the acquisition of David Price and a defense with Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. will help. The Yankees didn’t spend in the offseason and they’re going with a few youngsters in their rotation. The Rays have Chris Archer which gives them a chance every fifth game. The Orioles do have some offense. I mean, Pedro Alvarez, and his 35 home run power, is hitting seventh. American League West Houston Astros Texas Rangers Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Seattle Mariners Oakland A’s Houston surprised many last year as their youth started paying dividends. Carlos Correa is a star in the making. But it will be another shootout in the West. In Texas. The Rangers will again be solid and Cole Hamels will be there a full year. The Angels have Mike Trout. The Mariners have Robinson Cano. The A’s are going to have to battle to compete. National League Central Chicago Cubs Pittsburgh Pirates St. Louis Cardinals Cincinnati Reds Milwaukee Brewers Last year, the top three teams from this division each won at least 97 games and made the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens again. The Cubs youth is in place with some veteran additions. The Pirates outfield is spectacular and they have Liriano and Cole at the top fo their rotation. The Cardinals hope to have a full season of Adam Wainwright atop their rotation. The Reds and Brewers will compete for last, as they fully intend. National League East Washington Nationals New York Mets Miami Marlins Philadelphia Phillies Atlanta The Nationals were a disappointing team last year yet still finished over .500. With Bryce Harper and a strong pitching staff, they could take over in 2016. The Mets have the arms to compete with anyone, but we’ll see if they have enough bats. The bottom three teams are in rebuild mode, hoping for a high draft pick. National League West San Francisco Giants Los Angeles Dodgers Arizona Diamondbacks San Diego Padres Colorado Rockies The Giants-Dodgers series should again be huge in 2016. The Giants added Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, as well as Denard Span. The Dodgers have a new manager, Dave Roberts, and Kenta Maeda hopes for a clean transition from Japan. The Dodgers lost Zach Greinke to the Diamondbacks. He will team with arguably the best hitter in the National League, Paul Goldschmidt, and help fight for a playoff spot under former Twins pinch hitter Chip Hale. The Padres and Rockies will fight for last. THE PLAYOFFS American League Wild Card - Minnesota over Texas National League Wild Card - Pittsburgh over the Mets ALDS - Toronto over Minnesota, and Houston over Kansas City NLDS - Pittsburgh over Chicago, and San Francisco over the Mets ALCS - Toronto over Houston, and San Fransciso over Pittsburgh. World Series - San Francisco over Toronto The Giants continue their every-other-year World Series championship run. Next, let’s get to the individual awards for 2016. Others have made their predictions, but here are mine. American League MVP Carlos Correa, Houston Mike Trout, Los Angeles Josh Donaldson, Toronto Miguel Sano, Minnesota Mookie Betts, Boston American League Cy Young Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Marcus Stroman, Toronto Chris Archer, Tampa Bay American League Rookie of the Year Byron Buxton, Minnesota Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Byung Ho Park, Minnesota National League MVP Bryce Harper, Washington Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Kris Bryant, Chicago National League Cy Young Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Max Scherzer, Washington National League Rookie of the Year Trevor Story, Colorado Kenta Maeda, Arizona Corey Seager, Los Angeles Your Turn… how will the division playoffs and the individual awards go down in 2016. Make your picks now.
  21. Spring Training 2016 has been an interesting one thus far. While there is baseball being played on the field, it is after all, spring training baseball. Minor leaguers and non-roster invitees desperately try to cut out roster spots by showing their worth, veterans look to get themselves right for the upcoming season; and the media jumps all over the flavor of the week, and runs their coverage into the ground. Early in Spring Training the story was Yoenis Cespedes and his newly acquired fleet of automobiles, which ranged from several hundred horsepower to quite literally one horsepower... well, two horsepower and a Norse god if you count his riding partner Noah Syndergaard. After that we had last years MVP Bryce Harper come out with his opinion that baseball is “tired” and that bat flips aren’t a big deal (they’re not) which spurred Goose Gossage to colorfully spew his opinions about how he thinks the game of baseball should be played to anyone that would listen or put a microphone in front of his face. Then there was, and to some degree still is, “LaRoche Gate,” which saw veteran Adam LaRoche hang up his cleats in regards to a disagreement with the White Sox front office over the presence of his son Drake in the clubhouse more than some of the heads of the organization were comfortable with. The Hot Take Flavor of the Week this week is brought to you by one of my favorite people in all of baseball, Joe Maddon. Sidenote: I would have loved to see the Twins sign Maddon as the new skipper when the Gardy Era finally succumbed to it's slow-motion, dumpster-fire-off-a-tall-cliff ending. He was actually the only person I wanted more than Molitor. Don’t get me wrong, I love Molly and watching him turn the club around last season, despite not having any previous managerial experience, was a sight to behold, but it's an intriguing "what if" to consider. According to FTW! MLB writer Ted Berg, Maddon held a meeting last Sunday with what he calls his “lead bulls,” a group of eleven established veterans, to go over the team’s policies for the upcoming season. Afterwards, Maddon had a few quotes for the media that I absolutely loved, specifically regarding the Cubs dress code. “If you think you look hot, wear it” Maddon said. “The previous generation really frowns on upon non-collared shirts, which I’ve never understood. They’ve always been in favor of the collared shirt, and that's been more acceptable than the non-collared shirt.” He went on to say, “The $5,000 suit on the airplane makes no sense to me what so ever. I don’t know who you’re trying to impress.” In a game that seems to be gun-shy when it comes to “new school” ideas like Sabermetrics, bat flips, or even off the diamond attire, it’s nice to see that some managers don’t take themselves too seriously. Earlier this spring, Maddon showed up in a 70's van blasting Earth, Wind and Fire for crying out loud. http://i1169.photobucket.com/albums/r502/ectofoto/Screenshot_2016-03-22-00-06-21-1_zpsjwunobng.jpg This is the face of a man who just doesn't care. Baseball has always been a sport of unwritten rules, but it's also still a game meant to be played for fun and we shouldn’t hold player back from being who they really are. If Jose Bautista wants to bat flip after crushing the most important home run in Toronto since Joe Carter in ’93, I’m OK with that. If Jose Fernandez wants to pump his fist after a big strikeout and stare Bryce Harper back to the dugout, that’s fine by me. If Carlos Gomez wants to leave a pile of bubblegum in the outfield every once in a while, I'll laugh just like the next guy out there who sees it. I have no problem with players celebrating their accomplishments as long as they’re not being insufferable. With the influx of foreign players into the MLB, culture clashes are bound to happen. Bat flips are huge in Korea. Wearing your emotions on your sleeve is common in Dominican leagues. This isn’t the baseball of old, this is a new era of baseball where star players want to give us a show. Let's grab a hot dog, some helmet nachos, a beer and just see what happens.
  22. Bryce Harper is going to have a detailed piece written in ESPN the Magazine, and the article is online now. He goes in-depth about the unwritten rules of baseball, how baseball is a "tired sport", and needs more self-expression from ball players. I'm still in the middle of reading it, but so far it's a good read. Here's the link.
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