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  1. Every offseason seems to have the same blueprint in Twins Territory: find some pitching. While far from well off on arms, for once it can be argued that the Twins should be a bit more worried about the lineup. Image courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports Talks of coaxing a high end starting pitcher to Minnesota are swirling as should always be the case when premier pitching is available, but the Twins don’t have an entire rotation to overhaul as they have in recent years. Adding an ace to the group of Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, and Bailey Ober would be a massively positive move, but with a fair amount of pitching talent and depth in Minnesota, perhaps we should be turning more attention towards getting lineup help. As things stand, Carlos Correa is not currently a Minnesota Twin. Though inept in clutch spots for much of the season, a massive chunk of the Twins offense will be missing should Correa find another home. The Twins set a floor at shortstop with a savvy addition of Kyle Farmer, but the dropoff from a player who was 40% above league average offensively to one that was 9% below in Farmer would be felt on a daily basis. Farmer being the Opening Day shortstop would be far from a disaster, but in order to compete, the Twins would need to massively supplement their position player group elsewhere. Headed into 2023, the Twins have a fun group of young, high upside hitters that have some questions to answer including Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Matt Wallner, and eventually Royce Lewis. It’s a similar position to the one they were in last winter with the pitching staff. Having filled out 40% of the rotation with Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer and another 40% of the rotation with two rookies in Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, the Twins gambled on contributions from their young pitching which had proven nothing yet. It was an unmitigated disaster aside from Ryan. Top prospects such as Jordan Balazovic cratered in AAA. Josh Winder was ineffective and had recurring shoulder issues. Having done so in just about every season of his career aside from 2021, Bailey Ober once again missed massive amounts of time. They didn’t have the floor they thought they did. The Twins need to avoid gambling on their player development in 2023 as much as possible. They’ve drastically overestimated their ability to produce quality regulars in recent years. And while the most recent bursted bubble was on the pitching side, gambling on unproven, often injured players such as Larnach, Kirilloff, and Lewis to keep an MLB roster afloat simply cannot be the game plan at this point. They also had to trade away several up-and-coming possible impact hitters as a result of their recent miscalculations. Also consider the health of the team. Beyond the young players having missed time in 2022, players such as Jorge Polanco no longer appear to be locks to play 150+ games. Byron Buxton’s injury risk will always be a consideration. They also no longer have Gio Urshela to add production to the fringes of the roster, and unfortunately at this point anyone expecting any kind of offensive competence from players like Max Kepler are likely going to be very disappointed. In short, the Twins lineup isn't a force to be reckoned with. It does appear to have some upside and depth, but the trick is getting said lineup to the threshold of “quality” which likely requires multiple more additions. Perhaps it is adding Correa or one of his fellow free agents such as Xander Boegarts . The heavily left-handed outfield could also use another right-handed option such as Mitch Haniger. Perhaps they’ve even liked what they’ve seen from Jose Abreu across the division enough to bring him in as a veteran RBI machine that can DH and cycle into first base. While several creative moves are certainly on tap for the winter, it may be time to recognize that the current rotation has the possibility of helping a team to a playoff run. It’s hard to say the same about the position player group. For once perhaps fans should pivot off of the “Can he pitch?” replies to every acquisition the Twins make. It’s time to worry about the bats. View full article
  2. Talks of coaxing a high end starting pitcher to Minnesota are swirling as should always be the case when premier pitching is available, but the Twins don’t have an entire rotation to overhaul as they have in recent years. Adding an ace to the group of Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, and Bailey Ober would be a massively positive move, but with a fair amount of pitching talent and depth in Minnesota, perhaps we should be turning more attention towards getting lineup help. As things stand, Carlos Correa is not currently a Minnesota Twin. Though inept in clutch spots for much of the season, a massive chunk of the Twins offense will be missing should Correa find another home. The Twins set a floor at shortstop with a savvy addition of Kyle Farmer, but the dropoff from a player who was 40% above league average offensively to one that was 9% below in Farmer would be felt on a daily basis. Farmer being the Opening Day shortstop would be far from a disaster, but in order to compete, the Twins would need to massively supplement their position player group elsewhere. Headed into 2023, the Twins have a fun group of young, high upside hitters that have some questions to answer including Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Matt Wallner, and eventually Royce Lewis. It’s a similar position to the one they were in last winter with the pitching staff. Having filled out 40% of the rotation with Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer and another 40% of the rotation with two rookies in Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, the Twins gambled on contributions from their young pitching which had proven nothing yet. It was an unmitigated disaster aside from Ryan. Top prospects such as Jordan Balazovic cratered in AAA. Josh Winder was ineffective and had recurring shoulder issues. Having done so in just about every season of his career aside from 2021, Bailey Ober once again missed massive amounts of time. They didn’t have the floor they thought they did. The Twins need to avoid gambling on their player development in 2023 as much as possible. They’ve drastically overestimated their ability to produce quality regulars in recent years. And while the most recent bursted bubble was on the pitching side, gambling on unproven, often injured players such as Larnach, Kirilloff, and Lewis to keep an MLB roster afloat simply cannot be the game plan at this point. They also had to trade away several up-and-coming possible impact hitters as a result of their recent miscalculations. Also consider the health of the team. Beyond the young players having missed time in 2022, players such as Jorge Polanco no longer appear to be locks to play 150+ games. Byron Buxton’s injury risk will always be a consideration. They also no longer have Gio Urshela to add production to the fringes of the roster, and unfortunately at this point anyone expecting any kind of offensive competence from players like Max Kepler are likely going to be very disappointed. In short, the Twins lineup isn't a force to be reckoned with. It does appear to have some upside and depth, but the trick is getting said lineup to the threshold of “quality” which likely requires multiple more additions. Perhaps it is adding Correa or one of his fellow free agents such as Xander Boegarts . The heavily left-handed outfield could also use another right-handed option such as Mitch Haniger. Perhaps they’ve even liked what they’ve seen from Jose Abreu across the division enough to bring him in as a veteran RBI machine that can DH and cycle into first base. While several creative moves are certainly on tap for the winter, it may be time to recognize that the current rotation has the possibility of helping a team to a playoff run. It’s hard to say the same about the position player group. For once perhaps fans should pivot off of the “Can he pitch?” replies to every acquisition the Twins make. It’s time to worry about the bats.
  3. As we go into the final days of November, and soon turn the page on 2022, it’s time to look back over the past season and give thanks. While the 2022 Minnesota Twins season didn’t go the way anyone would have hoped, there was plenty to be thankful for during a season of Thanksgiving. Image courtesy of © Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports Coming off such an uncompetitive 2021 Major League Baseball season, there’s no doubt that Rocco Baldelli and the Twins front office hoped to turn the page in 2022. For a matter of months it looked like they would be the darling of a bad division, but ultimately, injury and poor performance caught up to them. When looking back at the year that was, there was still plenty of things to be excited and thankful for. In no particular order, here’s five things that Twins fans can give thanks for as they cut into their turkey this week: Byron Buxton Got Paid Despite an offseason of uncertainty, and lockout uncertainty, the Minnesota Twins did what they had to and paid Byron Buxton. Sure, he’s injured a whole lot. Sure, you never know when he’s going to miss a boatload of games. There’s also the reality that when he’s on the field he’s among the best players in the entire sport. His 92 games in 2022 were the most he’s played in a season since 2017, and despite injuring his knee early on and having to play through what ultimately required surgery, he was an MVP candidate for much of the campaign. Buxton proved his worth again, and though all parties are hoping he can be on the field more, the front office absolutely did the right thing in getting a dynamic talent at a discount. Carlos Correa Was Fun Knowing that Minnesota had money to spend and replacing Andrelton Simmons at shortstop was a must, there was plenty of late spring excitement regarding Trevor Story. Then in the middle of the night Derek Falvey and Thad Levine struck a deal with Scott Boras client Carlos Correa. It was a three-year deal that was never going to matter beyond year one. Sure, it would be great if the parties came together for a long term pact this offseason, but even if they don’t, we’ll always remember the time that the Twins signed the best free agent available in a given season. Royce Lewis Appeared From the moment that Royce Lewis was the Minnesota Twins number one overall draft pick, there was hope he would become a superstar. He dealt with injuries and a pandemic that set him back while in the minors, but he returned from a torn ACL to light the farm system on fire. When Correa went down, he forced the organization’s hand. He was so good in fact, that the Twins needed to reposition him to keep him in the lineup. A second flukey ACL injury was certainly suboptimal, but we saw the talent that has been anticipated all along. He’ll be back at some point in 2023, and if the rehab goes smoothly, Minnesota certainly has a star in the making. Jose Miranda Cemented His Performance There hasn’t been a minor league season as good as Miranda had in 2021 for Minnesota in quite some time. His .973 OPS between Double and Triple-A was something to behold. Even with that, he didn’t crack the Opening Day roster. Once he was given an opportunity at the big leagues, Miranda was determined not to go back. His 116 OPS+ wasn’t otherworldly in 2022, but the slash line was even gaudier before a late season swoon. The rookie still managed to blast 15 homers in his first 125 Major League games, and he’ll be an integral part of the 2023 roster. Jhoan Duran Lights It Up, Literally You can go back as far as you’d like in Minnesota Twins history, and you won’t find a pitcher throwing triple-digits consistently. Not expected to make the Opening Day roster, Duran not only did that, but also emerged as the best arm in Minnesota’s pen and one of the best across baseball. He certainly could’ve been voted an All-Star as a rookie, and should expect to see more than a few of those games during his career. While the abnormal sprinkler is a pitch that drew plenty of discussion, his ridiculous fastball is what you show up for. He earned his own entrance music at Target Field, and is must-watch baseball every time he steps on the mound. What else would you include in your list? What are you most thankful for as a Twins fan over the past year? View full article
  4. Coming off such an uncompetitive 2021 Major League Baseball season, there’s no doubt that Rocco Baldelli and the Twins front office hoped to turn the page in 2022. For a matter of months it looked like they would be the darling of a bad division, but ultimately, injury and poor performance caught up to them. When looking back at the year that was, there was still plenty of things to be excited and thankful for. In no particular order, here’s five things that Twins fans can give thanks for as they cut into their turkey this week: Byron Buxton Got Paid Despite an offseason of uncertainty, and lockout uncertainty, the Minnesota Twins did what they had to and paid Byron Buxton. Sure, he’s injured a whole lot. Sure, you never know when he’s going to miss a boatload of games. There’s also the reality that when he’s on the field he’s among the best players in the entire sport. His 92 games in 2022 were the most he’s played in a season since 2017, and despite injuring his knee early on and having to play through what ultimately required surgery, he was an MVP candidate for much of the campaign. Buxton proved his worth again, and though all parties are hoping he can be on the field more, the front office absolutely did the right thing in getting a dynamic talent at a discount. Carlos Correa Was Fun Knowing that Minnesota had money to spend and replacing Andrelton Simmons at shortstop was a must, there was plenty of late spring excitement regarding Trevor Story. Then in the middle of the night Derek Falvey and Thad Levine struck a deal with Scott Boras client Carlos Correa. It was a three-year deal that was never going to matter beyond year one. Sure, it would be great if the parties came together for a long term pact this offseason, but even if they don’t, we’ll always remember the time that the Twins signed the best free agent available in a given season. Royce Lewis Appeared From the moment that Royce Lewis was the Minnesota Twins number one overall draft pick, there was hope he would become a superstar. He dealt with injuries and a pandemic that set him back while in the minors, but he returned from a torn ACL to light the farm system on fire. When Correa went down, he forced the organization’s hand. He was so good in fact, that the Twins needed to reposition him to keep him in the lineup. A second flukey ACL injury was certainly suboptimal, but we saw the talent that has been anticipated all along. He’ll be back at some point in 2023, and if the rehab goes smoothly, Minnesota certainly has a star in the making. Jose Miranda Cemented His Performance There hasn’t been a minor league season as good as Miranda had in 2021 for Minnesota in quite some time. His .973 OPS between Double and Triple-A was something to behold. Even with that, he didn’t crack the Opening Day roster. Once he was given an opportunity at the big leagues, Miranda was determined not to go back. His 116 OPS+ wasn’t otherworldly in 2022, but the slash line was even gaudier before a late season swoon. The rookie still managed to blast 15 homers in his first 125 Major League games, and he’ll be an integral part of the 2023 roster. Jhoan Duran Lights It Up, Literally You can go back as far as you’d like in Minnesota Twins history, and you won’t find a pitcher throwing triple-digits consistently. Not expected to make the Opening Day roster, Duran not only did that, but also emerged as the best arm in Minnesota’s pen and one of the best across baseball. He certainly could’ve been voted an All-Star as a rookie, and should expect to see more than a few of those games during his career. While the abnormal sprinkler is a pitch that drew plenty of discussion, his ridiculous fastball is what you show up for. He earned his own entrance music at Target Field, and is must-watch baseball every time he steps on the mound. What else would you include in your list? What are you most thankful for as a Twins fan over the past year?
  5. After weeks of build-up, the Twins' new uniform and logo design were unveiled at Mall of America on Friday, featuring models like Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Jose Miranda and Joe Ryan. Image courtesy of Theo Tollefson BLOOMINGTON – The Minnesota Twins have a new look for the 2023 season, and fans, front office members, and players gathered at the Mall of America on Friday to see the new design of the Twins jerseys. Revealing the first new jersey design on the baseball diamond catwalk was Jose Miranda in the new home, white jerseys. Miranda is coming off an impressive rookie season with the Twins leading the team in RBI. He is most excited about accessorizing his cleats and glove with the new look. “I haven't really customized cleats yet but for sure next year. I want to do something with them and there are some people that want to meet on some designs during the winter with custom cleats. I'm gonna do something but I got to see what we're going to wear on Opening Day,” said Miranda. Matthew Wolff, a longtime Twins fan and designer for the new Twins look, spoke on keeping the history of the old with the new uniforms. “It was really important to respect the history of the team. Twins fans have a strong emotional attachment to the team's marks and uniforms and it was really important from the start of the project to respect them.” The message that the Twins organization wanted to incorporate with the new uniform designs was to include the state of Minnesota as a whole, and not just the Twin Cities. The new M hats now include the North Star above them to add that state-wide incorporation. While not directly an homage to the old North Stars hockey team, Wolff hopes fans could recognize it as one and appreciate the tie-in to an old franchise. The player consensus for which of the new uniforms is their favorite goes toward the new road grey jerseys. These jerseys call back to the Twins road uniforms from 1987-2009, while still incorporating the new M design for the road. Luis Arraez had the honor of sporting the new road uni and believes they will be a good luck charm. “I think we can score like 10 runs with these uniforms every game. I can't wait to wear this next year,” said Arraez. His teammate Jorge Polanco did wear the same pants but had on the new navy blue road, alternative jersey. Polanco, slightly jealous he didn’t wear the greys, still complemented Arraez appearance in them. “He’s [Arraez] wearing it, he looks good. I wish I would have worn it.” The material that goes into making these jerseys is also new, which Polanco already feels will be better for each game. “It’s a lot lighter and that makes us feel easier to move around the infield,” said Polanco. The only Twins pitcher in attendance was Joe Ryan, rocking the new home, navy blue alternative jerseys. Ryan (top picture) had the most exciting catwalk on the diamond stage, running out as if he had just finished throwing a no-hitter. The only thing missing to add a grand crescendo to Ryan's stage walk/run was his famous turtle neck under the jersey. "They said be quicker, so I was like, 'Alright, take a zip around the bases," said Ryan. The man dawning the newest alternative home jerseys for the team was star centerfielder Byron Buxton. Buxton spoke on how the new uniforms keep the Twins' tradition intact while also evolving it. “When I got drafted in 2012 it was pinstripes. To come out of that was a little bit different, knowing the Minnesota tradition was pinstripes. But over the years we've tried to change tradition quite a bit so this is just a new look for us. We got a new team, a new outlook, new meaning for us and this is just the start of something new,” said Buxton. While the decision for which of the Twins' uniforms will be worn on Opening Day is still months away. Fans can narrow it down to either the new pinstripe grey, road uniforms, or alternate navy blues as the Twins start the season in Kansas City on March 30. Fans can now buy the new uniforms at the Twins team store at Target Field, Mall of America or order them online at Twinsbaseball.com/shop. View full article
  6. BLOOMINGTON – The Minnesota Twins have a new look for the 2023 season, and fans, front office members, and players gathered at the Mall of America on Friday to see the new design of the Twins jerseys. Revealing the first new jersey design on the baseball diamond catwalk was Jose Miranda in the new home, white jerseys. Miranda is coming off an impressive rookie season with the Twins leading the team in RBI. He is most excited about accessorizing his cleats and glove with the new look. “I haven't really customized cleats yet but for sure next year. I want to do something with them and there are some people that want to meet on some designs during the winter with custom cleats. I'm gonna do something but I got to see what we're going to wear on Opening Day,” said Miranda. Matthew Wolff, a longtime Twins fan and designer for the new Twins look, spoke on keeping the history of the old with the new uniforms. “It was really important to respect the history of the team. Twins fans have a strong emotional attachment to the team's marks and uniforms and it was really important from the start of the project to respect them.” The message that the Twins organization wanted to incorporate with the new uniform designs was to include the state of Minnesota as a whole, and not just the Twin Cities. The new M hats now include the North Star above them to add that state-wide incorporation. While not directly an homage to the old North Stars hockey team, Wolff hopes fans could recognize it as one and appreciate the tie-in to an old franchise. The player consensus for which of the new uniforms is their favorite goes toward the new road grey jerseys. These jerseys call back to the Twins road uniforms from 1987-2009, while still incorporating the new M design for the road. Luis Arraez had the honor of sporting the new road uni and believes they will be a good luck charm. “I think we can score like 10 runs with these uniforms every game. I can't wait to wear this next year,” said Arraez. His teammate Jorge Polanco did wear the same pants but had on the new navy blue road, alternative jersey. Polanco, slightly jealous he didn’t wear the greys, still complemented Arraez appearance in them. “He’s [Arraez] wearing it, he looks good. I wish I would have worn it.” The material that goes into making these jerseys is also new, which Polanco already feels will be better for each game. “It’s a lot lighter and that makes us feel easier to move around the infield,” said Polanco. The only Twins pitcher in attendance was Joe Ryan, rocking the new home, navy blue alternative jerseys. Ryan (top picture) had the most exciting catwalk on the diamond stage, running out as if he had just finished throwing a no-hitter. The only thing missing to add a grand crescendo to Ryan's stage walk/run was his famous turtle neck under the jersey. "They said be quicker, so I was like, 'Alright, take a zip around the bases," said Ryan. The man dawning the newest alternative home jerseys for the team was star centerfielder Byron Buxton. Buxton spoke on how the new uniforms keep the Twins' tradition intact while also evolving it. “When I got drafted in 2012 it was pinstripes. To come out of that was a little bit different, knowing the Minnesota tradition was pinstripes. But over the years we've tried to change tradition quite a bit so this is just a new look for us. We got a new team, a new outlook, new meaning for us and this is just the start of something new,” said Buxton. While the decision for which of the Twins' uniforms will be worn on Opening Day is still months away. Fans can narrow it down to either the new pinstripe grey, road uniforms, or alternate navy blues as the Twins start the season in Kansas City on March 30. Fans can now buy the new uniforms at the Twins team store at Target Field, Mall of America or order them online at Twinsbaseball.com/shop.
  7. Mitch Haniger is an ideal candidate to add some right-handed thump to a lineup that lost its best right-handed hitter this offseason. Image courtesy of Steven Bisig - USA Today Sports The slow erosion that was the 2022 season has given way to guarded excitement as we enter free agency. The Twins have a true tabula rasa, with around $60 million to spend to get in the ballpark of last year’s payroll total. Much of the focus has centered on shortstop, catcher, and high upside starting pitching, understandably so. I’d argue a right-handed, outfield power-bat should be on the shopping list, too. Enter Mitch Haniger. Twins Need a Viable, Right Handed, Big Bat Haniger would serve several purposes in the Twins lineup; let's address a few. He’d replace the thump that somewhat absorbs losing Carlos Correa. While there are rumblings that the Twins are preparing to offer Correa the largest contract in franchise history, it remains unlikely the Twins will add one of the uber-shortstops this winter, in which case, they need a right-handed power bat. Additionally, the Twins need to bring balance to their outfield. Byron Buxton and Kyle Garlick combined to play 158 games for the Twins in 2022 (many at DH). Beyond these two players, the Twins outfield options (Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, Matt Wallner) are left-handed. Haniger Doesn’t Break the Bank Let’s deal with some elephants in some rooms. First, Haniger does not have a good health track record. Since 2018, he’s alternated playing close to 160 games, or 60 games in a season. While you may have already stopped reading given the Twins recent track record with injuries, they hired a new athletic trainer and it’s a new season. In 2022, Haniger’s missed time was largely due to a high ankle sprain. Haniger’s injury history also means a more reasonable price point. MLB Trade Rumors projected his contract to be 3 years, $39 million. In the last two seasons in which Haniger has remained healthy, he’s put up 7.3 fWAR. That’s plenty good value. It’s unlikely, but if Haniger didn’t like the offers he received early in the offseason, perhaps he’d take a two-year deal at a higher AAV (2 years, $32 million). At just 31, that seems feasible. Massive Upside Lastly, let’s talk upside. Haniger is a monster when healthy. He’s also a pull side right-handed hitter, which would play well at Target Field. In his major league career, Haniger has shown significant consistency, putting up a career .476 SLG, 122 wRC+, and .811 OPS. If he’s on the field, you know what you’re going to get. In Haniger’s last two full seasons, he’s combined for 60 home runs, so an expectation of 30 in 150 games seems reasonable. Lastly, Haniger adds some experience to an extremely young core. There’s a lot to like. Clearly, much of what the Twins accomplish this offseason will depend on their solution at shortstop. If they fail to land one of the premier options, a pivot to Haniger as a high impact bat, and an elite front of the rotation starter would soften the blow for me. What do you think of Mitch Haniger as a fit for the Twins? Who are other options you’d consider as big bats beyond the elite start shortstops this offseason? View full article
  8. The slow erosion that was the 2022 season has given way to guarded excitement as we enter free agency. The Twins have a true tabula rasa, with around $60 million to spend to get in the ballpark of last year’s payroll total. Much of the focus has centered on shortstop, catcher, and high upside starting pitching, understandably so. I’d argue a right-handed, outfield power-bat should be on the shopping list, too. Enter Mitch Haniger. Twins Need a Viable, Right Handed, Big Bat Haniger would serve several purposes in the Twins lineup; let's address a few. He’d replace the thump that somewhat absorbs losing Carlos Correa. While there are rumblings that the Twins are preparing to offer Correa the largest contract in franchise history, it remains unlikely the Twins will add one of the uber-shortstops this winter, in which case, they need a right-handed power bat. Additionally, the Twins need to bring balance to their outfield. Byron Buxton and Kyle Garlick combined to play 158 games for the Twins in 2022 (many at DH). Beyond these two players, the Twins outfield options (Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, Matt Wallner) are left-handed. Haniger Doesn’t Break the Bank Let’s deal with some elephants in some rooms. First, Haniger does not have a good health track record. Since 2018, he’s alternated playing close to 160 games, or 60 games in a season. While you may have already stopped reading given the Twins recent track record with injuries, they hired a new athletic trainer and it’s a new season. In 2022, Haniger’s missed time was largely due to a high ankle sprain. Haniger’s injury history also means a more reasonable price point. MLB Trade Rumors projected his contract to be 3 years, $39 million. In the last two seasons in which Haniger has remained healthy, he’s put up 7.3 fWAR. That’s plenty good value. It’s unlikely, but if Haniger didn’t like the offers he received early in the offseason, perhaps he’d take a two-year deal at a higher AAV (2 years, $32 million). At just 31, that seems feasible. Massive Upside Lastly, let’s talk upside. Haniger is a monster when healthy. He’s also a pull side right-handed hitter, which would play well at Target Field. In his major league career, Haniger has shown significant consistency, putting up a career .476 SLG, 122 wRC+, and .811 OPS. If he’s on the field, you know what you’re going to get. In Haniger’s last two full seasons, he’s combined for 60 home runs, so an expectation of 30 in 150 games seems reasonable. Lastly, Haniger adds some experience to an extremely young core. There’s a lot to like. Clearly, much of what the Twins accomplish this offseason will depend on their solution at shortstop. If they fail to land one of the premier options, a pivot to Haniger as a high impact bat, and an elite front of the rotation starter would soften the blow for me. What do you think of Mitch Haniger as a fit for the Twins? Who are other options you’d consider as big bats beyond the elite start shortstops this offseason?
  9. In recent years, Minor League Baseball has been the testing grounds for several potential rule changes designed to improve pace of play and encourage more action on the field. One of the rule changes that will go into effect for the 2023 season is larger bases, partially in an attempt to encourage more base-stealing. Image courtesy of Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports In 2022, the Minnesota Twins went 38-for-55 in stolen base attempts. Those numbers are, by far, the lowest in Major League Baseball. In the AL Central, the Tigers had 47 steals, the third-lowest in MLB, but they were caught 24 times. The White Sox ranked 24th with 58 steals, but they were only caught 10 times. On the other side of the spectrum, the Cleveland Guardians ranked third in baseball with 119 steals, and the Kansas City Royals tied for sixth with 104 steals. The question now becomes, how will the new rules – specifically the larger bases – alter how the Twins manage the running game, if at all? Will the team suddenly start attempting a lot of stolen bases? Could they steal more, but remain behind other organizations that already incorporated a running game into their strategy? There are several reasons that the Twins don’t run a lot. First and foremost, their 2022 roster did not include much speed or certainly many base stealers. While Byron Buxton and Nick Gordon have tremendous speed, they also don’t run a lot. The two were tied for the team lead with... six stolen bases. The idea is that they can score from first base on a double, so why risk getting thrown out on a stolen base attempt? Buxton has stolen bases at a high percentage over his career. However, with his leg issues in 2022, it made little sense for him to run. And now, with his recent arthroscopic knee surgery, it’s hard to imagine that he will do a ton of running moving forward. What happened in the Twins minor leagues, where the larger bases have already been utilized? Here is a quick look at where the Twins affiliate ranks relative to their minor-league level: Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels - 179 SB, 67 CS (Ranked 13th of 30 teams) High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels - 143 SB, 44 CS (Ranked 15th of 30 teams) Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge - 170 SB, 50 CS (Ranked 7th of 30 teams) Triple-A: St. Paul Saints - 136 SB, 29 CS. (Ranked 15th of 30 teams) MLB: Minnesota Twins - 38 SB, 17 CS. (Ranked 30th of 30 teams) So as you can see, the Twins affiliates all attempted a lot of stolen bases throughout the year. So was that just a player or two on each affiliate that accounted for a big chunk of his team’s steals? Let’s take a look at the organizational leaders in stolen bases, noting which leagues they played in during the course of the year. Mikey Perez 48/55 (Ft. Myers, St. Paul, Cedar Rapids) DaShawn Keirsey 42/49 (Wichita) Michael Helman 40/45 (Wichita, St. Paul) Austin Martin 35/41 (Wichita) Will Holland 32/38 (Cedar Rapids, Wichita) Yasser Mercedes 30/35 (DSL Twins) Mark Contreras 23/25 (St. Paul) Noah Miller 23/30 (Ft. Myers) Anthony Prato 22/28 (Cedar Rapids, Wichita) Luis Baez 20/23 (Ft. Myers) Daniel Ozoria 20/25 (all over) Edouard Julien 19/26 (Wichita) Jake Rucker 19/31 (Ft. Myers, Cedar Rapids, St. Paul) Alerick Soularie 18/23 (Cedar Rapids) Willie Joe Garry 17/21 (Cedar Rapids) It is noteworthy that three individuals stole 40 or more bases. Three others had 30 or more, including Yasser Mercedes who stole 30 bags in just 41 games in the Dominican Summer League. A total of 11 players had 20 or more steals on the season. Whether it was simply situational or if it was an intentional effort to better understand the effect of larger bases, the Twins had a lot of players running often in the minors. It certainly appears that organizationally the Twins aren’t against stealing bases. It’s really just clear that the big-league club was made up of players that didn’t really work to be a running team. Over time, as the composition of the roster changes, they certainly could run more. As a rookie in 2003, Rocco Baldelli stole 27 bases and was caught ten times. The following year, he went 17-for-21 in stolen base attempts. Jon Berti of the Marlins led baseball with 41 stolen bases. Jorge Mateo led the American League with 35 steals, one more than his Orioles teammate Cedric Mullins. Trea Turner stole 27 bases for the Dodgers this year, the most by an impending free agent. On the other side, Twins catchers did not have a very good year in terms of throwing out would-be base stealers. The Twins allowed 92 stolen bases and threw out just 23 runners. Their 20% caught stealing was tied for 26th in the league. That certainly is not a good number, but it is important to note that the league average was just 25% Did teams run against the Twins more than average? Technically, yes. There were 115 stolen base attempts against the Twins in 2022. The average was 110, so negligible. As the Twins look for a catcher, the ability to throw out base stealers should be one consideration, but it shouldn’t be among the top considerations. It can be worked on, to some degree (footwork, transition, release time, pop times), but it is just as important, and I might argue more important, for the Twins to have their pitchers focus a little bit more on trying to give their catchers a chance (change pitch timing, slide steps, etc.). Of those 92 stolen bases, how many times were we able to say “The catcher didn’t have a chance.” So as the offseason approaches, how do you think that the larger bases will factor into decisions? Will the team add some speed to the roster in an attempt to steal more bases? As they look for a #2 catcher, how important will (or should) their ability to throw out would-be base stealers? Share your thoughts below, and make sure to check out our Offseason Handbook content to identify targets who could improve the team's overall speed and base-stealing proficiency. View full article
  10. In 2022, the Minnesota Twins went 38-for-55 in stolen base attempts. Those numbers are, by far, the lowest in Major League Baseball. In the AL Central, the Tigers had 47 steals, the third-lowest in MLB, but they were caught 24 times. The White Sox ranked 24th with 58 steals, but they were only caught 10 times. On the other side of the spectrum, the Cleveland Guardians ranked third in baseball with 119 steals, and the Kansas City Royals tied for sixth with 104 steals. The question now becomes, how will the new rules – specifically the larger bases – alter how the Twins manage the running game, if at all? Will the team suddenly start attempting a lot of stolen bases? Could they steal more, but remain behind other organizations that already incorporated a running game into their strategy? There are several reasons that the Twins don’t run a lot. First and foremost, their 2022 roster did not include much speed or certainly many base stealers. While Byron Buxton and Nick Gordon have tremendous speed, they also don’t run a lot. The two were tied for the team lead with... six stolen bases. The idea is that they can score from first base on a double, so why risk getting thrown out on a stolen base attempt? Buxton has stolen bases at a high percentage over his career. However, with his leg issues in 2022, it made little sense for him to run. And now, with his recent arthroscopic knee surgery, it’s hard to imagine that he will do a ton of running moving forward. What happened in the Twins minor leagues, where the larger bases have already been utilized? Here is a quick look at where the Twins affiliate ranks relative to their minor-league level: Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels - 179 SB, 67 CS (Ranked 13th of 30 teams) High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels - 143 SB, 44 CS (Ranked 15th of 30 teams) Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge - 170 SB, 50 CS (Ranked 7th of 30 teams) Triple-A: St. Paul Saints - 136 SB, 29 CS. (Ranked 15th of 30 teams) MLB: Minnesota Twins - 38 SB, 17 CS. (Ranked 30th of 30 teams) So as you can see, the Twins affiliates all attempted a lot of stolen bases throughout the year. So was that just a player or two on each affiliate that accounted for a big chunk of his team’s steals? Let’s take a look at the organizational leaders in stolen bases, noting which leagues they played in during the course of the year. Mikey Perez 48/55 (Ft. Myers, St. Paul, Cedar Rapids) DaShawn Keirsey 42/49 (Wichita) Michael Helman 40/45 (Wichita, St. Paul) Austin Martin 35/41 (Wichita) Will Holland 32/38 (Cedar Rapids, Wichita) Yasser Mercedes 30/35 (DSL Twins) Mark Contreras 23/25 (St. Paul) Noah Miller 23/30 (Ft. Myers) Anthony Prato 22/28 (Cedar Rapids, Wichita) Luis Baez 20/23 (Ft. Myers) Daniel Ozoria 20/25 (all over) Edouard Julien 19/26 (Wichita) Jake Rucker 19/31 (Ft. Myers, Cedar Rapids, St. Paul) Alerick Soularie 18/23 (Cedar Rapids) Willie Joe Garry 17/21 (Cedar Rapids) It is noteworthy that three individuals stole 40 or more bases. Three others had 30 or more, including Yasser Mercedes who stole 30 bags in just 41 games in the Dominican Summer League. A total of 11 players had 20 or more steals on the season. Whether it was simply situational or if it was an intentional effort to better understand the effect of larger bases, the Twins had a lot of players running often in the minors. It certainly appears that organizationally the Twins aren’t against stealing bases. It’s really just clear that the big-league club was made up of players that didn’t really work to be a running team. Over time, as the composition of the roster changes, they certainly could run more. As a rookie in 2003, Rocco Baldelli stole 27 bases and was caught ten times. The following year, he went 17-for-21 in stolen base attempts. Jon Berti of the Marlins led baseball with 41 stolen bases. Jorge Mateo led the American League with 35 steals, one more than his Orioles teammate Cedric Mullins. Trea Turner stole 27 bases for the Dodgers this year, the most by an impending free agent. On the other side, Twins catchers did not have a very good year in terms of throwing out would-be base stealers. The Twins allowed 92 stolen bases and threw out just 23 runners. Their 20% caught stealing was tied for 26th in the league. That certainly is not a good number, but it is important to note that the league average was just 25% Did teams run against the Twins more than average? Technically, yes. There were 115 stolen base attempts against the Twins in 2022. The average was 110, so negligible. As the Twins look for a catcher, the ability to throw out base stealers should be one consideration, but it shouldn’t be among the top considerations. It can be worked on, to some degree (footwork, transition, release time, pop times), but it is just as important, and I might argue more important, for the Twins to have their pitchers focus a little bit more on trying to give their catchers a chance (change pitch timing, slide steps, etc.). Of those 92 stolen bases, how many times were we able to say “The catcher didn’t have a chance.” So as the offseason approaches, how do you think that the larger bases will factor into decisions? Will the team add some speed to the roster in an attempt to steal more bases? As they look for a #2 catcher, how important will (or should) their ability to throw out would-be base stealers? Share your thoughts below, and make sure to check out our Offseason Handbook content to identify targets who could improve the team's overall speed and base-stealing proficiency.
  11. MLB recently released Statcast data about players' defensive arm strength. Here are some surprising observations from the available data so far. Image courtesy of Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports For baseball fans, there continue to be new forms of data to help build discussions around various topics. Defensive data has continued to improve, especially in the Statcast era. Earlier this season, MLB began posting data about players' defensive arm strength. Currently, arm strength data covers the 2020 through 2022 seasons, but a few observations stand out from Minnesota's data. 1. Gilberto Celestino has underrated arm strength Few fans may be able to identify the Twins player with the best arm strength, but Gilberto Celestino has one of baseball's best arms. Celestino topped the arm strength leaderboard with a 92.4 mph average on over 300 throws. He topped out at 102.3, which was the highest velocity throw by a Twins defender this season. Throughout baseball, only two players had a throw with a higher velocity in 2022. He ranks 10th at the MLB level and fourth in the American League. It will be interesting to see what type of playing time Celestino gets in 2023 and how his arm continues to develop. 2. Luis Arraez might be underserved at first base Minnesota's injury situation forced the Twins to be creative with the team's defensive alignment in 2022. Luis Arraez played a significant amount of time at first base with players like Miguel Sano and Alex Kirilloff on the IL. According to the available data, Arraez has the best arm strength of any current Twins infielder at 90.2 mph. That ranks even better than Carlos Correa, who posted an 88.0 mph total in his first year with the Twins. During the 2021 season, Arraez finished fifth among third basemen in SDI but only played seven games at third base this season. Next season, it seems likely for Arraez to be moved around to multiple defensive positions, but his arm is better served away from first base. 3. Byron Buxton continues to be one of baseball's best defenders Celestino may have led the team in arm strength this past season, but his sample size is more limited than some of the team's other outfielders. Among players with over 1000 throws, Buxton has the team's highest arm strength rating (91.2 MPH) and the highest max arm speed (101.4 mph). The league average for center fielders has been 88.8 mph over the last three seasons. These totals won't surprise those who have followed Buxton since he was an amateur. In high school, his arm strength was good enough to be one of his team's starting pitchers. 4. Carlos Correa's arm wasn't as strong with the Twins Last season, Carlos Correa compiled elite defensive numbers. He won the AL's Platinum Glove and led the league in SDI. His defensive numbers didn't fare well at the season's start, with him ranking 9th among AL shortstops in SDI. He rose in the rankings throughout the season, and there is a chance for him to be a Gold Glove finalist. Even with his strong defense, Correa's arm strength has dropped in each of the last three seasons. In the shortened 2020 season, his arm strength was in the 87th percentile but down to the 72nd percentile in 2022. Minnesota's defensive alignment might have impacted his totals this season, so it will be interesting to see how Correa fares as he continues to age. What stands out to you about the Twins and arm strength? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  12. For baseball fans, there continue to be new forms of data to help build discussions around various topics. Defensive data has continued to improve, especially in the Statcast era. Earlier this season, MLB began posting data about players' defensive arm strength. Currently, arm strength data covers the 2020 through 2022 seasons, but a few observations stand out from Minnesota's data. 1. Gilberto Celestino has underrated arm strength Few fans may be able to identify the Twins player with the best arm strength, but Gilberto Celestino has one of baseball's best arms. Celestino topped the arm strength leaderboard with a 92.4 mph average on over 300 throws. He topped out at 102.3, which was the highest velocity throw by a Twins defender this season. Throughout baseball, only two players had a throw with a higher velocity in 2022. He ranks 10th at the MLB level and fourth in the American League. It will be interesting to see what type of playing time Celestino gets in 2023 and how his arm continues to develop. 2. Luis Arraez might be underserved at first base Minnesota's injury situation forced the Twins to be creative with the team's defensive alignment in 2022. Luis Arraez played a significant amount of time at first base with players like Miguel Sano and Alex Kirilloff on the IL. According to the available data, Arraez has the best arm strength of any current Twins infielder at 90.2 mph. That ranks even better than Carlos Correa, who posted an 88.0 mph total in his first year with the Twins. During the 2021 season, Arraez finished fifth among third basemen in SDI but only played seven games at third base this season. Next season, it seems likely for Arraez to be moved around to multiple defensive positions, but his arm is better served away from first base. 3. Byron Buxton continues to be one of baseball's best defenders Celestino may have led the team in arm strength this past season, but his sample size is more limited than some of the team's other outfielders. Among players with over 1000 throws, Buxton has the team's highest arm strength rating (91.2 MPH) and the highest max arm speed (101.4 mph). The league average for center fielders has been 88.8 mph over the last three seasons. These totals won't surprise those who have followed Buxton since he was an amateur. In high school, his arm strength was good enough to be one of his team's starting pitchers. 4. Carlos Correa's arm wasn't as strong with the Twins Last season, Carlos Correa compiled elite defensive numbers. He won the AL's Platinum Glove and led the league in SDI. His defensive numbers didn't fare well at the season's start, with him ranking 9th among AL shortstops in SDI. He rose in the rankings throughout the season, and there is a chance for him to be a Gold Glove finalist. Even with his strong defense, Correa's arm strength has dropped in each of the last three seasons. In the shortened 2020 season, his arm strength was in the 87th percentile but down to the 72nd percentile in 2022. Minnesota's defensive alignment might have impacted his totals this season, so it will be interesting to see how Correa fares as he continues to age. What stands out to you about the Twins and arm strength? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  13. Five years ago, Luis Arraez was a little-known prospect at A-ball, lacking in traditional athletic traits but garnering attention as a novelty for his rarified ability to put the bat on the ball. This past July, he became a first-time All-Star. Last week, he became a first-time American League batting champ. And today, we name him a first-time pick for Twins Daily MVP. Image courtesy of Thiéres Rabelo, Twins Daily Luis Arraez is, in so many ways, not the guy you'd expect to finish atop a team's MVP vote – or alongside the absolute legends in Twins history who've preceded him as AL batting champs. You compare him to the other players on that exclusive list – Rod Carew, Joe Mauer, Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett – and you're talking about thoroughbred Hall of Famers who looked the part. Many would count those four players among the five best in franchise history. Even comparing Arraez to the players who finished second and third behind him in Twins Daily's MVP balloting – Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton, respectively – is an amusing exercise. We're talking about preternatural teen talents who went 1-2 in the draft a decade ago – big-bucks superstars who smash the ball, and derive much of their value from premier defense at premium positions. Then, you have Luis Arraez. The Venezuelan was not a highly regarded property when signed by the Twins as an international free agent in 2013 for a measly $40,000 bonus. Just looking at him, you can see why. He is small and stubby – generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 lbs – with neither the speed, nor power, nor defensive skill to impress any onlooker. But Arraez brings one truly preternatural tool of his own, and it has become his signature. As Jake Mauer, his manager at Cedar Rapids back in 2016 – and a guy who has his own familial knowledge on the subject – said of a then-unknown Arraez back then: "He's got a knack for finding the barrel." Oh yes. And it's carried him from anonymity to All-Star status. It doesn't matter where he's at. It doesn't matter who's pitching to him. It doesn't matter the count. Arraez just hits. He's irrepressible, with contact rates that top the charts. Virtually no one swings and misses less or strikes out less. Yet despite his ability to put the bat on everything, he is disciplined enough to pass on most out-of-zone offerings, and walked more (50) than he struck out (43) this season. In a lineup that was prone to slumps, and often far too over-reliant on power at the expense of consistent quality ABs and rally-building, Arraez was a breath of fresh air. He was never an easy out, reflexively tapping outside pitches the other way for singles and then inviting pitchers to the inner half, where he could turn on the ball and unlock new levels of power. Arraez's .421 slugging percentage was nothing to write home about but he launched a respectable 40 extra-base hits, and doubled his previous career high for home runs with eight. Now, before I go any further, a disclosure: I didn't have Arraez at the top of my team MVP ballot. In fact, I didn't have him among my top three. Because, analytically, it's hard to make that case. Yes, he led the league in average. But that's merely one piece of the value equation. Arraez ranked third on the team in fWAR behind Correa and Buxton, with a 3.2 mark that is one of the lowest for a Twins Daily MVP since we started awarding it. Baseball Reference's WAR formula viewed Arraez more favorably (4.0) but he was still second to Correa. Even the seemingly more narrative-based Win Probability Added metric placed Arraez sixth on the team, behind Jhoan Duran, Jorge Polanco, Buxton, Joe Ryan, and Correa. But even WPA doesn't seem to capture the full narrative behind Arraez, and the positive impact that lifted him to the top of our collective balloting. It's true that Correa was difference-maker down the stretch – he had the sixth-highest WPA in the AL after July – and technically that portion of the schedule mattered a lot. It's also true that Arraez's bat went relatively quiet in those final months, as he battled a hamstring strain that limited him mostly to DH duty in September. But by then, it felt like the decimated Twins were engaged in an inevitably losing fight. When the team emerged early on and grasped first place, Arraez was the beating heart of the lineup. In the month of May, where the Twins went 18-12 to reach their greatest heights of the season, Arraez batted .377 with a .480 on-base percentage and 19 runs scored. He then flashed his emergent power in June, notching four doubles, three homers and a triple while driving in 15 runs. Compared to the likes of Correa and Buxton, Arraez loses a lot of value from metrics like WAR because of his reduced defensive value. And that's fair: no one would argue that Arraez impacts games with his glove like Buck in center or C4 at short. But the Twins didn't ask him to, or need it. What they needed him to do, after Miguel Sanó and Alex Kirilloff went down, was take over at first base, a position he had essentially never played before. Arraez is not exactly physically suited for the position either. But sure enough, he adapted quickly and proved to be a perfectly solid defender at first. Ultimately, I think that's what it came down to, and why the vote swung to Arraez. He simply showed up. He answered the call, time and time again. While the roster succumbed to injuries around him, he kept playing all year long, leading the team in plate appearances and games played (despite – as it's now easy to forget – being a healthy scratch on Opening Day!). By season's end, Arraez was the only worthwhile attraction for Twins fans, who could tune in to watch him battle Aaron Judge down to the wire, for a superficial honor, amidst a Triple-A lineup in a lost year. Arraez kept on showing up through the very last day, barely able to run and clearly limping, because he wanted "to win the batting title fighting." He did just that, and it's the fight he demonstrated down to the bitter end that likely helped elevate Arraez as the unlikely Twins Daily 2022 team MVP. FINAL BALLOTING POINTS TALLY Arraez: 55 Correa: 46 Buxton: 33 Durán: 27 Gray: 13 Miranda: 11 View full article
  14. Aaron and John talk about the Twins firing their trainer and not firing any coaches, the latest on Carlos Correa, reviewing our preseason over/under picks, filling out our team MVP ballots, and why a "good offer" can be subjective. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click this link. View full article
  15. Luis Arraez is, in so many ways, not the guy you'd expect to finish atop a team's MVP vote – or alongside the absolute legends in Twins history who've preceded him as AL batting champs. You compare him to the other players on that exclusive list – Rod Carew, Joe Mauer, Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett – and you're talking about thoroughbred Hall of Famers who looked the part. Many would count those four players among the five best in franchise history. Even comparing Arraez to the players who finished second and third behind him in Twins Daily's MVP balloting – Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton, respectively – is an amusing exercise. We're talking about preternatural teen talents who went 1-2 in the draft a decade ago – big-bucks superstars who smash the ball, and derive much of their value from premier defense at premium positions. Then, you have Luis Arraez. The Venezuelan was not a highly regarded property when signed by the Twins as an international free agent in 2013 for a measly $40,000 bonus. Just looking at him, you can see why. He is small and stubby – generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 lbs – with neither the speed, nor power, nor defensive skill to impress any onlooker. But Arraez brings one truly preternatural tool of his own, and it has become his signature. As Jake Mauer, his manager at Cedar Rapids back in 2016 – and a guy who has his own familial knowledge on the subject – said of a then-unknown Arraez back then: "He's got a knack for finding the barrel." Oh yes. And it's carried him from anonymity to All-Star status. It doesn't matter where he's at. It doesn't matter who's pitching to him. It doesn't matter the count. Arraez just hits. He's irrepressible, with contact rates that top the charts. Virtually no one swings and misses less or strikes out less. Yet despite his ability to put the bat on everything, he is disciplined enough to pass on most out-of-zone offerings, and walked more (50) than he struck out (43) this season. In a lineup that was prone to slumps, and often far too over-reliant on power at the expense of consistent quality ABs and rally-building, Arraez was a breath of fresh air. He was never an easy out, reflexively tapping outside pitches the other way for singles and then inviting pitchers to the inner half, where he could turn on the ball and unlock new levels of power. Arraez's .421 slugging percentage was nothing to write home about but he launched a respectable 40 extra-base hits, and doubled his previous career high for home runs with eight. Now, before I go any further, a disclosure: I didn't have Arraez at the top of my team MVP ballot. In fact, I didn't have him among my top three. Because, analytically, it's hard to make that case. Yes, he led the league in average. But that's merely one piece of the value equation. Arraez ranked third on the team in fWAR behind Correa and Buxton, with a 3.2 mark that is one of the lowest for a Twins Daily MVP since we started awarding it. Baseball Reference's WAR formula viewed Arraez more favorably (4.0) but he was still second to Correa. Even the seemingly more narrative-based Win Probability Added metric placed Arraez sixth on the team, behind Jhoan Duran, Jorge Polanco, Buxton, Joe Ryan, and Correa. But even WPA doesn't seem to capture the full narrative behind Arraez, and the positive impact that lifted him to the top of our collective balloting. It's true that Correa was difference-maker down the stretch – he had the sixth-highest WPA in the AL after July – and technically that portion of the schedule mattered a lot. It's also true that Arraez's bat went relatively quiet in those final months, as he battled a hamstring strain that limited him mostly to DH duty in September. But by then, it felt like the decimated Twins were engaged in an inevitably losing fight. When the team emerged early on and grasped first place, Arraez was the beating heart of the lineup. In the month of May, where the Twins went 18-12 to reach their greatest heights of the season, Arraez batted .377 with a .480 on-base percentage and 19 runs scored. He then flashed his emergent power in June, notching four doubles, three homers and a triple while driving in 15 runs. Compared to the likes of Correa and Buxton, Arraez loses a lot of value from metrics like WAR because of his reduced defensive value. And that's fair: no one would argue that Arraez impacts games with his glove like Buck in center or C4 at short. But the Twins didn't ask him to, or need it. What they needed him to do, after Miguel Sanó and Alex Kirilloff went down, was take over at first base, a position he had essentially never played before. Arraez is not exactly physically suited for the position either. But sure enough, he adapted quickly and proved to be a perfectly solid defender at first. Ultimately, I think that's what it came down to, and why the vote swung to Arraez. He simply showed up. He answered the call, time and time again. While the roster succumbed to injuries around him, he kept playing all year long, leading the team in plate appearances and games played (despite – as it's now easy to forget – being a healthy scratch on Opening Day!). By season's end, Arraez was the only worthwhile attraction for Twins fans, who could tune in to watch him battle Aaron Judge down to the wire, for a superficial honor, amidst a Triple-A lineup in a lost year. Arraez kept on showing up through the very last day, barely able to run and clearly limping, because he wanted "to win the batting title fighting." He did just that, and it's the fight he demonstrated down to the bitter end that likely helped elevate Arraez as the unlikely Twins Daily 2022 team MVP. FINAL BALLOTING POINTS TALLY Arraez: 55 Correa: 46 Buxton: 33 Durán: 27 Gray: 13 Miranda: 11
  16. Kyle Garlick is headed into another offseason having produced admirably while missing a good chunk of games due to injury. As the Twins hopefully head toward a roster shakeup, could they move on from their lefty-mashing specialist? Image courtesy of Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports 2019 seems like a long time ago, back when the Twins’ eyes would light up seeing a left-handed pitcher take the mound. The outfield in particular has become so left-handed heavy that the team’s performance against southpaws as a whole has taken a hit. Trevor Larnach, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, and Nick Gordon all saw significant time in 2022 and the Twins ranked 20th in OPS matching up against lefties. A handful of outfield prospects remain, though not of the right-handed variety. We’ve seen Matt Wallner, and another top outfield prospect, Emmanuel Rodriguez, hits from the left side as well. In other words, help in this department is not on the way internally. For that reason, bringing back the cheap and known commodity Kyle Garlick makes sense… right? Garlick’s overall numbers fail to impress, but the Twins brought him in to hit lefties and he’s done that well. Posting an .805 OPS and 128 wRC+, six of his nine homers came in these matchups. When healthy, Garlick was penciled into the top of most lineups in an advantageous matchup. One issue at this point, however, is Garlick’s health. After playing in just 36 games in 2021 due to a core muscle injury, he again missed significant time, playing 66 games in 2022 before rib and wrist issues shut his season down and limited his effectiveness. Now over the age of 30, is it fair to count on Garlick suddenly becoming healthier? Also, consider the state of the Twins outfield. Byron Buxton is going to miss time. Kirilloff and Larnach have also done so in each of the last two seasons. Max Kepler may be on the outs, but if he remains with the team it seems a foregone conclusion that he’ll be limping his way through September every season. Garlick’s complementary right-handed bat may be canceled out by his inability to stay on the field. Even if healthy, it’s important to keep in mind that Garlick is a one-dimensional player. He was brought in to mash lefties and that’s about where his capabilities end. Though a nice potential role player on a competing team, it’s fair to ask whether a team coming off back-to-back losing seasons can justify giving a roster spot to such a player. Without much defense to provide, Garlick also posted just a .631 OPS against right-handed pitching. On a roster such as the Twins where players are simply going to miss time, Garlick is bound to find himself in inopportune situations as we saw this year. In those cases, the negative impact Garlick has on games begins to overshadow the somewhat rare opportunities he was brought in to fill against lefties. It’s possible the Twins bring Garlick back. He’s cheap and his skillset does complement their roster. Big changes are needed, however, and the Twins days of pretending they have the baseline of a first-place roster capable of carrying one-dimensional role players may be in the past. A roster shakeup may be coming. Many have called for parting ways with Max Kepler. While the Twins have prospects such as Wallner ready, they could also part with someone like Garlick and bring in a right-handed bat with more than just one skill to offer. After parts of two seasons, we know what Kyle Garlick is. While he has his flaws, his career will certainly carry on with another team should the Twins move on. The question is whether they should. Is Kyle Garlick the perfect match for the Twins left-handed heavy outfield, or should they look for an upgraded version of his skillset? View full article
  17. 2019 seems like a long time ago, back when the Twins’ eyes would light up seeing a left-handed pitcher take the mound. The outfield in particular has become so left-handed heavy that the team’s performance against southpaws as a whole has taken a hit. Trevor Larnach, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, and Nick Gordon all saw significant time in 2022 and the Twins ranked 20th in OPS matching up against lefties. A handful of outfield prospects remain, though not of the right-handed variety. We’ve seen Matt Wallner, and another top outfield prospect, Emmanuel Rodriguez, hits from the left side as well. In other words, help in this department is not on the way internally. For that reason, bringing back the cheap and known commodity Kyle Garlick makes sense… right? Garlick’s overall numbers fail to impress, but the Twins brought him in to hit lefties and he’s done that well. Posting an .805 OPS and 128 wRC+, six of his nine homers came in these matchups. When healthy, Garlick was penciled into the top of most lineups in an advantageous matchup. One issue at this point, however, is Garlick’s health. After playing in just 36 games in 2021 due to a core muscle injury, he again missed significant time, playing 66 games in 2022 before rib and wrist issues shut his season down and limited his effectiveness. Now over the age of 30, is it fair to count on Garlick suddenly becoming healthier? Also, consider the state of the Twins outfield. Byron Buxton is going to miss time. Kirilloff and Larnach have also done so in each of the last two seasons. Max Kepler may be on the outs, but if he remains with the team it seems a foregone conclusion that he’ll be limping his way through September every season. Garlick’s complementary right-handed bat may be canceled out by his inability to stay on the field. Even if healthy, it’s important to keep in mind that Garlick is a one-dimensional player. He was brought in to mash lefties and that’s about where his capabilities end. Though a nice potential role player on a competing team, it’s fair to ask whether a team coming off back-to-back losing seasons can justify giving a roster spot to such a player. Without much defense to provide, Garlick also posted just a .631 OPS against right-handed pitching. On a roster such as the Twins where players are simply going to miss time, Garlick is bound to find himself in inopportune situations as we saw this year. In those cases, the negative impact Garlick has on games begins to overshadow the somewhat rare opportunities he was brought in to fill against lefties. It’s possible the Twins bring Garlick back. He’s cheap and his skillset does complement their roster. Big changes are needed, however, and the Twins days of pretending they have the baseline of a first-place roster capable of carrying one-dimensional role players may be in the past. A roster shakeup may be coming. Many have called for parting ways with Max Kepler. While the Twins have prospects such as Wallner ready, they could also part with someone like Garlick and bring in a right-handed bat with more than just one skill to offer. After parts of two seasons, we know what Kyle Garlick is. While he has his flaws, his career will certainly carry on with another team should the Twins move on. The question is whether they should. Is Kyle Garlick the perfect match for the Twins left-handed heavy outfield, or should they look for an upgraded version of his skillset?
  18. It's no secret: The top imperative for 2023 is a healthier season that enables the Twins to keep their best players on the field more often. Unfortunately, several of this year's injury concerns will spill over into the next thanks to a series of ambiguous, challenging situations afflicting key fixtures in the team's planning. Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today Usually, the end of a season like this one – promising but sabotaged to the core by an outrageous abundance of injuries – brings sweet relief. The offseason, theoretically, provides an opportunity for banged-up players to get right and return in the spring at 100% physically. In the cases of many Twins, it's difficult to envision things going so smoothly. Here's a look at seven players – all varying levels of vital to the 2023 outlook – who will have their unusual injury concerns and uncertainties ripple forward into next year. Tyler Mahle, SP No one could seem to figure out what was wrong with Mahle's shoulder this year. Not the Reds, not the Twins, not the pitcher himself ... certainly not any outside observer. His issue was described in different ways at different points – strain, soreness, fatigue, inflammation – but throughout out it all, repeated exams showed no structural damage. So, we don't know what's going on. What we do know is that Mahle's final two attempts to pitch this season saw him induce three swinging strikes on 74 pitches while flashing significantly reduced velocity, getting removed after two innings in each. Now he's got an offseason to rest up and get right. But, what does "getting right" mean when no one could pinpoint what was wrong to begin with? This is one scenario where I feel like the Twins front office and medical staff are getting a bit of an unfair shake. They gambled on Mahle because his scans were clean and he was pitching well at the time. He kept pitching well for a bit. Then the shoulder troubles resurfaced, yet the scans remained clean. Pointing fingers at team doctors is easy but misguided. It's not like they aren't consulting outside specialists at the top of their field. The reality is that for all of our advances, sports medicine remains an inexact and often mysterious science. Mahle is a good example. He's hardly the only one. Byron Buxton, CF I'm not going to act like this is anything new. Buxton, obviously, has to be viewed as an availability question mark heading into every season. But at least last year he didn't carry any blatant health burdens directly into the offseason. In 2021, Buxton played through the end of the schedule and flat-out mashed down the stretch, posting a 1.001 OPS with nine homers after September 1st. His broken hand had healed, and he was seemingly past the hip strain that earlier cost him six weeks. This year, that same hip forced him back to the injured list. That's in addition to a persistent right knee tendinitis, with both trending toward the dreaded "chronic" category of classification. These dark clouds will hover over Buxton, recipient of a new $100 million contract, for the foreseeable future. Outside of an ostensibly minor procedure conducted last week to clean up scar tissue and frayed ligaments in his knee, there's nothing but hope to guide us toward a significantly better outcome for Buxton next year. "What ends up typically happening is the scar tissue and otherwise creates more of that inflammation when you pound on it. So, now let's clear out some of that and hopefully that'll alleviate some of that stress going forward," said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey. Hopefully. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Perhaps the most perplexing and inscrutable health situation among many faced by the Twins franchise. In August of 2021, Kirilloff underwent season-ending surgery to address a torn wrist ligament, with the hope that creating more spacing would alleviate the pain experienced while engaging his elite swing. It didn't work. Or at least not for long. Kiriloff battled more pain in spring training and the early season, took a short break, went to Triple-A, dominated for a month, returned to the majors, and then it all came roaring back. The pain, the warped swing mechanics, the endless ground balls. Cortisone injections offered only brief respite from his performance-draining affliction. Thus, Kirilloff and the Twins turned to a last-ditch option: a more invasive surgery that involves "breaking the ulna and shortening it before the insertion of a metal plate and screws," another effort to create space in his wrist. "I really hope it doesn’t get to that," the 24-year-old had lamented earlier in the season. While relatively common for the general population, this procedure is rare for professional athletes and there aren't many past examples to reference. In a recent update to the media, Falvey mentioned that Kirilloff "hasn't ramped up his hitting progression yet," adding that there have been no setbacks or delays but "we just don't want him to hit yet." Kirilloff had undergone the surgery six weeks prior, for whatever that's worth. I want so badly to feel optimistic about Kirilloff because his talent level and upside can be game-changing for this franchise – if only he could tap them for a prolonged period on the field. But it's getting really difficult to find that optimism, and his wayward status creates all sorts of planning headaches for the front office. Royce Lewis, SS Speaking of planning headaches, we have the shortstop position. Lewis showed the makings of a long-term fixture during his brief audition this year, but unfortunately that concluded in late May when he re-tore the very same knee ligament he'd just spent a year rehabbing from reconstructive surgery. In somewhat positive news, he only partially tore the ACL this time, and surgeons put a novel twist on his second knee operation; mentions of a "brace" being involved in this variation led Lucas Seehafer to conclude they employed a technique called lateral tenodesis. While promising in its potential to prevent another injury, Lucas framed this technique as somewhat experimental, adding that "the long-term outcomes for this procedure in the athletic population, and specifically the MLB population, [are] unknown." Even if he's able to come back with a structurally sound, twice-repaired knee ligament, it remains to be seen whether Lewis will be able to maintain the full speed, quickness, and lateral agility that were on display even after his first surgery. Like Kirilloff, Lewis brings much to the table as a building block for this franchise, which makes his uncertainty all the more unfortunate, surfarcing some difficult short-term decisions for the front office with regards to the future at shortstop. Chris Paddack, SP The Twins knew they were taking on risk when they acquired Paddack as the centerpiece of the Taylor Rogers trade, but even in that context, they've pretty much stumbled into a worst-case scenario. Paddack made it through five starts before the partial tear in his UCL, already once repaired via Tommy John surgery, gave way and necessitated to a second TJ procedure. The history of pitchers who have undergone this ligament replacement surgery twice is not the most encouraging. Mike Clevinger, one of the most accomplished pitchers to undergo a Tommy John revision surgery (in November 2020), returned to action this year and while he's managed to throw more than 100 innings, Clevinger is nowhere near his pre-surgery form. There are complicated realities at play with getting this repair a second time that have diminished the rate of success. "On average, the typical TJ revision isn’t as successful as the typical primary TJ,” said Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, an orthopedic surgeon and professor, in a story for the San Diego Union-Tribune. "The first time you drill a hole in the bone it is fresh and clean, but if it happens again you already have a hole there and that hole is filled with scar tissue. … Scar tissue isn’t as healthy as original tissue. It doesn’t have the same blood supply; (it is) not as durable.” Paddack has already acknowledged that he's realistically targeting an August return next year, setting expectations for a 14-month recovery time and reducing the likelihood he'll be able to make a significant impact in 2023. We probably should collectively drop the notion of Paddack pitching in the Twins rotation again before his team control expires after 2024. Kenta Maeda, SP Relatively speaking, Maeda's outlook is less complicated than Paddack's since he's coming off his first Tommy John surgery. However, the veteran righty still hasn't taken the mound 13 months after his own procedure "with a twist" – an internal brace designed to shorten the recovery timetable from the typical 12-16 months down to 9-12. Alas, he'll be nearly 18 months removed by the time he hits the mound again next spring in Ft. Myers. That Maeda didn't make it back this year isn't a big deal – the timing of his surgery late last year was always going to make it tough, and the Twins being out of contention in September rendered it a moot point. The bigger concern here is that he'll be a 35-year-old coming back from significant elbow surgery and a very long layoff, with 173 total innings pitched over the past three seasons. It's hard to foresee him successfully taking on a full starter's workload in his final year under contract, so I'll be curious to see how he fits into the 2022 plan. Josh Winder, SP Winder was limited to 72 innings last year, and will finish near the same total this year, because of recurring "shoulder impingement" issues that he and the club appear unable to fully diagnose or solve. “He’s felt good for periods of time. He’s thrown the ball well for periods of time. There’s no singular reason why we’re looking at this and thinking, ‘Well, this is why this is happening,’ to be honest,” manager Rocco Baldelli said in late July, shortly after Winder had been placed on IL for a second time with what was by then being termed impingement syndrome. “It’s just soreness that keeps creeping back in there.” Winder wouldn't make it back to the big-league mound for another seven weeks after that, and while he was able to return for four starts in September, he wasn't very effective, posting a 5.59 ERA in 19 ⅓ innings. Much like with Mahle, it's difficult to feel confident in an injury clearing up when nobody can get to the bottom of it. Winder, for his part, has suggested he "might just be at a predisposition for this type of injury." Which makes him pretty challenging to plan around, and that's a big hit because he showed the makings of a signature product of this front office's pitching pipeline. The Twins liked him so much they went out of their way to keep him on the Opening Day pitching staff this year. They were envisioning him as an integral part of their rotation mix this year. I don't see how they can keep doing so going forward. An Uncertain Future In the recent media scrum where he updated a litany of injury situations, Falvey remarked on the avalanche of IL stints that buried the team this year, reasoning that – to some extent – you're at the mercy of fate. Like all things in baseball, injuries ebb and flow. "I'm hopeful, for a lot of reasons that this is our spike-up year and that there's some regression built in going forward," Falvey said. A reasonable mindset, from a basic analytical standpoint. And yet, as these seven examples show, many of the dismal developments in the spike-up year that was 2022 could prove thorny going forward. View full article
  19. Usually, the end of a season like this one – promising but sabotaged to the core by an outrageous abundance of injuries – brings sweet relief. The offseason, theoretically, provides an opportunity for banged-up players to get right and return in the spring at 100% physically. In the cases of many Twins, it's difficult to envision things going so smoothly. Here's a look at seven players – all varying levels of vital to the 2023 outlook – who will have their unusual injury concerns and uncertainties ripple forward into next year. Tyler Mahle, SP No one could seem to figure out what was wrong with Mahle's shoulder this year. Not the Reds, not the Twins, not the pitcher himself ... certainly not any outside observer. His issue was described in different ways at different points – strain, soreness, fatigue, inflammation – but throughout out it all, repeated exams showed no structural damage. So, we don't know what's going on. What we do know is that Mahle's final two attempts to pitch this season saw him induce three swinging strikes on 74 pitches while flashing significantly reduced velocity, getting removed after two innings in each. Now he's got an offseason to rest up and get right. But, what does "getting right" mean when no one could pinpoint what was wrong to begin with? This is one scenario where I feel like the Twins front office and medical staff are getting a bit of an unfair shake. They gambled on Mahle because his scans were clean and he was pitching well at the time. He kept pitching well for a bit. Then the shoulder troubles resurfaced, yet the scans remained clean. Pointing fingers at team doctors is easy but misguided. It's not like they aren't consulting outside specialists at the top of their field. The reality is that for all of our advances, sports medicine remains an inexact and often mysterious science. Mahle is a good example. He's hardly the only one. Byron Buxton, CF I'm not going to act like this is anything new. Buxton, obviously, has to be viewed as an availability question mark heading into every season. But at least last year he didn't carry any blatant health burdens directly into the offseason. In 2021, Buxton played through the end of the schedule and flat-out mashed down the stretch, posting a 1.001 OPS with nine homers after September 1st. His broken hand had healed, and he was seemingly past the hip strain that earlier cost him six weeks. This year, that same hip forced him back to the injured list. That's in addition to a persistent right knee tendinitis, with both trending toward the dreaded "chronic" category of classification. These dark clouds will hover over Buxton, recipient of a new $100 million contract, for the foreseeable future. Outside of an ostensibly minor procedure conducted last week to clean up scar tissue and frayed ligaments in his knee, there's nothing but hope to guide us toward a significantly better outcome for Buxton next year. "What ends up typically happening is the scar tissue and otherwise creates more of that inflammation when you pound on it. So, now let's clear out some of that and hopefully that'll alleviate some of that stress going forward," said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey. Hopefully. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Perhaps the most perplexing and inscrutable health situation among many faced by the Twins franchise. In August of 2021, Kirilloff underwent season-ending surgery to address a torn wrist ligament, with the hope that creating more spacing would alleviate the pain experienced while engaging his elite swing. It didn't work. Or at least not for long. Kiriloff battled more pain in spring training and the early season, took a short break, went to Triple-A, dominated for a month, returned to the majors, and then it all came roaring back. The pain, the warped swing mechanics, the endless ground balls. Cortisone injections offered only brief respite from his performance-draining affliction. Thus, Kirilloff and the Twins turned to a last-ditch option: a more invasive surgery that involves "breaking the ulna and shortening it before the insertion of a metal plate and screws," another effort to create space in his wrist. "I really hope it doesn’t get to that," the 24-year-old had lamented earlier in the season. While relatively common for the general population, this procedure is rare for professional athletes and there aren't many past examples to reference. In a recent update to the media, Falvey mentioned that Kirilloff "hasn't ramped up his hitting progression yet," adding that there have been no setbacks or delays but "we just don't want him to hit yet." Kirilloff had undergone the surgery six weeks prior, for whatever that's worth. I want so badly to feel optimistic about Kirilloff because his talent level and upside can be game-changing for this franchise – if only he could tap them for a prolonged period on the field. But it's getting really difficult to find that optimism, and his wayward status creates all sorts of planning headaches for the front office. Royce Lewis, SS Speaking of planning headaches, we have the shortstop position. Lewis showed the makings of a long-term fixture during his brief audition this year, but unfortunately that concluded in late May when he re-tore the very same knee ligament he'd just spent a year rehabbing from reconstructive surgery. In somewhat positive news, he only partially tore the ACL this time, and surgeons put a novel twist on his second knee operation; mentions of a "brace" being involved in this variation led Lucas Seehafer to conclude they employed a technique called lateral tenodesis. While promising in its potential to prevent another injury, Lucas framed this technique as somewhat experimental, adding that "the long-term outcomes for this procedure in the athletic population, and specifically the MLB population, [are] unknown." Even if he's able to come back with a structurally sound, twice-repaired knee ligament, it remains to be seen whether Lewis will be able to maintain the full speed, quickness, and lateral agility that were on display even after his first surgery. Like Kirilloff, Lewis brings much to the table as a building block for this franchise, which makes his uncertainty all the more unfortunate, surfarcing some difficult short-term decisions for the front office with regards to the future at shortstop. Chris Paddack, SP The Twins knew they were taking on risk when they acquired Paddack as the centerpiece of the Taylor Rogers trade, but even in that context, they've pretty much stumbled into a worst-case scenario. Paddack made it through five starts before the partial tear in his UCL, already once repaired via Tommy John surgery, gave way and necessitated to a second TJ procedure. The history of pitchers who have undergone this ligament replacement surgery twice is not the most encouraging. Mike Clevinger, one of the most accomplished pitchers to undergo a Tommy John revision surgery (in November 2020), returned to action this year and while he's managed to throw more than 100 innings, Clevinger is nowhere near his pre-surgery form. There are complicated realities at play with getting this repair a second time that have diminished the rate of success. "On average, the typical TJ revision isn’t as successful as the typical primary TJ,” said Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, an orthopedic surgeon and professor, in a story for the San Diego Union-Tribune. "The first time you drill a hole in the bone it is fresh and clean, but if it happens again you already have a hole there and that hole is filled with scar tissue. … Scar tissue isn’t as healthy as original tissue. It doesn’t have the same blood supply; (it is) not as durable.” Paddack has already acknowledged that he's realistically targeting an August return next year, setting expectations for a 14-month recovery time and reducing the likelihood he'll be able to make a significant impact in 2023. We probably should collectively drop the notion of Paddack pitching in the Twins rotation again before his team control expires after 2024. Kenta Maeda, SP Relatively speaking, Maeda's outlook is less complicated than Paddack's since he's coming off his first Tommy John surgery. However, the veteran righty still hasn't taken the mound 13 months after his own procedure "with a twist" – an internal brace designed to shorten the recovery timetable from the typical 12-16 months down to 9-12. Alas, he'll be nearly 18 months removed by the time he hits the mound again next spring in Ft. Myers. That Maeda didn't make it back this year isn't a big deal – the timing of his surgery late last year was always going to make it tough, and the Twins being out of contention in September rendered it a moot point. The bigger concern here is that he'll be a 35-year-old coming back from significant elbow surgery and a very long layoff, with 173 total innings pitched over the past three seasons. It's hard to foresee him successfully taking on a full starter's workload in his final year under contract, so I'll be curious to see how he fits into the 2022 plan. Josh Winder, SP Winder was limited to 72 innings last year, and will finish near the same total this year, because of recurring "shoulder impingement" issues that he and the club appear unable to fully diagnose or solve. “He’s felt good for periods of time. He’s thrown the ball well for periods of time. There’s no singular reason why we’re looking at this and thinking, ‘Well, this is why this is happening,’ to be honest,” manager Rocco Baldelli said in late July, shortly after Winder had been placed on IL for a second time with what was by then being termed impingement syndrome. “It’s just soreness that keeps creeping back in there.” Winder wouldn't make it back to the big-league mound for another seven weeks after that, and while he was able to return for four starts in September, he wasn't very effective, posting a 5.59 ERA in 19 ⅓ innings. Much like with Mahle, it's difficult to feel confident in an injury clearing up when nobody can get to the bottom of it. Winder, for his part, has suggested he "might just be at a predisposition for this type of injury." Which makes him pretty challenging to plan around, and that's a big hit because he showed the makings of a signature product of this front office's pitching pipeline. The Twins liked him so much they went out of their way to keep him on the Opening Day pitching staff this year. They were envisioning him as an integral part of their rotation mix this year. I don't see how they can keep doing so going forward. An Uncertain Future In the recent media scrum where he updated a litany of injury situations, Falvey remarked on the avalanche of IL stints that buried the team this year, reasoning that – to some extent – you're at the mercy of fate. Like all things in baseball, injuries ebb and flow. "I'm hopeful, for a lot of reasons that this is our spike-up year and that there's some regression built in going forward," Falvey said. A reasonable mindset, from a basic analytical standpoint. And yet, as these seven examples show, many of the dismal developments in the spike-up year that was 2022 could prove thorny going forward.
  20. Byron Buxton’s biggest goal for the season was to avoid a trip to the IL, but he wound up being unavailable at the season’s most critical juncture. Does that mean the Byron Buxton health plan failed? Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports Minnesota knew what it was getting into when they signed Byron Buxton to a long-term deal. His injury history is well documented, but his positive impact on the Twins roster is undeniable. He will make $9.1 million this season, and FanGraphs pegs his total value at nearly $32 million this season. The Twins utilized multiple strategies to try and keep Buxton healthy, but injuries impacted him throughout different parts of the season. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly with Buxton’s health this season. The Good Buxton played in over 90 games for only the third time in his career, which helped him amass 4.0 WAR, which ranks second on the team. In two months during the season, he posted a slugging percentage north of .710 with an OPS of over 1.060. This performance helped him earn the starting center field position for the American League during the All-Star Game, and he helped the team by hitting a home run. It was one of the best portions of the season because the Twins were in first place, and they looked to be heading for the team’s third division title in four seasons. The Bad Mixed in with the good were some sub-par performances as Buxton attempted to play through injury. His offensive production was a roller coaster ride as he’d be an otherworldly hitter for a stretch and then slump. From May 7-June 2, Buxton went 9-for-71 (.127 BA) in 19 games. This slump also included a career-worst 30 consecutive at-bats without a hit. He became a more patient hitter during the stretch as he drew eight walks compared to 16 strikeouts. At the end of June, he had a 15-game stretch that saw him go 6-for-58 (.103 BA), but four of his six hits were home runs. In the season’s second half, it became evident that Buxton was struggling through injury to the point where the team needed to put him on the IL, and that’s when things turned ugly for the Twins. The Ugly The Twins spent 108 days in first place in the AL Central, but the month of September has been brutal. Now, Minnesota is set to finish in third place in the division with hopes of ending with a .500 record. Buxton hasn’t been in the line-up since August 22, and the Twins have gone 11-17 during that stretch, which translates to a 0.392 winning percentage. Over the course of 162-games, that translates to a 98-loss season. Minnesota has been playing some of its most important games in September without Buxton in the line-up, and the team can feel his loss. He brings an energy to the roster that has been lacking over the last. Wins in April and May can be as important as wins in September, but the stakes are much higher in the season’s final weeks. Buxton clearly helped the Twins out of the gate to establish themselves at the top of the division, but the team’s plan to keep him on the field didn’t work. Extra off days and time at designated hitter helped Buxton provide value in just over 90 games. Buxton is Minnesota’s best player, and the club’s success is tied to him being on the field for the team’s critical moments. Should Buxton have gone on the IL earlier in the season? Would he have been available later in the season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  21. Blame can be passed around when a team doesn't meet expectations. Who should receive blame for the Twins' failures, and who is most responsible? Image courtesy of Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports The Twins are finishing a terrible September that saw the team go from contender to pretender in a few weeks. There are plenty of reasons for fans to be frustrated, but the season's conclusion offers time to reflect on the 2022 campaign. Here are the people most responsible for the Twins' downfall this season. Culprit 1: The Front Office The front office will take the brunt of the blame for any team that falls short of its ultimate goal. Last off-season was unique because of the lockout, and Minnesota took a unique approach to construct the roster. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine thought the pitching pipeline was ready to contribute in 2022, so the team didn't need to acquire any of the best free agent pitchers. This plan failed as the team's farm system took a step back, and the pitching pipeline has yet to arrive. It's also easy to blame the front office for some of the prominent players the team acquired during the 2022 season. Minnesota traded Taylor Rogers shortly before Opening Day for Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagan. The timing of the trade was terrible, even if Rogers ended up having a poor season. Paddack was terrific for four games before needing Tommy John surgery. Pagan has been one of baseball's worst relievers for multiple seasons, and the team continued to use him in high-leverage situations. Minnesota's front office received praise following July's trade deadline because it seemed like the team was "going for it." Neither of the other AL Central teams made significant moves, and the Twins acquired Tyler Mahle, Jorge Lopez, and Michael Fulmer. Mahle has struggled with a shoulder injury since being acquired, and Lopez hasn't lived up to his All-Star performance from the first half. Mahle's acquisition might be the most frustrating as he added his name to a growing list of injured pitchers the Twins acquired via trade. In the end, the front office was wrong about the organization's young pitchers being ready to contribute. Falvey and Levine didn't address the bullpen in the offseason, which haunted the team. It cost the team multiple prospects at the trade deadline after the club had already been treading water for most of June and July. Now, the front office is facing a critical offseason as this current group's winning window is closing. Culprit 2: Rocco Baldelli Minnesota's front office gave Baldelli a vote of confidence over the weekend when they said he is part of the team's long-term plans. Fans may still blame the manager for the team's poor performance for multiple months. Obviously, he has been dealing with one of baseball's most injured rosters, but the team doesn't seem to have much fight left in them. Last season, the team was out of the race for much of the season, but the club played well in September as younger players got an opportunity. This year's team played its worst baseball in September. Sometimes it's easy to forget that preseason models projected this team to finish around .500. Pitching staff usage is one of the most significant areas where fans blame a manager. Many will point fingers at Baldelli for his bullpen usage or for pulling his starters too early. However, it is also essential to consider that the team lost its pitching coach in the middle of the season. Minnesota's bullpen was terrible, and there is only so much Baldelli can do with the players on the roster. Also, Twins starters were rarely allowed to face a line-up for the third time, a philosophy many organizations have adopted in recent years. Baldelli deserves some blame, but even baseball's best manager wouldn't have won with Minnesota this season. Culprit 3: Injuries It's easy for anyone looking at the Twins' 2022 season to blame injuries for the team's poor performance. No American League team has put more players on the IL than the Twins this season. At one point, Minnesota had nearly a full roster of players on the IL, and it was a team that could be reasonably competitive in the AL Central. The Reds are the only club with more days lost to injury than the Twins, but anyone following the team knows that number doesn't tell the whole story. Minnesota allowed many players to stay off the IL even when injuries hampered their performance. Bryon Buxton talked his way out of multiple IL stints, and there were stretches where he struggled on the field. Jorge Polanco tried to play through an injury, Tyler Mahle made two starts at less than 100%, and Max Kepler played through a broken toe. Few organizations have the depth to withstand the number of injuries the Twins suffered in 2022. Reflecting on a season that started with renewed expectations can be challenging. However, there is plenty of blame to go around as the season winds to a close. Who deserves the most blame for the Twins' failures in 2022? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  22. You can't do it without your core. No amount of managerial savvy or front office maneuvering can offset the devastating impact of a foundational core that simply doesn't show up. That will go down as the lasting epitaph for the 2022 Minnesota Twins, who were officially eliminated from division contention over the weekend. Image courtesy of Charles LeClaire, USA Today Sports So: the front office. They've had more than their fair share of missteps, and it's natural to focus on underwhelming acquisitions like Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer, and Emilio Pagán. But there's a dirty little secret: their two biggest moves of the offseason paid off handsomely. Minnesota traded its best young pitching prospect for a frontline starter in Sonny Gray to stabilize the top of the rotation in the absence of José Berríos. Gray, despite missing time on a few occasions, came through with an excellent season, posting a 3.08 ERA over 119.2 IP while leading all Twins pitchers in fWAR (2.4). By investing modestly in pitching and clearing out Josh Donaldon's salary, the Twins were able to acquire the top free agent on the market late in the offseason. That move also has been successful – Carlos Correa has put together a customarily excellent year, leading the team overall in fWAR (4.1) while slashing .289/.365/.468 through 128 games. True to his rep, Correa's been stepping up his production here in the stretch run. The idea was that those contributions would be meaningful because he'd be melding with a greater veteran core to lead the charge for a contending team. Correa wasn't supposed to carry the load single-handedly, as he mostly has been throughout the second half. He was supposed to be combining powers with the likes of Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Ryan Jeffers. Among position players who are still here, those five led all Twins in fWAR between 2020 and 2021. They are homegrown talents the organization has been cultivating for many years. Three are under long-term contracts – the only extensions this front office has handed out to inherited players from the previous regime. All are in the heart of their prototypical primes, with ages ranging from 25 to 29. These were the building blocks. They've earned that standing. And you know what? The plan was working for a while. As recently as July 13th, the Twins were eight games above .500 at 49-41, and 4 ½ games up in the AL Central. By that point, the five players mentioned above had combined to be worth 10.3 fWAR, and the first two – Buxton and Arraez – were days away from appearing in their first All-Star Game. Since then, the Twins have gone 25-38, with all five combining for 1.6 fWAR in well over a third of the season. That includes 1.2 fWAR from Buxton, who somehow managed to put up .275/.370/.513 in 23 more games before succumbing to his knee and hip injuries – meaning the other four franchise staples have collectively been barely above replacement level over a prolonged stretch of the season where the team experienced a 15-game freefall in the standings. What more is there to say? Yes, injuries are the main headline of this season and they certainly played a big role in the drop-off from this group, but all that aside: the core came up woefully short when it counted most. Again. So the question is: where do we go from here? The front office's strategy was structured around supplementing this tenured nucleus to make a push in 2022-23, while waiting for the next wave – Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Austin Martin, Brooks Lee – to hopefully take center stage. But none of those players can really be counted on heading into 2023, for various reasons, so the Twins might need to consider making some short-term adjustments. Max Kepler stands out as the clearest candidate to be displanted. He presents quite the conundrum, under contract for one more year at $8.5 million (with a $10 million team option for 2024). On the one hand, he was clearly one of the single biggest culprits in the Twins' implosion, slashing a Sandy Leon-esque .179/.241/.226 since the All-Star break with a negative WPA. Despite showing flashes of greatness at times, Kepler has made a habit out of not showing up for the Twins when they need him. He's a career .056 hitter in the playoffs, with one hit in 18 at-bats. He's been at his absolute worst this year when the team has been forced to rely on him heavily amidst a barrage of injuries. On the other hand, Kepler still has undeniably intriguing traits. He remains an elite defensive right fielder. Before completely unraveling in the second half, he appeared to be on his way to an excellent year, pacing the team in fWAR with 1.6 for the first two months. It's reasonable to think that the new defensive shifting limitations will be positive for his hitting results. And even here in what's clearly been the worst season of his career from a production standpoint ... Kepler's measurables via Statcast are still really, really good: Personally I feel ready to move on from Kepler despite all of the above, especially with Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Matt Wallner all on hand as promising young RF options. The $8.5 million owed to Kepler could be better used elsewhere, and perhaps he'd benefit from a change of scenery as his game stagnates here in Minnesota. The redeeming qualities of his profile make it likely that some team will be open to taking on Kepler and his relatively favorable contract. The Twins might actually be able to get some value in return, although the 29-year-old's bottomed-out stock position doesn't help. Odds of Kepler being traded this offseason could probably be set at around 50:50. Everyone else is much less likely to move. The Twins could possibly find a suitor for Arraez or Polanco. Their contractual situations are even more team-friendly than Kepler's – Arraez has three years of arbitration ahead, while Polanco is owed $7.5 million next year followed by two team options. But to me, the backup options behind both of them are less compelling, and their impact is less replaceable than Kepler's. I don't find my faith in either shaken to the same degree. Jeffers won't be traded, since he's the sole major-league catching depth in the organization. Where he's concerned, the key decision – as Gary Sánchez heads to free agency – is whether the Twins should remain committed to him as their 1A catcher, seeking out a León-esque caddy for the minor timeshare. I'm not sure Jeffers has shown the ability or durability to be viewed as a cornerstone at the position, and at age 25 it's hard to project a lot of additional upside. The Twins will have a lot of spending money available this offseason if they're unable to retain Carlos Correa, with no especially obvious places to spend it. That is, unless they decide to set their sights on top free agent catcher Willson Contreras and completely reshape their future behind the plate. These are the kinds of pivots that need to be on the table as the Twins re-evaluate their fundamental makeup of a roster that has now failed to get it done in back-to-back seasons. View full article
  23. The Twins are finishing a terrible September that saw the team go from contender to pretender in a few weeks. There are plenty of reasons for fans to be frustrated, but the season's conclusion offers time to reflect on the 2022 campaign. Here are the people most responsible for the Twins' downfall this season. Culprit 1: The Front Office The front office will take the brunt of the blame for any team that falls short of its ultimate goal. Last off-season was unique because of the lockout, and Minnesota took a unique approach to construct the roster. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine thought the pitching pipeline was ready to contribute in 2022, so the team didn't need to acquire any of the best free agent pitchers. This plan failed as the team's farm system took a step back, and the pitching pipeline has yet to arrive. It's also easy to blame the front office for some of the prominent players the team acquired during the 2022 season. Minnesota traded Taylor Rogers shortly before Opening Day for Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagan. The timing of the trade was terrible, even if Rogers ended up having a poor season. Paddack was terrific for four games before needing Tommy John surgery. Pagan has been one of baseball's worst relievers for multiple seasons, and the team continued to use him in high-leverage situations. Minnesota's front office received praise following July's trade deadline because it seemed like the team was "going for it." Neither of the other AL Central teams made significant moves, and the Twins acquired Tyler Mahle, Jorge Lopez, and Michael Fulmer. Mahle has struggled with a shoulder injury since being acquired, and Lopez hasn't lived up to his All-Star performance from the first half. Mahle's acquisition might be the most frustrating as he added his name to a growing list of injured pitchers the Twins acquired via trade. In the end, the front office was wrong about the organization's young pitchers being ready to contribute. Falvey and Levine didn't address the bullpen in the offseason, which haunted the team. It cost the team multiple prospects at the trade deadline after the club had already been treading water for most of June and July. Now, the front office is facing a critical offseason as this current group's winning window is closing. Culprit 2: Rocco Baldelli Minnesota's front office gave Baldelli a vote of confidence over the weekend when they said he is part of the team's long-term plans. Fans may still blame the manager for the team's poor performance for multiple months. Obviously, he has been dealing with one of baseball's most injured rosters, but the team doesn't seem to have much fight left in them. Last season, the team was out of the race for much of the season, but the club played well in September as younger players got an opportunity. This year's team played its worst baseball in September. Sometimes it's easy to forget that preseason models projected this team to finish around .500. Pitching staff usage is one of the most significant areas where fans blame a manager. Many will point fingers at Baldelli for his bullpen usage or for pulling his starters too early. However, it is also essential to consider that the team lost its pitching coach in the middle of the season. Minnesota's bullpen was terrible, and there is only so much Baldelli can do with the players on the roster. Also, Twins starters were rarely allowed to face a line-up for the third time, a philosophy many organizations have adopted in recent years. Baldelli deserves some blame, but even baseball's best manager wouldn't have won with Minnesota this season. Culprit 3: Injuries It's easy for anyone looking at the Twins' 2022 season to blame injuries for the team's poor performance. No American League team has put more players on the IL than the Twins this season. At one point, Minnesota had nearly a full roster of players on the IL, and it was a team that could be reasonably competitive in the AL Central. The Reds are the only club with more days lost to injury than the Twins, but anyone following the team knows that number doesn't tell the whole story. Minnesota allowed many players to stay off the IL even when injuries hampered their performance. Bryon Buxton talked his way out of multiple IL stints, and there were stretches where he struggled on the field. Jorge Polanco tried to play through an injury, Tyler Mahle made two starts at less than 100%, and Max Kepler played through a broken toe. Few organizations have the depth to withstand the number of injuries the Twins suffered in 2022. Reflecting on a season that started with renewed expectations can be challenging. However, there is plenty of blame to go around as the season winds to a close. Who deserves the most blame for the Twins' failures in 2022? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  24. So: the front office. They've had more than their fair share of missteps, and it's natural to focus on underwhelming acquisitions like Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer, and Emilio Pagán. But there's a dirty little secret: their two biggest moves of the offseason paid off handsomely. Minnesota traded its best young pitching prospect for a frontline starter in Sonny Gray to stabilize the top of the rotation in the absence of José Berríos. Gray, despite missing time on a few occasions, came through with an excellent season, posting a 3.08 ERA over 119.2 IP while leading all Twins pitchers in fWAR (2.4). By investing modestly in pitching and clearing out Josh Donaldon's salary, the Twins were able to acquire the top free agent on the market late in the offseason. That move also has been successful – Carlos Correa has put together a customarily excellent year, leading the team overall in fWAR (4.1) while slashing .289/.365/.468 through 128 games. True to his rep, Correa's been stepping up his production here in the stretch run. The idea was that those contributions would be meaningful because he'd be melding with a greater veteran core to lead the charge for a contending team. Correa wasn't supposed to carry the load single-handedly, as he mostly has been throughout the second half. He was supposed to be combining powers with the likes of Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Ryan Jeffers. Among position players who are still here, those five led all Twins in fWAR between 2020 and 2021. They are homegrown talents the organization has been cultivating for many years. Three are under long-term contracts – the only extensions this front office has handed out to inherited players from the previous regime. All are in the heart of their prototypical primes, with ages ranging from 25 to 29. These were the building blocks. They've earned that standing. And you know what? The plan was working for a while. As recently as July 13th, the Twins were eight games above .500 at 49-41, and 4 ½ games up in the AL Central. By that point, the five players mentioned above had combined to be worth 10.3 fWAR, and the first two – Buxton and Arraez – were days away from appearing in their first All-Star Game. Since then, the Twins have gone 25-38, with all five combining for 1.6 fWAR in well over a third of the season. That includes 1.2 fWAR from Buxton, who somehow managed to put up .275/.370/.513 in 23 more games before succumbing to his knee and hip injuries – meaning the other four franchise staples have collectively been barely above replacement level over a prolonged stretch of the season where the team experienced a 15-game freefall in the standings. What more is there to say? Yes, injuries are the main headline of this season and they certainly played a big role in the drop-off from this group, but all that aside: the core came up woefully short when it counted most. Again. So the question is: where do we go from here? The front office's strategy was structured around supplementing this tenured nucleus to make a push in 2022-23, while waiting for the next wave – Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Austin Martin, Brooks Lee – to hopefully take center stage. But none of those players can really be counted on heading into 2023, for various reasons, so the Twins might need to consider making some short-term adjustments. Max Kepler stands out as the clearest candidate to be displanted. He presents quite the conundrum, under contract for one more year at $8.5 million (with a $10 million team option for 2024). On the one hand, he was clearly one of the single biggest culprits in the Twins' implosion, slashing a Sandy Leon-esque .179/.241/.226 since the All-Star break with a negative WPA. Despite showing flashes of greatness at times, Kepler has made a habit out of not showing up for the Twins when they need him. He's a career .056 hitter in the playoffs, with one hit in 18 at-bats. He's been at his absolute worst this year when the team has been forced to rely on him heavily amidst a barrage of injuries. On the other hand, Kepler still has undeniably intriguing traits. He remains an elite defensive right fielder. Before completely unraveling in the second half, he appeared to be on his way to an excellent year, pacing the team in fWAR with 1.6 for the first two months. It's reasonable to think that the new defensive shifting limitations will be positive for his hitting results. And even here in what's clearly been the worst season of his career from a production standpoint ... Kepler's measurables via Statcast are still really, really good: Personally I feel ready to move on from Kepler despite all of the above, especially with Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Matt Wallner all on hand as promising young RF options. The $8.5 million owed to Kepler could be better used elsewhere, and perhaps he'd benefit from a change of scenery as his game stagnates here in Minnesota. The redeeming qualities of his profile make it likely that some team will be open to taking on Kepler and his relatively favorable contract. The Twins might actually be able to get some value in return, although the 29-year-old's bottomed-out stock position doesn't help. Odds of Kepler being traded this offseason could probably be set at around 50:50. Everyone else is much less likely to move. The Twins could possibly find a suitor for Arraez or Polanco. Their contractual situations are even more team-friendly than Kepler's – Arraez has three years of arbitration ahead, while Polanco is owed $7.5 million next year followed by two team options. But to me, the backup options behind both of them are less compelling, and their impact is less replaceable than Kepler's. I don't find my faith in either shaken to the same degree. Jeffers won't be traded, since he's the sole major-league catching depth in the organization. Where he's concerned, the key decision – as Gary Sánchez heads to free agency – is whether the Twins should remain committed to him as their 1A catcher, seeking out a León-esque caddy for the minor timeshare. I'm not sure Jeffers has shown the ability or durability to be viewed as a cornerstone at the position, and at age 25 it's hard to project a lot of additional upside. The Twins will have a lot of spending money available this offseason if they're unable to retain Carlos Correa, with no especially obvious places to spend it. That is, unless they decide to set their sights on top free agent catcher Willson Contreras and completely reshape their future behind the plate. These are the kinds of pivots that need to be on the table as the Twins re-evaluate their fundamental makeup of a roster that has now failed to get it done in back-to-back seasons.
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