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  1. Brief Overview: Texas remains a strange team this year as they didn’t appear to be any threat in the grand scheme of the AL, yet heading into the All-Star break they had plans for both buying and selling as they sat in striking distance of a wild card spot. They have fallen off the table since the break in winning just 12 games since while dropping 18, putting them at 60-60 headed into the series. What They Do Well: The Rangers are still very dead-set on swiping bags as they rank second in all of baseball in steals with 89. More impressive potentially is that they have 10 (technically nine since Asdrubal Cabrera has been released) players with multiple steals. The Twins have three for reference. So expect the base paths to be busy during this series, hope Jason Castro and Mitch Garver are prepared and ready for unleashing throws whenever. This also will put some more pressure on the suddenly walk-heavy Twins starting rotation as that free pass could turn into a guy on second base quicker than anyone would probably like. Their starting pitching remains good, kind of, let me explain. Usually I would keep this under “Individuals of Note” but I have some special names for that so I’ll put it here. Anyways, the Rangers have gotten 10.1 fWAR out of their starting pitching and 9.2 of that has come from just Lance Lynn and Mike Minor. Just those two would be the 12th best starting rotation in baseball by fWAR, which is really fun but also a bastardization of how fWAR works so don’t be reckless like that. For context, Lynn is 2nd among all starters in baseball in fWAR and Minor is 15th. The point here is that they have a great 1-2 punch of arms here and the Twins will see both starters in the series so expect some tough fights in those games. What They Do Not Do Well: Since the All-Star break, the Rangers bats have fallen colder than Hoth, as their 79 team wRC+ is the second-lowest in baseball over that stretch. Do you know what Ben Revere’s Twins wRC+ was? 77, he’d fit right in. One of the big issues has been their 25.8% strikeout rate which is the third highest in baseball over that stretch, meaning that the Twins have a chance to pump up their strikeout numbers during the series. The post-break woes don’t end there for the Rangers, however, as their team bullpen ERA of 5.49 is the 6th highest in baseball. This is partly thanks to a frightening 4.12 BB/9 that is the 8th worst in baseball over the stretch but should allow for some late rallies from the Twins lineup when their pen gets involved in the game. Matt Magill walked batters at a 4.02 clip during his time with the Twins so imagine an entire pen like that and try not to shudder. Individuals Of Note: Let’s talk about Emmanuel Clase. Who’s that? Well let me introduce you to a 21-year-old who can throw a 100 MPH CUTTER! https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1161461147280781312 What in tarnation is this wizardry? Let’s see some more: https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1159192195682975744 You have to feel for whatever poor Twins hitter steps up to the plate against this but boy is that something to watch. He hasn’t been in the Ranger’s bullpen for long but he most certainly has the pure stuff to stick. You know, baseball is a funny sport. There are players out there who you swear fell off the face of the earth and were more likely to be working in a shipping yard in Argentina than back up at the major league level. Yet here is the one and only Danny Santana back and thriving in 2019 with the Rangers. He’s gathered 2.0 fWAR in just over half a season’s worth of playing time and his 126 wRC+ is almost as high as his 2014 total with the Twins. Is his 4.0% BB rate and .386 BABIP sustainable? Probably not, we saw him do the exact same thing in 2014 when his BABIP was sky-high and it was just as unsustainable then as it is now, but it is still weird to see him back in the majors like this. Willie Calhoun has spent time as the designated “frequent flyer” for the Rangers as he has taken many trips from AAA to the majors and back this year as he attempts to shed the AAAA label. This year has been somewhat kind to the ex-top prospect as his 117 wRC+ is respectable and he owns enough talent to put it together and be a solid contributing member to the Rangers. Joey Gallo would most certainly be here also, but he’s currently on the IL with a fractured hamate bone and will be out until at least early September. Recent History: The Twins played the Rangers right before the All-Star break in a three-game series at Target Field. The Twins took two of three with the lone loss being an extra innings heart breaker. Recent Trajectories: The Twins are 8-7 over their last five series while the Rangers are 7-7 over their last five series. Pitching Match-ups: Thursday: Smeltzer vs Payano Friday: Odorizzi vs Minor Saturday: Berríos vs Jurado Sunday: Pérez vs Lynn (This assumes that Michael Pineda is not activated and/or there is no other rotation shenanigans.) Ending Thoughts: The Rangers, by most numbers, have been an impressively mediocre team and they have been very poor ever since the All-Star break. An easier team to beat than the Indians and most likely an easier team than the Brewers but the pressure is still on the Twins to get good starts out the rotation, play solid defense, add on runs with their offense, and have relievers come up clutch when needed. All four things have been scarcely seen from the team in awhile and improvement in any of those areas will be key for the team going forward. Now, I have to acknowledge the elephant in the room which is the fact that I am no longer perfect in my series predictions. After going 7-for-7, I choked the Cleveland series and am just 7-for-8. I’m calling for a split series but my word means nothing now that I am no longer perfect, shame.
  2. According to the Twitter feed of the Atlanta Braves, the Minnesota Twins acquired right-handed pitcher Kevin Chapman in exchange for utility man Danny Santana.The Twins acknowledged the trade with a press release. The Twins designated Santana for assignment late last week, giving them ten days to work out a trade or place him on waivers. The 29-year-old Chapman has struggled early this season, posting a 7.71 ERA in 11.2 innings for Gwinnett, Atlanta's AAA team. He had spent parts of the previous four seasons with the Houston Astros. He had a 3-1 record with a 4.09 ERA in 55 big league innings over that time. In those 55 innings, he walked 31 and struck out 48. While Chapman is far from a prospect, the fact that Thad Levine was able to find a taker for the athletic Santana is great. The fact that Chapman is not on the 40-man roster is even better. Santana was one of the longest-tenured Twins players, having signed back in 2007 out of the Dominican Republic. He debuted for the Twins in 2014 and put up a terrific rookie season. He has not been able to replicate that success, however, in the two-plus seasons since. Santana was DFAd to make room for Ehire Adrianza. Also over the weekend, the Twins DFAd RH RP Michael Tonkin, giving them ten days to work out a trade for him or put him on waivers at some point. Click here to view the article
  3. The Twins acknowledged the trade with a press release. The Twins designated Santana for assignment late last week, giving them ten days to work out a trade or place him on waivers. The 29-year-old Chapman has struggled early this season, posting a 7.71 ERA in 11.2 innings for Gwinnett, Atlanta's AAA team. He had spent parts of the previous four seasons with the Houston Astros. He had a 3-1 record with a 4.09 ERA in 55 big league innings over that time. In those 55 innings, he walked 31 and struck out 48. While Chapman is far from a prospect, the fact that Thad Levine was able to find a taker for the athletic Santana is great. The fact that Chapman is not on the 40-man roster is even better. Santana was one of the longest-tenured Twins players, having signed back in 2007 out of the Dominican Republic. He debuted for the Twins in 2014 and put up a terrific rookie season. He has not been able to replicate that success, however, in the two-plus seasons since. Santana was DFAd to make room for Ehire Adrianza. Also over the weekend, the Twins DFAd RH RP Michael Tonkin, giving them ten days to work out a trade for him or put him on waivers at some point.
  4. The Twins have finally made the move - Adrianza will replace Danny Santana as the utility bench player. With Kyle Gibson going down, Drew Rucinski has been added to the 40 man and was called up. Rucinski played a few innings with the Angels in 2014 and 2015 and was used out of the bullpen, but he was a starter for his last three seasons in AAA. He'll likely fill in as the long reliever until the Twins need to add a 5th starter. It stinks to have guys like Tepesch and Rucinski on the MLB roster just a month into the season, but with injuries (May, Chargois, O'Rourke) and rookie ineffectiveness (Mejia, Berrios), this is what they're left with. What are your thoughts?
  5. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/GTAG_050717_COMPLETE.mp3?dest-id=74590
  6. Aaron and John talk about an up and down week for the Twins, pushing Kyle Gibson, Danny Santana, and Michael Tonkin off the roster, what the time is for Jose Berrios to get a chance, a new rumored name in the MLB draft, Joe Mauer's clutch hitting, how you can win a Michael Cuddyer autographed official baseball from PickAndShovelWear.com and to whom the Twins will turn next for their rotation. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click this link.http://traffic.libsy...3?dest-id=74590 Click here to view the article
  7. * The starting pitcher’s description of his opposing lineup was intentionally hyperbolic, but not too much of a stretch. The American WBC roster features plenty of offensive firepower, and had all its starters on display tonight. When the bottom third of your order consists of Daniel Murphy, Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Crawford, you know you’re stacked. May got off to a rocky start, giving up singles to Ian Kinsler and Adam Jones followed by a two-run double from Nolan Arenado that put him in an early hole. But he settled in impressively, allowing only a ground ball single and a couple of walks the rest of the way while completing 3 2/3 frames, second-most for a Twins starter this spring. His two strikeouts – one of Giancarlo Stanton with a high heater, the other of Arenado with a nasty curve – were definitely highlights. It’s probably a leap to say he locked up his rotation spot with this performance, but… maybe not. * Tonight was May’s first time working with catcher Jason Castro, in a game or even a bullpen session. In fact, it was their first real opportunity to interact. “I introduced myself to him today,” the right-hander said with a chuckle. “I walked up and said hi, I’m Trevor.” The righty had strong reviews for the new acquisition as a receiver, complimenting the way he sets up and anticipates pitch movement. There is also the more basic advantage of having a sturdy 6-foot-3 specimen crouching behind the plate. “Huge target. He looks like Joe (Mauer) back there." * May isn’t alone in his lack of experience working with Castro. Previously, the free agent addition had started behind the plate for Kyle Gibson three times, and Ervin Santana twice, but not for any other projected starters. "It hasn’t been as distributed as I thought it would be at this point," Molitor acknowledged. "There’s still plenty of time left. We’re going to try to spread that out a little bit if we can." * Twins lefty Stephen Gonsalves was scheduled to head over to Team USA's side this evening as an extra bullpen arm, but he was scratched due to shoulder weakness, which he initially reported after his outing against the Phillies last Friday. Molitor said Gonsalves was feeling tenderness on the posterior side of his shoulder, which is notably the same area where a strain caused him to miss time in the Arizona Fall League a few months ago. "They tested his strength and it was down just a hair," the manager explained, "so we’re just kind of being cautious there." Molitor didn’t express much concern, and Gonsalves was in good spirits when I spoke to him earlier today in the clubhouse. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on. Here’s what John wrote about the southpaw’s AFL health scare when profiling him as Twins Daily’s No. 2 prospect: * Danny Santana got a chance to play some shortstop, taking over after starter Jorge Polanco came out of the game. He quickly reminded everyone of the good he can do there, ranging into the hole and making a beautiful off-balance one-hop strike to beat Paul Goldschmidt at first. It was, honestly, perhaps a better play than a Twins shortstop made in the entirety of 2016. Unfortunately, he wasted little time in reminding us of the bad. In the next inning, he pulled first baseman Matt Hague off the bag with a wide throw while turning a routine double play. Then, in the ninth, he charged in a slow roller and hastily delivered a terrible toss that skipped past first and moved two runners into scoring position with no outs. Reliever Craig Breslow worked around the damage, getting two outs and then inducing a fly ball to foul territory behind third base that should have ended the game. Santana failed to reach it. That one bugged the manager. “Little disappointed we didn’t catch that ball down the line.” Santana’s athleticism and raw abilities continue to be obvious, but he can ill afford the mistakes that continue to come in bunches when he’s on the field.
  8. The Minnesota Twins faced off against Team USA on Wednesday night in a tuneup for the World Baseball Classic. While this was a low-stakes exhibition even by lax spring training standards, Paul Molitor did roll out a midsummer-caliber batting order and Trevor May took the bump as he competes for the fifth starter job. Read on for notes and quotes from a 3-2 victory over what May dubbed “one of the best lineups that anyone’s ever faced."* The starting pitcher’s description of his opposing lineup was intentionally hyperbolic, but not too much of a stretch. The American WBC roster features plenty of offensive firepower, and had all its starters on display tonight. When the bottom third of your order consists of Daniel Murphy, Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Crawford, you know you’re stacked. May got off to a rocky start, giving up singles to Ian Kinsler and Adam Jones followed by a two-run double from Nolan Arenado that put him in an early hole. But he settled in impressively, allowing only a ground ball single and a couple of walks the rest of the way while completing 3 2/3 frames, second-most for a Twins starter this spring. His two strikeouts – one of Giancarlo Stanton with a high heater, the other of Arenado with a nasty curve – were definitely highlights. It’s probably a leap to say he locked up his rotation spot with this performance, but… maybe not. * Tonight was May’s first time working with catcher Jason Castro, in a game or even a bullpen session. In fact, it was their first real opportunity to interact. “I introduced myself to him today,” the right-hander said with a chuckle. “I walked up and said hi, I’m Trevor.” The righty had strong reviews for the new acquisition as a receiver, complimenting the way he sets up and anticipates pitch movement. There is also the more basic advantage of having a sturdy 6-foot-3 specimen crouching behind the plate. “Huge target. He looks like Joe (Mauer) back there." * May isn’t alone in his lack of experience working with Castro. Previously, the free agent addition had started behind the plate for Kyle Gibson three times, and Ervin Santana twice, but not for any other projected starters. "It hasn’t been as distributed as I thought it would be at this point," Molitor acknowledged. "There’s still plenty of time left. We’re going to try to spread that out a little bit if we can." * Twins lefty Stephen Gonsalves was scheduled to head over to Team USA's side this evening as an extra bullpen arm, but he was scratched due to shoulder weakness, which he initially reported after his outing against the Phillies last Friday. Molitor said Gonsalves was feeling tenderness on the posterior side of his shoulder, which is notably the same area where a strain caused him to miss time in the Arizona Fall League a few months ago. "They tested his strength and it was down just a hair," the manager explained, "so we’re just kind of being cautious there." Molitor didn’t express much concern, and Gonsalves was in good spirits when I spoke to him earlier today in the clubhouse. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on. Here’s what John wrote about the southpaw’s AFL health scare when profiling him as Twins Daily’s No. 2 prospect: * Danny Santana got a chance to play some shortstop, taking over after starter Jorge Polanco came out of the game. He quickly reminded everyone of the good he can do there, ranging into the hole and making a beautiful off-balance one-hop strike to beat Paul Goldschmidt at first. It was, honestly, perhaps a better play than a Twins shortstop made in the entirety of 2016. Unfortunately, he wasted little time in reminding us of the bad. In the next inning, he pulled first baseman Matt Hague off the bag with a wide throw while turning a routine double play. Then, in the ninth, he charged in a slow roller and hastily delivered a terrible toss that skipped past first and moved two runners into scoring position with no outs. Reliever Craig Breslow worked around the damage, getting two outs and then inducing a fly ball to foul territory behind third base that should have ended the game. Santana failed to reach it. That one bugged the manager. “Little disappointed we didn’t catch that ball down the line.” Santana’s athleticism and raw abilities continue to be obvious, but he can ill afford the mistakes that continue to come in bunches when he’s on the field. Click here to view the article
  9. As with the infielders, our criteria for inclusion on this list are that the player made at least 50 plate appearances and remains on the roster as of now. Let's dig in. Byron Buxton, CF 2016 Stats: 331 PA, .225/.284/.430, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 44 R, 1.7 WAR Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017 It took Buxton a little longer than we hoped to turn the corner, but he did so quite definitively late in the year. Following months of struggles, and multiple demotions to Triple-A, the 22-year-old caught fire upon returning in September, posting a .287/.357/.653 line with nine homers and 24 runs scored in 29 games. The torrid streak was profound enough to raise his overall numbers back to respectability by year's end. His final OPS of .714 – up more than 150 points from when he was recalled with five weeks to go – wasn't far off the league average for center fielders (.730) and came attached to elite, game-changing defense at a vital position. His contributions in the field were deemed valuable enough by FanGraphs that his 1.7 WAR ranked second on the team among position players, behind Brian Dozier. The prolonged slumps that forced him to spend stretches in Rochester (where he dominated) and the ghastly 36 percent strikeout rate cannot be ignored, so Buxton's grade gets dinged, but in the end it's hard to come away from his season with a negative view. 2016 Grade: B- 2017 Outlook: Buxton will be locked in as center fielder and seems likely to bat leadoff if he displays a good plate approach in spring training. Should he come anywhere close to picking up where he left off at the plate, he's a strong bet to be the best player on the team and one of the most valuable in the league. Robbie Grossman, LF 2016 Stats: 389 PA, .280/.386/.443, 11 HR, 37 RBI, 49 R, 0.7 WAR Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017 In a generally tough year for the front office under Terry Ryan, uncovering Grossman goes down easily as one of the club's best strokes. To some extent it was just fortuitous circumstance; the outfielder had opted out of his minor-league deal with Cleveland in mid-May, around the same time Minnesota was desperately seeking outfield help with its youthful alignment scuffling badly. Still, Grossman was a good find and enjoyed a breakout year after joining up with the Twins. His production tailed off considerably following an initial tear, but he continued to draw walks and get on base even while his bat sagged, and he finished strong. Grossman ended the year with a .386 on-base percentage, which ranked 14th in the majors among players with 350-plus PA. His proclivity in this regard was much needed in a lineup that generally struggled to get aboard consistently. On the downside, Grossman's defense was not good. He made several misplays and showed stunningly little range for a guy who moves reasonably well. 2016 Grade: B 2017 Outlook: Grossman certainly has a strong case for a starting job. He was the best hitter on the team outside of Dozier, and his patience is a handy changeup within an aggressive, power-hitting lineup. However, his extremely poor defensive ratings will work against him with an analytically inclined front office that is emphasizing run prevention. Could he be a darkhorse for DH? Max Kepler, RF 2016 Stats: 447 PA, .235/.309/.424, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 52 R, 1.1 WAR Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017 Recalled on June 1st after a scalding hot streak in Triple-A, it didn't take Kepler long to heat up again in the majors. During a dominant run that stretched from mid-June through mid-August, Kepler looked like a premier middle-of-the-order run producer, racking up extra-base hits and averaging nearly an RBI per contest. In one game he homered twice and drove in seven runs; in another he launched three bombs with six RBIs. They were among the most spectacular offensive performances we've seen from a Minnesota rookie. But the once red-hot 23-year-old finished his season encased in ice. Over his last 40 games he hit .197/.263/.276 as the quality of his at-bats deteriorated and his power dried up. In contrast to Buxton, it appeared that pitchers were figuring Kepler out rather than the other way around. The slide led to overall numbers that, while solid, were not special. 2016 Grade: B- 2017 Outlook: He's penciled in for right field, although one wonders how firm his hold is. Kepler blasted through Rochester in 30 games but the back half of his stint with the Twins leaves open the possibility that he needs a little more seasoning at Triple-A. The long-term view remains very optimistic. Eddie Rosario, LF 2016 Stats: 354 PA, .269/.295/.421, 10 HR, 32 RBI, 52 R, 0.9 WAR Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017 An exciting rookie year led to speculation about what kind of impact Rosario might be capable of if he evolved and matured. Unfortunately, in his sophomore campaign, he did no such thing. Rosario was much the same player in 2016, with some frustrating habits lingering if not worsening. Whether in the batter's box, on the base paths or in the outfield, his aggressiveness often crossed into recklessness, much to the manager's aggravation. Along with the bad – blasting through stops signs, sailing throws aimlessly, striking out four times in several games – we saw the good. When he came back from his demotion he was mashing everything that came his way for two months. And aside from the all-too-frequent miscues he was a clear asset in left, combining center field range with right field arm strength. But the negatives were enough to offset the positives in an ultimately vexing year. 2016 Grade: C 2017 Outlook: He will be a corner outfield starter, unless he's a complete mess in camp. There's little hope for Rosario to develop any sort of meaningful selectiveness at the plate, so it's imperative that he lay off pitches nowhere near the zone while cutting down defensive mistakes. If he can do so, the 25-year-old certainly has plenty to offer. Danny Santana, CF 2016 Stats: 248 PA, .240/.279/.326, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 29 R, -0.7 WAR Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017 Among 353 players with 200 plate appearances, Santana ranked 334th in OPS. He was thrown out nine times on 21 steal attempts. He played six different positions, but wasn't particularly sharp at any of them. As an athletic and versatile switch-hitter, Santana is theoretically a nice bench piece. But in reality, he's been one of the worst players in the league over the last two years. 2016 Grade: F 2017 Outlook: The signing of J.B Shuck to a minor-league contract – whose defensive prowess actually makes up for his light hitting – earlier this month puts Santana, who is out of options, on notice. It's unlikely Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will see much they like but apparently they're inclined to let Santana compete for a job in spring training since they kept him on the 40-man roster through the Rule 5 draft.
  10. Yesterday, we graded out the 2016 Minnesota Twins infield. Today, we'll continue our player-by-player review with a breakdown of the outfield. This unit saw many significant developments this year, especially with young talents experiencing breakthroughs and setbacks.As with the infielders, our criteria for inclusion on this list are that the player made at least 50 plate appearances and remains on the roster as of now. Let's dig in. Byron Buxton, CF 2016 Stats: 331 PA, .225/.284/.430, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 44 R, 1.7 WAR Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017 It took Buxton a little longer than we hoped to turn the corner, but he did so quite definitively late in the year. Following months of struggles, and multiple demotions to Triple-A, the 22-year-old caught fire upon returning in September, posting a .287/.357/.653 line with nine homers and 24 runs scored in 29 games. The torrid streak was profound enough to raise his overall numbers back to respectability by year's end. His final OPS of .714 – up more than 150 points from when he was recalled with five weeks to go – wasn't far off the league average for center fielders (.730) and came attached to elite, game-changing defense at a vital position. His contributions in the field were deemed valuable enough by FanGraphs that his 1.7 WAR ranked second on the team among position players, behind Brian Dozier. The prolonged slumps that forced him to spend stretches in Rochester (where he dominated) and the ghastly 36 percent strikeout rate cannot be ignored, so Buxton's grade gets dinged, but in the end it's hard to come away from his season with a negative view. 2016 Grade: B- 2017 Outlook: Buxton will be locked in as center fielder and seems likely to bat leadoff if he displays a good plate approach in spring training. Should he come anywhere close to picking up where he left off at the plate, he's a strong bet to be the best player on the team and one of the most valuable in the league. Robbie Grossman, LF 2016 Stats: 389 PA, .280/.386/.443, 11 HR, 37 RBI, 49 R, 0.7 WAR Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017 In a generally tough year for the front office under Terry Ryan, uncovering Grossman goes down easily as one of the club's best strokes. To some extent it was just fortuitous circumstance; the outfielder had opted out of his minor-league deal with Cleveland in mid-May, around the same time Minnesota was desperately seeking outfield help with its youthful alignment scuffling badly. Still, Grossman was a good find and enjoyed a breakout year after joining up with the Twins. His production tailed off considerably following an initial tear, but he continued to draw walks and get on base even while his bat sagged, and he finished strong. Grossman ended the year with a .386 on-base percentage, which ranked 14th in the majors among players with 350-plus PA. His proclivity in this regard was much needed in a lineup that generally struggled to get aboard consistently. On the downside, Grossman's defense was not good. He made several misplays and showed stunningly little range for a guy who moves reasonably well. 2016 Grade: B 2017 Outlook: Grossman certainly has a strong case for a starting job. He was the best hitter on the team outside of Dozier, and his patience is a handy changeup within an aggressive, power-hitting lineup. However, his extremely poor defensive ratings will work against him with an analytically inclined front office that is emphasizing run prevention. Could he be a darkhorse for DH? Max Kepler, RF 2016 Stats: 447 PA, .235/.309/.424, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 52 R, 1.1 WAR Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017 Recalled on June 1st after a scalding hot streak in Triple-A, it didn't take Kepler long to heat up again in the majors. During a dominant run that stretched from mid-June through mid-August, Kepler looked like a premier middle-of-the-order run producer, racking up extra-base hits and averaging nearly an RBI per contest. In one game he homered twice and drove in seven runs; in another he launched three bombs with six RBIs. They were among the most spectacular offensive performances we've seen from a Minnesota rookie. But the once red-hot 23-year-old finished his season encased in ice. Over his last 40 games he hit .197/.263/.276 as the quality of his at-bats deteriorated and his power dried up. In contrast to Buxton, it appeared that pitchers were figuring Kepler out rather than the other way around. The slide led to overall numbers that, while solid, were not special. 2016 Grade: B- 2017 Outlook: He's penciled in for right field, although one wonders how firm his hold is. Kepler blasted through Rochester in 30 games but the back half of his stint with the Twins leaves open the possibility that he needs a little more seasoning at Triple-A. The long-term view remains very optimistic. Eddie Rosario, LF 2016 Stats: 354 PA, .269/.295/.421, 10 HR, 32 RBI, 52 R, 0.9 WAR Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017 An exciting rookie year led to speculation about what kind of impact Rosario might be capable of if he evolved and matured. Unfortunately, in his sophomore campaign, he did no such thing. Rosario was much the same player in 2016, with some frustrating habits lingering if not worsening. Whether in the batter's box, on the base paths or in the outfield, his aggressiveness often crossed into recklessness, much to the manager's aggravation. Along with the bad – blasting through stops signs, sailing throws aimlessly, striking out four times in several games – we saw the good. When he came back from his demotion he was mashing everything that came his way for two months. And aside from the all-too-frequent miscues he was a clear asset in left, combining center field range with right field arm strength. But the negatives were enough to offset the positives in an ultimately vexing year. 2016 Grade: C 2017 Outlook: He will be a corner outfield starter, unless he's a complete mess in camp. There's little hope for Rosario to develop any sort of meaningful selectiveness at the plate, so it's imperative that he lay off pitches nowhere near the zone while cutting down defensive mistakes. If he can do so, the 25-year-old certainly has plenty to offer. Danny Santana, CF 2016 Stats: 248 PA, .240/.279/.326, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 29 R, -0.7 WAR Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017 Among 353 players with 200 plate appearances, Santana ranked 334th in OPS. He was thrown out nine times on 21 steal attempts. He played six different positions, but wasn't particularly sharp at any of them. As an athletic and versatile switch-hitter, Santana is theoretically a nice bench piece. But in reality, he's been one of the worst players in the league over the last two years. 2016 Grade: F 2017 Outlook: The signing of J.B Shuck to a minor-league contract – whose defensive prowess actually makes up for his light hitting – earlier this month puts Santana, who is out of options, on notice. It's unlikely Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will see much they like but apparently they're inclined to let Santana compete for a job in spring training since they kept him on the 40-man roster through the Rule 5 draft. Click here to view the article
  11. On May 20th, Robbie Grossman made his debut with the Minnesota Twins. After starting the year in the Cleveland Indians organization, Grossman saw opportunity through the Twins farm system and jumped ship. Playing just one game with the Rochester Red Wings, Grossman was headed to the big leagues. The question now is should he stay there, at least for the Twins. In the 2008 Major League Baseball draft, Robbie Grossman was a sixth-round pick out of high school by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was rated the 76th best prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2012 season, and he made his big league debut in 2013 with the Houston Astros. Through his first three big league seasons Grossman owned a .240/.327/.341 slash line. He never flashed any real power, but was a solid on-base contributor.For the Twins, Grossman has experienced nothing short of a revolution. In 64 games with Minnesota, Grossman owns a .266/.392/.436 slash line. He's hit a career best seven home runs, and his 14 doubles tie him for a career mark with 49 games left to go. His defense has been anything but average. With a -12 DRS number and a -7.2 UZR, Fangraphs sees him as essentially Josh Willingham out in left field for Minnesota. Right now, Grossman's contribution to the 2016 version of the Minnesota Twins is largely irrelevant. Really though, that's only because it's a microcosm of what the 2016 Twins have become. This is a lost season for Paul Molitor's squad, and no results are going to matter much in the grand scheme of things. What Grossman is doing, and fighting for, is a place on this team and in the organization going forward. So, what exactly does that look like? Well, Grossman's bat has played to a capable, if not above average level. His power is not along the lines of a corner outfielder, but his advanced on-base rate is something any team would enjoy putting ahead of power hitters in their lineup. In the outfield though, he's essentially been the 2012 version of Josh Willingham, and could finish the year with worse numbers than the 2008 version of Delmon Young. Weighing out both the negatives as well as contributions, the next place to look is at the competition. At Triple-A, there are only two realistic big league prospects; Adam Brett Walker and Daniel Palka. A level further down, Zach Granite and Travis Harrison could be in play but won't be ready come Opening Day 2017. So, let's take a look at the two current Triple-A options. Both Palka and Walker present similar skill sets. They are hitters first, with a ton of power, and a relatively high strikeout rate. Walker has the weaker arm of the two, but is also the one on the 40-man roster. Palka was acquired prior to 2016 in exchange for former Twins backstop Chris Herrmann. Between Double- and Triple-A in 2016, Palka is slashing .264/.343/.533 with 27 homers, 141 strikeouts, and 51 walks. Adam Brett Walker has played the entire season at Triple-A and owns a .243/.310/.481 line with 22 homers, 164 strikeouts, and 37 walks. Being on the 40-man, it's a pretty good bet he will see time with the Twins in September. So, where does that leave us to open the 2017 season, and what is Robbie Grossman up against? Let's assume that the starting outfield includes Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, and Eddie Rosario from right to left. Buxton is probably the biggest question mark of the group, but you can bet a new GM will be wanting to make sure he rights the former consensus top overall prospect's ship. With Danny Santana continuing to be loved by the organization, and out of options, he seems a good bet to return as a utility player who draws a good deal of time as a rotating outfielder. In this scenario, you've probably got room for one more true outfielder on the 25-man roster. If it comes down to whether or not the Twins keep Robbie Grossman, or roll with one of either Daniel Palka or Adam Brett Walker, a smart choice might be choosing one of the latter two. Walker doesn't have nearly the on-base prowess, and while Palka doesn't either, he's not as far removed. Both of the Twins home-grown options have a significantly more realistic power component to their game though, and should play defense at least at a comparable level. My opinion relies largely upon two factors: What happens to Byron Buxton, and what can you get for Robbie Grossman? If Buxton isn't on the 2017 Twins Opening Day roster (things are bad already), that means Eddie Rosario is your starting centerfielder, leaving left field up for grabs. In that scenario, carrying both Robbie Grossman and one of the two Triple-A guys could make a lot of sense. To answer the second question, the Twins will have to do their homework. Experiencing a solid season at the age of 26, and turning 27 prior to the 2017 season, Grossman arguably still has his prime ahead of him. Not arbitration-eligible until 2018, and not a free agent until 2021, he could be a nice piece for a club closer to contending. If the return is worthy of flipping him and going with the other internal options, some serious thought ought to go into it. For now, Robbie Grossman has played himself into a realistic big league roster spot for the foreseeable future. Whether that continues to be with the Twins or not is the only thing yet to be determined. The pieces are still moving, but they should work themselves out. Click here to view the article
  12. For the Twins, Grossman has experienced nothing short of a revolution. In 64 games with Minnesota, Grossman owns a .266/.392/.436 slash line. He's hit a career best seven home runs, and his 14 doubles tie him for a career mark with 49 games left to go. His defense has been anything but average. With a -12 DRS number and a -7.2 UZR, Fangraphs sees him as essentially Josh Willingham out in left field for Minnesota. Right now, Grossman's contribution to the 2016 version of the Minnesota Twins is largely irrelevant. Really though, that's only because it's a microcosm of what the 2016 Twins have become. This is a lost season for Paul Molitor's squad, and no results are going to matter much in the grand scheme of things. What Grossman is doing, and fighting for, is a place on this team and in the organization going forward. So, what exactly does that look like? Well, Grossman's bat has played to a capable, if not above average level. His power is not along the lines of a corner outfielder, but his advanced on-base rate is something any team would enjoy putting ahead of power hitters in their lineup. In the outfield though, he's essentially been the 2012 version of Josh Willingham, and could finish the year with worse numbers than the 2008 version of Delmon Young. Weighing out both the negatives as well as contributions, the next place to look is at the competition. At Triple-A, there are only two realistic big league prospects; Adam Brett Walker and Daniel Palka. A level further down, Zach Granite and Travis Harrison could be in play but won't be ready come Opening Day 2017. So, let's take a look at the two current Triple-A options. Both Palka and Walker present similar skill sets. They are hitters first, with a ton of power, and a relatively high strikeout rate. Walker has the weaker arm of the two, but is also the one on the 40-man roster. Palka was acquired prior to 2016 in exchange for former Twins backstop Chris Herrmann. Between Double- and Triple-A in 2016, Palka is slashing .264/.343/.533 with 27 homers, 141 strikeouts, and 51 walks. Adam Brett Walker has played the entire season at Triple-A and owns a .243/.310/.481 line with 22 homers, 164 strikeouts, and 37 walks. Being on the 40-man, it's a pretty good bet he will see time with the Twins in September. So, where does that leave us to open the 2017 season, and what is Robbie Grossman up against? Let's assume that the starting outfield includes Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, and Eddie Rosario from right to left. Buxton is probably the biggest question mark of the group, but you can bet a new GM will be wanting to make sure he rights the former consensus top overall prospect's ship. With Danny Santana continuing to be loved by the organization, and out of options, he seems a good bet to return as a utility player who draws a good deal of time as a rotating outfielder. In this scenario, you've probably got room for one more true outfielder on the 25-man roster. If it comes down to whether or not the Twins keep Robbie Grossman, or roll with one of either Daniel Palka or Adam Brett Walker, a smart choice might be choosing one of the latter two. Walker doesn't have nearly the on-base prowess, and while Palka doesn't either, he's not as far removed. Both of the Twins home-grown options have a significantly more realistic power component to their game though, and should play defense at least at a comparable level. My opinion relies largely upon two factors: What happens to Byron Buxton, and what can you get for Robbie Grossman? If Buxton isn't on the 2017 Twins Opening Day roster (things are bad already), that means Eddie Rosario is your starting centerfielder, leaving left field up for grabs. In that scenario, carrying both Robbie Grossman and one of the two Triple-A guys could make a lot of sense. To answer the second question, the Twins will have to do their homework. Experiencing a solid season at the age of 26, and turning 27 prior to the 2017 season, Grossman arguably still has his prime ahead of him. Not arbitration-eligible until 2018, and not a free agent until 2021, he could be a nice piece for a club closer to contending. If the return is worthy of flipping him and going with the other internal options, some serious thought ought to go into it. For now, Robbie Grossman has played himself into a realistic big league roster spot for the foreseeable future. Whether that continues to be with the Twins or not is the only thing yet to be determined. The pieces are still moving, but they should work themselves out.
  13. Let's start with the decision on Thursday. Obviously this decision wasn't made just today. It is likely something that the front office has been pondering for a week or more. By designating Arcia for assignment, he is immediately removed from the team's 40- man roster. The team will have ten days to trade him, place him on waivers or release him. What other options did GM Terry Ryan have in this case? Well Byron Buxton and Max Kepler have options left. They could have been sent down to Rochester. A case certainly could be made that they could both use continued time at AAA. At least for now, the Twins are clearly looking to the future, a future that includes Buxton and Kepler in the starting lineup almost every day. In mid-June of a losing season, it's hard to argue that. You could DFA Robbie Grossman. I mean, he's been arguably the Twins best hitter since he signed with them almost a month ago. I can't imagine anyone would think that's a good idea. They could have designated Danny Santana for assignment, but with his speed and versatility, he is able to do more things in a backup role for the Twins. The team could have gone down to a 12-man pitching staff, but with the worst pitching staff in baseball and many short starts, it's hard to justify that. At that point, the best - though not easy whatsoever - decision was to DFA Oswaldo Arcia. Frankly, he hasn't been given much opportunity this season and because he 1. can't hit left-handed pitching, 2. can't hit breaking balls, and 3. can't play very good defense, he just doesn't give a manager many options. Now that's not to say that this may not be the best thing that could have happened for Arcia too. He could go to a statistically strong organization which will use him solely against right-handed pitching. That team could use him in the outfield, or if it's an AL team, he could be a strong DH. Again, against right-handed pitching. There is little question that when he is on, Oswaldo Arcia - still just 25-years-old - has the ability to be a dangerous, impact hitter in the major leagues. There is so much strength and so much talent. Consider that in 103 games for the Twins in 2014, he hit .231 with 16 doubles and 20 home runs. His minor league track record certainly indicated that he had the ability to hit. He hit well - for average and power - at each and every minor league level including AAA, with the exception of his horrific 2015 season. He knew he needed to put together a strong spring training to remain with the Twins. He put in the work in the offseason. I don't think anyone will question that. He came to camp in really good shape. Despite some good moments, he just wasn't getting any consistently playing time. Was it the right decision by the Twins? Probably. Was it probably the best situation for Oswaldo Arcia? I think so. In my mind, the perfect scenario for Arcia would be in Milwaukee. His younger brother, Orlando, is one of baseball's best prospects and is pretty much ready to take over shortstop for the Brewers. Maybe being around his brother would help push Arcia to some success. But also, Miller Park is a good place for power hitters. If utilized properly, I have little doubt that Arcia can be a 20+ home run guy in the big leagues again. Consider Danny Valencia. When he left the Twins, he was able to crush left-handed pitching but really struggled against right-handers. When he went to Toronto, they used him almost solely against left-handers and he put up great numbers. He went to Oakland and the same thing, he crushed southpaws. Then after some transactions, he started playing against right-handers too. Now he is hitting well overall. I see Arcia being able to do something very similar. Again, that doesn't mean that this move was bad, or wrong... The Twins have options for their future in the outfield that we think are going to be better, and right now those guys need to play. This is a classic case where a change of scenery might just be the best thing for Oswaldo Arcia. I hope it is.
  14. Danny Santana's rehab was nearing an end, so the Twins had a difficult decision to make for how to get him back on the 25-man roster. Following the Twins loss at Target Field to the Yankees, Paul Molitor announced that the team had designated Oswaldo Arcia for assignment.Let's start with the decision on Thursday. Obviously this decision wasn't made just today. It is likely something that the front office has been pondering for a week or more. By designating Arcia for assignment, he is immediately removed from the team's 40- man roster. The team will have ten days to trade him, place him on waivers or release him. What other options did GM Terry Ryan have in this case? Well Byron Buxton and Max Kepler have options left. They could have been sent down to Rochester. A case certainly could be made that they could both use continued time at AAA. At least for now, the Twins are clearly looking to the future, a future that includes Buxton and Kepler in the starting lineup almost every day. In mid-June of a losing season, it's hard to argue that. You could DFA Robbie Grossman. I mean, he's been arguably the Twins best hitter since he signed with them almost a month ago. I can't imagine anyone would think that's a good idea. They could have designated Danny Santana for assignment, but with his speed and versatility, he is able to do more things in a backup role for the Twins. The team could have gone down to a 12-man pitching staff, but with the worst pitching staff in baseball and many short starts, it's hard to justify that. At that point, the best - though not easy whatsoever - decision was to DFA Oswaldo Arcia. Frankly, he hasn't been given much opportunity this season and because he 1. can't hit left-handed pitching, 2. can't hit breaking balls, and 3. can't play very good defense, he just doesn't give a manager many options. Now that's not to say that this may not be the best thing that could have happened for Arcia too. He could go to a statistically strong organization which will use him solely against right-handed pitching. That team could use him in the outfield, or if it's an AL team, he could be a strong DH. Again, against right-handed pitching. There is little question that when he is on, Oswaldo Arcia - still just 25-years-old - has the ability to be a dangerous, impact hitter in the major leagues. There is so much strength and so much talent. Consider that in 103 games for the Twins in 2014, he hit .231 with 16 doubles and 20 home runs. His minor league track record certainly indicated that he had the ability to hit. He hit well - for average and power - at each and every minor league level including AAA, with the exception of his horrific 2015 season. He knew he needed to put together a strong spring training to remain with the Twins. He put in the work in the offseason. I don't think anyone will question that. He came to camp in really good shape. Despite some good moments, he just wasn't getting any consistently playing time. Was it the right decision by the Twins? Probably. Was it probably the best situation for Oswaldo Arcia? I think so. In my mind, the perfect scenario for Arcia would be in Milwaukee. His younger brother, Orlando, is one of baseball's best prospects and is pretty much ready to take over shortstop for the Brewers. Maybe being around his brother would help push Arcia to some success. But also, Miller Park is a good place for power hitters. If utilized properly, I have little doubt that Arcia can be a 20+ home run guy in the big leagues again. Consider Danny Valencia. When he left the Twins, he was able to crush left-handed pitching but really struggled against right-handers. When he went to Toronto, they used him almost solely against left-handers and he put up great numbers. He went to Oakland and the same thing, he crushed southpaws. Then after some transactions, he started playing against right-handers too. Now he is hitting well overall. I see Arcia being able to do something very similar. Again, that doesn't mean that this move was bad, or wrong... The Twins have options for their future in the outfield that we think are going to be better, and right now those guys need to play. This is a classic case where a change of scenery might just be the best thing for Oswaldo Arcia. I hope it is. Click here to view the article
  15. I think we all would agree that creating cookie-cutter hitters isn’t a good philosophy for hitting. Just as people are all different, it is OK to have different philosophies on hitter. That being said, understanding and having control of the strike zone is something that is (or at least would be) beneficial to all hitters. In baseball history, there have been plenty of good, bad-ball hitters. However, in general, they are the exceptions to the rule. More often, hitters who know the strike zone swing mostly at strikes and don't expand the strike zone too much have a much better likelihood of long-term success.In recent years, there are plenty of examples of players who have been unable to control the strike zone. After fast starts, they fell victim to several sophomore slumps. In 2013, Oswaldo Arcia walked 23 times and struck out 117 times in 378 plate appearances.In 2014, Oswaldo Arcia walked 31 times and struck out 127 times in 410 plate appearances.In 2014, Danny Santana walked 19 times and struck out 98 times in 430 plate appearances.In 2014, Kennys Vargas walked 12 times and struck out 63 times in 234 plate appearances.Those are all certainly not good, but there were some real impressive (or unimpressive) strikeout-to-walk ratios in 2015.Danny Santana - 6 walks, 68 strikeouts, 277 plate appearances.Kennys Vargas - 9 walks, 54 strikeouts, 184 plate appearances.Eddie Rosario - 15 walks, 118 strikeouts, 474 plate appearances.Byron Buxton - 6 walks, 44 strikeouts, 138 plate appearances.Byron Buxton is currently at four walks and 49 strikeouts in 116 plate appearances in 2016 with the Twins. In his time with the Twins at the start of the 2016 season, Eddie Rosario walked just three times and struck out 31 times in 121 plate appearances. Rosario was sent to Rochester on May 18th. In his first 19 games with the Red Wings, he struck out 12 times and did not walk. At all. He was hitting .321 despite a slow start, but in this situation, control of the strike zone had to be part of the evaluation. Continuing the trend of swinging erratically at everything just wasn’t going to cut it. In his last nine games, Rosario has five walks and four strikeouts in 40 plate appearance. It is a small sample size of course, but it is a sign of improvement, and to me, that’s all we should expect. Eddie Rosario is never going to be Joe Mauer, but then again, very few are. Consider that in Mauer’s first nine MLB seasons, he walked 555 times and struck out just 475 times. While that trend changed over the past three seasons (188 BB, 297 K), he still had over 60 walks in each season. In 2016, he is on pace for over 80 walks again. Is it fair to expect a player like Rosario who is ultra-aggressive to become more patient? Is that even a realistic request? How would an organization even go about trying to make that happen? It isn’t as simple as saying, “Eddie, take two strikes every plate appearance. Get used to what is called a strike and what isn’t.” To some degree, a hitter is what he is by the time he reaches age 23 or 24. When I was in Cedar Rapids, I asked Kernels manager Jake Mauer about how to help these types of aggressive hitters. He went back to our youth for a reminder. “You know, (Kirby) Puckett was a ‘bad-ball hitter,’ and I think Puckett knew himself. He knew which balls he could drive. If you’ve got a guy that ‘swings at everything,’ you don’t want to tell him to take, but I think they need to learn what they can drive.” Mauer discussed the type of conversation that he would typically have with such a hitter. It starts by helping them realize and learn what pitches they can drive. “I know you can hit this pitch, but is this a pitch you can drive? If the answer is No, well, then you shouldn’t swing at it. If the answer is Yes, well, then go ahead.” In Cedar Rapids, Mauer is working with a variety of players. He’s got a guy like Zander Wiel who played at Vanderbilt who isn’t going to be fazed by a big moment under the lights. He’s also got two 19-year-olds, Jermaine Palacios and Luis Arraez. Palacios broke out last season in the rookie leagues. Arraez played well in the GCL and then got exposure in the Venezuelan Winter League, playing against veterans. LaMonte Wade fits into the Joe Mauer category of pitch recognition. The Twins drafted him in the ninth round last year out of Maryland. In his pro debut last season, mostly at Elizabethton, he walked 47 times with 36 strikeouts. In 261 plate appearances with the Kernels this year, he has walked 44 times with just 27 strikeouts. While he has struggled in his last ten games (3-35) to drop his average to .280, his on-base percentage remains .410. And even in those ten games, he has eight walks to just five strikeouts. I asked him about his approach at the plate and if it is something learned. Wade said, “It’s definitely taught. It also has a lot to do with watching the batters in front of you, knowing the umpire’s strike zone. It starts in batting practice, getting your mind right and making sure you’re not swinging at every pitch.” As Chattanooga Lookouts hitting coach Tommy Watkins said that’s good but it takes more too. “It's very tough because it's hard to simulate live pitching, but I think not swinging at everything in BP is good place to start.” Wade and I discussed this topic quite a bit and I’m not going to give away all of his secrets, but it is quite evident that he goes into every single plate appearance with a plan. “0-0 and advantage counts, I’m looking for a ball middle-away, trying to hit the ball the other way. Obviously with two strikes, you’re just trying to battle. Just looking out over the plate and adjusting when it comes inside.” He said that he learned some things in college at the University of Maryland as well. Again, I’m not going to give away the strategy, but it involves “hunting elevated fastballs up over the plate.” At no point in my conversation with Wade did he mention looking to walk. The goal shouldn’t be to walk, but to get on base. Know the strike zone and attack pitches that you can drive. If it’s not there, let it go and take the walk. But it has to start early as a player ages it gets more and more difficult to become a patient hitter. And of course, as you move up the competition only becomes better and knows how to attack your weaknesses. As Mauer said, “Those guys in the big leagues they’re pretty good. They can expose holes pretty quick.” And that’s what we’ve seen to this point. There are more scouting reports now than even ten years ago. Advanced statistical analysis makes hitting much more difficult, and it was already difficult from the start. Rosario, Santana, and Vargas all got off to fast starts despite their inability to control the strike zone. It caught up to them in Year 2 when pitchers had more information. It is now up to them to make some adjustments to get back to the big leagues and hopefully experience more success. It is very unlikely that they ever become patient and frequent walkers, but improvement will be vital. Understanding the strike zone and their strengths is the key. Click here to view the article
  16. In recent years, there are plenty of examples of players who have been unable to control the strike zone. After fast starts, they fell victim to several sophomore slumps. In 2013, Oswaldo Arcia walked 23 times and struck out 117 times in 378 plate appearances. In 2014, Oswaldo Arcia walked 31 times and struck out 127 times in 410 plate appearances. In 2014, Danny Santana walked 19 times and struck out 98 times in 430 plate appearances. In 2014, Kennys Vargas walked 12 times and struck out 63 times in 234 plate appearances. Those are all certainly not good, but there were some real impressive (or unimpressive) strikeout-to-walk ratios in 2015. Danny Santana - 6 walks, 68 strikeouts, 277 plate appearances. Kennys Vargas - 9 walks, 54 strikeouts, 184 plate appearances. Eddie Rosario - 15 walks, 118 strikeouts, 474 plate appearances. Byron Buxton - 6 walks, 44 strikeouts, 138 plate appearances. Byron Buxton is currently at four walks and 49 strikeouts in 116 plate appearances in 2016 with the Twins. In his time with the Twins at the start of the 2016 season, Eddie Rosario walked just three times and struck out 31 times in 121 plate appearances. Rosario was sent to Rochester on May 18th. In his first 19 games with the Red Wings, he struck out 12 times and did not walk. At all. He was hitting .321 despite a slow start, but in this situation, control of the strike zone had to be part of the evaluation. Continuing the trend of swinging erratically at everything just wasn’t going to cut it. In his last nine games, Rosario has five walks and four strikeouts in 40 plate appearance. It is a small sample size of course, but it is a sign of improvement, and to me, that’s all we should expect. Eddie Rosario is never going to be Joe Mauer, but then again, very few are. Consider that in Mauer’s first nine MLB seasons, he walked 555 times and struck out just 475 times. While that trend changed over the past three seasons (188 BB, 297 K), he still had over 60 walks in each season. In 2016, he is on pace for over 80 walks again. Is it fair to expect a player like Rosario who is ultra-aggressive to become more patient? Is that even a realistic request? How would an organization even go about trying to make that happen? It isn’t as simple as saying, “Eddie, take two strikes every plate appearance. Get used to what is called a strike and what isn’t.” To some degree, a hitter is what he is by the time he reaches age 23 or 24. When I was in Cedar Rapids, I asked Kernels manager Jake Mauer about how to help these types of aggressive hitters. He went back to our youth for a reminder. “You know, (Kirby) Puckett was a ‘bad-ball hitter,’ and I think Puckett knew himself. He knew which balls he could drive. If you’ve got a guy that ‘swings at everything,’ you don’t want to tell him to take, but I think they need to learn what they can drive.” Mauer discussed the type of conversation that he would typically have with such a hitter. It starts by helping them realize and learn what pitches they can drive. “I know you can hit this pitch, but is this a pitch you can drive? If the answer is No, well, then you shouldn’t swing at it. If the answer is Yes, well, then go ahead.” In Cedar Rapids, Mauer is working with a variety of players. He’s got a guy like Zander Wiel who played at Vanderbilt who isn’t going to be fazed by a big moment under the lights. He’s also got two 19-year-olds, Jermaine Palacios and Luis Arraez. Palacios broke out last season in the rookie leagues. Arraez played well in the GCL and then got exposure in the Venezuelan Winter League, playing against veterans. LaMonte Wade fits into the Joe Mauer category of pitch recognition. The Twins drafted him in the ninth round last year out of Maryland. In his pro debut last season, mostly at Elizabethton, he walked 47 times with 36 strikeouts. In 261 plate appearances with the Kernels this year, he has walked 44 times with just 27 strikeouts. While he has struggled in his last ten games (3-35) to drop his average to .280, his on-base percentage remains .410. And even in those ten games, he has eight walks to just five strikeouts. I asked him about his approach at the plate and if it is something learned. Wade said, “It’s definitely taught. It also has a lot to do with watching the batters in front of you, knowing the umpire’s strike zone. It starts in batting practice, getting your mind right and making sure you’re not swinging at every pitch.” As Chattanooga Lookouts hitting coach Tommy Watkins said that’s good but it takes more too. “It's very tough because it's hard to simulate live pitching, but I think not swinging at everything in BP is good place to start.” Wade and I discussed this topic quite a bit and I’m not going to give away all of his secrets, but it is quite evident that he goes into every single plate appearance with a plan. “0-0 and advantage counts, I’m looking for a ball middle-away, trying to hit the ball the other way. Obviously with two strikes, you’re just trying to battle. Just looking out over the plate and adjusting when it comes inside.” He said that he learned some things in college at the University of Maryland as well. Again, I’m not going to give away the strategy, but it involves “hunting elevated fastballs up over the plate.” At no point in my conversation with Wade did he mention looking to walk. The goal shouldn’t be to walk, but to get on base. Know the strike zone and attack pitches that you can drive. If it’s not there, let it go and take the walk. But it has to start early as a player ages it gets more and more difficult to become a patient hitter. And of course, as you move up the competition only becomes better and knows how to attack your weaknesses. As Mauer said, “Those guys in the big leagues they’re pretty good. They can expose holes pretty quick.” And that’s what we’ve seen to this point. There are more scouting reports now than even ten years ago. Advanced statistical analysis makes hitting much more difficult, and it was already difficult from the start. Rosario, Santana, and Vargas all got off to fast starts despite their inability to control the strike zone. It caught up to them in Year 2 when pitchers had more information. It is now up to them to make some adjustments to get back to the big leagues and hopefully experience more success. It is very unlikely that they ever become patient and frequent walkers, but improvement will be vital. Understanding the strike zone and their strengths is the key.
  17. Miguel Sano is six-feet four-inches tall and weighs 260 pounds (or more). To the casual fan, the idea of him rumbling around the outfield seemed like a bad idea from the start. There were balls that were misplayed and routes run in the wrong direction as the young slugger tried to find himself while in a foreign defensive position. Twins Territory might be able to sleep a little easier tonight as it is sounding more like the Sano outfield experiment might be reaching its conclusion.Twins general manager Terry Ryan was a little cryptic when talking to the local media before Saturday's game. When asked about Sano returning to the outfield, Ryan said,"I'm not sure exactly how it's going to play itself out here quite yet." Ryan's tune had changed by Sunday morning as he was asked again about Sano coming back from injury. During a radio appearance, Ryan said that Sano won't play right field when he returns from his current hamstring injury. When asked about Sano's future, Ryan said, "No question, it's third base." This is a much different tune than the Twins had during the offseason. Twins manager Paul Molitor was pretty clear that Sano wasn't expected to see any time at third base this season unless Trevor Plouffe was injured and the team needed to shuffle around some players. Of course this situation did occur as Sano started his first game at third when Plouffe and Danny Santana were both on the disabled list. So far this season, Sano has played 38 games in right field, seven at designated hitter, and five at third base. In his limited time at third base, Sano has been worth one defensive run saved. The outfield has been a different story as his -9 defensive run saved is tied for third worst total among American League outfielders. SABR's Defensive Index, one of the databases used for selecting the Gold Glove winners, has Sano as the second worst right fielder in the American League. Minnesota's 2016 roster was created with Sano set to be in the outfield. Byung Ho Park has struggled as the team's regular DH. When healthy, Trevor Plouffe has played at third base even with some offensive struggles. Now Max Kepler looks like he has settled into right field nicely in the absence of Sano. Park and Plouffe seem like the likely candidates to lose playing time when Sano returns since he won't be playing in the outfield. Another option for the team might be trading Trevor Plouffe. There is some value in him since he is still under team control for the 2017 season but he has struggled at the plate so far this year. His OPS is down over 100 points compared to last season and he's getting on base less than 27% of the time. Minnesota won't rush into a trade but a contending team could be looking for some help at third base. Sano is never going to be known for his defensive prowess and there won't be any Gold Gloves in his future. He's in the Twins line-up for one reason... to hit the ball as far as he can. It doesn't matter what defensive position Sano plays as long as he finds a way to make his offensive numbers exceed what he costs the team on the defensive side of the ball. With a man of Sano's size, tracking down balls in the outfield was only going to lead to more injuries. By shifting back to a more natural position, the hope is to keep Sano in the line-up and off the disabled list. Twins fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Sano won't be heading back to the outfield... at least for right now. Click here to view the article
  18. Twins general manager Terry Ryan was a little cryptic when talking to the local media before Saturday's game. When asked about Sano returning to the outfield, Ryan said,"I'm not sure exactly how it's going to play itself out here quite yet." Ryan's tune had changed by Sunday morning as he was asked again about Sano coming back from injury. During a radio appearance, Ryan said that Sano won't play right field when he returns from his current hamstring injury. When asked about Sano's future, Ryan said, "No question, it's third base." This is a much different tune than the Twins had during the offseason. Twins manager Paul Molitor was pretty clear that Sano wasn't expected to see any time at third base this season unless Trevor Plouffe was injured and the team needed to shuffle around some players. Of course this situation did occur as Sano started his first game at third when Plouffe and Danny Santana were both on the disabled list. So far this season, Sano has played 38 games in right field, seven at designated hitter, and five at third base. In his limited time at third base, Sano has been worth one defensive run saved. The outfield has been a different story as his -9 defensive run saved is tied for third worst total among American League outfielders. SABR's Defensive Index, one of the databases used for selecting the Gold Glove winners, has Sano as the second worst right fielder in the American League. Minnesota's 2016 roster was created with Sano set to be in the outfield. Byung Ho Park has struggled as the team's regular DH. When healthy, Trevor Plouffe has played at third base even with some offensive struggles. Now Max Kepler looks like he has settled into right field nicely in the absence of Sano. Park and Plouffe seem like the likely candidates to lose playing time when Sano returns since he won't be playing in the outfield. Another option for the team might be trading Trevor Plouffe. There is some value in him since he is still under team control for the 2017 season but he has struggled at the plate so far this year. His OPS is down over 100 points compared to last season and he's getting on base less than 27% of the time. Minnesota won't rush into a trade but a contending team could be looking for some help at third base. Sano is never going to be known for his defensive prowess and there won't be any Gold Gloves in his future. He's in the Twins line-up for one reason... to hit the ball as far as he can. It doesn't matter what defensive position Sano plays as long as he finds a way to make his offensive numbers exceed what he costs the team on the defensive side of the ball. With a man of Sano's size, tracking down balls in the outfield was only going to lead to more injuries. By shifting back to a more natural position, the hope is to keep Sano in the line-up and off the disabled list. Twins fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Sano won't be heading back to the outfield... at least for right now.
  19. Aaron and John talk about injuries to Phil Hughes and Trevor May, first-round draft pick Alex Kirilloff, Glen Perkins' setback, J.T. Chargois' short stay, waiver claim Neil Ramirez, Byron Buxton's bad follow-up week, Tommy Milone slicing up Triple-A hitters, clicking around the Minnesota Corn Growers' website, and Justin Morneau sleeping with the enemy. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click the Play button below. Click here to view the article
  20. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/gatg_6_12_16_final.mp3
  21. The Minnesota Twins announced a wave of roster moves this afternoon, altering their personnel as they head into a six-game AL Central homestand in which they badly need to rebound after a brutal weekend in Washington. Young outfielders Byron Buxton and Max Kepler were optioned to Class-AAA Rochester. Right-hander Alex Meyer was promoted to the majors, where he'll work out of the Minnesota bullpen. Danny Santana was also reinstated from the disabled list.Buxton, who won an Opening Day roster spot in spite of an unimpressive debut last year and spring this year, has started 13 of the Twins' 19 games in center field but has been flat-out overmatched by major-league pitching. As you can see below, he leads baseball in strikeout rate by a wide margin. Equally disturbing as the raw numbers was the quality of his at-bats, which were consistently poor. It's important to remember that Buxton is only 22, and has played only 13 games at Triple-A. The hope is that he'll be able to iron out his plate approach against lesser pitching and return within a couple of months. Meanwhile, Kepler will get the chance to play every day in the Rochester outfield after being unfortunately mired on the Twins bench for the past couple of weeks. Santana, who was activated following a minor-league rehab stint, will fill the vacancy in center field along with Eddie Rosario. Meanwhile, Meyer will join a beleaguered bullpen that was badly in need of reinforcements after Sunday's marathon 16-inning loss. There's a good chance we'll see him pitch tonight, and it will be interesting to see how his improved results at Triple-A, where he had a 1.04 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in three outings, translates to the majors his second time around. What do you think of these moves? Click here to view the article
  22. Buxton, who won an Opening Day roster spot in spite of an unimpressive debut last year and spring this year, has started 13 of the Twins' 19 games in center field but has been flat-out overmatched by major-league pitching. As you can see below, he leads baseball in strikeout rate by a wide margin. Equally disturbing as the raw numbers was the quality of his at-bats, which were consistently poor. https://twitter.com/NickNelsonMN/status/724616792371425281 It's important to remember that Buxton is only 22, and has played only 13 games at Triple-A. The hope is that he'll be able to iron out his plate approach against lesser pitching and return within a couple of months. Meanwhile, Kepler will get the chance to play every day in the Rochester outfield after being unfortunately mired on the Twins bench for the past couple of weeks. Santana, who was activated following a minor-league rehab stint, will fill the vacancy in center field along with Eddie Rosario. Meanwhile, Meyer will join a beleaguered bullpen that was badly in need of reinforcements after Sunday's marathon 16-inning loss. There's a good chance we'll see him pitch tonight, and it will be interesting to see how his improved results at Triple-A, where he had a 1.04 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in three outings, translates to the majors his second time around. What do you think of these moves?
  23. from Dan Cook's Twitter I'm excited to see Kepler again. Hopefully he can hit his way onto the starting lineup. Maybe he'll play like 2015 Rosario... that's what I'm hoping for.
  24. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Episode_243_Wheres_The_Restart_Button.mp3
  25. Aaron and John talk at the Iron Door Pub about the Twins' brutal 0-6 start, over-managing Miguel Sano, "messing" up tater tots, Joe Mauer quietly having a big week, assessing Byung Ho Park, a special Home Opener GATG podcast, Danny Santana getting hurt, Paul Molitor tinkering constantly, Ricky Nolasco coming up big, buying a mattress from Casper, Glen Perkins struggling again, and Max Kepler filling in. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click the Play button below. Click here to view the article
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