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  1. Both Byron Buxton and José Berríos are both heading to free agency at the end of next season. Neither player is in a spot to accept a team-friendly deal, so who would be a better investment with a contract near $100 million? The José Berríos Argument Minnesota has struggled to develop pitching for decades and Berríos is one of the lone bright spots in recent memory. He’s a two-time All-Star and he might be heading for his third selection this season. For his career, he has a 105 ERA+ as his debut season was his only year with an ERA+ below 100. Twins fans have wanted him to develop into an “ace” and while that may not have happened, he has been an above average MLB pitcher throughout his career. Some players of similar ages have gotten anywhere from $40-$85 million. Would Berríos accept a deal for 5-years and $100 million? That would put him ahead of all these other players in his age group and it might be enough to keep him from hitting the open market. According to FanGraphs value calculations, Berríos has been worth $99.6 million during his big-league career. In ever full season since 2017, he has been worth north of $21.5 million. Another thing to consider is the fact that he is just entering his prime as a pitcher. The Twins know him well and he can be an anchor at the top of their rotation for years to come. The Byron Buxton Argument Many Twins fans might think Berrios is an easy choice when it comes to handing out $100 million. However, Buxton is a game changing player that is the true definition of a five-tool player. Injuries and bad luck have been part of his big-league career, but that takes nothing away from what he has been able to accomplish. When he is on the field, he is a difference maker on both sides of the ball and the results speak for themselves. Over the last three seasons, the Twins are 100-52 when Buxton plays, and they are below .500 without him. Even with his injury history, FanGraphs value calculations have Buxton worth $90.9 million throughout his career. He’s been worth over $20 million in three different seasons, including this year where he has been limited to 27 games. He was playing at a level of a player worth $35 million or more per season. Buxton is also the type of player that fans may regret seeing in another uniform because of the value he can provide to a team. George Springer signed a $150 million deal last winter and Buxton can be an even better player than Springer when he is on the field. It seems unlikely for the Twins to spend $100 million on both these players so the front office may need to decide who is going to provide the most value in the years ahead. Who do you think is a better investment? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  2. The José Berríos Argument Minnesota has struggled to develop pitching for decades and Berríos is one of the lone bright spots in recent memory. He’s a two-time All-Star and he might be heading for his third selection this season. For his career, he has a 105 ERA+ as his debut season was his only year with an ERA+ below 100. Twins fans have wanted him to develop into an “ace” and while that may not have happened, he has been an above average MLB pitcher throughout his career. Some players of similar ages have gotten anywhere from $40-$85 million. Would Berríos accept a deal for 5-years and $100 million? That would put him ahead of all these other players in his age group and it might be enough to keep him from hitting the open market. According to FanGraphs value calculations, Berríos has been worth $99.6 million during his big-league career. In ever full season since 2017, he has been worth north of $21.5 million. Another thing to consider is the fact that he is just entering his prime as a pitcher. The Twins know him well and he can be an anchor at the top of their rotation for years to come. The Byron Buxton Argument Many Twins fans might think Berrios is an easy choice when it comes to handing out $100 million. However, Buxton is a game changing player that is the true definition of a five-tool player. Injuries and bad luck have been part of his big-league career, but that takes nothing away from what he has been able to accomplish. When he is on the field, he is a difference maker on both sides of the ball and the results speak for themselves. Over the last three seasons, the Twins are 100-52 when Buxton plays, and they are below .500 without him. Even with his injury history, FanGraphs value calculations have Buxton worth $90.9 million throughout his career. He’s been worth over $20 million in three different seasons, including this year where he has been limited to 27 games. He was playing at a level of a player worth $35 million or more per season. Buxton is also the type of player that fans may regret seeing in another uniform because of the value he can provide to a team. George Springer signed a $150 million deal last winter and Buxton can be an even better player than Springer when he is on the field. It seems unlikely for the Twins to spend $100 million on both these players so the front office may need to decide who is going to provide the most value in the years ahead. Who do you think is a better investment? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. According to the Star Tribune’s Patrick Reusse, Buxton might be unhappy with the Twins. There are a variety of reasons Buxton might be displeased including the handling of his service time back at the end of 2018. If he had been called up in September that year, he would reach free agency this winter. Instead, he has one more year of team control. From the Twins perspective, this extra year is very valuable, because it allows the team to keep him for 2022 or it adds to what the team can get in a trade. Obviously, Buxton is going to need to come back and show that he is healthy for other teams to seriously consider a trade So, what teams need a centerfield upgrade for October? New York Yankees Twins fans might not want to hear it, but the Yankees make a lot of sense when it comes to a Buxton deal. Former Twin Aaron Hicks is recovering from left wrist surgery. New York has been shuffling through a lot of non-traditional center field options in recent weeks like Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner. Among AL teams, only the Mariners and Tigers have gotten less WAR in centerfield than the Yankees. It’s also been widely reported that Yankees GM Brian Cashman is open to dealing for a center field upgrade. Houston Astros Houston saw their long-time centerfielder, George Springer, leave via free agency last winter and now the club might be looking for an upgrade for a postseason run. The Astros find themselves in the second Wild Card position and their primary center fielder, Myles Straw, is not exactly a household name. Only two positions on the Astros, CF and C, have produced an OPS under .800 this year. Straw entered play on Tuesday with a .637 OPS and 10 extra-base hits in 61 games. Among AL teams, the Astros have gotten the 10th lowest WAR total out of the center field position. Milwaukee Brewers The Brewers are in the thick of the NL Central race and they have the NL Wild Card spot to fall back on if they lose out in the division title. Only one NL team, the Braves, have accumulate less WAR in center than the Brewers. Most of Milwaukee’s negative WAR total has come on the offensive side where their center fielders have combined for a -15.6 offensive runs above average which is the worst in baseball. As a small market team, Milwaukee needs to take advantage of every postseason opportunity, especially since the club has made the playoffs in three of the last four years. Boston Red Sox After finishing in last place last season, the Red Sox are back in the hunt for the AL East crown. There have been offensive struggles at multiple positions in their line-up, so Buxton provides an opportunity for an offensive upgrade. Enrique Hernandez has played the most games in center, but his .669 OPS isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. Also, Boston hasn’t been getting a lot of production at first base, so maybe they would be interested in a package deal that includes Buxton and Sano. Do you think Buxton gets dealt to one of these teams? What other teams could make the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. Byron Buxton might be unhappy in Minnesota, and this can lead to plenty of speculation about his future. Here are four contending teams that might be interested in a Buxton deal before the deadline. According to the Star Tribune’s Patrick Reusse, Buxton might be unhappy with the Twins. There are a variety of reasons Buxton might be displeased including the handling of his service time back at the end of 2018. If he had been called up in September that year, he would reach free agency this winter. Instead, he has one more year of team control. From the Twins perspective, this extra year is very valuable, because it allows the team to keep him for 2022 or it adds to what the team can get in a trade. Obviously, Buxton is going to need to come back and show that he is healthy for other teams to seriously consider a trade So, what teams need a centerfield upgrade for October? New York Yankees Twins fans might not want to hear it, but the Yankees make a lot of sense when it comes to a Buxton deal. Former Twin Aaron Hicks is recovering from left wrist surgery. New York has been shuffling through a lot of non-traditional center field options in recent weeks like Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner. Among AL teams, only the Mariners and Tigers have gotten less WAR in centerfield than the Yankees. It’s also been widely reported that Yankees GM Brian Cashman is open to dealing for a center field upgrade. Houston Astros Houston saw their long-time centerfielder, George Springer, leave via free agency last winter and now the club might be looking for an upgrade for a postseason run. The Astros find themselves in the second Wild Card position and their primary center fielder, Myles Straw, is not exactly a household name. Only two positions on the Astros, CF and C, have produced an OPS under .800 this year. Straw entered play on Tuesday with a .637 OPS and 10 extra-base hits in 61 games. Among AL teams, the Astros have gotten the 10th lowest WAR total out of the center field position. Milwaukee Brewers The Brewers are in the thick of the NL Central race and they have the NL Wild Card spot to fall back on if they lose out in the division title. Only one NL team, the Braves, have accumulate less WAR in center than the Brewers. Most of Milwaukee’s negative WAR total has come on the offensive side where their center fielders have combined for a -15.6 offensive runs above average which is the worst in baseball. As a small market team, Milwaukee needs to take advantage of every postseason opportunity, especially since the club has made the playoffs in three of the last four years. Boston Red Sox After finishing in last place last season, the Red Sox are back in the hunt for the AL East crown. There have been offensive struggles at multiple positions in their line-up, so Buxton provides an opportunity for an offensive upgrade. Enrique Hernandez has played the most games in center, but his .669 OPS isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. Also, Boston hasn’t been getting a lot of production at first base, so maybe they would be interested in a package deal that includes Buxton and Sano. Do you think Buxton gets dealt to one of these teams? What other teams could make the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  5. This offseason was always going to be incredibly weird. Coming off a pandemic shortened season, with no fans, and an unprecedented amount of uncertainty still ahead, how teams would tackle preparations for 2021 is a mystery. The Twins are good though, and despite a few holes they want to get better. What if they go all in? This morning at ESPN Jeff Passan penned a piece regarding some rumblings he’s heard around the league. One of them was a note on the Minnesota Twins circling like a shark in the water. Executives had apparently suggested that Minnesota is “lurking” and appears “ready to strike with a big move as they did last season.” That big move alluded to was the signing of Josh Donaldson to a $100 million deal. How could something like that be replicated? On the free agent market there’s only a couple of splashes that would fall into that category in and of themselves. Signing Trevor Bauer, George Springer, or J.T. Realmuto would push dollar signs into that realm. Bauer is arguably the most natural fit of the group, and his next deal could be the most interesting. He’s previously said he’d like to by an assassin for hire and string together lucrative one-year deals. Agent Rachel Luba has commented that they’re open to whatever the best fit is. Bauer makes sense in Minnesota, but I’d imagine there’s other more desirable markets. Looking at the latter two options, the Twins would be in a bit of a weird spot even though both are clear upgrades. Springer plays corner outfield, and despite the departure of Eddie Rosario, the assumption is that top prospect Alex Kirilloff will take over in short order. Mitch Garver had a down and injury plagued year in 2020, but Ryan Jeffers looked the part of a starting quality option. Realmuto would push both to the bench, although he could make the DH spot less of a pressing Nelson Cruz matter. I don’t think anything else on the free agency front would qualify as Donaldson-esque. Maybe signing Didi Gregorious, Marcus Semien, or Andrelton Simmons to be the starting shortstop creates ripples, but none of those guys should break the bank. If it’s not going to happen on the open market, swinging a deal is something Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have done well with. Although the system isn’t as loaded as it once was, the Twins minor league depth right now is in a great place. Royce Lewis probably remains off the table, but he’s less untouchable than I assumed even a year ago. Beyond that, everyone should be under consideration. Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran headline the pitching while Trevor Larnach, Aaron Sabato, and Keoni Cavaco are the offensive gems. Without reading too much into what Passan has reported, there’s certainly a feeling of a silent killer right now. Chicago is looking to load up as the White Sox have their most competitive team in years. The Twins are the clear cream of the crop right now though and remaining there will take legitimate additions. After hearing about payroll decreases and scaled back financial efforts after decreased revenues in 2020, there should have been legitimate fear regarding Minnesota’s opportunity to capitalize. If this is just the beginning of smoke, and we don’t have fire for some time, the hope should be that this is an inkling of the Twins keeping their foot on the gas. The front office and development staff have pushed a largely home-grown roster to the point of opportunity. The window is wide open and continuing to jump through it as long as they can, should be the goal. One Postseason win, or a series victory is where it starts, but this organization has all the makings of a legitimate contender. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  6. Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario are being lumped together today since they are both left-handed hitting outfielders. They both will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after the 2018 season. While they have different styles on the field, they have put up similar numbers. Rosario has 50 home runs in less than three years. Kepler has 36 home runs in less than two years. Rosario had his breakout season in 2017, but Kepler is one year younger. Eddie Rosario has 2.120 years of service time which left him just three days short of being a Super-2 arbitration guy this offseason. Max Kepler has 1.152 years of service time. Assuming he spends all of 2018 in the big leagues, he’s certain to be a Super-2 arbitration guy after the 2018 season. That also means that he will have four arbitration seasons. So where do we start with this discussion? Hey, I think that the ultimate comparable deal for these guys happens to be an infielder. A year ago, Jose Ramirez signed a long-term contract that will guarantee he’s in Cleveland from 2017 through 2021, and includes options for 2022 and 2023. The deal is five years and $25.5 million. In his All-Star 2017 season, he made $571,400. He’ll make $2.48 million in 2018, in what would have been his first arbitration season. That will be followed by salaries of $3.75 million and $6.25 million. The deal then will buy out his first free agent season for just $9.0 million. Cleveland will also have options for two more years, one at $11.0 million and the other at $13.0 million. Based on his 2017 season, that will prove to be a tremendous contract for Cleveland. What would he have made in arbitration coming off that year? $5 million? Maybe more? And, what would a long-term contract have cost Cleveland if they had waited until now? Probably $25-30 million just in his arbitration years, and then at least $18-20 million a year for a couple of free agent seasons. In fact, at that point, is there any true value for Cleveland not to just go year-by-year, other than keeping his rights into his free agent years? Here are some outfielders who have signed extensions in the last half-dozen years or so. Aside from Maybin, the others waited another year, until they had reached arbitration, to reach a long-term agreements. But the numbers still give some range for a potential deal for Rosario or Kepler. Here is a group of players who went year-to-year in arbitration. Nelson Cruz signed a one-year deal in his first arbitration deal. Then he signed a two-year deal after that. Finally, here is a group of outfielders who went through the arbitration process for the first time in 2017. This might give a good idea of what Rosario and Kepler could command or receive in arbitration next offseason. That’s quite a bit of information for you to consume as you consider what the Twins should offer Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario in terms of long-term security. Below is a chart with two offers that I would start with, feeling that it is equitable for both the team and the player, understanding the risk/reward for each side. Again, it is important to note the distinction between the two players in terms of arbitration, as Kepler will have a fourth arbitration season before becoming a free agent. The deal above for Eddie Rosario equates to five years and $28.5 million. The first option year has a $1 million buyout, so it could be a six year, $41 million, and with a second option (also a $1 million option) could make it work seven years and $54 million. For Kepler, the contract is worth $48 million over seven years with an option that could make it work $61 million over eight years. In both cases, the player would likely prefer the deal be for two years less so that they could be free agents at age 30, but again, that is the risk for the player in a long-term deal and obtaining ten lifetime’s worth of guaranteed money. The Twins would have to make an assumption that Rosario will continue to improve his strike zone judgment and continue to become more consistent. For a Kepler deal at this time, the Twins would need to make an assumption that he will improve his performance against southpaws and continue to add more power. So, what do you think? Should the Twins have conversations with Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, or both? What are the risk factors in your mind? What would you do as the Twins GM? That's what the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook is all about. If you haven't pre-ordered your copy yet, you can click the link below. You can even set your own price.
  7. Brian Dozier. Byron Buxton. Miguel Sano. Jose Berrios. Now that we’ve offered up suggested long-term contracts for those four players - at about a combined quarter of a billion dollars - today I’ll add two more players who could be in line for long-term extensions this offseason. While their deals won’t cost as much as the four above, they are also young players who have a chance to become really good and become spendy in a hurry. Today, I want to consider potential contract extensions for outfielders Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler.Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario are being lumped together today since they are both left-handed hitting outfielders. They both will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after the 2018 season. While they have different styles on the field, they have put up similar numbers. Rosario has 50 home runs in less than three years. Kepler has 36 home runs in less than two years. Rosario had his breakout season in 2017, but Kepler is one year younger. Eddie Rosario has 2.120 years of service time which left him just three days short of being a Super-2 arbitration guy this offseason. Max Kepler has 1.152 years of service time. Assuming he spends all of 2018 in the big leagues, he’s certain to be a Super-2 arbitration guy after the 2018 season. That also means that he will have four arbitration seasons. So where do we start with this discussion? Hey, I think that the ultimate comparable deal for these guys happens to be an infielder. A year ago, Jose Ramirez signed a long-term contract that will guarantee he’s in Cleveland from 2017 through 2021, and includes options for 2022 and 2023. The deal is five years and $25.5 million. In his All-Star 2017 season, he made $571,400. He’ll make $2.48 million in 2018, in what would have been his first arbitration season. That will be followed by salaries of $3.75 million and $6.25 million. The deal then will buy out his first free agent season for just $9.0 million. Cleveland will also have options for two more years, one at $11.0 million and the other at $13.0 million. Based on his 2017 season, that will prove to be a tremendous contract for Cleveland. What would he have made in arbitration coming off that year? $5 million? Maybe more? And, what would a long-term contract have cost Cleveland if they had waited until now? Probably $25-30 million just in his arbitration years, and then at least $18-20 million a year for a couple of free agent seasons. In fact, at that point, is there any true value for Cleveland not to just go year-by-year, other than keeping his rights into his free agent years? Here are some outfielders who have signed extensions in the last half-dozen years or so. Aside from Maybin, the others waited another year, until they had reached arbitration, to reach a long-term agreements. But the numbers still give some range for a potential deal for Rosario or Kepler. Here is a group of players who went year-to-year in arbitration. Nelson Cruz signed a one-year deal in his first arbitration deal. Then he signed a two-year deal after that. Finally, here is a group of outfielders who went through the arbitration process for the first time in 2017. This might give a good idea of what Rosario and Kepler could command or receive in arbitration next offseason. That’s quite a bit of information for you to consume as you consider what the Twins should offer Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario in terms of long-term security. Below is a chart with two offers that I would start with, feeling that it is equitable for both the team and the player, understanding the risk/reward for each side. Again, it is important to note the distinction between the two players in terms of arbitration, as Kepler will have a fourth arbitration season before becoming a free agent. The deal above for Eddie Rosario equates to five years and $28.5 million. The first option year has a $1 million buyout, so it could be a six year, $41 million, and with a second option (also a $1 million option) could make it work seven years and $54 million. For Kepler, the contract is worth $48 million over seven years with an option that could make it work $61 million over eight years. In both cases, the player would likely prefer the deal be for two years less so that they could be free agents at age 30, but again, that is the risk for the player in a long-term deal and obtaining ten lifetime’s worth of guaranteed money. The Twins would have to make an assumption that Rosario will continue to improve his strike zone judgment and continue to become more consistent. For a Kepler deal at this time, the Twins would need to make an assumption that he will improve his performance against southpaws and continue to add more power. So, what do you think? Should the Twins have conversations with Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, or both? What are the risk factors in your mind? What would you do as the Twins GM? That's what the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook is all about. If you haven't pre-ordered your copy yet, you can click the link below. You can even set your own price. Click here to view the article
  8. Perham (MN) native Cory Hepola has worked in several markets around the country. One of his first jobs was as a sports anchor at WROC-TV in Rochester, New York. It was back in the days when Trevor Plouffe and Danny Valencia played for the Red Wings. Recently, Cory was kind enough to spend some time answering our questions about the development of the Astros, who he covered from 2012-2014. Twins Daily (TD): In your three years working in sports in Houston, what was the general feeling in and around the team, the organization and the fans? Cory Hepola (CH): I was around the Astros from 2012-2014, so essentially, the worst years in franchise history. People weren't talking about them; they were completely off the radar. But, at CSN Houston, we all felt very strongly that Jeff Luhnow had a unique, forward-thinking vision. He's brilliant and we knew they'd be much better starting in 2015. He's done an excellent job of adding free agents around their core nucleus of young talent. TD: But things were kind of coming into place as some young players were getting their first opportunities. For instance, Jose Altuve was a rookie and getting playing time. What were your thoughts on him at the time, and are you surprised by what he's become? CH: Jose Altuve is one of the best stories in baseball. Tried out at an open camp in Venezuela and was cut because he was too short. Came back the next year and was signed, for cheap. I think that experience has given him perspective; he knows what it's like to be cut or to be told you're not good enough, and it drives him. In 2014 - I watched him every day in awe. He hit over .340 and stole 56 bags. Honestly, I remember Mike Stanton (my CSN analyst) saying he could get even better and I secretly rolled my eyes. No way. But, since then he's added power, raising his OPS by over 100 points. He hits everything hard and is terrific at 2B. TD: Also, Dallas Keuchel has won a Cy Young since then, but what were your thoughts on him when he first came up? CH: I interviewed Dallas Keuchel at spring training in 2014. He was coming off a couple of years where he really struggled as a starter and in the bullpen. At that point, Keuchel was just hoping to make the team. He told me he wanted that fifth starter spot, but would be fine as a long reliever. But, Brent Strom came in as the Astros new pitching coach that year and he REALLY helped Keuchel develop and control his slider, which turned him into a superstar. It just shows you don't have to throw 100 MPH, just control it. TD: I believe you noted that George Springer had just been called up too. He was the Astros player on the now-popular Sports Illustrated cover that said the Astros would be the 2017 World Series champion. What were your thoughts on Springer, who has now become an All Star too? CH: We couldn't wait for Springer to get called up in 2014. We knew he would be an instant impact player with his speed in center field & his power, but there were concerns about his strikeouts. He brought an instant energy to the clubhouse and is one of the leaders there. TD: In 2012, the Astros had the number one overall pick. At the time, they surprised teams by taking shortstop Carlos Correa out of Puerto Rico. You had the opportunity to interview him after the draft. What were your thoughts on him at the time and now that he's become a star? CH: In 2013, we would look up Correa and Buxton's stats - and compare them - every night while watching the Astros game! I met Correa at spring training in 2014 and knew he was going to be a superstar. He was 19 and already had that "IT" factor. Wasn't intimidated, wasn't cocky, but was mature and confident in who he was and where he as going. He told me: in the offseason, he went back to Puerto Rico to work with his Dad on his house. He didn't spend much of his signing bonus because - as he told me - he hadn't proven anything yet. He was the first one at the facility every day and the last one to leave. He reminded me of a young Alex Rodriguez, to be honest, because of his size and maturity at such a young age. TD: Any other memories or personnel from your time in Houston, covering the Astros? CH: It's so fun to see the Astros in the World Series because of where they were at a few years ago, although I do miss our great team at CSN Houston. I wish we could've been a part of this, watching these guys earn this incredible ride. Also, Art Howe - who was one of our analysts - is an absolute saint. Don't believe the "Moneyball" narrative. I learned so much from watching baseball with Art and he is one of the most genuine, caring people I know. TD: Do you see any comparison between those 2012-2014 Astros teams you covered and the Twins rosters since you've moved back to Minnesota? CH: Yes, I do see some similarities with how the Astros constructed their plan and the Twins. I expect to see the Twins now start to add a few helpful free agents here and there as this new front office has been able to evaluate the players in their system, who they like, who they want to keep and where. I met Derek Falvey in May and was blown away - not only by his baseball knowledge - but his leadership skills. Not many 34-year-olds understand what drives people to succeed, but I believe he does. TD: Astros-Dodgers... what's your prediction for the World Series? CH: Man, it's hard not to like the Dodgers, but I'll go with the Astros because I'd love to see the city of Houston win it all! A big Thank you to Cory Hepola for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to answer some of our questions about the Houston Astros as they play Game 1 of World Series tonight. Be sure to follow Cory on Twitter at @CoryHepola, and tune in to KARE-11 news at 5, 6 and 10 on Saturdays and Sundays. ---------------------------------------------------------- As an aside, I’ve known Cory and his family for probably 30 years. I happened to coach him in Little League and Babe Ruth as he was growing up in Perham. I like to tell him that he was ahead of the curve on analytics, understanding the value of getting on base. He knew the strike zone like few others at those ages. He also played a really good first base, able to scoop up almost anything. Basketball was his big sport in high school, but it’s fun for me to see him succeeding in a career that he’s been dreaming about for so long. I’ll close this article with Cory's story of meeting his kindergarten teacher that pulled at a lot of heart strings across the country. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdBT5t_azLs
  9. Tonight in Los Angeles, the Dodgers will take on the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the 2017 World Series. It will be Clayton Kershaw versus Dallas Keuchel on the mound. There is so much talent, young talent, in this series. From 2012 to 2014, Cory Hepola was the host for Houston Astros Pre & PostGame LIVE, as well as their Emmy Award-winning magazine show called Astros Bases Loaded. The talented anchor from Perham, Minnesota, earned two Emmy nominations for Comcast Sports in Houston where he also anchored daily sportscasts. He got to know some of the Astros biggest stars as they were just entering the big leagues. Today, he shares some of his thoughts and stories from his time covering the team. In 2015, Cory Hepola of Minnesota to be an anchor on the KARE-11’s Sunrise show. He won an . This year, he made the move to weekend anchor where he teams as co-host with his wife Camille Williams. The couple has three kids, all under the age of three. During his years in Houston, Hepola had a front-row seat to some pretty bad baseball teams, and yet they were a team that had new leadership and a clear plan toward winning baseball.Perham (MN) native Cory Hepola has worked in several markets around the country. One of his first jobs was as a sports anchor at WROC-TV in Rochester, New York. It was back in the days when Trevor Plouffe and Danny Valencia played for the Red Wings. Recently, Cory was kind enough to spend some time answering our questions about the development of the Astros, who he covered from 2012-2014. Twins Daily (TD): In your three years working in sports in Houston, what was the general feeling in and around the team, the organization and the fans? Cory Hepola (CH): I was around the Astros from 2012-2014, so essentially, the worst years in franchise history. People weren't talking about them; they were completely off the radar. But, at CSN Houston, we all felt very strongly that Jeff Luhnow had a unique, forward-thinking vision. He's brilliant and we knew they'd be much better starting in 2015. He's done an excellent job of adding free agents around their core nucleus of young talent. TD: But things were kind of coming into place as some young players were getting their first opportunities. For instance, Jose Altuve was a rookie and getting playing time. What were your thoughts on him at the time, and are you surprised by what he's become? CH: Jose Altuve is one of the best stories in baseball. Tried out at an open camp in Venezuela and was cut because he was too short. Came back the next year and was signed, for cheap. I think that experience has given him perspective; he knows what it's like to be cut or to be told you're not good enough, and it drives him. In 2014 - I watched him every day in awe. He hit over .340 and stole 56 bags. Honestly, I remember Mike Stanton (my CSN analyst) saying he could get even better and I secretly rolled my eyes. No way. But, since then he's added power, raising his OPS by over 100 points. He hits everything hard and is terrific at 2B. TD: Also, Dallas Keuchel has won a Cy Young since then, but what were your thoughts on him when he first came up? CH: I interviewed Dallas Keuchel at spring training in 2014. He was coming off a couple of years where he really struggled as a starter and in the bullpen. At that point, Keuchel was just hoping to make the team. He told me he wanted that fifth starter spot, but would be fine as a long reliever. But, Brent Strom came in as the Astros new pitching coach that year and he REALLY helped Keuchel develop and control his slider, which turned him into a superstar. It just shows you don't have to throw 100 MPH, just control it. TD: I believe you noted that George Springer had just been called up too. He was the Astros player on the now-popular Sports Illustrated cover that said the Astros would be the 2017 World Series champion. What were your thoughts on Springer, who has now become an All Star too? CH: We couldn't wait for Springer to get called up in 2014. We knew he would be an instant impact player with his speed in center field & his power, but there were concerns about his strikeouts. He brought an instant energy to the clubhouse and is one of the leaders there. TD: In 2012, the Astros had the number one overall pick. At the time, they surprised teams by taking shortstop Carlos Correa out of Puerto Rico. You had the opportunity to interview him after the draft. What were your thoughts on him at the time and now that he's become a star? CH: In 2013, we would look up Correa and Buxton's stats - and compare them - every night while watching the Astros game! I met Correa at spring training in 2014 and knew he was going to be a superstar. He was 19 and already had that "IT" factor. Wasn't intimidated, wasn't cocky, but was mature and confident in who he was and where he as going. He told me: in the offseason, he went back to Puerto Rico to work with his Dad on his house. He didn't spend much of his signing bonus because - as he told me - he hadn't proven anything yet. He was the first one at the facility every day and the last one to leave. He reminded me of a young Alex Rodriguez, to be honest, because of his size and maturity at such a young age. TD: Any other memories or personnel from your time in Houston, covering the Astros? CH: It's so fun to see the Astros in the World Series because of where they were at a few years ago, although I do miss our great team at CSN Houston. I wish we could've been a part of this, watching these guys earn this incredible ride. Also, Art Howe - who was one of our analysts - is an absolute saint. Don't believe the "Moneyball" narrative. I learned so much from watching baseball with Art and he is one of the most genuine, caring people I know. TD: Do you see any comparison between those 2012-2014 Astros teams you covered and the Twins rosters since you've moved back to Minnesota? CH: Yes, I do see some similarities with how the Astros constructed their plan and the Twins. I expect to see the Twins now start to add a few helpful free agents here and there as this new front office has been able to evaluate the players in their system, who they like, who they want to keep and where. I met Derek Falvey in May and was blown away - not only by his baseball knowledge - but his leadership skills. Not many 34-year-olds understand what drives people to succeed, but I believe he does. TD: Astros-Dodgers... what's your prediction for the World Series? CH: Man, it's hard not to like the Dodgers, but I'll go with the Astros because I'd love to see the city of Houston win it all! A big Thank you to Cory Hepola for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to answer some of our questions about the Houston Astros as they play Game 1 of World Series tonight. Be sure to follow Cory on Twitter at @CoryHepola, and tune in to KARE-11 news at 5, 6 and 10 on Saturdays and Sundays. ---------------------------------------------------------- As an aside, I’ve known Cory and his family for probably 30 years. I happened to coach him in Little League and Babe Ruth as he was growing up in Perham. I like to tell him that he was ahead of the curve on analytics, understanding the value of getting on base. He knew the strike zone like few others at those ages. He also played a really good first base, able to scoop up almost anything. Basketball was his big sport in high school, but it’s fun for me to see him succeeding in a career that he’s been dreaming about for so long. I’ll close this article with Cory's story of meeting his kindergarten teacher that pulled at a lot of heart strings across the country. Click here to view the article
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