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  1. After getting swept by the Houston Astros in frustrating fashion last week, it was imperative that the Twins answer back by rattling off a few wins against their division rival the Cleveland Guardians. The weekend series had it all; grand slams, manager ejections, electric Target Field crowds, the 1000th home run hit by a Twin at Target Field, and two separate fan proposals. Ultimately, the Twins emerged from the series with a three-game lead in the division over both the Guardians and the Chicago White Sox. Here are my five takeaways from this series. 1. Royce Lewis is here to stay Between Friday’s grand slam, superb fielding at shortstop and consistent hits elsewhere, long-held #1 Twins prospect Royce Lewis has made a strong statement since he was called up a little over a week ago. Lewis has a .310 average and a top 6 on the team OPS of .719. On WCCO Radio, President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey expressed optimism that Royce Lewis can play around the field similar to the Dodgers' super-utilityman Chris Taylor. This indicates that the Twins will likely find a spot for him somewhere on the field once shortstop Carlos Correa returns to the lineup. And if he continues to perform on the field, why wouldn't they? Lewis' debut has been a long time coming, and after having gone through ACL surgery and rehab, it has been rewarding to finally see him on the field after all that hard work. He received a standing ovation from the crowd for his grand slam on Friday night, and afterwards, he expressed gratitude for the warm welcome he's received from Twins fans. "I really appreciate it. This fan base has always been really, really special to me. They've always been great to me. Minnesota nice," Lewis said. 2. Jose Miranda needs a little more time Preheat to 350° and pop Jose back in the oven for a little bit- he needs some more time to cook in AAA. So far, Miranda has looked a bit outmatched at the plate and his .114 batting average reflects that. His .111 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and few strikeouts show that while he is making contact, the contact he makes does not give him a good chance to succeed. The Twins are depleted at first base, and injuries to first basemen Alex Kirilloff and Miguel Sanó have necessitated Jose’s spot in the lineup recently. Some fans questioned why Miranda was sent out to hit in the 10th inning on Saturday in a critical down-by-1, do-or-die situation with Byron Buxton on the bench. Manager Rocco Baldelli was quite clear after the game that rest days are rest days and that the direction the game takes does not affect that. But if Mike Trout can come off the bench to hit in the 10th inning to a huge ovation, to some it seemed that Buxton could manage as well, though Buxton is coming back from injury. I am a firm believer in Miranda’s talent, but it seems a little more time in AAA would be of benefit, and he's still very young at 23. Some infield shuffling could fill Miranda’s spot at first if he was sent down- perhaps Lewis, Luis Arraez, and even Gary Sánchez could share time there. Utility player extraordinaire Arraez made some good scoops at first during Sunday’s game, which Miranda was on the bench for. 3. Runners left on base will haunt Saturday’s game can be summed up as a game of missed opportunities, as the Twins left a whopping 12 runners on base. The biggest example of this was in the 5th inning, where the Twins had bases loaded with no outs and Shane Bieber emerged unscathed due to an unfortunate home-to-first Gio Urshela double play followed by a Miranda groundout. This half-inning was nothing short of deflating. The Twins only got three more hits in the rest of the game, two of these occurring with 2 outs and no runners on. We all know that Walks Will Haunt, but runners left on base certainly will too. The offense returned on Sunday, where Buxton and Urshela both got solo home runs, including Buxton hitting the 1,000th home run hit by a Twin at Target Field- his 11th of the season. 4. Joe Smith is one of the team’s most underrated assets Through 15 appearances, Joe Smith still has a 0.00 ERA. Some might say that’s because the Twins have used him sparingly; Smith is used in high-leverage situations, so often in late-inning, close games with runners on. He leads all AL relivers with a +1.11 win probability added (WPA). Though he has somehow never been an All-Star, he is arguably the most prolific bullpen workhorse of the last 20 years. The Twins used Smith in all three games of the series (Pagán too). So regardless of his limited pitch count (146 pitches thrown in 15 appearances equating to an average of less than 10 pitches per game), owning a 0.00 ERA this far into the season when used as a high-leverage pitcher is impressive no matter how you dice it. If this keeps up, there is no way the league won't start to take note. 5. The crowd is starting to wake up at Target Field After decidedly light attendance thus far, the weekend’s series featured the best attendance with the most hyped-up fans Target Field has seen this season. Friday’s game can be summed up as nothing short of electric due to the Twins piling on 12 runs. The crowd dutifully got into it when Baldelli got himself ejected in the top of the 10th inning on Saturday while arguing about an interference call, but many fans in the seats expressed confusion on why he was arguing about what seemed to be a clear-cut call. The series also featured the first big screen fan proposals at Target Field this season- one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Officially, the Twins announced 61,500 fans visited Target Field for the three-game series, which, while still feeling low, is a massive improvement from even a week ago. The Twins are near the bottom of MLB in attendance, averaging 17,944 fans per game. As the weather continues to be beautiful, kids get out of school, and the Twins hopefully keep winning, fans will continue to return to Target Field in droves. Bonus takeaway: Urshela and Sánchez had a solid series This series saw great production from former Yankees Urshela and Sánchez: Urshela hit two home runs (including a 434-foot monster blast on Friday night) and Sánchez had one home run and two doubles. Urshela continued his arguably exceptional play at 3B this series. Considering the Twins have leaned on Sánchez in the DH role when not playing catcher, hopefully this series is a sign of more good things to come at the plate. *** What were your takeaways from the Twins series against the Guardians? Leave your COMMENTS below. View full article
  2. Fans didn't have to wait long- the very next inning, Byron Buxton hit a home run to left field, his 11th of the season. As Buxton high-fived his teammates in the dugout and fans in the stands celebrated, the Target Field big board displayed "1000th Home Run" on the bottom of the screen. The Twins' Twitter account tweeted out the milestone (and so did I). But was it actually the 1,000th Target Field Home run? Shortly after Buxton's blast, tweets started surfacing calling into question whether Buxton's home run actually did represent Target Field's 1,000th home run. It appears the discrepancy was first spotted by eagle-eyed Twitter user @TwinsDingers, a Twitter account that primarily tweets videos of past and present Twins home runs. The user noticed that the Twins appeared to be including an April 18, 2018 Miguel Sanó home run hit during the 2018 Puerto Rico Series in their official count. During this series, the Twins played Cleveland, and the Twins were the designated home team. Thus, while it was indeed a home run the Twins hit as the home team, it was not at home sweet home Target Field. @TwinsDingers was keeping his own home run count and noticed the discrepancy immediately. "I have had a 1,000th home run tweet in the drafts for about two weeks now, just waiting for it to happen. So I knew it was wrong the second they claimed it was 1,000." the user wrote. The Twins did not Tweet anything differently after the discrepancy came to light, but they reportedly did issue a correction. So, with this mystery solved, it appears the wait for the official 1,000th Target Field home run continues. The Twins next return to Target Field on May 23 for a three-game series vs the Detroit Tigers, followed by another home series vs. the Kansas City Royals, so time will tell which Twin makes it official.
  3. After Gio Urshela launched a home run out to left center during the 4th inning of Sunday’s series finale vs the Cleveland Guardians, there was an air of anticipation throughout the stadium. The Twins were closing in on 1,000 home runs hit by Twins players at Target Field, and after Urshela hit what was regarded as home run #999, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Twins reached the landmark. Fans didn't have to wait long- the very next inning, Byron Buxton hit a home run to left field, his 11th of the season. As Buxton high-fived his teammates in the dugout and fans in the stands celebrated, the Target Field big board displayed "1000th Home Run" on the bottom of the screen. The Twins' Twitter account tweeted out the milestone (and so did I). But was it actually the 1,000th Target Field Home run? Shortly after Buxton's blast, tweets started surfacing calling into question whether Buxton's home run actually did represent Target Field's 1,000th home run. It appears the discrepancy was first spotted by eagle-eyed Twitter user @TwinsDingers, a Twitter account that primarily tweets videos of past and present Twins home runs. The user noticed that the Twins appeared to be including an April 18, 2018 Miguel Sanó home run hit during the 2018 Puerto Rico Series in their official count. During this series, the Twins played Cleveland, and the Twins were the designated home team. Thus, while it was indeed a home run the Twins hit as the home team, it was not at home sweet home Target Field. @TwinsDingers was keeping his own home run count and noticed the discrepancy immediately. "I have had a 1,000th home run tweet in the drafts for about two weeks now, just waiting for it to happen. So I knew it was wrong the second they claimed it was 1,000." the user wrote. The Twins did not Tweet anything differently after the discrepancy came to light, but they reportedly did issue a correction. So, with this mystery solved, it appears the wait for the official 1,000th Target Field home run continues. The Twins next return to Target Field on May 23 for a three-game series vs the Detroit Tigers, followed by another home series vs. the Kansas City Royals, so time will tell which Twin makes it official. View full article
  4. 1. Royce Lewis is here to stay Between Friday’s grand slam, superb fielding at shortstop and consistent hits elsewhere, long-held #1 Twins prospect Royce Lewis has made a strong statement since he was called up a little over a week ago. Lewis has a .310 average and a top 6 on the team OPS of .719. On WCCO Radio, President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey expressed optimism that Royce Lewis can play around the field similar to the Dodgers' super-utilityman Chris Taylor. This indicates that the Twins will likely find a spot for him somewhere on the field once shortstop Carlos Correa returns to the lineup. And if he continues to perform on the field, why wouldn't they? Lewis' debut has been a long time coming, and after having gone through ACL surgery and rehab, it has been rewarding to finally see him on the field after all that hard work. He received a standing ovation from the crowd for his grand slam on Friday night, and afterwards, he expressed gratitude for the warm welcome he's received from Twins fans. "I really appreciate it. This fan base has always been really, really special to me. They've always been great to me. Minnesota nice," Lewis said. 2. Jose Miranda needs a little more time Preheat to 350° and pop Jose back in the oven for a little bit- he needs some more time to cook in AAA. So far, Miranda has looked a bit outmatched at the plate and his .114 batting average reflects that. His .111 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and few strikeouts show that while he is making contact, the contact he makes does not give him a good chance to succeed. The Twins are depleted at first base, and injuries to first basemen Alex Kirilloff and Miguel Sanó have necessitated Jose’s spot in the lineup recently. Some fans questioned why Miranda was sent out to hit in the 10th inning on Saturday in a critical down-by-1, do-or-die situation with Byron Buxton on the bench. Manager Rocco Baldelli was quite clear after the game that rest days are rest days and that the direction the game takes does not affect that. But if Mike Trout can come off the bench to hit in the 10th inning to a huge ovation, to some it seemed that Buxton could manage as well, though Buxton is coming back from injury. I am a firm believer in Miranda’s talent, but it seems a little more time in AAA would be of benefit, and he's still very young at 23. Some infield shuffling could fill Miranda’s spot at first if he was sent down- perhaps Lewis, Luis Arraez, and even Gary Sánchez could share time there. Utility player extraordinaire Arraez made some good scoops at first during Sunday’s game, which Miranda was on the bench for. 3. Runners left on base will haunt Saturday’s game can be summed up as a game of missed opportunities, as the Twins left a whopping 12 runners on base. The biggest example of this was in the 5th inning, where the Twins had bases loaded with no outs and Shane Bieber emerged unscathed due to an unfortunate home-to-first Gio Urshela double play followed by a Miranda groundout. This half-inning was nothing short of deflating. The Twins only got three more hits in the rest of the game, two of these occurring with 2 outs and no runners on. We all know that Walks Will Haunt, but runners left on base certainly will too. The offense returned on Sunday, where Buxton and Urshela both got solo home runs, including Buxton hitting the 1,000th home run hit by a Twin at Target Field- his 11th of the season. 4. Joe Smith is one of the team’s most underrated assets Through 15 appearances, Joe Smith still has a 0.00 ERA. Some might say that’s because the Twins have used him sparingly; Smith is used in high-leverage situations, so often in late-inning, close games with runners on. He leads all AL relivers with a +1.11 win probability added (WPA). Though he has somehow never been an All-Star, he is arguably the most prolific bullpen workhorse of the last 20 years. The Twins used Smith in all three games of the series (Pagán too). So regardless of his limited pitch count (146 pitches thrown in 15 appearances equating to an average of less than 10 pitches per game), owning a 0.00 ERA this far into the season when used as a high-leverage pitcher is impressive no matter how you dice it. If this keeps up, there is no way the league won't start to take note. 5. The crowd is starting to wake up at Target Field After decidedly light attendance thus far, the weekend’s series featured the best attendance with the most hyped-up fans Target Field has seen this season. Friday’s game can be summed up as nothing short of electric due to the Twins piling on 12 runs. The crowd dutifully got into it when Baldelli got himself ejected in the top of the 10th inning on Saturday while arguing about an interference call, but many fans in the seats expressed confusion on why he was arguing about what seemed to be a clear-cut call. The series also featured the first big screen fan proposals at Target Field this season- one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Officially, the Twins announced 61,500 fans visited Target Field for the three-game series, which, while still feeling low, is a massive improvement from even a week ago. The Twins are near the bottom of MLB in attendance, averaging 17,944 fans per game. As the weather continues to be beautiful, kids get out of school, and the Twins hopefully keep winning, fans will continue to return to Target Field in droves. Bonus takeaway: Urshela and Sánchez had a solid series This series saw great production from former Yankees Urshela and Sánchez: Urshela hit two home runs (including a 434-foot monster blast on Friday night) and Sánchez had one home run and two doubles. Urshela continued his arguably exceptional play at 3B this series. Considering the Twins have leaned on Sánchez in the DH role when not playing catcher, hopefully this series is a sign of more good things to come at the plate. *** What were your takeaways from the Twins series against the Guardians? Leave your COMMENTS below.
  5. Twins rookie Joe Ryan took the mound on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to finish out the Twins' longest homestand of the season. Thanks to Ryan’s first 100-pitch start of the season and a couple of solo shots from Gio Urshela and Byron Buxton, the Twins were able to complete a series victory over Cleveland and finish their homestand 5-4. Box Score SP: Joe Ryan 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K (103 pitches, 70 strikes (68 strike %)) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (3), Byron Buxton (11) Top 3 or Bottom 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.204), Gio Urshela (.119), Byron Buxton (.081) After a low-scoring game Saturday that was decided by a questionable rule that just won’t go away, the Twins got on the first run on the board against Guardians starter Tristen McKenzie with an RBI single from Max Kepler that scored Luis Arraez. Kepler was able to drive in Arraez because he stole his first base of the season and adding the Twins' season total stolen bases to seven. Clearly a sign of the times. The game remained scoreless through the next two innings thanks to Ryan’s pitching. Ryan cruised his way through the Guardians lineup until the top of the fourth when, with one out, Jose Ramirez hit a solo shot to right-center field tying the game 1-1. Even after the Ramirez homer, Ryan remained in control for the remainder of his start. Ryan had his first start with more than 100 pitches this season and kept his strike percentage at 68 percent, totaling five strikeouts. He also only allowed base runners via hits making Sunday his second start without a walk this season. With the game tied going into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Twins found a way to retake the lead thanks to a two-out solo home run from Gio Urshela. An inning later, the Twins' unofficial captain Byron Buxton added to the lead with his 11th home run of the season making it a 3-1 game. Buxton’s home run was called to be the 1,000th home run ever hit at Target Field by the Twins. However, thanks to research from Twins Dingers on Twitter, the home run was corrected to be the 999th home run by a Twin in Target Field’s history. Twins beat writer for MLB.com, Do Hyoung Park retweeted this finding by Twins Dingers to remind everyone the next home run hit by a Twin at Target Field will be the 1,000th. The Twins bullpen kept the Guardians scoreless in the seventh inning thanks to a perfect inning from Cody Stashak who struck out two of three batters faced. In the eighth inning, Joe Smith did allow one base runner, a Richie Palacios single, but Palacios did not score thanks to the relief effort of Smith and Caleb Theilbar. Emilio Pagan was given the ball for the save in the ninth inning and his third consecutive day with a relief appearance. Pagan had thrown 22 pitches Friday but only nine on Saturday making his availability to come into Sunday’s game for the save acceptable to Rocco Baldelli. Pagan completed the save giving up only one hit. He was helped by an outstanding defensive play at third base from Gio Urshela. The win brings the Twins record to 20-15 through their first 35 games this season and extends their lead over the Guardians for first place in the American League Central to three games. What’s Next? The Twins make their first road trip west this season. On Monday night, they begin another three-game series against the Oakland Athletics. Chris Archer is scheduled to go against Athletics 26-year-old lefty rookie Zach Logue. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Chart WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Stashak 0 46 0 0 13 59 Jax 0 0 50 0 0 50 Pagán 0 0 22 9 10 41 Thielbar 0 23 0 15 2 40 Duffey 0 33 0 5 0 38 Cano 0 36 0 0 0 36 Smith 0 0 4 15 9 28 Duran 0 0 10 12 0 22 Cotton 0 0 0 17 0 17 View full article
  6. Box Score SP: Joe Ryan 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K (103 pitches, 70 strikes (68 strike %)) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (3), Byron Buxton (11) Top 3 or Bottom 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.204), Gio Urshela (.119), Byron Buxton (.081) After a low-scoring game Saturday that was decided by a questionable rule that just won’t go away, the Twins got on the first run on the board against Guardians starter Tristen McKenzie with an RBI single from Max Kepler that scored Luis Arraez. Kepler was able to drive in Arraez because he stole his first base of the season and adding the Twins' season total stolen bases to seven. Clearly a sign of the times. The game remained scoreless through the next two innings thanks to Ryan’s pitching. Ryan cruised his way through the Guardians lineup until the top of the fourth when, with one out, Jose Ramirez hit a solo shot to right-center field tying the game 1-1. Even after the Ramirez homer, Ryan remained in control for the remainder of his start. Ryan had his first start with more than 100 pitches this season and kept his strike percentage at 68 percent, totaling five strikeouts. He also only allowed base runners via hits making Sunday his second start without a walk this season. With the game tied going into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Twins found a way to retake the lead thanks to a two-out solo home run from Gio Urshela. An inning later, the Twins' unofficial captain Byron Buxton added to the lead with his 11th home run of the season making it a 3-1 game. Buxton’s home run was called to be the 1,000th home run ever hit at Target Field by the Twins. However, thanks to research from Twins Dingers on Twitter, the home run was corrected to be the 999th home run by a Twin in Target Field’s history. Twins beat writer for MLB.com, Do Hyoung Park retweeted this finding by Twins Dingers to remind everyone the next home run hit by a Twin at Target Field will be the 1,000th. The Twins bullpen kept the Guardians scoreless in the seventh inning thanks to a perfect inning from Cody Stashak who struck out two of three batters faced. In the eighth inning, Joe Smith did allow one base runner, a Richie Palacios single, but Palacios did not score thanks to the relief effort of Smith and Caleb Theilbar. Emilio Pagan was given the ball for the save in the ninth inning and his third consecutive day with a relief appearance. Pagan had thrown 22 pitches Friday but only nine on Saturday making his availability to come into Sunday’s game for the save acceptable to Rocco Baldelli. Pagan completed the save giving up only one hit. He was helped by an outstanding defensive play at third base from Gio Urshela. The win brings the Twins record to 20-15 through their first 35 games this season and extends their lead over the Guardians for first place in the American League Central to three games. What’s Next? The Twins make their first road trip west this season. On Monday night, they begin another three-game series against the Oakland Athletics. Chris Archer is scheduled to go against Athletics 26-year-old lefty rookie Zach Logue. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Chart WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Stashak 0 46 0 0 13 59 Jax 0 0 50 0 0 50 Pagán 0 0 22 9 10 41 Thielbar 0 23 0 15 2 40 Duffey 0 33 0 5 0 38 Cano 0 36 0 0 0 36 Smith 0 0 4 15 9 28 Duran 0 0 10 12 0 22 Cotton 0 0 0 17 0 17
  7. The Twins faced the Cleveland Guardians and pitcher Shane Bieber for the first time this season. Bieber, was looking for a bounce back from his most-recent start. The Twins were looking to start another winning streak after only winning one of their last five games. But a slow-moving game, strong pitching, and stranded baserunners ended in the Guardians favor as the Twins lost in extra innings. Box Score SP: Dustin Smeltzer: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K (70 pitches, 50 strikes (71%)) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (2) Top 3 WPA: Devin Smeltzer (.133), Jhoan Duran (.128), Gary Sanchez (.102) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Makin’ Moves Following Thursday night's game, the Twins announced that they would be bringing up a pitcher to start Friday's game. The pitching staff has been run through and since Wednesday, the clubhouse has lost five pitchers (two starters and two relievers) with either ailment or injury leaving the bullpen to manage the past few games. There was lots of inquiry and speculation, but several fans were elated to find out that Devin Smeltzer would be returning to Target Field to start against the Cleveland Guardians and Shane Bieber. To make room for Smeltzer, first baseman Miguel Sano was sent to the 60-day Injured List (left knee, torn meniscus). Sano is not expected to make it back to the club until at least July, depending on how rehab goes. Outfielder/first baseman Alex Kirilloff was optioned to St. Paul. Kirilloff has been struggling this season with his recurring wrist injury, and while he sounds optimistic on the recovery and return, his hitting for the season between IL-stints has been .172 over ten games (5-for-29) and only two runs scored. Kirilloff has one remaining option left after this transaction, the hope is that he will get more at-bats and a chance to enhance his swing as his wrist improves. Smeltzer, who lost most of the 2021 season with elbow inflammation eventually was sidelined in June with a herniated disc in his neck. Smeltzer has worked hard to get back into shape to get a chance again to start for the Twins. He had a fantastic spring training performance. Devin Smeltzer has thrown in five games and while he carries a 3.86 ERA the stat doesn't tell the whole story of how his discipline has changed. Smeltzer has seen a total of 88 batters, only allowing nine runs in 21 innings, and has struck out 18 of batters faced. Smeltzer gained muscle and command since his last start with Minnesota, looked like his old self, maybe even better. Most of his major-league starts have been against Cleveland. The lefty had a quick first inning striking out one, Smeltzer was charged with just one run over five innings of work. The bullpen came in to relieve Smeltzer and continued to keep the score low, exercising every arm option they had at their disposal to keep the Guardians from adding a run. Battle of the Bats The Guardians did get on the board early in the second when Owen Miller scored on a Franmil Reyes single to center field, but Smeltzer held the Guardians to one run and only three hits in his five-inning start back with the Twins. In the first three innings for the Twins, Bieber struck out four and worked inside to right-handed hitters making it nearly impossible to hit off of him. The bottom of the third, the Twins loaded the bases with Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, and Gary Sanchez, bringing up Max Kepler with two outs and a full count. Bieber threw a high cutter to strike out Kepler and leave the bases loaded. In the fourth inning, the bats seemed to start waking up. It looked like it was going to turn around when Gio Urshela stepped into the batter's box and hit a home run to center field to get the Twins on the board and tie up the game. The fifth inning was one of the more disappointing ones with bases loaded and nobody out, after just going through the same thing in the previous inning. Urshela, whose prior at-bat was a solo home run, hit a chopper that turned into a double play, followed by Arraez lining out to third, stranding three runners again. The Twins have a knack for leaving players stranded when in scoring position. Royce Lewis attempted to help out the Twins in the sixth inning with two bunt attempts to bring home a run. The Twins lineup doesn’t bunt nearly as much as other teams and for players like Kepler who are constantly hitting into the shift, this writer thinks bunting would be a greater offensive weapon to assist the Twins to more than one-run wins, but clearly tonight it didn't work. The Twins organization doesn't bunt, and for some, laying out a bunt with Royce Lewis, the Twins number one prospect, seemed odd. Bitter End The tenth inning started out with drama after The Twins and Guardians fought through five scoreless innings. Manager Rocco Baldelli got tossed for arguing with the umpires after Andres Gimenez was granted second base after colliding with Jose Miranda (called for interference rounding first base after a hit). To add to the already mounting stress, during all the excitement, the Guardians were able to bring home Ernie Clement, giving the Guardians a 2-1 advantage. As Jharel Cotton worked his way through the rotation, Myles Straw singled into right, scoring Gimenez before closing out the inning. Urshela, who had two RBIs tonight, helped the Twins in their shot in the tenth inning as he was able to beat out an infield single and bring home Gary Sanchez who was posted on second base as the extra-innings runner.. Where there was a spark of hope, it was quickly put out as the tying run was on base was left stranded once again when Nick Gordon struck out to end the game. While it wasn't the way fans or the Twins wanted to end the game, it was intense and exciting and the Twins still have a chance to take the series before heading out on the road. What’s Next? The Twins finish out their series with the Guardians tomorrow at 1:10pm before heading out to Oakland for a three game series followed by a stop by Kansas City to play the Royals. Pitching matchup tomorrow: Sunday 1:10 pm CST: Joe Ryan (3-2, 2.56 ERA) vs RHP Tristan McKenzie (2-2, 2.76 ERA) Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Cotton 58 0 0 0 17 75 Jax 0 0 0 50 0 50 Stashak 0 0 46 0 0 46 Thielbar 3 0 23 0 15 41 Duffey 0 0 33 0 5 38 Cano 0 0 36 0 0 36 Pagán 0 0 0 22 9 31 Duran 0 0 0 10 12 22 Smith 0 0 0 4 15 19 View full article
  8. Minnesota Twins pitching prospect Blayne Enlow struck out six batters and did not issue a walk in 3 2/3 innings for Wichita in his Double-A debut. He recently returned from rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Tonight's video also includes highlights of Devin Smeltzer, Gio Urshela, Spencer Steer, Austin Martin, Sawyer Gipson-Long, Anthony Prato and more.
  9. Minnesota Twins pitching prospect Blayne Enlow struck out six batters and did not issue a walk in 3 2/3 innings for Wichita in his Double-A debut. He recently returned from rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Tonight's video also includes highlights of Devin Smeltzer, Gio Urshela, Spencer Steer, Austin Martin, Sawyer Gipson-Long, Anthony Prato and more. View full video
  10. Box Score SP: Dustin Smeltzer: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K (70 pitches, 50 strikes (71%)) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (2) Top 3 WPA: Devin Smeltzer (.133), Jhoan Duran (.128), Gary Sanchez (.102) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Makin’ Moves Following Thursday night's game, the Twins announced that they would be bringing up a pitcher to start Friday's game. The pitching staff has been run through and since Wednesday, the clubhouse has lost five pitchers (two starters and two relievers) with either ailment or injury leaving the bullpen to manage the past few games. There was lots of inquiry and speculation, but several fans were elated to find out that Devin Smeltzer would be returning to Target Field to start against the Cleveland Guardians and Shane Bieber. To make room for Smeltzer, first baseman Miguel Sano was sent to the 60-day Injured List (left knee, torn meniscus). Sano is not expected to make it back to the club until at least July, depending on how rehab goes. Outfielder/first baseman Alex Kirilloff was optioned to St. Paul. Kirilloff has been struggling this season with his recurring wrist injury, and while he sounds optimistic on the recovery and return, his hitting for the season between IL-stints has been .172 over ten games (5-for-29) and only two runs scored. Kirilloff has one remaining option left after this transaction, the hope is that he will get more at-bats and a chance to enhance his swing as his wrist improves. Smeltzer, who lost most of the 2021 season with elbow inflammation eventually was sidelined in June with a herniated disc in his neck. Smeltzer has worked hard to get back into shape to get a chance again to start for the Twins. He had a fantastic spring training performance. Devin Smeltzer has thrown in five games and while he carries a 3.86 ERA the stat doesn't tell the whole story of how his discipline has changed. Smeltzer has seen a total of 88 batters, only allowing nine runs in 21 innings, and has struck out 18 of batters faced. Smeltzer gained muscle and command since his last start with Minnesota, looked like his old self, maybe even better. Most of his major-league starts have been against Cleveland. The lefty had a quick first inning striking out one, Smeltzer was charged with just one run over five innings of work. The bullpen came in to relieve Smeltzer and continued to keep the score low, exercising every arm option they had at their disposal to keep the Guardians from adding a run. Battle of the Bats The Guardians did get on the board early in the second when Owen Miller scored on a Franmil Reyes single to center field, but Smeltzer held the Guardians to one run and only three hits in his five-inning start back with the Twins. In the first three innings for the Twins, Bieber struck out four and worked inside to right-handed hitters making it nearly impossible to hit off of him. The bottom of the third, the Twins loaded the bases with Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, and Gary Sanchez, bringing up Max Kepler with two outs and a full count. Bieber threw a high cutter to strike out Kepler and leave the bases loaded. In the fourth inning, the bats seemed to start waking up. It looked like it was going to turn around when Gio Urshela stepped into the batter's box and hit a home run to center field to get the Twins on the board and tie up the game. The fifth inning was one of the more disappointing ones with bases loaded and nobody out, after just going through the same thing in the previous inning. Urshela, whose prior at-bat was a solo home run, hit a chopper that turned into a double play, followed by Arraez lining out to third, stranding three runners again. The Twins have a knack for leaving players stranded when in scoring position. Royce Lewis attempted to help out the Twins in the sixth inning with two bunt attempts to bring home a run. The Twins lineup doesn’t bunt nearly as much as other teams and for players like Kepler who are constantly hitting into the shift, this writer thinks bunting would be a greater offensive weapon to assist the Twins to more than one-run wins, but clearly tonight it didn't work. The Twins organization doesn't bunt, and for some, laying out a bunt with Royce Lewis, the Twins number one prospect, seemed odd. Bitter End The tenth inning started out with drama after The Twins and Guardians fought through five scoreless innings. Manager Rocco Baldelli got tossed for arguing with the umpires after Andres Gimenez was granted second base after colliding with Jose Miranda (called for interference rounding first base after a hit). To add to the already mounting stress, during all the excitement, the Guardians were able to bring home Ernie Clement, giving the Guardians a 2-1 advantage. As Jharel Cotton worked his way through the rotation, Myles Straw singled into right, scoring Gimenez before closing out the inning. Urshela, who had two RBIs tonight, helped the Twins in their shot in the tenth inning as he was able to beat out an infield single and bring home Gary Sanchez who was posted on second base as the extra-innings runner.. Where there was a spark of hope, it was quickly put out as the tying run was on base was left stranded once again when Nick Gordon struck out to end the game. While it wasn't the way fans or the Twins wanted to end the game, it was intense and exciting and the Twins still have a chance to take the series before heading out on the road. What’s Next? The Twins finish out their series with the Guardians tomorrow at 1:10pm before heading out to Oakland for a three game series followed by a stop by Kansas City to play the Royals. Pitching matchup tomorrow: Sunday 1:10 pm CST: Joe Ryan (3-2, 2.56 ERA) vs RHP Tristan McKenzie (2-2, 2.76 ERA) Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Cotton 58 0 0 0 17 75 Jax 0 0 0 50 0 50 Stashak 0 0 46 0 0 46 Thielbar 3 0 23 0 15 41 Duffey 0 0 33 0 5 38 Cano 0 0 36 0 0 36 Pagán 0 0 0 22 9 31 Duran 0 0 0 10 12 22 Smith 0 0 0 4 15 19
  11. This offseason, after dealing Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers, Minnesota flipped Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt to the New York Yankees for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. They filled two starting lineup spots with the trade, but there’s yet to be production from either player. In 2019 and 2020 the former Guardians veteran became one of baseball’s best at the hot corner. Gio Urshela posted a .310/.359/.523 slash line and hit 27 homers across 175 games. The Yankees made him a fixture in their lineup and he was seen as a key contributor after taking the position from Miguel Andujar. Urshela went through it for the first time since his breakout last year. After posting a 134 OPS+ in 2019 and 2020, he contributed a below league-average 95 OPS+. Given his dealings with Covid multiple times, as well as suffering injury, it was explainable why the production had dipped. The hope for Minnesota was undoubtedly that a change of scenery and clean bill of health would result in rebounding to where he was at his peak. Now 30-years-old, Urshela is 27 games into his Twins career and the 83 OPS+ is a bottoming out of sorts. He hasn’t dropped to the irrelevance of his time in Cleveland, but at a time when offense is down across the board, he’s finding ways to contribute even less. Urshela is not a hulking slugger by any means, but across nearly 100 plate appearances he has just three extra-base hits and only one homer. If there’s a silver lining for Urshela, it’s that we may just be dealing with a small sample. His expected batting average is 30 points higher at .263 and his xwOBA sits near the 2019 mark at .338. He’s at his career average when it comes to hard-hit rate, and Urshela still has a good process at the plate posting just a 12/9 K/BB. Rocco Baldelli is certainly hoping his third basemen figures it out, otherwise, that could be an avenue for someone like Royce Lewis or Luis Arraez to steal playing time. Behind the dish was never going to be a calling card for Gary Sanchez, regardless of a new change in scenery. He’s a rough backstop, but his bat used to carry him. Coincidentally, Sanchez’s 83 OPS+ is the exact same mark as his trade partner, Urshela. There was a time the Dominican native was competing for Rookie of the Year awards and picking up All-Star game selections. 2019 and his .841 OPS seem like a distant memory at this point, however. The last two seasons in New York equated to a 90 OPS+ for Sanchez, and he’s now dipped well below. Across 80 plate appearances, Sanchez owns a .203/.263/.338 slash line. He is a power producer but has homered only once while tacking on seven doubles. Unlike Urshela, Sanchez’s expected batting average is actually worse than what he’s generated and although the xwOBA is better, it’s insignificant with just an eight-point swing. Sanchez is still hitting with a similar hard-hit rate to when he was at his best in 2019, but he’s bumped the fly all rate up to 53% and halved a very solid 20% line drive rate from that season. Getting too far under the baseball, and being bit by a ball that’s deadened, Sanchez has just a 3.6% HR/FB ratio after seeing a whopping 26.4% ratio in 2019. Although he’s making the most contact of his career, pitchers are also forcing him to chase at a career-worst rate. For Sanchez the bat has to play for there to be any value. He’s been worth -0.3 fWAR because it hasn’t and his time behind the dish will always be flawed. Minnesota doesn’t have other options at catcher and that makes the leash extremely long here. Still, getting him anything more than rotational at-bats becomes unnecessary if this is the production Baldelli can expect. It was a fine move to swap out Josh Donaldson. His place in the clubhouse may not have been ideal, and the move freed up the opportunity to sign Carlos Correa. That said, the Twins can’t afford to have a lineup with two players producing so little offensively. New York has bit Minnesota plenty over the years, and right now it’s happening from within. How long are you willing to wait and find out if these two find it? View full article
  12. In 2019 and 2020 the former Guardians veteran became one of baseball’s best at the hot corner. Gio Urshela posted a .310/.359/.523 slash line and hit 27 homers across 175 games. The Yankees made him a fixture in their lineup and he was seen as a key contributor after taking the position from Miguel Andujar. Urshela went through it for the first time since his breakout last year. After posting a 134 OPS+ in 2019 and 2020, he contributed a below league-average 95 OPS+. Given his dealings with Covid multiple times, as well as suffering injury, it was explainable why the production had dipped. The hope for Minnesota was undoubtedly that a change of scenery and clean bill of health would result in rebounding to where he was at his peak. Now 30-years-old, Urshela is 27 games into his Twins career and the 83 OPS+ is a bottoming out of sorts. He hasn’t dropped to the irrelevance of his time in Cleveland, but at a time when offense is down across the board, he’s finding ways to contribute even less. Urshela is not a hulking slugger by any means, but across nearly 100 plate appearances he has just three extra-base hits and only one homer. If there’s a silver lining for Urshela, it’s that we may just be dealing with a small sample. His expected batting average is 30 points higher at .263 and his xwOBA sits near the 2019 mark at .338. He’s at his career average when it comes to hard-hit rate, and Urshela still has a good process at the plate posting just a 12/9 K/BB. Rocco Baldelli is certainly hoping his third basemen figures it out, otherwise, that could be an avenue for someone like Royce Lewis or Luis Arraez to steal playing time. Behind the dish was never going to be a calling card for Gary Sanchez, regardless of a new change in scenery. He’s a rough backstop, but his bat used to carry him. Coincidentally, Sanchez’s 83 OPS+ is the exact same mark as his trade partner, Urshela. There was a time the Dominican native was competing for Rookie of the Year awards and picking up All-Star game selections. 2019 and his .841 OPS seem like a distant memory at this point, however. The last two seasons in New York equated to a 90 OPS+ for Sanchez, and he’s now dipped well below. Across 80 plate appearances, Sanchez owns a .203/.263/.338 slash line. He is a power producer but has homered only once while tacking on seven doubles. Unlike Urshela, Sanchez’s expected batting average is actually worse than what he’s generated and although the xwOBA is better, it’s insignificant with just an eight-point swing. Sanchez is still hitting with a similar hard-hit rate to when he was at his best in 2019, but he’s bumped the fly all rate up to 53% and halved a very solid 20% line drive rate from that season. Getting too far under the baseball, and being bit by a ball that’s deadened, Sanchez has just a 3.6% HR/FB ratio after seeing a whopping 26.4% ratio in 2019. Although he’s making the most contact of his career, pitchers are also forcing him to chase at a career-worst rate. For Sanchez the bat has to play for there to be any value. He’s been worth -0.3 fWAR because it hasn’t and his time behind the dish will always be flawed. Minnesota doesn’t have other options at catcher and that makes the leash extremely long here. Still, getting him anything more than rotational at-bats becomes unnecessary if this is the production Baldelli can expect. It was a fine move to swap out Josh Donaldson. His place in the clubhouse may not have been ideal, and the move freed up the opportunity to sign Carlos Correa. That said, the Twins can’t afford to have a lineup with two players producing so little offensively. New York has bit Minnesota plenty over the years, and right now it’s happening from within. How long are you willing to wait and find out if these two find it?
  13. The melancholy Minnesota sports fans reeling from Timberwolves and Wild losses earlier in the evening who decided to flip their TVs over to catch the ending of the Twins game were treated to one of the most exciting albeit baffling endings of a game seen in a long time. Hey, a win is a win, right? Here are 3 of my Takeaways from yesterday's wild ending. 1. Twins are in control of the division and this is the time to pull away With two walk-off wins in a row, the bats heating up for players like Max Kepler and (hopefully) Miguel Sanó, Byron Buxton back in the lineup and performing as clutch as ever, and a Twins starting rotation that has an AL-best ERA of 2.60, the Twins appear to be firmly in control of the division and stand to continue to gain ground, especially considering what a mess top rival Chicago White Sox are in. The White Sox are on an 8-game losing streak, including the last 7 losses against 3 division opponents, are plagued by a host of injuries to impact players like Liam Hendriks, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jimenez, and have continued to commit a circus of errors in the field. The Sox lead all the MLB in errors with 20. The Twins, by comparison, have 8. If the Twins can sweep the Detroit Tigers, march into the AL East and play competitively vs the middle-of-the-division Tampa Bay Rays and the bottom-of-the-division Baltimore Orioles, they should hopefully continue to gain some ground. The Twins will go head-to-head with the current second place Cleveland Guardians on May 13-15 when the Twins host them for a 3-game series. I have no doubt that the White Sox will end up being fine in the end and will start wracking up some wins once they get some key players back and can calm things down in the field, but until then, it is important that the Twins put as much ground between the teams as possible. The takeaway here is that the Twins are on a 5-game winning streak, the momentum is with them, and the team is having fun again. That's worth a lot. 2. Miguel Sanó is starting to arrive Despite Sanó having what some seasoned Twins fans will regard as his perennial start-of-season slump, it appears that he might be starting to break out of it. This season, it has been apparent that the Twins have decided to stick with him and “play him into the ground,” so to speak, in hopes that he will work through his slow start at the plate. So far this season, Sanó has played in 16/17 games and has not been pinch hit for, even in situations like Sunday April 24's series finale vs the White Sox in which some fans were screaming for Carlos Correa to pinch-hit for him in a bottom of the 10th inning, down by 1, do-or-die situation. For those who have been in the "just stick with him" camp rather than the "send him down to St. Paul to figure things out" boat, it is gratifying to see him being to experience some degree of success at the plate, even though it has mostly continued to be in the form of singles here and there. His at-bats are becoming better quality, his strikeouts are becoming more infrequent (though, as a hitter he is always a high strikeout hitter, even in good times), and his statistics and specifically plate discipline (chase rate and walk percentage) mirror the profile of a consistent hitter who so far has just had some bad luck. Twins Daily's own Nick Nelson had a great tweet illustrating this fact. As we know, Sanó did not get his first hit until the 7th game of the season at Boston, and his batting average is up to a modest .096, but he has quite the hole to climb out of, and it will take some time before his batting average reflects improvement. Baby steps. But just by watching him (everyone's favorite highly scientific "eye test") he is clearly not as lost at the plate or as frustrated as he was to start the season. When he gets ahold of the ball, he is mashing it. Take a look at that exit velocity- the 9th highest exit velocity in the whole MLB. Of note, Sanó has been nothing but an asset at first base as well. Yes, Tuesday's 9th inning hit could have almost been an error, and his baserunning on the play could have been disastrous. No, the Sanó of a few weeks ago wouldn't have had that hit. The takeaway: Sanó was the hero of yesterday's game and big plays like this will hopefully inspire the confidence he needs to continue to return to form. Stick with him a little longer and he's going to be one of the best power hitters in MLB. 3. We probably need to work on our baserunning a bit It is no question that yesterday's 9th inning walk-off was quite fortunate and arguably even lucky for the Twins. When Sanó singled on a line drive to right field, Trevor Larnach held at third, Gio Urshela kept running when Sanó continued to second, and we all collectively screamed at our TVs. Tigers catcher Eric Haase threw the ball over third base into left field (airmailed it, we would have called that in softball) allowing two runners to score and the Twins received a happy reprieve. That play could have easily turned into a double play, and if Kepler had not struck out before Sanó/Haase did not overthrow it, that play feasibly could have feasibly been a triple play. Rewatching that play with the camera focused on Sanó, it appears his eyes are solely fixed on the ball and he isn't paying attention to what the other baserunners are doing. Somewhat relatedly, the Twins also have had three runners thrown out at home so far, including a memorable and unfortunate play vs the Mariners when Sanó was sent home and was ultimately thrown out by approximately a mile despite the base paths being only 90 feet. The Twins have been caught stealing three times this year, which appears to be about league average. Yesterday worked out in the team's favor, other times might not. As the Metrodome light-up board once said, "Walks Will Haunt," and bad baserunning undoubtably will too. Do you have any other takeaways from this memorable game? Leave a COMMENT below. View full article
  14. 1. Twins are in control of the division and this is the time to pull away With two walk-off wins in a row, the bats heating up for players like Max Kepler and (hopefully) Miguel Sanó, Byron Buxton back in the lineup and performing as clutch as ever, and a Twins starting rotation that has an AL-best ERA of 2.60, the Twins appear to be firmly in control of the division and stand to continue to gain ground, especially considering what a mess top rival Chicago White Sox are in. The White Sox are on an 8-game losing streak, including the last 7 losses against 3 division opponents, are plagued by a host of injuries to impact players like Liam Hendriks, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jimenez, and have continued to commit a circus of errors in the field. The Sox lead all the MLB in errors with 20. The Twins, by comparison, have 8. If the Twins can sweep the Detroit Tigers, march into the AL East and play competitively vs the middle-of-the-division Tampa Bay Rays and the bottom-of-the-division Baltimore Orioles, they should hopefully continue to gain some ground. The Twins will go head-to-head with the current second place Cleveland Guardians on May 13-15 when the Twins host them for a 3-game series. I have no doubt that the White Sox will end up being fine in the end and will start wracking up some wins once they get some key players back and can calm things down in the field, but until then, it is important that the Twins put as much ground between the teams as possible. The takeaway here is that the Twins are on a 5-game winning streak, the momentum is with them, and the team is having fun again. That's worth a lot. 2. Miguel Sanó is starting to arrive Despite Sanó having what some seasoned Twins fans will regard as his perennial start-of-season slump, it appears that he might be starting to break out of it. This season, it has been apparent that the Twins have decided to stick with him and “play him into the ground,” so to speak, in hopes that he will work through his slow start at the plate. So far this season, Sanó has played in 16/17 games and has not been pinch hit for, even in situations like Sunday April 24's series finale vs the White Sox in which some fans were screaming for Carlos Correa to pinch-hit for him in a bottom of the 10th inning, down by 1, do-or-die situation. For those who have been in the "just stick with him" camp rather than the "send him down to St. Paul to figure things out" boat, it is gratifying to see him being to experience some degree of success at the plate, even though it has mostly continued to be in the form of singles here and there. His at-bats are becoming better quality, his strikeouts are becoming more infrequent (though, as a hitter he is always a high strikeout hitter, even in good times), and his statistics and specifically plate discipline (chase rate and walk percentage) mirror the profile of a consistent hitter who so far has just had some bad luck. Twins Daily's own Nick Nelson had a great tweet illustrating this fact. As we know, Sanó did not get his first hit until the 7th game of the season at Boston, and his batting average is up to a modest .096, but he has quite the hole to climb out of, and it will take some time before his batting average reflects improvement. Baby steps. But just by watching him (everyone's favorite highly scientific "eye test") he is clearly not as lost at the plate or as frustrated as he was to start the season. When he gets ahold of the ball, he is mashing it. Take a look at that exit velocity- the 9th highest exit velocity in the whole MLB. Of note, Sanó has been nothing but an asset at first base as well. Yes, Tuesday's 9th inning hit could have almost been an error, and his baserunning on the play could have been disastrous. No, the Sanó of a few weeks ago wouldn't have had that hit. The takeaway: Sanó was the hero of yesterday's game and big plays like this will hopefully inspire the confidence he needs to continue to return to form. Stick with him a little longer and he's going to be one of the best power hitters in MLB. 3. We probably need to work on our baserunning a bit It is no question that yesterday's 9th inning walk-off was quite fortunate and arguably even lucky for the Twins. When Sanó singled on a line drive to right field, Trevor Larnach held at third, Gio Urshela kept running when Sanó continued to second, and we all collectively screamed at our TVs. Tigers catcher Eric Haase threw the ball over third base into left field (airmailed it, we would have called that in softball) allowing two runners to score and the Twins received a happy reprieve. That play could have easily turned into a double play, and if Kepler had not struck out before Sanó/Haase did not overthrow it, that play feasibly could have feasibly been a triple play. Rewatching that play with the camera focused on Sanó, it appears his eyes are solely fixed on the ball and he isn't paying attention to what the other baserunners are doing. Somewhat relatedly, the Twins also have had three runners thrown out at home so far, including a memorable and unfortunate play vs the Mariners when Sanó was sent home and was ultimately thrown out by approximately a mile despite the base paths being only 90 feet. The Twins have been caught stealing three times this year, which appears to be about league average. Yesterday worked out in the team's favor, other times might not. As the Metrodome light-up board once said, "Walks Will Haunt," and bad baserunning undoubtably will too. Do you have any other takeaways from this memorable game? Leave a COMMENT below.
  15. Over the weekend, Gio Urshela played his first game for the Minnesota Twins. After being acquired alongside Gary Sanchez in a deal with the New York Yankees, Minnesota pivoted towards a fresh face at the hot corner. Under team control through 2023, he could present a stabilizing force for the Twins. It was never going to make sense for Minnesota’s front office to push Josh Donaldson out solely to reduce payroll. Despite his flaws, he was still relatively healthy last season and posted good numbers. Heeding the advice of avoiding a salary dump, the Twins netted Urshela in exchange. Coming off a down 2021, it’s fair to temper expectations, but there’s plenty of reason to be excited. There was never any real belief that Urshela had somehow lost it last season. He dealt with Covid and injury despite still playing over 100 games. However, his .720 OPS was well off the .881 mark that saw him find a home in New York. Brought into a clubhouse where enjoyment seems high, Urshela creating a home with the Twins wouldn’t be surprising. Before Opening Day, Byron Buxton called the atmosphere in the clubhouse “night and day” different as opposed to last season. That may not be directly tied to Donaldson, but there’s no shortage of instances where he’s been seen as someone who could rub people the wrong way. Urshela taking over at the same position gives a reason to compare numbers, and his production may have been lost in the shuffle during the opening weekend. Ceding paying time to Luis Arraez against righties, Urshela drew two starts and had seven plate appearances. He walked twice while also picking up his first blast at Target Field. Even with a friendlier home field last season, Urshela didn’t go yard until his sixth game of the season in 2021. Obviously, there isn’t much to draw from such a small sample size, but it stands to reason that Urshela may see the same bounceback as the guy he was dealt with. Sanchez lifted the Twins in a big way providing a grand slam during their first win, and Urshela settling into a different market may be a significant narrative to come out of this season as well. Minnesota certainly has prospects that could push for Urshela’s job if he struggles, but seeing the former Cleveland third basemen contribute so quickly was exciting, to say the least. While Urshela is already 30-years-old, he was a late bloomer and really didn’t come on until his age-27 season. He’s not going to be a franchise cornerstone by any means, but you have to be excited about the opportunity to create consistency with him. Miguel Sano could never hold the hot corner down, and Minnesota fans never knew when Donaldson would wind up on the Injured List. Consistency is something Urshela has shown previously, and if the maladies can stay behind him, seeing him re-establish himself would be great news for Rocco Baldelli’s lineup. It’s too early to draw conclusions, but the opening impression has been a good one. Urshela will continue to mix spots with Arraez, but finding regular opportunity shouldn't be hard if the Twins unlock the hitter that destroyed every arm he faced just a couple of seasons ago. View full article
  16. Luis Arraez entered the season as a bench bat, but it has to be hard to keep his name out of the line-up. So, does Luis Arraez deserve a full-time starting role? Arraez has quickly become a fan favorite during his four seasons as a big leaguer. His energy at the plate and ability to spit at pitches on the edges of the strike zone make him exciting for even casual fans. It's hard to believe he just turned 25-years-old over the weekend. Fans would be thrilled to have him take over a starting role, but there may be a method to the team's madness. On the team's depth chart, Arraez is the backup defender at second base, third base, and designated hitter. He's played outfield in the past, but the team spoke about not using him in the outfield this spring. His defensive starts have come at third base this season, which is his best defensive position. Last season, he finished fifth among the AL's third basemen according to SABR's Defensive Index. Minnesota may have a natural platoon at third base with Arraez and recently-acquired Gio Urshela. For his career, Arraez, a left-handed hitter, has hit .332/.380/.441 (.820) versus right-handed pitching. His platoon splits are significantly different as his OPS is 152 points higher when facing lefties. Urshela, a right-handed hitter, doesn't have the extreme splits as Arraez, but his OPS is 39 points higher against left-handed pitchers. There's a scenario where the Twins can continue to rotate through these two players, allowing Arraez to get regular at-bats. Arraez's bat is also valuable in a pinch-hitting role as he is 5-for-15 (.333 BA) in his career. His MLB debut was as a pinch hitter, and he has already been used as a pinch hitter this season. "His special skills, I think, are the same skills that make him a good hitter in general," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "… His feel in the box as a hitter, his ability to see the ball, his hand-eye coordination. He's not going up there, generally ever, swinging and missing, almost ever. He's putting good swings on the ball always. That's kind of who he is." An argument can also be made for giving Arraez regular time off. He has missed time with knee issues throughout his career, including stints on the IL last season. He has only played more than 120 games in one season in his big-league career. His career-high for games played is 146 games during the 2019 season, when he played 92 MLB games and 54 games in the minors. Rocco Baldelli has advocated for giving players regular rest during his tenure, so giving Arraez time off may be best for his problematic knees. Opportunities may arise during the season for Arraez to take on a more regular role. One injury to a regular starter may cause the team to need Arraez to be a starter. Many of the team's top prospects at Triple-A are infielders, so it seems likely that Jose Miranda and Royce Lewis will make their debuts in 2022. If a player gets injured, the Twins may keep Arraez in his current role and promote a top prospect to become the everyday starter. Arraez provides value to the Twins no matter his role on the team. It's critical for the team to keep him healthy this season, and that might mean keeping him out of the line-up when there is a tough left-handed pitcher on the mound. Arraez provides a spark to the team, but he has to be healthy, and that is on the field less than some fans would like him to be. Do you think Arraez has earned a starting role? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  17. Arraez has quickly become a fan favorite during his four seasons as a big leaguer. His energy at the plate and ability to spit at pitches on the edges of the strike zone make him exciting for even casual fans. It's hard to believe he just turned 25-years-old over the weekend. Fans would be thrilled to have him take over a starting role, but there may be a method to the team's madness. On the team's depth chart, Arraez is the backup defender at second base, third base, and designated hitter. He's played outfield in the past, but the team spoke about not using him in the outfield this spring. His defensive starts have come at third base this season, which is his best defensive position. Last season, he finished fifth among the AL's third basemen according to SABR's Defensive Index. Minnesota may have a natural platoon at third base with Arraez and recently-acquired Gio Urshela. For his career, Arraez, a left-handed hitter, has hit .332/.380/.441 (.820) versus right-handed pitching. His platoon splits are significantly different as his OPS is 152 points higher when facing lefties. Urshela, a right-handed hitter, doesn't have the extreme splits as Arraez, but his OPS is 39 points higher against left-handed pitchers. There's a scenario where the Twins can continue to rotate through these two players, allowing Arraez to get regular at-bats. Arraez's bat is also valuable in a pinch-hitting role as he is 5-for-15 (.333 BA) in his career. His MLB debut was as a pinch hitter, and he has already been used as a pinch hitter this season. "His special skills, I think, are the same skills that make him a good hitter in general," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "… His feel in the box as a hitter, his ability to see the ball, his hand-eye coordination. He's not going up there, generally ever, swinging and missing, almost ever. He's putting good swings on the ball always. That's kind of who he is." An argument can also be made for giving Arraez regular time off. He has missed time with knee issues throughout his career, including stints on the IL last season. He has only played more than 120 games in one season in his big-league career. His career-high for games played is 146 games during the 2019 season, when he played 92 MLB games and 54 games in the minors. Rocco Baldelli has advocated for giving players regular rest during his tenure, so giving Arraez time off may be best for his problematic knees. Opportunities may arise during the season for Arraez to take on a more regular role. One injury to a regular starter may cause the team to need Arraez to be a starter. Many of the team's top prospects at Triple-A are infielders, so it seems likely that Jose Miranda and Royce Lewis will make their debuts in 2022. If a player gets injured, the Twins may keep Arraez in his current role and promote a top prospect to become the everyday starter. Arraez provides value to the Twins no matter his role on the team. It's critical for the team to keep him healthy this season, and that might mean keeping him out of the line-up when there is a tough left-handed pitcher on the mound. Arraez provides a spark to the team, but he has to be healthy, and that is on the field less than some fans would like him to be. Do you think Arraez has earned a starting role? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  18. It was never going to make sense for Minnesota’s front office to push Josh Donaldson out solely to reduce payroll. Despite his flaws, he was still relatively healthy last season and posted good numbers. Heeding the advice of avoiding a salary dump, the Twins netted Urshela in exchange. Coming off a down 2021, it’s fair to temper expectations, but there’s plenty of reason to be excited. There was never any real belief that Urshela had somehow lost it last season. He dealt with Covid and injury despite still playing over 100 games. However, his .720 OPS was well off the .881 mark that saw him find a home in New York. Brought into a clubhouse where enjoyment seems high, Urshela creating a home with the Twins wouldn’t be surprising. Before Opening Day, Byron Buxton called the atmosphere in the clubhouse “night and day” different as opposed to last season. That may not be directly tied to Donaldson, but there’s no shortage of instances where he’s been seen as someone who could rub people the wrong way. Urshela taking over at the same position gives a reason to compare numbers, and his production may have been lost in the shuffle during the opening weekend. Ceding paying time to Luis Arraez against righties, Urshela drew two starts and had seven plate appearances. He walked twice while also picking up his first blast at Target Field. Even with a friendlier home field last season, Urshela didn’t go yard until his sixth game of the season in 2021. Obviously, there isn’t much to draw from such a small sample size, but it stands to reason that Urshela may see the same bounceback as the guy he was dealt with. Sanchez lifted the Twins in a big way providing a grand slam during their first win, and Urshela settling into a different market may be a significant narrative to come out of this season as well. Minnesota certainly has prospects that could push for Urshela’s job if he struggles, but seeing the former Cleveland third basemen contribute so quickly was exciting, to say the least. While Urshela is already 30-years-old, he was a late bloomer and really didn’t come on until his age-27 season. He’s not going to be a franchise cornerstone by any means, but you have to be excited about the opportunity to create consistency with him. Miguel Sano could never hold the hot corner down, and Minnesota fans never knew when Donaldson would wind up on the Injured List. Consistency is something Urshela has shown previously, and if the maladies can stay behind him, seeing him re-establish himself would be great news for Rocco Baldelli’s lineup. It’s too early to draw conclusions, but the opening impression has been a good one. Urshela will continue to mix spots with Arraez, but finding regular opportunity shouldn't be hard if the Twins unlock the hitter that destroyed every arm he faced just a couple of seasons ago.
  19. And you thought Spring Training stats were pointless. However, looking back on some of MLB’s 2021 Opening Day overreactions, the future was painted pretty clearly despite the non-existent sample size. If not, you’ll have some great ammo on this humble writer come September. It’s a win-win for all, minus the Twins today. Stop losing sleep over pitching Out of the 16 pitchers on the roster, only three appeared on last season’s Opening Day roster (Caleb Thielbar, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala). This reformation came quietly, with the Twins choosing to promote from within and to sign smaller names in larger quantities. The biggest changes came from trades, which have already reaped some benefits (@ Twins legend, Gio Urshela). This is the most pitchers that Minnesota has carried on their roster in the past five years, with the Twins opting to add exclusively pitching to their expanded roster. The Twins learned the hard way last season that quantity can override quality. This new approach prevents a single point of failure, such as when the Twins were forced to consistently use Alex Colomé after the mass exodus in the bullpen. It doesn’t hurt that the Twins supplemented quantity without compromising quality. Jhoan Duran’s performance made fans forget about Brusdar Graterol and Taylor Rogers. Jorge Alcala is coming into his own, putting away the Mariners in 13 pitches. Going into tomorrow, the Twins have eight completely fresh bullpen arms, which is equal to the total number of pitchers in the bullpen last season. The pitching may not be the best in the AL Central, but the Twins have taken the necessary steps to prevent a nuclear meltdown. Alex Kirilloff will lead the team in strikeouts This is not necessarily a bad thing, with Shohei Ohtani, Randy Arozarena, and Salvador Perez appearing collectively in the top 10 strikeout leaderboard last season. The Twins’ strikeout leader in Miguel Sanó struck out a career-high 185 times but also walked a career-high 59 times last season. He continues to trend in this direction. Gary Sánchez lived a very similar narrative in New York. However, the young rookie has the most to prove in this group. He was on a hot streak before a season-ending injury last year, with some doubting his impact on the team post-injury. Alex Kirilloff wants to be in the elite class of the Buxtons and Correas of the world, and he has the talent to back it up. There is no doubt that Kirilloff will swing for the fences if given the opportunity. Joe Ryan is the real deal The bats were quiet, but Joe Ryan had a good outing in his first Opening Day start and sixth start overall against a much improved, playoff-hungry Seattle Mariners team. Even though his one mistake to Mitch Haniger cost the game, he worked himself out of every other jam. Outside of pitch count, Ryan’s stats today don’t fall too far behind Robbie Ray’s, with Ray collecting one more strikeout. However, Ryan’s composure falls in the footsteps of the Cy Young winner. One of Ray’s biggest assets is his ability to regain control after a mistake on the mound. On paper, Ryan had the worst start of his career, but his ability to minimize damage and regain control are all signs of a future ace like Ray. Today, Ryan showed maturity in his experience beyond his years. The Front Office (probably) knew what they were doing Although it would’ve been nice to have Mitch Garver or Josh Donaldson’s bat in the lineup today, things have shaken out decently thus far. Gio Urshela was the hero of the game, and Carlos Correa was in mid-season form. Promoting Jhoan Duran has given fans someone exciting to root for. As mentioned above, the brand new pitching staff looks to be an improvement from last season. Even though the season is long and many things can still go wrong, the Front Office had done a passable job of addressing some of the biggest concerns from last year. As Penny Lane once said, “it’s all happening.” …and Jose Berríos getting pulled in the first inning didn’t hurt this argument. Fan-favorite Frankie Montas didn’t fare too well either… View full article
  20. Stop losing sleep over pitching Out of the 16 pitchers on the roster, only three appeared on last season’s Opening Day roster (Caleb Thielbar, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala). This reformation came quietly, with the Twins choosing to promote from within and to sign smaller names in larger quantities. The biggest changes came from trades, which have already reaped some benefits (@ Twins legend, Gio Urshela). This is the most pitchers that Minnesota has carried on their roster in the past five years, with the Twins opting to add exclusively pitching to their expanded roster. The Twins learned the hard way last season that quantity can override quality. This new approach prevents a single point of failure, such as when the Twins were forced to consistently use Alex Colomé after the mass exodus in the bullpen. It doesn’t hurt that the Twins supplemented quantity without compromising quality. Jhoan Duran’s performance made fans forget about Brusdar Graterol and Taylor Rogers. Jorge Alcala is coming into his own, putting away the Mariners in 13 pitches. Going into tomorrow, the Twins have eight completely fresh bullpen arms, which is equal to the total number of pitchers in the bullpen last season. The pitching may not be the best in the AL Central, but the Twins have taken the necessary steps to prevent a nuclear meltdown. Alex Kirilloff will lead the team in strikeouts This is not necessarily a bad thing, with Shohei Ohtani, Randy Arozarena, and Salvador Perez appearing collectively in the top 10 strikeout leaderboard last season. The Twins’ strikeout leader in Miguel Sanó struck out a career-high 185 times but also walked a career-high 59 times last season. He continues to trend in this direction. Gary Sánchez lived a very similar narrative in New York. However, the young rookie has the most to prove in this group. He was on a hot streak before a season-ending injury last year, with some doubting his impact on the team post-injury. Alex Kirilloff wants to be in the elite class of the Buxtons and Correas of the world, and he has the talent to back it up. There is no doubt that Kirilloff will swing for the fences if given the opportunity. Joe Ryan is the real deal The bats were quiet, but Joe Ryan had a good outing in his first Opening Day start and sixth start overall against a much improved, playoff-hungry Seattle Mariners team. Even though his one mistake to Mitch Haniger cost the game, he worked himself out of every other jam. Outside of pitch count, Ryan’s stats today don’t fall too far behind Robbie Ray’s, with Ray collecting one more strikeout. However, Ryan’s composure falls in the footsteps of the Cy Young winner. One of Ray’s biggest assets is his ability to regain control after a mistake on the mound. On paper, Ryan had the worst start of his career, but his ability to minimize damage and regain control are all signs of a future ace like Ray. Today, Ryan showed maturity in his experience beyond his years. The Front Office (probably) knew what they were doing Although it would’ve been nice to have Mitch Garver or Josh Donaldson’s bat in the lineup today, things have shaken out decently thus far. Gio Urshela was the hero of the game, and Carlos Correa was in mid-season form. Promoting Jhoan Duran has given fans someone exciting to root for. As mentioned above, the brand new pitching staff looks to be an improvement from last season. Even though the season is long and many things can still go wrong, the Front Office had done a passable job of addressing some of the biggest concerns from last year. As Penny Lane once said, “it’s all happening.” …and Jose Berríos getting pulled in the first inning didn’t hurt this argument. Fan-favorite Frankie Montas didn’t fare too well either…
  21. In 2019 and 2020, Gio Urshela was an offensive force for the Yankees. What does he offer the Twins at his best and his worst? What happened to his offense? Amid a maelstrom of often bizarre off-season moves, the Twins acquired Gio Urshela and much-maligned ex-wunderkind Gary Sanchez from the New York Yankees in exchange for Josh Donaldson (and his hefty contract), Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and backup backstop Ben Rortvedt. Of the incoming contingent from the Bronx, much of the initial attention has been leveled at Sanchez. The formerly prodigious, terse slugger was symbolically banished by Yankees fans long before being sent to Minnesota. There has been much less attention geared towards Urshela, himself seeking a return to prominence in pastures new. The casual throwaway line summarizing the Colombian’s place in this trade is simply ‘the Twins just downgraded at third base.’ On the most basic level, that’s true. Under the surface, however, Urshela and Donaldson aren’t worlds apart in recent seasons. In the last two seasons, Donaldson has accumulated 3.1 fWAR, Urshela 2.6. Go back a third season, and Donaldson leads 8.0 to 6.7. Urshela is a good player with a recent history of being a very good player. With this in mind, he deserves a more thorough examination of his talents than he has received thus far from Twins territory. So what does Urshela being to the table at his best and his worst? What’s left to work on in 2022? The Ceiling Originally signed by Cleveland as a free agent in 2008, Urshela spent time in the Guardians and Blue Jays organizations until he found his way to New York in 2018. That’s when Gio turned from nothing into something. In 2019, his first full season with the Yankees, Urshela accumulated 3.1 fWAR and managed a 132 wRC+. Urshela showed a particular propensity for hitting off-speed and breaking pitches, accumulating 12 runs of additional value against changeups and curveballs that season. The shortened 2020 season was more of the same, when Urshela returned an even better 133 wRC+, and would have accumulated 4.3 fWAR over a full 162 game season. The Colombian’s peripherals improved across the board, as he finished in the 86th percentile in MLB for average exit velocity and in the 98th percentile for xBA. The Floor Then 2021 happened. Urshela’s offense bottomed out last season. He took a significant tumble in every basic and advanced metric you would care to name. Most strikingly, Urshela’s xBA fell from .314 in 2020, to just .252 in 2021. Many of the advanced metrics showed Urshela was still hitting the ball hard. His exit velocities and the frequency with which he barreled the ball were in line with his numbers from 2019 and 2020, so where did the offense go? The most notable difference in Gio Urshela in 2021 was an inability to elevate the ball. Urshela’s average launch angle fluctuated from averaging 12.7 degrees during his outstanding 2019 and 2020 campaigns to just 7.5 degrees in 2021. The number of line drives he hit fell and the number of ground balls he hit increased significantly (around 8% on the season, equivalent to approximately 25-35 additional ground balls). To better understand this, I sought out some more expert advice. Matt Lisle, a hitting coach with years of MLB and college experience, offered this: ‘there are so many things that can contribute to that, the most common issue is just attack angle’. Lisle was quick to point out that he hadn’t studied Urshela’s swing directly, but let’s dig into ‘attack angle’ in more depth. Simply, attack angle is the angle of the bat’s path at impact relative to horizontal. Lisle also offered a useful graphic to demonstrate visually. While it’s no sure thing that Urshela’s attack angle is the root of his offensive struggles in 2021, it’s clear that elevating the ball is a critical next step if he is to return to his stellar offensive output from 2019 and 2020. Fielding and Financial Versatility While not an elite defender, Urshela also offers defensive versatility. In 2020 (his best season) he managed -1 OAA (outs above average) at third base, compared to the 1 OAA offered by Donaldson that season. Urshela’s defense has fluctuated in its consistency with his hitting in his seasons in the majors, but he won't be a defensive detractor. Urshela offers one more boon to the Twins, team control. Urshela is in his penultimate year of arbitration in 2022, being paid $6.5 million. His cost will increase in 2023 to around $9 million, not a huge number for a player who will likely be worth approximately 2.0 fWAR in 2022 and a similar number in 2023. While it’s likely Urshela is simply keeping the hot corner warm until the Twins deem Jose Miranda ready to takeover as everyday third-baseman, his presence provides a solid offensive and defensive floor at the position and the possibility he could rediscover the magic of 2019 and 2020. View full article
  22. Amid a maelstrom of often bizarre off-season moves, the Twins acquired Gio Urshela and much-maligned ex-wunderkind Gary Sanchez from the New York Yankees in exchange for Josh Donaldson (and his hefty contract), Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and backup backstop Ben Rortvedt. Of the incoming contingent from the Bronx, much of the initial attention has been leveled at Sanchez. The formerly prodigious, terse slugger was symbolically banished by Yankees fans long before being sent to Minnesota. There has been much less attention geared towards Urshela, himself seeking a return to prominence in pastures new. The casual throwaway line summarizing the Colombian’s place in this trade is simply ‘the Twins just downgraded at third base.’ On the most basic level, that’s true. Under the surface, however, Urshela and Donaldson aren’t worlds apart in recent seasons. In the last two seasons, Donaldson has accumulated 3.1 fWAR, Urshela 2.6. Go back a third season, and Donaldson leads 8.0 to 6.7. Urshela is a good player with a recent history of being a very good player. With this in mind, he deserves a more thorough examination of his talents than he has received thus far from Twins territory. So what does Urshela being to the table at his best and his worst? What’s left to work on in 2022? The Ceiling Originally signed by Cleveland as a free agent in 2008, Urshela spent time in the Guardians and Blue Jays organizations until he found his way to New York in 2018. That’s when Gio turned from nothing into something. In 2019, his first full season with the Yankees, Urshela accumulated 3.1 fWAR and managed a 132 wRC+. Urshela showed a particular propensity for hitting off-speed and breaking pitches, accumulating 12 runs of additional value against changeups and curveballs that season. The shortened 2020 season was more of the same, when Urshela returned an even better 133 wRC+, and would have accumulated 4.3 fWAR over a full 162 game season. The Colombian’s peripherals improved across the board, as he finished in the 86th percentile in MLB for average exit velocity and in the 98th percentile for xBA. The Floor Then 2021 happened. Urshela’s offense bottomed out last season. He took a significant tumble in every basic and advanced metric you would care to name. Most strikingly, Urshela’s xBA fell from .314 in 2020, to just .252 in 2021. Many of the advanced metrics showed Urshela was still hitting the ball hard. His exit velocities and the frequency with which he barreled the ball were in line with his numbers from 2019 and 2020, so where did the offense go? The most notable difference in Gio Urshela in 2021 was an inability to elevate the ball. Urshela’s average launch angle fluctuated from averaging 12.7 degrees during his outstanding 2019 and 2020 campaigns to just 7.5 degrees in 2021. The number of line drives he hit fell and the number of ground balls he hit increased significantly (around 8% on the season, equivalent to approximately 25-35 additional ground balls). To better understand this, I sought out some more expert advice. Matt Lisle, a hitting coach with years of MLB and college experience, offered this: ‘there are so many things that can contribute to that, the most common issue is just attack angle’. Lisle was quick to point out that he hadn’t studied Urshela’s swing directly, but let’s dig into ‘attack angle’ in more depth. Simply, attack angle is the angle of the bat’s path at impact relative to horizontal. Lisle also offered a useful graphic to demonstrate visually. While it’s no sure thing that Urshela’s attack angle is the root of his offensive struggles in 2021, it’s clear that elevating the ball is a critical next step if he is to return to his stellar offensive output from 2019 and 2020. Fielding and Financial Versatility While not an elite defender, Urshela also offers defensive versatility. In 2020 (his best season) he managed -1 OAA (outs above average) at third base, compared to the 1 OAA offered by Donaldson that season. Urshela’s defense has fluctuated in its consistency with his hitting in his seasons in the majors, but he won't be a defensive detractor. Urshela offers one more boon to the Twins, team control. Urshela is in his penultimate year of arbitration in 2022, being paid $6.5 million. His cost will increase in 2023 to around $9 million, not a huge number for a player who will likely be worth approximately 2.0 fWAR in 2022 and a similar number in 2023. While it’s likely Urshela is simply keeping the hot corner warm until the Twins deem Jose Miranda ready to takeover as everyday third-baseman, his presence provides a solid offensive and defensive floor at the position and the possibility he could rediscover the magic of 2019 and 2020.
  23. The Minnesota Twins are now just a week from Opening Day, and while payroll flexibility remains, the reality is the runway is basically shut down. The bodies in camp are the ones to choose from going north. So, how did Derek Falvey and Thad Levine do? Coming into the offseason and lockout notwithstanding, the focus for the Twins had to be on adding pitching. The rotation was without its top two starters from last season, and middle-man Michael Pineda was also gone. The lineup needed a shortstop with Andrelton Simmons hitting the open market, and the lineup was likely to have a few new faces. Before giving out a grade, let’s look at what took place. Who Minnesota Lost this Offseason: Michael Pineda, Andrelton Simmons, Mitch Garver, Josh Donaldson, Ben Rortvedt, Chase Petty Who Minnesota Gained this Offseason: Carlos Correa, Dylan Bundy, Joe Smith, Chris Archer, Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela It’s an odd offseason when extending your best player to a seven-year, $100 million deal isn’t the top move, but that’s where we are. Minnesota paid the man and locked Byron Buxton up into the foreseeable future. He represents one of the best talents in baseball when healthy, and keeping him was always going to be a priority. Buxton is betting on himself with an incentive-laden deal that rewards performance. He can win multiple MVP awards if he can stay on the field, and the questions about whether he’ll break out no longer are present. Buxton was on a torrid pace last season before being hit by a pitch, and there’s been nothing this spring to suggest he won’t pick up where he left off. Trumping that move was the acquisition of what could be considered baseball’s best free agent. Carlos Correa wound up with the Twins following a hectic few hours. Despite the assumption that Trevor Story would be a target, the sides never came close to a deal, and a pivot to a premier option was made. Correa’s deal could effectively wind up being a one-year pact, albeit the richest infield contract in Major League history, but he’s certainly saying the right things about making a home here. In needing a shortstop, the front office didn’t just wind up with a defensive-only option as they opted for last season. Correa has won a Gold Glove and brings one of the best power bats at the position. He’s won a World Series and brings a winning mentality to a club looking for a resurgence. Needing pitching, Minnesota found a partner on the trade market. Sonny Gray could be had for an uncertain, high-velocity prospect with the Cincinnati Reds piecing out their roster. Gray looks the part of former staff ace Jose Berrios, which provides a strong presence at the top of the group. He’s a tested veteran that should be reliable and potentially take a step forward, leaving the hitters haven that is Great American Ballpark. With depth, a focus following the debacle on the mound last season, Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer represent back-end options tasked with holding serve. Bundy is probably more of a number four than anything, and while Archer has upside if he’s healthy, there are no guarantees as that’s been something alluding him for years. The bullpen was always going to be rounded out with internal options, and bringing back a healthy Taylor Rogers was necessary. Adding a solid veteran in Joe Smith helps raise the water level as a whole. A couple of hard throwers at the top level of the minors could bolster this group as well. Swapping out Mitch Garver and Josh Donaldson for Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela is probably a net negative. Sanchez is not a good defensive catcher, though his bat may find a resurgence of sorts getting out of New York. Urshela had a poor showing in 2021 but was both sick and hurt. Being a good-to-great player at the hot corner in 2019 and 2020 is what the Twins are hoping to see. Judging the offseason requires the view of substantial give and take. The Opening Day payroll is likely to check in below where it was a season ago, but that’s not for lack of trying. Unfortunately, the Twins sat back again and picked their spots while also focusing on trades. That didn’t work as well with a lockout and left them at the mercy of any partner’s willingness. Spending handsomely on Correa was nice, but allocating the final dollars on the necessary top pitching option never came. There was the infamous “Have a freaking offseason” tweet last year, and I think there’s probably little denying that this crop is both more exciting and provided plenty of entertainment along the way. Minnesota didn’t need a massive overhaul, as much of the rebound should be expected to come from a lineup capable of being among the game’s best. The pitching is where the focus had to be, and while Gray is a substantial get, he’s not enough on his own. The rotation will primarily be dependent upon the health and effectiveness of the back-end guys. I still think there’s too much certainty being placed upon Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober; they have a combined 25 Major League starts. Minnesota has a ton of pitching talent at the top levels of the minors, but thrusting them in too early could result in a revolving door. As currently constructed, this is a team that should be in the hunt for a postseason appearance. The White Sox won’t run away with the division, and further additions by the front office could continue closing the gap. It was a good offseason, but the missing pitching move keeps it from being great. Grade: B+ What are you giving the Twins for their offseason grade? 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  24. Coming into the offseason and lockout notwithstanding, the focus for the Twins had to be on adding pitching. The rotation was without its top two starters from last season, and middle-man Michael Pineda was also gone. The lineup needed a shortstop with Andrelton Simmons hitting the open market, and the lineup was likely to have a few new faces. Before giving out a grade, let’s look at what took place. Who Minnesota Lost this Offseason: Michael Pineda, Andrelton Simmons, Mitch Garver, Josh Donaldson, Ben Rortvedt, Chase Petty Who Minnesota Gained this Offseason: Carlos Correa, Dylan Bundy, Joe Smith, Chris Archer, Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela It’s an odd offseason when extending your best player to a seven-year, $100 million deal isn’t the top move, but that’s where we are. Minnesota paid the man and locked Byron Buxton up into the foreseeable future. He represents one of the best talents in baseball when healthy, and keeping him was always going to be a priority. Buxton is betting on himself with an incentive-laden deal that rewards performance. He can win multiple MVP awards if he can stay on the field, and the questions about whether he’ll break out no longer are present. Buxton was on a torrid pace last season before being hit by a pitch, and there’s been nothing this spring to suggest he won’t pick up where he left off. Trumping that move was the acquisition of what could be considered baseball’s best free agent. Carlos Correa wound up with the Twins following a hectic few hours. Despite the assumption that Trevor Story would be a target, the sides never came close to a deal, and a pivot to a premier option was made. Correa’s deal could effectively wind up being a one-year pact, albeit the richest infield contract in Major League history, but he’s certainly saying the right things about making a home here. In needing a shortstop, the front office didn’t just wind up with a defensive-only option as they opted for last season. Correa has won a Gold Glove and brings one of the best power bats at the position. He’s won a World Series and brings a winning mentality to a club looking for a resurgence. Needing pitching, Minnesota found a partner on the trade market. Sonny Gray could be had for an uncertain, high-velocity prospect with the Cincinnati Reds piecing out their roster. Gray looks the part of former staff ace Jose Berrios, which provides a strong presence at the top of the group. He’s a tested veteran that should be reliable and potentially take a step forward, leaving the hitters haven that is Great American Ballpark. With depth, a focus following the debacle on the mound last season, Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer represent back-end options tasked with holding serve. Bundy is probably more of a number four than anything, and while Archer has upside if he’s healthy, there are no guarantees as that’s been something alluding him for years. The bullpen was always going to be rounded out with internal options, and bringing back a healthy Taylor Rogers was necessary. Adding a solid veteran in Joe Smith helps raise the water level as a whole. A couple of hard throwers at the top level of the minors could bolster this group as well. Swapping out Mitch Garver and Josh Donaldson for Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela is probably a net negative. Sanchez is not a good defensive catcher, though his bat may find a resurgence of sorts getting out of New York. Urshela had a poor showing in 2021 but was both sick and hurt. Being a good-to-great player at the hot corner in 2019 and 2020 is what the Twins are hoping to see. Judging the offseason requires the view of substantial give and take. The Opening Day payroll is likely to check in below where it was a season ago, but that’s not for lack of trying. Unfortunately, the Twins sat back again and picked their spots while also focusing on trades. That didn’t work as well with a lockout and left them at the mercy of any partner’s willingness. Spending handsomely on Correa was nice, but allocating the final dollars on the necessary top pitching option never came. There was the infamous “Have a freaking offseason” tweet last year, and I think there’s probably little denying that this crop is both more exciting and provided plenty of entertainment along the way. Minnesota didn’t need a massive overhaul, as much of the rebound should be expected to come from a lineup capable of being among the game’s best. The pitching is where the focus had to be, and while Gray is a substantial get, he’s not enough on his own. The rotation will primarily be dependent upon the health and effectiveness of the back-end guys. I still think there’s too much certainty being placed upon Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober; they have a combined 25 Major League starts. Minnesota has a ton of pitching talent at the top levels of the minors, but thrusting them in too early could result in a revolving door. As currently constructed, this is a team that should be in the hunt for a postseason appearance. The White Sox won’t run away with the division, and further additions by the front office could continue closing the gap. It was a good offseason, but the missing pitching move keeps it from being great. Grade: B+ What are you giving the Twins for their offseason grade?
  25. The Twins changed course at the hot corner in a major way earlier this month when they traded away Josh Donaldson and the last two years of his contract, bringing back Gio Urshela from New York in the deal. Urshela figures to step in as Minnesota's primary third baseman, for now, but he may need to fend off the advances of several players and prospects to stay there. Projected Starter: Gio Urshela Likely Backup: Luis Arraez Depth: Tim Beckham, Daniel Robertson Prospects: José Miranda, Austin Martin THE GOOD Although the inclusion of Gary Sánchez in the Josh Donaldson deal can hardly be viewed as anything more than a salary dump by New York, the late-blooming Gio Urshela is actually a fairly valuable player, with two remaining years of control and a recent track record of success. The 2021 season doesn't qualify, as Urshela struggled to sub par offensive production (.309 wOBA), but in the two seasons prior he had slashed .310/.359/.523 while establishing himself as a high-caliber defender at third base. Urshela would've ranked fifth in fWAR among Twins position players in 2019 (3.1), and second behind Nelson Cruz in 2020 (1.6). Rediscovering his game would turn Urshela into an asset for Minnesota. Who wouldn't want an .880 OPS with defense that merits Gold Glove consideration? (Urshela was a finalist at third base in 2020, but lost out to Isiah Kiner-Falefa.) But even if the 30-year-old can't bounce back, the Twins have plenty of options lined up behind him. In fact, this was likely a big driver in their desire to move on from Donaldson. First and foremost, there is Luis Arraez, who is probably lined up for enough action at the position that we can consider it a timeshare. He doesn't have much arm, but Arraez looked serviceable when playing at third last season (with one glaring and extremely painful exception) and some consider it his strongest defensive position. Obviously, the Twins are motivated to get his bat in the lineup as much as possible, and this is the most natural spot to do it. The looming elephant in the room, then, is José Miranda. Fifty-two of his defensive starts in the minors last year came at third base (compared to 30 at second and 26 at first), during a breakthrough season that ended in Triple-A and left him looking ready to make an impact in the majors. Some projection systems suggest there's no reason to wait; Steamer for example has him pegged for a .280/.331/.468 line in the big leagues this year, at age 23. Finally, you've got Austin Martin. Minnesota's #1 prospect might not be pressing quite as hard as Miranda, having finished last year in Double-A, but he's clearly getting close and he'll need to find a defensive landing spot. Martin hasn't yet played third base professionally, but he played there plenty in college and it may be his most natural fit in the infield. There are layers of contingency in place at third that help mitigate the relative uncertainty atop the depth chart. THE BAD It's difficult to count on Urshela after his performance last year, but one wonders how long the Twins will be compelled to stick with him, given he's a veteran owed $6.6 million this season. You don't just pull the plug on someone like that haphazardly, even though the team might be inclined if he's slumping while Arraez, Miranda, or Martin warrant playing time. Of course, we haven't seen this front office too constrained my sentimentality, and Urshela could possibly offer some value in a utility role anyway, should they opt to move him off third. He made 28 starts at shortstop down the stretch last year and was passable there (leaving one to wonder if he'll be Carlos Correa's top backup instead of Jorge Polanco). He's got some experience at second and first. Beyond Urshela on the depth chart, exciting upside must be balanced with reality. And the reality is that experience is in somewhat short supply. Arraez has made less than a third of his defensive starts in the majors at third. Miranda has played there plenty, but hasn't yet fielded an inning in the majors and was barely on the prospect radar before last year. Martin has yet to gain any professional experience at the hot corner. Whereas Donaldson was a prototypical third baseman in many ways (when healthy) the Twins lack such a prototype at present. Urshela is a significant downgrade in terms of talent and track record. The Twins are worse now at third base than they were before the trade, at least in the short-term – even if the move necessarily clears the way for the future. THE BOTTOM LINE The Twins lost a hell of a player in Donaldson, albeit an aging and undependable one. They're well equipped to move on in his absence, but the short-term picture might be a little shaky. I'd expect a pseudo-platoon of Urshela and Arraez out of the gates, with Miranda primed to take over in the near future and Martin standing ready should anything go awry. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Become a Twins Daily caretaker View full article
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