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  1. Two Catcher Rotation Last season, the Twins used a two-catcher rotation with tremendous success. Mitch Garver played in 93 games on his way to winning the AL’s Silver Slugger Award for catchers. Jason Castro was a veteran secondary option and he played in 79 contests. Together, these two helped Twins catchers to lead baseball in home runs (48), SLG (.503) and wOBA (.351). One of the more impressive stats might have been that Twins catchers scored 33 more runs than any other catching combination in the big-leagues. Minnesota brought in Alex Avila this off-season to fill the catcher spot vacated by Jason Castro. Avila has been an All-Star and won a Silver Slugger, but that was almost a decade ago. This season he has put together professional at-bats and he has done that by getting on base over 40% of the time. The problem is Jeffers might be better than advertised. Stealing Strikes One of the biggest criticisms throughout Garver’s professional career has been his defensive play behind the plate. He has improved greatly, and his catcher framing is one of his biggest areas of improvement. According to Baseball Savant, there are three zones where he ranks above average over the last two seasons, at the bottom of the zone and to the left and right of the plate. Jeffers might be even better at coaxing strikes from umpires, especially pitches on the outer edges. Jose Berrios had been in a season long slump and Jeffers helped to get a few extra borderline pitches to go his way. This might have gone a long way in helping Berrios look like his former self. Defensively, Jeffers has come a long way especially considering he didn’t have a catching coach in college, and he had to watch YouTube videos to improve behind the plate. https://twitter.com/HagemanParker/status/1297289522024271872?s=20 Just watching him pull those balls back into the zone is a thing of beauty if you’re a Twins fan. Catch You Later It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Garver and Jeffers become Minnesota’s catching duo behind the plate. This season might be hard to make that happen, because no one knows how long Garver will be out with his current injury, a right intercostal strain. The Twins will get multiple weeks to see what Jeffers can do both offensively and defensively. Following this year’s draft, I had Jeffers ranked as the number six overall prospect in the Twins organization. Over the last two seasons, the Twins have used Garver with a veteran left-handed catcher. This made it easier to platoon the two hitters even if Garver was used more than a traditional platoon. Jeffers struggles more against lefties as his OPS was over 110 points lower versus southpaws. On the other hand, Garver destroyed lefties last season with a 1.170 OPS in over 100 at-bats. Garver can’t reach free agency until 2024 where he will be almost into his mid-30s. Jeffers is over six-years younger than Garver and he has the potential to be a solid contributor on both sides of the ball. No matter how the team uses their duo moving forward, it’s clear the team’s catching duties are in good hands. How do you feel about Minnesota’s future behind the plate? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. Spring has finally sprung with Twins pitchers and catchers reporting to Fort Myers this week. Many of the players are already working out at the team’s facility and media members are on the way down to sunny Florida. For Minnesota, the catching situation looks different than last year and there are some questions surrounding the team’s catchers this season.How much will Mitch Garver regress? Mitch Garver had a breakout season in 2019 as he compiled 31 home runs with a .995 OPS in only 93 games. Because of his offensive output, he was be awarded a Silver Slugger. Now entering his age-29 season, it’s going to be tough for him to repeat those numbers in 2020 so some regression can be expected. So how much will he come back to the pack? Baseball Reference projects him hitting .263/.342/.510 (.852) with 22 home runs and 20 doubles in 413 plate appearances. This would be an increase of 54 plate appearances over last year when he set a career high with 359 PA. FanGraphs Steamer projections have him hitting .254/.333/.464 (.797) with 16 home runs and 18 doubles. They also see him getting into 90 games and having 378 plate appearances. Most likely, Garver will be somewhere in the middle of these two different projections. It could also depend on what kind of baseball is being used throughout the big leagues. Either way, it seems unlikely for Garver to hit more than 30 home runs for the second consecutive season. Will Alex Avila be used as much as Jason Castro? In his first year as manager, Rocco Baldelli stressed the importance of rest for all his players and this was especially true for his two catchers. In fact, Jason Castro and Garver basically split the catching duties with Garver starting just one more game behind the plate than Castro. Minnesota brought in Alex Avila to replace Castro as the team’s second catcher, but how much will he be used during the season? Baseball Reference projects Avila to get just over 320 plate appearances which would equate to roughly 80 games played. Steamer projections have him appearing in 51 games and getting 205 plate appearances. After Garver’s 2019 season, Baldelli might want to use him on a more regular basis but rest certainly seemed to help both catchers last year. It seems likely for Garver to catch roughly 60% of the team’s games with Avila catching 35% and Willians Astudillo picking up the rest of the starts. Will the Twins carry three catchers? Because of a rule change this year, teams will now be able to carry 26 players on their active roster. This makes it easier for a team to consider carrying three catchers. Astudillo played in 58 games for the Twins last season, but only 17 of his starts came behind the plate. He was used at every infield position besides shortstop and in both corner outfield spots. This defensive flexibility could be one reason the Twins keep Astudillo on the roster. In my initial Twins roster projection, I only had the Twins carrying two catchers with Astudillo being used in Rochester. The final battles for bench spots will be between Ehire Adrianza, Jake Cave and Astudillo. Adrianza is the team’s best defensive middle infielder, so he should have a bench spot. This leaves Cave and Astudillo fighting for the last spot, but realistically both players will be used at different points during the 2020 campaign. What other questions do you have about the Twins catching situation? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  3. How much will Mitch Garver regress? Mitch Garver had a breakout season in 2019 as he compiled 31 home runs with a .995 OPS in only 93 games. Because of his offensive output, he was be awarded a Silver Slugger. Now entering his age-29 season, it’s going to be tough for him to repeat those numbers in 2020 so some regression can be expected. So how much will he come back to the pack? Baseball Reference projects him hitting .263/.342/.510 (.852) with 22 home runs and 20 doubles in 413 plate appearances. This would be an increase of 54 plate appearances over last year when he set a career high with 359 PA. FanGraphs Steamer projections have him hitting .254/.333/.464 (.797) with 16 home runs and 18 doubles. They also see him getting into 90 games and having 378 plate appearances. Most likely, Garver will be somewhere in the middle of these two different projections. It could also depend on what kind of baseball is being used throughout the big leagues. Either way, it seems unlikely for Garver to hit more than 30 home runs for the second consecutive season. Will Alex Avila be used as much as Jason Castro? In his first year as manager, Rocco Baldelli stressed the importance of rest for all his players and this was especially true for his two catchers. In fact, Jason Castro and Garver basically split the catching duties with Garver starting just one more game behind the plate than Castro. Minnesota brought in Alex Avila to replace Castro as the team’s second catcher, but how much will he be used during the season? Baseball Reference projects Avila to get just over 320 plate appearances which would equate to roughly 80 games played. Steamer projections have him appearing in 51 games and getting 205 plate appearances. After Garver’s 2019 season, Baldelli might want to use him on a more regular basis but rest certainly seemed to help both catchers last year. It seems likely for Garver to catch roughly 60% of the team’s games with Avila catching 35% and Willians Astudillo picking up the rest of the starts. Will the Twins carry three catchers? Because of a rule change this year, teams will now be able to carry 26 players on their active roster. This makes it easier for a team to consider carrying three catchers. Astudillo played in 58 games for the Twins last season, but only 17 of his starts came behind the plate. He was used at every infield position besides shortstop and in both corner outfield spots. This defensive flexibility could be one reason the Twins keep Astudillo on the roster. In my initial Twins roster projection, I only had the Twins carrying two catchers with Astudillo being used in Rochester. The final battles for bench spots will be between Ehire Adrianza, Jake Cave and Astudillo. Adrianza is the team’s best defensive middle infielder, so he should have a bench spot. This leaves Cave and Astudillo fighting for the last spot, but realistically both players will be used at different points during the 2020 campaign. What other questions do you have about the Twins catching situation? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. In 2019, Mitch Garver and Jason Castro combined to form one of the most productive catching tandems in MLB history. Tough act to follow. In 2020, Garver will be back, coming off an historic sophomore campaign, but he'll have a new partner in pitch-receiving. Will Alex Avila represent an upgrade?This is not an insignificant question. As I wrote when sizing up the catching market two weeks ago, "The decision here bears more importance than your standard backup catcher pickup, because the Twins appear committed to a balanced timeshare." I estimate there will be at least 70-80 starts up for grabs at catcher. That load could potentially be split between three players (an easier proposition with 26 roster spots), but in any case, Avila will be in line for substantial run – especially if the team decides to start using Garver occasionally at other positions. So where might fans notice an improvement in Avila, compared to his predecessor? Let's dig a bit deeper into what the newcomer brings on both sides. OFFENSE All the way back in 2011, a 24-year-old Avila burst onto the scene as Detroit's sudden star catcher, just as the Tigers were launching a mini-dynasty in the AL Central. Slashing .295/.389/.506 in 141 games, Avila was an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and 12th-place finisher in the AL MVP balloting. A prodigious offensive threat, the young backstop piled up 19 homers, 33 doubles, 82 RBIs, and 73 walks in 551 plate appearances. Eight years later, all of those numbers remain career highs for Avila, who wasn't able to sustain his initial brilliance with the bat. However, the traits that drove his success continue to endure. He's extremely patient (his 16.6% BB rate over the past three years leads all catchers with 500+ PA), he's got some pop (nine homers in 68 games last year), and he excels against right-handed pitching (.775 OPS career, .795 in 2019). Offsetting these strengths, he hits very poorly against lefties (.617 OPS career, .681 in 2019) and strikes out at an exorbitant rate – like, almost Miguel Sano territory. (In fact, Sano is one of just seven MLB players with a higher K-rate than Avila's 34.3% over the past three years in 500+ PA.) Castro is similar to Avila in many ways, but to lesser extremes. He strikes out a lot but not that much. He walks a lot but not that much. Both are considerably better against righties than lefties, so the functional platoon utility is the same. This year, 84% of Castro's 275 plate appearances came against right-handers, almost identical to Avila's 82% in Arizona. Both Castro and Avila have had two good offensive seasons and one bad in the past three years; in both cases, strong showings in 2017 and 2019 sandwiched a dud in 2018. But Avila was better at his best, and not as bad at his worst; his total .752 OPS over that span easily beats Castro's .715. I think it's fair to say the Twins have upgraded modestly offensively with this swap, though similar overall production should be expected from Avila. DEFENSE This feels like the more pertinent matter. It'd be nice to get some offensive punch out of Garver's timeshare partner but the starter already specializes on that front. Castro's biggest value to the Twins came from his veteran defensive presence, game-calling prowess, and pitch-framing skills. How will Avila measure up on these fronts? Avila certainly has a wide breadth of experience, having spent time with four different teams since leaving Detroit (including another stint with the Tigers). He'll obviously need to build rapport with a new set of pitchers, but as a respected vet who's been around the block, that shouldn't be an issue. The most obvious asset for Avila defensively, and a point of contrast with Castro, is his ability to control the running game. Avila's caught-stealing percentage has been better than league average in each of the last three years, and five the last six. This year he gunned down a career-high 52% of thieving runners. Castro, meanwhile, has been below average (albeit it slightly) in three of the last four years and is coming off a career-low 19%. Pitch framing is the hot topic. It was Castro's major selling point when Minnesota signed him three years ago, and he made good on it. Here's how he stacked up during his Twins tenure according to the Adjusted Framing Runs Above Average metric via Baseball Prospectus: 2017: 16th out of 111 2018: 30th out of 117 2019: 25th out of 113 He wasn't elite at the level of a Yasmani Grandal or Austin Hedges, but Castro was consistently in the top quartile of pitch framers. From an observational standpoint, it was noticeable the way he would steal strikes for his pitchers on a semi-regular basis (especially with the likes of Kurt Suzuki serving as our baseline). Avila's FRAA rankings over the same span are kind of fascinating: 2017: 102nd out of 111 2018: 22nd out of 117 2019: 30th out of 113 Over the past two seasons, he's been almost Castro's exact equivalent. Prior to that, he rated as a completely awful framer. And 2017 was no isolated case – Avila ranked 88th in 2016, and 103rd in 2015. He experienced a complete turnaround upon signing with the Diamondbacks in 2017. This is almost the exact same leap Garver made from 2018 to 2019, with support from now-departed instructor Tanner Swanson: 2017: 73rd out of 111 2018: 110th out of 117 2019: 28th out of 113 Losing Swanson hurts, but it helps to have another self-made framing specialist in the house who committed to improving himself and did it. Perhaps Garver and Avila can learn from one another's contrasting strengths in this department: Based on all the evidence we've reviewed here, it's hard to say that Avila is definitively an upgrade over Castro, but this is at worst a lateral switch with a bit more upside. When you look at the very favorable terms of his deal – an inexpensive one-year pact that preserves flexibility to move top catching prospect Ryan Jeffers aggressively – there's really no knocking Avila as the choice. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  5. This is not an insignificant question. As I wrote when sizing up the catching market two weeks ago, "The decision here bears more importance than your standard backup catcher pickup, because the Twins appear committed to a balanced timeshare." I estimate there will be at least 70-80 starts up for grabs at catcher. That load could potentially be split between three players (an easier proposition with 26 roster spots), but in any case, Avila will be in line for substantial run – especially if the team decides to start using Garver occasionally at other positions. So where might fans notice an improvement in Avila, compared to his predecessor? Let's dig a bit deeper into what the newcomer brings on both sides. OFFENSE All the way back in 2011, a 24-year-old Avila burst onto the scene as Detroit's sudden star catcher, just as the Tigers were launching a mini-dynasty in the AL Central. Slashing .295/.389/.506 in 141 games, Avila was an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and 12th-place finisher in the AL MVP balloting. A prodigious offensive threat, the young backstop piled up 19 homers, 33 doubles, 82 RBIs, and 73 walks in 551 plate appearances. Eight years later, all of those numbers remain career highs for Avila, who wasn't able to sustain his initial brilliance with the bat. However, the traits that drove his success continue to endure. He's extremely patient (his 16.6% BB rate over the past three years leads all catchers with 500+ PA), he's got some pop (nine homers in 68 games last year), and he excels against right-handed pitching (.775 OPS career, .795 in 2019). Offsetting these strengths, he hits very poorly against lefties (.617 OPS career, .681 in 2019) and strikes out at an exorbitant rate – like, almost Miguel Sano territory. (In fact, Sano is one of just seven MLB players with a higher K-rate than Avila's 34.3% over the past three years in 500+ PA.) Castro is similar to Avila in many ways, but to lesser extremes. He strikes out a lot but not that much. He walks a lot but not that much. Both are considerably better against righties than lefties, so the functional platoon utility is the same. This year, 84% of Castro's 275 plate appearances came against right-handers, almost identical to Avila's 82% in Arizona. Both Castro and Avila have had two good offensive seasons and one bad in the past three years; in both cases, strong showings in 2017 and 2019 sandwiched a dud in 2018. But Avila was better at his best, and not as bad at his worst; his total .752 OPS over that span easily beats Castro's .715. I think it's fair to say the Twins have upgraded modestly offensively with this swap, though similar overall production should be expected from Avila. DEFENSE This feels like the more pertinent matter. It'd be nice to get some offensive punch out of Garver's timeshare partner but the starter already specializes on that front. Castro's biggest value to the Twins came from his veteran defensive presence, game-calling prowess, and pitch-framing skills. How will Avila measure up on these fronts? Avila certainly has a wide breadth of experience, having spent time with four different teams since leaving Detroit (including another stint with the Tigers). He'll obviously need to build rapport with a new set of pitchers, but as a respected vet who's been around the block, that shouldn't be an issue. The most obvious asset for Avila defensively, and a point of contrast with Castro, is his ability to control the running game. Avila's caught-stealing percentage has been better than league average in each of the last three years, and five the last six. This year he gunned down a career-high 52% of thieving runners. Castro, meanwhile, has been below average (albeit it slightly) in three of the last four years and is coming off a career-low 19%. Pitch framing is the hot topic. It was Castro's major selling point when Minnesota signed him three years ago, and he made good on it. Here's how he stacked up during his Twins tenure according to the Adjusted Framing Runs Above Average metric via Baseball Prospectus: 2017: 16th out of 111 2018: 30th out of 117 2019: 25th out of 113 He wasn't elite at the level of a Yasmani Grandal or Austin Hedges, but Castro was consistently in the top quartile of pitch framers. From an observational standpoint, it was noticeable the way he would steal strikes for his pitchers on a semi-regular basis (especially with the likes of Kurt Suzuki serving as our baseline). Avila's FRAA rankings over the same span are kind of fascinating: 2017: 102nd out of 111 2018: 22nd out of 117 2019: 30th out of 113 Over the past two seasons, he's been almost Castro's exact equivalent. Prior to that, he rated as a completely awful framer. And 2017 was no isolated case – Avila ranked 88th in 2016, and 103rd in 2015. He experienced a complete turnaround upon signing with the Diamondbacks in 2017. This is almost the exact same leap Garver made from 2018 to 2019, with support from now-departed instructor Tanner Swanson: 2017: 73rd out of 111 2018: 110th out of 117 2019: 28th out of 113 Losing Swanson hurts, but it helps to have another self-made framing specialist in the house who committed to improving himself and did it. Perhaps Garver and Avila can learn from one another's contrasting strengths in this department: https://twitter.com/ParkerHageman/status/1202952333400907791 Based on all the evidence we've reviewed here, it's hard to say that Avila is definitively an upgrade over Castro, but this is at worst a lateral switch with a bit more upside. When you look at the very favorable terms of his deal – an inexpensive one-year pact that preserves flexibility to move top catching prospect Ryan Jeffers aggressively – there's really no knocking Avila as the choice. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. Outside of Jake Odorizzi accepting his qualifying offer, and thereby filling one of several 2020 rotation vacancies, the first month of Minnesota's offseason was quiet – at least, in terms of real action. But there's been no shortage of reported rumors involving the Twins. Let's read between the lines and see if we can find substantive takeaways behind these rumblings, as well as developing storylines elsewhere.Here are five conclusions I've drawn based on signals rising from the offseason landscape. 1: The Twins will need to pay a hefty premium to sign Zack Wheeler The team's interest in Wheeler is no secret. It's also clear they have company in this regard. Corey Kluber is on the same timeline (FA after 2021) and his name came up in rumors last winter, so I fully expect to see it happen again. Trading either Lindor or Kluber would signal a pseudo-rebuild for Cleveland. Click here to view the article
  7. Here are five conclusions I've drawn based on signals rising from the offseason landscape. 1: The Twins will need to pay a hefty premium to sign Zack Wheeler The team's interest in Wheeler is no secret. It's also clear they have company in this regard. https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1199127284185288705 The appeal of Wheeler heading into this offseason was easy enough to see: He's got rotation-fronting ability, but it never fully manifested in New York for various reasons. In seven seasons with the Mets he never threw 200 innings, while totaling a 3.71 FIP and 100 ERA+. In other words, his overall performance was almost exactly average. This backdrop set the stage for a team to acquire the 29-year-old's untapped potential at a relative discount, but when virtually every other front office has the same idea, the whole "discount" proposition goes out the window. To wit: Dan Hayes of The Athletic is hearing Wheeler could land something in the range of five years at $20-22 million per. https://twitter.com/DanHayesMLB/status/1199791067123666945 That seems astounding for a guy with Wheeler's track record, but it reflects something we're seeing elsewhere on this offseason's pitching market, and more broadly as well: front offices are paying for the future, not the past. It sounds obvious, but has hardly been the norm throughout the history of free agency. Players got paid based on their accomplishments. It's basically what makes the service-time system work – to the extent it does. We're seeing a clear shift though. It's evident when Drew Pomeranz, owner of a 4-16 record and 5.36 ERA over the past two seasons, signs with San Diego for four years and $34 million guaranteed. It's evident when Kyle Gibson, who possesses a 4.52 career ERA and torpedoed late in a turbulent 2019 campaign with Minnesota, scores a $30 million payday with Texas (a team that previously executed similar plans with Lance Lynn and Mike Minor, with great success). And it's evident in the relative buzz around Wheeler, compared to other second-tier options like Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jun Ryu. Bumgarner is a four-time All-Star, a former World Series MVP, and fourth among active pitchers in ERA. Ryu finished second in NL Cy Young balloting this year, led the league in ERA, and owns a 2.98 career mark. Both hurlers have ample postseason experience. Wheeler is lacking in all of these credentials, but nevertheless, the preference of teams around the league seemingly aligns with that of Twins Daily's Twitter following: https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1198098254916775936 So if the Twins want to add Wheeler, they're surely going to have to go well beyond the "bargain" realm. And if they truly believe in his ability to be that linchpin force atop the rotation, they should be comfortable doing just that. 2: The Twins aren't dead-set on bringing back Jason Castro If they were, they would've already done it. At least, that's my read. The free agent catching market has been active early, and another name came off the market last week with Yan Gomes re-upping in Washington. Castro is still out there, and a reunion remains very much in play, but the more time passes, the more likely it seems that both sides are seriously exploring other options. Given how well he fits, as a lefty-swinging veteran presence with strong defensive chops and a built-in rapport, I figured the Twins might just lock Castro down quickly and check that need off the list. Instead, they're taking their time. 3: More projects are coming to the bullpen As much as I'd love to see the Twins take an aggressive approach in powering up an already-potent bullpen, it always seemed more likely they'd focus the majority of available resources on the rotation. Uncovering hidden gems and converting previous starters has been the recipe for building this current unit into an asset, so why not stick with it? The claim of left-hander Matt Wisler, a former starter who saw his K/9 rate skyrocket to 11.5 as a reliever this year, fits that bill. As does the more recent addition of Mitch Horacek, who is himself finding his way in the minors as a hard-throwing reliever, after transitioning from a previous starting role. Blaine Hardy, signed to a minors deal last week alongside Horacek, brings another lefty arm to the mix with MLB experience and depressed stock. https://twitter.com/beckjason/status/1199364879234277379 The Twins are piling up "maybes" in a way that might negate their need to spend on ostensible "sure things." I'd still like to see at least one clear high-impact acquisition for the back end of the bullpen, though. I find myself wondering if the Twins fancy Blake Treinen, who's reportedly being made very available by the A's, as an opportunistic addition in that realm. The Yankees are said to be moving in. 4: Moving Miguel Sano to first base is on the table The Twins face a fairly important deadline on Monday, when they must make decisions on all of their arbitration-eligible players. The biggest question mark among that group is C.J. Cron, who was a key piece of their lineup in the first half, largely a nonfactor in the second half, and is now coming off thumb surgery. The possibility of sliding Sano, who was generally a negative with the glove at third base, across the diamond has been broached by fans often, and it does appear to be something the team is considering. https://twitter.com/DWolfsonKSTP/status/1198658195394310146 The idea of pairing Donaldson with Sano at the infield corners is beyond tantalizing. Mike Moustakas would also be a good fit in this capacity. (Todd Frazier though? Eh.) 5: The White Sox mean business. (And the Indians might not?) Minnesota will likely enter the 2020 season as favorites in the AL Central, but they won't have the luxury of three teams making zero meaningful effort to compete. The White Sox registered a statement with their bold signing of Yasmani Grandal to a $73 million contract, and they also reached a new deal with slugger Jose Abreu to keep him at the heart of their lineup for three more years. Chicago's talent pipeline is about ready to start delivering. Nick Madrigal might be their Opening Day second baseman, with the release of Yolmer Sanchez paving way. Meanwhile, Lucas Giolito is arguably the best starter in the division, and the Sox are reportedly looking to add another piece alongside him atop the rotation: https://twitter.com/BNightengale/status/1197663148100050944? Potentially offsetting this development: Cleveland sure doesn't seem intent on making a push to retake the division. I haven't heard the Indians connected to any big names, and in fact, they've have been more prominently framed as sellers. Francisco Lindor, two years away from free agency, is apparently drawing interest. https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1194402612990185472 Corey Kluber is on the same timeline (FA after 2021) and his name came up in rumors last winter, so I fully expect to see it happen again. Trading either Lindor or Kluber would signal a pseudo-rebuild for Cleveland.
  8. While free agency in general is off to a now-customary slow start, that hasn't been the case at catcher. Already the position's top name is off the market – Yasmani Grandal signed a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox last week – and on Sunday, Travis d'Arnaud inked a surprisingly lucrative deal with Atlanta. This is a clear area of need for the Twins, and if they hope to land their preferred target(s), they may need to act quickly.When putting together the Offseason Handbook, our presumption was that a crowded and relatively undifferentiated free agent catcher class would suppress salaries at the position, creating a buyer-friendly market. Early developments throw this premise into doubt. Untethered to draft pick compensation, Grandal quickly found a home this time around, agreeing with Chicago on a hefty deal that exceeded our Handbook projection (4 years, $60M). That said, it was always clear Grandal was gonna get paid. Atlanta's contract with d'Arnaud is more eyebrow-raising. On the surface, there wasn't much to separate d'Arnaud from any number of other middling backstops in free agency. He turns 31 in February, has generally been a part-time player, and hasn't posted an fWAR higher than 1.6 since 2015. The 2019 season alone saw him designated for assignment and released by the Mets, then signed by the Dodgers, and promptly traded to Tampa for cash. These aren't transactions that scream "valued commodity." Yet, here we are. Six months after being cast aside by the Mets, d'Arnaud has secured a $16 million payday. His contract is noteworthy because it is basically the same one a much more accomplished Jason Castro signed with the Twins back in 2017, minus one year. Castro, now back on the open market, is another from the mid-tier group with d'Arnaud, seemingly not in a position of leverage. He's 32, coming off an unspectacular campaign following a lost one. But then again, he's a good defender, and a veteran with a strong rep. If the early deals are any indication, Castro's probably going to require more than the one-year, $6 million commitment we guessed in the Handbook. Download attachment: Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 7.49.42 PM.png (From the Offseason Handbook. Get your copy.) If early free agency action is indeed indicative of heightened demand at catcher, Castro could price himself out of the Twins' comfort zone. As a natural platoon fit with Mitch Garver, and a solid game caller familiar to the pitching staff, Castro is appealing as a reunion candidate – but only up to a certain point. There are many other interesting names on the market, including: Robinson Chirinos, Austin Romine, Stephen Vogt, Martin Maldonado, Yan Gomes, and Alex Avila. Download attachment: Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 8.00.48 PM.png The decision here bears more importance than your standard backup catcher pickup, because the Twins appear committed to a balanced timeshare. Dan Hayes of The Athletic wrote a story for the Handbook detailing the strategy behind Garver's limited usage this year, and it doesn't sound as though the team intends to change course. While I suspect we'll see more of Garver in 2020 as a first baseman or DH, with the 26th roster spot making it easier to carry three catchers, there are still going to be at least 70-80 starts up for grabs at catcher. Willians Astudillo could take some of them. But he was sadly none too inspiring this year. The Twins have a real opportunity to upgrade what was already a stellar position player corps. If they feel Castro is the best available option, they can afford him, even in a seller's market. But is he? The other key question at play is whether the Twins feel they're in need of a stopgap or a longer-term solution. Garver is under control for four more seasons, but the system is otherwise thin at the top levels. That is, until you get to Ryan Jeffers, who may be closer than we realize. Added in the second round of the 2018 draft, Jeffers has raked since joining the pro ranks, with a .296/.383/.453 slash line in his first 167 games. By the end of his first full season, he'd already reached Double-A, posting an .856 OPS in 24 games there. Clearly, the 22-year-old can hit. But what really intrigues me is his defensive tool kit. Hayes noted in his Handbook article that "Jeffers is an outstanding pitch framer – some within the organization think he’s among the top 15 in pro ball right now." High praise. If the Twins are especially high on Jeffers, they may prefer to avoid a multi-year deal in free agency. Would that rule out Castro? Possibly. The best path for the front office might be a high-dollar one-year contract to sew up the only clear gap in their 2020 roster with some short-term quality. And if they want it to be one of their preferred options, they might need to claim him soon. Click here to view the article
  9. When putting together the Offseason Handbook, our presumption was that a crowded and relatively undifferentiated free agent catcher class would suppress salaries at the position, creating a buyer-friendly market. Early developments throw this premise into doubt. Untethered to draft pick compensation, Grandal quickly found a home this time around, agreeing with Chicago on a hefty deal that exceeded our Handbook projection (4 years, $60M). That said, it was always clear Grandal was gonna get paid. Atlanta's contract with d'Arnaud is more eyebrow-raising. On the surface, there wasn't much to separate d'Arnaud from any number of other middling backstops in free agency. He turns 31 in February, has generally been a part-time player, and hasn't posted an fWAR higher than 1.6 since 2015. The 2019 season alone saw him designated for assignment and released by the Mets, then signed by the Dodgers, and promptly traded to Tampa for cash. These aren't transactions that scream "valued commodity." Yet, here we are. Six months after being cast aside by the Mets, d'Arnaud has secured a $16 million payday. His contract is noteworthy because it is basically the same one a much more accomplished Jason Castro signed with the Twins back in 2017, minus one year. Castro, now back on the open market, is another from the mid-tier group with d'Arnaud, seemingly not in a position of leverage. He's 32, coming off an unspectacular campaign following a lost one. But then again, he's a good defender, and a veteran with a strong rep. If the early deals are any indication, Castro's probably going to require more than the one-year, $6 million commitment we guessed in the Handbook. (From the Offseason Handbook. Get your copy.) If early free agency action is indeed indicative of heightened demand at catcher, Castro could price himself out of the Twins' comfort zone. As a natural platoon fit with Mitch Garver, and a solid game caller familiar to the pitching staff, Castro is appealing as a reunion candidate – but only up to a certain point. There are many other interesting names on the market, including: Robinson Chirinos, Austin Romine, Stephen Vogt, Martin Maldonado, Yan Gomes, and Alex Avila. The decision here bears more importance than your standard backup catcher pickup, because the Twins appear committed to a balanced timeshare. Dan Hayes of The Athletic wrote a story for the Handbook detailing the strategy behind Garver's limited usage this year, and it doesn't sound as though the team intends to change course. While I suspect we'll see more of Garver in 2020 as a first baseman or DH, with the 26th roster spot making it easier to carry three catchers, there are still going to be at least 70-80 starts up for grabs at catcher. Willians Astudillo could take some of them. But he was sadly none too inspiring this year. The Twins have a real opportunity to upgrade what was already a stellar position player corps. If they feel Castro is the best available option, they can afford him, even in a seller's market. But is he? The other key question at play is whether the Twins feel they're in need of a stopgap or a longer-term solution. Garver is under control for four more seasons, but the system is otherwise thin at the top levels. That is, until you get to Ryan Jeffers, who may be closer than we realize. Added in the second round of the 2018 draft, Jeffers has raked since joining the pro ranks, with a .296/.383/.453 slash line in his first 167 games. By the end of his first full season, he'd already reached Double-A, posting an .856 OPS in 24 games there. Clearly, the 22-year-old can hit. But what really intrigues me is his defensive tool kit. Hayes noted in his Handbook article that "Jeffers is an outstanding pitch framer – some within the organization think he’s among the top 15 in pro ball right now." High praise. If the Twins are especially high on Jeffers, they may prefer to avoid a multi-year deal in free agency. Would that rule out Castro? Possibly. The best path for the front office might be a high-dollar one-year contract to sew up the only clear gap in their 2020 roster with some short-term quality. And if they want it to be one of their preferred options, they might need to claim him soon.
  10. The 2019 Major League Baseball season officially comes to an end tonight as the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros wrap up game seven of the World Series. As the league calendar switches over to 2020 there will be significant roster shuffling. For the Minnesota Twins that already began yesterday, but the front office isn’t close to done when it comes to a 40-man overhaul. After getting run with the big-league club in September the Twins outrighted a trio of talent off the 40 man yesterday. Outfielders Ian Miller and Ryan LaMarre were jettisoned, and they were joined by utility infielder Ronald Torreyes. With both Byron Buxton and Sean Poppen still on the 60-day IL and needing cleared spots, the Twins effectively have 39 of 40 holes filled. Add in the claiming of Matt Wisler and you’ve got a full boat. There’s a crop of free agents that will be moving on from Minnesota, and then there’s a handful of arbitration and pre-arbitration guys that decisions will need to be made on. Here’s how they could all turn out: Free Agents: Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Sergio Romo, Jason Castro, Jonathan Schoop The only name missing from this group is Michael Pineda, who is also set to become a free agent. With his suspension however, he was immediately removed from the 40 man, and would not count against it for any acquiring team until he is reinstated. Gibson is obviously the longest tenured of this group, and it’ll be weird for both the organization and the player to part after a decade together. Despite how it ended, there were some significant high points, and no one could have represented Twins Territory better. Castro split time with Mitch Garver under Rocco Baldelli this season, and if his body will hold up, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be looking for a starting gig somewhere. Both Schoop and Romo made quick cameos for the Twins. The former was acquired at the trade deadline while the latter was had on a one-year deal. Romo has certain appeal to return as both a good pitcher and strong clubhouse presence, while Schoop would seem to be redundant after the emergence of Luis Arraez. I'd certainly like to see Minnesota hand Odorizzi a qualifying offer and look to work out a two-year deal. If he's the second or third starting rotation piece they add this offseason, then you'd have to feel pretty good about the group as a whole. Non-Tender: Sam Dyson, C.J. Cron Of these two one is a guarantee while the other is far from it. Minnesota dealt for the best reliever at the deadline in Dyson, and instead of a shutdown arm, they got a guy who hid injury (or his former team did) and sapped an asset for nothing. Dyson has one more year of arbitration, and while it would have been great to feel his impact, the only thing Minnesota felt is the bomb he dropped on them after coming here. What happens to C.J. Cron is largely dependent on how the Twins view Miguel Sano. The former Rays and Angels first basemen had a fine year, and especially so considering the sapped power from his thumb injury. If Sano is moving across the diamond or a better third basemen is a target, then there’s no need to tender Cron at something near $8 million. If he comes back, there’s also nothing wrong with going that route, and assuming the thumb is back to 100%, he’s a good bet to put up even better numbers in 2020. Decline Option: Martin Perez There was a time in 2019 when Perez’s option for 2020 looked certain to be picked up, then May 30th happened. Going into that start against the Rays Perez owned a 2.95 ERA and appeared to be the poster child for a Twins influenced fix. He was shelled for six runs in 2.2 IP and owned a 6.29 ERA over his final 21 starts. Left off the Postseason roster the Twins will almost certainly pay the $500k buyout as opposed to the $7.5 million salary next season. Outright: Trevor Hildenberger, Kohl Stewart When outrighting a player off the 40-man you’re considering a certain level of opportunity cost. Neither Hildenberger nor Stewart need to go anywhere, but there’s a pretty compelling argument that they both should. Once a pen stalwart for Paul Molitor, Hildy seemed to be ridden into the ground and then left for dead. He came back from Triple-A last year but was every bit as ineffective and has now posted a 6.35 ERA in his last 89.1 major league innings. For a sidearmer that isn’t fooling anyone, it’s simply not going to cut it. Last season the Twins parted ways with former first round pick Tyler Jay. He never made it to the big leagues, and while Stewart has, this appears to be his time. There’s plenty of better internal options, and Minnesota’s focus this offseason is going to be on pitching. Stewart continued down a path his minor league numbers suggested in that he simply can’t strike anyone out, and the stuff wasn’t good enough to play at the highest level. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  11. The 2019 season has come to an abrupt end after 101 wins. This means we may have seen some players in a Twins uniform for the final time. With a lot of question marks about the rotation and a few key position players, I take a look at who should come back and who should be on the move.The key Twins who could be moving on to a new team for 2020 are listed here. (* = option or ARB eligible) C Jason Castro1B C.J. Cron*2B Jonathan SchoopSP Kyle GibsonSP Michael PinedaSP Martin Perez*SP Jake OdorizziRP Sergio RomoNelson Cruz was originally on this list, but as expected, the Twins have picked up his option for 2020. C Jason Castro Castro began the season as the starting catcher, but Mitch Garver took Minnesota by storm with one of the Twins best hitting seasons as a catcher. That mixed with Castro’s struggles in the second half (.196/.333/.299) make it unlikely that he will return. He can probably find a starting job somewhere in free agency as a left- handed hitting defensive catcher. The Twins could also bring him back on a one-year deal if he does decide to stay and that wouldn't hurt. 1B C.J. Cron Cron will still be under control next year, but it comes down to if the Twins want to pay for his final season or let him go to a new team like the Rays did last season. He suffered a thumb injury this past season that altered his production a lot. He had a .700 OPS in the second half and a .685 OPS vs RHP on the season. He plays a decent first base and crushes left-handers. With Alex Kirilloff on the horizon, I think Cron comes back for 2020 but could end up in a platoon role at some point. This could also depend on the Twins plan for Sano to either stay at 3B or move to 1B in the future. 2B Jonathan Schoop The emergence of Luis Arraez along with the drop off from Schoop made it fairly clear who the starting second baseman will be next season. The Twins will likely ride with Arraez on Opening Day next season, and Schoop will definitely be able to find a starting job somewhere else in 2020. He was a solid addition and the Twins probably got what was expected from him. SP Kyle Gibson Moving on to pitching, Gibson is one of the longest-tenured Twins after seven seasons that started off rough, but ultimately ended well for him to land a nice deal next season. He had a 3.72 ERA from the 2017 trade deadline until now even with some unfortunate health concerns. He will probably get a multi-year deal with someone other than the Minnesota Twins and all of you who hate Kyle will be extremely happy. SP Michael Pineda Despite having his 2019 success stained by his suspension for a possible PED masking agent, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring Pineda back for next season. His 3.04 second half ERA, as he basically carried the rotation, was extremely impressive so he could be back. The Twins will likely bring two starters from this season back, and Pineda has a good chance to be one of them. SP Jake Odorizzi The Twins acquired Odorizzi before the 2018 season for AA infielder Jermaine Palacios who had a .192 AVG this past season. Odorizzi has produced 6.9 fWAR over those two seasons and was a 2019 All-Star. The Twins will likely send a qualifying offer around $18 million and if a team doesn’t want to lose a draft pick for him then I think Odo could be back. He could also come back on the QO because he can't be offered the QO two years in a row so he may come back to build his free agency stock for 2021. SP Martin Perez With a $7.5 million team option for next season, I don’t expect to see Perez back for the 2020 season. Maybe I can get behind seeing him as a relief pitcher, but the Twins should definitely be moving on from him in the rotation. From June to October he allowed a 5.93 ERA and a .831 OPS so I would hope the Martin Perez experiment has come to an end. RP Sergio Romo I challenge you to find one Twins fan who does not love Sergio Romo. You can’t, so don’t even try. The 36-year-old reliever would be a valuable asset who I believe will be back for 2020. His veteran presence mixed with his playoff/World Series experience and his electric energy on and off the field are all tools that would fit right in on this young team. Plus he is also an effective late inning reliever so that’s a plus. Alright, now that I have finished going through all the players, here are my predictions: Returning for 2020: Cron, Pineda, Odorizzi, Romo Heading to a new team: Castro, Schoop, Gibson, Perez As the off-season progresses, each one of these players will be monitored closely by everyone here at Twins Daily, so follow us on Twitter and be looking out for more in- depth articles about each player. Leave a comment here saying who you would like to see come back for 2020. Click here to view the article
  12. The key Twins who could be moving on to a new team for 2020 are listed here. (* = option or ARB eligible) C Jason Castro 1B C.J. Cron* 2B Jonathan Schoop SP Kyle Gibson SP Michael Pineda SP Martin Perez* SP Jake Odorizzi RP Sergio Romo Nelson Cruz was originally on this list, but as expected, the Twins have picked up his option for 2020. https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1181943343858831360?s=20 C Jason Castro Castro began the season as the starting catcher, but Mitch Garver took Minnesota by storm with one of the Twins best hitting seasons as a catcher. That mixed with Castro’s struggles in the second half (.196/.333/.299) make it unlikely that he will return. He can probably find a starting job somewhere in free agency as a left- handed hitting defensive catcher. The Twins could also bring him back on a one-year deal if he does decide to stay and that wouldn't hurt. 1B C.J. Cron Cron will still be under control next year, but it comes down to if the Twins want to pay for his final season or let him go to a new team like the Rays did last season. He suffered a thumb injury this past season that altered his production a lot. He had a .700 OPS in the second half and a .685 OPS vs RHP on the season. He plays a decent first base and crushes left-handers. With Alex Kirilloff on the horizon, I think Cron comes back for 2020 but could end up in a platoon role at some point. This could also depend on the Twins plan for Sano to either stay at 3B or move to 1B in the future. 2B Jonathan Schoop The emergence of Luis Arraez along with the drop off from Schoop made it fairly clear who the starting second baseman will be next season. The Twins will likely ride with Arraez on Opening Day next season, and Schoop will definitely be able to find a starting job somewhere else in 2020. He was a solid addition and the Twins probably got what was expected from him. SP Kyle Gibson Moving on to pitching, Gibson is one of the longest-tenured Twins after seven seasons that started off rough, but ultimately ended well for him to land a nice deal next season. He had a 3.72 ERA from the 2017 trade deadline until now even with some unfortunate health concerns. He will probably get a multi-year deal with someone other than the Minnesota Twins and all of you who hate Kyle will be extremely happy. SP Michael Pineda Despite having his 2019 success stained by his suspension for a possible PED masking agent, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring Pineda back for next season. His 3.04 second half ERA, as he basically carried the rotation, was extremely impressive so he could be back. The Twins will likely bring two starters from this season back, and Pineda has a good chance to be one of them. SP Jake Odorizzi The Twins acquired Odorizzi before the 2018 season for AA infielder Jermaine Palacios who had a .192 AVG this past season. Odorizzi has produced 6.9 fWAR over those two seasons and was a 2019 All-Star. The Twins will likely send a qualifying offer around $18 million and if a team doesn’t want to lose a draft pick for him then I think Odo could be back. He could also come back on the QO because he can't be offered the QO two years in a row so he may come back to build his free agency stock for 2021. SP Martin Perez With a $7.5 million team option for next season, I don’t expect to see Perez back for the 2020 season. Maybe I can get behind seeing him as a relief pitcher, but the Twins should definitely be moving on from him in the rotation. From June to October he allowed a 5.93 ERA and a .831 OPS so I would hope the Martin Perez experiment has come to an end. RP Sergio Romo I challenge you to find one Twins fan who does not love Sergio Romo. You can’t, so don’t even try. The 36-year-old reliever would be a valuable asset who I believe will be back for 2020. His veteran presence mixed with his playoff/World Series experience and his electric energy on and off the field are all tools that would fit right in on this young team. Plus he is also an effective late inning reliever so that’s a plus. Alright, now that I have finished going through all the players, here are my predictions: Returning for 2020: Cron, Pineda, Odorizzi, Romo Heading to a new team: Castro, Schoop, Gibson, Perez As the off-season progresses, each one of these players will be monitored closely by everyone here at Twins Daily, so follow us on Twitter and be looking out for more in- depth articles about each player. Leave a comment here saying who you would like to see come back for 2020.
  13. Though Jason Castro wasn’t near the offensive threat that Mitch Garver has been behind the plate, he is no defensive-only catcher a la Drew Butera. In 2019, Castro posted a 103 wRC+, which ranked 15th out of the 36 catchers with at least 250 plate appearances. Factor that in with Castro’s above average pitch framing ability, and solid all-around defense behind the plate, and you have yourselves a pretty good catcher. Now, at the age of 32, Castro is entering free agency and the Twins suddenly find themselves in need of a catcher to back up Mitch Garver. Let’s take a look at some of the options the Twins have. Free Agency Perhaps the most obvious place the Twins could look to find the replacement for Jason Castro is on the free agent market. While there won’t be any big-time catchers available in free agency, that is perfectly fine with the Twins as all they need is someone who can be their number two behind Mitch Garver. Some of the names the Twins could be interested in are Robinson Chirinos, Travis d’Arnaud, Alex Avila and Jason Castro himself. Personally, Jason Castro makes the most sense to bring back among this group. The Twins will be looking to replicate the success they had at the catcher position this year, and what better way to do so than by using the same players? While this move would certainly make sense for the Twins, especially on a one- or two- year deal, it is hard to say if it would make a lot of sense for Castro. It is entirely possible that Castro is looking for an opportunity somewhere he could be the primary catching option, and who could blame him? He certainly has the ability to be the primary catcher for roughly half of the organizations in major league baseball, and if he were to return to the Twins, at best he will split time with Garver 50/50, barring an injury. Trade Market Another option the Twins could turn to in on the trade market. One team the Twins could reach out to is the Seattle Mariners, and their always-very-eager- to- make-a-trade GM Jerry Dipoto. The Mariners have two quality young catchers in Tom Murphy and Omar Narvaez. Murphy has one year remaining before he becomes arbitration eligible in 2021, while Narvaez is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter. With a few years of team control remaining for each player, the Mariners could have one of two viewpoints. Either, A, hold onto them as part of the future of the organization, or B, cash them in while they can still return good value, and continue to build up their strong farm system. If the answer is B, I think the Twins could make an excellent trade partner for them, given the sheer depth of the Twins farm system, and value that either one of these two catchers would bring to the team. Internal Options If the Twins don’t find anything they like in either free agency or on the trading block, they could always turn internally. Perhaps the most likely option, if this were the case, would be to give Willians Astudillo extended playing time as a catcher. While this would certainly be a fan favorite choice, it is still a little dicey trusting Astudillo behind the plate that often, especially with his offensive struggles mitigating his ability to make up for his poor defense. After Astudillo, their top two catching prospects within the organization are Ryan Jeffers and Ben Rortvedt. While both are solid catching options, they each have only played partial seasons at AA with zero experience at the AAA level. Turning to one of these two to start the season would require a big jump that they might not be quite ready for. A fourth option would be Tomas Telis, who posted an impressive .330/.364/.490 slash line in 82 games for the Rochester Red Wings this season, albeit in the extreme offensive environment that was Triple-A this season. Telis does have brief MLB experience playing for the Texas Rangers and Miami Marlins before he came over to the Twins organization, so he should be ready if the Twins were to call his number. While the Twins main focus will certainly be around addressing the starting rotation, filling the hole left by Jason Castro cannot go overlooked. One thing that needs to be at the forefront of the Twins minds when making this decision is in case of an injury, is this a player we trust to step up as the primary Twins catcher in his absence? If that answer is no, they should probably look to an alternative option, to avoid a replay of the 2018 Twins catching situation.
  14. One of the first moves the Twins front office made under the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine regime was signing former Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro to a three-year $24.5 million deal. That was a move that paid off well for the Twins over the past three seasons. In 2017, Castro was the Twins primary catcher, and he put up a respectable 2.1 fWAR in 110 games played that season. After missing nearly all of 2018 with a knee injury, Castro had another strong 2019 campaign in a catching role he split 50/50 with Mitch Garver.Though Jason Castro wasn’t near the offensive threat that Mitch Garver has been behind the plate, he is no defensive-only catcher a la Drew Butera. In 2019, Castro posted a 103 wRC+, which ranked 15th out of the 36 catchers with at least 250 plate appearances. Factor that in with Castro’s above average pitch framing ability, and solid all-around defense behind the plate, and you have yourselves a pretty good catcher. Now, at the age of 32, Castro is entering free agency and the Twins suddenly find themselves in need of a catcher to back up Mitch Garver. Let’s take a look at some of the options the Twins have. Free Agency Perhaps the most obvious place the Twins could look to find the replacement for Jason Castro is on the free agent market. While there won’t be any big-time catchers available in free agency, that is perfectly fine with the Twins as all they need is someone who can be their number two behind Mitch Garver. Some of the names the Twins could be interested in are Robinson Chirinos, Travis d’Arnaud, Alex Avila and Jason Castro himself. Personally, Jason Castro makes the most sense to bring back among this group. The Twins will be looking to replicate the success they had at the catcher position this year, and what better way to do so than by using the same players? While this move would certainly make sense for the Twins, especially on a one- or two- year deal, it is hard to say if it would make a lot of sense for Castro. It is entirely possible that Castro is looking for an opportunity somewhere he could be the primary catching option, and who could blame him? He certainly has the ability to be the primary catcher for roughly half of the organizations in major league baseball, and if he were to return to the Twins, at best he will split time with Garver 50/50, barring an injury. Trade Market Another option the Twins could turn to in on the trade market. One team the Twins could reach out to is the Seattle Mariners, and their always-very-eager- to- make-a-trade GM Jerry Dipoto. The Mariners have two quality young catchers in Tom Murphy and Omar Narvaez. Murphy has one year remaining before he becomes arbitration eligible in 2021, while Narvaez is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter. With a few years of team control remaining for each player, the Mariners could have one of two viewpoints. Either, A, hold onto them as part of the future of the organization, or B, cash them in while they can still return good value, and continue to build up their strong farm system. If the answer is B, I think the Twins could make an excellent trade partner for them, given the sheer depth of the Twins farm system, and value that either one of these two catchers would bring to the team. Internal Options If the Twins don’t find anything they like in either free agency or on the trading block, they could always turn internally. Perhaps the most likely option, if this were the case, would be to give Willians Astudillo extended playing time as a catcher. While this would certainly be a fan favorite choice, it is still a little dicey trusting Astudillo behind the plate that often, especially with his offensive struggles mitigating his ability to make up for his poor defense. After Astudillo, their top two catching prospects within the organization are Ryan Jeffers and Ben Rortvedt. While both are solid catching options, they each have only played partial seasons at AA with zero experience at the AAA level. Turning to one of these two to start the season would require a big jump that they might not be quite ready for. A fourth option would be Tomas Telis, who posted an impressive .330/.364/.490 slash line in 82 games for the Rochester Red Wings this season, albeit in the extreme offensive environment that was Triple-A this season. Telis does have brief MLB experience playing for the Texas Rangers and Miami Marlins before he came over to the Twins organization, so he should be ready if the Twins were to call his number. While the Twins main focus will certainly be around addressing the starting rotation, filling the hole left by Jason Castro cannot go overlooked. One thing that needs to be at the forefront of the Twins minds when making this decision is in case of an injury, is this a player we trust to step up as the primary Twins catcher in his absence? If that answer is no, they should probably look to an alternative option, to avoid a replay of the 2018 Twins catching situation. Click here to view the article
  15. When The Athletic venture was first announced a few years back, I was excited to the core. Their model just made so much sense to me – subscription-based premium content, from destination writers. It was exactly where I felt sports journalism needed to go. I know all too well the fickleness of ad-based revenues, and the painful trade-offs that must be made in terms of user experience to actually monetize it. This was the future. Beyond the hope it gave me for digital sportswriting, The Athletic's advent also enthused me for a more basic reason: Twins coverage was going to get a major jolt of energy. As big-name hires popped up for various local beats, I waited eagerly to see who would be tabbed for the Twins, envisioning all sorts of fun possibilities. When the news finally came, I gotta admit: I was nonplussed. Who is this Dan Hayes guy? I've never heard of him. He's from Chicago? He spent a half-decade covering the friggin WHITE SOX?! I dunno about this... Fortunately, my initial reservations proved to be laughably misplaced. Dan soon became a regular must-read for me. He covers stories the other mainstream outlets miss (an aspiration that basically willed Twins Daily into existence), and he's a tremendous writer, bringing an excellent mix of reporting, analysis, and wit. Those strengths are fully on display in his feature for the Handbook, entitled "How Rest, Recovery and Rocco Won Over Mitch Garver." The lengthy piece features viewpoints from Garver, Rocco Baldelli and Thad Levine, and explores the very deliberate handling of a 2019 catching corps that set the major-league record for home runs. Here's a quick excerpt from his story: The third-year catcher’s showing vaulted Garver past Jason Castro this season in the team’s catching hierarchy. Yet even as the Twins are now faced with a decision on whether or not to bring back Castro, who is headed to free agency, Garver is clear about where he stands – he either wants Castro back or someone else competent enough to share the catching workload. “There were times throughout the season where you were like, 'Man, I kind of want to play right now,’” Garver said. “I feel good whether I'm hot with the bat or we're winning a bunch of games and we're on a roll. Those are the days you want to play more. But when you get to the end of the season, you realize how appreciative you were of that extra rest and being able to feel good when it got toward the end of the season.” Rocco’s rest and recovery model isn’t going anywhere. In the full Handbook, you'll learn much more about the strategic thinking behind this model, and how it affects the coming winter's decision-making equation. It's a great sampling of what Dan Hayes brings to the table. I subscribed to The Athletic shortly after he came aboard and haven't regretted it since; that investment feels all the sounder now that our guy Aaron Gleeman has joined him on staff. If you can spare the monthly six bucks, I highly recommend it. Unsolicited plug aside, we really appreciate Dan lending his skills for this product, and can't wait for you to get the full scoop. Preorder your digital copy now and you'll receive it early.
  16. We all know the quest for pitching is storyline 1a, 1b, and 1c this offseason. But the Twins also need to think about who's going to be receiving from all these hurlers, new and returning. With Jason Castro hitting free agency, and little certainty behind him in the system, catcher is definitely the next-biggest narrative after the arms race. For the soon-to-be-released 2020 Offseason Handbook, we enlisted Dan Hayes of The Athletic to give this nuanced subject the proper treatment.When The Athletic venture was first announced a few years back, I was excited to the core. Their model just made so much sense to me – subscription-based premium content, from destination writers. It was exactly where I felt sports journalism needed to go. I know all too well the fickleness of ad-based revenues, and the painful trade-offs that must be made in terms of user experience to actually monetize it. This was the future. Beyond the hope it gave me for digital sportswriting, The Athletic's advent also enthused me for a more basic reason: Twins coverage was going to get a major jolt of energy. As big-name hires popped up for various local beats, I waited eagerly to see who would be tabbed for the Twins, envisioning all sorts of fun possibilities. When the news finally came, I gotta admit: I was nonplussed. Who is this Dan Hayes guy? I've never heard of him. He's from Chicago? He spent a half-decade covering the friggin WHITE SOX?! I dunno about this... Fortunately, my initial reservations proved to be laughably misplaced. Dan soon became a regular must-read for me. He covers stories the other mainstream outlets miss (an aspiration that basically willed Twins Daily into existence), and he's a tremendous writer, bringing an excellent mix of reporting, analysis, and wit. Those strengths are fully on display in his feature for the Handbook, entitled "How Rest, Recovery and Rocco Won Over Mitch Garver." The lengthy piece features viewpoints from Garver, Rocco Baldelli and Thad Levine, and explores the very deliberate handling of a 2019 catching corps that set the major-league record for home runs. Here's a quick excerpt from his story: The third-year catcher’s showing vaulted Garver past Jason Castro this season in the team’s catching hierarchy. Yet even as the Twins are now faced with a decision on whether or not to bring back Castro, who is headed to free agency, Garver is clear about where he stands – he either wants Castro back or someone else competent enough to share the catching workload. “There were times throughout the season where you were like, 'Man, I kind of want to play right now,’” Garver said. “I feel good whether I'm hot with the bat or we're winning a bunch of games and we're on a roll. Those are the days you want to play more. But when you get to the end of the season, you realize how appreciative you were of that extra rest and being able to feel good when it got toward the end of the season.” Rocco’s rest and recovery model isn’t going anywhere. In the full Handbook, you'll learn much more about the strategic thinking behind this model, and how it affects the coming winter's decision-making equation. It's a great sampling of what Dan Hayes brings to the table. I subscribed to The Athletic shortly after he came aboard and haven't regretted it since; that investment feels all the sounder now that our guy Aaron Gleeman has joined him on staff. If you can spare the monthly six bucks, I highly recommend it. Unsolicited plug aside, we really appreciate Dan lending his skills for this product, and can't wait for you to get the full scoop. Preorder your digital copy now and you'll receive it early. Click here to view the article
  17. Click here for Part 1 of this series. Click here for Part 2 of this series. The Veteran Leader Much has rightly been made about Nelson Cruz’s veteran leadership on a fairly young Twins team. At times, immeasurable variables like “team chemistry” and “veteran leadership” are probably over-valued, but in the case of Nelson Cruz, there is little doubt inside or outside of the clubhouse as to how valuable Cruz has been to this team. Cruz has been heralded for his work ethic, preparing himself not only physically, but also mentally for the challenges of playing at a high level as a 39-year-old. Whether in the weight room, the batting cage, or studying video, Cruz always seems to be applying himself to his craft and his younger teammates cannot help but notice. One of the beneficiaries has been Miguel Sano. Twins fans have long dreamed of what Miguel Sano could become, but after a sensational rookie season in 2015, Sano never quite returned to form. 2018 was a disaster filled with injury and off-the-field distractions, but 2019 has been a revelation for Sano. Sano worked hard to get in shape in the offseason and also claimed that he suggested the Twins sign Cruz in the offseason in an interview with FSN’s Justin Morneau. Sano has seemed to work harder than ever to improve his game as can be seen by his willingness to change his swing in-season and the results that have followed (.271/.376/.618 from June 28th to the end of the regular season). There is little doubt that Nelson Cruz has played a large role in Sano’s success. The Houston Astros had a similar veteran addition to their 2017 championship team in Carols Beltran. Beltran was a 19-year MLB veteran who wanted a last chance to win a World Series and Houston was looking to add a veteran to supplement its young core and improve team chemistry. Like Cruz, Beltran loved studying video and was instrumental in breaking down pitchers and passing the information on to his teammates. In Astroball, Correa talked about how much Beltran taught him in regard to viewing video and identifying when pitchers were tipping their pitches. Beltran also helped to identify when hitters like George Springer were developing bad habits at the plate, and Beltran made it clear to his teammates that he was there to help early on: “My friend, I am here to help you. Even if it looks like I’m busy, you won’t bother me. If you sit down next to me and ask me a question, I would be more than happy to give you the time that you need.” Having veterans like Cruz and Beltran on your team is akin to having another coach on the bench who younger players not only trust but can emulate. Cruz has also provided in one area that Beltran didn’t – Cruz has put up really big numbers while Beltran struggled in his final season. Beltran hit just .231/.283/.383 as a 40-year-old for Houston, whereas Cruz has been one of the MLB’s best hitters at age 39, slashing .311/.392/.639 with 41 home runs. Regardless of the results, Cruz’s leadership would have been valuable to the team, but when combined with his elite production he may well be the team’s MVP. Free Agency and Starting Pitching In their first two years in Minnesota, Falvey and Levine had a bit of a mixed record in free agency. Catcher Jason Castro turned out to be a pretty good three-year signing, but last year’s last-minute bargains, Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison were pretty much a disaster as they seemed unhappy to be in Minnesota playing for less money and years than they had hoped for. Pitcher Michael Pineda was also signed before last season but was really signed for the 2019 season as he sat out 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery. The FO seemed to learn their lesson and have had much greater success with this year’s signings, which include the previously mentioned Cruz and utility man Marwin Gonzalez, who came over from the Astros organization. Both have played well and have brought a winning attitude to Minnesota. Minnesota was also able to add second baseman Jonathan Schoop to the team. He has had an up-and-down year but has provided some pop, is well-liked by his teammates, and could have been essential to the team’s postseason roster, depending on rookie Luiz Arraez’s availability due to an ankle injury. If the Twins do hope to emulate Houston, upgrading the rotation would be the next step in the process. The Astros feature three of the best starters in baseball in the aforementioned Verlander, Cole, and Greinke. None of the three came from within the organization so the Astros needed to do two things that the Twins should be able to do as well. The first was to be willing to give up some of their prospect capital to acquire starting pitching. While the Astros had to give up good prospects in all three trades, they were able to do so without giving up anyone on quite the level of Lewis or Kirilloff. The Twins certainly have the prospect surplus to make some trades. Secondly, Houston was willing to take on some salary. Verlander and Greinke were under contract for large amounts and Houston went on to extend Verlander and reliever Ryan Pressly. With a lot of salary coming off the books, the Twins should theoretically have a lot of money available, and could definitely make a run at one or two of the top free agent starters if they so choose. With Jose Berrios as the only current starter due back next season (although Randy Dobnak may be in next year’s rotation), it will be interesting to see what the FO does to address starting pitching. Some big name free-agent starters will be available, led by Houston’s Gerrit Cole. The Twins got good years out of Michael Pineda and Jake Odorrizi, but they are set to be free agents along with Kyle Gibson. With this year’s team breaking the competitive window wide open, there may never be a better time to add an “ace.” Brain Drain Although Houston continues to succeed, finishing with the best overall record in 2019, they have had to deal with other teams luring talented front office staff and coaches away from the organization. When an organization finds success, especially with a new approach, other teams are sure to take notice. Gone from the front office are Sag Mejdal and Mike Elias who were poached by the Baltimore Orioles, and Mike Fast joined the Atlanta Braves. Bench coach Alex Cora famously became the manager of the Boston Red Sox and led them to a World Series victory in 2018. With the success of the Minnesota Twins is 2019, other organizations are sure to take notice, and Minnesota would be extremely lucky if everyone remained in place for 2020. Coaches such as Derrek Shelton and James Rowson will likely draw interest and members of the front office and analytics department are likely to be hot commodities as well, not to mention minor league coaches and staff. With the right philosophy in place, Minnesota may be able to plug in great new minds and continue to succeed as Houston has. However, the teams that are plucking employees may soon bridge the gap as the Twins (and others) have done to the Astros. The best teams will need to evolve, always on the lookout for new hidden advantages, and the process will continue as it always has. Here We Go The Twins didn't reach the World Series this season, but regardless of the result, it’s hard to view the season as anything less than a resounding success. The Twins will obviously blaze their own path going forward, but if there is a ballclub to emulate, you can’t do much better than the Houston Astros. As Minnesota’s young core continues to mature, with most of the team returning for 2020 and plenty of intriguing options inching closer from the farm, the best is hopefully yet to come.
  18. The final game of the regular season came right down to the end, but unfortunately the Royals won it by a score of 5-4 on a walk off sacrifice fly. After 162 regular season games, the Twins finished with a 101-61 record and an AL Central title. Oh by the way, THE HOME RUN RECORD BELONGS TO THE TWINS. The Yankees hit one, but the Twins hit three and now the all time record belongs to the team in Minnesota.Box Score Perez: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 62% strikes (63 of 102 pitches) Bullpen: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 6 BB, 2 K Home Runs: Cron (25), Cave (8), Castro (13) Multi-Hit Games: Cave (2-for-4) Bottom 3 WPA: Brusdar Graterol (-.358), Lewis Thorpe (-.340), Jonathan Schoop (-.117) Ehire Adrianza (manager) knows how to make a home run lineup. Rookie manager Ehire Adrianza put together the final lineup of the regular season and they got off to a hot start. The game started with the Twins trailing New York by one in the home run race, but the Twins had something to say about that. The first inning had a pulled home run from C.J. Cron at 115.6 MPH (22nd hardest hit ball in the majors) and then Cave hit an opposite field home run to give the Twins a 3-0 lead. Martin Perez shows some encouraging signs for the playoffs. The playoffs begin on Friday and I think Perez should make the team (don’t ask @Matthew_bTwins on Twitter if Perez should make it). He is excellent against left handed hitters (.233/.292/.301) and the playoffs will be a good time for him to come in and get a few lefties out. He did not have that bad of a start today, going nearly six innings and allowing three runs. Kyle Gibson came on in relief in the middle of an inning thanks to a smart pitching change from rookie manager Arraez. He came in and struck out the lone batter he faced in what was his final audition for a playoff spot. He and Martin Perez will be two of the most interesting decisions made this week. Kohl Stewart took over in the seventh inning. He will not make the playoff roster. Despite that, he pitched an excellent seventh inning that took a total of four pitches to finish off with a 4-3 lead. Royals take the lead and win in the final innings In a game loaded with playoff auditions, Lewis Thorpe did not have an excellent outing. The eighth inning started with a leadoff triple from Hunter Dozier which was followed by an RBI double from Ryan O’Hearn. Thorpe would go on to strike out the next hitter but was then pulled for Fernando Romero. It started to seem like Adrianza’s job was on the line unless he could pull out a win. Luckily for Ehire, Fernando Romero got the next two guys to keep the game tied but the managerial job definitely wasn’t safe at this point. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Brusdar Graterol gave up a double and a single which eventually led to a game-ending walk-off sacrifice fly to cap off the 2019 regular season. I’m hearing rumors that Adrianza is being removed as manager The home run record belongs to the Minnesota Twins The Twins were able to barely pull out the home run title in the final game, hitting 307 total bombas while the Yankees finished with 306. Who would have thought Jason Castro would be the guy to set the record? That means Garver (catcher) broke the original record and now Castro (also catcher) broke the final record. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days. Click here to view the article
  19. Box Score Perez: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 62% strikes (63 of 102 pitches) Bullpen: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 6 BB, 2 K Home Runs: Cron (25), Cave (8), Castro (13) Multi-Hit Games: Cave (2-for-4) Bottom 3 WPA: Brusdar Graterol (-.358), Lewis Thorpe (-.340), Jonathan Schoop (-.117) Ehire Adrianza (manager) knows how to make a home run lineup. Rookie manager Ehire Adrianza put together the final lineup of the regular season and they got off to a hot start. The game started with the Twins trailing New York by one in the home run race, but the Twins had something to say about that. The first inning had a pulled home run from C.J. Cron at 115.6 MPH (22nd hardest hit ball in the majors) and then Cave hit an opposite field home run to give the Twins a 3-0 lead. Martin Perez shows some encouraging signs for the playoffs. The playoffs begin on Friday and I think Perez should make the team (don’t ask @Matthew_bTwins on Twitter if Perez should make it). He is excellent against left handed hitters (.233/.292/.301) and the playoffs will be a good time for him to come in and get a few lefties out. He did not have that bad of a start today, going nearly six innings and allowing three runs. Kyle Gibson came on in relief in the middle of an inning thanks to a smart pitching change from rookie manager Arraez. He came in and struck out the lone batter he faced in what was his final audition for a playoff spot. He and Martin Perez will be two of the most interesting decisions made this week. Kohl Stewart took over in the seventh inning. He will not make the playoff roster. Despite that, he pitched an excellent seventh inning that took a total of four pitches to finish off with a 4-3 lead. Royals take the lead and win in the final innings In a game loaded with playoff auditions, Lewis Thorpe did not have an excellent outing. The eighth inning started with a leadoff triple from Hunter Dozier which was followed by an RBI double from Ryan O’Hearn. Thorpe would go on to strike out the next hitter but was then pulled for Fernando Romero. It started to seem like Adrianza’s job was on the line unless he could pull out a win. Luckily for Ehire, Fernando Romero got the next two guys to keep the game tied but the managerial job definitely wasn’t safe at this point. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Brusdar Graterol gave up a double and a single which eventually led to a game-ending walk-off sacrifice fly to cap off the 2019 regular season. I’m hearing rumors that Adrianza is being removed as manager The home run record belongs to the Minnesota Twins The Twins were able to barely pull out the home run title in the final game, hitting 307 total bombas while the Yankees finished with 306. Who would have thought Jason Castro would be the guy to set the record? That means Garver (catcher) broke the original record and now Castro (also catcher) broke the final record. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1178436363315601408 Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  20. Isn’t Every Team Good Against Fastballs? Minnesota is head and shoulders above the crowd when it comes to fastballs and looking at pitch type linear weights in relation to that pitch (wFB). According to FanGraphs, this linear weight “attempts to answer the question, ‘How well has a batter/pitcher performed against/using a certain pitch?’” Over the course of a season, this allows us to see which pitch a hitter performed best against. As a team, the Twins have the highest wFB in all of baseball and it isn’t even close. The Dodgers and the Yankees are in a close battle for second place but Minnesota’s 100.6 wFB is almost 30 points higher. Since Target Field opened in 2010, the Twins wFB is the tenth highest compiled by a club and there are still 30+ games to add to their total. When looking at the players responsible for Minnesota’s wFB production, there are some of the usual suspects. Nelson Cruz (23.7 wFB), Mitch Garver (16.4), Max Kepler (13.9), and Miguel Sano (13.1) all sit at the top of the team’s leaderboard. Jason Castro and Jorge Polanco are tied for fifth with 9.4 wFB. One surprise might be Luis Arraez and his 7.1 wFB since he has under 250 plate appearances at the big-league level. Facing Big Time Heat Minnesota also isn’t just getting away with hitting mediocre fastballs from subpar teams in the American League, because they have some of the best numbers among clubs when facing 97+ mph this year. The Twins have the best batting average, slugging percentage, and AB per XBH. https://twitter.com/InsideEdgeScout/status/1164668570103635970/photo/1 Make sure not to pass on the message but opposing pitchers and coaching staffs must not have caught on to Minnesota’s fastball tendencies. Through this weekend’s games, the Twins have seen fastballs in 26.4% of their at-bats while the MLB average is 22.0%. Mitch Garver (34.2 FB%), Miguel Sano (32.6%), Jason Castro (31.1%), Eddie Rosario (30.4%) and Max Kepler (30.1%) are all seeing fastballs at least a third of the time. The Twins also have five other regular players with a FB% above the league average. In the Zone Since Minnesota continues to see fastballs, it’s important that players don’t go out of the zone to chase pitches. The Twins have the fourth best Z-Swing% in all of baseball which takes the swings a team has inside the zone and divides it by pitches inside the zone. Besides swinging at pitches in the zone, Minnesota is also making a high rate of contact on those same pitches. So far this year, the Twins rank eighth in Z-Contact% with only a couple playoff-caliber teams ranked higher than them. Statcast also gives a glimpse into how successful Twins batters have been at making consistent contact. Among players with at least 100 batted ball events, Minnesota has four players in the top-8 for barrels per plate appearance percentage (Brls/PA %). Nelson Cruz leads all of baseball with a 13.8 Brls/PA % and Jason Castro also sits in the top-5 (11.2%). Castro entered play on Monday higher on the leaderboard than Mike Trout. Miguel Sano and CJ Cron round out the top-8. Many of the hitters mentioned above are having their best professional season and credit needs to be given to the coaching staff. Keeping James Rowson as hitting coach has certainly been one of Minnesota’s most important off-season moves. However, a hitting coach can only do so much. To be successful in October, Minnesota’s offense is going to have to pick up some of the slack from the pitching staff. If opposing pitchers continue to relay on their fastball, Twins’ hitters are going to make them pay. Why do you think the Twins are so successful against the fastball? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  21. In a season full of pleasant surprises for the Minnesota Twins, there are perhaps none more so than the play of third-year catcher Mitch Garver. After being thrust into a bigger role than expected in 2018, thanks to Jason Castro going down with a season-ending knee injury, Garver has settled back in this season, splitting time, almost 50/50, with Castro. As a result, the Twins have been able to keep Garver fresh, and leverage him in the best way possible, to maximize his abilities. Among the 29 catchers with at least 250 plate appearances this season, Garver’s 140 wRC+ is in a distant first place. This is helped, in large part, by the 23 home runs he has belted, which is second among all MLB catchers. However, Garver’s improvement at the plate isn’t the only step forward he has taken this year, as he has improved dramatically behind the plate, as well.During the offseason, and into spring training, we heard a lot about the work Twins Catching Coordinator Tanner Swanson, was putting in with Twins catchers to improve their defense behind the plate, specifically with regard to framing pitches in the strike zone. Mitch Garver was the main point of emphasis, as he was known for being a poor pitch framer as he was coming up through the minor leagues. This was apparent in his first full season in the bigs. Among the 60 qualified catchers in 2018 (who received at least six called pitches per team game), Garver ranked 58th, with a strike called rate of just 42 percent. However, Garver has made quite the improvement in 2019, as his strike called rate has jumped up to 47.7 percent, which ranks 34th, among the 59 catchers who qualify. While you still wouldn’t confuse Garver for one of the best pitch framers in the game, a jump from the bottom of the pack, all the way up to around league average, is a drastic improvement. Note, only pitches on or near the edge of the strike zone were included in this sample, as those are the ones where catcher framing is most evident. So, what changes has Mitch Garver made to improve his pitch framing abilities so much from one season to the next? The most apparent change is with Garver’s stance behind the plate. Here are a couple of clips, comparing Garver’s stance from last year to this year. Mitch Garver 2018 Download attachment: Jose Berrios GIF-downsized_large.gif Mitch Garver 2019 Download attachment: Jose Berrios GIF-downsized_large (1).gif From these clips, it is apparent that Garver has taken the new approach of going down to one knee, which allows him to get lower, as he receives the pitch. This helps Garver when he is trying to frame a low pitch, as the pitch appears to be higher to the umpire that it actually is, because Garver is catching pitches at the bottom of the strike zone at chest level, as opposed to stabbing down at the ball with his glove. That is, at least in theory, how it is supposed to work, but is this actually helping Garver better frame those lower pitches? Let’s go to the data, available on Baseball Savant, to find out. In the diagram below, there are three charts, illustrating three different areas surrounding the strike zone. The strike zone itself is represented by the green dotted rectangle, so the three zones are made up of areas that are half in, and half out, of the strike zone. Download attachment: Bottom of the strike zone charts.PNG In theory, the percentage of the called strikes, on non-swings, should be equivalent to the percentage of the area of the zone that is inside of the strike zone. For reference, among pitches that were not swung at, so far in 2019, 34 percent of pitches in Zone 17 have been called a strike, 50 percent of pitches in Zone 18 have been called a strike, and 26 percent of the pitches in Zone 19 have been called a strike. In 2018, Mitch Garver checked in well below average, as a pitch framer in each of these three zones, as he had a called strike percentage of just 28.4%, 33.7% and 15.2%, in zones 17, 18 and 19, respectively. Compared to other catchers in those zones, Garver ranked 47th in Zone 17, 59th in Zone 18, and 57th in Zone 19, among the 60 catchers who received enough pitches to qualify, in 2018. Clearly, Garver needed to improve his pitch framing abilities in the bottom part of the zone. Fast forward to 2019, and he has done exactly that. Garver’s called strike rate in Zone 17 is up to 36.8%, in Zone 18 it is up to 54.8%, and in Zone 19 it is up to 29.3%. Those percentages have Garver ranking 20th, 15th, and 21st, among the 59 qualified catchers, this season, in those three zones respectively. That is a remarkable improvement from one of the worst pitch framers at the bottom of the zone, to being well above-average after just one offseason’s worth of work. You really need to tip your cap to Garver, Tanner Swanson, and anyone else that played a part in improving his pitch framing abilities. With the looming reality that umpires may soon be no longer calling balls and strikes in major league baseball games, pitch framing might become a moot point in the not too distant future, but for now, it is still a very important part of the game, and one that can have a lot of impact on a pitching staff’s overall numbers. As Tanner Swanson and company continue to work with Mitch Garver, we might see even more improvements in his pitch framing abilities. Click here to view the article
  22. During the offseason, and into spring training, we heard a lot about the work Twins Catching Coordinator Tanner Swanson, was putting in with Twins catchers to improve their defense behind the plate, specifically with regard to framing pitches in the strike zone. Mitch Garver was the main point of emphasis, as he was known for being a poor pitch framer as he was coming up through the minor leagues. This was apparent in his first full season in the bigs. Among the 60 qualified catchers in 2018 (who received at least six called pitches per team game), Garver ranked 58th, with a strike called rate of just 42 percent. However, Garver has made quite the improvement in 2019, as his strike called rate has jumped up to 47.7 percent, which ranks 34th, among the 59 catchers who qualify. While you still wouldn’t confuse Garver for one of the best pitch framers in the game, a jump from the bottom of the pack, all the way up to around league average, is a drastic improvement. Note, only pitches on or near the edge of the strike zone were included in this sample, as those are the ones where catcher framing is most evident. So, what changes has Mitch Garver made to improve his pitch framing abilities so much from one season to the next? The most apparent change is with Garver’s stance behind the plate. Here are a couple of clips, comparing Garver’s stance from last year to this year. Mitch Garver 2018 Mitch Garver 2019 From these clips, it is apparent that Garver has taken the new approach of going down to one knee, which allows him to get lower, as he receives the pitch. This helps Garver when he is trying to frame a low pitch, as the pitch appears to be higher to the umpire that it actually is, because Garver is catching pitches at the bottom of the strike zone at chest level, as opposed to stabbing down at the ball with his glove. That is, at least in theory, how it is supposed to work, but is this actually helping Garver better frame those lower pitches? Let’s go to the data, available on Baseball Savant, to find out. In the diagram below, there are three charts, illustrating three different areas surrounding the strike zone. The strike zone itself is represented by the green dotted rectangle, so the three zones are made up of areas that are half in, and half out, of the strike zone. In theory, the percentage of the called strikes, on non-swings, should be equivalent to the percentage of the area of the zone that is inside of the strike zone. For reference, among pitches that were not swung at, so far in 2019, 34 percent of pitches in Zone 17 have been called a strike, 50 percent of pitches in Zone 18 have been called a strike, and 26 percent of the pitches in Zone 19 have been called a strike. In 2018, Mitch Garver checked in well below average, as a pitch framer in each of these three zones, as he had a called strike percentage of just 28.4%, 33.7% and 15.2%, in zones 17, 18 and 19, respectively. Compared to other catchers in those zones, Garver ranked 47th in Zone 17, 59th in Zone 18, and 57th in Zone 19, among the 60 catchers who received enough pitches to qualify, in 2018. Clearly, Garver needed to improve his pitch framing abilities in the bottom part of the zone. Fast forward to 2019, and he has done exactly that. Garver’s called strike rate in Zone 17 is up to 36.8%, in Zone 18 it is up to 54.8%, and in Zone 19 it is up to 29.3%. Those percentages have Garver ranking 20th, 15th, and 21st, among the 59 qualified catchers, this season, in those three zones respectively. That is a remarkable improvement from one of the worst pitch framers at the bottom of the zone, to being well above-average after just one offseason’s worth of work. You really need to tip your cap to Garver, Tanner Swanson, and anyone else that played a part in improving his pitch framing abilities. With the looming reality that umpires may soon be no longer calling balls and strikes in major league baseball games, pitch framing might become a moot point in the not too distant future, but for now, it is still a very important part of the game, and one that can have a lot of impact on a pitching staff’s overall numbers. As Tanner Swanson and company continue to work with Mitch Garver, we might see even more improvements in his pitch framing abilities.
  23. Box Score Smeltzer: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 60.4% strikes (49 of 81 pitches) Bullpen: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Castro (12), Rosario (25) Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-4), Cave (2-for-4) Bottom 3 WPA: Smeltzer -.191, Arráez -.085, Cron -.063 For the fourth consecutive game, the Twins didn’t get a good outing from their starting pitcher. Since Jake Odorizzi allowed only one run on Monday against the Braves, Twins starters have allowed a total of 28 runs, two of them unearned. Devin Smeltzer was off to a very good start, but he couldn’t get past Cleveland’s top of the order in the fifth. Before the fifth inning meltdown, in which he gave up five earned runs on five hits, Smeltzer was able to hold Cleveland batters to just a one-run lead. With the exception of the second, he threw sixteen pitches or less in all other innings. He had also allowed only two hits before the fifth. Tyler Duffey took over, but couldn’t take care of the two inherited runners. The Indians, on the other hand, were able to lock their second win of the series behind a fantastic start from All-Star Game MVP Shane Bieber. Like Clevinger on Thursday, Bieber went into distance, nearly reaching 110 pitches. He delivered seven innings, striking out a total of eleven Minnesota batters. Twins set new single season home run record Exactly like in the previous three games, the Twins offense had to catch up and tried to start a rally. And they did it in record-breaking fashion. Jason Castro homered off Bieber to lead off the fifth, tying the club’s single season home run record, at 225. In the sixth, Eddie Rosario jumped on the first pitch of the inning to hit the milestone dinger, break the club record and put the Twins back in the game. It was Eddie’s 25th of the year. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1160010490409639938?s=19 Welcome to the show, Dobnak! A dream came true for former Uber driver Randy Dobnak tonight, as he made his major league debut. He couldn’t have asked for a better one too. The Pennsylvania native pitched four scoreless innings on 68 pitches, keeping the Twins within a swing of a bat. He did get a huge help from the defense too, when C.J. Cron threw home to get Yasiel Puig in the seventh and Luis Arráez started a double play in the eighth. Tied atop of the division for the first time since April 20, these two times play again tomorrow, with Odorizzi taking on the mound to face Adam Plutko. First pitch scheduled to 6:10 C.T. Postgame With Baldelli Coming soon. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  24. Once again the Twins didn't get enough from their starter and couldn't sustain a rally and they fall to the Indians at Target Field, 6-2. Minnesota loses their fourth straight game for the first time in the year and are now tied with Cleveland for first place in the division, with a 70-46 record.Box Score Smeltzer: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 60.4% strikes (49 of 81 pitches) Bullpen: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Castro (12), Rosario (25) Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-4), Cave (2-for-4) Bottom 3 WPA: Smeltzer -.191, Arráez -.085, Cron -.063 For the fourth consecutive game, the Twins didn’t get a good outing from their starting pitcher. Since Jake Odorizzi allowed only one run on Monday against the Braves, Twins starters have allowed a total of 28 runs, two of them unearned. Devin Smeltzer was off to a very good start, but he couldn’t get past Cleveland’s top of the order in the fifth. Before the fifth inning meltdown, in which he gave up five earned runs on five hits, Smeltzer was able to hold Cleveland batters to just a one-run lead. With the exception of the second, he threw sixteen pitches or less in all other innings. He had also allowed only two hits before the fifth. Tyler Duffey took over, but couldn’t take care of the two inherited runners. The Indians, on the other hand, were able to lock their second win of the series behind a fantastic start from All-Star Game MVP Shane Bieber. Like Clevinger on Thursday, Bieber went into distance, nearly reaching 110 pitches. He delivered seven innings, striking out a total of eleven Minnesota batters. Twins set new single season home run record Exactly like in the previous three games, the Twins offense had to catch up and tried to start a rally. And they did it in record-breaking fashion. Jason Castro homered off Bieber to lead off the fifth, tying the club’s single season home run record, at 225. In the sixth, Eddie Rosario jumped on the first pitch of the inning to hit the milestone dinger, break the club record and put the Twins back in the game. It was Eddie’s 25th of the year. for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days. Click here to view the article
  25. The Twins were able to pull off a much needed series sweep against the Kansas City Royals. The pitching was outstanding from Devin Smeltzer and the newly improved bullpen and the offense did just enough for the win. The Twins topped the Royals 3-0 to win the series 3-0.Box Score Smeltzer: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 67.8% strikes (61 of 90 pitches) Bullpen: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Castro (11) Multi-Hit Games: Arraez (2-for-3), Rosario (2-for-3) Top 3 WPA: Smeltzer (0.30), Duffey (0.17), Arraez (0.10) Bottom 3 WPA: Sano (-0.08), Adrianza (-0.07), Cruz (-0.06) Pitchers duel between Smeltzer and Keller This game started just like everyone predicted between a Twins AAA pitcher and literally anyone on the Royals pitching staff. Five quick shutout innings on both sides. Both Devin Smeltzer and Brad Keller were rolling and it was looking like the first team to score was going to win. Ehire Adrianza also made a play that made us all say “No way he gets to that ball… wow! Well no way he throws out the runner… WOW!” Luckily for the Twins, they were able to score a run on a 92 MPH single from Arraez, followed by a wild pitch, a productive groundout to move him to third and then a sacrifice fly from Rosario on a nice diving catch by Jorge Soler. Smeltzer makes his case to stay in the big leagues Twins starter Devin Smeltzer showed yet again that the Twins won the Brian Dozier trade last season with six shutout innings. These six innings helped to lower his ERA to just 2.28 in 28.2 career innings. He came up to fill in for Michael Pineda and he did exactly what the Twins needed from him. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him take Pineda’s next start against Cleveland as well. Late offense is just enough for the Twins After the sacrifice fly from Rosario in the sixth inning, Jason Castro homered in the seventh and then Rosario singled on a ball he thought was going 450 feet and he ended up getting caught in a rundown and then Nelson Cruz was thrown out at the plate. It was a very odd play, but the Twins were up 3-0 going into the ninth. The Twins bullpen finishes off the game strong After Devin Smeltzer was taken out in the seventh inning, Tyler Duffey was the first out of the bullpen and he did his job by throwing a clean 1-2-3 inning with a couple of strikeouts. In the eighth the Twins brought in new fan favorite reliever Sergio Romo and he did his job as well, throwing just six pitches (all strikes) and getting three outs. Taylor Rogers finished it off in the ninth with another 1-2-3 inning and that capped off a perfect game for the bullpen and a series sweep. Twins finish off the sweep with a three game lead over Cleveland The Twins won the game by a final score of 3-0 and there was really no doubt at any point despite it being a close game throughout. It looks like the Twins may have finally returned to the team we knew and loved in April and May. Tomorrow a great Atlanta Braves team comes to town with the Twins still leading the Central Division by three games. Twins win! Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days. Click here to view the article
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