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  1. He was the only player the Twins acquired at the trade deadline that was effective. He's also still a free agent, but he is not without red flags. Image courtesy of © Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports The Minnesota Twins bullpen is filling out nicely, projected as a top-five unit by some systems. They have arguably the best relief pitcher in all of baseball in Jhoan Duran and a strong supporting cast behind him, but there is plenty of noise that the Twins add one more right-handed reliever to fill out the bullpen. A popular candidate to re-sign for that last spot is one of their 2022 trade acquisitions, Michael Fulmer. Fulmer was solid for the Twins in the back half of the season, claiming a 3.70 ERA, 4.14 FIP, with a 20.6% K% and 7.5% BB% for Minnesota post-deadline. There has been little noteworthy reporting on a potential landing spot for Fulmer this offseason. Would a reunion in MN make sense for the right-hander? Fulmer sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, but his calling card is his slider. Throwing it more than 60% of the time and averaging over 90 MPH, the pitch laid waste to right-handed hitters, as Fulmer held them to a .188/.287/.257 slash line in 2022. However, as devastating as he is to right-handers, he was quite the opposite versus left-handed hitters. Allowing a .337/.404/.526 slash line, this extreme platoon split limits Fulmer’s value, as he is only useful against one side of the plate. Fulmer toes a very fine line of success. His strikeout rate is just under league average (45th percentile), and he does a good job of limiting hard contact (61st percentile HardHit%), but walks were a problem for Fulmer in 2022. His 10.1% BB% was the 20th percentile, and while you can be an excellent reliever with a high walk rate, it is difficult to do so while missing bats at a below-league-average level. I believe Fulmer allows too many free passes to consistently rely on the variance of balls in play to be a sustainably reliable relief pitcher in the future. In addition to his struggles commanding the strike zone, Fulmer is starting to see deterioration in his pitch arsenal. Fulmer saw his pitch velocities decline by more than a mile per hour for all four of his pitches. The thing that concerns me the most is what happened to his slider. In addition to losing velocity, it started to lose movement. According to Baseball Savant, from 2021 to 2022, his slider lost more than an inch of horizontal break and an inch of vertical break. Given how often he throws this pitch and how critical it is for his success, declining speed and movement on his slider is extremely concerning moving forward. For a pitcher that is going to rely on soft contact for outs while also not throwing a lot of strikes, seeing their best pitch starting to slip is a red flag. I’m not opposed to re-signing Fulmer, but it would be a risky bet, and it would have to be a low-cost signing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Twins decided to fill that final bullpen spot with one of their relief prospects instead of Fulmer. Whether it’s Cole Sands, Ronny Henriquez, Trevor Megill, or another option, it’s not an unreasonable bet that the Twins can generate Fulmer’s value as a righty specialist elsewhere View full article
  2. The Minnesota Twins bullpen is filling out nicely, projected as a top-five unit by some systems. They have arguably the best relief pitcher in all of baseball in Jhoan Duran and a strong supporting cast behind him, but there is plenty of noise that the Twins add one more right-handed reliever to fill out the bullpen. A popular candidate to re-sign for that last spot is one of their 2022 trade acquisitions, Michael Fulmer. Fulmer was solid for the Twins in the back half of the season, claiming a 3.70 ERA, 4.14 FIP, with a 20.6% K% and 7.5% BB% for Minnesota post-deadline. There has been little noteworthy reporting on a potential landing spot for Fulmer this offseason. Would a reunion in MN make sense for the right-hander? Fulmer sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, but his calling card is his slider. Throwing it more than 60% of the time and averaging over 90 MPH, the pitch laid waste to right-handed hitters, as Fulmer held them to a .188/.287/.257 slash line in 2022. However, as devastating as he is to right-handers, he was quite the opposite versus left-handed hitters. Allowing a .337/.404/.526 slash line, this extreme platoon split limits Fulmer’s value, as he is only useful against one side of the plate. Fulmer toes a very fine line of success. His strikeout rate is just under league average (45th percentile), and he does a good job of limiting hard contact (61st percentile HardHit%), but walks were a problem for Fulmer in 2022. His 10.1% BB% was the 20th percentile, and while you can be an excellent reliever with a high walk rate, it is difficult to do so while missing bats at a below-league-average level. I believe Fulmer allows too many free passes to consistently rely on the variance of balls in play to be a sustainably reliable relief pitcher in the future. In addition to his struggles commanding the strike zone, Fulmer is starting to see deterioration in his pitch arsenal. Fulmer saw his pitch velocities decline by more than a mile per hour for all four of his pitches. The thing that concerns me the most is what happened to his slider. In addition to losing velocity, it started to lose movement. According to Baseball Savant, from 2021 to 2022, his slider lost more than an inch of horizontal break and an inch of vertical break. Given how often he throws this pitch and how critical it is for his success, declining speed and movement on his slider is extremely concerning moving forward. For a pitcher that is going to rely on soft contact for outs while also not throwing a lot of strikes, seeing their best pitch starting to slip is a red flag. I’m not opposed to re-signing Fulmer, but it would be a risky bet, and it would have to be a low-cost signing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Twins decided to fill that final bullpen spot with one of their relief prospects instead of Fulmer. Whether it’s Cole Sands, Ronny Henriquez, Trevor Megill, or another option, it’s not an unreasonable bet that the Twins can generate Fulmer’s value as a righty specialist elsewhere
  3. 2022 wasn’t just bad for former top pitching prospect Jordan Balazovic, it was disastrous. Now that he’s on the 40 man roster with minimal minor league success above Double-A on his resume, is it time for a change in plans? Image courtesy of Theo Tollefson, Twins Daily Jordan Balazovic was seen as the crown jewel pitching prospect in the Twins system for a few years prior to 2022. Even as a fifth round pick out of Canada in 2016, Balazovic became a big name quickly, as his 6’5 frame filled out quickly and velocity soon followed. He dominated his way up to Double-A in 2019 before the 2020 shutdown interrupted what looked to be an ascension to one of the Twins best starting pitching prospects in some time. 2021 was a mixed bag as Balazovic threw 97 innings in Double-A with a mid-3s ERA. The strikeouts came down and walks came up a bit, but he still flashed the upside the Twins knew was there. While not the dominant pitcher he had shown he could be, 2021 never could have foreshadowed what we saw in 2022. Balazovic began the season a bit behind due to a knee issue. Still, the Twins had decided they’d seen enough in Double-A to bump him up to Triple-A, setting the stage for a potential call up later in 2022. Unfortunately, these plans did not come to fruition, as Balazovic wound up throwing around 70 innings and posting a panic-inducing 7.39 ERA. He was often chased from outings in the second or third inning, allowing a 2.55 HR/9 that would make Emilio Pagan blush. There were rumblings of the knee issue continuing to limit the right hander, but the 2022 season was enough for Balazovic to lose all national prospect status. Once bordering on Top 100 prospect lists as an up-and-coming mid-to-high end starting pitcher, Balazovic’s future is suddenly a massive question mark. The question of course, is how the Twins view him. At 24 years old, the Twins don’t have to rush to make a decision with Balazovic. Plenty of pitchers such as Josh Winder and Bailey Ober debuted at older ages. The issue, however, becomes the fact that Balazovic had to be added to the 40-man roster. If The Twins want to regain trust in him as a starter in 2023, it will likely take a sizable body of work for them to feel comfortable calling him up given what they saw last year. It also runs the risk of him either continuing to struggle or just putting up middle of the road numbers that don’t push the issue at all. Given how often the Twins churn over the fringes of the 40-man roster, it’s hard to stash Balazovic away in Triple-A as a starter if they’ve lost any faith in him. It’s possible they take another route instead. Balazovic’s stuff remains intact by all accounts. His massive frame allows him to throw mid-90s out of the rotation, and he has multiple secondary pitches that grade out well. It’s entirely possible that a move to shorter stints out of the bullpen allow him to approach triple digits, and he could greatly reduce the usage on his lowest-graded pitch being the changeup. He should have the raw stuff to put any command struggles behind him and simply overpower opposing hitters. This would also put him on an expedited track to the Major Leagues. Nobody ever wants to see a top prospect make the switch to the bullpen, but it’s a quite common outcome. Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Jhoan Duran, all former starters that made a shift for struggles of some kind and found massive success in the MLB. We’ve seen Griffin Jax, a low 90s fringe starting pitching prospect transition into a high leverage reliever who sits above 95 mph. Sometimes a move to the bullpen is exactly what a pitcher needs to reach their potential. It’s likely at this point that Balazovic opens 2023 as a starting pitcher in Triple-A once more, which is completely fair. Much like the 2022 Twins, it may be wise not to make any rash decisions when injury accounted for so much of the struggles. Still, it’s likely that Balazovic’s status as a future starting pitcher is on thin ice. Prospects get hurt and struggle every year, but Balazovic’s 2022 was so bad that it’s fair to wonder whether it’s possible for him to come all the way back. The Twins should have a backup plan on standby for Balazovic in 2023 should his struggles continue early in the year. He has the talent to make a real impact on the Major League team and if his odds of that impact coming in the rotation continue to wane, the Twins need to be ready to pivot. Jordan Balazovic could easily become the next Jhoan Duran starter turned reliever to make an impact on the Twins roster. It’s not what fans have hoped for all of these years, but it’s far from a bad outcome. View full article
  4. Jordan Balazovic was seen as the crown jewel pitching prospect in the Twins system for a few years prior to 2022. Even as a fifth round pick out of Canada in 2016, Balazovic became a big name quickly, as his 6’5 frame filled out quickly and velocity soon followed. He dominated his way up to Double-A in 2019 before the 2020 shutdown interrupted what looked to be an ascension to one of the Twins best starting pitching prospects in some time. 2021 was a mixed bag as Balazovic threw 97 innings in Double-A with a mid-3s ERA. The strikeouts came down and walks came up a bit, but he still flashed the upside the Twins knew was there. While not the dominant pitcher he had shown he could be, 2021 never could have foreshadowed what we saw in 2022. Balazovic began the season a bit behind due to a knee issue. Still, the Twins had decided they’d seen enough in Double-A to bump him up to Triple-A, setting the stage for a potential call up later in 2022. Unfortunately, these plans did not come to fruition, as Balazovic wound up throwing around 70 innings and posting a panic-inducing 7.39 ERA. He was often chased from outings in the second or third inning, allowing a 2.55 HR/9 that would make Emilio Pagan blush. There were rumblings of the knee issue continuing to limit the right hander, but the 2022 season was enough for Balazovic to lose all national prospect status. Once bordering on Top 100 prospect lists as an up-and-coming mid-to-high end starting pitcher, Balazovic’s future is suddenly a massive question mark. The question of course, is how the Twins view him. At 24 years old, the Twins don’t have to rush to make a decision with Balazovic. Plenty of pitchers such as Josh Winder and Bailey Ober debuted at older ages. The issue, however, becomes the fact that Balazovic had to be added to the 40-man roster. If The Twins want to regain trust in him as a starter in 2023, it will likely take a sizable body of work for them to feel comfortable calling him up given what they saw last year. It also runs the risk of him either continuing to struggle or just putting up middle of the road numbers that don’t push the issue at all. Given how often the Twins churn over the fringes of the 40-man roster, it’s hard to stash Balazovic away in Triple-A as a starter if they’ve lost any faith in him. It’s possible they take another route instead. Balazovic’s stuff remains intact by all accounts. His massive frame allows him to throw mid-90s out of the rotation, and he has multiple secondary pitches that grade out well. It’s entirely possible that a move to shorter stints out of the bullpen allow him to approach triple digits, and he could greatly reduce the usage on his lowest-graded pitch being the changeup. He should have the raw stuff to put any command struggles behind him and simply overpower opposing hitters. This would also put him on an expedited track to the Major Leagues. Nobody ever wants to see a top prospect make the switch to the bullpen, but it’s a quite common outcome. Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Jhoan Duran, all former starters that made a shift for struggles of some kind and found massive success in the MLB. We’ve seen Griffin Jax, a low 90s fringe starting pitching prospect transition into a high leverage reliever who sits above 95 mph. Sometimes a move to the bullpen is exactly what a pitcher needs to reach their potential. It’s likely at this point that Balazovic opens 2023 as a starting pitcher in Triple-A once more, which is completely fair. Much like the 2022 Twins, it may be wise not to make any rash decisions when injury accounted for so much of the struggles. Still, it’s likely that Balazovic’s status as a future starting pitcher is on thin ice. Prospects get hurt and struggle every year, but Balazovic’s 2022 was so bad that it’s fair to wonder whether it’s possible for him to come all the way back. The Twins should have a backup plan on standby for Balazovic in 2023 should his struggles continue early in the year. He has the talent to make a real impact on the Major League team and if his odds of that impact coming in the rotation continue to wane, the Twins need to be ready to pivot. Jordan Balazovic could easily become the next Jhoan Duran starter turned reliever to make an impact on the Twins roster. It’s not what fans have hoped for all of these years, but it’s far from a bad outcome.
  5. Jhoan Duran had one of the best rookie seasons in the Twins' history, but is there a way for him to reach another level in 2023? Image courtesy of Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports It's truly amazing to consider what Jhoan Duran was able to accomplish during his rookie campaign. The Twins used him as a starter throughout his professional career, but he transitioned to reliever last spring. Minnesota surprised many by dealing away Taylor Rogers shortly before Opening Day, but that could be a sign of the front office's confidence in Duran. He went on to lead all AL pitchers in Win Probability Added, but there are still areas for him to improve in 2023. Keep the Ball in the Park Every reliever attempts to keep the ball in the park, but Duran's dominant strikeout totals should allow him to do an even better job at limiting home runs. In 67 2/3 innings, Duran allowed 50 hits, with six being long balls. Toronto's Tim Mayza (25.9%) and Minnesota's Emilio Pagan (18.5%) were the only qualified AL relievers to allow more HR/FB than Duran (17.6%). Twins fans don't want to see Duran's name on any leaderboard with Pagan. Duran's split-finger fastball was his worst pitch in 2022, as it was responsible for half of his home runs and a .462 SLG. He threw his splitter less than 16% of the time, so it will be interesting to see if the Twins encourage him to use this pitch less often in 2023. Increase Multi-Inning Appearances Duran dealt with injury concerns during his minor league, which was one reason Minnesota moved him to a reliever role. There was some thought that Duran may be able to handle multi-inning appearances because of his previous starting experience. In 57 appearances, Duran pitched more than one inning 14 times, including ten appearances of two innings. However, only two of his multi-inning appearances came after July 16, corresponding to when the Twins fell out of contention. Duran's second-half numbers were significantly better in the second half with a 1.05 ERA and 13.3 K/9, but he pitched over 16 fewer innings after the All-Star Game. In his sophomore season, Rocco Baldelli should feel more comfortable utilizing him in a multi-inning role throughout the 2023 campaign. Another Player Takes the Closer Role Bullpen usage has evolved recently, with some teams not adhering to a traditional closer role. Managers often turn to their best reliever in the highest leverage situations, which is only sometimes in the ninth inning. Last season, Duran was at his best in high-leverage situations. In 39 games, he held batters to a .180/.246/.243 (.489) with six GDPs and a 39 to 6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Twins added Jorge Lopez at the trade deadline to fill a more traditional closer's role, but he struggled in the second half. The Twins hope that Lopez made some adjustments this winter and he can reestablish himself as a late-inning weapon. Minnesota also hopes relievers like Griffin Jax, Jovani Moran, and Jorge Alcala are prepared to take on more significant roles. Duran will need help to replicate his numbers from his rookie campaign. However, the Twins can put him into some situations that help to boost his overall performance. If he finds a way to improve in 2023, the rest of the American League better watch out. What do you think Duran can do to reach another level in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  6. It's truly amazing to consider what Jhoan Duran was able to accomplish during his rookie campaign. The Twins used him as a starter throughout his professional career, but he transitioned to reliever last spring. Minnesota surprised many by dealing away Taylor Rogers shortly before Opening Day, but that could be a sign of the front office's confidence in Duran. He went on to lead all AL pitchers in Win Probability Added, but there are still areas for him to improve in 2023. Keep the Ball in the Park Every reliever attempts to keep the ball in the park, but Duran's dominant strikeout totals should allow him to do an even better job at limiting home runs. In 67 2/3 innings, Duran allowed 50 hits, with six being long balls. Toronto's Tim Mayza (25.9%) and Minnesota's Emilio Pagan (18.5%) were the only qualified AL relievers to allow more HR/FB than Duran (17.6%). Twins fans don't want to see Duran's name on any leaderboard with Pagan. Duran's split-finger fastball was his worst pitch in 2022, as it was responsible for half of his home runs and a .462 SLG. He threw his splitter less than 16% of the time, so it will be interesting to see if the Twins encourage him to use this pitch less often in 2023. Increase Multi-Inning Appearances Duran dealt with injury concerns during his minor league, which was one reason Minnesota moved him to a reliever role. There was some thought that Duran may be able to handle multi-inning appearances because of his previous starting experience. In 57 appearances, Duran pitched more than one inning 14 times, including ten appearances of two innings. However, only two of his multi-inning appearances came after July 16, corresponding to when the Twins fell out of contention. Duran's second-half numbers were significantly better in the second half with a 1.05 ERA and 13.3 K/9, but he pitched over 16 fewer innings after the All-Star Game. In his sophomore season, Rocco Baldelli should feel more comfortable utilizing him in a multi-inning role throughout the 2023 campaign. Another Player Takes the Closer Role Bullpen usage has evolved recently, with some teams not adhering to a traditional closer role. Managers often turn to their best reliever in the highest leverage situations, which is only sometimes in the ninth inning. Last season, Duran was at his best in high-leverage situations. In 39 games, he held batters to a .180/.246/.243 (.489) with six GDPs and a 39 to 6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Twins added Jorge Lopez at the trade deadline to fill a more traditional closer's role, but he struggled in the second half. The Twins hope that Lopez made some adjustments this winter and he can reestablish himself as a late-inning weapon. Minnesota also hopes relievers like Griffin Jax, Jovani Moran, and Jorge Alcala are prepared to take on more significant roles. Duran will need help to replicate his numbers from his rookie campaign. However, the Twins can put him into some situations that help to boost his overall performance. If he finds a way to improve in 2023, the rest of the American League better watch out. What do you think Duran can do to reach another level in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  7. To this point, the Minnesota Twins’ off-season has not gone as some had hoped, leading fans to chalk it up as a major dud. I, on the other hand, view it simply as incomplete. The current makeup of the roster is bursting at the seams with potential, and there are still enough moves the Twins can make to transform this promising roster into a contender in the AL Central. Here are a few moves I could see the Twins plausibly acting on to achieve that goal. Sign a Right-Handed Outfielder It seems as though the Twins currently possess every left-handed outfielder that has ever played the game. With Gallo, Kepler, Larnach, Kirilloff, and Wallner all taking their cuts from the left side of the plate, the Twins could use a little pop from the right side. Trey Mancini is one right handed option that fits the Twins’ current roster very well. Mancini is only 30 years old and has five seasons of solid production at the plate. He went through a tough time at the plate after being traded to the Astros last year, but I choose to look at the whole body of work rather than the final 51 games he played in Houston. Mancini’s bat is the appeal here, but he has experience playing outfield as well as first base, a position where the Twins don’t currently have a permanent solution. The Twins have money to spend, and signing Mancini would give them a guy they can plug into a corner outfield spot, first base, or DH to add a plus bat to the lineup. There are other options on the free agent market that would fill this need, but Mancini is the one I like best. Bolster the Rotation If you thought signing Gallo was the beginning of the end for Max Kepler in Minnesota, signing Mancini would surely be the straw that broke the camel’s back. In a scenario where the Twins do sign Mancini, they now have too many cooks in the outfield, and unfortunately, Kepler is the odd man out. As noted in my last blog post, I am very high on Pablo Lopez as a potential target for the Twins, and the Marlins are reportedly looking for MLB-ready bats, particularly outfielders. Kepler isn’t enough to get Lopez on his own, but they could package him with either a top 5 prospect or Luis Arraez. Another way they could try to complete a deal would be to take on Jorge Soler’s contract. This method would dip into their spending over the next few years but would allow them to hang onto their top prospects and Luis Arraez. The two teams have been reported to be in ongoing trade talks, so it remains to be seen how this plays out, but Pablo Lopez would be a massive addition to a frequently injured rotation. If the Twins elect not to trade for a front of the rotation guy, they must sign a back of the rotation insurance piece. Four of the five rotation pieces penciled in either struggled to stay healthy last year or didn't play at all due to injury. Adding a guy like Michael Wacha would prevent the Twins from having to rush young prospects the way they did last year with Josh Winder and Louie Varland. Both Varland and Winder showed promise in their big league debuts, but both guys could use a bit more time in the minors before being rotational MLB pitchers. Sure Up the Bullpen 2022 was a year of highs and lows for the Minnesota Twins bullpen. The emergence of Griffin Jax and Jhoan Duran as dominant pieces at the back end of the bullpen was riveting, while Emilio Pagan and Jorge Lopez left a sour taste in many fans’ mouths. The Twins should see the return of Jorge Alcala in 2023. Although there is no guarantee Alcala will return to the form he was when he was the favorite to win the closer job after the Taylor Rogers trade, he should still be a viable piece for the Twins to use. Jorge Lopez walks too many batters, but I still believe in the elite stuff, and his dominant first half of 2022 with the Orioles is impossible to ignore. There may even be hope that Pagan can be a decent middle reliever if he continues to develop his splitter. As a unit, the group is solid, but with the rotation’s inability to pitch deep into games, they could use one more reliable arm. Michael Fulmer would be a familiar name the Twins could bring back for a modest price. Another name I like if the Twins are in the market for a lefty reliever is Andrew Chafin, who had a 3.06 FIP and fanned 67 batters over 57.1 IP last season with the Detroit Tigers. Chafin is left-handed compared to Fulmer’s right-handedness, so it would be up to the Twins to decide which is a bigger need and what would be a better fit. At this point in the off-season, even though things may seem all doom and gloom, there are still moves left for the Twins to make. They have a young, promising roster, money to spend, and bats they should be willing to trade to upgrade the team as a whole. The three potential moves highlighted above could put a nice touch on an otherwise uneventful off-season and, in my opinion, would make the Twins contenders in the AL Central. What are your thoughts? What’s a move you want the Twins to make before Spring Training? Let me know! As always, Go, Twins!
  8. With the arrival of a new year, it's time to update my annual rankings of the top 20 most valuable player assets in the Minnesota Twins organization. Read on to see where I landed on #6 through #10 for the list. Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports If you like, you can quickly catch up on the ground rules for this exercise in the first installment. The short version is this that we're attempting to rank Twins players and prospects through a big-picture lens in asking: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? Here in this third installment, breaking down my picks for #6 through #10, we find a couple of great hitters with defensive fit question marks, two top prospects with sky-high potential, and an elite reliever who made his mark as a rookie in 2022. First, a recap of the list as it stands, from Part 1 and Part 2 of the series: 20. Matt Wallner, OF 19. Louie Varland, RHP 18. Sonny Gray, RHP 17. Jorge Lopez, RHP 16. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B 15. Ryan Jeffers, C 14. Trevor Larnach, OF 13. Austin Martin, SS/OF 12. Connor Prielipp, LHP 11. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023: 6 through 10 10. Luis Arraez, 1B 2022 Ranking: 11 Part of the challenge in these rankings is removing emotion and personal bias from the equation. The idea is to attempt an objective evaluation of players as assets, and that means taking factors like popularity and likability – which of course work strongly in Arraez's favor – largely off the table. What are we left with? A great hitter, to be sure. Arraez had a career year in 2022, earning an All-Star nod, batting title, and Silver Slugger award. He's a premium bat and a rare breed in today's MLB. But it also seems telling that such a core fixture wasn't even in Minnesota's Opening Day lineup. Arraez is an odd fit. The team never seemed comfortable with his defense at second or third – certainly not the outfield – and now he's basically become a 1B/DH type with no power. His offense still stands out at those positions, just not to the same degree. Descending so far on the defensive spectrum, and already experiencing recurring leg issues, by the age of 25 portends a tough aging curve for Arraez, who has three years of team control remaining. The impact of his bat and elite OBP skills cannot be downplayed, and his presence on the team is electric, but the lack of power, speed or defensive impact limit has value as an asset. 9. Jose Miranda, 1B/3B 2022 Ranking: 15 In terms of player profile, Miranda is not too dissimilar from Arraez: a bat-first corner infielder in his mid-20s, probably better suited for first than third. The difference is that he's younger, cheaper, and could offer more impact both offensively and defensively. Coming off a breakthrough campaign in the minors, Miranda verified his hitting excellence with an impressive major-league debut. In 125 games he slashed .268/.325/.426 for a 116 OPS+ as a rookie. With outstanding strike zone coverage and ability to drive to all fields, the 24-year-old was never an easy assignment for even the most experienced big-league pitchers. He's not quite the overall hitter Arraez is yet, but thanks to his budding power, Miranda has the potential to be a better one, and a much more prototypical corner slugger. He also has three extra years of team control. 8. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF 2022 Ranking: NR This ranking might be considered a leap of faith: a 19-year-old who hasn't played above A-ball, coming off a major knee injury, ranked ahead of an All-Star in Arraez and stud rookie in Miranda? Maybe it is, but I'm that much of a believer in Rodriguez, the system's breakout star of 2022. Prior to suffering a meniscus tear in July that ended his season, the center fielder was spectacular in Fort Myers, slashing .272/.493/.552 in 47 games. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2019 for $2.5 million, Rodriguez showed in his first turn at full-season ball that he's the full package: great defense, power, discipline, speed. Among players to make at least 100 plate appearances in the Florida State League, Rodriguez's 1.024 OPS ranked second only to Jacob Gonzalez, a 24-year-old 1B/DH. Nobody else was within 80 points of the transcendent E-Rod, who generated huge buzz inside and outside the organization and will surely appear prominently on preseason global top prospect lists when they start to roll out soon. He's got a ways to go, and the knee injury slowed his ascent, but Rodriguez is one of the crown jewels in this system and undoubtedly one of their most coveted, valuable trade chips. 7. Jhoan Duran, RHP 2022 Ranking: 14 We knew at this time last year that Duran had an amazing arm. The big question marks suppressing his perceived value: could we count on that arm to stay healthy, and did he have any chance of sticking as a starter? It turns out, no, he wasn't going to stay in a starting role. Instead he transitioned to the back of the big-league bullpen and immediately put forth one of the most dominant, impressive, impactful seasons ever for a Twins reliever. Duran lit up the radar gun, blew away opposing hitters, thrived in the highest of leverage, and set new franchise and major-league records with his jaw-dropping velocity. Perhaps most importantly, Duran remained healthy and strong all year long, with nigh a peep heard regarding elbow or forearm soreness. This inspires hope he can hold up physically in the new role, and so long as he does, it's hard to envision him being anything other than one of the most overpowering late-inning forces in baseball. 6. Bailey Ober, RHP 2022 Ranking: 6 It's no secret that controllable, established major-league pitching is in short supply for the Twins, and also desperately needed in order to fulfill their vision of sustaining contention while completely eschewing the free agent starter market. That's essentially why Ober ranked so highly on the list last year, and why he remains in the same spot this year. True, he struggled with a vexing groin injury that limited him to 11 starts and 56 innings, pitching very little while accruing a full year of major-league service. But on the flip side, he took a real step forward performance-wise, building on his strengths (pinpoint control, efficiency, consistent bat-missing ability) while improving on his weaknesses (allowing hits and home runs) to produce legitimate frontline numbers in the small sample: 3.21 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 1.05 WHIP, 4.64 K/BB ratio. Working in the mid-to-low 90s with his fastball and lacking standout secondary stuff, Ober is no ace, but he's got a sustainable recipe for mid-rotation success with his extension, command, and unique release point. Under control for five seasons, and very cheaply for the next several, the 6-foot-9 righty is a critical and underrated asset for the Twins. View full article
  9. If you like, you can quickly catch up on the ground rules for this exercise in the first installment. The short version is this that we're attempting to rank Twins players and prospects through a big-picture lens in asking: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? Here in this third installment, breaking down my picks for #6 through #10, we find a couple of great hitters with defensive fit question marks, two top prospects with sky-high potential, and an elite reliever who made his mark as a rookie in 2022. First, a recap of the list as it stands, from Part 1 and Part 2 of the series: 20. Matt Wallner, OF 19. Louie Varland, RHP 18. Sonny Gray, RHP 17. Jorge Lopez, RHP 16. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B 15. Ryan Jeffers, C 14. Trevor Larnach, OF 13. Austin Martin, SS/OF 12. Connor Prielipp, LHP 11. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023: 6 through 10 10. Luis Arraez, 1B 2022 Ranking: 11 Part of the challenge in these rankings is removing emotion and personal bias from the equation. The idea is to attempt an objective evaluation of players as assets, and that means taking factors like popularity and likability – which of course work strongly in Arraez's favor – largely off the table. What are we left with? A great hitter, to be sure. Arraez had a career year in 2022, earning an All-Star nod, batting title, and Silver Slugger award. He's a premium bat and a rare breed in today's MLB. But it also seems telling that such a core fixture wasn't even in Minnesota's Opening Day lineup. Arraez is an odd fit. The team never seemed comfortable with his defense at second or third – certainly not the outfield – and now he's basically become a 1B/DH type with no power. His offense still stands out at those positions, just not to the same degree. Descending so far on the defensive spectrum, and already experiencing recurring leg issues, by the age of 25 portends a tough aging curve for Arraez, who has three years of team control remaining. The impact of his bat and elite OBP skills cannot be downplayed, and his presence on the team is electric, but the lack of power, speed or defensive impact limit has value as an asset. 9. Jose Miranda, 1B/3B 2022 Ranking: 15 In terms of player profile, Miranda is not too dissimilar from Arraez: a bat-first corner infielder in his mid-20s, probably better suited for first than third. The difference is that he's younger, cheaper, and could offer more impact both offensively and defensively. Coming off a breakthrough campaign in the minors, Miranda verified his hitting excellence with an impressive major-league debut. In 125 games he slashed .268/.325/.426 for a 116 OPS+ as a rookie. With outstanding strike zone coverage and ability to drive to all fields, the 24-year-old was never an easy assignment for even the most experienced big-league pitchers. He's not quite the overall hitter Arraez is yet, but thanks to his budding power, Miranda has the potential to be a better one, and a much more prototypical corner slugger. He also has three extra years of team control. 8. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF 2022 Ranking: NR This ranking might be considered a leap of faith: a 19-year-old who hasn't played above A-ball, coming off a major knee injury, ranked ahead of an All-Star in Arraez and stud rookie in Miranda? Maybe it is, but I'm that much of a believer in Rodriguez, the system's breakout star of 2022. Prior to suffering a meniscus tear in July that ended his season, the center fielder was spectacular in Fort Myers, slashing .272/.493/.552 in 47 games. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2019 for $2.5 million, Rodriguez showed in his first turn at full-season ball that he's the full package: great defense, power, discipline, speed. Among players to make at least 100 plate appearances in the Florida State League, Rodriguez's 1.024 OPS ranked second only to Jacob Gonzalez, a 24-year-old 1B/DH. Nobody else was within 80 points of the transcendent E-Rod, who generated huge buzz inside and outside the organization and will surely appear prominently on preseason global top prospect lists when they start to roll out soon. He's got a ways to go, and the knee injury slowed his ascent, but Rodriguez is one of the crown jewels in this system and undoubtedly one of their most coveted, valuable trade chips. 7. Jhoan Duran, RHP 2022 Ranking: 14 We knew at this time last year that Duran had an amazing arm. The big question marks suppressing his perceived value: could we count on that arm to stay healthy, and did he have any chance of sticking as a starter? It turns out, no, he wasn't going to stay in a starting role. Instead he transitioned to the back of the big-league bullpen and immediately put forth one of the most dominant, impressive, impactful seasons ever for a Twins reliever. Duran lit up the radar gun, blew away opposing hitters, thrived in the highest of leverage, and set new franchise and major-league records with his jaw-dropping velocity. Perhaps most importantly, Duran remained healthy and strong all year long, with nigh a peep heard regarding elbow or forearm soreness. This inspires hope he can hold up physically in the new role, and so long as he does, it's hard to envision him being anything other than one of the most overpowering late-inning forces in baseball. 6. Bailey Ober, RHP 2022 Ranking: 6 It's no secret that controllable, established major-league pitching is in short supply for the Twins, and also desperately needed in order to fulfill their vision of sustaining contention while completely eschewing the free agent starter market. That's essentially why Ober ranked so highly on the list last year, and why he remains in the same spot this year. True, he struggled with a vexing groin injury that limited him to 11 starts and 56 innings, pitching very little while accruing a full year of major-league service. But on the flip side, he took a real step forward performance-wise, building on his strengths (pinpoint control, efficiency, consistent bat-missing ability) while improving on his weaknesses (allowing hits and home runs) to produce legitimate frontline numbers in the small sample: 3.21 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 1.05 WHIP, 4.64 K/BB ratio. Working in the mid-to-low 90s with his fastball and lacking standout secondary stuff, Ober is no ace, but he's got a sustainable recipe for mid-rotation success with his extension, command, and unique release point. Under control for five seasons, and very cheaply for the next several, the 6-foot-9 righty is a critical and underrated asset for the Twins.
  10. The Minnesota Twins are looking at 2023 needing to put up a winning season for the first time since 2021. A significant portion of that being a possibility rests on the shoulders of the guys currently within the organization. Given the graduations from Minnesota’s farm system, Derek Falvey needs to see youth carry the next wave of competitiveness. Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports Rocco Baldelli’s team held onto a division lead for a substantial portion of the 2022 season. That continued to be the reality despite mounting injuries and a roster that needed more done during the offseason. Ultimately it led to a September of non-competitive baseball, and a stretch run that carried zero playoff implications. In that, the silver lining was certainly the development of players that should be looked at as cornerstones in the year ahead. Here is a look at a group that could be considered the top five. Nick Gordon After being thrust into more than 70 games during the 2021 season, it was clear that Nick Gordon had some utility for the Twins. He didn’t do enough to show what exactly that utility was. He played everywhere, but was below average as a hitter, and while he was good on the base paths it was difficult for him to get there. Fast forward a year and Gordon looks the part of a late-blooming asset. He was particularly valuable in the outfield as a replacement, and his 113 OPS+ was a substantial step forward. He made plenty of blunders, both defensively and on the base paths, that should question how tuned in he is while between the lines, but there’s certainly a 26-man roster asset here. Jose Miranda No one put up a better year in the minors, especially for the Twins, than Jose Miranda did during 2021. His .973 OPS didn’t earn him a spot on the Opening Day roster with veterans ahead of him, but it didn’t take long before he made his debut. In 125 games, Miranda posted a 116 OPS+ and blasted 15 homers. He certainly struggled a bit down the stretch as the opposition made changes to combat his abilities, but that is something he can grow into as he continues to develop. Miranda won’t be 25 until the summer and he should have more positional stability in the upcoming season. Playing less first base would be good for him, and that probably says a good deal about the production of Alex Kirilloff and Joey Gallo as well. Royce Lewis Maybe this is a surprise position for a guy who saw such limited action during the season as a whole, but it’s impossible to overlook how much of an impact was made. Lewis had gone two full years without playing an actual game thanks to the pandemic and an injury. He then debuted at Triple-A and posted a .940 OPS forcing his way into big-league action. Carlos Correa going down with an injury opened a spot, and then Lewis’ continued production allowed a position change to be another way he got onto the field. An unfortunate ACL injury ended his season a second year in a row, but it hasn’t stopped the belief in him from the organization. Since he was drafted there has been no reason to doubt him, and once again, he proved that. Griffin Jax For a guy that was a failed starter a season ago, the organization and Jax continued to work together as they have throughout his career. From finding a way to get him action while still dealing with military eligibility, to transitioning towards a bullpen role, it’s always been a work in progress for Jax. His 3.36 ERA was bolstered by a 3.17 FIP and a K/9 that jumped substantially to 9.7 K/9. His velocity saw an uptick, and he emerged as a late-inning option for a bullpen that needed more arms to trend that way. Jhoan Duran If Jax was a guy that emerged as a late-inning option, Duran was the guy that emerged as the late-inning option. A former starting pitching prospect that threw just 16 innings since 2019, he forced his way onto the Opening Day roster. Baldelli probably saw Duran as a godsend given how poor the bullpen was from the get go. Emilio Pagan flopped out of the gate, and Tyler Duffey was DFA worthy well before he ultimately was given that pink slip. Duran put up a ridiculous 1.86 ERA with an 11.8 K/9 and re-wrote the Twins record books when it comes to velocity readings. There isn’t a single player in this group that won’t be counted on by the Twins from the get go in 2023. Baldelli has had a few changes to his projected roster from a season ago, and while the front office still has work to do, there’s no denying that 20% of the roster is represented here (once Lewis is healthy), and each of them will be expected to take another step forward. View full article
  11. Rocco Baldelli’s team held onto a division lead for a substantial portion of the 2022 season. That continued to be the reality despite mounting injuries and a roster that needed more done during the offseason. Ultimately it led to a September of non-competitive baseball, and a stretch run that carried zero playoff implications. In that, the silver lining was certainly the development of players that should be looked at as cornerstones in the year ahead. Here is a look at a group that could be considered the top five. Nick Gordon After being thrust into more than 70 games during the 2021 season, it was clear that Nick Gordon had some utility for the Twins. He didn’t do enough to show what exactly that utility was. He played everywhere, but was below average as a hitter, and while he was good on the base paths it was difficult for him to get there. Fast forward a year and Gordon looks the part of a late-blooming asset. He was particularly valuable in the outfield as a replacement, and his 113 OPS+ was a substantial step forward. He made plenty of blunders, both defensively and on the base paths, that should question how tuned in he is while between the lines, but there’s certainly a 26-man roster asset here. Jose Miranda No one put up a better year in the minors, especially for the Twins, than Jose Miranda did during 2021. His .973 OPS didn’t earn him a spot on the Opening Day roster with veterans ahead of him, but it didn’t take long before he made his debut. In 125 games, Miranda posted a 116 OPS+ and blasted 15 homers. He certainly struggled a bit down the stretch as the opposition made changes to combat his abilities, but that is something he can grow into as he continues to develop. Miranda won’t be 25 until the summer and he should have more positional stability in the upcoming season. Playing less first base would be good for him, and that probably says a good deal about the production of Alex Kirilloff and Joey Gallo as well. Royce Lewis Maybe this is a surprise position for a guy who saw such limited action during the season as a whole, but it’s impossible to overlook how much of an impact was made. Lewis had gone two full years without playing an actual game thanks to the pandemic and an injury. He then debuted at Triple-A and posted a .940 OPS forcing his way into big-league action. Carlos Correa going down with an injury opened a spot, and then Lewis’ continued production allowed a position change to be another way he got onto the field. An unfortunate ACL injury ended his season a second year in a row, but it hasn’t stopped the belief in him from the organization. Since he was drafted there has been no reason to doubt him, and once again, he proved that. Griffin Jax For a guy that was a failed starter a season ago, the organization and Jax continued to work together as they have throughout his career. From finding a way to get him action while still dealing with military eligibility, to transitioning towards a bullpen role, it’s always been a work in progress for Jax. His 3.36 ERA was bolstered by a 3.17 FIP and a K/9 that jumped substantially to 9.7 K/9. His velocity saw an uptick, and he emerged as a late-inning option for a bullpen that needed more arms to trend that way. Jhoan Duran If Jax was a guy that emerged as a late-inning option, Duran was the guy that emerged as the late-inning option. A former starting pitching prospect that threw just 16 innings since 2019, he forced his way onto the Opening Day roster. Baldelli probably saw Duran as a godsend given how poor the bullpen was from the get go. Emilio Pagan flopped out of the gate, and Tyler Duffey was DFA worthy well before he ultimately was given that pink slip. Duran put up a ridiculous 1.86 ERA with an 11.8 K/9 and re-wrote the Twins record books when it comes to velocity readings. There isn’t a single player in this group that won’t be counted on by the Twins from the get go in 2023. Baldelli has had a few changes to his projected roster from a season ago, and while the front office still has work to do, there’s no denying that 20% of the roster is represented here (once Lewis is healthy), and each of them will be expected to take another step forward.
  12. Continuing in this prospect lookback series are the 2019 Top 30 Twins prospects from MLB.com. Where did current Twins rank on this list and how many of them still played professional baseball in 2022? Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today Sports It's hard to believe that the Twins' phenomenal Bomba Squad 2019 was almost four years ago, but 2023 will be here before we know it. As the time approaches, its fun to look back at the Twins' top 30 prospects of the time, according to MLB.com, and how their 2022 seasons panned out across the majors and minors. Here’s how the top 30 Twins prospects from 2019 had their 2022 seasons end up. On Active Rosters for the end of 2022 3. Brusdar Graterol The Twins' fastest throwing arm at the time, Brusdar Graterol, was ranked as their highest pitching prospect going into the 2019 season. This year, Dodgers counted on Graterol often in high-leverage opportunities and will likely continue to do so in 2023 as their bullpen gets reconfigured. Graterol’s fastball is still one of the fastest in the game averaging 99.4 mph for the sixth highest in MLB according to Baseball Savant. Whether the Dodgers will use Graterol as their main closer in 2023 or keep him as a high-leverage reliever remains to be seen. His greatest tool will always be as the flamethrower of the Dodgers bullpen. 7. Jhoan Duran Baseball’s newest and most successful rookie flamethrower was the Twins second-best pitching prospect in 2019. Now he has exceeded expectations as the Twins' best reliever having the best rookie campaign for an American League reliever since Jonathan Papelbon with the Red Sox in 2006. In 2019, Duran was still being used as a starter making 22 starts between Pensacola and Fort Myers. Back then Duran was not the ace reliever we know him to be know as he pitched 115 innings, posted a 3.76 ERA and struck out 136 batters. Now he looks to keep his title of being enshrined as baseballs fastest pitcher. 10. Nick Gordon Back in 2019, Gordon spent all season at Triple-A Rochester while battling injuries that set back his MLB debut so long. With two full seasons under his belt now, Gordon looks to be the go-to backup outfielder for the Twins in 2023 in left and center fields. His time as an infielder will be more limited with the addition of Kyle Farmer last month. Still, if Gordon continues to build off the success he’s had in 2022. There should be no doubts concerning what he can do for the 2023 Twins. 12. Akil Baddo Baddo’s second season in Detroit was a complete sophomore slump. Injuries kept him out for a portion of the season. And when he was healthy, the energy that brought about the success of his rookie campaign just was not there. 2019 was Baddo’s first big injury setback in his career, keeping him to just 29 games played that season, all in Ft. Myers. His numbers in those 29 games looked similar to that of his 2022 season in Detorit as he posted a .214/.290/.393 triple slash and .683 OPS in 2019. 14. Jose Miranda Miranda spent all but one game of his 2019 season in Fort Myers. At that time he did not look like the player he is now, but the Twins have full confidence in his abilities from 2021 and 2022 to make him the everyday third baseman for the 2023 season. Three years ago, Miranda was still coming into his own at the Twins High A affiliate. His numbers did not exactly pop off as they did the last two seasons in the organization as he posted a .252/.302.369 triple slash and a .671 OPS in 119 games. 15. Gilberto Celestino Once an unknown prospect acquired from the Houston Astros for Ryan Pressly, Gilberto Celestino became the Twins' fourth outfielder for the team this year. Celestino’s first full season in the Twins system was mainly spent in Cedar Rapids where he had one of the best professional seasons of his career. Celestino played in 125 games and posted a .277/.349/.410 triple slash and .759 OPS with career highs in home runs (10) and runs batted in (54). 16. Ryan Jeffers The Twins' hopeful starting catcher in 2022 will now be splitting time in a platoon role with new arrival Christain Vazquez. 2019 was Jeffers first full professional season splitting time between Fort Myers and Pensacola. His promise as a future starting catcher for the Twins showed during that season as he hit .264/.341/.421 for a triple slash and posted a .762 OPS in 103 games. Now, the Twins are hopeful that Jeffers can remain healthy more than anything else and rebuild his promise as a 26-year-old platoon catcher in 2023. 17. Luis Arraez The 2022 American League Batting Champion looks to remain with the Twins for now despite faulty rumors of him being a part of a trade to the Miami Marlins for Pablo Lopez. Back in 2019, Arraez graduated off the prospect lists and to the Majors taking the Twins fandom by storm. He proved the contact hitter going the opposite way was not dead in baseball and quickly became a fan favorite. The only limitations ahead for Arraez are consistent playing time at first base or DH, depending on how the team wants to move forward with those roles in the remainder of the off-season. While his name may still be floated around in trade rumors, Twins fans can be more hopeful he will remain with Carlos Correa not coming back. 22. LaMonte Wade Jr. Like Baddo, Wade Jr. had a hard time repeating his success of 2021 season in 2022. 2019 was the year Wade Jr. graduated off the prospect list and debuted with the Twins in late June. Wade Jr. had 26 games with the Twins in his rookie campaign and spent the majority of his season with the Rochester Red Wings hitting .246/.392/.356 for a triple slash and posting a .748 OPS. Wade Jr. looks to continue as a back up outfielder for the Giants next season and his best hope is to develop himself back into the quality fourth outfielder he was in 2021. 23. Griffin Jax Jax being limited to five starts in all of 2017 was knocked off the Twins Top 30 prospect list in 2018. He found his way back onto the list going into the 2019 season when he pitched his best professional season to date between Double A and Triple A. The 2019 season certainly showed Jax’s highest promise as a future Twins starter as he posted a 2.90 ERA in 127.1 innings pitched across 23 starts. Unfortunately that never turned into reality with Jax’s first season in the majors. He fell into the old adage of being a failed starter that turned into a good reliever. Hopefully Jax can continue to live up to this season’s success in 2023. Played in 2022 but were mainly hurt 1. Royce Lewis His future as the Twins man at shortstop is all but secured now once he heals from injury in July 2023. Every Twins fan knows Lewis had the best start to a season before retearing his knee in late May of this year. Back in 2019 though, Lewis had a down season in the Minors compared to his 2018 season. That is when the Twins decided to send him to the Arizona Fall League to rejuvenate his talents. Lewis did of course do that tearing apart the Fall League’s pitching hitting .353/.411/.565 for a triple slash and posting a .975 OPS across 22 games. 2. Alex Kirilloff Kirilloff has not had the best of luck staying healthy since making his MLB debut in 2020. While his MLB debut was an elimination playoff game, Kirilloff has only managed to play in 104 games across the last two seasons due to his wrist injuries. Injuries still bugged him 2019, but Kirilloff played in a decent amount of games totaling 93 all at Double A Pensacola. He had a triple slash of .283/.343/.413 and OPS of .756. Kirilloff’s injury history is unique and only Kirk Gibson has had the success and longevity after battling the wrist problems. If Kirilloff plays in at least half the Twins games this season, fans can certainly expect him to continue platooning time between first base and the outfield. 5. Trevor Larnach Before getting his call up in 2021 and battling injuries in 2022, Larnach had his best professional season ever in 2019. Larnach played his season between Fort Myers and Pensacola hitting .309/.384/.458 with a .842 OPS. Larnach’s injuries in 2022, compared to that of Kirilloff’s, had more optimism for a sooner return and recovery. He did play in a few games to end the season with the St. Paul Saints. One has to assume, Larnach will see more time in left field than Kirilloff with how the roster currently sits as Kirilloff and Arraez are most likely to platoon between first and designated hitter roles. 18. Jorge Alcala Some Twins fans (including this writer), forgot that Jorge Alcala pitched in any games for the Twins during the 2022 season. The two games Alcala came into relief for were in the Opening Series against the Seattle Mariners. The good news, those two outings were scoreless. The bad, he was out for the remainder of the season. Alcala had surgery on August 3 for right elbow arthroscopic debridement. He is still expected to be ready and healthy for Spring Training 2023. Back in 2019, Alcala was splitting time as a starter and reliever in the minor leagues. That changed once he made his MLB debut with the team on September 21 of that year. Played in 2022, mostly in the Minors or Indy Ball 4. Wander Javier Wander Javier once had such promise as a prospect, he now joins a long list of minor league players who never reached their full potential as the Twins parted ways with him earlier in the off-season. The 2019 season was the beginning of Javier’s fall. After spending all of 2018 on the Minor League IL, Javier played 80 games for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Over the course of those 80 games, Javier found himself struggling posting a .177/.278/.323 triple slash over the season. 6. Brent Rooker Brent Rooker spent time between the Padres and Royals organizations in 2022 as he was a piece that brought in one of the most controversial relievers in Twins history. 2019 Rooker was another player than he is now. While he battled injuries, Rooker was very productive for the Rochester Red Wings. Rooker hit 14 home runs and had 47 runs batted in along with a .282/.399/.530 triple slash and a .929 OPS in 67 games. 8. Lewis Thorpe Thorpe found his way out of the Twins organization after one start with the St. Paul Saints in April. Three years ago he was a hyped up pitching prospect who finally found his way onto the Twins roster. Thorpe pitched in 12 games and made two starts for the Twins when called up in 2019 and couldn’t repeat the success he had in the minors as he posted a 6.18 ERA in 27.2 innings. Time in Triple A was better for Thorpe in 2019 but not by much as he made 19 starts and posted a 4.58 ERA in 96.1 innings. 9. Blayne Enlow Enlow’s best path to get to the Majors now looks to be from the bullpen as he battled injuries and struggles on the mound throughout the 2022 season. He split time between the rotation and bullpen at Double-A Wichita this year and found more success as a reliever. During the 2019 season, Enlow split time between the Twins' Low and High A affiliates as a starter. He pitched decently totaling 20 starts across 110.2 innings and posted a 3.82 ERA for the season. 11. Stephen Gonsalves After debuting with the Twins in 2018, Gonsalves spent the majority of his 2019 season on the injured list and when healthy, was on three of the Twins' Minor League affiliates. Gonsalves only pitched in 13 innings the whole season, recording only one more out than he did in 2022 for the Iowa Cubs. Gonzalves has not announced that he is stepping away from professional baseball for 2023, but has not pitched since May of this year, it hard to say if he’ll do so again. 13. Yunior Severino One of many players still in the Twins system three years on. Severino had one of his better professional seasons in 2022 splitting time between Cedar Rapids and Wichita. Severino has had a long journey through the lower Minor League affiliates in the Twins organization. 2019 was a season filled with injuries that kept his playing time limited to 28 games at rookie ball and Cedar Rapids. Fortunately for Severino, the last two seasons have seen a great increase in his hitting ability giving him a good chance to get a call-up to St. Paul sometime in 2023. 19. Jordan Balazovic While he struggled mightily for the 2022 season and didn’t see his number improve until the last month of the season. Jordan Balazovic was a completely different pitcher in 2019, working his way up the Twins system. Balazoivc spent the 2019 season between Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids, dominating Low and High A pitchers with a 2.69 ERA, 129 strikeouts and a 0.98 WHIP in 93.2 innings pitched. The big question for Balazoivc is if he can replicate the pitcher he once was in 2019 and break his way onto the Twins roster at some point during the 2023 season. 20. Misael Urbina Currently, the Twins' eighth-best prospect according to MLB.com, Misael Urbina broke into the Twins' minor league system as a 17-year-old kid in 2019. The Twins touted Urbina out in the Dominican Summer League that season and played in 50 of the team’s 64 games. Urbina’s numbers for his first 50 professional baseball games were solid as he posted a .279/.383/.443 triple slash with a .825. While Urbina has not been able to repeat the same success of hitting the last two seasons in the minors, he is still a spring chicken in age as he only turns 21 this upcoming April. There is still plenty of time for him to redevelop as a solid starting outfielder over the course of the 2023 season. 21. Zack Littell After pitching briefly with the Twins in 2018, Littell graduated off the prospect list in 2019 as he had 29 relief outings in the Majors with the team and posted a 2.68 ERA in 37 innings. Littell did not have the same success in the Majors this last year as he had in 2019 as his outings became worse and worse with the Giants in 2022 before a meltdown sent him to the Minors to end the season. Littell was released by the Giants last month and no team has taken a bite on signing him yet. It is still likely for Littell to land a minor league deal with a team before Spring Training rolls around. 24. Ben Rortvedt 2019 was a slight drop-off season for Rortvedt from his 2018 campaign in the minors. Rortvedt played in 79 games across Fort Myers and Pensacola hitting .238/.334/.379 for a triple slash and posting a .714 OPS, four points higher than 2018. Rortvedt never saw time in the Majors this season after being traded to the Yankees with Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Filefa for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. He is currently playing in the Dominican Winter League to strengthen himself but only has four hits in 41 at-bats across 12 games. 25. Gabriel Maciel An outfielder who has never played a game above the High A level, Gabriel Maciel looked to be the real deal back in 2019. He was one of many players who did not benefit from the loss of the 2020 Minor League season. Maciel spent all of his 2022 season with the Oakland A’s High A affiliate the Langsing Lugnuts, and recovered well from his 2021 season in Cedar Rapids. The A’s parted ways with him after the conclusion of the Minor League season and with Maciel turning 24 next year with no time above High-A, it's hard to say if a team will bring him aboard a minor league contract. 26. Luke Raley Raley was one of three players the Twins received from the Dodgers in the Brian Dozier trade back in 2018. He only spent one full season in the Twins organization in 2019 as he was flipped back to the Dodgers for Kenta Maeda the next off-season. While Raley was in the Twins system, he did not accomplish much as he was limited to 38 games that season. He did hit well while healthy hitting .310/.361/.517 for a triple slash with a .878 OPS. The Twins did send him with Royce Lewis to the Arizona Fall League that season too. Raley spent all of 2022 in the Rays organization hitting really well while in Triple-A Durham but not as well while with the Major League club. He is still with the Rays as of now and looks to serve as a utility player for the 2023 season. 27. DaShawn Keirsey DaShawn Keirsey has battled his way through the Twins system since being drafted out of college in 2018. Keirsey spent all of the 2022 season at Double-A Wichita and the outfielder put together a strong candidacy to move up the ladder to St. Paul next season. In 2019, Keirsey was fairly unknown to most Twins fans in the system as only played in 43 games between Cedar Rapids and Rookie Ball in Elizabethton. While he is not on any current top prospect lists for the Twins, Keirsey may be a name for fans to keep an eye on in 2023 for a future outfield call-up. 28. Travis Blankenhorn Back in 2019, Blankenhorn was far off from being an immediate call-up to the Twins. However, he was an effective hitter between Single and Double-A as he hit .277/.321/.466 with a .787 OPS in 108 games that season. Now he is a minor league free agent after spending the 2022 season in the Mets organization. After 92 games played this year and having defensive versatility, it is possible some team will offer Blankenhorn a minor league deal. 29. Michael Helman In 2019, Michael Helman had his worst year in professional baseball. Now he has become a minor league player many Twins fans are familiar with as he had his best season yet, mostly with the St. Paul Saints in 2022. Helman is like Kyle Farmer as a utility player and can play all the infield and outfield positions. Considering the lack of off-season moves currently at hand for the Twins, Helman realistically could make his MLB debut sometime in 2023. 30. Luis Rijo Luis Rijo did not have a pleasant 2022 season, to say the least. He only pitched in 12 games, started 11, and out of those games came a 6.60 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 30 innings pitched. Back in 2019, Rijo had potential as he was a much different pitcher posting a 3.87 ERA, and struck out 99 batters in 107 innings pitched across 19 starts. The Twins parted ways with him in October of this year leaving him as he enters minor league free agency. Totals: 10 players on Active MLB rosters 4 players who could be on Active Rosters but are hurt 16 players who are in the Minors, Japan, or Indy Ball Fortunately for all of these former Twins prospects, all of them played professional baseball at some level during the 2022 season. Some, like Thorpe and Gonsalves, may be done but have yet to be confirmed. Others have a ways to go in their career, but the majority look like they’ll be around Major League or Minor League Baseball for the 2023 season. View full article
  13. It's hard to believe that the Twins' phenomenal Bomba Squad 2019 was almost four years ago, but 2023 will be here before we know it. As the time approaches, its fun to look back at the Twins' top 30 prospects of the time, according to MLB.com, and how their 2022 seasons panned out across the majors and minors. Here’s how the top 30 Twins prospects from 2019 had their 2022 seasons end up. On Active Rosters for the end of 2022 3. Brusdar Graterol The Twins' fastest throwing arm at the time, Brusdar Graterol, was ranked as their highest pitching prospect going into the 2019 season. This year, Dodgers counted on Graterol often in high-leverage opportunities and will likely continue to do so in 2023 as their bullpen gets reconfigured. Graterol’s fastball is still one of the fastest in the game averaging 99.4 mph for the sixth highest in MLB according to Baseball Savant. Whether the Dodgers will use Graterol as their main closer in 2023 or keep him as a high-leverage reliever remains to be seen. His greatest tool will always be as the flamethrower of the Dodgers bullpen. 7. Jhoan Duran Baseball’s newest and most successful rookie flamethrower was the Twins second-best pitching prospect in 2019. Now he has exceeded expectations as the Twins' best reliever having the best rookie campaign for an American League reliever since Jonathan Papelbon with the Red Sox in 2006. In 2019, Duran was still being used as a starter making 22 starts between Pensacola and Fort Myers. Back then Duran was not the ace reliever we know him to be know as he pitched 115 innings, posted a 3.76 ERA and struck out 136 batters. Now he looks to keep his title of being enshrined as baseballs fastest pitcher. 10. Nick Gordon Back in 2019, Gordon spent all season at Triple-A Rochester while battling injuries that set back his MLB debut so long. With two full seasons under his belt now, Gordon looks to be the go-to backup outfielder for the Twins in 2023 in left and center fields. His time as an infielder will be more limited with the addition of Kyle Farmer last month. Still, if Gordon continues to build off the success he’s had in 2022. There should be no doubts concerning what he can do for the 2023 Twins. 12. Akil Baddo Baddo’s second season in Detroit was a complete sophomore slump. Injuries kept him out for a portion of the season. And when he was healthy, the energy that brought about the success of his rookie campaign just was not there. 2019 was Baddo’s first big injury setback in his career, keeping him to just 29 games played that season, all in Ft. Myers. His numbers in those 29 games looked similar to that of his 2022 season in Detorit as he posted a .214/.290/.393 triple slash and .683 OPS in 2019. 14. Jose Miranda Miranda spent all but one game of his 2019 season in Fort Myers. At that time he did not look like the player he is now, but the Twins have full confidence in his abilities from 2021 and 2022 to make him the everyday third baseman for the 2023 season. Three years ago, Miranda was still coming into his own at the Twins High A affiliate. His numbers did not exactly pop off as they did the last two seasons in the organization as he posted a .252/.302.369 triple slash and a .671 OPS in 119 games. 15. Gilberto Celestino Once an unknown prospect acquired from the Houston Astros for Ryan Pressly, Gilberto Celestino became the Twins' fourth outfielder for the team this year. Celestino’s first full season in the Twins system was mainly spent in Cedar Rapids where he had one of the best professional seasons of his career. Celestino played in 125 games and posted a .277/.349/.410 triple slash and .759 OPS with career highs in home runs (10) and runs batted in (54). 16. Ryan Jeffers The Twins' hopeful starting catcher in 2022 will now be splitting time in a platoon role with new arrival Christain Vazquez. 2019 was Jeffers first full professional season splitting time between Fort Myers and Pensacola. His promise as a future starting catcher for the Twins showed during that season as he hit .264/.341/.421 for a triple slash and posted a .762 OPS in 103 games. Now, the Twins are hopeful that Jeffers can remain healthy more than anything else and rebuild his promise as a 26-year-old platoon catcher in 2023. 17. Luis Arraez The 2022 American League Batting Champion looks to remain with the Twins for now despite faulty rumors of him being a part of a trade to the Miami Marlins for Pablo Lopez. Back in 2019, Arraez graduated off the prospect lists and to the Majors taking the Twins fandom by storm. He proved the contact hitter going the opposite way was not dead in baseball and quickly became a fan favorite. The only limitations ahead for Arraez are consistent playing time at first base or DH, depending on how the team wants to move forward with those roles in the remainder of the off-season. While his name may still be floated around in trade rumors, Twins fans can be more hopeful he will remain with Carlos Correa not coming back. 22. LaMonte Wade Jr. Like Baddo, Wade Jr. had a hard time repeating his success of 2021 season in 2022. 2019 was the year Wade Jr. graduated off the prospect list and debuted with the Twins in late June. Wade Jr. had 26 games with the Twins in his rookie campaign and spent the majority of his season with the Rochester Red Wings hitting .246/.392/.356 for a triple slash and posting a .748 OPS. Wade Jr. looks to continue as a back up outfielder for the Giants next season and his best hope is to develop himself back into the quality fourth outfielder he was in 2021. 23. Griffin Jax Jax being limited to five starts in all of 2017 was knocked off the Twins Top 30 prospect list in 2018. He found his way back onto the list going into the 2019 season when he pitched his best professional season to date between Double A and Triple A. The 2019 season certainly showed Jax’s highest promise as a future Twins starter as he posted a 2.90 ERA in 127.1 innings pitched across 23 starts. Unfortunately that never turned into reality with Jax’s first season in the majors. He fell into the old adage of being a failed starter that turned into a good reliever. Hopefully Jax can continue to live up to this season’s success in 2023. Played in 2022 but were mainly hurt 1. Royce Lewis His future as the Twins man at shortstop is all but secured now once he heals from injury in July 2023. Every Twins fan knows Lewis had the best start to a season before retearing his knee in late May of this year. Back in 2019 though, Lewis had a down season in the Minors compared to his 2018 season. That is when the Twins decided to send him to the Arizona Fall League to rejuvenate his talents. Lewis did of course do that tearing apart the Fall League’s pitching hitting .353/.411/.565 for a triple slash and posting a .975 OPS across 22 games. 2. Alex Kirilloff Kirilloff has not had the best of luck staying healthy since making his MLB debut in 2020. While his MLB debut was an elimination playoff game, Kirilloff has only managed to play in 104 games across the last two seasons due to his wrist injuries. Injuries still bugged him 2019, but Kirilloff played in a decent amount of games totaling 93 all at Double A Pensacola. He had a triple slash of .283/.343/.413 and OPS of .756. Kirilloff’s injury history is unique and only Kirk Gibson has had the success and longevity after battling the wrist problems. If Kirilloff plays in at least half the Twins games this season, fans can certainly expect him to continue platooning time between first base and the outfield. 5. Trevor Larnach Before getting his call up in 2021 and battling injuries in 2022, Larnach had his best professional season ever in 2019. Larnach played his season between Fort Myers and Pensacola hitting .309/.384/.458 with a .842 OPS. Larnach’s injuries in 2022, compared to that of Kirilloff’s, had more optimism for a sooner return and recovery. He did play in a few games to end the season with the St. Paul Saints. One has to assume, Larnach will see more time in left field than Kirilloff with how the roster currently sits as Kirilloff and Arraez are most likely to platoon between first and designated hitter roles. 18. Jorge Alcala Some Twins fans (including this writer), forgot that Jorge Alcala pitched in any games for the Twins during the 2022 season. The two games Alcala came into relief for were in the Opening Series against the Seattle Mariners. The good news, those two outings were scoreless. The bad, he was out for the remainder of the season. Alcala had surgery on August 3 for right elbow arthroscopic debridement. He is still expected to be ready and healthy for Spring Training 2023. Back in 2019, Alcala was splitting time as a starter and reliever in the minor leagues. That changed once he made his MLB debut with the team on September 21 of that year. Played in 2022, mostly in the Minors or Indy Ball 4. Wander Javier Wander Javier once had such promise as a prospect, he now joins a long list of minor league players who never reached their full potential as the Twins parted ways with him earlier in the off-season. The 2019 season was the beginning of Javier’s fall. After spending all of 2018 on the Minor League IL, Javier played 80 games for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Over the course of those 80 games, Javier found himself struggling posting a .177/.278/.323 triple slash over the season. 6. Brent Rooker Brent Rooker spent time between the Padres and Royals organizations in 2022 as he was a piece that brought in one of the most controversial relievers in Twins history. 2019 Rooker was another player than he is now. While he battled injuries, Rooker was very productive for the Rochester Red Wings. Rooker hit 14 home runs and had 47 runs batted in along with a .282/.399/.530 triple slash and a .929 OPS in 67 games. 8. Lewis Thorpe Thorpe found his way out of the Twins organization after one start with the St. Paul Saints in April. Three years ago he was a hyped up pitching prospect who finally found his way onto the Twins roster. Thorpe pitched in 12 games and made two starts for the Twins when called up in 2019 and couldn’t repeat the success he had in the minors as he posted a 6.18 ERA in 27.2 innings. Time in Triple A was better for Thorpe in 2019 but not by much as he made 19 starts and posted a 4.58 ERA in 96.1 innings. 9. Blayne Enlow Enlow’s best path to get to the Majors now looks to be from the bullpen as he battled injuries and struggles on the mound throughout the 2022 season. He split time between the rotation and bullpen at Double-A Wichita this year and found more success as a reliever. During the 2019 season, Enlow split time between the Twins' Low and High A affiliates as a starter. He pitched decently totaling 20 starts across 110.2 innings and posted a 3.82 ERA for the season. 11. Stephen Gonsalves After debuting with the Twins in 2018, Gonsalves spent the majority of his 2019 season on the injured list and when healthy, was on three of the Twins' Minor League affiliates. Gonsalves only pitched in 13 innings the whole season, recording only one more out than he did in 2022 for the Iowa Cubs. Gonzalves has not announced that he is stepping away from professional baseball for 2023, but has not pitched since May of this year, it hard to say if he’ll do so again. 13. Yunior Severino One of many players still in the Twins system three years on. Severino had one of his better professional seasons in 2022 splitting time between Cedar Rapids and Wichita. Severino has had a long journey through the lower Minor League affiliates in the Twins organization. 2019 was a season filled with injuries that kept his playing time limited to 28 games at rookie ball and Cedar Rapids. Fortunately for Severino, the last two seasons have seen a great increase in his hitting ability giving him a good chance to get a call-up to St. Paul sometime in 2023. 19. Jordan Balazovic While he struggled mightily for the 2022 season and didn’t see his number improve until the last month of the season. Jordan Balazovic was a completely different pitcher in 2019, working his way up the Twins system. Balazoivc spent the 2019 season between Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids, dominating Low and High A pitchers with a 2.69 ERA, 129 strikeouts and a 0.98 WHIP in 93.2 innings pitched. The big question for Balazoivc is if he can replicate the pitcher he once was in 2019 and break his way onto the Twins roster at some point during the 2023 season. 20. Misael Urbina Currently, the Twins' eighth-best prospect according to MLB.com, Misael Urbina broke into the Twins' minor league system as a 17-year-old kid in 2019. The Twins touted Urbina out in the Dominican Summer League that season and played in 50 of the team’s 64 games. Urbina’s numbers for his first 50 professional baseball games were solid as he posted a .279/.383/.443 triple slash with a .825. While Urbina has not been able to repeat the same success of hitting the last two seasons in the minors, he is still a spring chicken in age as he only turns 21 this upcoming April. There is still plenty of time for him to redevelop as a solid starting outfielder over the course of the 2023 season. 21. Zack Littell After pitching briefly with the Twins in 2018, Littell graduated off the prospect list in 2019 as he had 29 relief outings in the Majors with the team and posted a 2.68 ERA in 37 innings. Littell did not have the same success in the Majors this last year as he had in 2019 as his outings became worse and worse with the Giants in 2022 before a meltdown sent him to the Minors to end the season. Littell was released by the Giants last month and no team has taken a bite on signing him yet. It is still likely for Littell to land a minor league deal with a team before Spring Training rolls around. 24. Ben Rortvedt 2019 was a slight drop-off season for Rortvedt from his 2018 campaign in the minors. Rortvedt played in 79 games across Fort Myers and Pensacola hitting .238/.334/.379 for a triple slash and posting a .714 OPS, four points higher than 2018. Rortvedt never saw time in the Majors this season after being traded to the Yankees with Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Filefa for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. He is currently playing in the Dominican Winter League to strengthen himself but only has four hits in 41 at-bats across 12 games. 25. Gabriel Maciel An outfielder who has never played a game above the High A level, Gabriel Maciel looked to be the real deal back in 2019. He was one of many players who did not benefit from the loss of the 2020 Minor League season. Maciel spent all of his 2022 season with the Oakland A’s High A affiliate the Langsing Lugnuts, and recovered well from his 2021 season in Cedar Rapids. The A’s parted ways with him after the conclusion of the Minor League season and with Maciel turning 24 next year with no time above High-A, it's hard to say if a team will bring him aboard a minor league contract. 26. Luke Raley Raley was one of three players the Twins received from the Dodgers in the Brian Dozier trade back in 2018. He only spent one full season in the Twins organization in 2019 as he was flipped back to the Dodgers for Kenta Maeda the next off-season. While Raley was in the Twins system, he did not accomplish much as he was limited to 38 games that season. He did hit well while healthy hitting .310/.361/.517 for a triple slash with a .878 OPS. The Twins did send him with Royce Lewis to the Arizona Fall League that season too. Raley spent all of 2022 in the Rays organization hitting really well while in Triple-A Durham but not as well while with the Major League club. He is still with the Rays as of now and looks to serve as a utility player for the 2023 season. 27. DaShawn Keirsey DaShawn Keirsey has battled his way through the Twins system since being drafted out of college in 2018. Keirsey spent all of the 2022 season at Double-A Wichita and the outfielder put together a strong candidacy to move up the ladder to St. Paul next season. In 2019, Keirsey was fairly unknown to most Twins fans in the system as only played in 43 games between Cedar Rapids and Rookie Ball in Elizabethton. While he is not on any current top prospect lists for the Twins, Keirsey may be a name for fans to keep an eye on in 2023 for a future outfield call-up. 28. Travis Blankenhorn Back in 2019, Blankenhorn was far off from being an immediate call-up to the Twins. However, he was an effective hitter between Single and Double-A as he hit .277/.321/.466 with a .787 OPS in 108 games that season. Now he is a minor league free agent after spending the 2022 season in the Mets organization. After 92 games played this year and having defensive versatility, it is possible some team will offer Blankenhorn a minor league deal. 29. Michael Helman In 2019, Michael Helman had his worst year in professional baseball. Now he has become a minor league player many Twins fans are familiar with as he had his best season yet, mostly with the St. Paul Saints in 2022. Helman is like Kyle Farmer as a utility player and can play all the infield and outfield positions. Considering the lack of off-season moves currently at hand for the Twins, Helman realistically could make his MLB debut sometime in 2023. 30. Luis Rijo Luis Rijo did not have a pleasant 2022 season, to say the least. He only pitched in 12 games, started 11, and out of those games came a 6.60 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 30 innings pitched. Back in 2019, Rijo had potential as he was a much different pitcher posting a 3.87 ERA, and struck out 99 batters in 107 innings pitched across 19 starts. The Twins parted ways with him in October of this year leaving him as he enters minor league free agency. Totals: 10 players on Active MLB rosters 4 players who could be on Active Rosters but are hurt 16 players who are in the Minors, Japan, or Indy Ball Fortunately for all of these former Twins prospects, all of them played professional baseball at some level during the 2022 season. Some, like Thorpe and Gonsalves, may be done but have yet to be confirmed. Others have a ways to go in their career, but the majority look like they’ll be around Major League or Minor League Baseball for the 2023 season.
  14. Projection systems can have pros and cons when providing a glimpse into the team's future. Here are four observations from the Twins' recently released ZiPS projections. Image courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports FanGraphs referred to the Twins as "underwhelmingly adequate," which seems like an appropriate description of the team at this juncture. Even if the team signs Carlos Correa, there are holes to fill on a club that has fallen out of contention over the last two seasons. So, what are ZiPS projections, and what do they show for a team? ZiPS is a projection system that uses multi-year statistics to try and predict how players will perform for an upcoming season. More recent seasons are weighted more heavily, and StatCast data has helped to make the model more accurate. There are hundreds of thousands of baselines for pitchers and hitters. ZiPS is a midpoint projection for a player, so some players will outperform their projections, and others will fall short. That being said, a few observations stand out among the Twins' 2023 ZiPS projections. The Bullpen is Top Heavy Jhoan Duran is coming off a tremendous rookie campaign, and his number one comp is Jonathan Broxton. ZiPS projects him to accumulate a 1.1 WAR with a 125 ERA+ and a 14.5 K/9. Jorge Lopez projects to see a small bounce-back after struggling down the stretch for the Twins. The model projects him to have a 0.6 WAR with 8.7 K/9. ZiPS projects Cody Stashak to pitch well in 2023, but the team dropped him from the 40-man roster and is now a free agent. He is coming off surgery for a torn labrum, so the Twins must not feel he can help the 2023 team. Will the Twins try to add to the bullpen before the season starts? Minnesota's Offense Projects to Be Above Average Carlos Correa still isn't part of Minnesota's 2023 roster, but there are positives up and down the line-up. Unfortunately, FanGraphs said, "There's a larger-than-normal dropoff if injuries happen to hit hard." In 2022, injuries were one of the biggest storylines for the club. For the second consecutive season, ZiPS projects Luis Arraez to hit over .300, but his projection has limitations because of his defensive. Royce Lewis is scheduled to return from his second ACL injury in July, and ZiPS still has him projected for more WAR than Max Kepler and Ryan Jeffers. Buxton's Comp is Disappointing Byron Buxton projects to finish with the team's top WAR (3.9) though the model has him limited to 350 plate appearances (10 more than in 2022). He projects to hit .256/.323/.544 with a 134 OPS+ and 22 home runs. ZiPS lists Jeff Heath as the comp for Buxton, who showed plenty of promise but was also often injured. Fans can hope that Buxton plays in over 100 games for the first time since 2017, but it is unlikely to happen at this point in his career. The Starting Rotation is Bland It's hard to look at any projection system for the Twins starters and have faith in what will occur in 2023. Kenta Maeda, Tyler Mahle, and Bailey Ober all dealt with injuries last season, and there's no guarantee they can be relied on for a full workload in 2023. Mahle projects to pitch the second-most innings behind Joe Ryan, but there are still questions about his shoulder. The projections have Ober and Maeda pitching 90 innings or fewer. The Twins project to have a bunch of back of the rotation starters, which can help the team contend. However, the team likely needs another playoff-caliber starter to end the team's playoff losing streak. What thoughts do you have about the team's ZiPS projections? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  15. FanGraphs referred to the Twins as "underwhelmingly adequate," which seems like an appropriate description of the team at this juncture. Even if the team signs Carlos Correa, there are holes to fill on a club that has fallen out of contention over the last two seasons. So, what are ZiPS projections, and what do they show for a team? ZiPS is a projection system that uses multi-year statistics to try and predict how players will perform for an upcoming season. More recent seasons are weighted more heavily, and StatCast data has helped to make the model more accurate. There are hundreds of thousands of baselines for pitchers and hitters. ZiPS is a midpoint projection for a player, so some players will outperform their projections, and others will fall short. That being said, a few observations stand out among the Twins' 2023 ZiPS projections. The Bullpen is Top Heavy Jhoan Duran is coming off a tremendous rookie campaign, and his number one comp is Jonathan Broxton. ZiPS projects him to accumulate a 1.1 WAR with a 125 ERA+ and a 14.5 K/9. Jorge Lopez projects to see a small bounce-back after struggling down the stretch for the Twins. The model projects him to have a 0.6 WAR with 8.7 K/9. ZiPS projects Cody Stashak to pitch well in 2023, but the team dropped him from the 40-man roster and is now a free agent. He is coming off surgery for a torn labrum, so the Twins must not feel he can help the 2023 team. Will the Twins try to add to the bullpen before the season starts? Minnesota's Offense Projects to Be Above Average Carlos Correa still isn't part of Minnesota's 2023 roster, but there are positives up and down the line-up. Unfortunately, FanGraphs said, "There's a larger-than-normal dropoff if injuries happen to hit hard." In 2022, injuries were one of the biggest storylines for the club. For the second consecutive season, ZiPS projects Luis Arraez to hit over .300, but his projection has limitations because of his defensive. Royce Lewis is scheduled to return from his second ACL injury in July, and ZiPS still has him projected for more WAR than Max Kepler and Ryan Jeffers. Buxton's Comp is Disappointing Byron Buxton projects to finish with the team's top WAR (3.9) though the model has him limited to 350 plate appearances (10 more than in 2022). He projects to hit .256/.323/.544 with a 134 OPS+ and 22 home runs. ZiPS lists Jeff Heath as the comp for Buxton, who showed plenty of promise but was also often injured. Fans can hope that Buxton plays in over 100 games for the first time since 2017, but it is unlikely to happen at this point in his career. The Starting Rotation is Bland It's hard to look at any projection system for the Twins starters and have faith in what will occur in 2023. Kenta Maeda, Tyler Mahle, and Bailey Ober all dealt with injuries last season, and there's no guarantee they can be relied on for a full workload in 2023. Mahle projects to pitch the second-most innings behind Joe Ryan, but there are still questions about his shoulder. The projections have Ober and Maeda pitching 90 innings or fewer. The Twins project to have a bunch of back of the rotation starters, which can help the team contend. However, the team likely needs another playoff-caliber starter to end the team's playoff losing streak. What thoughts do you have about the team's ZiPS projections? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  16. As we go into the final days of November, and soon turn the page on 2022, it’s time to look back over the past season and give thanks. While the 2022 Minnesota Twins season didn’t go the way anyone would have hoped, there was plenty to be thankful for during a season of Thanksgiving. Image courtesy of © Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports Coming off such an uncompetitive 2021 Major League Baseball season, there’s no doubt that Rocco Baldelli and the Twins front office hoped to turn the page in 2022. For a matter of months it looked like they would be the darling of a bad division, but ultimately, injury and poor performance caught up to them. When looking back at the year that was, there was still plenty of things to be excited and thankful for. In no particular order, here’s five things that Twins fans can give thanks for as they cut into their turkey this week: Byron Buxton Got Paid Despite an offseason of uncertainty, and lockout uncertainty, the Minnesota Twins did what they had to and paid Byron Buxton. Sure, he’s injured a whole lot. Sure, you never know when he’s going to miss a boatload of games. There’s also the reality that when he’s on the field he’s among the best players in the entire sport. His 92 games in 2022 were the most he’s played in a season since 2017, and despite injuring his knee early on and having to play through what ultimately required surgery, he was an MVP candidate for much of the campaign. Buxton proved his worth again, and though all parties are hoping he can be on the field more, the front office absolutely did the right thing in getting a dynamic talent at a discount. Carlos Correa Was Fun Knowing that Minnesota had money to spend and replacing Andrelton Simmons at shortstop was a must, there was plenty of late spring excitement regarding Trevor Story. Then in the middle of the night Derek Falvey and Thad Levine struck a deal with Scott Boras client Carlos Correa. It was a three-year deal that was never going to matter beyond year one. Sure, it would be great if the parties came together for a long term pact this offseason, but even if they don’t, we’ll always remember the time that the Twins signed the best free agent available in a given season. Royce Lewis Appeared From the moment that Royce Lewis was the Minnesota Twins number one overall draft pick, there was hope he would become a superstar. He dealt with injuries and a pandemic that set him back while in the minors, but he returned from a torn ACL to light the farm system on fire. When Correa went down, he forced the organization’s hand. He was so good in fact, that the Twins needed to reposition him to keep him in the lineup. A second flukey ACL injury was certainly suboptimal, but we saw the talent that has been anticipated all along. He’ll be back at some point in 2023, and if the rehab goes smoothly, Minnesota certainly has a star in the making. Jose Miranda Cemented His Performance There hasn’t been a minor league season as good as Miranda had in 2021 for Minnesota in quite some time. His .973 OPS between Double and Triple-A was something to behold. Even with that, he didn’t crack the Opening Day roster. Once he was given an opportunity at the big leagues, Miranda was determined not to go back. His 116 OPS+ wasn’t otherworldly in 2022, but the slash line was even gaudier before a late season swoon. The rookie still managed to blast 15 homers in his first 125 Major League games, and he’ll be an integral part of the 2023 roster. Jhoan Duran Lights It Up, Literally You can go back as far as you’d like in Minnesota Twins history, and you won’t find a pitcher throwing triple-digits consistently. Not expected to make the Opening Day roster, Duran not only did that, but also emerged as the best arm in Minnesota’s pen and one of the best across baseball. He certainly could’ve been voted an All-Star as a rookie, and should expect to see more than a few of those games during his career. While the abnormal sprinkler is a pitch that drew plenty of discussion, his ridiculous fastball is what you show up for. He earned his own entrance music at Target Field, and is must-watch baseball every time he steps on the mound. What else would you include in your list? What are you most thankful for as a Twins fan over the past year? View full article
  17. Coming off such an uncompetitive 2021 Major League Baseball season, there’s no doubt that Rocco Baldelli and the Twins front office hoped to turn the page in 2022. For a matter of months it looked like they would be the darling of a bad division, but ultimately, injury and poor performance caught up to them. When looking back at the year that was, there was still plenty of things to be excited and thankful for. In no particular order, here’s five things that Twins fans can give thanks for as they cut into their turkey this week: Byron Buxton Got Paid Despite an offseason of uncertainty, and lockout uncertainty, the Minnesota Twins did what they had to and paid Byron Buxton. Sure, he’s injured a whole lot. Sure, you never know when he’s going to miss a boatload of games. There’s also the reality that when he’s on the field he’s among the best players in the entire sport. His 92 games in 2022 were the most he’s played in a season since 2017, and despite injuring his knee early on and having to play through what ultimately required surgery, he was an MVP candidate for much of the campaign. Buxton proved his worth again, and though all parties are hoping he can be on the field more, the front office absolutely did the right thing in getting a dynamic talent at a discount. Carlos Correa Was Fun Knowing that Minnesota had money to spend and replacing Andrelton Simmons at shortstop was a must, there was plenty of late spring excitement regarding Trevor Story. Then in the middle of the night Derek Falvey and Thad Levine struck a deal with Scott Boras client Carlos Correa. It was a three-year deal that was never going to matter beyond year one. Sure, it would be great if the parties came together for a long term pact this offseason, but even if they don’t, we’ll always remember the time that the Twins signed the best free agent available in a given season. Royce Lewis Appeared From the moment that Royce Lewis was the Minnesota Twins number one overall draft pick, there was hope he would become a superstar. He dealt with injuries and a pandemic that set him back while in the minors, but he returned from a torn ACL to light the farm system on fire. When Correa went down, he forced the organization’s hand. He was so good in fact, that the Twins needed to reposition him to keep him in the lineup. A second flukey ACL injury was certainly suboptimal, but we saw the talent that has been anticipated all along. He’ll be back at some point in 2023, and if the rehab goes smoothly, Minnesota certainly has a star in the making. Jose Miranda Cemented His Performance There hasn’t been a minor league season as good as Miranda had in 2021 for Minnesota in quite some time. His .973 OPS between Double and Triple-A was something to behold. Even with that, he didn’t crack the Opening Day roster. Once he was given an opportunity at the big leagues, Miranda was determined not to go back. His 116 OPS+ wasn’t otherworldly in 2022, but the slash line was even gaudier before a late season swoon. The rookie still managed to blast 15 homers in his first 125 Major League games, and he’ll be an integral part of the 2023 roster. Jhoan Duran Lights It Up, Literally You can go back as far as you’d like in Minnesota Twins history, and you won’t find a pitcher throwing triple-digits consistently. Not expected to make the Opening Day roster, Duran not only did that, but also emerged as the best arm in Minnesota’s pen and one of the best across baseball. He certainly could’ve been voted an All-Star as a rookie, and should expect to see more than a few of those games during his career. While the abnormal sprinkler is a pitch that drew plenty of discussion, his ridiculous fastball is what you show up for. He earned his own entrance music at Target Field, and is must-watch baseball every time he steps on the mound. What else would you include in your list? What are you most thankful for as a Twins fan over the past year?
  18. A.J. Pierzynski has not been a Minnesota Twins player in 20 years, but the team he was drafted by is still reaping the rewards of his return thanks to a favorable trade lineage the Twins have had in that time frame. Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today Sports A.J. Pierzynski is a complicated player in Twins' history. He played a big part in keeping the Twins here and was an all-star catcher on the 2002 team that won the division and beat the Moneyball Oakland A’s. Over the course of his six seasons as a Twin, he spent half that time as the starting catcher, hitting .301 with 26 home runs and 193 runs batted in. Pierzynski’s promise to continue as an all-star catcher was there going into the 2003-2004 offseason, but the Twins had a local kid named Joe Mauer, that had much more to offer for the team’s future. On November 14, 2003, the Twins took into favor the promise of Mauer and shipped Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. Pierzynski had a one-and-done year with the Giants and signed with the White Sox the next off-season. The Twins, however, are still reaping the benefits of acquiring these three pitchers as their acquisition of Liriano brought forth the opportunity to bring Jhoan Duran into the Twins organization. Nathan needs no reminder of his impact on the Twins. Not only did he become the best closer in franchise history but also one of baseball's best relievers of the 2000s. Bonser was a cult hero with the Twins as a rookie in 2006 making 18 starts and finding success at home in the Metrodome. The success of his rookie year was short-lived as it never carried over into the next two seasons. Bonser spent 2007 as the Twins fifth starter and split time between the rotation and bullpen in 2008. Following an injury that kept him out all of the 2009 season. The Twins flipped Bonser to the Red Sox for minor-leaguer Chris Province who was out of baseball after one year between Double-A and Triple-A. Then there is Liriano, the key figure of this trade and the leg of the trade that lives on today. Liriano was a staple to the Twins' rotation until the 2012 trade deadline. While he was struggling to be consistent at that time after his 2006 Tommy John surgery, the White Sox still called the Twins, seeing value in the lefty. In return for Liriano, the Twins received LHP Pedro Hernandez and infielder Eduardo Escobar. Hernandez was around for the 2013 season with the Twins making 14 forgettable starts and accounting for a 6.83 ERA on the season. He went 8-3 over 16 starts for the Saints in 2015. Escobar didn’t immediately become the player that most Twins fans remember him. Once he became an everyday player for the Twins in 2014, that’s when fans began to notice him as a utility infielder that could certainly help this team flourish. Escobar’s time as a Twin was most memorable in the 2017 Wild Card season when he hit 21 home runs, drove in 73 runs, and posted a career-high (at the time) with a .758 OPS. As Escobar built off his success in 2017 the next year, the Twins were not able to do so as a team seeing themselves as sellers during the 2018 trade deadline. On July 27, 2018, the Twins traded Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks and in return received a couple of outfield prospects and a pitcher named Duran. Jhoan. Duran. While Jhoan Duran worked his way through the minors as a starting pitcher. In 2022, Twins fans came to know Duran as their best rookie and best reliever. His time with the Twins looks to be certain until he is eligible for free agency in 2028. A lot can still happen between now and then though. There is a possibility the Twins continue growing branches of this trade history lineage tree, in hopes a player of Duran, Escobar, Liriano, or Nathan’s caliber is received in return. View full article
  19. A.J. Pierzynski is a complicated player in Twins' history. He played a big part in keeping the Twins here and was an all-star catcher on the 2002 team that won the division and beat the Moneyball Oakland A’s. Over the course of his six seasons as a Twin, he spent half that time as the starting catcher, hitting .301 with 26 home runs and 193 runs batted in. Pierzynski’s promise to continue as an all-star catcher was there going into the 2003-2004 offseason, but the Twins had a local kid named Joe Mauer, that had much more to offer for the team’s future. On November 14, 2003, the Twins took into favor the promise of Mauer and shipped Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. Pierzynski had a one-and-done year with the Giants and signed with the White Sox the next off-season. The Twins, however, are still reaping the benefits of acquiring these three pitchers as their acquisition of Liriano brought forth the opportunity to bring Jhoan Duran into the Twins organization. Nathan needs no reminder of his impact on the Twins. Not only did he become the best closer in franchise history but also one of baseball's best relievers of the 2000s. Bonser was a cult hero with the Twins as a rookie in 2006 making 18 starts and finding success at home in the Metrodome. The success of his rookie year was short-lived as it never carried over into the next two seasons. Bonser spent 2007 as the Twins fifth starter and split time between the rotation and bullpen in 2008. Following an injury that kept him out all of the 2009 season. The Twins flipped Bonser to the Red Sox for minor-leaguer Chris Province who was out of baseball after one year between Double-A and Triple-A. Then there is Liriano, the key figure of this trade and the leg of the trade that lives on today. Liriano was a staple to the Twins' rotation until the 2012 trade deadline. While he was struggling to be consistent at that time after his 2006 Tommy John surgery, the White Sox still called the Twins, seeing value in the lefty. In return for Liriano, the Twins received LHP Pedro Hernandez and infielder Eduardo Escobar. Hernandez was around for the 2013 season with the Twins making 14 forgettable starts and accounting for a 6.83 ERA on the season. He went 8-3 over 16 starts for the Saints in 2015. Escobar didn’t immediately become the player that most Twins fans remember him. Once he became an everyday player for the Twins in 2014, that’s when fans began to notice him as a utility infielder that could certainly help this team flourish. Escobar’s time as a Twin was most memorable in the 2017 Wild Card season when he hit 21 home runs, drove in 73 runs, and posted a career-high (at the time) with a .758 OPS. As Escobar built off his success in 2017 the next year, the Twins were not able to do so as a team seeing themselves as sellers during the 2018 trade deadline. On July 27, 2018, the Twins traded Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks and in return received a couple of outfield prospects and a pitcher named Duran. Jhoan. Duran. While Jhoan Duran worked his way through the minors as a starting pitcher. In 2022, Twins fans came to know Duran as their best rookie and best reliever. His time with the Twins looks to be certain until he is eligible for free agency in 2028. A lot can still happen between now and then though. There is a possibility the Twins continue growing branches of this trade history lineage tree, in hopes a player of Duran, Escobar, Liriano, or Nathan’s caliber is received in return.
  20. The Twins need bullpen help and could certainly use another left hander to mix and match with late in games. Luckily an old friend is looking for a home this winter. Is a reunion with Taylor Rogers in the cards? Image courtesy of Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports The Twins have mostly neglected the bullpen in years past and it’s more often than not blown up in their faces. The few additions they typically make are what many consider “bargain bin” pitchers, typically coming off of rough seasons in search of a bounce back. By targeting Taylor Rogers, they can stick to the strategy we’ve seen them use time and time again, though this time the payoff could be much better. Rogers is coming off of a rough season by his standards. In 64 innings he posted a 4.76 ERA. His strikeout rate remained strong at 30.7%, still in the 10th percentile in all of baseball. His walks ticked up slightly as did his homers, though neither to a worrisome degree. While his peripherals were higher than usual, they were far from disastrous (3.32 FIP, 3.26 xFIP). His season was marred by untimely meltdowns, blowing 10 saves between San Diego and Milwaukee. Is there hope Rogers could rebound in his age-32 season? As noted, Rogers was still able to strike out hitters at an impressive clip, and while his average fastball was down over a full tick from 2021, his average of 94.3 mph isn’t far off from his career norm. There isn’t much to suggest that he’s entered the decline of his career quite yet aside from his unsightly ERA. One little talked about factor of Rogers's season is that it appeared San Diego changed the shape of his slider. The pitch was three mph slower than it was in 2021 and had 40.4 inches of drop as opposed to 35.7 in 2021. Instead of the hard breaker we’d grown accustomed to seeing, Rogers was throwing more of a looping breaking ball. While the results didn’t show up on the slider, it was likely easier to differentiate between his out-pitch and his sinker. His slider’s underlying success was about the same, but his fastball produced the worst underlying numbers of his career. It seems like this would be an easy fix for Rogers to make. With the rest of his stuff appearing to be intact, Rogers could be due for a huge bounce-back. At the very least his underlying numbers as is suggest he massively underperformed in 2022. Rogers also had an absurd 16 saves through May 21, as a questionable Padres bullpen leaned on him heavily to begin the season before he began to unravel. We saw a decline in performance from the left-hander in Minnesota during several seasons when Rogers was ridden particularly hard. The Padres may have simply bent him until he broke early in the year, especially given the fact that he was coming off of a finger injury. A Twins bullpen consisting of Duran, Jax, Thielbar, Lopez, etc. is a far cry from the bullpens of Twins past or the Padres early 2022 bullpen in which Rogers was the go-to guy for every situation. With more options, the Twins would be able to avoid any kind of burnout Rogers has suffered from in the past. In regards to the fit, the Twins could greatly use another left-handed option even as Caleb Thielbar has become a certified dude. Having two left-handed options who can also get righties out at a respectable clip would add an entirely new dimension to the Twins bullpen. We often saw Thielbar pitching in late situations regardless of matchup in 2022 when other arms were missing or struggling, leaving the Twins without another effective lefty if a matchup opportunity arose. Rogers would be an easy and familiar fix. Let's be honest. The Twins aren’t going to all of a sudden pony up and sign a legit back end of the bullpen reliever. It’s not in their DNA. There’s a lengthy list of their typical candidates they’ll probably be plucking a few names from in hopes that one of their bounce-back projects finally works out. Instead of hitching their wagon to an Ian Kennedy or Archie Bradley, why not reach out to a familiar face with tangible signs of a rebound in their profile? Not to mention the fact that it would be a homecoming for a homegrown player who was just recently a fan favorite. Taylor Rogers checks a lot of boxes that the Twins are looking for, and a reunion just seems like it would make too much sense. Should we be hoping to see the former anchor of the Twins bullpen added back to a new look core at the back end of games in 2023? Let us know below. View full article
  21. After the Minnesota Twins decided to trade their closer right before Opening Day last season, the bullpen was immediately thrown in flux. It remained to be seen who would take over and what the roles would look like. Thinking ahead to 2023, it’s worth wondering if there should be a more rigid plan. Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports In 2021 there was no question who was coming in to save games for the Minnesota Twins. Taylor Rogers had established himself as an All-Star level closer, and when there was a save opportunity in the 8th or 9th inning, he was going to get it. Last season that role started with Emilio Pagan, then transitioned somewhat to Jhoan Duran, then Jorge Lopez was expected to take over, and truthfully no one ever held the job. Rocco Baldelli’s bullpen recorded 28 saves in 2022, but they were split between nine different arms. Pagan led the group with nine, while Duran had eight. Across baseball, 35 different pitchers recorded more than nine saves on their own. In fact, 18 different pitchers reached at least 20 saves. Meanwhile, Minnesota didn’t have a single-arm record half that many. For years the save statistic has been debated regarding its usefulness. Unfortunately, there are plenty of times when the game is on the line, but it’s not yet the 9th inning. There are also all of the times when a save is recorded, but only three outs are needed and the leading team is ahead comfortably by three runs. Debating whether or not saves should matter is one thing, but giving a level of predictability to routine-oriented players may help. Last season there was no denying that Jhoan Duran was the saving grace in relief for Minnesota. Had he not developed and emerged as an elite arm, an already questionable bullpen would’ve been in complete disarray. With very little else to count on for much of the year, Baldelli found himself needing to utilize Duran earlier in games. He was often brought in during the highest-leverage moments, then would hand the game over to whoever was left. As the bullpen eroded though, it became a waiting game to see if everyone else could get it to the rookie in the 9th inning. Talking with more than a few players over the years, a fluid bullpen provides a difficult situation to prepare for. Rather than having a relative understanding of your role and order onto the field, it’s a guessing game on any given night. Trying to figure out what situation you may be called upon for, and then quickly preparing for that at the drop of a hat is not an easy task. If Derek Falvey and Thad Levine can give Minnesota a bit more to work with in relief, it likely gets easier for the manager to have a higher sense of predictability. Assuming Jorge Lopez regains his form, putting him back in the closer role that earned him an All-Star selection with Baltimore makes sense. That would allow Duran to continue being Minnesota’s fireman, and he could take whatever leverage situation presents itself prior to the 9th inning. There’s no denying the group needs both more length, someone to eat those middle innings, and another back-end arm or two. We saw Griffin Jax take steps forward, and he’s probably earned a late-inning role, but there has to be more. If the group can find more success early on in 2023, and be supplemented from outside of the current options, there’s a chance we may see the closer role return as we once knew it. What do you think? Do you prefer Jhoan Duran to only pitch in the 9th inning? Does your closer need to be your best reliever? View full article
  22. In 2021 there was no question who was coming in to save games for the Minnesota Twins. Taylor Rogers had established himself as an All-Star level closer, and when there was a save opportunity in the 8th or 9th inning, he was going to get it. Last season that role started with Emilio Pagan, then transitioned somewhat to Jhoan Duran, then Jorge Lopez was expected to take over, and truthfully no one ever held the job. Rocco Baldelli’s bullpen recorded 28 saves in 2022, but they were split between nine different arms. Pagan led the group with nine, while Duran had eight. Across baseball, 35 different pitchers recorded more than nine saves on their own. In fact, 18 different pitchers reached at least 20 saves. Meanwhile, Minnesota didn’t have a single-arm record half that many. For years the save statistic has been debated regarding its usefulness. Unfortunately, there are plenty of times when the game is on the line, but it’s not yet the 9th inning. There are also all of the times when a save is recorded, but only three outs are needed and the leading team is ahead comfortably by three runs. Debating whether or not saves should matter is one thing, but giving a level of predictability to routine-oriented players may help. Last season there was no denying that Jhoan Duran was the saving grace in relief for Minnesota. Had he not developed and emerged as an elite arm, an already questionable bullpen would’ve been in complete disarray. With very little else to count on for much of the year, Baldelli found himself needing to utilize Duran earlier in games. He was often brought in during the highest-leverage moments, then would hand the game over to whoever was left. As the bullpen eroded though, it became a waiting game to see if everyone else could get it to the rookie in the 9th inning. Talking with more than a few players over the years, a fluid bullpen provides a difficult situation to prepare for. Rather than having a relative understanding of your role and order onto the field, it’s a guessing game on any given night. Trying to figure out what situation you may be called upon for, and then quickly preparing for that at the drop of a hat is not an easy task. If Derek Falvey and Thad Levine can give Minnesota a bit more to work with in relief, it likely gets easier for the manager to have a higher sense of predictability. Assuming Jorge Lopez regains his form, putting him back in the closer role that earned him an All-Star selection with Baltimore makes sense. That would allow Duran to continue being Minnesota’s fireman, and he could take whatever leverage situation presents itself prior to the 9th inning. There’s no denying the group needs both more length, someone to eat those middle innings, and another back-end arm or two. We saw Griffin Jax take steps forward, and he’s probably earned a late-inning role, but there has to be more. If the group can find more success early on in 2023, and be supplemented from outside of the current options, there’s a chance we may see the closer role return as we once knew it. What do you think? Do you prefer Jhoan Duran to only pitch in the 9th inning? Does your closer need to be your best reliever?
  23. The Twins have mostly neglected the bullpen in years past and it’s more often than not blown up in their faces. The few additions they typically make are what many consider “bargain bin” pitchers, typically coming off of rough seasons in search of a bounce back. By targeting Taylor Rogers, they can stick to the strategy we’ve seen them use time and time again, though this time the payoff could be much better. Rogers is coming off of a rough season by his standards. In 64 innings he posted a 4.76 ERA. His strikeout rate remained strong at 30.7%, still in the 10th percentile in all of baseball. His walks ticked up slightly as did his homers, though neither to a worrisome degree. While his peripherals were higher than usual, they were far from disastrous (3.32 FIP, 3.26 xFIP). His season was marred by untimely meltdowns, blowing 10 saves between San Diego and Milwaukee. Is there hope Rogers could rebound in his age-32 season? As noted, Rogers was still able to strike out hitters at an impressive clip, and while his average fastball was down over a full tick from 2021, his average of 94.3 mph isn’t far off from his career norm. There isn’t much to suggest that he’s entered the decline of his career quite yet aside from his unsightly ERA. One little talked about factor of Rogers's season is that it appeared San Diego changed the shape of his slider. The pitch was three mph slower than it was in 2021 and had 40.4 inches of drop as opposed to 35.7 in 2021. Instead of the hard breaker we’d grown accustomed to seeing, Rogers was throwing more of a looping breaking ball. While the results didn’t show up on the slider, it was likely easier to differentiate between his out-pitch and his sinker. His slider’s underlying success was about the same, but his fastball produced the worst underlying numbers of his career. It seems like this would be an easy fix for Rogers to make. With the rest of his stuff appearing to be intact, Rogers could be due for a huge bounce-back. At the very least his underlying numbers as is suggest he massively underperformed in 2022. Rogers also had an absurd 16 saves through May 21, as a questionable Padres bullpen leaned on him heavily to begin the season before he began to unravel. We saw a decline in performance from the left-hander in Minnesota during several seasons when Rogers was ridden particularly hard. The Padres may have simply bent him until he broke early in the year, especially given the fact that he was coming off of a finger injury. A Twins bullpen consisting of Duran, Jax, Thielbar, Lopez, etc. is a far cry from the bullpens of Twins past or the Padres early 2022 bullpen in which Rogers was the go-to guy for every situation. With more options, the Twins would be able to avoid any kind of burnout Rogers has suffered from in the past. In regards to the fit, the Twins could greatly use another left-handed option even as Caleb Thielbar has become a certified dude. Having two left-handed options who can also get righties out at a respectable clip would add an entirely new dimension to the Twins bullpen. We often saw Thielbar pitching in late situations regardless of matchup in 2022 when other arms were missing or struggling, leaving the Twins without another effective lefty if a matchup opportunity arose. Rogers would be an easy and familiar fix. Let's be honest. The Twins aren’t going to all of a sudden pony up and sign a legit back end of the bullpen reliever. It’s not in their DNA. There’s a lengthy list of their typical candidates they’ll probably be plucking a few names from in hopes that one of their bounce-back projects finally works out. Instead of hitching their wagon to an Ian Kennedy or Archie Bradley, why not reach out to a familiar face with tangible signs of a rebound in their profile? Not to mention the fact that it would be a homecoming for a homegrown player who was just recently a fan favorite. Taylor Rogers checks a lot of boxes that the Twins are looking for, and a reunion just seems like it would make too much sense. Should we be hoping to see the former anchor of the Twins bullpen added back to a new look core at the back end of games in 2023? Let us know below.
  24. The Twins have not had a default closer in their bullpen since 2018 with the famous journey-man reliever Fernando Rodney. If the Twins continue without a default closer next year, which relievers would be best to go after? Image courtesy of Eric Hartline, USA Today Sports Since becoming manager of the Twins, Rocco Baldelli has avoided designating any of his relievers as the team’s go-to closer. While one reliever has recorded over 20 saves in the Baldelli era (Taylor Rogers with 30 in 2019), no player has come close to 20 since. This is a change from the previous front office regime of Terry Ryan and managers Ron Gardenhire and Paul Molitor’s days of operating a bullpen. From the time of Gardy’s first season to Molitor’s final, the Twins had a go-to closer for the majority of seasons developing all-star closers such as Eddie Guardado, Joe Nathan, and Glen Perkins leading this front. This method of bullpen management reached a new peak for the Twins' 2022 season as no reliever recorded more than nine saves, Emilio Pagan leading the team with nine. While 14 of the 23 relievers in the bullpen were brought in for save opportunities, almost double the number of relievers that came in for save opportunities in 2021 with eight. This season the Twins were also dead last in the American with total saves at 28 and tied for last in all of Major League Baseball alongside the Washington Nationals. As of now the guy currently in the Twins bullpen that looks to have a “primary closer” role for 2023 is Jhoan Duran. The top rookie of 2022 may eventually see more save opportunities as the season goes on, but it is uncertain if that role will be thrust upon him immediately come Opening Day. Jorge Lopez was brought in to be the Twins' closer at the trade deadline but struggled in his short time with the Twins as the season waned, making it less likely for Lopez to be used as a closer for the start of the 2023 season. The stat to quantify who may be best to trade off with Duran for save opportunities is the relievers version of a quality start: shutdowns. FanGraphs has quantified this stat for years and has offered a countermark to that stat with meltdowns. Duran was eighth in all of MLB with 34 shutdowns and had the fifth-lowest amount of meltdowns with four. 25 relievers reached the threshold of 30 or more shutdowns this season but only three of these relievers are free agents. All three of these relievers are players the Twins should consider for their bullpen. Rafael Montero Rafael Montero made himself one of baseball’s best-known relievers this postseason with the Houston Astros. Even before raising his value en route to his first World Series ring, Montero pitched his best season in the majors this regular season. Montero recorded 37 shutdowns, tied for second in MLB with Toronto's Jordan Romero. He also had very few meltdowns with five, only one more than Duran. Montero had 14 saves on the season which helped to balance former Twin Ryan Pressly’s workload as a closer. If the Twins were to pursue Montero this offseason, he could be the biggest reliever acquired from free agency in the history of the Derek Falvey/Thad Levine era. Any contract that would be offered to Montero longer than a year also has a chance of eclipsing Addison Reed’s 2-year, $16.75 million deal from the 2017-18 offseason. Brad Boxberger After a few rough seasons in Arizona and Kansas City, Brad Boxberger has revitalized himself as a high-leverage reliever with the Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers. Boxberger is not the reliever he used to be nor is he seeing much of any save opportunities, appearing in only 13 over the last three seasons. Boxberger still has been used in many high-leverage opportunities this season, recording 35 shutdowns in 70 reliever appearances. There is one downside to offering Boxberger a contract, he was tied alongside Griffin Jax, Jake Diekman, and Tanner Scott to lead MLB with 17 meltdowns out of the bullpen. This tallies to nearly a quarter of Boxberger’s relief appearances turning bad for him and the Brewers in 2022. Boxberger suits the Twins better on a one-year deal given his hit-or-miss success in high-leverage situations as well as turning 35 during the 2023 season. Matt Moore Once the highest-ranked prospect in all of baseball (MLB.com, 2012), Matt Moore revitalized his career this season in the Texas Rangers bullpen. Moore’s transition into a full-time reliever worked to his benefit as he posted a 1.95 ERA in 63 relief appearances with the Rangers this season. The Rangers also trotted Moore out for six save opportunities, five of which he converted. The major success of Moore’s numbers in the 2022 season makes him of the more sought-after high-leverage lefty relievers this offseason. This also shows with his shutdown-to-meltdown numbers as he recorded 31 shutdowns out of the bullpen while only having nine meltdowns. With Caleb Thielbar guaranteed a spot in the Twins' 2023 bullpen and Jovani Moran more than likely to join him, signing Moore as a third lefty for the Twins bullpen could crowd the space up. But he is a worthwhile option for the Twins to consider partnering with Duran to close out games. Any one of these three relievers would be a good fit for the Twins for the 2023 season. If a designated closer is still something Baldelli and the front office want to start the season without, either Montero, Boxberger, or Moore may suit a role to ensure the Twins are not just punting for bullpen help this offseason. View full article
  25. Going into the 2023 Major League Baseball season the Minnesota Twins once again will need to address their bullpen. This past offseason the only acquisition of note was veteran Joe Smith and it took 34 games for them to cut bait. Maybe it makes sense to re-up with the lone free agent they acquired at the trade deadline. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports After a disappointing 2021 season, the Twins needed to turn things around on the mound. Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson, and Pete Maki were cycling through arms left and right. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a substantial foot placed forward for them to do so in 2022. While Sonny Gray was acquired to bolster the rotation, Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer were always going to tax the group. Adding only a 38-year-old veteran in Joe Smith wasn’t good enough. At the deadline, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine addressed the situation by bringing in Jorge Lopez and Michael Fulmer. Although Jhoan Duran had developed into a late-inning threat, it was clear he needed help. Unfortunately, the former Baltimore Orioles All-Star closer regressed a bit and wasn’t the asset Minnesota needed him to be. Under contract through 2024, there’s plenty of time for him to change that tune. Fulmer was the lone impending free agent the Twins acquired at the deadline and he was basically as expected. The ERA rose to 3.70 and his FIP suggested room for more regression as well. Although he struck out roughly the same amount of batters and walked fewer in his time with Minnesota, Fulmer got hit a bit harder both in and out of the park. The former first-round pick and Rookie of the Year award winner transitioned to relief pitching full-time just one season ago. The 2.97 ERA in 2021 was sparkling, and while his FIP number sat at 3.46, he showed well working as the Detroit Tigers closer. Gregory Soto took over that role this season for Detroit, but Fulmer showed an ability to be mixed in throughout the game, and provide a high-leverage arm whenever called upon. After seeing a slight velocity jump during the 2021 season, Fulmer was back averaging 94 mph this year. His 63.5% slider usage was higher than it had ever been, but that was also because of how effective the pitch has become for him. Minnesota has shown an affinity for arms with good sliders in recent seasons, and Fulmer coming back with that in mind makes a decent amount of sense. Having made just shy of $5 million last season, it’ll be interesting to see what the market looks like. Fulmer probably could’ve cashed in on a bigger payday had he been a free agent prior to 2022, but his performance this year doesn’t drag him down a ton either. He will be 30 years old in 2023, and there’s plenty of reason to believe in his durability, especially as a reliever. How much the Twins liked Fulmer in their mix down the stretch likely factors heavily into any conversation about a reunion, but it’s hard to call his ability anything but a boost to the pen in 2023. Would you welcome Fulmer back as an addition to the Twins bullpen next season? At what price do you feel comfortable doing a deal? View full article
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