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  1. Realistically the Minnesota Twins have enough starters to fill out their starting rotation in 2023. That’s something they haven’t been able to say in recent seasons. While they could use another top-tier arm, the reality is they may need to count on depth much more than you’d like behind the top five. Image courtesy of © Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports Rocco Baldelli has to be feeling good about having some starting pitchers put down in ink. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine haven’t stocked the Minnesota rotation with a high-level of talent in recent years, largely opting for upside plays. Now the Twins have at least a few arms that should be seen as high-level talent, but to what extent can any of the arms Minnesota employs be counted on? Sonny Gray It’s become a trend for starting pitchers to contribute less innings in recent seasons. Bullpens have emerged as a force late in games, and that’s going to limit the length for any starting arm. That said, Gray threw just 119 2/3 innings during his first year with the Twins, his lowest total of his career. He dealt with hamstring problems throughout the year, and while he did look like a staff ace at times, he was also unavailable in key moments. Tyler Mahle Acquired at the trade deadline from the Cincinnati Reds, Mahle has the makings of a true ace. His underlying metrics are eye-popping, and seeing him take a step forward is hardly a lofty expectation. He did deal with shoulder issues earlier in the summer however, and they then popped up again with Minnesota. The Twins got just 16 1/3 innings from their newly acquired talent, and he couldn’t make it through more than two innings in his final outing of the season. He’d been relatively healthy prior to 2022, but shoulder issues are never good for a pitcher. Kenta Maeda The Twins got a near-Cy Young winner in 2020 when Maeda posted a 2.70 ERA during the truncated season. He then threw just over 100 innings in 2021 and posted a 4.66 ERA. Having undergone Tommy John surgery and not making it back for 2022, it will have been nearly two years since Maeda last pitched in a big league game. Sure, there’s lots to like here and the track record on UCL surgeries isn’t what it once was, but Maeda will be 35 next season and the question marks couldn’t be larger. Joe Ryan You can certainly make the argument that there’s questions as to whether Ryan can handle good lineups as he struggled against stiff competition for most of 2022. What is much more certain is that the former Tampa Bay Rays prospect appears to be a pillar of health. He has remained a constant on the field since becoming a big leaguer, and while he’s probably more a number three starter than anything else, you can count on him to take the ball every fifth day. Bailey Ober Minnesota came up with some found money in developing Ober as a strong starter despite being a 12th round draft pick. He’s never pitched more than 92 1/3 innings during any pro season however, and has consistently been able to give much less. Injuries have been a consistent theme during the course of his career, and while effective, he’s largely been unavailable. Josh Winder Similar to Ober, Winder has only sparingly shown an ability to be available. He threw 125 2/3 innings during his first full professional season in 2019, and then failed to top 90 innings in either of the two seasons since. Winder is a good depth arm that can back up the end of a good rotation, but he’s certainly a question mark to remain healthy. Chris Paddack Acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Taylor Rogers trade, it was Paddack that drew Minnesota’s attention more than Emilio Pagan. Unfortunately he was available for a depressed price because of his injury concern. He’s now undergone a second Tommy John surgery, and won’t be back until mid-summer at the earliest. He looked sharp in his limited exposure for Minnesota, but counting on him in any real capacity is tough. Beyond those names there’s the group including Simeon Woods Richardson and Louie Varland. The Twins hope to have some of their pipeline produce in 2023 and beyond. Maybe Jordan Balazovic can find whatever he lost a season ago, and maybe there’s another guy or two that pop up to become relevant. The reality is, while Minnesota needs a top-tier arm to start a playoff game, they probably need one simply because of the uncertainty that surrounds who will be available, and for how long, in 2023. View full article
  2. Rocco Baldelli has to be feeling good about having some starting pitchers put down in ink. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine haven’t stocked the Minnesota rotation with a high-level of talent in recent years, largely opting for upside plays. Now the Twins have at least a few arms that should be seen as high-level talent, but to what extent can any of the arms Minnesota employs be counted on? Sonny Gray It’s become a trend for starting pitchers to contribute less innings in recent seasons. Bullpens have emerged as a force late in games, and that’s going to limit the length for any starting arm. That said, Gray threw just 119 2/3 innings during his first year with the Twins, his lowest total of his career. He dealt with hamstring problems throughout the year, and while he did look like a staff ace at times, he was also unavailable in key moments. Tyler Mahle Acquired at the trade deadline from the Cincinnati Reds, Mahle has the makings of a true ace. His underlying metrics are eye-popping, and seeing him take a step forward is hardly a lofty expectation. He did deal with shoulder issues earlier in the summer however, and they then popped up again with Minnesota. The Twins got just 16 1/3 innings from their newly acquired talent, and he couldn’t make it through more than two innings in his final outing of the season. He’d been relatively healthy prior to 2022, but shoulder issues are never good for a pitcher. Kenta Maeda The Twins got a near-Cy Young winner in 2020 when Maeda posted a 2.70 ERA during the truncated season. He then threw just over 100 innings in 2021 and posted a 4.66 ERA. Having undergone Tommy John surgery and not making it back for 2022, it will have been nearly two years since Maeda last pitched in a big league game. Sure, there’s lots to like here and the track record on UCL surgeries isn’t what it once was, but Maeda will be 35 next season and the question marks couldn’t be larger. Joe Ryan You can certainly make the argument that there’s questions as to whether Ryan can handle good lineups as he struggled against stiff competition for most of 2022. What is much more certain is that the former Tampa Bay Rays prospect appears to be a pillar of health. He has remained a constant on the field since becoming a big leaguer, and while he’s probably more a number three starter than anything else, you can count on him to take the ball every fifth day. Bailey Ober Minnesota came up with some found money in developing Ober as a strong starter despite being a 12th round draft pick. He’s never pitched more than 92 1/3 innings during any pro season however, and has consistently been able to give much less. Injuries have been a consistent theme during the course of his career, and while effective, he’s largely been unavailable. Josh Winder Similar to Ober, Winder has only sparingly shown an ability to be available. He threw 125 2/3 innings during his first full professional season in 2019, and then failed to top 90 innings in either of the two seasons since. Winder is a good depth arm that can back up the end of a good rotation, but he’s certainly a question mark to remain healthy. Chris Paddack Acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Taylor Rogers trade, it was Paddack that drew Minnesota’s attention more than Emilio Pagan. Unfortunately he was available for a depressed price because of his injury concern. He’s now undergone a second Tommy John surgery, and won’t be back until mid-summer at the earliest. He looked sharp in his limited exposure for Minnesota, but counting on him in any real capacity is tough. Beyond those names there’s the group including Simeon Woods Richardson and Louie Varland. The Twins hope to have some of their pipeline produce in 2023 and beyond. Maybe Jordan Balazovic can find whatever he lost a season ago, and maybe there’s another guy or two that pop up to become relevant. The reality is, while Minnesota needs a top-tier arm to start a playoff game, they probably need one simply because of the uncertainty that surrounds who will be available, and for how long, in 2023.
  3. BLOOMINGTON – The Minnesota Twins have a new look for the 2023 season, and fans, front office members, and players gathered at the Mall of America on Friday to see the new design of the Twins jerseys. Revealing the first new jersey design on the baseball diamond catwalk was Jose Miranda in the new home, white jerseys. Miranda is coming off an impressive rookie season with the Twins leading the team in RBI. He is most excited about accessorizing his cleats and glove with the new look. “I haven't really customized cleats yet but for sure next year. I want to do something with them and there are some people that want to meet on some designs during the winter with custom cleats. I'm gonna do something but I got to see what we're going to wear on Opening Day,” said Miranda. Matthew Wolff, a longtime Twins fan and designer for the new Twins look, spoke on keeping the history of the old with the new uniforms. “It was really important to respect the history of the team. Twins fans have a strong emotional attachment to the team's marks and uniforms and it was really important from the start of the project to respect them.” The message that the Twins organization wanted to incorporate with the new uniform designs was to include the state of Minnesota as a whole, and not just the Twin Cities. The new M hats now include the North Star above them to add that state-wide incorporation. While not directly an homage to the old North Stars hockey team, Wolff hopes fans could recognize it as one and appreciate the tie-in to an old franchise. The player consensus for which of the new uniforms is their favorite goes toward the new road grey jerseys. These jerseys call back to the Twins road uniforms from 1987-2009, while still incorporating the new M design for the road. Luis Arraez had the honor of sporting the new road uni and believes they will be a good luck charm. “I think we can score like 10 runs with these uniforms every game. I can't wait to wear this next year,” said Arraez. His teammate Jorge Polanco did wear the same pants but had on the new navy blue road, alternative jersey. Polanco, slightly jealous he didn’t wear the greys, still complemented Arraez appearance in them. “He’s [Arraez] wearing it, he looks good. I wish I would have worn it.” The material that goes into making these jerseys is also new, which Polanco already feels will be better for each game. “It’s a lot lighter and that makes us feel easier to move around the infield,” said Polanco. The only Twins pitcher in attendance was Joe Ryan, rocking the new home, navy blue alternative jerseys. Ryan (top picture) had the most exciting catwalk on the diamond stage, running out as if he had just finished throwing a no-hitter. The only thing missing to add a grand crescendo to Ryan's stage walk/run was his famous turtle neck under the jersey. "They said be quicker, so I was like, 'Alright, take a zip around the bases," said Ryan. The man dawning the newest alternative home jerseys for the team was star centerfielder Byron Buxton. Buxton spoke on how the new uniforms keep the Twins' tradition intact while also evolving it. “When I got drafted in 2012 it was pinstripes. To come out of that was a little bit different, knowing the Minnesota tradition was pinstripes. But over the years we've tried to change tradition quite a bit so this is just a new look for us. We got a new team, a new outlook, new meaning for us and this is just the start of something new,” said Buxton. While the decision for which of the Twins' uniforms will be worn on Opening Day is still months away. Fans can narrow it down to either the new pinstripe grey, road uniforms, or alternate navy blues as the Twins start the season in Kansas City on March 30. Fans can now buy the new uniforms at the Twins team store at Target Field, Mall of America or order them online at Twinsbaseball.com/shop.
  4. After weeks of build-up, the Twins' new uniform and logo design were unveiled at Mall of America on Friday, featuring models like Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Jose Miranda and Joe Ryan. Image courtesy of Theo Tollefson BLOOMINGTON – The Minnesota Twins have a new look for the 2023 season, and fans, front office members, and players gathered at the Mall of America on Friday to see the new design of the Twins jerseys. Revealing the first new jersey design on the baseball diamond catwalk was Jose Miranda in the new home, white jerseys. Miranda is coming off an impressive rookie season with the Twins leading the team in RBI. He is most excited about accessorizing his cleats and glove with the new look. “I haven't really customized cleats yet but for sure next year. I want to do something with them and there are some people that want to meet on some designs during the winter with custom cleats. I'm gonna do something but I got to see what we're going to wear on Opening Day,” said Miranda. Matthew Wolff, a longtime Twins fan and designer for the new Twins look, spoke on keeping the history of the old with the new uniforms. “It was really important to respect the history of the team. Twins fans have a strong emotional attachment to the team's marks and uniforms and it was really important from the start of the project to respect them.” The message that the Twins organization wanted to incorporate with the new uniform designs was to include the state of Minnesota as a whole, and not just the Twin Cities. The new M hats now include the North Star above them to add that state-wide incorporation. While not directly an homage to the old North Stars hockey team, Wolff hopes fans could recognize it as one and appreciate the tie-in to an old franchise. The player consensus for which of the new uniforms is their favorite goes toward the new road grey jerseys. These jerseys call back to the Twins road uniforms from 1987-2009, while still incorporating the new M design for the road. Luis Arraez had the honor of sporting the new road uni and believes they will be a good luck charm. “I think we can score like 10 runs with these uniforms every game. I can't wait to wear this next year,” said Arraez. His teammate Jorge Polanco did wear the same pants but had on the new navy blue road, alternative jersey. Polanco, slightly jealous he didn’t wear the greys, still complemented Arraez appearance in them. “He’s [Arraez] wearing it, he looks good. I wish I would have worn it.” The material that goes into making these jerseys is also new, which Polanco already feels will be better for each game. “It’s a lot lighter and that makes us feel easier to move around the infield,” said Polanco. The only Twins pitcher in attendance was Joe Ryan, rocking the new home, navy blue alternative jerseys. Ryan (top picture) had the most exciting catwalk on the diamond stage, running out as if he had just finished throwing a no-hitter. The only thing missing to add a grand crescendo to Ryan's stage walk/run was his famous turtle neck under the jersey. "They said be quicker, so I was like, 'Alright, take a zip around the bases," said Ryan. The man dawning the newest alternative home jerseys for the team was star centerfielder Byron Buxton. Buxton spoke on how the new uniforms keep the Twins' tradition intact while also evolving it. “When I got drafted in 2012 it was pinstripes. To come out of that was a little bit different, knowing the Minnesota tradition was pinstripes. But over the years we've tried to change tradition quite a bit so this is just a new look for us. We got a new team, a new outlook, new meaning for us and this is just the start of something new,” said Buxton. While the decision for which of the Twins' uniforms will be worn on Opening Day is still months away. Fans can narrow it down to either the new pinstripe grey, road uniforms, or alternate navy blues as the Twins start the season in Kansas City on March 30. Fans can now buy the new uniforms at the Twins team store at Target Field, Mall of America or order them online at Twinsbaseball.com/shop. View full article
  5. Joe Ryan had as good of a season as we could have reasonably asked for, but it somehow feels like he left some meat on the bones. Is it possible that one of the Twins most consistent pitchers has another step they can take in 2023? Image courtesy of Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports The Rays were likely willing to part with Joe Ryan because of his pitch mix concerns, as he dominated every stop in the minors by using a unique fastball almost exclusively. The pitch was deceptive and unhittable, as his low arm slot made it hard for hitters to anticipate where the ball is going to end up. No fastball is good enough to sustainably dominate the majors, however, and Ryan is set to work on diversifying his pitch mix in 2022. He threw his fastball 60% of the time in 2022, down about 5% from 2021 as he began mixing sliders 20% of the time while also throwing an occasional changeup or curveball. His final line of a 3.55 ERA across 147 innings points to this pitch mix change being a massive success, although there is some context to consider. Ryan had a few months that prevented him from putting up some eye-popping numbers in his rookie season. In June, he posted a 5.74 ERA, followed by a 5.06 mark in July and a 4.13 in August. At the time the explanation was the difficulties he was having returning from COVID, which likely did carry some weight. Still, almost every bit of failure Ryan had in 2022 stemmed from his offspeed offerings. Ryan’s slider allowed a .245/.330/.497 line, his changeup .277/.492/.355, and his curveball .286/.333/.393. For comparison sake, his fastball allowed a .145/.263/.300 mark. It seemed like every home run he allowed was on an offspeed pitch. After plenty of scouting reports saying Ryan was a reliever because of his pitch mix, the floor that many worried about showed itself for several months. Even with his solid final numbers, the questions that were raised about Joe Ryan being able to navigate top-tier lineups remain. Moving forward there’s reason to be optimistic. The biggest issue of Ryan’s game is clearly the success of his offspeed pitches, and the final numbers on them certainly validate those concerns. Ryan got incredibly unlucky according to his expected numbers for the entire season. His slider accounted for 40% of the home runs he gave up despite throwing it just 40% of the time. The pitch allowed a .245 BA but had a .221 expected batting average. While getting clubbed to the tune of a .497 SLG, the pitch had an expected SLG of just .354, an even better mark than his highly touted fastball. This is true of both his changeup and curve as well, as all of his secondaries' actual numbers were on the wrong side of the expected stats. This is no call to reward Ryan for what Statcast says his pitches “should” be. There are a lot of factors that go into expected numbers. It is odd however that in a season where the ball was assumedly changed to negatively impact offense that Ryan would underperform so consistently. There’s no telling how these pitches will look in 2023, but it's safe to assume that Ryan and the Twins will continue to refine these offspeed pitches, and the deep numbers say they have a surprisingly strong base to build off of. His slider in particular appears to have a chance at being his best pitch based on the expected stats and the near 30% whiff rate. Things often went wrong when Joe Ryan turned to his secondary pitches in 2022. It confirmed many of the predictions that were made about the fastball first right-hander and likely still leaves a few concerned about his future as a starter. Still, Ryan put up dominant stretches despite these struggles, and the final numbers say that his pitch mix isn’t nearly the disaster some thought. In 2023, Ryan’s goal will surely be to establish one more reliable offering to pair with his fastball. Doing so opens a whole new ceiling for a pitcher that already helped anchor the rotation in 2022. The best part is, Joe Ryan is closer than we think. View full article
  6. The Rays were likely willing to part with Joe Ryan because of his pitch mix concerns, as he dominated every stop in the minors by using a unique fastball almost exclusively. The pitch was deceptive and unhittable, as his low arm slot made it hard for hitters to anticipate where the ball is going to end up. No fastball is good enough to sustainably dominate the majors, however, and Ryan is set to work on diversifying his pitch mix in 2022. He threw his fastball 60% of the time in 2022, down about 5% from 2021 as he began mixing sliders 20% of the time while also throwing an occasional changeup or curveball. His final line of a 3.55 ERA across 147 innings points to this pitch mix change being a massive success, although there is some context to consider. Ryan had a few months that prevented him from putting up some eye-popping numbers in his rookie season. In June, he posted a 5.74 ERA, followed by a 5.06 mark in July and a 4.13 in August. At the time the explanation was the difficulties he was having returning from COVID, which likely did carry some weight. Still, almost every bit of failure Ryan had in 2022 stemmed from his offspeed offerings. Ryan’s slider allowed a .245/.330/.497 line, his changeup .277/.492/.355, and his curveball .286/.333/.393. For comparison sake, his fastball allowed a .145/.263/.300 mark. It seemed like every home run he allowed was on an offspeed pitch. After plenty of scouting reports saying Ryan was a reliever because of his pitch mix, the floor that many worried about showed itself for several months. Even with his solid final numbers, the questions that were raised about Joe Ryan being able to navigate top-tier lineups remain. Moving forward there’s reason to be optimistic. The biggest issue of Ryan’s game is clearly the success of his offspeed pitches, and the final numbers on them certainly validate those concerns. Ryan got incredibly unlucky according to his expected numbers for the entire season. His slider accounted for 40% of the home runs he gave up despite throwing it just 40% of the time. The pitch allowed a .245 BA but had a .221 expected batting average. While getting clubbed to the tune of a .497 SLG, the pitch had an expected SLG of just .354, an even better mark than his highly touted fastball. This is true of both his changeup and curve as well, as all of his secondaries' actual numbers were on the wrong side of the expected stats. This is no call to reward Ryan for what Statcast says his pitches “should” be. There are a lot of factors that go into expected numbers. It is odd however that in a season where the ball was assumedly changed to negatively impact offense that Ryan would underperform so consistently. There’s no telling how these pitches will look in 2023, but it's safe to assume that Ryan and the Twins will continue to refine these offspeed pitches, and the deep numbers say they have a surprisingly strong base to build off of. His slider in particular appears to have a chance at being his best pitch based on the expected stats and the near 30% whiff rate. Things often went wrong when Joe Ryan turned to his secondary pitches in 2022. It confirmed many of the predictions that were made about the fastball first right-hander and likely still leaves a few concerned about his future as a starter. Still, Ryan put up dominant stretches despite these struggles, and the final numbers say that his pitch mix isn’t nearly the disaster some thought. In 2023, Ryan’s goal will surely be to establish one more reliable offering to pair with his fastball. Doing so opens a whole new ceiling for a pitcher that already helped anchor the rotation in 2022. The best part is, Joe Ryan is closer than we think.
  7. The Atlanta Braves won the 2021 World Series and have a chance to be baseball's first back-to-back champion in over 20 years. Atlanta's front office has been aggressive with signing their young core. Is that an approach for Minnesota to consider? Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today Sports Baseball organizations tend to follow the trends set by other successful teams. In recent years, the Braves have solidified themselves as a model franchise, and other organizations will look to copy their winning model. The club's ability to sign players to long-term contracts is part of its success. Is this approach something the Twins should consider? Earlier this week, the Braves announced they signed rookie starting pitcher Spencer Strider to an extension that buys out his arbitration seasons while giving the team two extra years of control. Michael Harris II, another Braves rookie, also signed an extension earlier this season that followed a similar structure. These aren't the only players the Braves have been able to lock up. Besides Strider and Harris, Atlanta has also signed some of their other top players to long-term deals. Matt Olson and Austin Riley signed extensions during the 2022 season. Previously, the Braves had signed Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies to very friendly long-term deals. Atlanta is guaranteeing money to players beyond their arbitration years which has risk, but the Braves are hoping to see the players outperform the value they are paying. The Braves and the Twins have different philosophies when creating their rosters. Atlanta has over $150 million in guaranteed money on the books for 2024, with nearly $100 million going out as far as 2028. Minnesota's front office likes to have payroll flexibility and tends to avoid long-term deals. Byron Buxton and Randy Dobnak are the only Twins players with options that extend beyond 2025. During the 2022 season, the Braves' payroll ranked in baseball's top 10, while the Twins ranked slightly below league average at 16th. Atlanta's long-term investments come with inherited risk. Players can suffer catastrophic injuries and miss significant playing time. There is also no guarantee that these players will continue to develop at the big-league level. The Braves have already won a World Series, and they hope they can contend for multiple other titles over the next five years. Fans can forget poor play if World Series flags are flying forever. Atlanta can also hope that a few of these players produce at a superstar level to outweigh the dead money on the other contracts. For the Twins to follow the Braves' strategy, the right players are needed to make these deals work out in the team's favor. Minnesota signed Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler to team-friendly extensions, and an argument can be made that both contracts worked out in the team's favor. Polanco's contract can max out at $48.25 million, and he has provided the Twins with nearly $80 million in value since 2019. Kepler's deal can be worth just over $42 million, and he has been worth $72.6 million. Those deals have worked out in Minnesota's favor, so who can the team target for extensions? Health has been the biggest issue for young Twins players, including many of the team's recent top prospects like Alex Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, Matt Canterino, and Trevor Larnach. All these players might be extension candidates if health wasn't a question at the beginning of their big-league careers. Those aren't the only players who are extension candidates following the 2022 season. Luis Arraez, Joe Ryan, Jhoan Duran, and Jose Miranda are some younger players the Twins could consider for a long-term extension. Arraez won his first batting title in 2022, and the Twins have him under team control for three more seasons. It will be harder to lock-up Arraez as he gets closer to free agency. Ryan, Duran, and Miranda are pre-arbitration eligible, so they are under team control through the 2027 season. The Twins can try and sign them early to gain extra years of team control. Minnesota's current front office likes to clean the team's long-term books, which allows for more flexibility. However, other teams are locking up their young players to help the organization continue to win. Do you think the Twins front office needs to change strategies? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  8. Imagine a pitcher who can touch 104 mph, throws strikes and combines it with elite offspeed stuff. The Twins have never had such an arm… until now. Twins Daily’s 2022 pick for Pitcher of the Year is rookie sensation Jhoan Duran. While the majority of the Twins’ bullpen struggled to close games, Duran was invaluable all season long. He led American League relievers in Win Probability Added (4.59), frequently facing the opponent’s best hitters in the highest leverage spots. Duran’s “clutch” score registered at 1.26, also the highest in the AL. If you looked only at Duran on the surface, you’d crown him as one of the best relievers in baseball. His incredible season was impressive without context. The context, however, is where the magic lies. Duran was a rookie thrust into the tightest spots for a team fighting for the playoffs. He had never pitched in relief before 2022, save for a couple games at Triple-A in 2019 and 2021. After working at the Twins' alternate site in 2020, Duran threw only 16 innings a season ago in St. Paul. He had a 5.06 ERA before an elbow injury shut down his season, putting his future in question. Duran dazzled in spring training and earned a spot on the Opening Day roster. Even the most optimistic believers in Duran’s incredible stuff couldn’t have predicted what came next. Among pitchers who threw at least 250 offerings in 2022, Duran’s four-seamer ranked first in average velocity (100.8). His splitter also paced the league at a ridiculous 96.4 mph. Duran unquestionably has the best raw stuff in Twins history and one of the most electrifying repertoires the game has ever seen. There have been plenty of young pitchers with electric arms but Duran’s command is the separator. His 27.4% strikeout-to-walk rate was tied for 10th among qualified relievers, ahead of Cleveland phenom Emmanuel Clase. Duran throws extremely hard and he throws strikes. That combo led to nearly three Wins Above Replacement at Baseball Reference. Duran worked through early pitch-selection pains and got better as the season went on. Only two AL relievers had a lower ERA than Duran in the second half (1.05), minimum of 25 innings. The rookie was also lights-out in front of the home crowd, posting a 0.83 ERA at Target Field, the lowest in a season in the park’s history. Handing your most pivotal bullpen spot to a rookie can be a risky proposition, given the pressure of that role. Duran was unfazed. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Duran held opponents to a 1-for-25 mark, with the lone hit a single. In high-leverage situations, opponents hit .180 with a .489 OPS. Duran’s pulse is impossible to see. Twins fans were understandably sad to see the team trade Eduardo Escobar at the 2018 deadline. The reward, however, looks to be potentially game-changing. Duran has instantly become one of the game’s best relievers and he’s under contract with the Twins through at least 2027. He’s a joy to watch. HONORABLE MENTIONS Sonny Gray The Twins traded their first-round pick from a year ago for Sonny Gray, who was very good when healthy in his first season as a Twin. Gray had trouble staying healthy and pitching deep into games, but his 3.08 ERA and 3.41 FIP show he’s still a frontline starter. Griffin Jax Also in his first season as a full-time reliever, Griffin Jax enjoyed a massive spike in velocity and effectiveness. Jax posted a solid 3.36 ERA in 65 games, regularly setting up Duran as the second-best reliever in the bullpen. Jax averaged over 95 mph with his four-seamer and produced a 37% whiff rate on his elite, high-spin slider. Caleb Thielbar Caleb Thielbar is another example of why we should trust the expected statistics. A ballooned ERA was backed by much better metrics early in 2022. Thielbar was outstanding in the second half with a 1.50 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 24 innings. The lefty filled in more than admirably for Taylor Rogers. Joe Ryan Joe Ryan set the Twins’ single-season rookie record for strikeouts, backed by a 3.55 ERA in a team-leading 147 innings. Ryan was exceptional down the stretch with a 2.81 ERA over his last nine starts. Still just a rookie, Ryan has been impressive for many of his now 32 starts in the big leagues. View full article
  9. Baseball organizations tend to follow the trends set by other successful teams. In recent years, the Braves have solidified themselves as a model franchise, and other organizations will look to copy their winning model. The club's ability to sign players to long-term contracts is part of its success. Is this approach something the Twins should consider? Earlier this week, the Braves announced they signed rookie starting pitcher Spencer Strider to an extension that buys out his arbitration seasons while giving the team two extra years of control. Michael Harris II, another Braves rookie, also signed an extension earlier this season that followed a similar structure. These aren't the only players the Braves have been able to lock up. Besides Strider and Harris, Atlanta has also signed some of their other top players to long-term deals. Matt Olson and Austin Riley signed extensions during the 2022 season. Previously, the Braves had signed Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies to very friendly long-term deals. Atlanta is guaranteeing money to players beyond their arbitration years which has risk, but the Braves are hoping to see the players outperform the value they are paying. The Braves and the Twins have different philosophies when creating their rosters. Atlanta has over $150 million in guaranteed money on the books for 2024, with nearly $100 million going out as far as 2028. Minnesota's front office likes to have payroll flexibility and tends to avoid long-term deals. Byron Buxton and Randy Dobnak are the only Twins players with options that extend beyond 2025. During the 2022 season, the Braves' payroll ranked in baseball's top 10, while the Twins ranked slightly below league average at 16th. Atlanta's long-term investments come with inherited risk. Players can suffer catastrophic injuries and miss significant playing time. There is also no guarantee that these players will continue to develop at the big-league level. The Braves have already won a World Series, and they hope they can contend for multiple other titles over the next five years. Fans can forget poor play if World Series flags are flying forever. Atlanta can also hope that a few of these players produce at a superstar level to outweigh the dead money on the other contracts. For the Twins to follow the Braves' strategy, the right players are needed to make these deals work out in the team's favor. Minnesota signed Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler to team-friendly extensions, and an argument can be made that both contracts worked out in the team's favor. Polanco's contract can max out at $48.25 million, and he has provided the Twins with nearly $80 million in value since 2019. Kepler's deal can be worth just over $42 million, and he has been worth $72.6 million. Those deals have worked out in Minnesota's favor, so who can the team target for extensions? Health has been the biggest issue for young Twins players, including many of the team's recent top prospects like Alex Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, Matt Canterino, and Trevor Larnach. All these players might be extension candidates if health wasn't a question at the beginning of their big-league careers. Those aren't the only players who are extension candidates following the 2022 season. Luis Arraez, Joe Ryan, Jhoan Duran, and Jose Miranda are some younger players the Twins could consider for a long-term extension. Arraez won his first batting title in 2022, and the Twins have him under team control for three more seasons. It will be harder to lock-up Arraez as he gets closer to free agency. Ryan, Duran, and Miranda are pre-arbitration eligible, so they are under team control through the 2027 season. The Twins can try and sign them early to gain extra years of team control. Minnesota's current front office likes to clean the team's long-term books, which allows for more flexibility. However, other teams are locking up their young players to help the organization continue to win. Do you think the Twins front office needs to change strategies? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  10. While the majority of the Twins’ bullpen struggled to close games, Duran was invaluable all season long. He led American League relievers in Win Probability Added (4.59), frequently facing the opponent’s best hitters in the highest leverage spots. Duran’s “clutch” score registered at 1.26, also the highest in the AL. If you looked only at Duran on the surface, you’d crown him as one of the best relievers in baseball. His incredible season was impressive without context. The context, however, is where the magic lies. Duran was a rookie thrust into the tightest spots for a team fighting for the playoffs. He had never pitched in relief before 2022, save for a couple games at Triple-A in 2019 and 2021. After working at the Twins' alternate site in 2020, Duran threw only 16 innings a season ago in St. Paul. He had a 5.06 ERA before an elbow injury shut down his season, putting his future in question. Duran dazzled in spring training and earned a spot on the Opening Day roster. Even the most optimistic believers in Duran’s incredible stuff couldn’t have predicted what came next. Among pitchers who threw at least 250 offerings in 2022, Duran’s four-seamer ranked first in average velocity (100.8). His splitter also paced the league at a ridiculous 96.4 mph. Duran unquestionably has the best raw stuff in Twins history and one of the most electrifying repertoires the game has ever seen. There have been plenty of young pitchers with electric arms but Duran’s command is the separator. His 27.4% strikeout-to-walk rate was tied for 10th among qualified relievers, ahead of Cleveland phenom Emmanuel Clase. Duran throws extremely hard and he throws strikes. That combo led to nearly three Wins Above Replacement at Baseball Reference. Duran worked through early pitch-selection pains and got better as the season went on. Only two AL relievers had a lower ERA than Duran in the second half (1.05), minimum of 25 innings. The rookie was also lights-out in front of the home crowd, posting a 0.83 ERA at Target Field, the lowest in a season in the park’s history. Handing your most pivotal bullpen spot to a rookie can be a risky proposition, given the pressure of that role. Duran was unfazed. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Duran held opponents to a 1-for-25 mark, with the lone hit a single. In high-leverage situations, opponents hit .180 with a .489 OPS. Duran’s pulse is impossible to see. Twins fans were understandably sad to see the team trade Eduardo Escobar at the 2018 deadline. The reward, however, looks to be potentially game-changing. Duran has instantly become one of the game’s best relievers and he’s under contract with the Twins through at least 2027. He’s a joy to watch. HONORABLE MENTIONS Sonny Gray The Twins traded their first-round pick from a year ago for Sonny Gray, who was very good when healthy in his first season as a Twin. Gray had trouble staying healthy and pitching deep into games, but his 3.08 ERA and 3.41 FIP show he’s still a frontline starter. Griffin Jax Also in his first season as a full-time reliever, Griffin Jax enjoyed a massive spike in velocity and effectiveness. Jax posted a solid 3.36 ERA in 65 games, regularly setting up Duran as the second-best reliever in the bullpen. Jax averaged over 95 mph with his four-seamer and produced a 37% whiff rate on his elite, high-spin slider. Caleb Thielbar Caleb Thielbar is another example of why we should trust the expected statistics. A ballooned ERA was backed by much better metrics early in 2022. Thielbar was outstanding in the second half with a 1.50 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 24 innings. The lefty filled in more than admirably for Taylor Rogers. Joe Ryan Joe Ryan set the Twins’ single-season rookie record for strikeouts, backed by a 3.55 ERA in a team-leading 147 innings. Ryan was exceptional down the stretch with a 2.81 ERA over his last nine starts. Still just a rookie, Ryan has been impressive for many of his now 32 starts in the big leagues.
  11. In a crummy season like this one, it's nice to have legitimate silver linings to fall back on. The 2022 Twins provided those, by receiving so many impact performances from major-league rookies with bright (cost-controlled) futures ahead of them that it was very difficult for our panel to settle on this award. Ultimately, the winner is flame-throwing phenom Jhoan Durán. Image courtesy of Thiéres Rabelo, Twins Daily Twins Daily panelists had three excellent choices in front of them when trying to select the best rookie on this year's Twins team. Joe Ryan delivered one of the best rookie campaigns by a starting pitcher in team history, posting a 13-8 record and 3.55 ERA in 27 starts. He led the team in innings. José Miranda shook off a slow start after debuting in May with a torrid summer on the way to a 116 OPS+, 15 home runs, and a team-leading 66 RBIs. Both Ryan and Miranda were essential to keeping their respective units afloat. Ryan, outside of a bout with COVID, stayed healthy all year in an injury-plagued rotation, and was consistently effective for the most part. Miranda was at times the only credible threat in a slump-prone lineup, the antidote for an offense allergic to hitting with RISP. But I don't think anyone can argue against the fact that Jhoan Durán's importance to this year's bullpen is unparalleled. He was not only their most reliable reliever, but oftentimes their only reliable reliever. He did marvelous, magical things on the mound that Minnesota Twins fans (and major-league baseball fans) have never seen before. Durán was barely the choice for Twins Daily Rookie of the Year, beating out Miranda by an extremely slim margin, but he was absolutely the right choice. These five numbers explain why. Jhoan Duran's Spectacular Rookie Season, by the Numbers 103.8 MPH The radar reading on Durán's hardest fastball of the season, thrown on September 27th, setting a new Twins franchise record for fastest recorded pitch. Naturally, he broke his own record, set at 103.3 MPH back in May, which itself broke his own record set earlier that month. Durán's laser beam against Elvis Andrus of the White Sox was rounded up on the TV broadcast, flashing an absurd 104 MPH. 100.8 MPH The velocity of a "splinker" thrown by Durán on August 29th against Boston, becoming the first offspeed pitch in major-league history to clock at 100-plus MPH. It was one of the nastiest and most untouchable pitches ever witnessed, sending a hopeless Alex Verdugo to the bench on strike three. The presence of Durán's splitter-sinker combo alongside his red-hot heater is crucial to his success, giving batters the almost impossible task of deciphering which one's coming within a sliver of a second. While the right-hander's fastball velo is rare – only a select few pitchers like Ryan Helsley and Jordan Hicks operate in that realm – his "offspeed" juice is what truly sets him apart. No one else is coming close to this velocity on a splitter. He's a unicorn. Of course, all of this eye-popping velocity wouldn't mean much if he couldn't command it and throw it in the zone. But he did. 69.31% Percentage of pitches thrown for strikes by Durán, the 11th-best mark for any MLB reliever. He allowed only 16 walks in 67 ⅔ innings (2.1 BB/9), and issued multiple free passes in an appearance once all year. The dread felt by opposing hitters stepping in against the imposing 6-foot-5 specimen was only made worse by the fact that trying to coax a walk was unlikely to be fruitful. As Aaron Gleeman marveled at The Athletic not long ago: "He relentlessly pounds the strike zone with arguably the best raw stuff in the world, changing speeds and eye levels in a way that almost seems unfair. Duran is destined to be one of the greatest relievers in Twins history if they can keep him healthy. He’s unreal." 1.86 Durán's final ERA in 2022, the 7th-best mark for any reliever in Twins history. His combination of elite stuff and precision command have led to complete and total dominance for Durán, who held opponents to a .207 average and struck out more than a third of the batters he faced (33.5%). His 1.86 ERA trails only these six seasons from Twins relievers, half of which belong to the great Joe Nathan: Dennys Reyes, 2006 (0.89) Joe Nathan, 2008 (1.33) Al Worthington, 1964 (1.37) Joe Nathan, 2006 (1.58) Joe Nathan, 2004 (1.62) Caleb Thielbar, 2013 (1.76) Durán was at his best during the second half, posting a 1.05 ERA with only one home run allowed in 24 appearances. 4.59 Durán's final Win Probability Added, which led all American League pitchers and ranked second among MLB relievers. Only Daniel Bard of the Rockies made a bigger impact on his team's outcomes. To me, this measurement gets to the core of what made Durán so remarkable and indispensable. Not only was he putting absolutely ridiculous numbers against big-league hitters ... he was doing it against the BEST big-league hitters in the BIGGEST spots. Once Rocco Baldelli became aware of what he had in Durán, the reliever was permanently pushed into a "fireman" role. Nearly every appearance was under duress, with the game hanging in the balance, and the heart of the opposing order due up. To pitch so well, in such consistently difficult circumstances, as a rookie with 16 previous innings of experiences above Double-A ... it's incomprehensible. Among all MLB rookie relievers since 1990, only Jonathan Papelbon has posted a higher WPA than Durán did in 2022. That was in 2006, the first of four straight All-Star seasons for Papelbon. Amidst all of these amazing numbers, the most important one for Durán might be 57. That's the number of appearances he made for the Twins, staying healthy and strong all year long as a go-to linchpin in the bullpen after totaling five appearances last year, when a forearm strain derailed his season. For all the worst-case scenarios that played out with the Twins this year from a health standpoint, Durán completely shaking off last year's elbow issues was a direly needed exception to the rule. If he can continue to keep that golden arm rocking, he'll be a vital asset in whatever this team is trying to build. Durán's rookie season was one for the ages. FINAL VOTING POINTS TALLY: Durán: 42 Miranda: 40 Ryan: 31 Moran: 6 Winder: 3 Celestino: 3 Varland: 1 View full article
  12. Although the Minnesota Twins rode a strong month of May into the final weeks of the season before sputtering out, plenty of ire has been directed at the front office regarding the lackluster performance for a second straight year. How can the front office regain favor from fans? Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports There’s no denying that Minnesota Twins fans spoke with their wallets this season. Minnesota saw its lowest attendance total since 2001, and not even a now 12-year-old-Target-Field could save them from that fate. Following an 89-loss campaign in 2021, the Twins may have come in right around projection totals, but it’s hard not to see why fans wanted more. Plenty went wrong for the 2021 Minnesota Twins, but after sending Josh Donaldson to New York and spending big on Carlos Correa, it looked like this team could compete in a division where the White Sox and Guardians were their lone competition. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine made a pitching addition in the form of Sonny Gray, but the signings of Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer should’ve never been expected to move the needle too much. Having been hired prior to the 2017 season, fans are wanting better results from a front office that, at times, has been too cute. Although Terry Ryan and Bill Smith also wore out their welcomes, loud voices are now ringing to a tune of 2023 being a critical juncture for the duo. How the pair can be brought back into the good graces of fans likely is a multi-faceted question. Strike Strong this Winter It’s hardly fair to ever expect any plan to be rigid when it comes to sports. Having alternatives for when options change is a must. Minnesota displayed that last season when they initially targeted Isiah Kiner-Falefa as their shortstop until the opportunity to dump Donaldson with Correa falling in their lap became a possibility. That said, the Twins targeted Bundy as their first signing of the offseason. Only Joe Smith and a handful of waiver claims were their answer in the bullpen. Establishing themselves with more certain options that present a much higher ceiling is a must. Minnesota used a team-record 38 pitchers this season. Plenty of the starters are young and should be expected to provide results of the pitching pipeline Falvey was brought in to create. Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, Louie Varland, Joe Ryan, and Simeon Woods Richardson are all nice pieces to round out a rotation. That should be the back half though. Kenta Maeda returns, Tyler Mahle will hopefully be healthy, Gray option should be picked up, and Chris Paddack will be here at some point late in the year. There’s no reason to add middling options to that group. Another #1 or #2 arm has to be the focus if you want a rotation taken seriously. The bullpen is in better shape assuming Jorge Alcala and Cody Stashak can be healthy. Matt Canterino won’t be an option for a while, and although Jhoan Duran has emerged alongside Griffin Jax as success stories, they need help. Supplementing short starts with elite relievers is a route you can go, but half in on both is something we’ve seen fail. Find a Shortstop There’s no reason why the Twins can’t pay Correa, and there’s arguably less of one why they shouldn’t. That said, he’s going to command a boatload, and it’s probably fool’s gold to suggest he’ll get top dollar here. However, if Minnesota can make a strong offer, then a city he seems to enjoy may become more enticing. If it’s not Correa, going half-in on a team that needs leadership and the ability to sustain winning simply won’t work. Brooks Lee would be a longshot for Opening Day, and Noah Miller can’t hit yet even though he's great in the field. Royce Lewis won’t be back until mid-summer at the earliest, and what he looks like at that point remains to be seen. This isn’t another Kiner-Falefa or Jose Iglesias scenario. Maybe the Twins shy away from going for a long-term deal that locks down the position (although it’s been a revolving door for years) but paying handsomely for a position that will quarterback a poor defensive infield is a must. Be Open to Change Arguably the largest detractor for a good portion of Minnesota’s fanbase when it comes to the front office is their reliance on analytics. While data is an incredibly powerful tool when driving decisions, being so rooted in it as a finality has seemingly dug some graves. Emilio Pagan was terrible and sank the Twins early this year. He’s shown a better ability once coming around to making changes, but Minnesota stuck with him because of stuff that could be exploited if it ever started to work out. There were also data-driven decisions behind the acquisition of Bundy, Archer, and Smith, thinking the brain trust and what they employ could unlock a higher level of performance that never showed itself. Being willing to cut ties, or change direction when something isn’t working hasn’t been evident on a quicker timeline. The Twins were dreadful with runners in scoring position this season, and while the lineup wasn’t built to bash the longball like that of the Bomba Squad, little was done schematically to change run production opportunities on the fly. Spend…Again We saw the highest payroll in franchise history during 2022 when Minnesota dropped roughly $140 million on this club. Whether Correa returns or not, there’s going to be a ton of money to spend. While revenues will obviously have taken a hit following a lacking attendance and likely slowed renewal of season tickets, paying for premium talent is a must. Falvey and Levine have cultivated a core of players such as Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Ryan, and many others. With their salaries all stymied through the arbitration process, it’s that group that should be supplemented by this regime to prove the youth is here and believed to be ready to compete. What else do you need to see from the Twins front office to dive back in? If you’re out, where did they lose you? What have you appreciated most? View full article
  13. Twins Daily panelists had three excellent choices in front of them when trying to select the best rookie on this year's Twins team. Joe Ryan delivered one of the best rookie campaigns by a starting pitcher in team history, posting a 13-8 record and 3.55 ERA in 27 starts. He led the team in innings. José Miranda shook off a slow start after debuting in May with a torrid summer on the way to a 116 OPS+, 15 home runs, and a team-leading 66 RBIs. Both Ryan and Miranda were essential to keeping their respective units afloat. Ryan, outside of a bout with COVID, stayed healthy all year in an injury-plagued rotation, and was consistently effective for the most part. Miranda was at times the only credible threat in a slump-prone lineup, the antidote for an offense allergic to hitting with RISP. But I don't think anyone can argue against the fact that Jhoan Durán's importance to this year's bullpen is unparalleled. He was not only their most reliable reliever, but oftentimes their only reliable reliever. He did marvelous, magical things on the mound that Minnesota Twins fans (and major-league baseball fans) have never seen before. Durán was barely the choice for Twins Daily Rookie of the Year, beating out Miranda by an extremely slim margin, but he was absolutely the right choice. These five numbers explain why. Jhoan Duran's Spectacular Rookie Season, by the Numbers 103.8 MPH The radar reading on Durán's hardest fastball of the season, thrown on September 27th, setting a new Twins franchise record for fastest recorded pitch. Naturally, he broke his own record, set at 103.3 MPH back in May, which itself broke his own record set earlier that month. Durán's laser beam against Elvis Andrus of the White Sox was rounded up on the TV broadcast, flashing an absurd 104 MPH. 100.8 MPH The velocity of a "splinker" thrown by Durán on August 29th against Boston, becoming the first offspeed pitch in major-league history to clock at 100-plus MPH. It was one of the nastiest and most untouchable pitches ever witnessed, sending a hopeless Alex Verdugo to the bench on strike three. The presence of Durán's splitter-sinker combo alongside his red-hot heater is crucial to his success, giving batters the almost impossible task of deciphering which one's coming within a sliver of a second. While the right-hander's fastball velo is rare – only a select few pitchers like Ryan Helsley and Jordan Hicks operate in that realm – his "offspeed" juice is what truly sets him apart. No one else is coming close to this velocity on a splitter. He's a unicorn. Of course, all of this eye-popping velocity wouldn't mean much if he couldn't command it and throw it in the zone. But he did. 69.31% Percentage of pitches thrown for strikes by Durán, the 11th-best mark for any MLB reliever. He allowed only 16 walks in 67 ⅔ innings (2.1 BB/9), and issued multiple free passes in an appearance once all year. The dread felt by opposing hitters stepping in against the imposing 6-foot-5 specimen was only made worse by the fact that trying to coax a walk was unlikely to be fruitful. As Aaron Gleeman marveled at The Athletic not long ago: "He relentlessly pounds the strike zone with arguably the best raw stuff in the world, changing speeds and eye levels in a way that almost seems unfair. Duran is destined to be one of the greatest relievers in Twins history if they can keep him healthy. He’s unreal." 1.86 Durán's final ERA in 2022, the 7th-best mark for any reliever in Twins history. His combination of elite stuff and precision command have led to complete and total dominance for Durán, who held opponents to a .207 average and struck out more than a third of the batters he faced (33.5%). His 1.86 ERA trails only these six seasons from Twins relievers, half of which belong to the great Joe Nathan: Dennys Reyes, 2006 (0.89) Joe Nathan, 2008 (1.33) Al Worthington, 1964 (1.37) Joe Nathan, 2006 (1.58) Joe Nathan, 2004 (1.62) Caleb Thielbar, 2013 (1.76) Durán was at his best during the second half, posting a 1.05 ERA with only one home run allowed in 24 appearances. 4.59 Durán's final Win Probability Added, which led all American League pitchers and ranked second among MLB relievers. Only Daniel Bard of the Rockies made a bigger impact on his team's outcomes. To me, this measurement gets to the core of what made Durán so remarkable and indispensable. Not only was he putting absolutely ridiculous numbers against big-league hitters ... he was doing it against the BEST big-league hitters in the BIGGEST spots. Once Rocco Baldelli became aware of what he had in Durán, the reliever was permanently pushed into a "fireman" role. Nearly every appearance was under duress, with the game hanging in the balance, and the heart of the opposing order due up. To pitch so well, in such consistently difficult circumstances, as a rookie with 16 previous innings of experiences above Double-A ... it's incomprehensible. Among all MLB rookie relievers since 1990, only Jonathan Papelbon has posted a higher WPA than Durán did in 2022. That was in 2006, the first of four straight All-Star seasons for Papelbon. Amidst all of these amazing numbers, the most important one for Durán might be 57. That's the number of appearances he made for the Twins, staying healthy and strong all year long as a go-to linchpin in the bullpen after totaling five appearances last year, when a forearm strain derailed his season. For all the worst-case scenarios that played out with the Twins this year from a health standpoint, Durán completely shaking off last year's elbow issues was a direly needed exception to the rule. If he can continue to keep that golden arm rocking, he'll be a vital asset in whatever this team is trying to build. Durán's rookie season was one for the ages. FINAL VOTING POINTS TALLY: Durán: 42 Miranda: 40 Ryan: 31 Moran: 6 Winder: 3 Celestino: 3 Varland: 1
  14. There’s no denying that Minnesota Twins fans spoke with their wallets this season. Minnesota saw its lowest attendance total since 2001, and not even a now 12-year-old-Target-Field could save them from that fate. Following an 89-loss campaign in 2021, the Twins may have come in right around projection totals, but it’s hard not to see why fans wanted more. Plenty went wrong for the 2021 Minnesota Twins, but after sending Josh Donaldson to New York and spending big on Carlos Correa, it looked like this team could compete in a division where the White Sox and Guardians were their lone competition. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine made a pitching addition in the form of Sonny Gray, but the signings of Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer should’ve never been expected to move the needle too much. Having been hired prior to the 2017 season, fans are wanting better results from a front office that, at times, has been too cute. Although Terry Ryan and Bill Smith also wore out their welcomes, loud voices are now ringing to a tune of 2023 being a critical juncture for the duo. How the pair can be brought back into the good graces of fans likely is a multi-faceted question. Strike Strong this Winter It’s hardly fair to ever expect any plan to be rigid when it comes to sports. Having alternatives for when options change is a must. Minnesota displayed that last season when they initially targeted Isiah Kiner-Falefa as their shortstop until the opportunity to dump Donaldson with Correa falling in their lap became a possibility. That said, the Twins targeted Bundy as their first signing of the offseason. Only Joe Smith and a handful of waiver claims were their answer in the bullpen. Establishing themselves with more certain options that present a much higher ceiling is a must. Minnesota used a team-record 38 pitchers this season. Plenty of the starters are young and should be expected to provide results of the pitching pipeline Falvey was brought in to create. Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, Louie Varland, Joe Ryan, and Simeon Woods Richardson are all nice pieces to round out a rotation. That should be the back half though. Kenta Maeda returns, Tyler Mahle will hopefully be healthy, Gray option should be picked up, and Chris Paddack will be here at some point late in the year. There’s no reason to add middling options to that group. Another #1 or #2 arm has to be the focus if you want a rotation taken seriously. The bullpen is in better shape assuming Jorge Alcala and Cody Stashak can be healthy. Matt Canterino won’t be an option for a while, and although Jhoan Duran has emerged alongside Griffin Jax as success stories, they need help. Supplementing short starts with elite relievers is a route you can go, but half in on both is something we’ve seen fail. Find a Shortstop There’s no reason why the Twins can’t pay Correa, and there’s arguably less of one why they shouldn’t. That said, he’s going to command a boatload, and it’s probably fool’s gold to suggest he’ll get top dollar here. However, if Minnesota can make a strong offer, then a city he seems to enjoy may become more enticing. If it’s not Correa, going half-in on a team that needs leadership and the ability to sustain winning simply won’t work. Brooks Lee would be a longshot for Opening Day, and Noah Miller can’t hit yet even though he's great in the field. Royce Lewis won’t be back until mid-summer at the earliest, and what he looks like at that point remains to be seen. This isn’t another Kiner-Falefa or Jose Iglesias scenario. Maybe the Twins shy away from going for a long-term deal that locks down the position (although it’s been a revolving door for years) but paying handsomely for a position that will quarterback a poor defensive infield is a must. Be Open to Change Arguably the largest detractor for a good portion of Minnesota’s fanbase when it comes to the front office is their reliance on analytics. While data is an incredibly powerful tool when driving decisions, being so rooted in it as a finality has seemingly dug some graves. Emilio Pagan was terrible and sank the Twins early this year. He’s shown a better ability once coming around to making changes, but Minnesota stuck with him because of stuff that could be exploited if it ever started to work out. There were also data-driven decisions behind the acquisition of Bundy, Archer, and Smith, thinking the brain trust and what they employ could unlock a higher level of performance that never showed itself. Being willing to cut ties, or change direction when something isn’t working hasn’t been evident on a quicker timeline. The Twins were dreadful with runners in scoring position this season, and while the lineup wasn’t built to bash the longball like that of the Bomba Squad, little was done schematically to change run production opportunities on the fly. Spend…Again We saw the highest payroll in franchise history during 2022 when Minnesota dropped roughly $140 million on this club. Whether Correa returns or not, there’s going to be a ton of money to spend. While revenues will obviously have taken a hit following a lacking attendance and likely slowed renewal of season tickets, paying for premium talent is a must. Falvey and Levine have cultivated a core of players such as Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Ryan, and many others. With their salaries all stymied through the arbitration process, it’s that group that should be supplemented by this regime to prove the youth is here and believed to be ready to compete. What else do you need to see from the Twins front office to dive back in? If you’re out, where did they lose you? What have you appreciated most?
  15. With the dog days of the 2022 season upon us, the Twins play their last home game tomorrow against the White Sox. Baseball is a complex game...far from black and white, and calling this season a wash would be ignorant. Image courtesy of Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports Call this a cupcake article. Call it a blanket frosting over reality. Perhaps an escape from the truth. Part of the beauty of being a fan is riding the emotional roller coaster that comes along with the everyday affairs of your team. The wins foster jubilance and joy. The losses lament pain and vitriol. Yet emotions aside, there's an obligation to look at the reality. The 2022 Minnesota Twins will not make the MLB playoffs. Despite holding serve in the American League Central for a bulk of the season, injuries and lackluster play plagued one of the youngest teams in the league in a way that will most likely result in a bronze medal in what many consider baseball's weakest division. Disappointing? Absolutely. An utter failure? Far from it. Professional sports and baseball in particular are often viewed through a black and white, championship or bust lens. The fact the Twins won't be playing in October is certainly a shame...yet it would be foolish to not address the number of overwhelming successes that took place for the 2022 Twins, many of which were far from expected. Don't disseminate your disappointment, but acknowledge the good that took place. 1. Jose Miranda is Everything We Hoped For Jose Miranda had one of, if not the best season in Twins minor league history last year, slashing .344/.401/.572 (.973) between Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul. After 21 games with the Saints this year, Miranda was called up to Target Field. Each transition up the minor league ladder is an added layer of difficulty; it's no secret that the jump from Triple-A to the bigs is the most difficult, separating big leaguers from Four-A players. Miranda has shown that he belongs in the MLB, and that he can serve as a valuable asset for the Twins for years to come. After a slow month of May, Miranda shunned the doubters with 22 hits, 13 RBI, and a .306 batting average in the month of June. The power-packed corner infielder pumped up the noise in July with a .353/.405/.603 slash line. Miranda has slashed .273/.327/.764 through the season and has cemented himself as a leader in the Twins' offensive lineup. Just 24 years old, imagine what consistent middle of the lineup would like like with Buxton, (hopefully) Correa, and Miranda. The future is bright. 2. The Veteran the Twins Needed The Twins have struck out with veteran pitching acquisitions in years past. Not with Sonny Gray. Acquired prior to the season in exchange for 2021 top draft pick Chase Petty, Gray has served as the anchor for a young and often injury-ridden staff. Slated to start today's game, Gray is 8-5 on the season with a 3.08 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 24 starts. Like most other pieces of the pitching staff, Gray too has struggled with injuries throughout the course of the year. Still, the 32-year-old has remained quite consistent. Gray's May was especially dominant, going 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in five starts. With Joe Ryan finding his groove and Bailey Ober returning to health (not to mention the return of Kenta Maeda and Chris Paddock), Gray has the potential to be a cornerstone of a rock-solid starting pitching staff in 2022. Whether he's the ace or three/four man, Gray's consistency has and will continue to bolster a fairly inexperienced staff. 3. Smiles-a-Plenty...at Last You can't help but smile when you see Nick Gordon smile...and after the incredible 2022 season that he's had. Drafted as the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 2014 Draft by the Twins, Nick Gordon was expected by many to make a splash as a marquee player early on in his career. Yet for various reasons, Gordon didn't hit his stride early on. It's a tough league and amounting to the expectations of the front office, fans, and media is hard, especially as a first round pick. Perhaps it made Gordon's 2022 season that much sweeter. Gordon has slashed .276/.323./.761 so far this season with 9 homers and 45 RBI. He's been a staple 'yes man' in the field, playing all over the place when his number is called. As at matter of fact, the same can be said at the plate. Flash G has batted everywhere from cleanup to the nine-hole in the order and has consistently produced results. Yes, there's room for improvement on the base paths, that will come with time. Yet at the end of the day, Gordon's story is one that all fans should appreciate alongside the fact that he's amounted into about as good of a utility-man as an organization can ask for. 4. An Ace in the Making People knew Joe Ryan was good when the Twins acquired him in the Nelson Cruz trade last season. The entire league now knows that Ryan can become one of the league's elite pitchers with a few tune ups in years to come. Ryan is sitting at 12-8 with a 3.70 ERA and 1.11 WHIP through 26 starts in 2022. He's proven to be the guy with the 'it factor' in the Twins' rotation; a rock-solid fastball, sneaky good breaking pitches, the ability to go long, and a swagger that cannot be underappreciated. Yes, one can bring up the fact that six of Ryan's losses have come against likely playoff teams and ten of his 12 wins have come against teams that won't be playing in October. Don't read into it too much. Yes, the bar has been set high...but it's because everyone sees the talent in the west-coast arm. And while high expectations can be great, let's remember that Joe Ryan is a rookie. He's got all the time in the world to develop and it will be fascinating to see what the 26-year-old amounts to in his hopefully storied career. 5. Hometown Products Shine in Fourth Quarter...and all Season Everyone loves a good hometown kid story...the Twins have seen three of them this season. Former North St. Paul RHP and Concordia-St. Paul alum Louie Varland was called up on September 7 to pitch against the Yankees in the Bronx. He was electric, allowing just two runs on three hits while striking out seven in 5 1/3 innings. Varland squared off against MVP candidate Shohei Ohtani in his Target Field debut on September 23, pitching a respectable 5 2/3 innings of seven-hit, three-run ball while striking out three. Forest Lake's Matt Wallner has been outstanding since being called up on September 17. The power hitter has nine hits (including two homers and two doubles) and six RBI in his first 37 at bats and crushed his first Target Field homer last night off of "old friend" Lance Lynn. Yes, Wallner will strikeout a lot, but that's still pretty impressive for a power hitter in his first 11 games. What's most impressive is the Wallner started last season at High-A Cedar Rapids and Varland started at Low-A Fort Myers...talk about progress! On top of all of that, Randolph, Minnesota native Caleb Thielbar has has an outstanding season in the bullpen. Set to start coaching Division II baseball for Augustana less than three years ago, Thielbar has tallied just 0.79 HR/9 and 2.86 BB/9 through 2022. His fastball is consistently touching 94 and 95 MPH and is still complemented by a picture-esque curveball that can go as low as the high 60's. What's your favorite moment from the 2022 Minnesota Twins season? Drop a comment below! View full article
  16. Promising young pitchers worked toward ending their seasons on strong notes and a top prospect debuted as the Twins search for silver linings in playing out the final days of a disappointing season – now guaranteed to conclude with a sub-.500 record. Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/26 through Sun, 10/2 *** Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 77-82) Run Differential Last Week: +9 (Overall: +10) Standing: 3rd Place in AL Central (13.0 GB) Last Week's Game Results: Game 154 | MIN 4, CWS 0: Ober Dominates Sox with 10 Ks Game 155 | MIN 8, CWS 4: Heart of the Order Comes Through Game 156 | CWS 4, MIN 3: Late Defensive Lapse Costly in Loss Game 157 | MIN 7, DET 0: Ryan Masterful in Another Shutout Game 158 | DET 3, MIN 2: Missed Opportunities Mount In Motown Game 159 | DET 5, MIN 2: Bats Quiet Again in SWR's Debut NEWS & NOTES Not many of the Twins' injured players are going to make it back this year. But to his credit, Ryan Jeffers did. His rehab and recovery from a fractured thumb to longer than expected, and the catcher position was an offensive black hole in his absence, but ultimately Jeffers did make it back for the end of the season and that means something. Jeffers got plenty of action in his first week back, starting three times and appearing twice as a substitute. He went 3-for-15 with a triple and a couple of RBIs. On Sunday, Jeffers was behind the plate for the major-league debut of pitching prospect Simeon Woods Richardson, who had just completed a stellar season in the minors between Double-A and Triple-A (107.1 IP, 2.77 ERA). Five days removed from his 22nd birthday, the right-hander got the nod for Minnesota's series finale in Detroit, with his hilariously long last name wrapping fully around the No. 78 on his newly minted Twins jersey. It was an altogether strong outing for Woods Richardson, who allowed three runs (two earned) over five innings of work. He settled in pretty nicely after a shaky 29-pitch first inning and showed impressive poise – especially considering he became the youngest pitcher to appear in the majors this year (narrowly edging Ronny Henriquez who was optioned to make room for SWR). HIGHLIGHTS Joe Ryan ended a strong rookie campaign on a high note, with six innings of shutout ball against the Tigers on Friday night. In a season that brought his weaknesses to light – namely, a proneness to homers and vulnerability against high-caliber offenses – Ryan also cemented himself as a quality mid-rotation MLB starter. The flip side to his struggles against postseason teams is that Ryan was sublime when facing lesser lineups. Against sub-.500 competition he went 10-2 with a 2.42 ERA and 10.3 K/9 rate. Let's not act like this doesn't have value. Succeeding to that extent against any major-league lineups is impressive, and in particular Ryan was hyper-effective versus divisional opponents, against whom he finished 10-0 with a 1.23 ERA. He might not be the kind of starter you want toeing the rubber in a postseason game – not in his current state, which isn't to say he can't change that – but at the very least Ryan is proving to be a big regular-season asset. And currently, he is the club's sturdiest long-term asset in the rotation, coming off a mostly healthy and complete season. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Bailey Ober, otherwise he'd be right there in the conversation with Ryan as the stablest building block. Ober's start against Chicago on Tuesday night was just his 10th here in a season that was torpedoed by a major groin injury. But at least the big righty is finishing strong and setting the foundation for a fuller campaign in 2023. Kicking off the final home series at Target Field, Ober delivered the best performance of his young career, striking out 10 over 7 ⅓ shutout innings. The Sox legit had no chance against him as his late release point seemed to be stymying hitters more than ever. When he's been able to take the mound this year, the 27-year-old has been arguably the team's most effective starter, posting a 3.18 ERA, 2.74 FIP and 47-to-10 K/BB ratio with just three home runs allowed in 51 innings. Something to carry forward into next season, even if he won't have much of a workload base to build off in 2023. With Ryan and Ober finishing on high notes, Woods Richardson and Louie Varland getting late-season tastes of the majors, and Josh Winder making it back onto the field for a handful of starts, there are at least some positive youthful signs in a rotation closing out the year with its three top veterans on the injured list. The Twins lineup, meanwhile, is also severely diminished as they play out these final games. But it was nice to see some of the remaining bats step up and carry the load over the past week. Standout performers included Jake Cave (7-for-19, three RBIs) and Matt Wallner (double, homer, and five RBIs). Gio Urshela, who's capping off a solid season with a spectacular September, kept it rolling as the driving force in the offense, finishing the week 10-for-23 with some timely hits in big spots. Urshela has the fifth-best Win Probability Added on the team this year, and since the All-Star break he is second only to Carlos Correa. While the decision of whether or not to tender Urshela a contract in his coming final season of arbitration was once up in the air, his stellar finish probably seals it, although it remains possible the Twins could trade him if there's interest. LOWLIGHTS Nick Gordon's breakthrough season at the plate has been a big positive for the Twins in a year full of negatives. The past week saw him batting third in the lineup several times, albeit failing to live up that billing with a 3-for-20 sample. Regardless, Gordon's ability to hit is no longer really in question. His defensive versatility, on the other hand? The 26-year-old has been pressed into more into more intensive action at second base with Jorge Polanco sidelined, and it hasn't gone very smoothly. Gordon's been very susceptible to misplays at the position, including a costly dropped pop-up on Thursday that led to the decisive run scoring in a 4-3 loss. Looking ahead to next year, some have speculated that Gordon could be considered as a short-term plug at shortstop until Royce Lewis is ready to rejoin the fold. I don't think so. In fact, I genuinely wonder if what they Twins have seen from Gordon as an infielder late in this season will convince them that his future should exclusively be in the outfield. TRENDING STORYLINE At this point, the only remaining Twins storyline of intrigue is Luis Arraez's pursuit of his first batting title – or, as the rest of the baseball world might view it, his quest to deprive Aaron Judge of a triple crown. The Twins helped Arraez's chances over the weekend by sitting him against both of Detroit's left-handed starters. This favorable usage helped the infielder bat .389 (7-for-18) on the week, concluding play on Sunday with a 4-point edge over Judge (.315 to .311) after the latter went 0-for-3 on Sunday. LOOKING AHEAD The Twins have three games remaining, all against right-handed starters, so presumably Arraez will be in there for the entire series against the White Sox, looking to make a closing statement of his own and wrap up the 2022 AL batting title. Judge and the Yankees wrap their season in Texas with three games against the Rangers. MONDAY, 10/3: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Johnny Cueto TUESDAY, 10/4: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Josh Winder v. RHP Lucas Giolito WEDNESDAY, 10/5: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Louie Varland v. RHP Davis Martin View full article
  17. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/26 through Sun, 10/2 *** Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 77-82) Run Differential Last Week: +9 (Overall: +10) Standing: 3rd Place in AL Central (13.0 GB) Last Week's Game Results: Game 154 | MIN 4, CWS 0: Ober Dominates Sox with 10 Ks Game 155 | MIN 8, CWS 4: Heart of the Order Comes Through Game 156 | CWS 4, MIN 3: Late Defensive Lapse Costly in Loss Game 157 | MIN 7, DET 0: Ryan Masterful in Another Shutout Game 158 | DET 3, MIN 2: Missed Opportunities Mount In Motown Game 159 | DET 5, MIN 2: Bats Quiet Again in SWR's Debut NEWS & NOTES Not many of the Twins' injured players are going to make it back this year. But to his credit, Ryan Jeffers did. His rehab and recovery from a fractured thumb to longer than expected, and the catcher position was an offensive black hole in his absence, but ultimately Jeffers did make it back for the end of the season and that means something. Jeffers got plenty of action in his first week back, starting three times and appearing twice as a substitute. He went 3-for-15 with a triple and a couple of RBIs. On Sunday, Jeffers was behind the plate for the major-league debut of pitching prospect Simeon Woods Richardson, who had just completed a stellar season in the minors between Double-A and Triple-A (107.1 IP, 2.77 ERA). Five days removed from his 22nd birthday, the right-hander got the nod for Minnesota's series finale in Detroit, with his hilariously long last name wrapping fully around the No. 78 on his newly minted Twins jersey. It was an altogether strong outing for Woods Richardson, who allowed three runs (two earned) over five innings of work. He settled in pretty nicely after a shaky 29-pitch first inning and showed impressive poise – especially considering he became the youngest pitcher to appear in the majors this year (narrowly edging Ronny Henriquez who was optioned to make room for SWR). HIGHLIGHTS Joe Ryan ended a strong rookie campaign on a high note, with six innings of shutout ball against the Tigers on Friday night. In a season that brought his weaknesses to light – namely, a proneness to homers and vulnerability against high-caliber offenses – Ryan also cemented himself as a quality mid-rotation MLB starter. The flip side to his struggles against postseason teams is that Ryan was sublime when facing lesser lineups. Against sub-.500 competition he went 10-2 with a 2.42 ERA and 10.3 K/9 rate. Let's not act like this doesn't have value. Succeeding to that extent against any major-league lineups is impressive, and in particular Ryan was hyper-effective versus divisional opponents, against whom he finished 10-0 with a 1.23 ERA. He might not be the kind of starter you want toeing the rubber in a postseason game – not in his current state, which isn't to say he can't change that – but at the very least Ryan is proving to be a big regular-season asset. And currently, he is the club's sturdiest long-term asset in the rotation, coming off a mostly healthy and complete season. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Bailey Ober, otherwise he'd be right there in the conversation with Ryan as the stablest building block. Ober's start against Chicago on Tuesday night was just his 10th here in a season that was torpedoed by a major groin injury. But at least the big righty is finishing strong and setting the foundation for a fuller campaign in 2023. Kicking off the final home series at Target Field, Ober delivered the best performance of his young career, striking out 10 over 7 ⅓ shutout innings. The Sox legit had no chance against him as his late release point seemed to be stymying hitters more than ever. When he's been able to take the mound this year, the 27-year-old has been arguably the team's most effective starter, posting a 3.18 ERA, 2.74 FIP and 47-to-10 K/BB ratio with just three home runs allowed in 51 innings. Something to carry forward into next season, even if he won't have much of a workload base to build off in 2023. With Ryan and Ober finishing on high notes, Woods Richardson and Louie Varland getting late-season tastes of the majors, and Josh Winder making it back onto the field for a handful of starts, there are at least some positive youthful signs in a rotation closing out the year with its three top veterans on the injured list. The Twins lineup, meanwhile, is also severely diminished as they play out these final games. But it was nice to see some of the remaining bats step up and carry the load over the past week. Standout performers included Jake Cave (7-for-19, three RBIs) and Matt Wallner (double, homer, and five RBIs). Gio Urshela, who's capping off a solid season with a spectacular September, kept it rolling as the driving force in the offense, finishing the week 10-for-23 with some timely hits in big spots. Urshela has the fifth-best Win Probability Added on the team this year, and since the All-Star break he is second only to Carlos Correa. While the decision of whether or not to tender Urshela a contract in his coming final season of arbitration was once up in the air, his stellar finish probably seals it, although it remains possible the Twins could trade him if there's interest. LOWLIGHTS Nick Gordon's breakthrough season at the plate has been a big positive for the Twins in a year full of negatives. The past week saw him batting third in the lineup several times, albeit failing to live up that billing with a 3-for-20 sample. Regardless, Gordon's ability to hit is no longer really in question. His defensive versatility, on the other hand? The 26-year-old has been pressed into more into more intensive action at second base with Jorge Polanco sidelined, and it hasn't gone very smoothly. Gordon's been very susceptible to misplays at the position, including a costly dropped pop-up on Thursday that led to the decisive run scoring in a 4-3 loss. Looking ahead to next year, some have speculated that Gordon could be considered as a short-term plug at shortstop until Royce Lewis is ready to rejoin the fold. I don't think so. In fact, I genuinely wonder if what they Twins have seen from Gordon as an infielder late in this season will convince them that his future should exclusively be in the outfield. TRENDING STORYLINE At this point, the only remaining Twins storyline of intrigue is Luis Arraez's pursuit of his first batting title – or, as the rest of the baseball world might view it, his quest to deprive Aaron Judge of a triple crown. The Twins helped Arraez's chances over the weekend by sitting him against both of Detroit's left-handed starters. This favorable usage helped the infielder bat .389 (7-for-18) on the week, concluding play on Sunday with a 4-point edge over Judge (.315 to .311) after the latter went 0-for-3 on Sunday. LOOKING AHEAD The Twins have three games remaining, all against right-handed starters, so presumably Arraez will be in there for the entire series against the White Sox, looking to make a closing statement of his own and wrap up the 2022 AL batting title. Judge and the Yankees wrap their season in Texas with three games against the Rangers. MONDAY, 10/3: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Johnny Cueto TUESDAY, 10/4: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Josh Winder v. RHP Lucas Giolito WEDNESDAY, 10/5: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Louie Varland v. RHP Davis Martin
  18. Another brilliant start by Joe Ryan and a dominant performance by the offense propelled the Twins to their third win in their last four games. Minnesota crushes the Tigers in the series opener and keeps their chances of finishing the season at .500 or better alive. Image courtesy of Aaron Josefczyk-USA TODAY Sports Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 6 IP, 5H, 0R, 0ER, 1BB, 8K (91 pitches, 65 strikes, 71.4%) Home Runs: Carlos Correa (22) Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.302), Mark Contreras (.162), Ryan Jeffers (.081) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Already out of playoff contention, the Twins headed for Detroit for their final road trip of the year, with a couple of three-game sets. Tonight, they kicked off the Tigers series, and, without the postseason prospect, the focus turned to a final, unlikely goal: finishing the season at .500 or better. Already with 80 losses, they entered tonight’s game needing to win at least five of their remaining six games to finish at .500. They got off on the right foot, and with some early offense, they were able to jump to a quick three-run lead. Jermaine Palacios snapped a personal 0-for-33 funk dating back to the beginning of the month with a single in the third inning. On the very next at-bat, he scored on a Mark Contreras double, his first in the majors. That was all the offense could garner on that inning, but they would at it again on the next one. After giving up a leadoff single in the first, Joe Ryan went on to retire nine in a row, preserving the lead for the offensive turn in the fourth. Gio Urshela drew a leadoff walk, and a couple of at-bats later, Ryan Jeffers smacked a long ground ball to corner left, which was called a double for fan interference at first. Rocco Baldelli challenged the call, and it got overturned, as the two fans who tried to catch the ball whiffed on it. The call overturn turned Jeffers’ double into a triple, and it scored Urshela. A few moments later, Jake Cave, who’s been having a solid month, particularly as of late (he came into tonight’s game posting a .897 OPS in his previous seven games), hit a grounder to center, allowing Jeffers to score easily from third, making it 3-0 Twins. Ryan allowed a couple of singles in the bottom of the fourth but eventually got out of the jam to keep the shutout going into the fifth. Despite not scoring, the offense continued hot in the fifth, creating a bases-loaded situation against Tigers’ starter Tyler Alexander: walks by José Miranda and Gary Sánchez and a single by Carlos Correa. Ryan finishes off strong; offense puts the game out of reach Making the final start of his first full season in the majors, Ryan was looking for a solid start to wrap up a season full of ups and downs. Struggling against good times more times than not but dominating lesser teams, he came into tonight’s game with the chance to secure a season ERA in the mid-3s. For that, he needed to finish strong, but he looked a bit shaky in the sixth. Riley Greene drew a leadoff walk, and after a strikeout, Ryan lost Harold Castro to a single right before Miguel Cabrera stepped up to the plate representing the tying run. The Tiger legend got ahead on the count 2-0, with Ryan failing to get him to chase down and away, but eventually, Ryan got him to ground into a force out. Greene moved up to third, and Spencer Torkelson had one last chance to ruin Ryan’s start, also representing the tying run, but Ryan fanned him for his eighth punchout of the night, ending the threat. With tonight’s shutout, Ryan brings his September ERA down to 2.19, and he finishes his first full season in the majors with a solid 3.55 ERA over 147 innings of work, which is probably the most exciting start to a big league career from any Twins starter since maybe the 2017 season by José Berríos. Further proof of that is that with his eight strikeouts tonight, Ryan reached 151 punchouts, breaking the record for most strikeouts in a season by a Twins rookie pitcher, surpassing Francisco Liriano’s 144 back in 2006. To thank Ryan for his brilliant start, the offense put together another good inning in the top of the seventh to basically put the game out of reach. Detroit reliever Miguel Díaz did a fine job tossing a 1-2-3 sixth, but he couldn’t keep that same energy. Contreras drew a leadoff walk, his first one in the majors, then added some pressure on Diaz by stealing second, also his first stolen base in the big leagues. So much so that Diaz threw a wild pitch next, allowing him to reach third. Detroit made a pitching change, but it didn’t matter anyway, as Correa took reliever Will Vest deep on his very first pitch, a bomb to left, making it 5-0 Minnesota. The offense didn’t settle for just the two runs, and after Urshela and Jeffers hit a couple of singles, Gilberto Celestino hit a double to bring Urshela home and make this a six-run game. The offense added on in the eighth, with Palacios and Miranda hitting a couple of singles and Urshela pushing Palacios across with a single of his own, scoring the game’s final run. After Emilio Pagán had a hard time getting through the seventh (30 pitches), Jovani Moran slammed the door with a couple of hitless, scoreless innings. Postgame interview What’s Next? To open their version of October baseball, the Twins turn to Dylan Bundy (4.93 ERA) to start game two on Saturday, while the Tigers will try to even the series with Drew Hutchison (4.54 ERA) on the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 pm CDT. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Moran 0 0 12 0 23 35 Thielbar 0 0 15 18 0 33 López 0 0 16 14 0 30 Pagán 0 0 0 0 30 30 Fulmer 0 0 22 5 0 27 Jax 0 10 0 14 0 24 Megill 0 0 0 17 0 17 Duran 0 15 0 0 0 15 Henriquez 0 0 0 0 0 0 View full article
  19. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 6 IP, 5H, 0R, 0ER, 1BB, 8K (91 pitches, 65 strikes, 71.4%) Home Runs: Carlos Correa (22) Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.302), Mark Contreras (.162), Ryan Jeffers (.081) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Already out of playoff contention, the Twins headed for Detroit for their final road trip of the year, with a couple of three-game sets. Tonight, they kicked off the Tigers series, and, without the postseason prospect, the focus turned to a final, unlikely goal: finishing the season at .500 or better. Already with 80 losses, they entered tonight’s game needing to win at least five of their remaining six games to finish at .500. They got off on the right foot, and with some early offense, they were able to jump to a quick three-run lead. Jermaine Palacios snapped a personal 0-for-33 funk dating back to the beginning of the month with a single in the third inning. On the very next at-bat, he scored on a Mark Contreras double, his first in the majors. That was all the offense could garner on that inning, but they would at it again on the next one. After giving up a leadoff single in the first, Joe Ryan went on to retire nine in a row, preserving the lead for the offensive turn in the fourth. Gio Urshela drew a leadoff walk, and a couple of at-bats later, Ryan Jeffers smacked a long ground ball to corner left, which was called a double for fan interference at first. Rocco Baldelli challenged the call, and it got overturned, as the two fans who tried to catch the ball whiffed on it. The call overturn turned Jeffers’ double into a triple, and it scored Urshela. A few moments later, Jake Cave, who’s been having a solid month, particularly as of late (he came into tonight’s game posting a .897 OPS in his previous seven games), hit a grounder to center, allowing Jeffers to score easily from third, making it 3-0 Twins. Ryan allowed a couple of singles in the bottom of the fourth but eventually got out of the jam to keep the shutout going into the fifth. Despite not scoring, the offense continued hot in the fifth, creating a bases-loaded situation against Tigers’ starter Tyler Alexander: walks by José Miranda and Gary Sánchez and a single by Carlos Correa. Ryan finishes off strong; offense puts the game out of reach Making the final start of his first full season in the majors, Ryan was looking for a solid start to wrap up a season full of ups and downs. Struggling against good times more times than not but dominating lesser teams, he came into tonight’s game with the chance to secure a season ERA in the mid-3s. For that, he needed to finish strong, but he looked a bit shaky in the sixth. Riley Greene drew a leadoff walk, and after a strikeout, Ryan lost Harold Castro to a single right before Miguel Cabrera stepped up to the plate representing the tying run. The Tiger legend got ahead on the count 2-0, with Ryan failing to get him to chase down and away, but eventually, Ryan got him to ground into a force out. Greene moved up to third, and Spencer Torkelson had one last chance to ruin Ryan’s start, also representing the tying run, but Ryan fanned him for his eighth punchout of the night, ending the threat. With tonight’s shutout, Ryan brings his September ERA down to 2.19, and he finishes his first full season in the majors with a solid 3.55 ERA over 147 innings of work, which is probably the most exciting start to a big league career from any Twins starter since maybe the 2017 season by José Berríos. Further proof of that is that with his eight strikeouts tonight, Ryan reached 151 punchouts, breaking the record for most strikeouts in a season by a Twins rookie pitcher, surpassing Francisco Liriano’s 144 back in 2006. To thank Ryan for his brilliant start, the offense put together another good inning in the top of the seventh to basically put the game out of reach. Detroit reliever Miguel Díaz did a fine job tossing a 1-2-3 sixth, but he couldn’t keep that same energy. Contreras drew a leadoff walk, his first one in the majors, then added some pressure on Diaz by stealing second, also his first stolen base in the big leagues. So much so that Diaz threw a wild pitch next, allowing him to reach third. Detroit made a pitching change, but it didn’t matter anyway, as Correa took reliever Will Vest deep on his very first pitch, a bomb to left, making it 5-0 Minnesota. The offense didn’t settle for just the two runs, and after Urshela and Jeffers hit a couple of singles, Gilberto Celestino hit a double to bring Urshela home and make this a six-run game. The offense added on in the eighth, with Palacios and Miranda hitting a couple of singles and Urshela pushing Palacios across with a single of his own, scoring the game’s final run. After Emilio Pagán had a hard time getting through the seventh (30 pitches), Jovani Moran slammed the door with a couple of hitless, scoreless innings. Postgame interview What’s Next? To open their version of October baseball, the Twins turn to Dylan Bundy (4.93 ERA) to start game two on Saturday, while the Tigers will try to even the series with Drew Hutchison (4.54 ERA) on the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 pm CDT. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Moran 0 0 12 0 23 35 Thielbar 0 0 15 18 0 33 López 0 0 16 14 0 30 Pagán 0 0 0 0 30 30 Fulmer 0 0 22 5 0 27 Jax 0 10 0 14 0 24 Megill 0 0 0 17 0 17 Duran 0 15 0 0 0 15 Henriquez 0 0 0 0 0 0
  20. Call this a cupcake article. Call it a blanket frosting over reality. Perhaps an escape from the truth. Part of the beauty of being a fan is riding the emotional roller coaster that comes along with the everyday affairs of your team. The wins foster jubilance and joy. The losses lament pain and vitriol. Yet emotions aside, there's an obligation to look at the reality. The 2022 Minnesota Twins will not make the MLB playoffs. Despite holding serve in the American League Central for a bulk of the season, injuries and lackluster play plagued one of the youngest teams in the league in a way that will most likely result in a bronze medal in what many consider baseball's weakest division. Disappointing? Absolutely. An utter failure? Far from it. Professional sports and baseball in particular are often viewed through a black and white, championship or bust lens. The fact the Twins won't be playing in October is certainly a shame...yet it would be foolish to not address the number of overwhelming successes that took place for the 2022 Twins, many of which were far from expected. Don't disseminate your disappointment, but acknowledge the good that took place. 1. Jose Miranda is Everything We Hoped For Jose Miranda had one of, if not the best season in Twins minor league history last year, slashing .344/.401/.572 (.973) between Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul. After 21 games with the Saints this year, Miranda was called up to Target Field. Each transition up the minor league ladder is an added layer of difficulty; it's no secret that the jump from Triple-A to the bigs is the most difficult, separating big leaguers from Four-A players. Miranda has shown that he belongs in the MLB, and that he can serve as a valuable asset for the Twins for years to come. After a slow month of May, Miranda shunned the doubters with 22 hits, 13 RBI, and a .306 batting average in the month of June. The power-packed corner infielder pumped up the noise in July with a .353/.405/.603 slash line. Miranda has slashed .273/.327/.764 through the season and has cemented himself as a leader in the Twins' offensive lineup. Just 24 years old, imagine what consistent middle of the lineup would like like with Buxton, (hopefully) Correa, and Miranda. The future is bright. 2. The Veteran the Twins Needed The Twins have struck out with veteran pitching acquisitions in years past. Not with Sonny Gray. Acquired prior to the season in exchange for 2021 top draft pick Chase Petty, Gray has served as the anchor for a young and often injury-ridden staff. Slated to start today's game, Gray is 8-5 on the season with a 3.08 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 24 starts. Like most other pieces of the pitching staff, Gray too has struggled with injuries throughout the course of the year. Still, the 32-year-old has remained quite consistent. Gray's May was especially dominant, going 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in five starts. With Joe Ryan finding his groove and Bailey Ober returning to health (not to mention the return of Kenta Maeda and Chris Paddock), Gray has the potential to be a cornerstone of a rock-solid starting pitching staff in 2022. Whether he's the ace or three/four man, Gray's consistency has and will continue to bolster a fairly inexperienced staff. 3. Smiles-a-Plenty...at Last You can't help but smile when you see Nick Gordon smile...and after the incredible 2022 season that he's had. Drafted as the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 2014 Draft by the Twins, Nick Gordon was expected by many to make a splash as a marquee player early on in his career. Yet for various reasons, Gordon didn't hit his stride early on. It's a tough league and amounting to the expectations of the front office, fans, and media is hard, especially as a first round pick. Perhaps it made Gordon's 2022 season that much sweeter. Gordon has slashed .276/.323./.761 so far this season with 9 homers and 45 RBI. He's been a staple 'yes man' in the field, playing all over the place when his number is called. As at matter of fact, the same can be said at the plate. Flash G has batted everywhere from cleanup to the nine-hole in the order and has consistently produced results. Yes, there's room for improvement on the base paths, that will come with time. Yet at the end of the day, Gordon's story is one that all fans should appreciate alongside the fact that he's amounted into about as good of a utility-man as an organization can ask for. 4. An Ace in the Making People knew Joe Ryan was good when the Twins acquired him in the Nelson Cruz trade last season. The entire league now knows that Ryan can become one of the league's elite pitchers with a few tune ups in years to come. Ryan is sitting at 12-8 with a 3.70 ERA and 1.11 WHIP through 26 starts in 2022. He's proven to be the guy with the 'it factor' in the Twins' rotation; a rock-solid fastball, sneaky good breaking pitches, the ability to go long, and a swagger that cannot be underappreciated. Yes, one can bring up the fact that six of Ryan's losses have come against likely playoff teams and ten of his 12 wins have come against teams that won't be playing in October. Don't read into it too much. Yes, the bar has been set high...but it's because everyone sees the talent in the west-coast arm. And while high expectations can be great, let's remember that Joe Ryan is a rookie. He's got all the time in the world to develop and it will be fascinating to see what the 26-year-old amounts to in his hopefully storied career. 5. Hometown Products Shine in Fourth Quarter...and all Season Everyone loves a good hometown kid story...the Twins have seen three of them this season. Former North St. Paul RHP and Concordia-St. Paul alum Louie Varland was called up on September 7 to pitch against the Yankees in the Bronx. He was electric, allowing just two runs on three hits while striking out seven in 5 1/3 innings. Varland squared off against MVP candidate Shohei Ohtani in his Target Field debut on September 23, pitching a respectable 5 2/3 innings of seven-hit, three-run ball while striking out three. Forest Lake's Matt Wallner has been outstanding since being called up on September 17. The power hitter has nine hits (including two homers and two doubles) and six RBI in his first 37 at bats and crushed his first Target Field homer last night off of "old friend" Lance Lynn. Yes, Wallner will strikeout a lot, but that's still pretty impressive for a power hitter in his first 11 games. What's most impressive is the Wallner started last season at High-A Cedar Rapids and Varland started at Low-A Fort Myers...talk about progress! On top of all of that, Randolph, Minnesota native Caleb Thielbar has has an outstanding season in the bullpen. Set to start coaching Division II baseball for Augustana less than three years ago, Thielbar has tallied just 0.79 HR/9 and 2.86 BB/9 through 2022. His fastball is consistently touching 94 and 95 MPH and is still complemented by a picture-esque curveball that can go as low as the high 60's. What's your favorite moment from the 2022 Minnesota Twins season? Drop a comment below!
  21. Bailey Ober has missed plenty of time due to injury in his professional career, including the majority of 2022. He’s finally made it back just a bit too late. He’ll finish the year in the Twins rotation, but perhaps we could ask, should he stay there long term? Image courtesy of Nick Wosika, USA TODAY Sports The Twins have a lot of returning starting pitching going into 2023, though none of their arms carry too much confidence to be leaned on. Keep your fingers crossed that they bring in a new name that isn’t another Bundy or Archer type, but doing so will push some arms out of the Opening Day rotation. Bailey Ober may be the top candidate to be bumped from a starting role. Injury Concerns Bailey Ober has missed tremendous time in his career due to injury. In 2021, he blew his previous career high in Innings Pitched out of the water with 108. After looking like he had built a foundation to push off of, he followed it up with just 60 innings to date so far in 2022. The fallout from his lost season is that even if healthy in 2023, the Twins will have to handle him with kid gloves yet again. A jump in innings from 60ish to the mid-100s seems like a bit of a stretch. Also worth considering is that the likelihood that he’ll get healthier with age after having such a colorful injury history is incredibly low. Moving into a bullpen role where inning count won’t be an issue may be advantageous. Maximizing Pitch Mix Ober has a pitch mix that’s begging to be simplified, particularly in regard to his changeup. Each of his pitches gets a modest amount of whiffs, but the changeup is the one that has been crushed so far this season. The pitch has allowed a .391 BA and .522 SLG with expected numbers backing up these results. A move to the bullpen could mean he drops this pitch altogether. Plenty of pitchers go this route, and in Ober’s case with two definitive breaking balls, his splits in short stints against lefties shouldn’t be a disaster. His fastball may also play up higher, as we often already see awkward swings due to his size and extension on the pitch. Adding any more velocity in a transition could turn it into a legitimate weapon. The Clock is Ticking It may be a surprise to some, but Ober is already 27 years old. Look no further than top prospect Matt Canterino for an example of how time can catch up. The Twins toyed with Canterino as a starting pitcher through recurring injuries until his elbow finally fully gave way. He’ll now miss much of the 2023 season and will return at nearly 26 years of age having never established an innings floor or reached the majors. Ober is a less extreme example. He’s surpassed 100 innings in a season and made the majors, but it still seems like expecting a full starter's workload could become a futile effort very soon. He could similarly pull up with a significant injury one of these days if he continues to be pushed. A move to the bullpen doesn’t negate that chance, but it may pay off to change up what hasn’t worked to this point in his career while still providing value to the Twins. It also may take until 2024 if everything goes well for him to build up to even 150ish innings to be a starting pitcher, at which point he’ll be 29 years old. If he keeps losing seasons to injury as he nears his 30s, time is bound to eventually run out. Should the Twins actively look to move Ober to the bullpen next season? Not necessarily. He’s been relatively effective as a #3 or #4 starter and even that caliber of pitcher has been hard for the Twins to develop. That being said, in theory, the Twins have a returning staff of Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, and eventually Chris Paddack with several younger pitchers from AAA in the mix. If the Twins can bring in another quality starting pitcher, somebody is going to lose out. There’s a case to be made that Ober is the prime option. Would you agree with a move to the bullpen for Ober? Has he shown enough to get one last shot in the rotation? View full article
  22. The Twins have a lot of returning starting pitching going into 2023, though none of their arms carry too much confidence to be leaned on. Keep your fingers crossed that they bring in a new name that isn’t another Bundy or Archer type, but doing so will push some arms out of the Opening Day rotation. Bailey Ober may be the top candidate to be bumped from a starting role. Injury Concerns Bailey Ober has missed tremendous time in his career due to injury. In 2021, he blew his previous career high in Innings Pitched out of the water with 108. After looking like he had built a foundation to push off of, he followed it up with just 60 innings to date so far in 2022. The fallout from his lost season is that even if healthy in 2023, the Twins will have to handle him with kid gloves yet again. A jump in innings from 60ish to the mid-100s seems like a bit of a stretch. Also worth considering is that the likelihood that he’ll get healthier with age after having such a colorful injury history is incredibly low. Moving into a bullpen role where inning count won’t be an issue may be advantageous. Maximizing Pitch Mix Ober has a pitch mix that’s begging to be simplified, particularly in regard to his changeup. Each of his pitches gets a modest amount of whiffs, but the changeup is the one that has been crushed so far this season. The pitch has allowed a .391 BA and .522 SLG with expected numbers backing up these results. A move to the bullpen could mean he drops this pitch altogether. Plenty of pitchers go this route, and in Ober’s case with two definitive breaking balls, his splits in short stints against lefties shouldn’t be a disaster. His fastball may also play up higher, as we often already see awkward swings due to his size and extension on the pitch. Adding any more velocity in a transition could turn it into a legitimate weapon. The Clock is Ticking It may be a surprise to some, but Ober is already 27 years old. Look no further than top prospect Matt Canterino for an example of how time can catch up. The Twins toyed with Canterino as a starting pitcher through recurring injuries until his elbow finally fully gave way. He’ll now miss much of the 2023 season and will return at nearly 26 years of age having never established an innings floor or reached the majors. Ober is a less extreme example. He’s surpassed 100 innings in a season and made the majors, but it still seems like expecting a full starter's workload could become a futile effort very soon. He could similarly pull up with a significant injury one of these days if he continues to be pushed. A move to the bullpen doesn’t negate that chance, but it may pay off to change up what hasn’t worked to this point in his career while still providing value to the Twins. It also may take until 2024 if everything goes well for him to build up to even 150ish innings to be a starting pitcher, at which point he’ll be 29 years old. If he keeps losing seasons to injury as he nears his 30s, time is bound to eventually run out. Should the Twins actively look to move Ober to the bullpen next season? Not necessarily. He’s been relatively effective as a #3 or #4 starter and even that caliber of pitcher has been hard for the Twins to develop. That being said, in theory, the Twins have a returning staff of Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, and eventually Chris Paddack with several younger pitchers from AAA in the mix. If the Twins can bring in another quality starting pitcher, somebody is going to lose out. There’s a case to be made that Ober is the prime option. Would you agree with a move to the bullpen for Ober? Has he shown enough to get one last shot in the rotation?
  23. Coming into last week, the Minnesota Twins still had a glimmer of remaining hope to turn things around and mount a run in the AL Central. They kept the spark alive with a sweep of the Royals at home. But by losing the first three games in Cleveland over the weekend, blatantly overmatched in their short-handed state, the Twins snuffed out any long-shot scenarios and sealed their fate. The division they led for so much of the season has slipped away. Image courtesy of David Richard-USA TODAY Sports Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/12 through Sun, 9/18 *** Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 73-73) Run Differential Last Week: +6 (Overall: +18) Standing: 3rd Place in AL Central (6.0 GB) Last Week's Game Results: Game 140 | MIN 6, KC 3: Twins Lose No-No in Ninth, Win Easily Game 141 | MIN 4, KC 0: Gray Leads Shutout with Seven Scoreless Game 142 | MIN 3, KC 2: Bullpen Locks Down Slim Lead for Sweep Game 143 | CLE 4, MIN 3: Twins Can't Hold Onto 3-Run Lead Game 144 | CLE 5, MIN 1: Wallner Homers in Debut, Twins Lose Game 145 | CLE 6, MIN 5: 15-Inning Marathon Yields Same Result Game 146 | MIN 3, CLE 0: Twins Salvage Win Behind Ryan's Brilliance NEWS & NOTES As this lost season winds down, the Twins continue to fittingly be besieged by a never-ending onslaught of injuries. Max Kepler became the latest to join the infirmary pack this past week, with his wrist issue forcing him onto an injured list that already includes fellow planned lineup staples Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Alex Kirilloff, Ryan Jeffers and Trevor Larnach. Polanco, who's been sidelined for weeks by a knee injury, tried to give it a go in a rehab start at St. Paul on Friday night but couldn't make it all the way through, exiting after five innings. He's probably done for the season. Jeffers and Larnach had more encouraging starts to their rehab assignments, and both have a chance to make it back for the final slate of games, for whatever that's worth. As a silver lining to Kepler going down, the IL move did create an opportunity for Matt Wallner, who homered in his major-league debut on Saturday. In this total wreck of a season, it's nice at least to see local boys like Wallner and Louie Varland get these chances – well earned with monster years in the minors. Another young player set to get his first chance: Ronny Henriquez, who was promoted on Sunday despite posting a 5.66 ERA at St. Paul. Not quite as well earned, but they just need bodies on the staff at this point, basically. HIGHLIGHTS The Twins have this going for them: they can still flat-out dominate the Royals. They ran up their winning streak against Kansas City to seven with another sweep at home, suppressing any hint of offensive threat from the woeful Royals lineup. On Monday, Joe Ryan pitched seven innings of no-hit ball before being lifted at 106 pitches. Reliever Jovani Moran nearly completed the feat, but the Royals were finally able to get on the board in the ninth. Sonny Gray looked somehow even more dominant the following night, tossing seven shutout innings of his own. Thursday saw the bullpen step up with a huge string of clutch performances, as five different relievers contributed one shutout inning apiece to maintain a slim one-run lead. Relievers weren't able to hold up quite as well on Friday, following an excellent return to action from Bailey Ober (5 IP, 0 R), but we'll get to that later. After flirting with a no-no in his first start of the week, Ryan turned in one of the finest performances of his career in the second, hurling 7 ⅔ shutout innings against Cleveland. He allowed just three hits and two walks in the highly efficient outing, lowering his ERA to 3.61 in the process. While Ryan has shown his warts this year (namely, a problematic proneness to home runs), he's undoubtedly been one of the team's most successful starters, and is on his way to finishing strong. LOWLIGHTS Plenty of frustration has been aired far and wide about the Twins and their management of the pitching staff. Personally, I don't have a problem with the general philosophy, given their personnel. But it's the complete rigidity of Minnesota's strict adherence to the playbook that gets to me. There's no room for reacting to circumstances, or pushing the boundaries when it's absolutely necessary. Take Friday night for example. The Twins had every reason to set aside their cautionary nature and push Ober a bit in his return to action. He looked great. He was at only 70 pitches through five innings. Most importantly, the bullpen had been run ragged in protecting a tight lead for five innings the previous day, and a double-header was on deck the next. Didn't matter. Ober came out after five innings, as is custom. Rocco Baldelli ran through arguably his four best relievers, all pitching on back-to-backs, and lost anyway. It left essentially no relief ammo for the rest of the weekend, culminating with Dereck Rodriguez pitching four frames in extra innings as the team's season hung by a thread and gave way. Alas, while it's easy to get caught up in the early hooks and shortcomings on the mound, there's no doubt where the blame primarily lies for this team's downfall: an offense woefully unequipped to compete. This team was always built around the strength of its lineup, which has turned into a debilitating weakness here in the late stages of the season. Since the start of August the bullpen has largely been stabilized and the pitching has been fine overall (6th among AL teams in pitching WAR, 8th in ERA). Meanwhile, the offense has fizzled out during this span, ranking 11th in wOBA and 10th in runs scored. The last time the Twins notched double-digit runs in a contest was August 30th against Boston; since then they have averaged 3.4 runs per game, scoring more than four times in just four of 18. With production like that, a 6-12 record is about what you expect. No amount of savvy pitching management or bullpen string-pulling can overcome such a dearth of run scoring. Saturday night epitomized the team's inability to muster anything with the bats. In a grinding 15-inning affair, the Twins could not will themselves to victory despite receiving opportunity after opportunity. They managed only seven hits in 15 innings and went 3-for-21 with runners in scoring position before finally succumbing to their eighth consecutive loss against Cleveland. Astonishing ineptitude. Then again, it's pretty easy to see how we've gotten to this point. You look at their lineup on any given day and it's now filled with minor-leaguers, third-stringers, retreads. Jake Cave batting fifth. Jermaine Palacios drawing daily starts. Billy Hamilton receiving major league at-bats, in an ostensible pennant race. Even (especially?) with all the attrition, it'd be nice to see anyone stepping up other Carlos Correa, whose September surge continued with another excellent week (10-for-28, two homers, two doubles). The most conspicuous under-performer in the lineup at this point might be Luis Arraez, himself battling through a hamstring issue. He went 3-for-14 against Cleveland and is slashing .284/.316/.397 since appearing in the All-Star Game in July. Since the break, Arraez has been worth 0.4 fWAR (tying him with Cave) and he has the worst Win Probability of all position players other than Kyle Garlick, Kepler, and Palacios. Given that I ranked Arraez a month ago as the single most important player to the team's chances in the stretch run, his drop-off – while several others near the top of that list have gone down with injuries – tells the story of this team's downfall in a nutshell. TRENDING STORYLINE Following their flop in Cleveland, the Twins find themselves with about a 1% chance of making the postseason – and that's based merely on historical odds, not accounting for the fact that almost their entire team is injured while their rivals (especially the Guardians) are enjoying much better health. It's over. So what now? What are the focuses for these final three weeks? Aside from playing out the string, the Twins' motivation has been reduced to: Trying to finish with a record above .500. Play spoiler against the White Sox, who now trail Cleveland by 3 ½ games. Have a few injured players get back on the field and finish the season on relatively positive notes. Get a look at some young players to set them up for bigger impacts in 2023. Personally, only the latter two are all that meaningful to me. And in the case of injured players, I think they're probably better off just shutting down the likes of Buxton, Polanco, and Larnach with hopes of getting them as healthy as possible for next spring. With that said, I hope we'll get to see Wallner, Varland, Henriquez, and maybe even Simeon Woods Richardson take the spotlight here in this final stretch. For me, it'll be the only real draw. LOOKING AHEAD Good news for the Twins in their quest to finish above .500, I guess: they've got three more games ahead against Kansas City, who they've defeated in 12 of 16 matchups. Then they'll host the Angels, with a Shohei Ohtani start on the slate for Friday night to kick off the final homestand of the season. MONDAY, 9/19: TWINS @ GUARDIANS – RHP Sonny Gray v. RHP Cal Quantrill TUESDAY, 9/20: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Dylan Bundy v. RHP Zack Greinke WEDNESDAY, 9/21: TWINS @ ROYALS – TBD v. LHP Daniel Lynch THURSDAY, 9/22: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Josh Winder v. RHP Jonathan Heasley FRIDAY, 9/23: ANGELS @ TWINS – RHP Shohei Ohtani v. RHP Joe Ryan SATURDAY, 9/24: ANGELS @ TWINS – LHP Reid Detmers v. RHP Sonny Gray SUNDAY, 9/25: ANGELS @ TWINS – LHP Jose Suarez v. RHP Dylan Bundy View full article
  24. Strong performances from rookie players have been one of the highlights of the 2022 Twins season. Here are three records that Twins players can break over the season’s final weeks. Image courtesy of David Richard-USA TODAY Sports Even in a season that has gone sour, signs point to a bright future for the Twins. Joe Ryan, Jhoan Duran, and Jose Miranda have all cemented themselves into the team’s plans for the foreseeable future. The Twins might not be in a position to win the division, but these rookie records are something to watch in the team’s final games. Most Strikeouts in a Season by a Twins Rookie Pitcher Ryan has posted some strong performances over the last couple of weeks, which has helped him move up the rookie strikeout list. Over the weekend, Ryan collected his 138th strikeout, and he moved past Bert Blyleven for second on the team’s strikeout list for a rookie pitcher. The only player left for Ryan to pass is Francisco Liriano, who struck out 144 batters in 2006. Ryan has at least two starts left to break the record, and he has struck out eight or more batters in three of his last four starts. He’s already set a career-high in innings pitched as a professional, so the only way to keep him from the record is if the team shuts him down early. Most Win Probability Added by a Twins Rookie Pitcher (Since 1990) Relief pitcher usage in the 1970s and 1980s differed significantly from the modern game. Many writers use the 1990 season as a cutoff for modern bullpen usage, which helps to put in perspective how good Jhoan Duran has been this season. Duran’s 4.58 WPA is 0.83 points higher than Pat Neshek in 2006. Duran currently ranks as the 6th best AL rookie reliever in baseball history regarding WPA over the last 32 years. He can move into the top-3 by passing Dellin Betances, Neftali Feliz, and Chris Sale over the season’s final weeks. In Twins history, only Doug Corbett’s 1980 rookie campaign will be the only season to accumulate more WPA than Duran. Rookie Hitters to Lead the Twins in RBI Jose Miranda enters play on Monday with 64 RBI, the most for the Twins. His next closest competitors are Carlos Correa (58 RBI), Gio Urshela (57 RBI), and Gary Sanchez (53 RBI). All of those players have played more games than Miranda, which highlights how good he has been in his first taste of the big leagues. The last Twins rookie to lead the team in RBI was Kent Hrbek back in 1982. His 44 RBI since July 1st ranks eighth in the American League in that span. Miranda is also in the top-10 among MLB rookies in SLG (6th), OPS (6th), BA (7th), RBI (3rd), multi-hit games (4th), and home runs (7th). There have been some strong rookie performances in the AL this season, but Miranda has proven he can hit at baseball’s highest level. Other rookie players have also impacted the Twins roster this season. Gilberto Celestino will lead the team in games started in center field while getting on base over 30% of the time. Jovani Moran and Trevor Megill have pitched over 70 innings out of the Twins bullpen. Even top prospects like Royce Lewis and Matt Wallner have impacted the line-up in limited action. Are you surprised by any of the rookie records mentioned above? Which Twins rookie has the brightest future? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  25. With the Minnesota Twins all but eliminated from postseason contention at this point, they could play out the string by getting some young players a bit more acclimated. There’s virtually no one left to promote from Triple-A St. Paul at this point, but starting pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson may make sense. Image courtesy of Rob Thompson, St. Paul Saints Last season, the Twins relied relatively heavily on Bailey Ober as a regular starting rotation arm. Then after acquiring Joe Ryan for aging-slugger Nelson Cruz, the former Rays pitcher wound up making five starts down the stretch for Rocco Baldelli’s club. There’s not time for either of those two exposure levels, but Simeon Woods Richardson could be worth giving a turn to. Logistically, there are a few things to work through. The St. Paul Saints regular season schedule goes through a final home game on September 28. They’ll obviously need arms to make those starts, and while they aren’t lined up for a postseason berth, the goal isn’t to minimize those games. There’s also the reality that Woods Richardson doesn’t currently have a spot on the Minnesota 40-man roster. That’s more than easily worked around, but would generate an increase in pay and start his Major League service time. From an individual perspective, it’s hard to suggest that Woods Richardson hasn’t earned the opportunity. Acquired by the Twins from Toronto when they sent Jose Berrios north of the border, the former second-round pick has a 2.93 ERA this season between Double and Triple-A. Only five of his starts have come with the Saints, but Woods Richardson owns a strong 9.7 K/9 and a manageable 3.0 BB/9. If there’s concern about a workload, the most bringing Woods Richardson to the Twins would add is an additional turn. Minnesota plays through October 5th, and should they wait to give him a single game, he could start in the season’s final series against the Chicago White Sox. Pitching just 53 1/3 innings last year after playing for Team USA in the Olympics, Woods Richardson has built back up to 95 1/3 innings this year and did throw 106 2/3 innings as an 18-year-old in the Mets system during 2019. There’s certainly no urgency to push Woods Richardson up a level, and we’re hardly going to learn much from a single start. That said, he should be expected to contribute next season, and given the amount of depth Minnesota needed this year, his having knowledge of The Show this offseason could benefit his preparation. You’d probably be hard-pressed to find a scenario where Woods Richardson is in the Twins Opening Day rotation to start 2023. This is not like Ryan starting on Opening Day coming off just five starts. You could make a good case that he’ll generate at least ten starts for Minnesota in 2023, however, and giving him a look with a few months to prepare for what that looks like seems reasonable. While the Twins were in the division race through the bulk of the season, even leading it most of the way, making the most out of the final games should be the goal. There’s not really a feel-good organizational guy to get an opportunity for, so showcasing the young talent and allowing them further to assert themselves could be a good way to put a bow on things. View full article
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