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  1. The start of Spring Training is only a month away and as the Minnesota Twins look forward to the upcoming season, there are some team and personal records that Twins players can set in 2023. Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson, USA TODAY Sports The Easy and Obvious Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco both sit at exactly 98 career home runs, and it likely won’t take them many games to both reach the 100 career home run mark. Once they do, they’ll become the 25th and 26th Twins ever with 100 career home runs in franchise history. Based off their 2023 ZiPS projections by FanGraphs, Buxton is expected to hit 30 home runs this season and Polanco 20. If either of them meets these projections, they’ll surpass the likes of Corey Koskie (101), Jason Kubel (105), Roy Smalley (110), and Eddie Rosario (119) on the franchise history home run list. A Stretch, But Could Happen Fielding percentage is always a difficult stat to project, and rarely is it ever included in any pre-season projection systems. Even if fielding percentage isn’t calculated into a player's projected stats, the Twins single-season record for fielding percentage by a shortstop could very likely be broken in 2023. The single-season record for a shortstop’s fielding percentage was set by Leo Cardenas in 1971, with a .985 fielding percentage in 153 games. Carlos Correa’s fielding percentage for the Twins was .983 in 136 games in 2022. Correa is already a Platinum Glove winner, and, if last year is any indication, he could set a new record for the best defensive season by a Twin at shortstop. The Bizarre Fools Dream Only 23 pitchers in Twins franchise history have at least 25 career saves with the team. The last reliever to enter this mark was Taylor Rogers in 2019, but three Twins relievers may reach this mark this season: Jorge Lopez, Emilio Pagan and Jhoan Duran. However, it’s also possible none of them will. Lopez only recorded four saves after being acquired from the Orioles at the trade deadline. FanGraphs ZiPS projections currently project’s him to record the most saves for the Twins in 2023 with 20. While it’s likely Lopez will have save opportunities with the Twins this season, Rocco Baldelli has never kept a pitcher in the designated closer role for an entire season in his four years as manager. 21 saves is a stretch for Lopez, but it isn’t out of the realm of reality for him to get to 25 career saves as a Twin. Duran will likely have a few save opportunities here and there in 2023, like he did with the Twins last season. The expectation for his role out of the bullpen right now is to be the same as it was all last season, taking various high-leverage roles. FanGraphs ZiPS projects Duran to record 11 saves for the Twins this year, and if so, it would put him at 19 for his career, only six short of the 25-save threshold. Pagan would have to be an entirely different pitcher from 2022 to reach this mark, and be trusted in save situations. While he remains on the roster, it is highly unlikely he will get the 16 saves he needs to get to this mark in a Twins uniform. There are many more records that could be set in 2023 by the Twins but only when the season begins will we know what other records will be surpassed. If there’s a record you believe will be broken by a Twin in 2023 that wasn’t mentioned here, leave a comment below on which it will be. View full article
  2. The Easy and Obvious Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco both sit at exactly 98 career home runs, and it likely won’t take them many games to both reach the 100 career home run mark. Once they do, they’ll become the 25th and 26th Twins ever with 100 career home runs in franchise history. Based off their 2023 ZiPS projections by FanGraphs, Buxton is expected to hit 30 home runs this season and Polanco 20. If either of them meets these projections, they’ll surpass the likes of Corey Koskie (101), Jason Kubel (105), Roy Smalley (110), and Eddie Rosario (119) on the franchise history home run list. A Stretch, But Could Happen Fielding percentage is always a difficult stat to project, and rarely is it ever included in any pre-season projection systems. Even if fielding percentage isn’t calculated into a player's projected stats, the Twins single-season record for fielding percentage by a shortstop could very likely be broken in 2023. The single-season record for a shortstop’s fielding percentage was set by Leo Cardenas in 1971, with a .985 fielding percentage in 153 games. Carlos Correa’s fielding percentage for the Twins was .983 in 136 games in 2022. Correa is already a Platinum Glove winner, and, if last year is any indication, he could set a new record for the best defensive season by a Twin at shortstop. The Bizarre Fools Dream Only 23 pitchers in Twins franchise history have at least 25 career saves with the team. The last reliever to enter this mark was Taylor Rogers in 2019, but three Twins relievers may reach this mark this season: Jorge Lopez, Emilio Pagan and Jhoan Duran. However, it’s also possible none of them will. Lopez only recorded four saves after being acquired from the Orioles at the trade deadline. FanGraphs ZiPS projections currently project’s him to record the most saves for the Twins in 2023 with 20. While it’s likely Lopez will have save opportunities with the Twins this season, Rocco Baldelli has never kept a pitcher in the designated closer role for an entire season in his four years as manager. 21 saves is a stretch for Lopez, but it isn’t out of the realm of reality for him to get to 25 career saves as a Twin. Duran will likely have a few save opportunities here and there in 2023, like he did with the Twins last season. The expectation for his role out of the bullpen right now is to be the same as it was all last season, taking various high-leverage roles. FanGraphs ZiPS projects Duran to record 11 saves for the Twins this year, and if so, it would put him at 19 for his career, only six short of the 25-save threshold. Pagan would have to be an entirely different pitcher from 2022 to reach this mark, and be trusted in save situations. While he remains on the roster, it is highly unlikely he will get the 16 saves he needs to get to this mark in a Twins uniform. There are many more records that could be set in 2023 by the Twins but only when the season begins will we know what other records will be surpassed. If there’s a record you believe will be broken by a Twin in 2023 that wasn’t mentioned here, leave a comment below on which it will be.
  3. With the arrival of a new year, it's time to update my annual rankings of the top 20 player assets in the Minnesota Twins organization. This is my sixth year going through this exercise, and I think I can safely say it's never been harder. Read on to see where I landed on #16 through #20 for the list. Image courtesy of Rob Thompson, St. Paul Saints These rankings are intended to provide a relative view of Twins players and prospects by appraising their big-picture value to the organization. The goal is to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? We account for age, contract, controllability, upside, etc. It's not strictly a ranking of trade value, because that would be more team-agnostic, where this list aims to capture a very Twins-specific POV. As such, players at areas of scarcity (i.e. pitching) get elevated while those at areas of abundance (i.e. lefty-swinging corner guys) get downgraded a bit. I always find compiling this list to be an interesting offseason exercise – one that surfaces unique conversations about Twins players, how we value them, and where the system's strengths and weaknesses truly lie. What made it so challenging this year is that, by design, these rankings are a snapshot in time – published at the start of January for no other reason than a new year feels like a good time to reset and reassess – and right now, it's very tough to get a read on the state of this organization and its talent. For one thing, it feels like we're in the midst of a slow-developing offseason journey with big twists still ahead. I have a strong feeling there will be noticeable changes to this list by March 30th. But even more, there is SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY with the players they already have. A snapshot at this midpoint of the offseason lacks clarity around key health-related details with massive implications. I struggled with many decisions, and they begin to crop up in this first installment. For example: If healthy, Tyler Mahle at $7.2 million is tremendously valuable, even with only one remaining year of team control. Can we safely operate under the assumption he'll be healthy and at full strength in 2023? (Spoiler alert: I decided no, and he just missed the cut.) Another example: If his latest surgery works and Alex Kirilloff returns to being roughly the player he was before his wrist affliction, he's a centerpiece in the lineup controlled for several years. Can you assume such a rare and complex surgery will take? (Spoiler alert: My cautious optimism got him on the list, but as you'll soon learn, not very high.) With that setup, let's kick off the countdown with my picks for the 16th through 20th most valuable assets in the Twins organization. First, you can check out my rankings from the past five years to see how the franchise's talent landscape has evolved: Top 20 Twins Assets: 2018 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2019 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2020 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2021 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2022 Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023: 16 through 20 20. Matt Wallner, OF 2022 Ranking: NR On a list like this, Wallner has a few key things working against him. First, his player type – strikeout-prone LH corner bat with big power – is fairly abundant in baseball, as evidenced by the Twins signing the poster child in Joey Gallo for $11 million. Second, that player type happens to be especially abundant in the Twins organization. So long as Max Kepler remains camped in right field, Wallner lacks a direct path to the majors, even though his skill set looks ready. The reason he still makes the list, just barely, is because his abilities within that skill set are SO exceptional. Baseball America rates Wallner as the best power hitter and best outfield arm in the Twins system – tools that were on display during a September debut in the majors. Wallner didn't put up terribly impressive numbers in 18 games with the Twins but had some big moments, and if he's shown one thing during his ascent through the minors it's that he can quickly put a slow start at a new level behind him and start dominating once he gets comfortable. The Twins will hope that's exactly what happens to the 25-year-old, who can make a big impact on the team's (near) future as either a slugger in the middle of the order or highly marketable trade chip. 19. Louie Varland, RHP 2022 Ranking: NR Around this time last year, there was still a degree of widespread skepticism around Varland. Sure, he'd earned Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in 2021 with some truly dazzling numbers, but was this former 15th-round draft pick out of a D2 college the real deal, or a flash in the pan? He backed up his breakout with a 2022 campaign that saw him: Named Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year for a second consecutive year, posting a 3.06 ERA in 126 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Debut in the major leagues, where he showed the poise and ability of a seasoned vet. In five starts, Varland posted a 3.81 ERA over 26 innings, completing at least five frames in each turn. Skepticism remains regarding Varland's true ceiling, which is why he doesn't rank higher on this list, but he has solidified his standing as a turnkey mid-rotation starter with six years of team control. His durability and consistency stand out from the field of pitchers in the Twins organization. 18. Sonny Gray, RHP 2022 Ranking: NR As things currently stand, Gray is the only pitcher in the organization who can credibly be looked at as a dependable frontline starter for 2023. That, in a nutshell, is why I had to include him in these rankings, albeit near the back end because the status of his contract (one year remaining at $12.5 million) and checkered bill of health this past season. Gray has been around the block. He's made All-Star teams. He's started playoff games. He's been a featured rotation piece for several teams in a decade of big-league action, and he filled that role pretty well for the Twins last year. It was a bummer that recurring hamstring issues limited Gray to just 24 starts and 120 innings, but he doesn't have the same kind of looming health-related questions as fellow veteran starters Mahle and Kenta Maeda. When on the mound, his performance was pretty much everything you'd want: a bulldog who throws strikes, keeping runners off the bases and batted balls in the park. To whatever extent the Twins are successful in the coming season, it seems very likely that Gray will play a pivotal role. 17. Jorge Lopez, RHP 2022 Ranking: NR As the 2022 season played out, the Twins recognized that in order to take the next step forward, they needed to buttress Jhoan Duran at the back of the bullpen with another dominating force. This revelation pushed the front office to do something they rarely do: invest big in a buy-high relief pitcher. The Twins gave up four prospects at the deadline to acquire Baltimore's All-Star closer, who was experiencing an instant breakthrough in his transition to full-time reliever. Lopez shook off his previous struggles as a starter and transformed into a convincing lights-out bullpen ace for the O's. His performance in Minnesota after the trade was far less inspiring, but unlike Mahle, there's no reason to believe anything is physically amiss for Lopez. His profile – heavy doses of whiffs and grounders with sinking upper-90s heat – is a pretty reliable formula for success. So long as he can get back to commanding his arsenal Lopez figures to be a key piece during his two remaining seasons of team control. 16. Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF 2022 Ranking: 3 I'm an affirmed believe in Kirilloff. In five past iterations of these rankings, I've had him in the top five twice, including #2 in 2021 and #3 last year. I view his pedigree, IQ and ability as a hitter to be in a rarefied class. He's flashed it in brief glimpses on the field, and last year AK hammered home his hitting prowess during a hilariously productive month at Triple-A (.385/.477/.725 in 28 games). But on the big-league field, Kirilloff's success has always been fleeting, with each setback tied to a clear culprit. The wrist injury that sabotaged his elite swing, and has now required two surgeries, will define Kirilloff's career. He'll overcome it with help from this latest intervention, or join the long list of rising stars fell victim to the brutal physical toll of pro sports – forced to make do rather than make hay. I'm bullish on Kirilloff overcoming it. If for no other reason than that the Twins as a franchise, and especially Alex Kirilloff as person, are overdue for a good break. The guy also lost a full year of development to Tommy John surgery, and despite it all, finds himself firmly planted in the majors at age 25. His talent is not in question. A healthy and raking Kirilloff would be a radical difference-maker in the outlook for the 2023 Twins and beyond. Ranking him 16th on this list is an attempt to balance that simmering potential with the cold realities of the human body and its limits. View full article
  4. These rankings are intended to provide a relative view of Twins players and prospects by appraising their big-picture value to the organization. The goal is to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? We account for age, contract, controllability, upside, etc. It's not strictly a ranking of trade value, because that would be more team-agnostic, where this list aims to capture a very Twins-specific POV. As such, players at areas of scarcity (i.e. pitching) get elevated while those at areas of abundance (i.e. lefty-swinging corner guys) get downgraded a bit. I always find compiling this list to be an interesting offseason exercise – one that surfaces unique conversations about Twins players, how we value them, and where the system's strengths and weaknesses truly lie. What made it so challenging this year is that, by design, these rankings are a snapshot in time – published at the start of January for no other reason than a new year feels like a good time to reset and reassess – and right now, it's very tough to get a read on the state of this organization and its talent. For one thing, it feels like we're in the midst of a slow-developing offseason journey with big twists still ahead. I have a strong feeling there will be noticeable changes to this list by March 30th. But even more, there is SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY with the players they already have. A snapshot at this midpoint of the offseason lacks clarity around key health-related details with massive implications. I struggled with many decisions, and they begin to crop up in this first installment. For example: If healthy, Tyler Mahle at $7.2 million is tremendously valuable, even with only one remaining year of team control. Can we safely operate under the assumption he'll be healthy and at full strength in 2023? (Spoiler alert: I decided no, and he just missed the cut.) Another example: If his latest surgery works and Alex Kirilloff returns to being roughly the player he was before his wrist affliction, he's a centerpiece in the lineup controlled for several years. Can you assume such a rare and complex surgery will take? (Spoiler alert: My cautious optimism got him on the list, but as you'll soon learn, not very high.) With that setup, let's kick off the countdown with my picks for the 16th through 20th most valuable assets in the Twins organization. First, you can check out my rankings from the past five years to see how the franchise's talent landscape has evolved: Top 20 Twins Assets: 2018 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2019 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2020 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2021 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2022 Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023: 16 through 20 20. Matt Wallner, OF 2022 Ranking: NR On a list like this, Wallner has a few key things working against him. First, his player type – strikeout-prone LH corner bat with big power – is fairly abundant in baseball, as evidenced by the Twins signing the poster child in Joey Gallo for $11 million. Second, that player type happens to be especially abundant in the Twins organization. So long as Max Kepler remains camped in right field, Wallner lacks a direct path to the majors, even though his skill set looks ready. The reason he still makes the list, just barely, is because his abilities within that skill set are SO exceptional. Baseball America rates Wallner as the best power hitter and best outfield arm in the Twins system – tools that were on display during a September debut in the majors. Wallner didn't put up terribly impressive numbers in 18 games with the Twins but had some big moments, and if he's shown one thing during his ascent through the minors it's that he can quickly put a slow start at a new level behind him and start dominating once he gets comfortable. The Twins will hope that's exactly what happens to the 25-year-old, who can make a big impact on the team's (near) future as either a slugger in the middle of the order or highly marketable trade chip. 19. Louie Varland, RHP 2022 Ranking: NR Around this time last year, there was still a degree of widespread skepticism around Varland. Sure, he'd earned Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in 2021 with some truly dazzling numbers, but was this former 15th-round draft pick out of a D2 college the real deal, or a flash in the pan? He backed up his breakout with a 2022 campaign that saw him: Named Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year for a second consecutive year, posting a 3.06 ERA in 126 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Debut in the major leagues, where he showed the poise and ability of a seasoned vet. In five starts, Varland posted a 3.81 ERA over 26 innings, completing at least five frames in each turn. Skepticism remains regarding Varland's true ceiling, which is why he doesn't rank higher on this list, but he has solidified his standing as a turnkey mid-rotation starter with six years of team control. His durability and consistency stand out from the field of pitchers in the Twins organization. 18. Sonny Gray, RHP 2022 Ranking: NR As things currently stand, Gray is the only pitcher in the organization who can credibly be looked at as a dependable frontline starter for 2023. That, in a nutshell, is why I had to include him in these rankings, albeit near the back end because the status of his contract (one year remaining at $12.5 million) and checkered bill of health this past season. Gray has been around the block. He's made All-Star teams. He's started playoff games. He's been a featured rotation piece for several teams in a decade of big-league action, and he filled that role pretty well for the Twins last year. It was a bummer that recurring hamstring issues limited Gray to just 24 starts and 120 innings, but he doesn't have the same kind of looming health-related questions as fellow veteran starters Mahle and Kenta Maeda. When on the mound, his performance was pretty much everything you'd want: a bulldog who throws strikes, keeping runners off the bases and batted balls in the park. To whatever extent the Twins are successful in the coming season, it seems very likely that Gray will play a pivotal role. 17. Jorge Lopez, RHP 2022 Ranking: NR As the 2022 season played out, the Twins recognized that in order to take the next step forward, they needed to buttress Jhoan Duran at the back of the bullpen with another dominating force. This revelation pushed the front office to do something they rarely do: invest big in a buy-high relief pitcher. The Twins gave up four prospects at the deadline to acquire Baltimore's All-Star closer, who was experiencing an instant breakthrough in his transition to full-time reliever. Lopez shook off his previous struggles as a starter and transformed into a convincing lights-out bullpen ace for the O's. His performance in Minnesota after the trade was far less inspiring, but unlike Mahle, there's no reason to believe anything is physically amiss for Lopez. His profile – heavy doses of whiffs and grounders with sinking upper-90s heat – is a pretty reliable formula for success. So long as he can get back to commanding his arsenal Lopez figures to be a key piece during his two remaining seasons of team control. 16. Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF 2022 Ranking: 3 I'm an affirmed believe in Kirilloff. In five past iterations of these rankings, I've had him in the top five twice, including #2 in 2021 and #3 last year. I view his pedigree, IQ and ability as a hitter to be in a rarefied class. He's flashed it in brief glimpses on the field, and last year AK hammered home his hitting prowess during a hilariously productive month at Triple-A (.385/.477/.725 in 28 games). But on the big-league field, Kirilloff's success has always been fleeting, with each setback tied to a clear culprit. The wrist injury that sabotaged his elite swing, and has now required two surgeries, will define Kirilloff's career. He'll overcome it with help from this latest intervention, or join the long list of rising stars fell victim to the brutal physical toll of pro sports – forced to make do rather than make hay. I'm bullish on Kirilloff overcoming it. If for no other reason than that the Twins as a franchise, and especially Alex Kirilloff as person, are overdue for a good break. The guy also lost a full year of development to Tommy John surgery, and despite it all, finds himself firmly planted in the majors at age 25. His talent is not in question. A healthy and raking Kirilloff would be a radical difference-maker in the outlook for the 2023 Twins and beyond. Ranking him 16th on this list is an attempt to balance that simmering potential with the cold realities of the human body and its limits.
  5. As the calendar turns to a new year, it is often a time for players and fans to reflect on the future. Here are three players the Twins need to step up in 2023 for the team to return to contention. Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports When it comes to 2023, improved health has to be the Twins’ most important resolution. Minnesota sat atop the AL Central for most of 2022, but the club couldn’t overcome one of baseball’s most injured rosters. Luckily, a new year brings hope for the club’s future, and these three players need to prove they can fit into new roles for the club. Jose Miranda, 3B Minnesota showed plenty of faith in Miranda by trading away Gio Urshela earlier this offseason. Urshela was coming off a season where he posted a 121 OPS+ in 144 games, so Miranda will be stepping into some big shoes to fill. However, it was clear from the onset of the offseason that the Twins wanted Miranda to take over an everyday role at third base. He was the organization’s 2021 Minor League Player of the Year after destroying the upper minors with a .937 OPS, 32 doubles, and 30 home runs. Now the Twins hope he can produce at a similar level in the big leagues. Projection systems point to Miranda being an above-average offensive third baseman. Baseball-Reference projects Miranda to post a .748 OPS with 22 doubles and 13 home runs in just over 400 at-bats. FanGraphs' ZiPS points to Miranda having a better season with 31 doubles, 19 home runs, and a .778 OPS. It is important to note that ZiPS projects Miranda to get over 140 more at-bats than Baseball Reference. Minnesota would undoubtedly be happy if Miranda could reach his 119 OPS+ projected by ZiPS. Jorge Lopez, RHP Reliever’s on-field results can be fickle, especially with the small sample sizes pitched by bullpen arms in any given season. Lopez was terrific during the first half of 2022 as he shifted from starting pitcher to the bullpen. He was selected to his first All-Star Game and posted a 1.68 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 44 games. For Lopez, nearly every statistical area declined after the Twins acquired him, including strike rate, walk rate, exit velocity, etc. Minnesota tried to adjust Lopez, but the results were not positive, as Parker outlined (for Twins Daily Caretakers) last week. Few relievers can post the numbers Lopez compiled with Baltimore in 2022’s first half. Baseball-Reference projects Lopez to post a 4.28 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP and an 8.4 K/9 across 80 innings. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projects have Lopez compiling a 4.41 ERA with an 8.7 K/9 in close to 86 innings. To put that in perspective, ZiPS projects Emilio Pagan to have a better ERA and a higher strikeout rate than Lopez. For Minnesota’s bullpen to be successful, Lopez needs to improve over his second-half numbers and be a late-inning bullpen weapon. Ryan Jeffers, C The Twins signed Christian Vazquez to add to the team’s catching depth, but Jeffers is still part of the team’s long-term plans. Last winter, the club dealt away Mitch Garver, assuming that Jeffers was ready to take on a more significant catching role. Like many Twins last season, injuries limited Jeffers to 67 games with a .648 OPS and a 62-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He doesn’t turn 26 until next June, and he is under team control for four more seasons, so the Twins have hopes he can put it all together. ZiPS projects Jeffers to hit .226/.302/.406 (.708) while producing a career-high 1.9 WAR. Those totals are in 355 plate appearances, over 60 more than he has accumulated in any previous season. Baseball Reference projects him to get 347 PA with a .682 OPS and double-digit totals in doubles and home runs. It’s also important to consider that Jeffers was limited to 24 games above High-A before debuting as a 23-year-old. COVID impacted player development, and Jeffers can continue to make adjustments at the big-league level. Which players do you hope make the most significant improvements in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  6. When it comes to 2023, improved health has to be the Twins’ most important resolution. Minnesota sat atop the AL Central for most of 2022, but the club couldn’t overcome one of baseball’s most injured rosters. Luckily, a new year brings hope for the club’s future, and these three players need to prove they can fit into new roles for the club. Jose Miranda, 3B Minnesota showed plenty of faith in Miranda by trading away Gio Urshela earlier this offseason. Urshela was coming off a season where he posted a 121 OPS+ in 144 games, so Miranda will be stepping into some big shoes to fill. However, it was clear from the onset of the offseason that the Twins wanted Miranda to take over an everyday role at third base. He was the organization’s 2021 Minor League Player of the Year after destroying the upper minors with a .937 OPS, 32 doubles, and 30 home runs. Now the Twins hope he can produce at a similar level in the big leagues. Projection systems point to Miranda being an above-average offensive third baseman. Baseball-Reference projects Miranda to post a .748 OPS with 22 doubles and 13 home runs in just over 400 at-bats. FanGraphs' ZiPS points to Miranda having a better season with 31 doubles, 19 home runs, and a .778 OPS. It is important to note that ZiPS projects Miranda to get over 140 more at-bats than Baseball Reference. Minnesota would undoubtedly be happy if Miranda could reach his 119 OPS+ projected by ZiPS. Jorge Lopez, RHP Reliever’s on-field results can be fickle, especially with the small sample sizes pitched by bullpen arms in any given season. Lopez was terrific during the first half of 2022 as he shifted from starting pitcher to the bullpen. He was selected to his first All-Star Game and posted a 1.68 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 44 games. For Lopez, nearly every statistical area declined after the Twins acquired him, including strike rate, walk rate, exit velocity, etc. Minnesota tried to adjust Lopez, but the results were not positive, as Parker outlined (for Twins Daily Caretakers) last week. Few relievers can post the numbers Lopez compiled with Baltimore in 2022’s first half. Baseball-Reference projects Lopez to post a 4.28 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP and an 8.4 K/9 across 80 innings. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projects have Lopez compiling a 4.41 ERA with an 8.7 K/9 in close to 86 innings. To put that in perspective, ZiPS projects Emilio Pagan to have a better ERA and a higher strikeout rate than Lopez. For Minnesota’s bullpen to be successful, Lopez needs to improve over his second-half numbers and be a late-inning bullpen weapon. Ryan Jeffers, C The Twins signed Christian Vazquez to add to the team’s catching depth, but Jeffers is still part of the team’s long-term plans. Last winter, the club dealt away Mitch Garver, assuming that Jeffers was ready to take on a more significant catching role. Like many Twins last season, injuries limited Jeffers to 67 games with a .648 OPS and a 62-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He doesn’t turn 26 until next June, and he is under team control for four more seasons, so the Twins have hopes he can put it all together. ZiPS projects Jeffers to hit .226/.302/.406 (.708) while producing a career-high 1.9 WAR. Those totals are in 355 plate appearances, over 60 more than he has accumulated in any previous season. Baseball Reference projects him to get 347 PA with a .682 OPS and double-digit totals in doubles and home runs. It’s also important to consider that Jeffers was limited to 24 games above High-A before debuting as a 23-year-old. COVID impacted player development, and Jeffers can continue to make adjustments at the big-league level. Which players do you hope make the most significant improvements in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  7. Friday was the next key moment of the offseason as Major League teams needed to make decisions on their arbitration eligible candidates. Minnesota had already handled some of these situations, but the front office handed out contracts to seven players prior to the 7pm deadline. Image courtesy of Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports Although the morning on Friday was spent unveiling the Minnesota Twins new uniforms, the evening was about exactly who would be playing in them. With a full 40-man roster, the Twins had seven arbitration-eligible candidates left to make decisions on. Earlier in the afternoon, they avoided a decision (or, very clearly made their decision) on third baseman Gio Urshela when they sent him to the Los Angeles Angels for Single-A right-handed pitcher Alejandro Hidalgo. Urshela was set to make nearly $10 million this year, and with Jose Miranda looking like the Opening Day third basemen, there simply was not enough playing time to be had for that kind of investment. Before Friday’s deadline, Danny Coulombe, Jake Cave, and Cody Stashak were all dealt with. Each was arbitration-eligible, currently have been left out of the Twins plans in 2023. Emilio Pagan’s outcome was left until the last minute, and although there was talk of a team-friendly extension, nothing ultimately came to fruition. That left Tyler Mahle, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Lopez, Luis Arraez, Jorge Alcala, and Chris Paddack, and Emilio Pagan as the only players yet outstanding. Earlier this week Nick Nelson went through the looming decisions for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, ranking them in order. Urshela checked in at the top and ultimately was the choice for someone else. Of those remaining, only Paddack found himself with a bit of hand-wringing. As Nick pointed out, it’s a wait-and-see scenario for the former San Diego Padres starter. When dealing Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to the Padres prior to Opening Day, Pagan was likely seen as more of a throw-in for the bullpen. Paddack, and his additional year of control, was the prize. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, a second one at that, it remains to be seen what type of pitcher returns, and when. MLB Trade Rumors has Paddack projected at just under a $2.5 million deal for 2023, hardly a substantial amount of a good starter. The problem is that Minnesota will have a dead spot on their 40-man roster until spring training. They can and will place Paddack on the 60-day injured list at that point, but are limited in their construction by one roster spot until then. Coming over from the Reds, Mahle was the Twins prize at the trade deadline and should be expected to be relied upon heavily in the rotation this season. New head trainer Nick Paparesta will look to get and keep him healthy, but Mahle has the makings of a breakout ace if he can get there. Like Mahle, Lopez was acquired at the deadline and left a Baltimore team that he represented as an All-Star closer during the Midsummer Classic. Since returning to professional baseball, Thielbar has been among the most overlooked yet dominant lefties in the game. He’s not exciting, but it doesn’t matter when he’s getting the job done. Rocco Baldelli will hope to have Alcala be the arm he was undoubtedly counting on in the bullpen last season, but a full year off makes that a game of wait-and-see. There was certainly questions as to whether Pagan would be retained after a tumultuous start to his Minnesota tenure. After working with Twins coaching a bit more as the season went on, Pagan was able to find success to the tune of a 2.16 ERA in his final 16 2/3 innings. The Twins front office did work to hammer out a multi-year deal but ultimately just agreed on avoiding a non-tender. The stuff has always profiled well as evidenced by a strong K/9. Presumably, the sides will stick it out for a few months into 2023 to see if there's a turnaround. Rounding out the group was the easiest one of the bunch to call. Arraez is fresh off his first batting title, won a Silver Slugger award, was named an All-Star, and has his sights set on a Gold Glove next. As a reminder, the arbitration deadline is one in which Minnesota had to decide if they would tender a player a contract or not. The sides will then exchange numbers. If the number is agreed to, that will be reported and updated below. If the sides remain apart on their valuations, a hearing could take place at a later date. View full article
  8. Although the morning on Friday was spent unveiling the Minnesota Twins new uniforms, the evening was about exactly who would be playing in them. With a full 40-man roster, the Twins had seven arbitration-eligible candidates left to make decisions on. Earlier in the afternoon, they avoided a decision (or, very clearly made their decision) on third baseman Gio Urshela when they sent him to the Los Angeles Angels for Single-A right-handed pitcher Alejandro Hidalgo. Urshela was set to make nearly $10 million this year, and with Jose Miranda looking like the Opening Day third basemen, there simply was not enough playing time to be had for that kind of investment. Before Friday’s deadline, Danny Coulombe, Jake Cave, and Cody Stashak were all dealt with. Each was arbitration-eligible, currently have been left out of the Twins plans in 2023. Emilio Pagan’s outcome was left until the last minute, and although there was talk of a team-friendly extension, nothing ultimately came to fruition. That left Tyler Mahle, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Lopez, Luis Arraez, Jorge Alcala, and Chris Paddack, and Emilio Pagan as the only players yet outstanding. Earlier this week Nick Nelson went through the looming decisions for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, ranking them in order. Urshela checked in at the top and ultimately was the choice for someone else. Of those remaining, only Paddack found himself with a bit of hand-wringing. As Nick pointed out, it’s a wait-and-see scenario for the former San Diego Padres starter. When dealing Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to the Padres prior to Opening Day, Pagan was likely seen as more of a throw-in for the bullpen. Paddack, and his additional year of control, was the prize. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, a second one at that, it remains to be seen what type of pitcher returns, and when. MLB Trade Rumors has Paddack projected at just under a $2.5 million deal for 2023, hardly a substantial amount of a good starter. The problem is that Minnesota will have a dead spot on their 40-man roster until spring training. They can and will place Paddack on the 60-day injured list at that point, but are limited in their construction by one roster spot until then. Coming over from the Reds, Mahle was the Twins prize at the trade deadline and should be expected to be relied upon heavily in the rotation this season. New head trainer Nick Paparesta will look to get and keep him healthy, but Mahle has the makings of a breakout ace if he can get there. Like Mahle, Lopez was acquired at the deadline and left a Baltimore team that he represented as an All-Star closer during the Midsummer Classic. Since returning to professional baseball, Thielbar has been among the most overlooked yet dominant lefties in the game. He’s not exciting, but it doesn’t matter when he’s getting the job done. Rocco Baldelli will hope to have Alcala be the arm he was undoubtedly counting on in the bullpen last season, but a full year off makes that a game of wait-and-see. There was certainly questions as to whether Pagan would be retained after a tumultuous start to his Minnesota tenure. After working with Twins coaching a bit more as the season went on, Pagan was able to find success to the tune of a 2.16 ERA in his final 16 2/3 innings. The Twins front office did work to hammer out a multi-year deal but ultimately just agreed on avoiding a non-tender. The stuff has always profiled well as evidenced by a strong K/9. Presumably, the sides will stick it out for a few months into 2023 to see if there's a turnaround. Rounding out the group was the easiest one of the bunch to call. Arraez is fresh off his first batting title, won a Silver Slugger award, was named an All-Star, and has his sights set on a Gold Glove next. As a reminder, the arbitration deadline is one in which Minnesota had to decide if they would tender a player a contract or not. The sides will then exchange numbers. If the number is agreed to, that will be reported and updated below. If the sides remain apart on their valuations, a hearing could take place at a later date.
  9. The Twins need bullpen help and could certainly use another left hander to mix and match with late in games. Luckily an old friend is looking for a home this winter. Is a reunion with Taylor Rogers in the cards? Image courtesy of Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports The Twins have mostly neglected the bullpen in years past and it’s more often than not blown up in their faces. The few additions they typically make are what many consider “bargain bin” pitchers, typically coming off of rough seasons in search of a bounce back. By targeting Taylor Rogers, they can stick to the strategy we’ve seen them use time and time again, though this time the payoff could be much better. Rogers is coming off of a rough season by his standards. In 64 innings he posted a 4.76 ERA. His strikeout rate remained strong at 30.7%, still in the 10th percentile in all of baseball. His walks ticked up slightly as did his homers, though neither to a worrisome degree. While his peripherals were higher than usual, they were far from disastrous (3.32 FIP, 3.26 xFIP). His season was marred by untimely meltdowns, blowing 10 saves between San Diego and Milwaukee. Is there hope Rogers could rebound in his age-32 season? As noted, Rogers was still able to strike out hitters at an impressive clip, and while his average fastball was down over a full tick from 2021, his average of 94.3 mph isn’t far off from his career norm. There isn’t much to suggest that he’s entered the decline of his career quite yet aside from his unsightly ERA. One little talked about factor of Rogers's season is that it appeared San Diego changed the shape of his slider. The pitch was three mph slower than it was in 2021 and had 40.4 inches of drop as opposed to 35.7 in 2021. Instead of the hard breaker we’d grown accustomed to seeing, Rogers was throwing more of a looping breaking ball. While the results didn’t show up on the slider, it was likely easier to differentiate between his out-pitch and his sinker. His slider’s underlying success was about the same, but his fastball produced the worst underlying numbers of his career. It seems like this would be an easy fix for Rogers to make. With the rest of his stuff appearing to be intact, Rogers could be due for a huge bounce-back. At the very least his underlying numbers as is suggest he massively underperformed in 2022. Rogers also had an absurd 16 saves through May 21, as a questionable Padres bullpen leaned on him heavily to begin the season before he began to unravel. We saw a decline in performance from the left-hander in Minnesota during several seasons when Rogers was ridden particularly hard. The Padres may have simply bent him until he broke early in the year, especially given the fact that he was coming off of a finger injury. A Twins bullpen consisting of Duran, Jax, Thielbar, Lopez, etc. is a far cry from the bullpens of Twins past or the Padres early 2022 bullpen in which Rogers was the go-to guy for every situation. With more options, the Twins would be able to avoid any kind of burnout Rogers has suffered from in the past. In regards to the fit, the Twins could greatly use another left-handed option even as Caleb Thielbar has become a certified dude. Having two left-handed options who can also get righties out at a respectable clip would add an entirely new dimension to the Twins bullpen. We often saw Thielbar pitching in late situations regardless of matchup in 2022 when other arms were missing or struggling, leaving the Twins without another effective lefty if a matchup opportunity arose. Rogers would be an easy and familiar fix. Let's be honest. The Twins aren’t going to all of a sudden pony up and sign a legit back end of the bullpen reliever. It’s not in their DNA. There’s a lengthy list of their typical candidates they’ll probably be plucking a few names from in hopes that one of their bounce-back projects finally works out. Instead of hitching their wagon to an Ian Kennedy or Archie Bradley, why not reach out to a familiar face with tangible signs of a rebound in their profile? Not to mention the fact that it would be a homecoming for a homegrown player who was just recently a fan favorite. Taylor Rogers checks a lot of boxes that the Twins are looking for, and a reunion just seems like it would make too much sense. Should we be hoping to see the former anchor of the Twins bullpen added back to a new look core at the back end of games in 2023? Let us know below. View full article
  10. After the Minnesota Twins decided to trade their closer right before Opening Day last season, the bullpen was immediately thrown in flux. It remained to be seen who would take over and what the roles would look like. Thinking ahead to 2023, it’s worth wondering if there should be a more rigid plan. Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports In 2021 there was no question who was coming in to save games for the Minnesota Twins. Taylor Rogers had established himself as an All-Star level closer, and when there was a save opportunity in the 8th or 9th inning, he was going to get it. Last season that role started with Emilio Pagan, then transitioned somewhat to Jhoan Duran, then Jorge Lopez was expected to take over, and truthfully no one ever held the job. Rocco Baldelli’s bullpen recorded 28 saves in 2022, but they were split between nine different arms. Pagan led the group with nine, while Duran had eight. Across baseball, 35 different pitchers recorded more than nine saves on their own. In fact, 18 different pitchers reached at least 20 saves. Meanwhile, Minnesota didn’t have a single-arm record half that many. For years the save statistic has been debated regarding its usefulness. Unfortunately, there are plenty of times when the game is on the line, but it’s not yet the 9th inning. There are also all of the times when a save is recorded, but only three outs are needed and the leading team is ahead comfortably by three runs. Debating whether or not saves should matter is one thing, but giving a level of predictability to routine-oriented players may help. Last season there was no denying that Jhoan Duran was the saving grace in relief for Minnesota. Had he not developed and emerged as an elite arm, an already questionable bullpen would’ve been in complete disarray. With very little else to count on for much of the year, Baldelli found himself needing to utilize Duran earlier in games. He was often brought in during the highest-leverage moments, then would hand the game over to whoever was left. As the bullpen eroded though, it became a waiting game to see if everyone else could get it to the rookie in the 9th inning. Talking with more than a few players over the years, a fluid bullpen provides a difficult situation to prepare for. Rather than having a relative understanding of your role and order onto the field, it’s a guessing game on any given night. Trying to figure out what situation you may be called upon for, and then quickly preparing for that at the drop of a hat is not an easy task. If Derek Falvey and Thad Levine can give Minnesota a bit more to work with in relief, it likely gets easier for the manager to have a higher sense of predictability. Assuming Jorge Lopez regains his form, putting him back in the closer role that earned him an All-Star selection with Baltimore makes sense. That would allow Duran to continue being Minnesota’s fireman, and he could take whatever leverage situation presents itself prior to the 9th inning. There’s no denying the group needs both more length, someone to eat those middle innings, and another back-end arm or two. We saw Griffin Jax take steps forward, and he’s probably earned a late-inning role, but there has to be more. If the group can find more success early on in 2023, and be supplemented from outside of the current options, there’s a chance we may see the closer role return as we once knew it. What do you think? Do you prefer Jhoan Duran to only pitch in the 9th inning? Does your closer need to be your best reliever? View full article
  11. In 2021 there was no question who was coming in to save games for the Minnesota Twins. Taylor Rogers had established himself as an All-Star level closer, and when there was a save opportunity in the 8th or 9th inning, he was going to get it. Last season that role started with Emilio Pagan, then transitioned somewhat to Jhoan Duran, then Jorge Lopez was expected to take over, and truthfully no one ever held the job. Rocco Baldelli’s bullpen recorded 28 saves in 2022, but they were split between nine different arms. Pagan led the group with nine, while Duran had eight. Across baseball, 35 different pitchers recorded more than nine saves on their own. In fact, 18 different pitchers reached at least 20 saves. Meanwhile, Minnesota didn’t have a single-arm record half that many. For years the save statistic has been debated regarding its usefulness. Unfortunately, there are plenty of times when the game is on the line, but it’s not yet the 9th inning. There are also all of the times when a save is recorded, but only three outs are needed and the leading team is ahead comfortably by three runs. Debating whether or not saves should matter is one thing, but giving a level of predictability to routine-oriented players may help. Last season there was no denying that Jhoan Duran was the saving grace in relief for Minnesota. Had he not developed and emerged as an elite arm, an already questionable bullpen would’ve been in complete disarray. With very little else to count on for much of the year, Baldelli found himself needing to utilize Duran earlier in games. He was often brought in during the highest-leverage moments, then would hand the game over to whoever was left. As the bullpen eroded though, it became a waiting game to see if everyone else could get it to the rookie in the 9th inning. Talking with more than a few players over the years, a fluid bullpen provides a difficult situation to prepare for. Rather than having a relative understanding of your role and order onto the field, it’s a guessing game on any given night. Trying to figure out what situation you may be called upon for, and then quickly preparing for that at the drop of a hat is not an easy task. If Derek Falvey and Thad Levine can give Minnesota a bit more to work with in relief, it likely gets easier for the manager to have a higher sense of predictability. Assuming Jorge Lopez regains his form, putting him back in the closer role that earned him an All-Star selection with Baltimore makes sense. That would allow Duran to continue being Minnesota’s fireman, and he could take whatever leverage situation presents itself prior to the 9th inning. There’s no denying the group needs both more length, someone to eat those middle innings, and another back-end arm or two. We saw Griffin Jax take steps forward, and he’s probably earned a late-inning role, but there has to be more. If the group can find more success early on in 2023, and be supplemented from outside of the current options, there’s a chance we may see the closer role return as we once knew it. What do you think? Do you prefer Jhoan Duran to only pitch in the 9th inning? Does your closer need to be your best reliever?
  12. The Twins have mostly neglected the bullpen in years past and it’s more often than not blown up in their faces. The few additions they typically make are what many consider “bargain bin” pitchers, typically coming off of rough seasons in search of a bounce back. By targeting Taylor Rogers, they can stick to the strategy we’ve seen them use time and time again, though this time the payoff could be much better. Rogers is coming off of a rough season by his standards. In 64 innings he posted a 4.76 ERA. His strikeout rate remained strong at 30.7%, still in the 10th percentile in all of baseball. His walks ticked up slightly as did his homers, though neither to a worrisome degree. While his peripherals were higher than usual, they were far from disastrous (3.32 FIP, 3.26 xFIP). His season was marred by untimely meltdowns, blowing 10 saves between San Diego and Milwaukee. Is there hope Rogers could rebound in his age-32 season? As noted, Rogers was still able to strike out hitters at an impressive clip, and while his average fastball was down over a full tick from 2021, his average of 94.3 mph isn’t far off from his career norm. There isn’t much to suggest that he’s entered the decline of his career quite yet aside from his unsightly ERA. One little talked about factor of Rogers's season is that it appeared San Diego changed the shape of his slider. The pitch was three mph slower than it was in 2021 and had 40.4 inches of drop as opposed to 35.7 in 2021. Instead of the hard breaker we’d grown accustomed to seeing, Rogers was throwing more of a looping breaking ball. While the results didn’t show up on the slider, it was likely easier to differentiate between his out-pitch and his sinker. His slider’s underlying success was about the same, but his fastball produced the worst underlying numbers of his career. It seems like this would be an easy fix for Rogers to make. With the rest of his stuff appearing to be intact, Rogers could be due for a huge bounce-back. At the very least his underlying numbers as is suggest he massively underperformed in 2022. Rogers also had an absurd 16 saves through May 21, as a questionable Padres bullpen leaned on him heavily to begin the season before he began to unravel. We saw a decline in performance from the left-hander in Minnesota during several seasons when Rogers was ridden particularly hard. The Padres may have simply bent him until he broke early in the year, especially given the fact that he was coming off of a finger injury. A Twins bullpen consisting of Duran, Jax, Thielbar, Lopez, etc. is a far cry from the bullpens of Twins past or the Padres early 2022 bullpen in which Rogers was the go-to guy for every situation. With more options, the Twins would be able to avoid any kind of burnout Rogers has suffered from in the past. In regards to the fit, the Twins could greatly use another left-handed option even as Caleb Thielbar has become a certified dude. Having two left-handed options who can also get righties out at a respectable clip would add an entirely new dimension to the Twins bullpen. We often saw Thielbar pitching in late situations regardless of matchup in 2022 when other arms were missing or struggling, leaving the Twins without another effective lefty if a matchup opportunity arose. Rogers would be an easy and familiar fix. Let's be honest. The Twins aren’t going to all of a sudden pony up and sign a legit back end of the bullpen reliever. It’s not in their DNA. There’s a lengthy list of their typical candidates they’ll probably be plucking a few names from in hopes that one of their bounce-back projects finally works out. Instead of hitching their wagon to an Ian Kennedy or Archie Bradley, why not reach out to a familiar face with tangible signs of a rebound in their profile? Not to mention the fact that it would be a homecoming for a homegrown player who was just recently a fan favorite. Taylor Rogers checks a lot of boxes that the Twins are looking for, and a reunion just seems like it would make too much sense. Should we be hoping to see the former anchor of the Twins bullpen added back to a new look core at the back end of games in 2023? Let us know below.
  13. Last season the Minnesota Twins largely left the bullpen untouched going into the season. They added at the trade deadline, but it was probably too little too late by that point. Still having Jorge Lopez in the fold from their dealings, the hope would be that he can return to the form he showed as an All-Star closer with the Baltimore Orioles. Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports In 2021 Jorge Lopez was not a good pitcher. To be fair, he really hadn’t been a good pitcher in the 102 games he’d thrown at the Major League level. Across three organizations Lopez tallied a 6.04 ERA while working 350 innings. That is why, after starting 25 games in 2021, the Baltimore Orioles moved him to the bullpen. Lopez was acquired on a waiver claim from the Kansas City Royals, and now was gifted an opportunity to work in relief at 29-years-old. The results couldn’t have been better. Across 44 games, Lopez racked up 19 saves and a cool 1.68 ERA. His strikeouts jumped to double-digits per nine for the first time in his career, and while the walk rate held steady, he stopped allowing home runs. It earned him his first trip to the All-Star Game, and Baltimore parlayed the success into a solid return featuring Cade Povich and Yennier Cano. Then Lopez got to Minnesota’s bullpen. In 23 games, he lost a hold of the closer role, recorded just three saves, and posted a 4.37 ERA. His strikeout rate tumbled while the walks ticked up and he allowed more than a hit per inning pitched. To say it was a complete reversal of what was expected to be acquired would be putting it lightly. As a whole, the chief change for Lopez was to stop throwing a four-seam fastball. He used the pitch less than 5% of the time last season, and instead funneled his energy into a sinker. The pitch has gained more than two miles per hour in velocity, averaging over 97 mph in 2022. It’s been an absolute weapon, but clearly things changed a bit with Minnesota. Looking at the numbers, it’s not clear that Lopez changed a whole lot with his pitch mix. The slider and changeup usage has risen since joining the Twins, but not by more than nominal percentage points. The key difference looks to be in pitch location. For whatever reason, Lopez utilized the lower portion of the strike zone with the Twins. Newly adapted thinking has suggested that fastballs up in the zone, depending on spin rates, can cause additional issues for hitters. With Lopez throwing a sinker, any amount of run could be manipulated to travel back within the zone as well. Any team acquiring a new talent is likely to make tweaks or suggest options, but caution would seem wise with an arm going so well. It’s also possible that Lopez made changes to his location, tunneling techniques, or sequencing on his own accord or the game calling from Minnesota catchers. No matter who is responsible for the changes having been made, it’s clearly imperative that both sides get together and figure out a better path forward. Due to his bouncing around early in his career, Lopez is under team control for two more seasons still. The Twins absolutely want him in their bullpen if he’s the Orioles version, but they can’t afford him to turn back into what he was as a starter, or be as hittable as he was down the stretch in 2022. View full article
  14. Going into the 2023 Major League Baseball season the Minnesota Twins once again will need to address their bullpen. This past offseason the only acquisition of note was veteran Joe Smith and it took 34 games for them to cut bait. Maybe it makes sense to re-up with the lone free agent they acquired at the trade deadline. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports After a disappointing 2021 season, the Twins needed to turn things around on the mound. Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson, and Pete Maki were cycling through arms left and right. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a substantial foot placed forward for them to do so in 2022. While Sonny Gray was acquired to bolster the rotation, Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer were always going to tax the group. Adding only a 38-year-old veteran in Joe Smith wasn’t good enough. At the deadline, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine addressed the situation by bringing in Jorge Lopez and Michael Fulmer. Although Jhoan Duran had developed into a late-inning threat, it was clear he needed help. Unfortunately, the former Baltimore Orioles All-Star closer regressed a bit and wasn’t the asset Minnesota needed him to be. Under contract through 2024, there’s plenty of time for him to change that tune. Fulmer was the lone impending free agent the Twins acquired at the deadline and he was basically as expected. The ERA rose to 3.70 and his FIP suggested room for more regression as well. Although he struck out roughly the same amount of batters and walked fewer in his time with Minnesota, Fulmer got hit a bit harder both in and out of the park. The former first-round pick and Rookie of the Year award winner transitioned to relief pitching full-time just one season ago. The 2.97 ERA in 2021 was sparkling, and while his FIP number sat at 3.46, he showed well working as the Detroit Tigers closer. Gregory Soto took over that role this season for Detroit, but Fulmer showed an ability to be mixed in throughout the game, and provide a high-leverage arm whenever called upon. After seeing a slight velocity jump during the 2021 season, Fulmer was back averaging 94 mph this year. His 63.5% slider usage was higher than it had ever been, but that was also because of how effective the pitch has become for him. Minnesota has shown an affinity for arms with good sliders in recent seasons, and Fulmer coming back with that in mind makes a decent amount of sense. Having made just shy of $5 million last season, it’ll be interesting to see what the market looks like. Fulmer probably could’ve cashed in on a bigger payday had he been a free agent prior to 2022, but his performance this year doesn’t drag him down a ton either. He will be 30 years old in 2023, and there’s plenty of reason to believe in his durability, especially as a reliever. How much the Twins liked Fulmer in their mix down the stretch likely factors heavily into any conversation about a reunion, but it’s hard to call his ability anything but a boost to the pen in 2023. Would you welcome Fulmer back as an addition to the Twins bullpen next season? At what price do you feel comfortable doing a deal? View full article
  15. In 2021 Jorge Lopez was not a good pitcher. To be fair, he really hadn’t been a good pitcher in the 102 games he’d thrown at the Major League level. Across three organizations Lopez tallied a 6.04 ERA while working 350 innings. That is why, after starting 25 games in 2021, the Baltimore Orioles moved him to the bullpen. Lopez was acquired on a waiver claim from the Kansas City Royals, and now was gifted an opportunity to work in relief at 29-years-old. The results couldn’t have been better. Across 44 games, Lopez racked up 19 saves and a cool 1.68 ERA. His strikeouts jumped to double-digits per nine for the first time in his career, and while the walk rate held steady, he stopped allowing home runs. It earned him his first trip to the All-Star Game, and Baltimore parlayed the success into a solid return featuring Cade Povich and Yennier Cano. Then Lopez got to Minnesota’s bullpen. In 23 games, he lost a hold of the closer role, recorded just three saves, and posted a 4.37 ERA. His strikeout rate tumbled while the walks ticked up and he allowed more than a hit per inning pitched. To say it was a complete reversal of what was expected to be acquired would be putting it lightly. As a whole, the chief change for Lopez was to stop throwing a four-seam fastball. He used the pitch less than 5% of the time last season, and instead funneled his energy into a sinker. The pitch has gained more than two miles per hour in velocity, averaging over 97 mph in 2022. It’s been an absolute weapon, but clearly things changed a bit with Minnesota. Looking at the numbers, it’s not clear that Lopez changed a whole lot with his pitch mix. The slider and changeup usage has risen since joining the Twins, but not by more than nominal percentage points. The key difference looks to be in pitch location. For whatever reason, Lopez utilized the lower portion of the strike zone with the Twins. Newly adapted thinking has suggested that fastballs up in the zone, depending on spin rates, can cause additional issues for hitters. With Lopez throwing a sinker, any amount of run could be manipulated to travel back within the zone as well. Any team acquiring a new talent is likely to make tweaks or suggest options, but caution would seem wise with an arm going so well. It’s also possible that Lopez made changes to his location, tunneling techniques, or sequencing on his own accord or the game calling from Minnesota catchers. No matter who is responsible for the changes having been made, it’s clearly imperative that both sides get together and figure out a better path forward. Due to his bouncing around early in his career, Lopez is under team control for two more seasons still. The Twins absolutely want him in their bullpen if he’s the Orioles version, but they can’t afford him to turn back into what he was as a starter, or be as hittable as he was down the stretch in 2022.
  16. The Twins have struggled in adding effective relief pitchers in the past two off-seasons. Here are three next steps that would indicate a change in approach to bullpen building. Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson, USA Today Sports I’d argue that bullpen construction is one of the areas in which Derek Falvey-led Twins front office has consistently failed in executing since taking over in Minnesota. In 2021, the pen was marred by repeated first-half meltdowns from Alexander Colomé. That unit ranked 22nd by fWAR, 21st by FIP, and 16th by K/9 after a second-half recovery. In 2022, Emilio Pagán single-handedly blew a handful of games to eventual AL Central champion Cleveland Guardians. The 2022 unit ranked 20th by fWAR, 14th by FIP, and 12th by K/9. At least a modicum of improvement. Overall, however, this front office has taken the ‘building the plane while flying it approach’ to bullpen construction. While 2022 went as badly as it could for a variety of reasons, most notably player health, here are three trends to look for that might indicate a different approach to bullpen construction in 2023. Shop for Relievers, Earlier than Later This front office has shied away from any spending on relief arms. Prior to 2022, Joe Smith was the lone bullpen addition signed to a major league contract (Pagan was acquired by trade). I’m not advocating for the Twins to put together an Edwin Díaz-type contract for a relief pitcher, but $6-9 million can buy you a lot of arm. This front office typically waits until late in free agency to extract contract value. I’d like to see them add to the bullpen, aggressively, targeting velocity and stuff. The Twins couple easily push toward a top-ten bullpen by raising the floor on what they ran out in 2022, and it shouldn’t cost that much. Stop valuing good contracts over good players. There’s No Such Thing as too Many Options The Twins have several exciting internal options for the bullpen. Matt Canterino, Ronny Henriquez, Blayne Enlow, even Josh Winder. All of these options have something in common, they were either hurt in 2022 or unproven in a bullpen role in 2022. I’d bet that at least one of these names becomes a Griffin Jax type in 2023. That is to say, a solid mid-to-high-end reliever who can work in some mid-to-high leverage situations. If the Twins learned anything in 2023, however, it should be not to count on anyone or anything going to plan. The Twins need to have a semi-established bullpen pecking order by the end of April, not by the All-Star Break. Buy-Low Arms for Depth Only The Twins should never have an arm like Joe Smith in their bullpen if they want to be taken seriously. The best bullpens in MLB are stacked with velocity, movement, and high-caliber arms. The Twins capacity to reach that ceiling is pretty exciting (imagine a back end of Canterino, Alcala, López, and Duran). With that in mind, and learning and building from the best models available (Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, etc.) the Twins should only be bringing in ‘buy-low’ type arms as competition in spring training, and depth throughout the season. If the Twins front office did nothing to the bullpen between now and opening day, the ceiling is high, and the potential is exciting. The observable difference in behavior ahead of 2023 is whether they choose to raise the floor, and account for the unexpected. What changes would you like to see from the front office in how approach building their bullpen ahead of 2023? Join the discussion and leave your thoughts below. View full article
  17. After a disappointing 2021 season, the Twins needed to turn things around on the mound. Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson, and Pete Maki were cycling through arms left and right. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a substantial foot placed forward for them to do so in 2022. While Sonny Gray was acquired to bolster the rotation, Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer were always going to tax the group. Adding only a 38-year-old veteran in Joe Smith wasn’t good enough. At the deadline, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine addressed the situation by bringing in Jorge Lopez and Michael Fulmer. Although Jhoan Duran had developed into a late-inning threat, it was clear he needed help. Unfortunately, the former Baltimore Orioles All-Star closer regressed a bit and wasn’t the asset Minnesota needed him to be. Under contract through 2024, there’s plenty of time for him to change that tune. Fulmer was the lone impending free agent the Twins acquired at the deadline and he was basically as expected. The ERA rose to 3.70 and his FIP suggested room for more regression as well. Although he struck out roughly the same amount of batters and walked fewer in his time with Minnesota, Fulmer got hit a bit harder both in and out of the park. The former first-round pick and Rookie of the Year award winner transitioned to relief pitching full-time just one season ago. The 2.97 ERA in 2021 was sparkling, and while his FIP number sat at 3.46, he showed well working as the Detroit Tigers closer. Gregory Soto took over that role this season for Detroit, but Fulmer showed an ability to be mixed in throughout the game, and provide a high-leverage arm whenever called upon. After seeing a slight velocity jump during the 2021 season, Fulmer was back averaging 94 mph this year. His 63.5% slider usage was higher than it had ever been, but that was also because of how effective the pitch has become for him. Minnesota has shown an affinity for arms with good sliders in recent seasons, and Fulmer coming back with that in mind makes a decent amount of sense. Having made just shy of $5 million last season, it’ll be interesting to see what the market looks like. Fulmer probably could’ve cashed in on a bigger payday had he been a free agent prior to 2022, but his performance this year doesn’t drag him down a ton either. He will be 30 years old in 2023, and there’s plenty of reason to believe in his durability, especially as a reliever. How much the Twins liked Fulmer in their mix down the stretch likely factors heavily into any conversation about a reunion, but it’s hard to call his ability anything but a boost to the pen in 2023. Would you welcome Fulmer back as an addition to the Twins bullpen next season? At what price do you feel comfortable doing a deal?
  18. I’d argue that bullpen construction is one of the areas in which Derek Falvey-led Twins front office has consistently failed in executing since taking over in Minnesota. In 2021, the pen was marred by repeated first-half meltdowns from Alexander Colomé. That unit ranked 22nd by fWAR, 21st by FIP, and 16th by K/9 after a second-half recovery. In 2022, Emilio Pagán single-handedly blew a handful of games to eventual AL Central champion Cleveland Guardians. The 2022 unit ranked 20th by fWAR, 14th by FIP, and 12th by K/9. At least a modicum of improvement. Overall, however, this front office has taken the ‘building the plane while flying it approach’ to bullpen construction. While 2022 went as badly as it could for a variety of reasons, most notably player health, here are three trends to look for that might indicate a different approach to bullpen construction in 2023. Shop for Relievers, Earlier than Later This front office has shied away from any spending on relief arms. Prior to 2022, Joe Smith was the lone bullpen addition signed to a major league contract (Pagan was acquired by trade). I’m not advocating for the Twins to put together an Edwin Díaz-type contract for a relief pitcher, but $6-9 million can buy you a lot of arm. This front office typically waits until late in free agency to extract contract value. I’d like to see them add to the bullpen, aggressively, targeting velocity and stuff. The Twins couple easily push toward a top-ten bullpen by raising the floor on what they ran out in 2022, and it shouldn’t cost that much. Stop valuing good contracts over good players. There’s No Such Thing as too Many Options The Twins have several exciting internal options for the bullpen. Matt Canterino, Ronny Henriquez, Blayne Enlow, even Josh Winder. All of these options have something in common, they were either hurt in 2022 or unproven in a bullpen role in 2022. I’d bet that at least one of these names becomes a Griffin Jax type in 2023. That is to say, a solid mid-to-high-end reliever who can work in some mid-to-high leverage situations. If the Twins learned anything in 2023, however, it should be not to count on anyone or anything going to plan. The Twins need to have a semi-established bullpen pecking order by the end of April, not by the All-Star Break. Buy-Low Arms for Depth Only The Twins should never have an arm like Joe Smith in their bullpen if they want to be taken seriously. The best bullpens in MLB are stacked with velocity, movement, and high-caliber arms. The Twins capacity to reach that ceiling is pretty exciting (imagine a back end of Canterino, Alcala, López, and Duran). With that in mind, and learning and building from the best models available (Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, etc.) the Twins should only be bringing in ‘buy-low’ type arms as competition in spring training, and depth throughout the season. If the Twins front office did nothing to the bullpen between now and opening day, the ceiling is high, and the potential is exciting. The observable difference in behavior ahead of 2023 is whether they choose to raise the floor, and account for the unexpected. What changes would you like to see from the front office in how approach building their bullpen ahead of 2023? Join the discussion and leave your thoughts below.
  19. Coming into the 2022 Major League Baseball season the Minnesota Twins were largely projected as a runner-up to the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central Division. Now with the regular season coming to a close and it not playing out that way, how would you define the year as a whole? Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports After limping through the last impactful series of the season against the Cleveland Guardians over the weekend, Minnesota’s postseason hopes were all but cooked. Having led the division for a vast majority of the season, injuries mounted and ultimately ruined any potential to hang on. That’s not to say injuries were the defining factor in falling short, Minnesota contributed to that plenty on their own as well. Relatively early on in the year, it was apparent that the AL Central was going to fade behind the competition. Chicago’s ineptitude was injury-related as well, but they were also horribly managed by Tony La Russa, and consistently played bad baseball defensively. Cleveland has a great manager in Terry Francona, and as expected, their pitching kept them in it while young players got their feet wet. Minnesota’s place in all of that got shuffled early after a strong May, but it shouldn’t be lost that no one seemed to want to win this division down the stretch. Therein lies the definition of the 2022 Minnesota Twins season: A failure to capitalize. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine didn’t throw all of Jim Pohlad’s resources at the 2022 season to suggest it was World Series or bust. Nothing about a bullpen addition of only Joe Smith said, “We’re all in.” However, what was done should’ve been enough and at every juncture, the Twins came up short. When the trade deadline came around and there was an opportunity to improve a winning ball club, the front office added a top-level starter in Tyler Mahle. They addressed the bullpen by bringing in Michael Fulmer and Jorge Lopez. Then, as it had all season long, it quickly was wiped out on and off the field. Every team has injuries, but very few had as many and those as impactful as the Twins. Byron Buxton played hurt from the jump. Pitching was constantly in flux. Alex Kirilloff never got better. They won through them, for a time. When Minnesota would create their own fortunes, generating base runners and putting guys in scoring position, they consistently failed to capitalize. Baserunning was bad, defense equally so. All season long the Twins found themselves with the opportunity to control their own destiny, run away and hide with the division, and create noise. Instead, they responded with more trips to the injured list, poor situational hitting, and an overall lack of execution. If we were to reflect on the season as a whole, taking a bit of a step back from the emotions down the stretch, maybe we should've seen this coming. After all, a .500 record was largely what was projected from the get-go. For a good portion of the season, all this team amounted to a .500 ballclub. Ultimately though, after creating their own good fortune, a wilting happened and nothing was done to substantiate it. There’s certainly a handful of different ways to get where Minnesota finished, but as The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman put it, the Twins took the least enjoyable way to get there. Good teams capitalize on their opportunities, and although this one was masked as a good team for a while, they simply never capitalized on what was in front of them. View full article
  20. With an upgrade atop the rotation shaping up as a clear need at the trade deadline, the division leaders targeted and acquired a frontline starter. They gave up a hefty prospect package to gain extended control, but now this big trade is in danger of blowing up completely after underwhelming performance gave way to a mysterious shoulder injury. Oh, did you think I was referencing Tyler Mahle? No, I'm talking about Frankie Montas. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker and Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today Frankie Montas was one of the hottest names on the market at the trade deadline, and was known to be pursued by Minnesota last offseason. The Yankees acquired him alongside reliever Lou Trivino in exchange for four prospects on August 1st. The results have not been as hoped. Montas posted a 6.35 ERA in eight turns, including just one quality start, before undergoing an MRI on his shoulder this week. He landed on the injured list and there's a pretty good chance he won't pitch again for the Yankees in 2022. Barring further clarity around what's affecting him, Montas figures to be a bit of a question mark heading into next season, too. The Twins can obviously relate. They've gone through a similar ordeal with their own prized deadline pickup. Like Montas, Tyler Mahle had some known shoulder issues when he was acquired. Like Montas, those issues have now grown more problematic, even though – in both cases – MRI results revealed no structural damage, before or after the trades. This is what differentiates the Mahle outcome from, say, the Chris Paddack move, where the Twins accepted a rather extreme level of risk in the name of acquiring extended control of a good starter. That was a measured risk on its own, but it shouldn't be grouped with the one they took on Mahle, who (like Montas) was more typical of a deadline gambit. It's the nature of the beast: as a leveraged buyer in a seller's market, under big pressure to improve, you're going to have to take risks – like ponying up big prospect capital for a talented arm with ambiguous health concerns, or buying high on a breakout All-Star reliever who lacks a convincing track record. Those who constantly advocate for these types of assertive showings from the front office now sound rather toothless when criticizing them in hindsight. While we can all see the overall results have been unsatisfactory – albeit hardly disastrous for a reigning last-place team – this front office was audacious in shaking things up. Isn't that what we want? The big deadline moves. Locking down Byron Buxton with a creative extension. Trading their highest-upside pitching prospect for Sonny Gray. Unloading Josh Donaldson's contract. Signing Carlos Correa to a historic deal (albeit at the expense of investment in pitching). And going back a bit further, let's not forget about trading José Berríos to Toronto at the 2021 deadline, thus letting the Blue Jays sign him to a massive extension while flipping him into one of their breakthrough pitching prospects. That one looks pretty good now. Others don't. And it's beyond valid to criticize the front office for these many moves that haven't panned out, especially those like the Paddack trade, which carried huge red flags from the start. (Although, if we're being honest, they were kinda right about Taylor Rogers, just as they were Berríos?) There's a big gap between "merits criticism" and "needs replacement." I'm not close to the latter point with Derek Falvey or Thad Levine, although changes at various levels of the organization are well warranted. In terms of leadership vision, we've experienced the opposite approach – one characterized by risk aversion and playing it safe. I dare say that's what sunk them last year when their biggest additions were Alex Colomé and JA Happ. As the saying goes, scared money don't make money. Sometimes those bold gambles don't turn out as hoped, and you've got to live with the consequences. It happens even to the Yankees. That won't stop them from staying aggressive and shooting their shots in the future. It shouldn't stop the Twins either, albeit at a different scale given their resources. View full article
  21. After limping through the last impactful series of the season against the Cleveland Guardians over the weekend, Minnesota’s postseason hopes were all but cooked. Having led the division for a vast majority of the season, injuries mounted and ultimately ruined any potential to hang on. That’s not to say injuries were the defining factor in falling short, Minnesota contributed to that plenty on their own as well. Relatively early on in the year, it was apparent that the AL Central was going to fade behind the competition. Chicago’s ineptitude was injury-related as well, but they were also horribly managed by Tony La Russa, and consistently played bad baseball defensively. Cleveland has a great manager in Terry Francona, and as expected, their pitching kept them in it while young players got their feet wet. Minnesota’s place in all of that got shuffled early after a strong May, but it shouldn’t be lost that no one seemed to want to win this division down the stretch. Therein lies the definition of the 2022 Minnesota Twins season: A failure to capitalize. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine didn’t throw all of Jim Pohlad’s resources at the 2022 season to suggest it was World Series or bust. Nothing about a bullpen addition of only Joe Smith said, “We’re all in.” However, what was done should’ve been enough and at every juncture, the Twins came up short. When the trade deadline came around and there was an opportunity to improve a winning ball club, the front office added a top-level starter in Tyler Mahle. They addressed the bullpen by bringing in Michael Fulmer and Jorge Lopez. Then, as it had all season long, it quickly was wiped out on and off the field. Every team has injuries, but very few had as many and those as impactful as the Twins. Byron Buxton played hurt from the jump. Pitching was constantly in flux. Alex Kirilloff never got better. They won through them, for a time. When Minnesota would create their own fortunes, generating base runners and putting guys in scoring position, they consistently failed to capitalize. Baserunning was bad, defense equally so. All season long the Twins found themselves with the opportunity to control their own destiny, run away and hide with the division, and create noise. Instead, they responded with more trips to the injured list, poor situational hitting, and an overall lack of execution. If we were to reflect on the season as a whole, taking a bit of a step back from the emotions down the stretch, maybe we should've seen this coming. After all, a .500 record was largely what was projected from the get-go. For a good portion of the season, all this team amounted to a .500 ballclub. Ultimately though, after creating their own good fortune, a wilting happened and nothing was done to substantiate it. There’s certainly a handful of different ways to get where Minnesota finished, but as The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman put it, the Twins took the least enjoyable way to get there. Good teams capitalize on their opportunities, and although this one was masked as a good team for a while, they simply never capitalized on what was in front of them.
  22. Frankie Montas was one of the hottest names on the market at the trade deadline, and was known to be pursued by Minnesota last offseason. The Yankees acquired him alongside reliever Lou Trivino in exchange for four prospects on August 1st. The results have not been as hoped. Montas posted a 6.35 ERA in eight turns, including just one quality start, before undergoing an MRI on his shoulder this week. He landed on the injured list and there's a pretty good chance he won't pitch again for the Yankees in 2022. Barring further clarity around what's affecting him, Montas figures to be a bit of a question mark heading into next season, too. The Twins can obviously relate. They've gone through a similar ordeal with their own prized deadline pickup. Like Montas, Tyler Mahle had some known shoulder issues when he was acquired. Like Montas, those issues have now grown more problematic, even though – in both cases – MRI results revealed no structural damage, before or after the trades. This is what differentiates the Mahle outcome from, say, the Chris Paddack move, where the Twins accepted a rather extreme level of risk in the name of acquiring extended control of a good starter. That was a measured risk on its own, but it shouldn't be grouped with the one they took on Mahle, who (like Montas) was more typical of a deadline gambit. It's the nature of the beast: as a leveraged buyer in a seller's market, under big pressure to improve, you're going to have to take risks – like ponying up big prospect capital for a talented arm with ambiguous health concerns, or buying high on a breakout All-Star reliever who lacks a convincing track record. Those who constantly advocate for these types of assertive showings from the front office now sound rather toothless when criticizing them in hindsight. While we can all see the overall results have been unsatisfactory – albeit hardly disastrous for a reigning last-place team – this front office was audacious in shaking things up. Isn't that what we want? The big deadline moves. Locking down Byron Buxton with a creative extension. Trading their highest-upside pitching prospect for Sonny Gray. Unloading Josh Donaldson's contract. Signing Carlos Correa to a historic deal (albeit at the expense of investment in pitching). And going back a bit further, let's not forget about trading José Berríos to Toronto at the 2021 deadline, thus letting the Blue Jays sign him to a massive extension while flipping him into one of their breakthrough pitching prospects. That one looks pretty good now. Others don't. And it's beyond valid to criticize the front office for these many moves that haven't panned out, especially those like the Paddack trade, which carried huge red flags from the start. (Although, if we're being honest, they were kinda right about Taylor Rogers, just as they were Berríos?) There's a big gap between "merits criticism" and "needs replacement." I'm not close to the latter point with Derek Falvey or Thad Levine, although changes at various levels of the organization are well warranted. In terms of leadership vision, we've experienced the opposite approach – one characterized by risk aversion and playing it safe. I dare say that's what sunk them last year when their biggest additions were Alex Colomé and JA Happ. As the saying goes, scared money don't make money. Sometimes those bold gambles don't turn out as hoped, and you've got to live with the consequences. It happens even to the Yankees. That won't stop them from staying aggressive and shooting their shots in the future. It shouldn't stop the Twins either, albeit at a different scale given their resources.
  23. When the regular season eventually expires on the 2022 Major League Baseball season, the Minnesota Twins will start preparing for 2023. While a postseason opportunity was once a possibility, making it a reality in the year ahead becomes the new goal. How much certainty should there be regarding the roster next season? Image courtesy of David Richard-USA TODAY Sports You could certainly argue the Minnesota Twins were hoping for better in 2022. Obviously, you don’t sign someone like Carlos Correa with the intention that he doesn’t wind up playing postseason baseball. However, virtually every move made by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine this year set up an opportunity for those players to impact outcomes in 2023 as well. As things stand, operating on a handful of assumptions, the Twins should have something like $100 million to spend in the offseason. They put forth a franchise-record payroll in 2022, but that was less about an indication they were going for it, than it was a response to inflation and simply keeping up with the market. Next season the dollars should check in somewhere between $140-160 million based on incentives and complete operating expenses to acquire talent. Minnesota also has a significant amount of the active roster penciled in as potential fits. While it wasn’t able to be as nuanced through a tweet, suggesting that the Twins are a shortstop and bullpen help from rounding out their roster holds some weight. Sure, they would absolutely benefit from a starting pitching acquisition. The problem is they have four guys that are all already givens, while being very good options. Any addition would need to be at the level of Kenta Maeda and Sonny Gray or better. There aren’t a ton of those out there, and you’d be hard-pressed to suggest a Dylan Bundy or Chris Archer type of signing being understandable. Maybe another bat would help, but you also have to figure out where they’ll get regular at-bats. Rocco Baldelli has been afforded lineup flexibility without a static designated hitter this season. The outfield returns Byron Buxton, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino, Nick Gordon, Max Kepler, and Matt Wallner. At least a few of those players are entrenched in a long-term role here, and while you may make a move, the youth is full of high hopes and expectations. On the infield, you aren’t likely going to see Jorge Polanco, Jose Miranda or Luis Arraez jettisoned. The hope would be that Royce Lewis can return quickly (July?). Gio Urshela may be a non-tender candidate, but that’s a decision for the front office. Behind the plate, there’ll be an expectation for Ryan Jeffers to fulfill the belief in him, but he will need a backup. Through a quick roster rundown, it becomes pretty apparent that shortstop and bullpen help are the biggest areas of opportunity for Minnesota. Filling the hole left by Carlos Correa will be a massive task should he not return. The Twins made the relief unit better by adding Jorge Lopez at the trade deadline, and they should get Jorge Alcala back in 2023. Maybe Cody Stashak can be a weapon again, but either way, that unit needs some more horses. Before even considering names to fill the spots, it should be relatively straightforward to suggest that Minnesota has plenty of resources to round out a roster not needing a ton of help. If the 2022 Twins were marred by injuries and ineffectiveness on the edges, then raising the water level where there were deficiencies and spending to fill holes is a pretty fair suggestion. The AL Central shouldn’t be expected to take a massive leap ahead in the next year, and once again, Minnesota can position themselves to be right in the thick of it. View full article
  24. You could certainly argue the Minnesota Twins were hoping for better in 2022. Obviously, you don’t sign someone like Carlos Correa with the intention that he doesn’t wind up playing postseason baseball. However, virtually every move made by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine this year set up an opportunity for those players to impact outcomes in 2023 as well. As things stand, operating on a handful of assumptions, the Twins should have something like $100 million to spend in the offseason. They put forth a franchise-record payroll in 2022, but that was less about an indication they were going for it, than it was a response to inflation and simply keeping up with the market. Next season the dollars should check in somewhere between $140-160 million based on incentives and complete operating expenses to acquire talent. Minnesota also has a significant amount of the active roster penciled in as potential fits. While it wasn’t able to be as nuanced through a tweet, suggesting that the Twins are a shortstop and bullpen help from rounding out their roster holds some weight. Sure, they would absolutely benefit from a starting pitching acquisition. The problem is they have four guys that are all already givens, while being very good options. Any addition would need to be at the level of Kenta Maeda and Sonny Gray or better. There aren’t a ton of those out there, and you’d be hard-pressed to suggest a Dylan Bundy or Chris Archer type of signing being understandable. Maybe another bat would help, but you also have to figure out where they’ll get regular at-bats. Rocco Baldelli has been afforded lineup flexibility without a static designated hitter this season. The outfield returns Byron Buxton, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino, Nick Gordon, Max Kepler, and Matt Wallner. At least a few of those players are entrenched in a long-term role here, and while you may make a move, the youth is full of high hopes and expectations. On the infield, you aren’t likely going to see Jorge Polanco, Jose Miranda or Luis Arraez jettisoned. The hope would be that Royce Lewis can return quickly (July?). Gio Urshela may be a non-tender candidate, but that’s a decision for the front office. Behind the plate, there’ll be an expectation for Ryan Jeffers to fulfill the belief in him, but he will need a backup. Through a quick roster rundown, it becomes pretty apparent that shortstop and bullpen help are the biggest areas of opportunity for Minnesota. Filling the hole left by Carlos Correa will be a massive task should he not return. The Twins made the relief unit better by adding Jorge Lopez at the trade deadline, and they should get Jorge Alcala back in 2023. Maybe Cody Stashak can be a weapon again, but either way, that unit needs some more horses. Before even considering names to fill the spots, it should be relatively straightforward to suggest that Minnesota has plenty of resources to round out a roster not needing a ton of help. If the 2022 Twins were marred by injuries and ineffectiveness on the edges, then raising the water level where there were deficiencies and spending to fill holes is a pretty fair suggestion. The AL Central shouldn’t be expected to take a massive leap ahead in the next year, and once again, Minnesota can position themselves to be right in the thick of it.
  25. The Minnesota Twins traded for Jorge Lopez at the 2022 Major League Baseball trade deadline. Acquiring the All-Star closer from the Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota looked to shore up their leaky bullpen. It hasn’t gone well. Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports Derek Falvey and Thad Levine orchestrated a near-flawless trade deadline for the Minnesota Twins. They grabbed a good starter in Tyler Mahle, and netted a bullpen piece in Michael Fulmer. Acquiring an All-Star closer in Jorge Lopez was a great get as well, but it’s hardly gone as planned. Lopez came to the Twins with a 1.68 ERA across 48 1/3 innings. He racked up 19 saves for Baltimore and virtually all of his work came in high leverage. He had a strong 10.1 K/9 and a WHIP below 1.000. If regression was going to hit, it shouldn’t have been expected to be brutal given a solid 3.00 FIP. Fast forward to where we are now and Lopez has made 15 appearances for the Twins totaling 14 1/3 innings. He owns a 4.40 ERA and an awful 11/9 K/BB. He hasn’t allowed a home run but is giving up more than ten hits per nine innings and every appearance is a tightrope act to get through. Before coming to Minnesota, Lopez was allowing just a 19.8% hard-hit rate and was getting whiffs 11.4% of the time. His fastball was being used 55% of the time and clocked in just shy of 98 mph on average. Lopez used the curveball 20% of the time and often twirled it as his out pitch. Since joining the Twins, he has continued using his fastball and the life remains the same. Instead of predominantly going to the curveball as a secondary offering, however, he’s dropped the usage and now is going with his changeup 20% of the time. The hard-hit rate is the same, but the whiff rate has dropped below 9%. It’s not at all abnormal for a pitcher to experience tweaks from a new organization, but it could be that the Twins have tinkered too much here. Although the sample size is small, and Lopez will remain in the organization for the next two seasons, swapping out secondary offerings has not produced positive results to this point. Lopez was hit around plenty as a starter, and reducing his repertoire has been integral in his advancement as a reliever. He’ll need to advocate for himself though if there’s a better belief in a specific secondary offering. When with Baltimore, it seemed the curveball paired just fine with his heat, and while it’s still there, the changeup replacing its usage may not be the best step forward. You can bet both Lopez and the Twins coaching staff will look to get him right the rest of the way, and the hope would be he finds another gear in 2023 as he returns to early-season form. That said, it may be time to reverse course on the current plan, at least through the duration of the season, to see if better results can be achieved. I don’t think Lopez has reverted to being a bad pitcher as he was in his starting days, but finding the right offerings to unlock his best self has to be a focus from here on out. Would you say that Lopez has been a disappointment in his short time with the Twins? View full article
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