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  1. As the month of April ends, the AL Central standings don’t exactly match the experts’ preseason predictions. Let’s examine each team’s start and decide who are the contenders and who are the pretenders.Kansas City Royals After a surprising start, Kansas City sits atop the AL Central. Danny Duffy is having a career year as he has only allowed one earned run in 23 innings (0.39 ERA) with a 1.04 WHIP. Michael Taylor, a free agent signing, has the team’s highest WAR among position players (1.1 WAR). Another off-season pick-up, Carlos Santana continues to be an on-base machine as his OPS is nearly 30 points higher than his career mark. While this start is fun for Royals fans, it seems unlikely for this team to keep up their current pace of 162 games. Result: Pretender Chicago White Sox Chicago is sitting right where many expected they would be in the thick of the division race. Like the Royals, there are some surprising players leading the way. Yermin Mercedes (1.1 WAR) is leading baseball in batting average and Carlos Rodon (0.9 WAR) shocked the baseball world with a no-hitter. Chicago isn’t going away, especially if their younger players find ways to improve. Result: Contender Cleveland Baseball Team Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, and Carlos Santana were all key loses for Cleveland this winter, but this club still has some of the best players in the division. Shane Bieber, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, has picked up right where he left off as he has been striking out over 14 batters per nine innings. Jose Ramirez is a perennial MVP candidate that will be relied on to carry even more of the offensive load. Cleveland’s pitching depth is strong enough to keep them in the race, especially if other teams continue to struggle. Result: Contender Minnesota Twins Despite the recent slide, the Twins are still getting the second-best odds to win the Central. That could owe as much to the expectation that Kansas City won't be able to keep up their hot start as to the Twins eventually figuring things out. Minnesota has plenty of problems to solve, but not everything has been negative so far. Byron Buxton looks like an early MVP contender and Nelson Cruz remains ageless. The Twins are struggling, and they need to figure things out before the other contenders are out of reach. Result: Contender Detroit Tigers Detroit was never supposed to be in the running, and they are living up to those expectations. AJ Hinch, the former Astros manager, is at the helm and he is charged with turning around a rebuilding team. The Tigers haven’t had a winning percentage over .500 since 2016 and that trend doesn’t look to end this year. Result: Pretender Who do you think are the contenders and pretenders in the AL Central? Leave a COMMENT and join the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  2. Kansas City Royals After a surprising start, Kansas City sits atop the AL Central. Danny Duffy is having a career year as he has only allowed one earned run in 23 innings (0.39 ERA) with a 1.04 WHIP. Michael Taylor, a free agent signing, has the team’s highest WAR among position players (1.1 WAR). Another off-season pick-up, Carlos Santana continues to be an on-base machine as his OPS is nearly 30 points higher than his career mark. While this start is fun for Royals fans, it seems unlikely for this team to keep up their current pace of 162 games. Result: Pretender Chicago White Sox Chicago is sitting right where many expected they would be in the thick of the division race. Like the Royals, there are some surprising players leading the way. Yermin Mercedes (1.1 WAR) is leading baseball in batting average and Carlos Rodon (0.9 WAR) shocked the baseball world with a no-hitter. Chicago isn’t going away, especially if their younger players find ways to improve. Result: Contender Cleveland Baseball Team Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, and Carlos Santana were all key loses for Cleveland this winter, but this club still has some of the best players in the division. Shane Bieber, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, has picked up right where he left off as he has been striking out over 14 batters per nine innings. Jose Ramirez is a perennial MVP candidate that will be relied on to carry even more of the offensive load. Cleveland’s pitching depth is strong enough to keep them in the race, especially if other teams continue to struggle. Result: Contender Minnesota Twins Despite the recent slide, the Twins are still getting the second-best odds to win the Central. That could owe as much to the expectation that Kansas City won't be able to keep up their hot start as to the Twins eventually figuring things out. Minnesota has plenty of problems to solve, but not everything has been negative so far. Byron Buxton looks like an early MVP contender and Nelson Cruz remains ageless. The Twins are struggling, and they need to figure things out before the other contenders are out of reach. Result: Contender Detroit Tigers Detroit was never supposed to be in the running, and they are living up to those expectations. AJ Hinch, the former Astros manager, is at the helm and he is charged with turning around a rebuilding team. The Tigers haven’t had a winning percentage over .500 since 2016 and that trend doesn’t look to end this year. Result: Pretender Who do you think are the contenders and pretenders in the AL Central? Leave a COMMENT and join the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. 1. How much can A.J. Hinch help the Tigers? Ron Gardenhire is no longer at the helm in the Motor City with former Astros manager A.J. Hinch taking over a young roster. Hinch was suspended for all of 2020 as part of the fallout related to the Astros cheating scandal. The Tigers are ready to give him a second chance, especially with an organization close to making the turn back to being relevant. Detroit’s farm system that includes some of the game’s top prospects and Hinch will be there to pull all the strings. Hinch will bring a new focus to the Tigers and he might help to change the organization’s direction. He was at the helm of the Astros as they became a juggernaut in the American League. In five seasons, he never had a losing record and the club won over 100 games in three different seasons. Hinch’s data driven approach might help turn around a Tigers team that has averaged over 100 losses in each of the last three full seasons. 2. Will the White Sox suffer a sophomore slump? Chicago got a lot of national love this winter with some of their offseason moves and a young core that fought the Twins for the AL Central last year. However, young rosters are tough to predict because there can be volatility with players as they adjust to playing at baseball’s highest level. Baseball Prospectus uses PECOTA to predict every team’s final record and they have the White Sox finishing eight wins behind Minnesota and two games behind Cleveland. Luis Robert was sensational in the outfield, but there were some slumps at the plate. How will he adjust to a full season of work? Yoan Moncada is a former top prospect and he is still trying to put it all together at the big-league level. More veteran players like Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal should help to stabilize the offense. Lance Lynn joins Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel at the top of the Sox rotation. Even if they slump, it’s looking like the White Sox will challenge the Twins for the Central’s top spot. 3. How far will Cleveland fall? It’s amazing to consider the pitchers that Cleveland has dealt away over the last two seasons. Gone are names like Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevenger, and Carlos Carrasco. It helps to have the reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and other young arms set to take on more important roles on the pitching staff. PECOTA has Cleveland finishing second in the AL Central, so maybe the team won’t fall too far. Cleveland also dealt away one of baseball’s superstars, Francisco Lindor, to the Mets. As a team that already had offensive issues, trading away a player of Lindor’s caliber certainly will have long-term ramifications. Jose Ramirez will be asked to carry more of the offensive load and new additions like Eddie Rosario and Ahmed Rosario will be looked to fill some of Lindor’s void. 4. How good can Kansas City really be? Kansas City had a sneaky good off-season by adding players like Andrew Benintendi, Carlos Santana, Michael Taylor, and Mike Minor. Players like Jorge Soler and Whit Merrifield each bring their own unique skillset that can help bolster Kansas City’s line-up. Even with these players, PECOTA pegs the Royals for a 71-90 finish, which is closer to the Tigers than to the White Sox. Also, they have less than a 1.0% chance of winning the division. One of Kansas City’s strengths might be their bullpen with players like Greg Holland, Jesse Hahn, Kyle Zimmer, Scott Barlow, and Josh Staumont. Former Twin Ervin Santana has a shot to get some innings in their rotation, but he certainly isn’t a different maker at this point in his career. Their farm system has some top tier talent, but they are still rebuilding after dealing away prospects to make back-to-back World Series runs. 5. Who will win the AL Central? Minnesota is the back-to-back AL Central champions, but other teams are trying to impede on their run for a three-peat. Kansas City and Detroit don’t seem to have the firepower necessary to sustain winning over a full season. This leaves Minnesota, Chicago, and Cleveland vying for the top spot. Some betting lines have the White Sox as favorites, while others have Minnesota and Chicago in a near dead heat. The division still belongs to the Twins especially if the White Sox suffer any kind of slump in 2021. Cleveland’s pitching might be strong enough to keep them in the conversation, but one or two key injuries and they won’t have the depth to stay in the race. How would you answer these questions? Leave a COMMENT and join the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. While it did seem like we would struggle to have baseball in 2020 for a period of time, Sunday marked the culmination of the regular season. Major League Baseball overcame outbreaks and adverse conditions to reach its destined conclusion. Now, as a member of the IBWAA, I needed to look back and hand out some votes. Just like the BBWAA, the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America votes on all major award categories on a yearly basis. The results will be tabulated and revealed at a later date, but here is what my ballot looked like. American League MVP: Jose Ramirez (runners up: Jose Abreu, Mike Trout, Brandon Lowe, Nelson Cruz) Ramirez posted 3.4 fWAR in 2020 to lead all players in the game. Cleveland made a strong comeback into the AL Central Division race at the end of the season, and it was on the bat of Ramirez that the White Sox met their match. Cleveland’s lineup struggled to produce for much of the season, but it was Ramirez that provided the spark and will be their leader come Postseason play. National League MVP: Freddie Freeman (runners up: Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Mookie Betts, Trea Turner) What a story in the National League. The Atlanta Braves were expected to be good, but Freeman was dealt a tough hand when contracting COVID-19 and dealing with substantial symptoms. He mentioned being extremely fearful in the midst of his illness and got a late start to Summer Camp. He then posted a 3.3 fWAR on the season and trailed only Cleveland’s Ramirez in that category across the entire landscape of the game. American League Cy Young: Shane Bieber (runners up: Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu) Little debate needed to take place here. While there were other strong pitching performances this season, it was Bieber that was the cream of the crop. Not Justin posted double-digit strikeout performances in eight of his 12 starts this season, and he gave up more than two runs in an outing just three times. It was mastery each time he stepped on the mound. National League Cy Young: Trevor Bauer (runners up: Yu Darvish, Jacob deGrom) Cincinnati looked to be a darling team this year, and if they make noise in the Postseason it’ll be in large part due to their pitching staff. Trevor Bauer takes down the ERA title and racked up a career best 12.3 K/9. He led the league in ERA+, WHIP, and H/9. In his final year with the Reds, there’s little denying a nice payday is coming. American League Rookie of the Year: Kyle Lewis (runners up: James Karinchak, Luis Robert) Chicago’s rising star was expected to run away with this, but it was the Seattle Mariners rookie that jumped out to a quick lead and hid. Kyle Lewis has plenty of swing and miss in his profile, but he played a great centerfield while shower tremendous power with his bat as well. Adjustments will be necessary down the line, but there’s little denying he was the cream of the crop in 2020. National League Rookie of the Year: Devin Williams (runners up: Ke’Bryan Hayes, Alec Bohm) Taken in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, Williams took his time getting to the big leagues. In 27.0 IP this year he racked up a ridiculous 17.7 K/9 and allowed just a single earned run on eight total hits. Dominance is what the Brewers got out of their stud reliever, and it’s that effort that took him from unknown to award winner. American League Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash (runners up: Bob Melvin, Rocco Baldelli) With the Yankees expected to run away in the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays capitalizing on opportunity was impressive. Reaching 40 wins and posting the best record in the American League, Tampa consistently beat not only New York, but Toronto and the rest of the division as well. Cash got great seasons from more than a handful of players and the Rays have him to thank for their position as the one seed. National League Manager of the Year: Don Mattingly (runners up: Dave Roberts, David Ross) This season was always going to be one of unprecedented proportions, but when you need to replace over half a team due to a virus outbreak, you’ve got another thing coming. Don Mattingly not only overcame that massive hurdle, but he guided an afterthought Marlins team back to the Postseason. Miami could pose a threat in a three-game series, and their skipper is to thank for positioning them there. American League Reliever of the Year: Liam Hendriks (runners up: Brad Hand, James Karinchak) Operating as the closer for one of the best teams in baseball, Hendriks got plenty of opportunity to perform in key situations. He racked up 14 saves while posting a 13.1 K/9. He also owned a 1.78 ERA and had an even better 1.14 FIP. All of the strikeouts, none of the free passes, the Aussie continues to be one of the best in baseball. National League Reliever of the Year: Devin Williams (runners up: Edwin Diaz, Raisel Iglesias) It was nice to see the Mets Edwin Diaz rebound from 2019 and be in the running here, but the Brewers rookie was among the most dominant pitchers the sport has ever seen with his work in 2020. He didn’t pitch the 9th with Milwaukee having the services of Josh Hader, but Williams was often the guy in key spots. His efficiency only fueled his dominance and taking home another award here is only fitting. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  5. Cleveland Indians (Twins up 4-3 in season series) What We Know The Indians haven’t had an off-day since last Thursday, so they won’t be exactly rested heading into a three-game series this weekend. Unfortunately for the Twins, Shane Bieber is lined up to pitch Game 1 at Target Field. He’s faced the Twins twice this season and picked up the win in both contests while striking out 10 batters or more. Minnesota hitters have gone 7-for-49 (.143 BA) against him with one extra-base hit. He’s the front runner for the AL Cy Young and he’s the type of pitcher that could wreak havoc in a playoff series. What’s Left to Find Out Cleveland’s offense has been anemic for a majority of the season, so will they find enough offense to win the division? Only five teams have a lower OPS than the Indians and their wRC+ is also near the bottom of all of baseball. Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and Franmil Reyes have carried the offensive load, but who’s to say if they will be able to carry the team all the way to October glory. Cleveland’s pitching is good enough to keep them in any game and they will have to take a wait and see approach with the team’s offense. Chicago White Sox (Twins up 4-2 in season series) What We Know Chicago was a wild card coming into the season, because few knew how their young players were going to gel at the big-league level. It turns out their offense is legitimate as they have the American League’s highest wRC+ and highest OPS. They also have barreled up the ball over 10% of the time and only the Padres have done it more often. Eloy Jimenez, Jose Abreu and Luis Robert all have Hard Hit %’s north of 40%. For Twins fans, their offense is reminiscent of what was expected from Minnesota this season, even though that hasn’t come to fruition. What’s Left to Find Out It has become clear throughout the Twins six games with Chicago that the White Sox defense certainly struggles. Could these defensive woes be an Achilles heel for the club? Minnesota currently has the highest Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF) in baseball and the fourth highest Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). In comparison, Chicago’s defense doesn’t rank that low. They rank one spot better than the Twins in DRS, the highest total in the AL, and they are third in baseball in DEF. Chicago’s defensive blunders come through in other statistics such as having 29 errors, which is the fourth highest in baseball. All three top teams in the AL Central will make the postseason, so some of the drama is removed from these late-season games. However, there are bragging rights that come with being the team that wins the division and having homefield advantage in the first round would certainly be helpful. The Twins don’t need to win the division, but the club is in control of its own destiny over the next seven games. How do you feel about the up-coming seven games? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. Brief Overview: You know about Cleveland right? The team that looked to be dead in the water in May has risen from the ashes and has been one of the hottest teams in all of baseball since June. The offense has found its form and the starting pitching has performed well in the absence of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carraso, and Danny Salazar’s velocity. The result has been an almost unbelievable tear that has placed them just two games behind the Twins for 1st in the division. What They Do Well: Hit, unfortunately. Since the beginning of June, their team wRC+ is 108 which is seventh in MLB and just five ticks behind the Twins’ mark of 113 over the same time period. The difference is very similar to Twins Robbie Grossman (112) and Twins Jason Kubel (107) and in related news, Robbie Grossman’s Twins wRC+ is much higher than I thought it was, huh. Anyway, this is quite the development for Cleveland as up until June 1st, their team wRC+ was 78, good for the fifth lowest in MLB and tied for Brendan Harris’ Twins wRC+ of the same number. Despite being due for regression for about two months now, their bullpen is still the best in baseball by ERA as their 3.29 mark is about as far away from the second place team as the second place team is from the 10th place team (.43 away from second, the second-place team is .42 away from 10th). I say they are due for regression as their team xFIP is only 13th in baseball (remember that xFIP adjusts for home run rate) and their team left on base % (LOB %) is the highest in MLB, suggesting that have either found the secret to holding runners on base (unlikely) or are due to allow some of those base-runners to cross the plate (pretty please). What They Do Not Do Well: I really wish this section was a bit longer, but the truth is that there isn’t a whole lot they do poorly now that their offense has gotten its crap together. The current front of their starting staff is hard to match as Shane Bieber has developed into a true ace as he has already accrued 4.2 fWAR and Mike Clevinger has done very well so far despite some injuries as his fWAR sits at 1.7 already despite having only 55 2/3 innings pitched. The names currently behind them get a little suspicious however as they have Adam Plutko (5.85 FIP), Zach Plesac (4.95 FIP), and Aaron Civale (just 12 major league innings) making up the rest of the rotation as their other arms are on the mend. Those guys will be prime candidates to attack this series and Plutko and Civale are both set to face the Twins. Also going off the back-end of things, which is an awfully strange segue, the end of their lineup isn’t exactly the most inspiring. Currently, Fangraphs projects their typical 7-8-9 hitters to be Jason Kipnis, Roberto Pérez, and Tyler Naquin. Kipnis is holding a wRC+ of 87 on the year but has hit to the tune of a 118 mark since the All-Star break. Pérez is holding a wRC+ of 101 on the year but has hit to an ice-cold mark of 35 since the break. Naquin is at a perfectly even 100 wRC+ mark but has hit to a mark of 146 since the break thanks to a massive BABIP of .444. Basically, the questions here will be whether Kipnis finally found his stroke again, whether Pérez actually made tangible changes or was just getting lucky, and when will the BABIP gods no longer find favor with Naquin. The answers to each question will make or break the lineup depth for the Indians. Individuals Of Note: The Indians made a shocking trade before the deadline when they dealt Trevor Bauer to the Reds in a three-team trade that netted them Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes among other players. Despite pimping Bauer out all off-season, I really didn’t think they would trade him but they did so from a position of strength in order to improve some positions of weakness. Puig and Reyes are the big, immediate impacts as the Indians lacked strength in their OF offense and both fill those roles nicely. Puig was actually struggling in Cincinnati before the trade and was probably better at getting into fights than hitting as his wRC+ on the year stands at a below average 96 mark. This is partly because Great American Ballpark is hilariously unbalanced towards hitters and wRC+ adjusts for park but Puig hit at a 123 mark in 2018 so him improving would not be entirely surprising. Franmil Reyes is a bit more interesting in my eyes as he has hit at a 117 wRC+ mark over 191 career games so far and at 6’ 5” and 275 pounds, he is built to play defensive tackle and hit absolute tanks. His numbers in 2019 have dropped a touch despite an ISO jump thanks to some BABIP regression dropping his batting average and on base percentage, but at just 24-years-old, he could still figure some things out before reaching his full potential. Hey, remember that José Ramírez fella who inexplicably stopped hitting in the second half of 2018 and well into the first half of 2019? Yeah, well, it seems like he found it again as his wRC+ since the break is at 148, two ticks higher than both his 2017 and 2018 totals. The big drop for Ramírez this year has been because of a sudden lack of effectiveness against fastballs (28.9 and 38.3 pVAL against heaters in 2017 and 2018 respectively, -4.5 in 2019). If you don’t know what that is, it basically means that he went from murdering fastballs to being unable to hit them almost entirely. If he truly is back, then that could be a massive upgrade to the Indians and it would be very frightening for the Twins. Recent History: The Twins have played three series against the Indians and are 5-4 against them so far. This series will be the first one played at Target Field since the first series of the year in which the Twins took two of three. Recent Trajectories: The Twins are 10-6 over their last five series while the Indians are 11-5 over their last five series. Pitching Match-ups: Thursday: Gibson vs Clevinger Friday: Smeltzer vs Bieber Saturday: Odorizzi vs Plutko Sunday: Berríos vs Civale Ending Thoughts: The Twins get a chance to put an end to the Indians running right through each and every team they go up against by pulling a Thanos and doing the job themselves. A disheartening showing from the pitching staff in the previous Braves series throws some cold water on the hype that was gained after beating up some poor teams, so the Twins will have to start their own momentum here if they intend on doing something. I don’t need to tell you how important this series is as we all are aware that the end result could be as high as a six-game lead for the Twins or as low as a two-game lead for the Indians. Now, I have to gloat because I am a perfect 7-for-7 in my series predictions, leading me to believe that these are not predictions as much as they are me speaking the outcome into existence. The great news? I am calling that the Twins take three of four in the series, an outcome that everyone will love.
  7. Major League Baseball and the Baseball Writers Association of America released the top three finalists for their major awards earlier this week. For fans, it can be fun to look at the credentials of the top candidates. What should be considered when naming the league’s top player? Should it be the player with the highest WAR? How important is defense in the overall equation? Does the player have to be playing on a contending team? Here’s a look at the finalists and how my ballot would look for the AL and NL MVP.The American League Finalists for MVP Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox Betts was a key cog in Boston’s dominant regular season run in the American League. He led the American League in batting average with an outstanding .346 mark. He wasn’t just about the average though as he led the big leagues in slugging percentage (.640) and runs scored (129). He was a record-setter this year as well. He became the first batting champion to have 30 or more steals and home runs. Betts is also one of the best defenders in the league and this helped him to have the top WAR total according to both versions of WAR (FanGraphs and Baseball Reference) Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians Ramirez joined an elite club during the 2018 campaign. He became just the fifth third baseman to join the 30-30 club. He also compiled a lot of other statistics the voters like to see, with 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs. Only 25 players have been members of the 30-30 club while scoring over 100 runs and driving in over 100 runs. Ramirez and the Indians beat up on the AL Central and he played a large role in the club winning their third straight division title. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels Trout has been the game’s best player for most of the last decade. That being said, he has only been awarded two AL MVP awards during that time (2014, 2016). The Angels have struggled during his career and this has likely cost him the opportunity to win other MVP awards. Even with the Angels posting an under .500 record, Trout notched career highs in OPS (1.088) and on-base percentage (.460). It seems like the award will be handed to Betts and Trout will be the runner-up for the fourth time in the last seven seasons. Cody’s American League MVP Ballot 10. Whit Merrifield, Royals 9. Gerrit Cole, Astros 8. J.D. Martinez, Red Sox 7. Justin Verlander, Astros 6. Matt Chapman, Athletics 5. Francisco Lindor, Indians 4. Alex Bregman, Astros 3. Jose Ramirez, Indians 2. Mike Trout, Angels 1. Mookie Betts, Red Sox The National League Finalist for MVP Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies Arenado has been a rock for the Rockies over the course of his career and he is headed for his highest MVP finish. He’s arguably the best defensive third baseman in the National League. However, defense isn’t the only story with Arenado. He led the league in home runs and he had an OPS over .900. Colorado was a surprise team this season and Arenado is the face of the franchise. It seems likely that he will win an MVP at some point in his career, but this doesn’t seem like the year. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs Baez logged over 20 games at three different defensive positions this season as Joe Maddon took advantage of his versatility. He seemed to fill up almost every part of the stat sheet. His 111 RBIs lead the National League and he finished second in extra-base hits. Overall, he finished with 40 doubles, over 30 home runs, and over 20 steals. He was a fantasy owner’s dream with all of those stats. Chicago ultimate fell short of their goal, but Baez helped them to stay neck and neck with Milwaukee. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers Much like Betts in the American League, Yelich led the National League in both versions of WAR. Also, he won the batting title (.326) and finished first in OPS (1.000) and total bases (343). During the middle of the season, there was some talk about Jacob deGrom being the front-runner for this award. Yelich put most of those whispers to rest as he dominated in September and pushed the Brewers to the NL Central title. During that final month, he posted a 1.312 OPS, so he can probably start preparing his acceptance speech. Cody’s National League MVP Ballot 10. Trevor Story, Rockies 9. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks 8. Lorenzo Cain, Brewers 7. Max Scherzer, Nationals 6. Freddie Freeman, Braves 5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals 4. Jacob deGrom, Mets 3. Javier Baez, Cubs 2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies 1. Christian Yelich, Brewers Who would be on your ballot? Should deGrom have been a finalist for the MVP? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  8. The American League Finalists for MVP Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox Betts was a key cog in Boston’s dominant regular season run in the American League. He led the American League in batting average with an outstanding .346 mark. He wasn’t just about the average though as he led the big leagues in slugging percentage (.640) and runs scored (129). He was a record-setter this year as well. He became the first batting champion to have 30 or more steals and home runs. Betts is also one of the best defenders in the league and this helped him to have the top WAR total according to both versions of WAR (FanGraphs and Baseball Reference) Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians Ramirez joined an elite club during the 2018 campaign. He became just the fifth third baseman to join the 30-30 club. He also compiled a lot of other statistics the voters like to see, with 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs. Only 25 players have been members of the 30-30 club while scoring over 100 runs and driving in over 100 runs. Ramirez and the Indians beat up on the AL Central and he played a large role in the club winning their third straight division title. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels Trout has been the game’s best player for most of the last decade. That being said, he has only been awarded two AL MVP awards during that time (2014, 2016). The Angels have struggled during his career and this has likely cost him the opportunity to win other MVP awards. Even with the Angels posting an under .500 record, Trout notched career highs in OPS (1.088) and on-base percentage (.460). It seems like the award will be handed to Betts and Trout will be the runner-up for the fourth time in the last seven seasons. Cody’s American League MVP Ballot 10. Whit Merrifield, Royals 9. Gerrit Cole, Astros 8. J.D. Martinez, Red Sox 7. Justin Verlander, Astros 6. Matt Chapman, Athletics 5. Francisco Lindor, Indians 4. Alex Bregman, Astros 3. Jose Ramirez, Indians 2. Mike Trout, Angels 1. Mookie Betts, Red Sox The National League Finalist for MVP Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies Arenado has been a rock for the Rockies over the course of his career and he is headed for his highest MVP finish. He’s arguably the best defensive third baseman in the National League. However, defense isn’t the only story with Arenado. He led the league in home runs and he had an OPS over .900. Colorado was a surprise team this season and Arenado is the face of the franchise. It seems likely that he will win an MVP at some point in his career, but this doesn’t seem like the year. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs Baez logged over 20 games at three different defensive positions this season as Joe Maddon took advantage of his versatility. He seemed to fill up almost every part of the stat sheet. His 111 RBIs lead the National League and he finished second in extra-base hits. Overall, he finished with 40 doubles, over 30 home runs, and over 20 steals. He was a fantasy owner’s dream with all of those stats. Chicago ultimate fell short of their goal, but Baez helped them to stay neck and neck with Milwaukee. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers Much like Betts in the American League, Yelich led the National League in both versions of WAR. Also, he won the batting title (.326) and finished first in OPS (1.000) and total bases (343). During the middle of the season, there was some talk about Jacob deGrom being the front-runner for this award. Yelich put most of those whispers to rest as he dominated in September and pushed the Brewers to the NL Central title. During that final month, he posted a 1.312 OPS, so he can probably start preparing his acceptance speech. Cody’s National League MVP Ballot 10. Trevor Story, Rockies 9. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks 8. Lorenzo Cain, Brewers 7. Max Scherzer, Nationals 6. Freddie Freeman, Braves 5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals 4. Jacob deGrom, Mets 3. Javier Baez, Cubs 2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies 1. Christian Yelich, Brewers Who would be on your ballot? Should deGrom have been a finalist for the MVP? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  9. Mission 1: Playoffs or Bust When the Twins traded away multiple pieces before last year’s trade deadline, Dozier was vocal about his unhappiness with the moves. One year later and the Twins are poised to be in the playoff hunt once again. With the Indians expected to lead the AL Central, Minnesota will be forced to battle multiple teams for a Wild Card spot. There have been ups and downs for Dozier over the last couple of seasons but there have been stretches where he has been able to carry the Twins offensively. If he can do that for an entire season, the rest of the American League better get out of the way. Mission 2: Gold Glove Repeat I’ve been very critical of Brian Dozier’s defense in the past. As recently as last April, I called him out for not being able to get to plays that are routine for other second basemen. In his age-30 season, Dozier made some tremendous defensive improvements. He finished the 2015 campaign as the third-worst AL second baseman according to SABR’s Defensive Index. The 2016 season was a little better as he finished in the middle of the pack. Dozier ranked second in the AL last season and finished with a positive SDI for the first time in his career. Now he needs to prove that his defense wasn’t a fluke in 2017. Mission 3: MLB’s Best Power Hitting Second Baseman Since the start of the 2013 season, Brian Dozier leads all MLB second basemen with 145 home runs. He’s also been a terror for teams out from of the leadoff spot. His 21 lead-off home runs since 2015 are the second most in baseball beyond Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon (22). Because of his placement as the leadoff hitter, he has been able to produce four straight 100-plus run seasons. There are two Jose’s who might be battling for the title of best hitting second baseman. Jose Altuve is coming off an MVP season on the way to leading Houston to the World Series. Jose Ramirez spends time at third and second and led the AL in doubles last season. Final Mission: New Contract Contract talks between Dozier and the Twins dried up last week. He and the club don’t want on-going negotiations to be a distraction during the season. That being said, Dozier is playing for what could be the only big payday of his career. Some players get overwhelmed during a contract year and can’t perform up to their previous level. Other players thrive under this pressure and put together one of the best seasons of their careers. It feels like Dozier is in the latter group and he could be on his way to a record-breaking season. Those are his missions and he certainly has chosen to accept them. Any questions? More from Twins Daily Kernels Class of 2018 “Should Be Pretty Entertaining” Twins Rotation Is Starting Strong Twins at Pirates Series Preview
  10. Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario are being lumped together today since they are both left-handed hitting outfielders. They both will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after the 2018 season. While they have different styles on the field, they have put up similar numbers. Rosario has 50 home runs in less than three years. Kepler has 36 home runs in less than two years. Rosario had his breakout season in 2017, but Kepler is one year younger. Eddie Rosario has 2.120 years of service time which left him just three days short of being a Super-2 arbitration guy this offseason. Max Kepler has 1.152 years of service time. Assuming he spends all of 2018 in the big leagues, he’s certain to be a Super-2 arbitration guy after the 2018 season. That also means that he will have four arbitration seasons. So where do we start with this discussion? Hey, I think that the ultimate comparable deal for these guys happens to be an infielder. A year ago, Jose Ramirez signed a long-term contract that will guarantee he’s in Cleveland from 2017 through 2021, and includes options for 2022 and 2023. The deal is five years and $25.5 million. In his All-Star 2017 season, he made $571,400. He’ll make $2.48 million in 2018, in what would have been his first arbitration season. That will be followed by salaries of $3.75 million and $6.25 million. The deal then will buy out his first free agent season for just $9.0 million. Cleveland will also have options for two more years, one at $11.0 million and the other at $13.0 million. Based on his 2017 season, that will prove to be a tremendous contract for Cleveland. What would he have made in arbitration coming off that year? $5 million? Maybe more? And, what would a long-term contract have cost Cleveland if they had waited until now? Probably $25-30 million just in his arbitration years, and then at least $18-20 million a year for a couple of free agent seasons. In fact, at that point, is there any true value for Cleveland not to just go year-by-year, other than keeping his rights into his free agent years? Here are some outfielders who have signed extensions in the last half-dozen years or so. Aside from Maybin, the others waited another year, until they had reached arbitration, to reach a long-term agreements. But the numbers still give some range for a potential deal for Rosario or Kepler. Here is a group of players who went year-to-year in arbitration. Nelson Cruz signed a one-year deal in his first arbitration deal. Then he signed a two-year deal after that. Finally, here is a group of outfielders who went through the arbitration process for the first time in 2017. This might give a good idea of what Rosario and Kepler could command or receive in arbitration next offseason. That’s quite a bit of information for you to consume as you consider what the Twins should offer Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario in terms of long-term security. Below is a chart with two offers that I would start with, feeling that it is equitable for both the team and the player, understanding the risk/reward for each side. Again, it is important to note the distinction between the two players in terms of arbitration, as Kepler will have a fourth arbitration season before becoming a free agent. The deal above for Eddie Rosario equates to five years and $28.5 million. The first option year has a $1 million buyout, so it could be a six year, $41 million, and with a second option (also a $1 million option) could make it work seven years and $54 million. For Kepler, the contract is worth $48 million over seven years with an option that could make it work $61 million over eight years. In both cases, the player would likely prefer the deal be for two years less so that they could be free agents at age 30, but again, that is the risk for the player in a long-term deal and obtaining ten lifetime’s worth of guaranteed money. The Twins would have to make an assumption that Rosario will continue to improve his strike zone judgment and continue to become more consistent. For a Kepler deal at this time, the Twins would need to make an assumption that he will improve his performance against southpaws and continue to add more power. So, what do you think? Should the Twins have conversations with Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, or both? What are the risk factors in your mind? What would you do as the Twins GM? That's what the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook is all about. If you haven't pre-ordered your copy yet, you can click the link below. You can even set your own price.
  11. Brian Dozier. Byron Buxton. Miguel Sano. Jose Berrios. Now that we’ve offered up suggested long-term contracts for those four players - at about a combined quarter of a billion dollars - today I’ll add two more players who could be in line for long-term extensions this offseason. While their deals won’t cost as much as the four above, they are also young players who have a chance to become really good and become spendy in a hurry. Today, I want to consider potential contract extensions for outfielders Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler.Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario are being lumped together today since they are both left-handed hitting outfielders. They both will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after the 2018 season. While they have different styles on the field, they have put up similar numbers. Rosario has 50 home runs in less than three years. Kepler has 36 home runs in less than two years. Rosario had his breakout season in 2017, but Kepler is one year younger. Eddie Rosario has 2.120 years of service time which left him just three days short of being a Super-2 arbitration guy this offseason. Max Kepler has 1.152 years of service time. Assuming he spends all of 2018 in the big leagues, he’s certain to be a Super-2 arbitration guy after the 2018 season. That also means that he will have four arbitration seasons. So where do we start with this discussion? Hey, I think that the ultimate comparable deal for these guys happens to be an infielder. A year ago, Jose Ramirez signed a long-term contract that will guarantee he’s in Cleveland from 2017 through 2021, and includes options for 2022 and 2023. The deal is five years and $25.5 million. In his All-Star 2017 season, he made $571,400. He’ll make $2.48 million in 2018, in what would have been his first arbitration season. That will be followed by salaries of $3.75 million and $6.25 million. The deal then will buy out his first free agent season for just $9.0 million. Cleveland will also have options for two more years, one at $11.0 million and the other at $13.0 million. Based on his 2017 season, that will prove to be a tremendous contract for Cleveland. What would he have made in arbitration coming off that year? $5 million? Maybe more? And, what would a long-term contract have cost Cleveland if they had waited until now? Probably $25-30 million just in his arbitration years, and then at least $18-20 million a year for a couple of free agent seasons. In fact, at that point, is there any true value for Cleveland not to just go year-by-year, other than keeping his rights into his free agent years? Here are some outfielders who have signed extensions in the last half-dozen years or so. Aside from Maybin, the others waited another year, until they had reached arbitration, to reach a long-term agreements. But the numbers still give some range for a potential deal for Rosario or Kepler. Here is a group of players who went year-to-year in arbitration. Nelson Cruz signed a one-year deal in his first arbitration deal. Then he signed a two-year deal after that. Finally, here is a group of outfielders who went through the arbitration process for the first time in 2017. This might give a good idea of what Rosario and Kepler could command or receive in arbitration next offseason. That’s quite a bit of information for you to consume as you consider what the Twins should offer Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario in terms of long-term security. Below is a chart with two offers that I would start with, feeling that it is equitable for both the team and the player, understanding the risk/reward for each side. Again, it is important to note the distinction between the two players in terms of arbitration, as Kepler will have a fourth arbitration season before becoming a free agent. The deal above for Eddie Rosario equates to five years and $28.5 million. The first option year has a $1 million buyout, so it could be a six year, $41 million, and with a second option (also a $1 million option) could make it work seven years and $54 million. For Kepler, the contract is worth $48 million over seven years with an option that could make it work $61 million over eight years. In both cases, the player would likely prefer the deal be for two years less so that they could be free agents at age 30, but again, that is the risk for the player in a long-term deal and obtaining ten lifetime’s worth of guaranteed money. The Twins would have to make an assumption that Rosario will continue to improve his strike zone judgment and continue to become more consistent. For a Kepler deal at this time, the Twins would need to make an assumption that he will improve his performance against southpaws and continue to add more power. So, what do you think? Should the Twins have conversations with Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, or both? What are the risk factors in your mind? What would you do as the Twins GM? That's what the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook is all about. If you haven't pre-ordered your copy yet, you can click the link below. You can even set your own price. Click here to view the article
  12. MINNESOTA TWINS – DANNY SANTANA Coming into 2014, Danny Santana had a lot to prove. He was an easy choice to be added to the Twins 40-man roster following 2013, but his shortstop defense was more than shaky. He has great speed and range and a very strong arm, but struggled most with routine plays. Offensively, his speed helps him to hit for average and he has extra base pop. However, he seemingly has an allergy to walking. So, in early May, shortly after he was a surprise call up to the Twins (he had played just 24 games in AAA), he found himself playing, and learning, centerfield. Before long, he was the Twins new starting centerfielder. Not only did he represent himself well in the field, he put up better offensive numbers with the Twins than he had at any level of the minor leagues. Although he didn’t walk much, he showed a good ability to take quality at-bats, swinging at strikes. He even showed surprising power. In 2015, he is being moved back to shortstop, where he remains a question mark defensively. Many also wonder whether he’ll be able to put up numbers anywhere near what he did as a rookie. Can he hit for average? Will he learn to take a few more walks? Can he maintain the power he showed in 2014? I have a feeling that the projections regarding Santana will be as polarizing as any Twins player. So, here are the projections of our Twins Daily writers: Seth – .284/.317/.423 (.740) with 38 doubles and 6 HR. Nick – .260/.300/.380 (.680) with 30 doubles and 5 HR. Parker – .270/.320/.400 (.720) with 32 doubles and 10 HR. John – .273/.319/.381 (.700) with 30 doubles and 6 HR AL CENTRAL SHORTSTOP Opponent – Player – 2015 Age – 2014 Statistics Chicago – Alexei Ramirez – 33 - .273/.305/.408 (.713) with 35 doubles, 15-HR Cleveland – Jose Ramirez – 22 - .262/.300/.346 (.646) with 10 doubles, 2-HR Detroit – Jose Iglesias – 25 - .303/.349/.386 (.735) with 16 doubles, 3-HR (2013 stats, missed 2014) Kansas City – Alcides Escobar – 28 - .285/.317/.377 (.694) with 34 doubles, 3-HR AL CENTRAL SHORTSTOP RANKINGS #1 – Alcides Escobar – Kansas City #2 – Danny Santana – Minnesota #3 – Alexei Ramirez – Chicago #4 – Jose Ramirez – Cleveland #5 – Jose Iglesius - Detroit NOW IT’S YOUR TURN Give it some thought and then go to the comments section below and post two things. First, make your statistical projection for Danny Santana in 2015. Second, how would you rank the AL Central shortstop? Of course, then discuss with the rest of the Twins Daily community. Finally, check back throughout this next week as we’ll do these same things for each of the positions. PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS, PROJECTIONS AND RANKINGS Kurt Suzuki Joe Mauer Brian Dozier Trevor Plouffe
  13. Today we complete our projections, predictions and rankings for the Minnesota Twins infield by considering shortstop Danny Santana. My sense is that Santana might be the most polarizing in the series. We all know his 2014 rookie season with the Twins surpassed anything he had done in his seven minor league seasons, and he did it at a new position. What is in store for him in 2015?MINNESOTA TWINS – DANNY SANTANA Coming into 2014, Danny Santana had a lot to prove. He was an easy choice to be added to the Twins 40-man roster following 2013, but his shortstop defense was more than shaky. He has great speed and range and a very strong arm, but struggled most with routine plays. Offensively, his speed helps him to hit for average and he has extra base pop. However, he seemingly has an allergy to walking. So, in early May, shortly after he was a surprise call up to the Twins (he had played just 24 games in AAA), he found himself playing, and learning, centerfield. Before long, he was the Twins new starting centerfielder. Not only did he represent himself well in the field, he put up better offensive numbers with the Twins than he had at any level of the minor leagues. Although he didn’t walk much, he showed a good ability to take quality at-bats, swinging at strikes. He even showed surprising power. In 2015, he is being moved back to shortstop, where he remains a question mark defensively. Many also wonder whether he’ll be able to put up numbers anywhere near what he did as a rookie. Can he hit for average? Will he learn to take a few more walks? Can he maintain the power he showed in 2014? I have a feeling that the projections regarding Santana will be as polarizing as any Twins player. So, here are the projections of our Twins Daily writers: Seth – .284/.317/.423 (.740) with 38 doubles and 6 HR. Nick – .260/.300/.380 (.680) with 30 doubles and 5 HR. Parker – .270/.320/.400 (.720) with 32 doubles and 10 HR. John – .273/.319/.381 (.700) with 30 doubles and 6 HR AL CENTRAL SHORTSTOP Opponent – Player – 2015 Age – 2014 Statistics Chicago – Alexei Ramirez – 33 - .273/.305/.408 (.713) with 35 doubles, 15-HR Cleveland – Jose Ramirez – 22 - .262/.300/.346 (.646) with 10 doubles, 2-HR Detroit – Jose Iglesias – 25 - .303/.349/.386 (.735) with 16 doubles, 3-HR (2013 stats, missed 2014) Kansas City – Alcides Escobar – 28 - .285/.317/.377 (.694) with 34 doubles, 3-HR AL CENTRAL SHORTSTOP RANKINGS #1 – Alcides Escobar – Kansas City #2 – Danny Santana – Minnesota #3 – Alexei Ramirez – Chicago #4 – Jose Ramirez – Cleveland #5 – Jose Iglesius - Detroit NOW IT’S YOUR TURN Give it some thought and then go to the comments section below and post two things. First, make your statistical projection for Danny Santana in 2015. Second, how would you rank the AL Central shortstop? Of course, then discuss with the rest of the Twins Daily community. Finally, check back throughout this next week as we’ll do these same things for each of the positions. PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS, PROJECTIONS AND RANKINGS Kurt Suzuki Joe Mauer Brian Dozier Trevor Plouffe Click here to view the article
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