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  1. The Twins capitulated late to lose 6-5 to the Tigers on Tuesday. Mitch Garver continued his torrid form since returning from paternity leave while Kenta Maeda produced another solid outing in his improving 2021 season. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Maeda 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K Homeruns: Garver (11), Astudillo (5) Bottom 3 WPA: Sano -.390, Robles -.376, Polanco -.258 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) One of the Twins’ best trade chips was placed on the IL Tuesday. Taylor Rogers suffered a middle finger sprain in Monday night’s walk-off win against Detroit. Rogers was replaced in the bullpen by Beau Burrows. Rogers is apparently set for a second and possibly third opinion on his finger, which will likely significantly diminish his chances of being dealt by Friday’s deadline. The Twins lined up like this for their tilt against the Tigers. Kenta Maeda appears to have turned a corner, sporting a 3.69 ERA in his last seven starts, with 44Ks in his last 39 innings (13 swings and misses tonight). Tuesday continued this trend. Maeda was effective and efficient in 6 1/3 innings against the Tigers, allowing only four hits and striking out five in his outing. Indeed, Maeda’s turnaround has been so stark, he is reported to be generating trade interest. Either way, he looks to be back on track as a consistent piece of the Twins rotation which promises to be one of their greatest question marks heading into 2022. After Maeda induced a double play to counteract Akil Baddoo’s leadoff double in the top of the first, the Twins (unusually) took the game by the scruff of the neck in the bottom of the opening frame. Tyler Alexander gave up singles to Jorge Polanco and Brent Rooker, before walking Josh Donaldson. Mitch Garver greeted the Tigers starter with this grand slam into the bullpen. Garver has not only silenced his doubters, but he has also calmed concerns over his future with the team with his return to 2019 form. He is, arguably, the most welcome and pleasant surprise of a disastrous 2021 (along with Jorge Polanco). Detroit pulled a run back in the third inning from an Akil Baddoo solo home run, his tenth of the season. This was erased in the bottom of the fourth by Willians Astudillo’s fifth home run of the season, a laser down the left-field line. Another notable Twins offensive performance came from Brent Rooker. A night after obliterating a home run into the third deck, Rooker delivered another three hits, giving him six in his last four games. Rooker’s early returns from an everyday role in the wake of the Nelson Cruz trade have been promising. Twins fans will be anxious to see if he can continue to deliver in the remaining 60 or so games of the 2021 season. Tyler Duffey and Danny Coloumbe pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings for the Twins. Hansel Robles decided that a comfortable win wouldn’t do. Robles gave up a single, double, walk, and a grand slam to Eric Haase to tie the game at 5-5, a mirror image of last night’s bullpen capitulation. Robles left the game soon after with an injury. Two nights, two ninth-inning blown leads, two injuries to relievers likely to be traded before Friday afternoon. The Twins made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth, putting two men aboard before a Jorge Polanco pop-out sent the game to extra innings. Monday night’s hero Caleb Thielbar took the top of the tenth for Minnesota. Detroit bunted Victor Reyes to third base before Thielbar struck out Baddoo looking at a beautifully painted fastball on the outside corner of the strike zone. Jorge Alcala relieved Thielbar and induced a Jonathan Scoop groundout to shortstop to end the threat. Jake Cave, who entered the game as a defensive-replacement for Brent Rooker in the late innings, batted in the bottom of the tenth with Jorge Polanco beginning the inning at second base. A first-pitch groundout moved Polanco to third. After Cisnero intentionally walked Josh Donaldson, he nailed Mitch Garver on the right wrist, loading the bases for the Twins with Max Kepler up to bat. Garver was replaced by Ryan Jeffers. Max Kepler struck out on a fastball right down broadway, leaving the Twins hopes to Miguel Sano, Sano struck out on three pitches to send the game to the eleventh. Alcala continued in he top of the eleventh. Miguel Cabrera promptly singled home a run to give the Tigers a 6-5 lead. In the bottom of the eleventh, Miguel Sano inexplicably took off for third base on a ground ball hit straight to short, getting Willians Astudillo to second, but sacrificing an out unnecessarily. Two quick outs and the Tigers comeback was complete. The Twins continue to find was to lose eminently winnable games, an all too familiar theme in 2021. Bullpen Usage Chart THU FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Coulombe 32 0 0 18 0 10 60 Thielbar 0 0 16 0 13 16 45 Alcala 0 0 10 24 0 11 45 Robles 0 0 0 0 13 29 42 Colomé 0 11 0 10 16 0 37 Minaya 0 20 0 0 0 0 20 Duffey 0 0 0 0 11 7 18 Burrows 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Postgame Interview Next Up The Twins send J.A. Happ to the mound on Wednesday to face Wily Peralta. First pitch is at 12:10 CT. View full article
  2. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Maeda 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K Homeruns: Garver (11), Astudillo (5) Bottom 3 WPA: Sano -.390, Robles -.376, Polanco -.258 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) One of the Twins’ best trade chips was placed on the IL Tuesday. Taylor Rogers suffered a middle finger sprain in Monday night’s walk-off win against Detroit. Rogers was replaced in the bullpen by Beau Burrows. Rogers is apparently set for a second and possibly third opinion on his finger, which will likely significantly diminish his chances of being dealt by Friday’s deadline. The Twins lined up like this for their tilt against the Tigers. Kenta Maeda appears to have turned a corner, sporting a 3.69 ERA in his last seven starts, with 44Ks in his last 39 innings (13 swings and misses tonight). Tuesday continued this trend. Maeda was effective and efficient in 6 1/3 innings against the Tigers, allowing only four hits and striking out five in his outing. Indeed, Maeda’s turnaround has been so stark, he is reported to be generating trade interest. Either way, he looks to be back on track as a consistent piece of the Twins rotation which promises to be one of their greatest question marks heading into 2022. After Maeda induced a double play to counteract Akil Baddoo’s leadoff double in the top of the first, the Twins (unusually) took the game by the scruff of the neck in the bottom of the opening frame. Tyler Alexander gave up singles to Jorge Polanco and Brent Rooker, before walking Josh Donaldson. Mitch Garver greeted the Tigers starter with this grand slam into the bullpen. Garver has not only silenced his doubters, but he has also calmed concerns over his future with the team with his return to 2019 form. He is, arguably, the most welcome and pleasant surprise of a disastrous 2021 (along with Jorge Polanco). Detroit pulled a run back in the third inning from an Akil Baddoo solo home run, his tenth of the season. This was erased in the bottom of the fourth by Willians Astudillo’s fifth home run of the season, a laser down the left-field line. Another notable Twins offensive performance came from Brent Rooker. A night after obliterating a home run into the third deck, Rooker delivered another three hits, giving him six in his last four games. Rooker’s early returns from an everyday role in the wake of the Nelson Cruz trade have been promising. Twins fans will be anxious to see if he can continue to deliver in the remaining 60 or so games of the 2021 season. Tyler Duffey and Danny Coloumbe pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings for the Twins. Hansel Robles decided that a comfortable win wouldn’t do. Robles gave up a single, double, walk, and a grand slam to Eric Haase to tie the game at 5-5, a mirror image of last night’s bullpen capitulation. Robles left the game soon after with an injury. Two nights, two ninth-inning blown leads, two injuries to relievers likely to be traded before Friday afternoon. The Twins made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth, putting two men aboard before a Jorge Polanco pop-out sent the game to extra innings. Monday night’s hero Caleb Thielbar took the top of the tenth for Minnesota. Detroit bunted Victor Reyes to third base before Thielbar struck out Baddoo looking at a beautifully painted fastball on the outside corner of the strike zone. Jorge Alcala relieved Thielbar and induced a Jonathan Scoop groundout to shortstop to end the threat. Jake Cave, who entered the game as a defensive-replacement for Brent Rooker in the late innings, batted in the bottom of the tenth with Jorge Polanco beginning the inning at second base. A first-pitch groundout moved Polanco to third. After Cisnero intentionally walked Josh Donaldson, he nailed Mitch Garver on the right wrist, loading the bases for the Twins with Max Kepler up to bat. Garver was replaced by Ryan Jeffers. Max Kepler struck out on a fastball right down broadway, leaving the Twins hopes to Miguel Sano, Sano struck out on three pitches to send the game to the eleventh. Alcala continued in he top of the eleventh. Miguel Cabrera promptly singled home a run to give the Tigers a 6-5 lead. In the bottom of the eleventh, Miguel Sano inexplicably took off for third base on a ground ball hit straight to short, getting Willians Astudillo to second, but sacrificing an out unnecessarily. Two quick outs and the Tigers comeback was complete. The Twins continue to find was to lose eminently winnable games, an all too familiar theme in 2021. Bullpen Usage Chart THU FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Coulombe 32 0 0 18 0 10 60 Thielbar 0 0 16 0 13 16 45 Alcala 0 0 10 24 0 11 45 Robles 0 0 0 0 13 29 42 Colomé 0 11 0 10 16 0 37 Minaya 0 20 0 0 0 0 20 Duffey 0 0 0 0 11 7 18 Burrows 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Postgame Interview Next Up The Twins send J.A. Happ to the mound on Wednesday to face Wily Peralta. First pitch is at 12:10 CT.
  3. Kenta Maeda threw 36 fastball yesterday. For those 36 fastball he got no whiffs and they generated his lowest fastball spin rate in the last two years. In three of his last 4 starts he has no swings and misses on his fastball. Does he need a sticky ball to be effective? Can he command his fastball without a sticky ball? Below is a chart of his spin rates comparing 2020 vs. 2021. How should the Twins proceed? If he can't command his fastball do they need to put him in the bullpen where he can limits its use? They need bullpen help and it would certainly save them several million in incentives. He may be a very valuable bullpen piece at a very reasonable cost. The incentives start adding up soon. This is a lost season. Should the Twins move him to the bullpen? He certainly can't win games as a starter if his fastball continues to be so ineffective. Data from baseball savant
  4. On Tuesday night, Twins fans that stayed up late to watch a West Coast game were treated with a real clunker. Minnesota faced off against a bad Seattle team and it escalated into an embarrassing loss. J.A. Happ allowed six earned runs in four innings to an anemic Mariners offense. Happ is only one issue with a pitching staff that might be the worst in franchise history. Out of the 15 American League teams, Minnesota ranks 13th or lower in ERA, hits, R, HR, and strikeouts, but it goes even further than that. While all those numbers show how bad the Twins have been this season, there are ways to compare the current team to former seasons. ERA- and FIP- are all statistics that allow fans to compare pitchers across different eras because it adjusts for the league and the park. For each area, 100 is league average and each point above or below 100 represents a percent above or below league average. If a team has a 90 ERA- that means they were 10 percentage points better than the league average. When it comes to ERA-, there is only one Minnesota team with a worse total than the 2021 Twins. The 1995 Twins finished the year with a 56-88 record and their starting staff was composed of a 22-year-old Brad Radke, Kevin Tapani, Mike Trombley, Frankie Rodriguez, Scott Erickson, and Jose Para. As a club, they had the ranked last or second to last in the American League when it came to ERA, HR, R, W, IP, and H. Entering play on Wednesday, the 2021 Twins (119 ERA-) were only one point behind the 1995 team (120 ERA-), so they certainly can end up in the bottom spot by season’s end. FIP is used to estimate a pitcher’s run prevention independent of the defensive performance behind the player. The 2021 Twins also have the second worse FIP- in team history, but this time the 1982 squad has the worst total. That squad finished 60-102, which was last place in the AL West. Starters on the team included Bobby Castillo, Brad Havens, Albert Williams, Frank Viola, and Jack O’Connor. Like the 1995 team, they ranked at or near the bottom of the AL in ERA, HR, ER, R, and BB. What makes it even more frustrating is how good last year’s staff was in comparison to the current team. Kenta Maeda was the runner-up for the Cy Young and he wasn’t the only one to find success. All four of Minnesota’s top four starters were above league average when it comes to ERA-. Minnesota’s bullpen also had many reliable arms whereas the 2021 team’s bullpen has been a train wreck. In the not-so-distant future, it seems likely for the 2021 Twins to cut ties to some of their veteran pitching options and start seeing what the team has for younger arms. Bailey Ober and Griffin Jax have been added to the staff and other prospects will be following closely behind. Minnesota’s top two pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic, have both showcased dominant stuff in the upper levels of the minors this season and their big-league debuts made come sooner rather than later. Do you think this is the worst pitching staff in team history? 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
  5. Derek Falvey was brought over from Cleveland to help the Twins build a pitching pipeline. Those dreams have yet to come to fruition as the 2021 Twins might be the worst pitching staff in team history. On Tuesday night, Twins fans that stayed up late to watch a West Coast game were treated with a real clunker. Minnesota faced off against a bad Seattle team and it escalated into an embarrassing loss. J.A. Happ allowed six earned runs in four innings to an anemic Mariners offense. Happ is only one issue with a pitching staff that might be the worst in franchise history. Out of the 15 American League teams, Minnesota ranks 13th or lower in ERA, hits, R, HR, and strikeouts, but it goes even further than that. While all those numbers show how bad the Twins have been this season, there are ways to compare the current team to former seasons. ERA- and FIP- are all statistics that allow fans to compare pitchers across different eras because it adjusts for the league and the park. For each area, 100 is league average and each point above or below 100 represents a percent above or below league average. If a team has a 90 ERA- that means they were 10 percentage points better than the league average. When it comes to ERA-, there is only one Minnesota team with a worse total than the 2021 Twins. The 1995 Twins finished the year with a 56-88 record and their starting staff was composed of a 22-year-old Brad Radke, Kevin Tapani, Mike Trombley, Frankie Rodriguez, Scott Erickson, and Jose Para. As a club, they had the ranked last or second to last in the American League when it came to ERA, HR, R, W, IP, and H. Entering play on Wednesday, the 2021 Twins (119 ERA-) were only one point behind the 1995 team (120 ERA-), so they certainly can end up in the bottom spot by season’s end. FIP is used to estimate a pitcher’s run prevention independent of the defensive performance behind the player. The 2021 Twins also have the second worse FIP- in team history, but this time the 1982 squad has the worst total. That squad finished 60-102, which was last place in the AL West. Starters on the team included Bobby Castillo, Brad Havens, Albert Williams, Frank Viola, and Jack O’Connor. Like the 1995 team, they ranked at or near the bottom of the AL in ERA, HR, ER, R, and BB. What makes it even more frustrating is how good last year’s staff was in comparison to the current team. Kenta Maeda was the runner-up for the Cy Young and he wasn’t the only one to find success. All four of Minnesota’s top four starters were above league average when it comes to ERA-. Minnesota’s bullpen also had many reliable arms whereas the 2021 team’s bullpen has been a train wreck. In the not-so-distant future, it seems likely for the 2021 Twins to cut ties to some of their veteran pitching options and start seeing what the team has for younger arms. Bailey Ober and Griffin Jax have been added to the staff and other prospects will be following closely behind. Minnesota’s top two pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic, have both showcased dominant stuff in the upper levels of the minors this season and their big-league debuts made come sooner rather than later. Do you think this is the worst pitching staff in team history? 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 View full article
  6. It's clear that something hasn’t been right for Maeda throughout this season and a trip to the IL can give him time to get his body right. One of the biggest issues has been how much batters have found success against his fastball. During the 2020 season, batters hit .086 with a .114 slugging percentage when facing Maeda's fastball. This year batters have a .357 batting average with a .786 slugging percentage, his highest total on any pitch. From his pitch location chart, it’s easy to see why Maeda is being hit harder on his fastball. He is leaving it over the heart of the plate where last year he was able to use the pitcher lower in the zone. This has resulted in him ranking in the 19th percentile or lower in hard hit %, max exit velocity, xBA, and xSLG. Maeda has such a good mix of pitches, but he needs to find more success with his fastball. That success is largely tied to his breaking pitches, especially since he only throws his fastball less than 22% of the time. After joining the Twins last year, his slider usage increased by over 7% and now this year he has increased that to a 10% jump over his final season in Los Angeles. Batters have been squaring up his slider more often as well as they have posted a .297 BA and a .527 SLG in 74 at-bats. His slider is likely been getting hit harder because of the change in movement he has gotten this year. Last year, his slider had 33.9 inches of vertical drop and 4.7 inches of horizontal movement. So far in 2021, he is getting similar horizontal movement, but his vertical drop has increased to 35.7 inches. This means the pitch is ending up out of the zone more often and it is easier for batters to lay off. Maeda can improve in multiple areas, but much of it is tied back to his pitch control and location. Last year, he seemed to have pinpoint control of all his pitches, and this made him nearly unhittable. He led all of baseball with a 0.75 WHIP during the 2020 campaign and that number has jumped to 1.48 in 2021. Improvements to these areas will allow him to pitch longer into games and he will allow fewer hits. There might not be any way for Maeda to get back to the level he pitched at in 2020. Minnesota needs Maeda to be more of a force in the rotation if they plan on getting back to a .500 record. He hasn’t been the team’s lone problem, but he needs to be part of the team’s solution. Do you think Maeda can solve his control problems? 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
  7. On the heels of a tremendous 2020 season, Kenta Maeda was expected to see some regression this year. Before his recent IL trip, he had struggled mightily to repeat last year’s performance and it all might come down to control. It's clear that something hasn’t been right for Maeda throughout this season and a trip to the IL can give him time to get his body right. One of the biggest issues has been how much batters have found success against his fastball. During the 2020 season, batters hit .086 with a .114 slugging percentage when facing Maeda's fastball. This year batters have a .357 batting average with a .786 slugging percentage, his highest total on any pitch. From his pitch location chart, it’s easy to see why Maeda is being hit harder on his fastball. He is leaving it over the heart of the plate where last year he was able to use the pitcher lower in the zone. This has resulted in him ranking in the 19th percentile or lower in hard hit %, max exit velocity, xBA, and xSLG. Maeda has such a good mix of pitches, but he needs to find more success with his fastball. That success is largely tied to his breaking pitches, especially since he only throws his fastball less than 22% of the time. After joining the Twins last year, his slider usage increased by over 7% and now this year he has increased that to a 10% jump over his final season in Los Angeles. Batters have been squaring up his slider more often as well as they have posted a .297 BA and a .527 SLG in 74 at-bats. His slider is likely been getting hit harder because of the change in movement he has gotten this year. Last year, his slider had 33.9 inches of vertical drop and 4.7 inches of horizontal movement. So far in 2021, he is getting similar horizontal movement, but his vertical drop has increased to 35.7 inches. This means the pitch is ending up out of the zone more often and it is easier for batters to lay off. Maeda can improve in multiple areas, but much of it is tied back to his pitch control and location. Last year, he seemed to have pinpoint control of all his pitches, and this made him nearly unhittable. He led all of baseball with a 0.75 WHIP during the 2020 campaign and that number has jumped to 1.48 in 2021. Improvements to these areas will allow him to pitch longer into games and he will allow fewer hits. There might not be any way for Maeda to get back to the level he pitched at in 2020. Minnesota needs Maeda to be more of a force in the rotation if they plan on getting back to a .500 record. He hasn’t been the team’s lone problem, but he needs to be part of the team’s solution. Do you think Maeda can solve his control problems? 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 View full article
  8. Randy Dobnak Using Randy Dobnak as a reliever didn’t exactly go as planned at season’s start and he was sent to St. Paul to get stretched out as soon as the Triple-A season began. In the last couple weeks, Michael Pineda and Kenta Maeda have both ended up on the injured list so Dobnak’s spot in the rotation looks to be safe. In his first start, he pitched six shutout innings with a five to two strikeout to walk ratio. What might be the most encouraging sign is his 12 groundball outs including inducing a double play. When Dobnak is at his best, he is working quickly and using his sinker to get batters to hit the ball on the ground. Minnesota’s improved defense can certainly help Dobnak especially since he is using his sinker almost 50% of the time, which is a 6% jump from 2020. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker both have ERAs north of 5.40, so Dobnak has the opportunity to take a rotation spot and run with it. Rob Refsnyder Entering the 2020 season, Refsnyder was an afterthought that bounced around through four different organizations. He was a career .217/.205/.297 (.602) hitter with nearly twice as many strikeouts as walks. The Twins signed him to a minor league deal this winter, but injuries to Byron Buxton and Jake Cave made it necessary for Refsnyder to be added to the roster and he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity. Entering play on Monday, Refsnyder is hitting .375/.429/.542 (.970) in nine games with the Twins. Kyle Garlick has been dealing with a groin injury that may continue to hamper him and this means even more time for Refsnyder. He’s 30-years old and doesn’t exactly fit into the team’s long-term plans, but there’s hope the team can ride his hot streaks as long as possible. Maybe he can turn into the 2004 version of Lew Ford? Luke Farrell Minnesota’s bullpen has struggled through most of the season and Farrell shouldn’t be seen as a savior, but he can certainly add depth. He is being used exclusively as a reliever for the first time in his career and there have been some positive signs. With St. Paul, he pitched 4 2/3 innings and allowed one run on two hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. He needs to prove he can translate those strikeout numbers to the big-league level. Guess what Wes Johnson has done with Ferrell? If you said increase his slider usage, you are correct. His slider usage has been increasing each year, but he took a big jump from 41.2% in 2020 to nearly 60% in 2021. His curveball has hardly been used at all as he almost exclusively uses his fastball and slider. His walk rate has been high throughout his big-league career so that will be something to keep an eye on moving forward. Do you think these three players can help the Twins through their recent rash of injuries? 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
  9. Injuries have hit the Twins hard over the last week and now the club is entering a soft part of their schedule. All teams deal with injuries, but these three players showcase the Twins depth and will be key for the team’s success. Randy Dobnak Using Randy Dobnak as a reliever didn’t exactly go as planned at season’s start and he was sent to St. Paul to get stretched out as soon as the Triple-A season began. In the last couple weeks, Michael Pineda and Kenta Maeda have both ended up on the injured list so Dobnak’s spot in the rotation looks to be safe. In his first start, he pitched six shutout innings with a five to two strikeout to walk ratio. What might be the most encouraging sign is his 12 groundball outs including inducing a double play. When Dobnak is at his best, he is working quickly and using his sinker to get batters to hit the ball on the ground. Minnesota’s improved defense can certainly help Dobnak especially since he is using his sinker almost 50% of the time, which is a 6% jump from 2020. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker both have ERAs north of 5.40, so Dobnak has the opportunity to take a rotation spot and run with it. Rob Refsnyder Entering the 2020 season, Refsnyder was an afterthought that bounced around through four different organizations. He was a career .217/.205/.297 (.602) hitter with nearly twice as many strikeouts as walks. The Twins signed him to a minor league deal this winter, but injuries to Byron Buxton and Jake Cave made it necessary for Refsnyder to be added to the roster and he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity. Entering play on Monday, Refsnyder is hitting .375/.429/.542 (.970) in nine games with the Twins. Kyle Garlick has been dealing with a groin injury that may continue to hamper him and this means even more time for Refsnyder. He’s 30-years old and doesn’t exactly fit into the team’s long-term plans, but there’s hope the team can ride his hot streaks as long as possible. Maybe he can turn into the 2004 version of Lew Ford? Luke Farrell Minnesota’s bullpen has struggled through most of the season and Farrell shouldn’t be seen as a savior, but he can certainly add depth. He is being used exclusively as a reliever for the first time in his career and there have been some positive signs. With St. Paul, he pitched 4 2/3 innings and allowed one run on two hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. He needs to prove he can translate those strikeout numbers to the big-league level. Guess what Wes Johnson has done with Ferrell? If you said increase his slider usage, you are correct. His slider usage has been increasing each year, but he took a big jump from 41.2% in 2020 to nearly 60% in 2021. His curveball has hardly been used at all as he almost exclusively uses his fastball and slider. His walk rate has been high throughout his big-league career so that will be something to keep an eye on moving forward. Do you think these three players can help the Twins through their recent rash of injuries? 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 View full article
  10. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/17 through Sun, 5/23 *** Record Last Week: 4-4 (Overall: 17-29) Run Differential Last Week: -4 (Overall: -24) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (9.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 39 | CWS 16, MIN 4: Sox Decimate Twins in Dispiriting Blowout Game 40 | MIN 5, CWS 4: Sanó's 3 HR Spark Rare Comeback Win Game 41 | CWS 2, MIN 1: Twins Bats Come Up Empty Against Giolito Game 42 | LAA 7, MIN 1: Halos Bury Twins to Kick Off Makeup Doubleheader Game 43 | MIN 6, LAA 3: Another Big Blast from Sanó Lifts Twins in Nightcap Game 44 | MIN 10, 0: Cleveland Rocked as Dobnak Cruises Game 45 | CLE 5, MIN 3: Twins Fall in 10th Inning Yet Again Game 46 | MIN 8, CLE 5: Hex in Extras Snapped by Garlick's Heroics NEWS & NOTES The Twins played eight games last week. They won four and lost four. They snapped their winless records in both double-headers and extra innings. They were outscored by four runs over the course of a week that included a 10-0 victory, large because it also included a 16-4 loss. There is much to cover. As always, we begin with a quick rundown of roster moves and injury updates over the past week. Heading out: Ben Rortvedt, who went 4-for-25 (.160) with 10 strikeouts and zero extra-base hits in his first turn of the majors, was optioned to Triple-A. Lewis Thorpe came and went, again, giving up four runs (just one earned) in an unimpressive spot start on Thursday before being sent back to St. Paul. Bailey Ober struggled in a spot start of his own on Tuesday (4 IP, 4 ER) and was returned to the Saints shortly thereafter. Derek Law was outrighted from the 40-man roster after posting an 8.53 ERA through 6 ⅓ innings for the Twins. He passed through waivers and made it back to St. Paul, where he coughed up a couple runs on Saturday night Michael Pineda went on the Injured List due to a minor surgical procedure. He's due to return in the coming week. Reliever Shaun Anderson also was placed on IL, with a left quad strain. Ahead of Sunday's game, the Twins placed Kenta Maeda on the shelf with a groin/adductor injury that has been bothering him for some time. Coming in: Alex Kirilloff is back! The outfielder was activated for the weekend series in Cleveland after a brief rehab stint at CHS Field. And while he's apparently playing through a wrist issue that will later require surgery, he shows no real signs of being limited. Randy Dobnak joined the rotation, starting in place of a sidelined Pineda on Friday. His outstanding return is detailed in the Highlights section below. Cody Stashak was recalled and made two scoreless appearances. Luke Farrell also joined the bullpen, hurling two shutout frames on Friday. Taking Maeda's roster spot on Sunday was Nick Gordon, who may have a shot at some decently regular playing time during this stint with both Luis Arraez (shoulder) and Jorge Polanco (ankle) banged up. HIGHLIGHTS This team shows signs of getting on track. Getting Kirilloff back in the lineup is a real difference-maker and it was felt on Friday night, when he batted cleanup in his return and the Twins scored 10 runs, as well as the next day when he came through with a clutch game-tying hit. Having both him and Trevor Larnach in the lineup is fun and exciting. Even if Larnach hasn't quite turned a corner production-wise like Kirilloff, he looks similarly comfortable and natural at the major-league level. You get the sense both of these guys are here to stay. Other hitters like Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, Kyle Garlick, and Rob Refsnyder and also had good weeks and big moments. But the star of the show, without question, was Miguel Sanó. The dam finally broke, and six weeks worth of pent-up offensive production burst forth within a ridiculous eight-game span. In 33 plate appearances dating back to last Monday, Sanó slashed .300/.364/.900 with five home runs, three doubles and 10 RBIs. His slugging percentage, which was all the way down to .209 as little as 10 days ago, is now up to .442 – well above the league average. His theatrics included a three-homer game, two four-RBI games, and a blast off Shane Bieber. Not only is he delivering big hits, he's delivering them in pivotal situations. The Twins have won five of their past 15 games and you can make a strong case that three of those victories were almost entirely because of Sanó: On May 15th, they beat Oakland 5-4 after his three-run blast in the eighth turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. On May 18th, he homered three times and drove in four in a 5-4 win over Chicago. In the second half of May 20th's doubleheader, Sanó's grand slam proved to be the difference in a 6-3 win. It bears noting that in 2019, Sanó slumped in June and saw his batting average sink to .195 before he flipped the switch and played at an MVP level the rest of the way, posting a .994 OPS with 25 homers and 64 RBIs in 74 games. So, let's see where he goes from here. On the pitching side, it was awesome to see Dobnak return to the rotation and look much more like the version that flashed back in the spring. The righty worked six scoreless innings in Cleveland on Friday, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out five. He was inducing grounders and weak contact, executing his pitches, and generally looking to be in control. With Maeda now on the shelf, back-end starters Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ looking quite shaky, and Thorpe failing to step up, the Twins vitally needed Dobnak to find his footing. Friday's start was an excellent first step. LOWLIGHTS The Twins may be showing some signs of life, but still played .500 ball last week at a time where they desperately need to be making up ground. Even with a few things turning around, it feels like two steps forward are constantly being matched by two steps back, and some of their issues are so structurally fundamental they make it extremely hard to believe a sustained run of winning baseball is possible. Saturday's game was a perfect example of how this team just can't shake its woes. First, you've got Maeda's continued inability to make it click. The Twins have lost six of his last seven starts, and he's frequently been a prime culprit. Saturday's outing against Cleveland was the seventh straight in which he failed to complete six innings; he has one quality start in nine tries this year after going 8-for-12 in 2020. When your fourth or fifth starter aren't getting it done, you can adapt and adjust. Guys like Dobnak step in, and keep the rotation intact. But when the reigning Cy Young runner-up – a pitcher you invested heavily to acquire, and were absolutely counting on to be one of your frontline horses – turns into a pumpkin, that's an exceedingly difficult problem to fix. We'll have to hope some time off to rest of his bothersome groin proves to be the elixir Maeda needs to rediscover his game. But even with Maeda giving up an early 3-0 lead on Saturday, the Twins were in position to take the game and series. They rallied back to tie it, and sent the contest to extra innings. There, an all-too-familiar script played out. In the top of the 10th, the Twins once again failed to score their lead runner from second. In the bottom half, Alex Colomé entered, and on the second pitch he threw... I mean, look at the location of that pitch. Once again Colomé, who formed a reputation over many years as one of the most effective late-inning relievers in the game because he didn't flop in crunch time, offered up an absolute cookie in a critical spot, with the winning run in scoring position. We've seen it time and time again this year. It's particularly disappointing in this instance because Colomé really seemed to be figuring things out. Pitching in a reduced-leverage role, he'd worked seven scoreless appearances in May, allowing only two hits (both singles) and legitimately getting back to the things he's done well – namely, placing his cutter on the edges of the zone rather than right down the middle. Then, he gets another chance in a key late-game spot and immediately goes back to pulling the same crap from April. This is an enormous problem because, for better or worse, Colomé is a crux in this bullpen – especially since their other top right-hander has also been a mess. In more ways than one. On that note... In a season that's spun off the rails so early, leaving contention as an unlikely scenario for the summer, you look for other things to cheer for as a fan. You want to root for good stories. You want to connect emotionally with the squad as they grind and grow together through a tough year. You want to invest in the character of your club. All of which made Tuesday's embarrassing antics the lowlight of the week, and maybe even the season, for me. To recap: On Monday the Twins got blown out by Chicago at Target Field, to the point where Willians Astudillo was called in to chuck some 45-MPH eephus balls in the ninth. With the White Sox leading 15-4, Astudillo fell behind Yermin Mercedes 3-0. The next non-competitive offering from Tortuga found its way into the zone, and then Mercedes made sure it found its way over the fence. The Twins announcers were displeased. Evidently some Twins players were too. The next day, in a close game, Tyler Duffey decided to exact revenge, throwing behind Mercedes with Minnesota trailing by only two runs in the seventh. Yuck. As a result, Duffey was ejected along with his manager Rocco Baldelli. Each served a short suspension later in the week. Now, Mercedes ignoring a take sign from his coaches is one thing. That's not great, but it's an issue for the White Sox to take care of on their own accord. For the Twins to be so pissy that Chicago had the gall to keep trying, and for "respecting the game" to be sanctimoniously lectured about by anyone in a situation where Minnesota had its backup catcher on the mound throwing beer-league softball pitches in a major-league game ... it's too much. It's too much from a team, and a player, who need to be worrying about their own issues before getting involved in another team's, and putting people in harm's way in the process. Chicago's shortstop Tim Anderson said later that the actions were "Definitely a sign of weakness from Duffey and the Twins.” As a Twins fan who generally despises the Sox, it absolutely crushes me that I can't argue with his conclusion one bit. TRENDING STORYLINE On Saturday night at CHS Field, Jhoan Duran made his first start in a minor-league game since August of 2019. He got a bit of a late start this season due to a trapezius issue, but the organization's No. 5 prospect was worth the wait. Lucas Seehafer was on hand to cover Duran's season debut for Twins Daily, and you can find his detailed account here. The short version is this: Duran touched 103 MPH on the gun multiple times (granted, the CHS gun seems to be a little hot, but still, the guy was pumping triple digits). He struck out six over three shutout innings. A month ago, I suggested that this Twins season might go one of two ways: a 2006-style turnaround or a 2016-style meltdown. A critical factor in replicating the '06 formula was getting an impact performance from a young phenom in the rotation. In that case it was Francisco Liriano, who led the team to an 11-2 record in his first 13 starts and energized the roster with his mere presence. When you look at players in the current system capable of doing anything similar in 2021, Duran tops the list, and on Saturday we saw why. He needs to build up his pitch count but if the 23-year-old continues to show this type of dominance, and the Twins can get on any kind of run to get back to the fringe of relevance, we could see Duran enter the fray. Let's talk a little bit about that (seemingly outlandish) latter caveat. LOOKING AHEAD If you were looking for a glimpse of hope, a glimmer of promise, a glint of optimism ... this is it. The Twins have escaped the meat-grinder portion of their schedule and now enter a soft patch, with 13 consecutive games against the Orioles and Royals. Baltimore is in last place and Kansas City has plummeted since opening the season 16-9. If the Twins can REALLY make hay during this two-week stretch – say, going 11-2 or 10-3 – they would suddenly be back in the range of .500, with Byron Buxton probably close to returning (if he hasn't already). It's hard to expect that kind of success against any competition, but then, it's hard to play as poorly as Minnesota has over the past many weeks. The pendulum is due for a swing. It all starts this week with six games at Target Field. MONDAY, 5/24: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP John Means v. RHP Matt Shoemaker TUESDAY, 5/25: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Dean Kremer v. RHP Jose Berrios WEDNESDAY, 5/26: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Jorge Lopez v. RHP Michael Pineda FRIDAY, 5/28: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Kris Bubic v. RHP Randy Dobnak SATURDAY, 5/29: ROYALS @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP J.A. Happ SUNDAY, 5/30: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brad Keller v. RHP Matt Shoemaker
  11. A jam-packed week of baseball for the Twins featured exhilarating highs, bucked trends, obnoxious drama, and the awakening of a sleeping giant. There are positive signs, but this team is not doing enough to chip away at its immense deficit as the end of May approaches. And yet, for the optimist, palpable cause for hope is there for the grasping. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/17 through Sun, 5/23 *** Record Last Week: 4-4 (Overall: 17-29) Run Differential Last Week: -4 (Overall: -24) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (9.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 39 | CWS 16, MIN 4: Sox Decimate Twins in Dispiriting Blowout Game 40 | MIN 5, CWS 4: Sanó's 3 HR Spark Rare Comeback Win Game 41 | CWS 2, MIN 1: Twins Bats Come Up Empty Against Giolito Game 42 | LAA 7, MIN 1: Halos Bury Twins to Kick Off Makeup Doubleheader Game 43 | MIN 6, LAA 3: Another Big Blast from Sanó Lifts Twins in Nightcap Game 44 | MIN 10, 0: Cleveland Rocked as Dobnak Cruises Game 45 | CLE 5, MIN 3: Twins Fall in 10th Inning Yet Again Game 46 | MIN 8, CLE 5: Hex in Extras Snapped by Garlick's Heroics NEWS & NOTES The Twins played eight games last week. They won four and lost four. They snapped their winless records in both double-headers and extra innings. They were outscored by four runs over the course of a week that included a 10-0 victory, large because it also included a 16-4 loss. There is much to cover. As always, we begin with a quick rundown of roster moves and injury updates over the past week. Heading out: Ben Rortvedt, who went 4-for-25 (.160) with 10 strikeouts and zero extra-base hits in his first turn of the majors, was optioned to Triple-A. Lewis Thorpe came and went, again, giving up four runs (just one earned) in an unimpressive spot start on Thursday before being sent back to St. Paul. Bailey Ober struggled in a spot start of his own on Tuesday (4 IP, 4 ER) and was returned to the Saints shortly thereafter. Derek Law was outrighted from the 40-man roster after posting an 8.53 ERA through 6 ⅓ innings for the Twins. He passed through waivers and made it back to St. Paul, where he coughed up a couple runs on Saturday night Michael Pineda went on the Injured List due to a minor surgical procedure. He's due to return in the coming week. Reliever Shaun Anderson also was placed on IL, with a left quad strain. Ahead of Sunday's game, the Twins placed Kenta Maeda on the shelf with a groin/adductor injury that has been bothering him for some time. Coming in: Alex Kirilloff is back! The outfielder was activated for the weekend series in Cleveland after a brief rehab stint at CHS Field. And while he's apparently playing through a wrist issue that will later require surgery, he shows no real signs of being limited. Randy Dobnak joined the rotation, starting in place of a sidelined Pineda on Friday. His outstanding return is detailed in the Highlights section below. Cody Stashak was recalled and made two scoreless appearances. Luke Farrell also joined the bullpen, hurling two shutout frames on Friday. Taking Maeda's roster spot on Sunday was Nick Gordon, who may have a shot at some decently regular playing time during this stint with both Luis Arraez (shoulder) and Jorge Polanco (ankle) banged up. HIGHLIGHTS This team shows signs of getting on track. Getting Kirilloff back in the lineup is a real difference-maker and it was felt on Friday night, when he batted cleanup in his return and the Twins scored 10 runs, as well as the next day when he came through with a clutch game-tying hit. Having both him and Trevor Larnach in the lineup is fun and exciting. Even if Larnach hasn't quite turned a corner production-wise like Kirilloff, he looks similarly comfortable and natural at the major-league level. You get the sense both of these guys are here to stay. Other hitters like Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, Kyle Garlick, and Rob Refsnyder and also had good weeks and big moments. But the star of the show, without question, was Miguel Sanó. The dam finally broke, and six weeks worth of pent-up offensive production burst forth within a ridiculous eight-game span. In 33 plate appearances dating back to last Monday, Sanó slashed .300/.364/.900 with five home runs, three doubles and 10 RBIs. His slugging percentage, which was all the way down to .209 as little as 10 days ago, is now up to .442 – well above the league average. His theatrics included a three-homer game, two four-RBI games, and a blast off Shane Bieber. Not only is he delivering big hits, he's delivering them in pivotal situations. The Twins have won five of their past 15 games and you can make a strong case that three of those victories were almost entirely because of Sanó: On May 15th, they beat Oakland 5-4 after his three-run blast in the eighth turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. On May 18th, he homered three times and drove in four in a 5-4 win over Chicago. In the second half of May 20th's doubleheader, Sanó's grand slam proved to be the difference in a 6-3 win. It bears noting that in 2019, Sanó slumped in June and saw his batting average sink to .195 before he flipped the switch and played at an MVP level the rest of the way, posting a .994 OPS with 25 homers and 64 RBIs in 74 games. So, let's see where he goes from here. On the pitching side, it was awesome to see Dobnak return to the rotation and look much more like the version that flashed back in the spring. The righty worked six scoreless innings in Cleveland on Friday, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out five. He was inducing grounders and weak contact, executing his pitches, and generally looking to be in control. With Maeda now on the shelf, back-end starters Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ looking quite shaky, and Thorpe failing to step up, the Twins vitally needed Dobnak to find his footing. Friday's start was an excellent first step. LOWLIGHTS The Twins may be showing some signs of life, but still played .500 ball last week at a time where they desperately need to be making up ground. Even with a few things turning around, it feels like two steps forward are constantly being matched by two steps back, and some of their issues are so structurally fundamental they make it extremely hard to believe a sustained run of winning baseball is possible. Saturday's game was a perfect example of how this team just can't shake its woes. First, you've got Maeda's continued inability to make it click. The Twins have lost six of his last seven starts, and he's frequently been a prime culprit. Saturday's outing against Cleveland was the seventh straight in which he failed to complete six innings; he has one quality start in nine tries this year after going 8-for-12 in 2020. When your fourth or fifth starter aren't getting it done, you can adapt and adjust. Guys like Dobnak step in, and keep the rotation intact. But when the reigning Cy Young runner-up – a pitcher you invested heavily to acquire, and were absolutely counting on to be one of your frontline horses – turns into a pumpkin, that's an exceedingly difficult problem to fix. We'll have to hope some time off to rest of his bothersome groin proves to be the elixir Maeda needs to rediscover his game. But even with Maeda giving up an early 3-0 lead on Saturday, the Twins were in position to take the game and series. They rallied back to tie it, and sent the contest to extra innings. There, an all-too-familiar script played out. In the top of the 10th, the Twins once again failed to score their lead runner from second. In the bottom half, Alex Colomé entered, and on the second pitch he threw... I mean, look at the location of that pitch. Once again Colomé, who formed a reputation over many years as one of the most effective late-inning relievers in the game because he didn't flop in crunch time, offered up an absolute cookie in a critical spot, with the winning run in scoring position. We've seen it time and time again this year. It's particularly disappointing in this instance because Colomé really seemed to be figuring things out. Pitching in a reduced-leverage role, he'd worked seven scoreless appearances in May, allowing only two hits (both singles) and legitimately getting back to the things he's done well – namely, placing his cutter on the edges of the zone rather than right down the middle. Then, he gets another chance in a key late-game spot and immediately goes back to pulling the same crap from April. This is an enormous problem because, for better or worse, Colomé is a crux in this bullpen – especially since their other top right-hander has also been a mess. In more ways than one. On that note... In a season that's spun off the rails so early, leaving contention as an unlikely scenario for the summer, you look for other things to cheer for as a fan. You want to root for good stories. You want to connect emotionally with the squad as they grind and grow together through a tough year. You want to invest in the character of your club. All of which made Tuesday's embarrassing antics the lowlight of the week, and maybe even the season, for me. To recap: On Monday the Twins got blown out by Chicago at Target Field, to the point where Willians Astudillo was called in to chuck some 45-MPH eephus balls in the ninth. With the White Sox leading 15-4, Astudillo fell behind Yermin Mercedes 3-0. The next non-competitive offering from Tortuga found its way into the zone, and then Mercedes made sure it found its way over the fence. The Twins announcers were displeased. Evidently some Twins players were too. The next day, in a close game, Tyler Duffey decided to exact revenge, throwing behind Mercedes with Minnesota trailing by only two runs in the seventh. Yuck. As a result, Duffey was ejected along with his manager Rocco Baldelli. Each served a short suspension later in the week. Now, Mercedes ignoring a take sign from his coaches is one thing. That's not great, but it's an issue for the White Sox to take care of on their own accord. For the Twins to be so pissy that Chicago had the gall to keep trying, and for "respecting the game" to be sanctimoniously lectured about by anyone in a situation where Minnesota had its backup catcher on the mound throwing beer-league softball pitches in a major-league game ... it's too much. It's too much from a team, and a player, who need to be worrying about their own issues before getting involved in another team's, and putting people in harm's way in the process. Chicago's shortstop Tim Anderson said later that the actions were "Definitely a sign of weakness from Duffey and the Twins.” As a Twins fan who generally despises the Sox, it absolutely crushes me that I can't argue with his conclusion one bit. TRENDING STORYLINE On Saturday night at CHS Field, Jhoan Duran made his first start in a minor-league game since August of 2019. He got a bit of a late start this season due to a trapezius issue, but the organization's No. 5 prospect was worth the wait. Lucas Seehafer was on hand to cover Duran's season debut for Twins Daily, and you can find his detailed account here. The short version is this: Duran touched 103 MPH on the gun multiple times (granted, the CHS gun seems to be a little hot, but still, the guy was pumping triple digits). He struck out six over three shutout innings. A month ago, I suggested that this Twins season might go one of two ways: a 2006-style turnaround or a 2016-style meltdown. A critical factor in replicating the '06 formula was getting an impact performance from a young phenom in the rotation. In that case it was Francisco Liriano, who led the team to an 11-2 record in his first 13 starts and energized the roster with his mere presence. When you look at players in the current system capable of doing anything similar in 2021, Duran tops the list, and on Saturday we saw why. He needs to build up his pitch count but if the 23-year-old continues to show this type of dominance, and the Twins can get on any kind of run to get back to the fringe of relevance, we could see Duran enter the fray. Let's talk a little bit about that (seemingly outlandish) latter caveat. LOOKING AHEAD If you were looking for a glimpse of hope, a glimmer of promise, a glint of optimism ... this is it. The Twins have escaped the meat-grinder portion of their schedule and now enter a soft patch, with 13 consecutive games against the Orioles and Royals. Baltimore is in last place and Kansas City has plummeted since opening the season 16-9. If the Twins can REALLY make hay during this two-week stretch – say, going 11-2 or 10-3 – they would suddenly be back in the range of .500, with Byron Buxton probably close to returning (if he hasn't already). It's hard to expect that kind of success against any competition, but then, it's hard to play as poorly as Minnesota has over the past many weeks. The pendulum is due for a swing. It all starts this week with six games at Target Field. MONDAY, 5/24: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP John Means v. RHP Matt Shoemaker TUESDAY, 5/25: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Dean Kremer v. RHP Jose Berrios WEDNESDAY, 5/26: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Jorge Lopez v. RHP Michael Pineda FRIDAY, 5/28: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Kris Bubic v. RHP Randy Dobnak SATURDAY, 5/29: ROYALS @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP J.A. Happ SUNDAY, 5/30: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brad Keller v. RHP Matt Shoemaker View full article
  12. Pythagorean Winning Percentage One aspect that shows how the Twins have been unlucky is their Pythagorean winning percentage. For those unfamiliar, Pythagorean winning percentage is an estimate of a team’s winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed. For example, the Twins scored 269 runs in 2020 and allowed 215 runs, which results in a Pythagorean W-L record of 36-24. That also turned out to be the club’s overall record for the year. There are flaws with Pythagorean W-L record, especially if teams score a lot of runs in their wins and lose a lot of close games. Entering play on Monday, the Twins had scored 175 runs and allowed 195 runs. Based on those totals, their projected Pythagorean W-L record is 17-21 which is a four-win improvement compared to the team’s actual record. This points to the team being a little bit unlucky. RISP Minnesota’s struggles with runners in scoring position have been well documented this year, but how much of this can be tied to bad luck in clutch situations? Only one AL team, Tampa Bay (3.81 runners/game), has left more runners in scoring position per game than the Twins (3.76 runners/game). Obviously, some injuries have impacted the line-up (see below), but it’s hard for a team to recover if runs aren’t being scored because players are being left in scoring position. What’s most disturbing is the drop Minnesota took from 2020 to 2021. Last year, the Twins ranked as the best in all of baseball by averaging 2.60 runners left on per game. The closest team to the Twins last season was Pittsburgh and they finished 20 points behind Minnesota by season’s end. There can be some expected regression, but this is a big drop for a team from one season to the next. BABIP BAbip is another statistic that can point to luck impacting batters and pitchers. For those unfamiliar, BAbip measures how frequently non-home run batted balls fall for hits. League average is around .300 in a typical year. So far in 2021, Twins hitters have posted a .287 BAbip, which ranks 16th in all of baseball. Only eight clubs have posted a BAbip above .300 for the year as offense has been down for most of the league. On the pitching side, Minnesota’s hurlers have also posted a BAbip in the middle of the pack. For the year, the Twins rank 15th with a .286 BAbip. In all of baseball, seven teams have a BAbip total above .300. Two teams in the AL Central, Kansas City (2nd) and Detroit (11th), rank higher than the Twins in pitching BAbip. Sometimes bloop hits fall in, sometimes a dribbler gets by a fielder, and other times a fielder is positioned perfectly to make a catch on a hard hit ball. All those things can impact a team’s BAbip and a little luck ties into all of it. Injuries Injuries have been up across baseball and the Twins have seen some key players missing time. Byron Buxton was playing at an MVP level before his recent hip injury put him on the shelf. Alex Kirilloff was hitting the ball with authority to all parts of the field before suffering a wrist injury from sliding into second base. Both players were playing at a high level and taking them out of the middle of the line-up has certain had an effect. Over the weekend, there was even more injury news. Max Kepler (hamstring), Kenta Maeda (groin), and Willians Astudillo (hand) all left Sunday’s game with different ailments. This is on top of Jake Cave already being on the IL and Kyle Garlick playing through a groin injury. The injuries continue to mount, and health looks like it might impact the team throughout the 2021 campaign. Having a little more luck on the team’s side might get those players back and preforming at their highest level. Do you think the Twins have been unlucky this year? 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
  13. Luck is part of baseball, even if it is hard to define. A player can smash a line drive that just hooks foul. Another player might get a pitch right down the middle and miss it. So, have the Twins been unlucky in 2021? Pythagorean Winning Percentage One aspect that shows how the Twins have been unlucky is their Pythagorean winning percentage. For those unfamiliar, Pythagorean winning percentage is an estimate of a team’s winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed. For example, the Twins scored 269 runs in 2020 and allowed 215 runs, which results in a Pythagorean W-L record of 36-24. That also turned out to be the club’s overall record for the year. There are flaws with Pythagorean W-L record, especially if teams score a lot of runs in their wins and lose a lot of close games. Entering play on Monday, the Twins had scored 175 runs and allowed 195 runs. Based on those totals, their projected Pythagorean W-L record is 17-21 which is a four-win improvement compared to the team’s actual record. This points to the team being a little bit unlucky. RISP Minnesota’s struggles with runners in scoring position have been well documented this year, but how much of this can be tied to bad luck in clutch situations? Only one AL team, Tampa Bay (3.81 runners/game), has left more runners in scoring position per game than the Twins (3.76 runners/game). Obviously, some injuries have impacted the line-up (see below), but it’s hard for a team to recover if runs aren’t being scored because players are being left in scoring position. What’s most disturbing is the drop Minnesota took from 2020 to 2021. Last year, the Twins ranked as the best in all of baseball by averaging 2.60 runners left on per game. The closest team to the Twins last season was Pittsburgh and they finished 20 points behind Minnesota by season’s end. There can be some expected regression, but this is a big drop for a team from one season to the next. BABIP BAbip is another statistic that can point to luck impacting batters and pitchers. For those unfamiliar, BAbip measures how frequently non-home run batted balls fall for hits. League average is around .300 in a typical year. So far in 2021, Twins hitters have posted a .287 BAbip, which ranks 16th in all of baseball. Only eight clubs have posted a BAbip above .300 for the year as offense has been down for most of the league. On the pitching side, Minnesota’s hurlers have also posted a BAbip in the middle of the pack. For the year, the Twins rank 15th with a .286 BAbip. In all of baseball, seven teams have a BAbip total above .300. Two teams in the AL Central, Kansas City (2nd) and Detroit (11th), rank higher than the Twins in pitching BAbip. Sometimes bloop hits fall in, sometimes a dribbler gets by a fielder, and other times a fielder is positioned perfectly to make a catch on a hard hit ball. All those things can impact a team’s BAbip and a little luck ties into all of it. Injuries Injuries have been up across baseball and the Twins have seen some key players missing time. Byron Buxton was playing at an MVP level before his recent hip injury put him on the shelf. Alex Kirilloff was hitting the ball with authority to all parts of the field before suffering a wrist injury from sliding into second base. Both players were playing at a high level and taking them out of the middle of the line-up has certain had an effect. Over the weekend, there was even more injury news. Max Kepler (hamstring), Kenta Maeda (groin), and Willians Astudillo (hand) all left Sunday’s game with different ailments. This is on top of Jake Cave already being on the IL and Kyle Garlick playing through a groin injury. The injuries continue to mount, and health looks like it might impact the team throughout the 2021 campaign. Having a little more luck on the team’s side might get those players back and preforming at their highest level. Do you think the Twins have been unlucky this year? 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 View full article
  14. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/26 through Sun, 5/2 *** Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 10-16) Run Differential Last Week: +12 (Overall: +3) Standing: 4th Place in AL Central (6.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 21 | CLE 5, MIN 3: Twins Fall to 0-5 in Extras as Colomé Takes 3rd Loss Game 22 | CLE 7, MIN 4: Maeda Can't Find Answers, Slump Drags On Game 23 | MIN 10, CLE 2: Buxton Keys Offense in Dominant Victory Game 24 | MIN 9, KC 1: Pineda Rolls as Kirilloff Breaks Out with 2 HR Game 25 | KC 11, MIN 3: Twins Blown Out as Shoemaker Implodes Game 26 | MIN 13, KC 4: Another Big Day for the Twins Bats NEWS & NOTES Last week in this space, I broke down Minnesota's immense difficulties at catcher, noting that while both Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers were looking totally lost, the struggles of the latter were more pressing given his status as a developing 23-year-old player. "The Twins may need to start thinking about how they'll proceed at the catcher position," I wrote, "if they determine Jeffers needs more time in the minors." It took only a few more days, and one more start from Jeffers – he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against Cleveland on Monday – for the Twins to decide they'd seen enough. On Friday he was optioned to the alternate site, and replaced by the team's other top catching prospect, Ben Rortvedt. Optioned alongside Jeffers on Friday was Brent Rooker, who has largely struggled during his time with the Twins. Concurrently, JT Riddle and Tzu-Wei Lin were designated for assignment to open space on the 40-man roster for the returns of Max Kepler and Kyle Garlick from COVID-IL. Miguel Sanó is reportedly ready to go with the hamstring that placed him on IL, but the Twins are going to give him a few days to take swings and get his timing back. (To the extent he ever had it to begin with.) He figures to be activated midway through the upcoming week. HIGHLIGHTS How about that Byron Buxton? He wrapped up the greatest month in Twins history with another phenomenal week, highlighted by Wednesday's 5-for-5 explosion in Cleveland. In five games, Buxton went 10-for-21 with two home runs, three doubles, and two stolen bases. https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/1388486584605896705 Buxton is making the Twins a must-watch even when the team at large has been hard to watch. He's an incredibly dynamic player and an early MVP frontrunner. But up until very recently, he wasn't getting much help. Alex Kirilloff is among those flipping the script for a languishing lineup. Given that he was hitting the ball harder than any Twins hitter, save for Buxton and Nelson Cruz, it felt like only a matter of time until Kirilloff broke through. That happened on Friday night at Target Field, when the rookie launched a pair of home runs against Kansas City, and he added another on both Saturday and Sunday. The big series lifted his OPS from .269 to .726. https://twitter.com/BallySportsNOR/status/1388963101970771968 One thing to note is that Kirilloff has been extremely aggressive at the plate, which has always been his M.O., but you do wonder if it's going to start to catch up with him. Dating back to spring training, he has drawn only two walks in 69 plate appearances. Then again, it's working just fine for his teammate Buxton, who ranks in the 11th percentile for chase rate and BB% but continues to dominate nonetheless. https://twitter.com/NickNelsonMN/status/1388902804517920771 Comparatively speaking, Garver's ongoing struggles were quite a bit more concerning than Kirilloff's. He was 0-for-his-last 17 with 11 strikeouts when he came to the plate for a third time in Cleveland on Wednesday. The catcher proceeded to launch a mammoth home run. Then, he did it again in his next AB. Garver added a three-run blast against the Royals on Sunday, and it was what we'd call a no-doubter. https://twitter.com/Nashwalker9/status/1388931880054104064 I'm not going to feel especially confident in Garver until he starts showing some dimensionality in his offensive game – in his past eight contests, he has four hits (three monster home runs and a ground ball single), zero walks, and 12 strikeouts. This all-or-nothing dynamic is very dependent on finding a mistake to destroy, which is not necessarily a sustainable formula. That said, it's good to see him unloading on some baseballs after a lengthy skid. Garver regaining his confidence (and competence) at the plate is especially critical with Jeffers now out of the mix. LOWLIGHTS Midway through March, reigning Cy Young runner-up Kenta Maeda looked more impervious than ever. Having not allowed a run or hit through his first few spring outings, the right-hander expressed concern he was having "too good" of a spring and – with tongue in cheek – yearned for a bit of adversity. In April, he got more than he bargained for. Through five starts, Maeda has a 6.56 ERA, with opponents crushing him to the tune of .350/.391/.641. His past two turns, which saw him surrender 12 earned runs on 16 hits and six homers in 8 ⅔ innings, represent the worst we've seen Maeda in a Twins uniform. In fact, you won't find a worse pair of back-to-back outings in his career. Last year, Maeda gave up six or more hits in only one of his 11 starts This year, he's allowed 6+ hits in every start. Meanwhile, Matt Shoemaker has completely fallen apart after a strong start to his Twins career. The righty gave up just one earned run through his first 11 innings, but has since coughed up an astounding 20 earned runs over 12 innings, with two strikeouts, seven walks, and six home runs allowed. The Twins have lost four straight with him on the mound. Saturday's outing was a nightmare as Shoemaker was obliterated by the Royals for nine runs, and his day ended on a sour note when he failed to back up home plate on overthrow. https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/1388606757740683264 It's going to be hard to send Shoemaker and his 8.22 ERA out for another start at this point. Unfortunately the top candidate to replace him, Randy Dobnak, has an 8.16 ERA so he's not the most inspiring alternative at this time. And in a further bit of unfortunate news, it'll be a while before either of the Twins' top two pitching prospects are even ready to start making their cases for a look. https://twitter.com/dohyoungpark/status/1388890802940792832 Meanwhile, a lingering headache in the bullpen won't go away. The Twins are trying their hardest to get Alex Colomé right, but the prized offseason bullpen addition continues to look unusable at every turn. He came in for the 10th inning on Monday against Cleveland and immediately gave up a walk-off homer. The following night, Rocco Baldelli sent him right back out in a lower-leverage "get-right" spot with the Twins trailing by a run in the eighth. Colomé looked perhaps the worst he has all season, laboring through six batters while issuing three walks (one with bases loaded) and an HBP. He appeared in a lower-stakes spot on Saturday, working a scoreless ninth but giving up plenty of hard contact in a blowout loss. Colomé seems incapable of throwing the ball in the zone without hanging it in a batter's wheelhouse. He's getting hit harder than any pitcher in the big leagues. No reliever in MLB history has had a more negative impact through his first 10 appearances with a new team. Truly an epic disaster of a free agent signing, unless Colomé can find a way to reverse course dramatically. https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/1387219157729480707 TRENDING STORYLINE This team doesn't have the luxury of giving away games right now. The offense shows signs of turning a corner, but Baldelli can't afford to be trotting pitchers out to the mound he can't trust. Which brings us to the names mentioned above. Maeda's not going anywhere, and we'll just have to hope he can find himself in a hurry. Shoemaker, as a one-year signing who looked like a temporary plug to begin with, has a far shorter leash, especially considering how irredeemably bad he's looked. While Dobnak might not be the most appealing replacement at this time, Lewis Thorpe looked good in his spot start a few weeks ago, and we know the club was high on him in spring training. How much longer will they wait to make a move? As for Colomé, it's probably still too early to be thinking about a DFA, but there is certainly some urgency for the Twins to address their bullpen issues and he's clearly the primary culprit. This is a stickier situation than Shoemaker; replacing your closer is obviously tougher than replacing your fifth starter. While Taylor Rogers is now assuming ninth-inning duties, the Twins have key high-leverage innings to backfill. Unfortunately, their minimal margin for error makes it tough to audition uncertain commodities – such as Shaun Anderson, Brandon Waddell, or Ian Hamilton – on the fly. There simply aren't enough low-leverage innings to go around for testing these fringe arms and also accommodating Colomé. You can't count on the continuance of lopsided margins like we saw all weekend against Kansas City. We'll see where the Twins go from here. Trusting the bullpen to fix itself seems unwise. LOOKING AHEAD I can't stress this enough: it is CRUCIAL for the Twins to take advantage of the upcoming soft patch in their schedule. With a full slate in the week ahead, they'll be hosting last-place Texas for four games before traveling to Detroit for three against the lowly Tigers. After that, things get a whole lot tougher and the stakes will be raised considerably: 14 games against the White Sox (6), Cleveland (3), Oakland (3), and Los Angeles (2). We haven't seen the Sox yet but the Twins are thus far 1-6 against the other three clubs. If they can't make some inroads toward .500 in these next seven days, they'll be putting themselves in a very, very precarious position. Of note: On Tuesday, Kyle Gibson makes his return to Target Field as a Ranger. He's riding a hell of a hot streak: 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his past five starts. Gibby has allowed zero home runs all season. Can his former team solve him? MONDAY, 5/3: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Dane Dunning v. RHP Kenta Maeda TUESDAY, 5/4: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP J.A. Happ WEDNESDAY, 5/5: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Kohei Arihara v. RHP Michael Pineda THURSDAY, 5/6: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Jordan Lyles v. RHP Matt Shoemaker FRIDAY, 5/7: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Spencer Turnbull SATURDAY, 5/8: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Jose Urena SUNDAY, 5/9: TWINS @ TIGERS – LHP J.A. Happ v. RHP Casey Mize MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  15. Three offensive explosions became three victories in a week where the Twins finally started to emerge from their profound funk. Much work still lies ahead, but their first series victory in three weeks is a start. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/26 through Sun, 5/2 *** Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 10-16) Run Differential Last Week: +12 (Overall: +3) Standing: 4th Place in AL Central (6.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 21 | CLE 5, MIN 3: Twins Fall to 0-5 in Extras as Colomé Takes 3rd Loss Game 22 | CLE 7, MIN 4: Maeda Can't Find Answers, Slump Drags On Game 23 | MIN 10, CLE 2: Buxton Keys Offense in Dominant Victory Game 24 | MIN 9, KC 1: Pineda Rolls as Kirilloff Breaks Out with 2 HR Game 25 | KC 11, MIN 3: Twins Blown Out as Shoemaker Implodes Game 26 | MIN 13, KC 4: Another Big Day for the Twins Bats NEWS & NOTES Last week in this space, I broke down Minnesota's immense difficulties at catcher, noting that while both Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers were looking totally lost, the struggles of the latter were more pressing given his status as a developing 23-year-old player. "The Twins may need to start thinking about how they'll proceed at the catcher position," I wrote, "if they determine Jeffers needs more time in the minors." It took only a few more days, and one more start from Jeffers – he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against Cleveland on Monday – for the Twins to decide they'd seen enough. On Friday he was optioned to the alternate site, and replaced by the team's other top catching prospect, Ben Rortvedt. Optioned alongside Jeffers on Friday was Brent Rooker, who has largely struggled during his time with the Twins. Concurrently, JT Riddle and Tzu-Wei Lin were designated for assignment to open space on the 40-man roster for the returns of Max Kepler and Kyle Garlick from COVID-IL. Miguel Sanó is reportedly ready to go with the hamstring that placed him on IL, but the Twins are going to give him a few days to take swings and get his timing back. (To the extent he ever had it to begin with.) He figures to be activated midway through the upcoming week. HIGHLIGHTS How about that Byron Buxton? He wrapped up the greatest month in Twins history with another phenomenal week, highlighted by Wednesday's 5-for-5 explosion in Cleveland. In five games, Buxton went 10-for-21 with two home runs, three doubles, and two stolen bases. TRENDING STORYLINE This team doesn't have the luxury of giving away games right now. The offense shows signs of turning a corner, but Baldelli can't afford to be trotting pitchers out to the mound he can't trust. Which brings us to the names mentioned above. Maeda's not going anywhere, and we'll just have to hope he can find himself in a hurry. Shoemaker, as a one-year signing who looked like a temporary plug to begin with, has a far shorter leash, especially considering how irredeemably bad he's looked. While Dobnak might not be the most appealing replacement at this time, Lewis Thorpe looked good in his spot start a few weeks ago, and we know the club was high on him in spring training. How much longer will they wait to make a move? As for Colomé, it's probably still too early to be thinking about a DFA, but there is certainly some urgency for the Twins to address their bullpen issues and he's clearly the primary culprit. This is a stickier situation than Shoemaker; replacing your closer is obviously tougher than replacing your fifth starter. While Taylor Rogers is now assuming ninth-inning duties, the Twins have key high-leverage innings to backfill. Unfortunately, their minimal margin for error makes it tough to audition uncertain commodities – such as Shaun Anderson, Brandon Waddell, or Ian Hamilton – on the fly. There simply aren't enough low-leverage innings to go around for testing these fringe arms and also accommodating Colomé. You can't count on the continuance of lopsided margins like we saw all weekend against Kansas City. We'll see where the Twins go from here. Trusting the bullpen to fix itself seems unwise. LOOKING AHEAD I can't stress this enough: it is CRUCIAL for the Twins to take advantage of the upcoming soft patch in their schedule. With a full slate in the week ahead, they'll be hosting last-place Texas for four games before traveling to Detroit for three against the lowly Tigers. After that, things get a whole lot tougher and the stakes will be raised considerably: 14 games against the White Sox (6), Cleveland (3), Oakland (3), and Los Angeles (2). We haven't seen the Sox yet but the Twins are thus far 1-6 against the other three clubs. If they can't make some inroads toward .500 in these next seven days, they'll be putting themselves in a very, very precarious position. Of note: On Tuesday, Kyle Gibson makes his return to Target Field as a Ranger. He's riding a hell of a hot streak: 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his past five starts. Gibby has allowed zero home runs all season. Can his former team solve him? MONDAY, 5/3: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Dane Dunning v. RHP Kenta Maeda TUESDAY, 5/4: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP J.A. Happ WEDNESDAY, 5/5: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Kohei Arihara v. RHP Michael Pineda THURSDAY, 5/6: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Jordan Lyles v. RHP Matt Shoemaker FRIDAY, 5/7: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Spencer Turnbull SATURDAY, 5/8: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Jose Urena SUNDAY, 5/9: TWINS @ TIGERS – LHP J.A. Happ v. RHP Casey Mize 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
  16. Projected Rotation: Kenta Maeda, José Berríos, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker Depth: Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, Bailey Ober Prospects: Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Blayne Enlow, Cole Sands THE GOOD Let's start at the top. Kenta Maeda: The long-awaited ace and reigning Cy Young runner-up. Maeda's first year in a Minnesota uniform yielded the best performance we've seen from a Twins starting pitcher since Johan Santana left town. One of the great sadnesses of the shortened 2020 season was that we didn't get to see him do more of it. From his first turn to his last, Maeda was superb. He never gave up more than three runs in a game, or more hits than innings pitched in a start. His whiff rate was third-highest in the game behind Jacob deGrom and Lucas Giolito. Maeda shut down Houston with five shutout innings in the playoffs. A month prior, he came within three outs of no-hitting Milwaukee at Target Field. With an offspeed-heavy mix and impeccable command, he left opposing batters helpless. https://twitter.com/MLB/status/1295914048043786241 This was a different version of Maeda than we ever saw in Los Angeles, where he was more good than great, leading to natural questions about how repeatable the breakout is. Indeed, the righty probably won't be quite so thoroughly dominant in a full-length follow-up, but there's little reason to think he won't be a credible rotation-fronter. The question is whether José Berríos will join him in that category. He's a very good starter, and one of the most reliably durable in the game, but Berríos hasn't quite been able to take that step into the highest tier despite flirting with it frequently. Last season might look like a setback, at a glance – his 4.00 ERA and 1.32 WHIP were both highest since Berríos' rocky debut in 2016. But they're also misleading, and emblematic of 2020's small-sample haziness. He gave up five runs in four innings against Chicago on Opening Day. From that point forward, the righty posted a 3.51 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, holding opponents to a .225 average. Same old Berríos. That's not including his postseason start against Houston, where he allowed one run on two hits in five frames. We'll see if he can find something more, and if he does, the Twins will boast one of the league's best 1-2 punches in the rotation. But they'd also be happy to get that same old Berríos again, because his baseline is a pretty damn good. And also: Minnesota has another underrated starter in the frontline discussion. Michael Pineda is finally coming into a season unhindered by injury rehab or suspension. When on the mound for Minnesota, he has consistently pitched well, and the Twins have played .677 baseball. He's 32 and playing for his next contract with free agency upcoming. As Twins GM Thad Levine put it, Pineda "has put himself in the best position he can to have a robust second chapter to his career.” https://twitter.com/NickNelsonMN/status/1361852125551157250 J.A. Happ is not a super flashy addition at age 38, but he's been basically as good as Berríos over the past handful of seasons, and he's a great asset as your fourth starter. Matt Shoemaker rounds out the rotation as a $2 million flier who probably has a 50/50 shot at lasting until the All-Star break. But as with any signing by this front office, there's upside here that's easy to see. The offseason additions might not have been too exciting, but what does excite about Minnesota's rotation picture this year is the internal depth. Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe both offer plenty of intrigue, especially with their buzz-stirring spring camps. Devin Smeltzer is a better eighth option than most other teams have. And that's before you turn to the farm. The Twins' top three pitching prospects – Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino – are verging on big-league ready. It's hard to say for sure since the 2020 minor-league season was wiped out, but had it been played, it's very possible any of those three would now be banging on the door – if not already debuted. Each is capable of a serious impact in short order, and the Twins are quietly counting on that to some degree. THE BAD One might argue the Twins have been extraordinarily lucky with the health of their starting pitchers over the past couple years. (Jake Odorizzi and Homer Bailey would disagree, but they're gone.) Berríos has continued to take the mound every fifth day, as usual. Maeda did the same in 2020, while transitioning from starter-reliever hybrid to relative workhorse. He experienced no issues, even after accruing a career-high 115 pitches in his no-hit bid. Pineda, so often injured before coming to Minnesota, has been perfectly healthy outside of the suspension. (Phantom DL stints not withstanding.) I'm not over here to trying to jinx anything. But it has to be acknowledged that this probably won't last forever. The rigors of being a starting pitcher in the major leagues are immense, and right now these guys are grappling with the transition back to a full-season workload, in the wake of 2020's disruption. If one of those top three starters goes down? Suddenly the Twins rotation doesn't look quite so sturdy anymore. Happ might be a nice luxury in the back half, but he's not necessarily someone you want to be depending on toward the front. Shoemaker, Dobnak, Thorpe and Smeltzer all have their own varying levels of promise and mystique, but also serious hurdles to overcome. The top prospects may well all need more seasoning, These aren't unique problems – all pitchers across the league will be facing the same readjustment challenges this year, and no team has infinite starting depth – but the Twins will need a bit of luck on their side to fulfill their potential in the rotation. They're relying heavily on some internal developments playing out well, because it's questionable whether the free agent talent incoming (Happ, Shoemaker) is better than the talent outgoing (Odorizzi, Rich Hill). Questionable might be putting it kindly. THE BOTTOM LINE This is a deep, well-rounded group with a high ceiling and a number of electrifying wild cards in play. Odorizzi is a significant loss, which should not be discounted, but the fact is, the Twins managed to post the second-best rotation ERA, FIP, and fWAR in the American League last year without him. An important thing to keep in mind is that, by retaining all prospect capital in the offseason, the Twins have positioned themselves nicely for a trade as the deadline approaches. That'll probably be a big storyline this summer, but I'm more eager to see what the system can provide internally after four years of remarkable progression under the new front office. "After four years of assembling the infrastructure and creating a culture of fearless development," wrote Dan Hayes at The Athletic recently, "the Twins front office feels as if its pitching pipeline is finally ready to churn out impressive arms at a more consistent rate." Their exhaustive work will be put to the test in what's certain to be a daunting and discombobulating year for MLB starting pitchers, with workloads thrown askew. READ OTHER 2021 POSITION ANALYSIS ARTICLES Catcher First Base Second Base Third Base Shortstop Left Field Center Field Right Field Designated Hitter
  17. If the Twins have ever fielded a better and deeper rotation than the one they're set to line up this year, I can't remember it. From top to bottom (and beyond) this unit looks stacked.Projected Rotation: Kenta Maeda, José Berríos, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker Depth: Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, Bailey Ober Prospects: Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Blayne Enlow, Cole Sands THE GOOD Let's start at the top. Kenta Maeda: The long-awaited ace and reigning Cy Young runner-up. Maeda's first year in a Minnesota uniform yielded the best performance we've seen from a Twins starting pitcher since Johan Santana left town. One of the great sadnesses of the shortened 2020 season was that we didn't get to see him do more of it. From his first turn to his last, Maeda was superb. He never gave up more than three runs in a game, or more hits than innings pitched in a start. His whiff rate was third-highest in the game behind Jacob deGrom and Lucas Giolito. Maeda shut down Houston with five shutout innings in the playoffs. A month prior, he came within three outs of no-hitting Milwaukee at Target Field. With an offspeed-heavy mix and impeccable command, he left opposing batters helpless. J.A. Happ is not a super flashy addition at age 38, but he's been basically as good as Berríos over the past handful of seasons, and he's a great asset as your fourth starter. Matt Shoemaker rounds out the rotation as a $2 million flier who probably has a 50/50 shot at lasting until the All-Star break. But as with any signing by this front office, there's upside here that's easy to see. The offseason additions might not have been too exciting, but what does excite about Minnesota's rotation picture this year is the internal depth. Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe both offer plenty of intrigue, especially with their buzz-stirring spring camps. Devin Smeltzer is a better eighth option than most other teams have. And that's before you turn to the farm. The Twins' top three pitching prospects – Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino – are verging on big-league ready. It's hard to say for sure since the 2020 minor-league season was wiped out, but had it been played, it's very possible any of those three would now be banging on the door – if not already debuted. Each is capable of a serious impact in short order, and the Twins are quietly counting on that to some degree. THE BAD One might argue the Twins have been extraordinarily lucky with the health of their starting pitchers over the past couple years. (Jake Odorizzi and Homer Bailey would disagree, but they're gone.) Berríos has continued to take the mound every fifth day, as usual. Maeda did the same in 2020, while transitioning from starter-reliever hybrid to relative workhorse. He experienced no issues, even after accruing a career-high 115 pitches in his no-hit bid. Pineda, so often injured before coming to Minnesota, has been perfectly healthy outside of the suspension. (Phantom DL stints not withstanding.) I'm not over here to trying to jinx anything. But it has to be acknowledged that this probably won't last forever. The rigors of being a starting pitcher in the major leagues are immense, and right now these guys are grappling with the transition back to a full-season workload, in the wake of 2020's disruption. If one of those top three starters goes down? Suddenly the Twins rotation doesn't look quite so sturdy anymore. Happ might be a nice luxury in the back half, but he's not necessarily someone you want to be depending on toward the front. Shoemaker, Dobnak, Thorpe and Smeltzer all have their own varying levels of promise and mystique, but also serious hurdles to overcome. The top prospects may well all need more seasoning, These aren't unique problems – all pitchers across the league will be facing the same readjustment challenges this year, and no team has infinite starting depth – but the Twins will need a bit of luck on their side to fulfill their potential in the rotation. They're relying heavily on some internal developments playing out well, because it's questionable whether the free agent talent incoming (Happ, Shoemaker) is better than the talent outgoing (Odorizzi, Rich Hill). Questionable might be putting it kindly. THE BOTTOM LINE This is a deep, well-rounded group with a high ceiling and a number of electrifying wild cards in play. Odorizzi is a significant loss, which should not be discounted, but the fact is, the Twins managed to post the second-best rotation ERA, FIP, and fWAR in the American League last year without him. An important thing to keep in mind is that, by retaining all prospect capital in the offseason, the Twins have positioned themselves nicely for a trade as the deadline approaches. That'll probably be a big storyline this summer, but I'm more eager to see what the system can provide internally after four years of remarkable progression under the new front office. "After four years of assembling the infrastructure and creating a culture of fearless development," wrote Dan Hayes at The Athletic recently, "the Twins front office feels as if its pitching pipeline is finally ready to churn out impressive arms at a more consistent rate." Their exhaustive work will be put to the test in what's certain to be a daunting and discombobulating year for MLB starting pitchers, with workloads thrown askew. READ OTHER 2021 POSITION ANALYSIS ARTICLES CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopLeft FieldCenter FieldRight FieldDesignated Hitter Click here to view the article
  18. Traditional Five-Man Rotation Minnesota is going with a traditional five-man pitching staff to start the 2021 season and they are expected to stick with a five-man rotation for the majority of the season. That doesn’t mean the same five pitchers will occupy the rotation as the innings start to add up. Minnesota signed Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ to add rotational depth, and this is only going to help in a season like the current one. The Twins can use multiple strategies throughout the season to keep the starting staff rested. One option is to have a player skip a start. In this situation, the team can call-up a starter from St. Paul or the team can go with a bullpen game, which has become more common in recent years. There’s also a good chance a starter will need some time on the injured list at some point, so this allows the team to utilize some of their pitching depth. Rotating Relievers After signing an extension this spring, Randy Dobnak has struggled to start the 2021 season by allowing five earned runs in three innings. Obviously, this is a very small sample size, and the Twins are confident in Dobnak finding success this season. He is the natural choice to be the team’s sixth starter if needed, but he isn’t the only reliever that will eat innings this season. Last year, only two Twins relievers threw more than 25 innings and both of those players, Matt Wisler and Tyler Clippard, are no longer with the team. Minnesota has used Alex Colomé for multiple innings this year and that might hint at some of Rocco Baldelli’s strategy this season. The team has also switched to a 14-man pitching staff with the addition of Brandon Waddell, who will help cover more innings. He can also occupy a spot that is sent back and forth between Triple-A and the big-leagues. Options Outside the 26-Man Roster Outside the names mentioned above, there is certainly other options not currently on the 26-man roster. Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer are stretched out to be starters and they can be called on to take over a starting role. Top pitching prospects like Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic are also expected to make their debuts in 2021. Hopefully, they aren’t needed for extended innings, but they are waiting in the wings. Other names on the 40-man roster include Shaun Anderson, Dakota Chalmers and Bailey Ober. Each of these arms can fit into the bullpen picture at some point this season. There are also other options outside the 40-man roster including this year’s Sire of Fort Myers, Derek Law. The Twins have liked to use a steady stream of players from the minors to supplement the big-league relief core in recent years and that trend will likely continue in 2021. Other Teams’ Strategies Last week, MLB.com ran through the different strategies teams will utilize in 2021. Teams like the Angels, Mariners, and Pirates are all planning on using six-man rotations, but none of these clubs are expected to be fighting for a World Series title. Some teams, like the Dodgers, Rangers, and Tigers are going to use a piggybacking strategy where some starters are used in a traditional manner and other appearances they use multiple starters that follow one another. The Rays utilize openers and bullpen games quite often and that expects to be the case again, especially with Blake Snell and Charlie Morton no longer part of the rotation. A lot of teams will be using a revolving five-man rotation which will include skipped starts and other pitchers filling into the rotation’s fifth spot. Minnesota is penciled into another large group of 10 teams that will use a traditional five-man rotation for as long as it will last, but it’s clear the team will be open to using multiple pitching strategies this year. What strategies will the Twins use to cover 1,458 innings this year? Leave 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
  19. Nelson Cruz: 450 Home Runs It’s crazy to think what Cruz has been able to accomplish over his career, especially since he didn’t play over 100 games in a season until he was 28-years old. Over the last 12 seasons, he has averaged 33 home runs to put him at 417 homers for his career. He hasn’t hit fewer than 33 long balls in a full season since 2013, so there’s a good chance for him to cross the 450 home run mark. The real question might be if the ageless wonder can reach 500 home runs before he retires. He is going to have to be one of the best players in baseball history over the age of 40, but why would anyone doubt him now? Josh Donaldson: 250 Home Runs Donaldson has hit 24 or more home runs in every season where he has played over 100 games. If that trend continues, he can cross the 250 home run plateau as he currently has 225 homers to his credit. Steamer projections have him at 29 home runs and ZiPs projections have him at 22 home runs. Back in 2019, Donaldson hit 37 home runs on his way to being named the National League Comeback Player of the Year. Twins’ fans hope to see more of that version of Donaldson than the one that the club saw during his first year in Minnesota. Even if he misses some time this season, 25 home runs should be well within his reach. Kenta Maeda: 800 Strikeouts Considering he didn’t make his stateside debut until age-28, it’s remarkable to consider how many strikeouts Maeda has accumulated in fewer than 660 big-league innings. He enters 2021 with 721 strikeouts so totaling 800 strikeouts is well within his reach. In Japan, he accumulated over 1,200 strikeouts on the mound, so he is getting close to 2,000 strikeouts combined in Japan and the United States. Last season, he was used entirely as a starter for the first time in his career and he posted a 10.8 SO/9, which was the second-best mark of his career. Jorge Polanco: 300 RBI The hope is that Polanco’s ankles are healthy again and he can get back to his hitting ways from the 2019 season. With Eddie Rosario out of the picture, Polanco has an opportunity to hit more regularly in the middle of the line-up. He already has 245 RBI so he can crack the 250 RBI mark during the season’s first series versus Milwaukee. His career high in RBI was back in 2019 when he collected 79, but he batted second for most of that season. Hitting behind Max Kepler, Josh Donaldson, and Nelson Cruz should provide even more RBI opportunities. Which milestone do you think will fall first? 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
  20. Byron Buxton Finishes in the Top-3 for AL MVP Buxton only has two years remaining until free agency, so there is an incentive for him to stay on the field and produce at a high level. There have been glimpses of his potential at the big-league level, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together over the course of 162-games. Even if he plays 140-150 games, he should accumulate enough WAR to be in the MVP discussion. Last season, he finished eighth highest WAR among AL position players, and he played fewer than 40 games. His defense is always going to provide value, so he will need to put up offensive numbers that match. Can he hit 30+ home runs? Score 120+ runs? Steal 30 bases? It’s fun to consider the possibilities. Twins Players Win Four Gold Gloves The Twins might have the best defense in team history and this can result in a record amount of Gold Gloves. No team has ever won five Gold Gloves in one season and that might not be out of the realm of possibility. Looking around field and there are potential Gold Glove winners at nearly every position. Byron Buxon and Andrelton Simmons are two of the best defenders over the last decade. If healthy, they are both front-runners for the award at their position. Max Kepler has been one of the best defensive right fielders for years and just hasn’t been awarded the top defensive honor. On the mound, Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios are two of the best pitchers at fielding their position. Add in Jorge Polanco and his switch to a less demanding defensive position and the Twins have six-seven candidates around the diamond. Minnesota Wins the AL Central by 10 Games or More The White Sox are getting a lot of love as the season starts and they look like a team that will be a thorn in the side of the Twins for years to come. It just isn’t going to be this season. Eloy Jimenez and his recent injury showcases their lack of depth around the diamond. Chicago is also relying on some of their young players putting it all together and there is no guarantee that happens. Minnesota will take care of business against the bottom teams in the AL Central and fare better than expected against Chicago and Cleveland. This can give the Twins an opportunity to be the number one seed heading into the AL playoffs and the road to the World Series will come through Target Field. It will be up to the club make sure some winning baseball happens in October. What are your bold predictions for the Twins? 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
  21. Last season was a difficult one to check in with regarding over under lines put out by major sportsbooks. With the truncated season having goofy projected stat lines, they never made a ton of sense to dive into. Normalcy has begun to return, and there’s some money to be made based on Minnesota performances in the year ahead. I tend to shy away from RBI focused lines, and the Twins have a handful of new subjects being considered big enough names worthy of individual focus for the year ahead. There wasn’t a ton of lines I loved, but there’s some long shots that also seem incredibly juicy. Let’s get into it. Jose Berrios OVER 190.5 strikeouts Each of the past two full seasons, the only he’s pitched in the majors, Berrios has tallied 202 and 195 strikeouts. Last season in 63.0 IP the Twins hurler racked up 68 strikeouts, which was nearly a full strikeout improvement to his K/9 from 2019. I don’t know that we see the Puerto Rican all of a sudden make a run at a Cy Young award, but I think sustainability is something that will emerge in 2021. Minnesota reworked his offseason routine with hopes of avoiding the late summer swoon, and Berrios has made velocity additions under pitching coach Wes Johnson. Let me have the over on what would otherwise be his lowest full-season strikeout total. Josh Donaldson OVER 27.5 home runs In his first year with the Twins Josh Donaldson played in under 50% of the team’s games. Nagging calf issues aren’t new for the former MVP, and if nothing else, that should represent some hope in that he’ll know how to rehab effectively. With Atlanta in 2019, Donaldson crushed 37 dingers, and even in a 113-game campaign during 2017 he posted 33 longballs. In fact, the last time Donaldson didn’t hit 27 homers in a year where substantial time was missed happened way back in 2013. This will be the season that the Bringer of Rain shows why he was handed a $100 million contract, and he’ll be part of an offense that provides plenty of thump. Miguel Sano OVER 35.5 home runs Hitting 35 homers would represent a career high for the Twins first basemen. That might make this line seem like a stretch, however, he clubbed 34 of them in just 105 games during the 2019 season. 2021 is the first season since he’s been refocused within the game to not have a spring setback. There’s no achilles injury or bout with Covid and the Dominican appears to be all systems go. Miguel Sano struck out a ridiculous 43.9% of the time a season ago yet still hit homers at a pace of 39 per 162 games. I’d bet heavily on him reducing the whiff rate to something more in line with career norms, and he’s still going to give away a lot of baseballs to fans back in ballparks. Minnesota Twins OVER 89.5 wins This line seems like free money and beyond odd to me. Not only are the Twins not considered favorites to three-peat in the AL Central, but it would also represent a division with a second-place team not reaching the 90-win plateau. Back in 2019 that happened in just two divisions, both in the National League, and with no real secondary competition. Minnesota should still be expected atop Chicago until the White Sox show otherwise, but even if that isn’t the case, dropping below 90 wins seems like a really big stretch. Lead MLB in HRs Miguel Sano (25/1) Nelson Cruz (40/1) The former seems like a fairly strong bet here. Any player that should surpass 40 home runs has to be in the conversation for this accolade, and at 25/1 there’s no reason not to throw something on Sano. I think he’s more likely to take the title than teammate Nelson Cruz, but the 40/1 odds for the designated hitter are too juicy to pass up as well. There’s not enough reason to indicate the favorites are more likely to race out to an easy victory, so taking a flier makes sense. AL Cy Young Winner Kenta Maeda (22/1) Something seems odd here too as Maeda is the reigning runner-up for this award and yet he’s got longer odds than teammate Jose Berrios (16/1). Maeda has been flawless through nine innings this spring, but that’s not really the story here. The former Dodgers starter has always been overshadowed in Los Angeles and he flashed how good he really is a season ago. That wasn’t a short season fluke, and a repeat performance wouldn’t be shocking, while going the distance to establish him as an ace. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  22. Catchers (3): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers, Willians Astudillo Garver and Jeffers might be the best catching duo in all of baseball, especially if Garver can rebound after a rough 2020 campaign. Jeffers was tremendous last season and he has the potential to take home AL Rookie of the Year honors if he continue to produce at the same level. Astudillo is coming off a tremendous winter season in the Venezuelan Winter League where he finished as the MVP runner-up. His defensive versatility gives Rocco Baldelli some flexibility on Opening Day. Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons Donaldson and Simmons on the same side of the infield is quite the defensive pairing as both players have won Gold Gloves in the past. Moving Polanco to second base will help to improve his value by taking away some of the weaknesses he showed at shortstop. Sano was solid at first base in 2020 and he will only get better as he learns the nuances of his new defensive position. One of the toughest tasks for Baldelli might be finding enough at-bats for Arraez as he shifts to a utility role. Outfield (4): Jake Cave, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Brent Rooker One name noticeably missing from this list is Alex Kirilloff. Due to MLB’s arbitration rules, Minnesota will likely keep Kirilloff in the minors to start the year, so the club can pick up another year of team control. This means Cave and Rooker are the likely winners in this scenario because both should start the year on the big-league roster. The Twins can also use Arraez and Astudillo in the outfield, but that is not likely a preferable option. However, Baldelli might want to find extra at-bats for these players and the outfield can offer an open position until Kirilloff is called up. Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz The Boomstick is back to anchor the middle of the Twins line-up. Father Time hasn’t caught up to him yet and the Twins are hoping the 2021 season matches his output from his first two seasons in Minnesota. Rotation (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Randy Dobnak Berrios has been the Opening Day starter in each of the last two seasons, so it will be interesting to see what direction Baldelli goes for the team’s first game. Maeda is coming off a runner-up finish for the AL Cy Young, so he could get the honor of starting Opening Day. Pineda is looking to play his first full season in Minnesota after missing time due to Tommy John surgery and suspension. J.A. Happ slides nicely into the back end of the rotation and Dobnak should round things out unless the team makes another move in the coming weeks. Bullpen (8): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Alex Colome, Jorge Alcala, Hansel Robles, Caleb Thielbar, Cody Stashak, Ian Hamilton This bullpen has the potential to be one of the team’s strengths in 2021. Rogers had a rough 2020 season, but some of the peripheral numbers point to him bouncing back. Duffey might be the team’s best relief option and he is a weapon the club can utilize in a variety of roles. Colome has been an All-Star level closer for multiple seasons so it will be interesting to see what role he fills in Minnesota. Alcala can be the Twins breakout player in the bullpen, and he might be one of the team’s most valuable set-up men this season. Hamilton might be the biggest question mark with Edwar Colina, Devin Smeltzer, and Lewis Thorpe having a chance to beat him out. Who do you think makes the Opening Day roster? 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
  23. The Twins are aiming to build a World Series champion. Among all players currently in the organization, which ones are most critical to achieving this goal? We've been counting down our picks all week, and here we wrap it up with a look at the top five.First, you can get up to speed on the 'why and how' behind these rankings by reading Monday's introductory post. If you're already hip, proceed to find my choices (and reasoning) for the 1st-through-5th most valuable player assets currently under Minnesota's control as 2021 gets underway. Read Part 1 (16-20)Read Part 2 (11-15)Read Part 3 (6-10) 5: Royce Lewis, SS 2020 Ranking: 5 After landing atop our 2019 rankings, Lewis followed with an uneven campaign that caused him to slide to No. 5 last year. Since then, not much has changed. He spent his 2020 season at the alternate site, giving him little opportunity to counteract the narrative of a '19 season that saw him post a .661 OPS and ugly 123-to-38 K/BB ratio between two levels while his clunky swing mechanics drew heat from analysts. Although the former No. 1 overall pick's true ceiling is in question, there's little doubt he will be an impact player in the big leagues, whether as an infielder or out in center as Byron Buxton's eventual successor. He's not the premier asset he once was, but Lewis holds steady in these rankings until further notice. 4: José Berríos, RHP 2020 Ranking: 3 As I mentioned in the intro post for this series, Berríos is a model of consistency: unlike so many others, he hasn't faltered in these rankings due to performance or injury. He has stayed remarkably steady and durable as a fixture atop the Twins rotation and roster. But, he also hasn't quite taken the step forward necessary to elevate. Berríos remains a "borderline ace" – not quite meeting the standard against which he is constantly measured, but always coming close. His most recent season was technically a downturn, but one that's easily attributed to disruption for a creature of routine. His numbers in the second half (and playoffs) were excellent. The only thing bumping Berríos from his customary top-three perch – albeit ever so slightly – is the looming specter of free agency, now only two years away. The righty is poised to hit the open market following the 2022 season, at age 28. That's good news for him but bad news for the Twins if they can't find a way to extend him. Locking Berríos up is an utmost priority; by this time next year, the front office's leverage will be mostly gone. 3: Max Kepler, RF 2020 Ranking: 2 Kepler definitely took a step back following his breakout 2019 campaign, but it wasn't as alarming a drop-off as it might seem on the surface. Yes, his OPS dropped by almost 100 points, but his peripherals and underlying metrics were steady. He remains a high-quality overall piece: a strong defensive outfielder who's capable in center, and an outstanding hitter combining patience, power and speed. There were some familiar warts marring Kepler's performance in 2020, however. Once again his production was stifled by a brutally low BABIP (.236), and he fell back into a pit of utter ineptitude against left-handed pitching (.128/.208/.170). These developments cast doubt on the superstar potential Kepler seemed to scratch in the prior season, but nevertheless, he was an above-average hitter and critical cornerstone for the first-place Twins. Most importantly, he's under control for the next three years at a total of $21.75 million, with an ultra-reasonable team option for $10 million in 2024. At this point Kepler is probably Minnesota's sturdiest building block. 2: Alex Kirilloff, RF 2020 Ranking: 9 While most prospects were essentially out of sight and out of mind in 2020, Kirilloff is a bit of an exception. His work at the alternate in St. Paul garnered a noticeable and consistent buzz, even with a lack of official games being played. This culminated with the Twins making a very bold move at season's end, calling Kirilloff up to make his major-league debut in a postseason elimination game. Despite the extraordinary circumstances, Kirilloff handled the challenge in stride, showing no signs of shrinking in the moment. As a former first-round pick who's slashed .317/.365/.498 in the minors, conquered Double-A, and now made a heck of first impression in the majors, Kirilloff has made a convincing case that he's ready to step in as an above-average MLB corner outfielder right now, with very plausible All-Star potential. The Twins will probably wait until at least late May to call him up for good, buying an extra year of control in 2027, but it's clear they are lining Kirilloff up to roam the outfield for many years to come. 1: Kenta Maeda, RHP 2020 Ranking: NR The Twins took a big gamble last February, trading their No. 4 ranked asset in Brusdar Graterol to Los Angeles in efforts to bolster the rotation. When you're giving up such an immensely valuable asset, you'd better get something awfully good in return. Turns out, the front office did just fine. One of the biggest appeals in acquiring Maeda was his incredibly team-friendly contract – he's guaranteed only $3.125 million in each of the next three seasons, with the rest of his money tied into incentives. This means very little outright risk for a whole lot of upside, which we saw on full display in his first season as a Twin. In a career year, Maeda emerged as a true ace and finished as the Cy Young runner-up. It's hard to overstate just how impactful his addition to this organization is. Maeda is everything the Twins needed, and has quickly separated himself as their most prized asset. THE TOP 20 TWINS ASSETS OF 2021 20. Keoni Cavaco, SS 19. Brent Rooker, OF/1B 18. Josh Donaldson, 3B 17. Taylor Rogers, LHP 16. Jorge Alcala, RHP 15. Miguel Sanó, 1B 14. Tyler Duffey, RHP 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 12. Jhoan Duran, RHP 11. Luis Arráez, 2B 10. Trevor Larnach, OF 9. Byron Buxton, CF 8. Mitch Garver, C 7. Ryan Jeffers, C 6. Jorge Polanco, SS 5. Royce Lewis, SS 4. José Berríos, RHP 3. Max Kepler, RF 2. Alex Kirilloff, RF 1. Kenta Maeda, RHP Now that we've got the full list rolled out, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Any outrageous omissions? Who's too high? Who's too low? Where would Nelson Cruz fit in (if at all) were he to sign, say, a one-year $10 million deal? As a final note, I've gotta give some props to the three commenters who tried their hand at predicting the rankings back on Monday, especially Seansy who correctly guessed 17 out of the 20 names and had SIX in the exact right placements (Maeda #1, Polanco #6, Jeffers #7, Larnach #10, Duffey #14, Sanó #15)! Super close on the most of the rest too, very nicely done. Very nice work also by Shs_2 who also got 17 names right (3 correct placements) and whosafraidofluigirussolo who had 18 of the names (2 correct placements). 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
  24. First, you can get up to speed on the 'why and how' behind these rankings by reading Monday's introductory post. If you're already hip, proceed to find my choices (and reasoning) for the 1st-through-5th most valuable player assets currently under Minnesota's control as 2021 gets underway. Read Part 1 (16-20) Read Part 2 (11-15) Read Part 3 (6-10) 5: Royce Lewis, SS 2020 Ranking: 5 After landing atop our 2019 rankings, Lewis followed with an uneven campaign that caused him to slide to No. 5 last year. Since then, not much has changed. He spent his 2020 season at the alternate site, giving him little opportunity to counteract the narrative of a '19 season that saw him post a .661 OPS and ugly 123-to-38 K/BB ratio between two levels while his clunky swing mechanics drew heat from analysts. Although the former No. 1 overall pick's true ceiling is in question, there's little doubt he will be an impact player in the big leagues, whether as an infielder or out in center as Byron Buxton's eventual successor. He's not the premier asset he once was, but Lewis holds steady in these rankings until further notice. 4: José Berríos, RHP 2020 Ranking: 3 As I mentioned in the intro post for this series, Berríos is a model of consistency: unlike so many others, he hasn't faltered in these rankings due to performance or injury. He has stayed remarkably steady and durable as a fixture atop the Twins rotation and roster. But, he also hasn't quite taken the step forward necessary to elevate. Berríos remains a "borderline ace" – not quite meeting the standard against which he is constantly measured, but always coming close. His most recent season was technically a downturn, but one that's easily attributed to disruption for a creature of routine. His numbers in the second half (and playoffs) were excellent. The only thing bumping Berríos from his customary top-three perch – albeit ever so slightly – is the looming specter of free agency, now only two years away. The righty is poised to hit the open market following the 2022 season, at age 28. That's good news for him but bad news for the Twins if they can't find a way to extend him. Locking Berríos up is an utmost priority; by this time next year, the front office's leverage will be mostly gone. 3: Max Kepler, RF 2020 Ranking: 2 Kepler definitely took a step back following his breakout 2019 campaign, but it wasn't as alarming a drop-off as it might seem on the surface. Yes, his OPS dropped by almost 100 points, but his peripherals and underlying metrics were steady. He remains a high-quality overall piece: a strong defensive outfielder who's capable in center, and an outstanding hitter combining patience, power and speed. There were some familiar warts marring Kepler's performance in 2020, however. Once again his production was stifled by a brutally low BABIP (.236), and he fell back into a pit of utter ineptitude against left-handed pitching (.128/.208/.170). These developments cast doubt on the superstar potential Kepler seemed to scratch in the prior season, but nevertheless, he was an above-average hitter and critical cornerstone for the first-place Twins. Most importantly, he's under control for the next three years at a total of $21.75 million, with an ultra-reasonable team option for $10 million in 2024. At this point Kepler is probably Minnesota's sturdiest building block. 2: Alex Kirilloff, RF 2020 Ranking: 9 While most prospects were essentially out of sight and out of mind in 2020, Kirilloff is a bit of an exception. His work at the alternate in St. Paul garnered a noticeable and consistent buzz, even with a lack of official games being played. This culminated with the Twins making a very bold move at season's end, calling Kirilloff up to make his major-league debut in a postseason elimination game. Despite the extraordinary circumstances, Kirilloff handled the challenge in stride, showing no signs of shrinking in the moment. As a former first-round pick who's slashed .317/.365/.498 in the minors, conquered Double-A, and now made a heck of first impression in the majors, Kirilloff has made a convincing case that he's ready to step in as an above-average MLB corner outfielder right now, with very plausible All-Star potential. The Twins will probably wait until at least late May to call him up for good, buying an extra year of control in 2027, but it's clear they are lining Kirilloff up to roam the outfield for many years to come. 1: Kenta Maeda, RHP 2020 Ranking: NR The Twins took a big gamble last February, trading their No. 4 ranked asset in Brusdar Graterol to Los Angeles in efforts to bolster the rotation. When you're giving up such an immensely valuable asset, you'd better get something awfully good in return. Turns out, the front office did just fine. One of the biggest appeals in acquiring Maeda was his incredibly team-friendly contract – he's guaranteed only $3.125 million in each of the next three seasons, with the rest of his money tied into incentives. This means very little outright risk for a whole lot of upside, which we saw on full display in his first season as a Twin. In a career year, Maeda emerged as a true ace and finished as the Cy Young runner-up. It's hard to overstate just how impactful his addition to this organization is. Maeda is everything the Twins needed, and has quickly separated himself as their most prized asset. THE TOP 20 TWINS ASSETS OF 2021 20. Keoni Cavaco, SS 19. Brent Rooker, OF/1B 18. Josh Donaldson, 3B 17. Taylor Rogers, LHP 16. Jorge Alcala, RHP 15. Miguel Sanó, 1B 14. Tyler Duffey, RHP 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 12. Jhoan Duran, RHP 11. Luis Arráez, 2B 10. Trevor Larnach, OF 9. Byron Buxton, CF 8. Mitch Garver, C 7. Ryan Jeffers, C 6. Jorge Polanco, SS 5. Royce Lewis, SS 4. José Berríos, RHP 3. Max Kepler, RF 2. Alex Kirilloff, RF 1. Kenta Maeda, RHP Now that we've got the full list rolled out, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Any outrageous omissions? Who's too high? Who's too low? Where would Nelson Cruz fit in (if at all) were he to sign, say, a one-year $10 million deal? As a final note, I've gotta give some props to the three commenters who tried their hand at predicting the rankings back on Monday, especially Seansy who correctly guessed 17 out of the 20 names and had SIX in the exact right placements (Maeda #1, Polanco #6, Jeffers #7, Larnach #10, Duffey #14, Sanó #15)! Super close on the most of the rest too, very nicely done. Very nice work also by Shs_2 who also got 17 names right (3 correct placements) and whosafraidofluigirussolo who had 18 of the names (2 correct placements). MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  25. 1. Healthy Arraez Heading for AL Batting Title 2021 ZiPS Projection: .313/.371/.406, 32 2B, 5 HR, 3.2 WAR No. 1 Player Comp: Cecil Travis Entering the 2020 season, Luis Arraez was coming off a tremendous rookie year and expectations were even higher for his sophomore campaign. His first 10 games were rough as he hit .212/.289/.502 without a single extra-base hit. He dealt with a knee injury throughout different parts of the season, but he seemed to put it all together over his final 22 games. During that stretch, he hit .367/.398/.481 with nine doubles and 12 runs scored. Just like the 2020 projections, ZiPS pegs Arraez to lead the American League in batting average. His 3.2 WAR is also the highest on the team among position players as he finishes just ahead of Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, and Max Kepler. It would certainly be exciting to have a healthy Arraez fighting for a batting title, but the Twins will likely want one of the other star players to lead the team in WAR. 2. Polanco Bounces Back 2021 ZiPS Projection: .279/.333/.440, 32 2B, 17 HR, 2.8 WAR No. 1 Player Comp: Buddy Bell There has been plenty of discussion this winter about what role Polanco should serve with the 2021 Twins. Will he be the team’s everyday shortstop, or does it make sense to bring in another option and shift Polanco to a utility role? During the last two off-seasons, Polanco has been forced to undergo ankle surgery and that’s a consideration for the team when planning for the future. Last year, Polanco posted career low marks in batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage. Looking at ZiPS for Polanco and the projections clearly have him inline for a bounce back season. His projected slugging percentage would be six points higher than his career mark and his 17 home runs would only trail his 22 longballs in 2019. Also, he has accumulated 30 doubles or more in every season he’s played at least 130 games. Defensively, there were some improvements last year, but he has finished eighth among AL shortstops in SABR’s SDI in each of the last two seasons. 3. Maeda Set for Major Regression 2021 ZiPS Projection: 4.12 ERA, 135 1/3 IP, 154 K, 45 BB, 2.2 WAR No. 1 Player Comp: John Montefusco Maeda’s first season in a Twins uniform went about as well as it could possibly go. He finished runner-up in the AL Cy Young Voting after posting a 2.70 ERA, 161 ERA+ and a MLB leading 0.75 WHIP. It was everything the Twins hoped for when they traded for him and the best news is, he is under team control for the next three seasons. His season might have been the most dominant performance by a Twins starter since Johan Santana was traded away. It seems highly unlikely for Maeda to be able to replicate his 2020 numbers during the 2021 campaign. The season will include more than 60 games and his 2020 totals were far superior to any previous season in his big-league career. ZiPS has his ERA 37 points higher than his career mark. Another oddity is that ZiPS has him scheduled to make eight appearances out of the bullpen, which would be similar to his time in Los Angeles. Maeda should outperform his ZiPS projections and Twins fans better hope he isn’t needed out of the bullpen. 4. Pineda Pitches Under 100 innings 2021 ZiPS Projection: 4.58 ERA, 92 1/3 IP, 84 K, 20 BB, 1.1 WAR No. 1 Player Comp: Dave Eiland Pineda’s time in Minnesota has been marked by one season where he was recovering from Tommy John surgery and parts of two seasons where he missed time due to a suspension. Last season, he made five starts and allowed 10 earned runs in 26 2/3 innings (3.38 ERA). Since joining the Twins he has posted a 1.16 WHIP and a 115 ERA+. The 2021 season can mark his first time pitching a full season for Minnesota, but the projections aren’t exactly kind to his performance. Injuries have been part of Pineda’s professional career and that’s why ZiPS limits his projected innings pitched. In fact, there are over 10 pitchers projected to pitch more innings than Pineda for the 2021 Twins. His career ERA is 4.02 and he has only posted one season with an ERA higher than his projected 4.58. Another intriguing note is the fact Pineda can be a free agent following the 2021 season. Will he perform better in a contract year? Or will the Twins be willing to work out an extension? 5. ZiPS Loves Randy Dobnak 2021 ZiPS Projection: 4.53 ERA, 137 IP, 91 K, 37 BB, 1.6 WAR No. 1 Player Comp: Dick Drago Dobnak’s first two seasons in Minnesota have seen some ups and downs. Back in 2019, his rookie season was unbelievable as he posted a 1.59 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP across 28 1/3 innings. This culminated in the team turning to him for a Game 2 start in the ALDS. Last year, his ERA rose to 4.05 and he had a 1.35 WHIP while seeing his strikeout per walk total be cut in half. Eventually, he was optioned to the team’s alternate training site, but he was part of the team’s Wild Card roster. In an absence of a minor league season, the minor league writers at Twins Daily held a minor league draft last summer. One of the biggest takeaways from that draft was how much ZiPS loves Randy Dobnak. His projected career WAR total was the highest in the draft and it helped Steve to walk away with the best overall team. Among pitchers, Dobnak is projected to have the team’s third highest WAR as he only trails Berrios and Maeda. What other surprises were in the Twins 2021 ZiPS projections? 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
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