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  1. Bailey Ober has missed plenty of time due to injury in his professional career, including the majority of 2022. He’s finally made it back just a bit too late. He’ll finish the year in the Twins rotation, but perhaps we could ask, should he stay there long term? Image courtesy of Nick Wosika, USA TODAY Sports The Twins have a lot of returning starting pitching going into 2023, though none of their arms carry too much confidence to be leaned on. Keep your fingers crossed that they bring in a new name that isn’t another Bundy or Archer type, but doing so will push some arms out of the Opening Day rotation. Bailey Ober may be the top candidate to be bumped from a starting role. Injury Concerns Bailey Ober has missed tremendous time in his career due to injury. In 2021, he blew his previous career high in Innings Pitched out of the water with 108. After looking like he had built a foundation to push off of, he followed it up with just 60 innings to date so far in 2022. The fallout from his lost season is that even if healthy in 2023, the Twins will have to handle him with kid gloves yet again. A jump in innings from 60ish to the mid-100s seems like a bit of a stretch. Also worth considering is that the likelihood that he’ll get healthier with age after having such a colorful injury history is incredibly low. Moving into a bullpen role where inning count won’t be an issue may be advantageous. Maximizing Pitch Mix Ober has a pitch mix that’s begging to be simplified, particularly in regard to his changeup. Each of his pitches gets a modest amount of whiffs, but the changeup is the one that has been crushed so far this season. The pitch has allowed a .391 BA and .522 SLG with expected numbers backing up these results. A move to the bullpen could mean he drops this pitch altogether. Plenty of pitchers go this route, and in Ober’s case with two definitive breaking balls, his splits in short stints against lefties shouldn’t be a disaster. His fastball may also play up higher, as we often already see awkward swings due to his size and extension on the pitch. Adding any more velocity in a transition could turn it into a legitimate weapon. The Clock is Ticking It may be a surprise to some, but Ober is already 27 years old. Look no further than top prospect Matt Canterino for an example of how time can catch up. The Twins toyed with Canterino as a starting pitcher through recurring injuries until his elbow finally fully gave way. He’ll now miss much of the 2023 season and will return at nearly 26 years of age having never established an innings floor or reached the majors. Ober is a less extreme example. He’s surpassed 100 innings in a season and made the majors, but it still seems like expecting a full starter's workload could become a futile effort very soon. He could similarly pull up with a significant injury one of these days if he continues to be pushed. A move to the bullpen doesn’t negate that chance, but it may pay off to change up what hasn’t worked to this point in his career while still providing value to the Twins. It also may take until 2024 if everything goes well for him to build up to even 150ish innings to be a starting pitcher, at which point he’ll be 29 years old. If he keeps losing seasons to injury as he nears his 30s, time is bound to eventually run out. Should the Twins actively look to move Ober to the bullpen next season? Not necessarily. He’s been relatively effective as a #3 or #4 starter and even that caliber of pitcher has been hard for the Twins to develop. That being said, in theory, the Twins have a returning staff of Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, and eventually Chris Paddack with several younger pitchers from AAA in the mix. If the Twins can bring in another quality starting pitcher, somebody is going to lose out. There’s a case to be made that Ober is the prime option. Would you agree with a move to the bullpen for Ober? Has he shown enough to get one last shot in the rotation? View full article
  2. The Twins have a lot of returning starting pitching going into 2023, though none of their arms carry too much confidence to be leaned on. Keep your fingers crossed that they bring in a new name that isn’t another Bundy or Archer type, but doing so will push some arms out of the Opening Day rotation. Bailey Ober may be the top candidate to be bumped from a starting role. Injury Concerns Bailey Ober has missed tremendous time in his career due to injury. In 2021, he blew his previous career high in Innings Pitched out of the water with 108. After looking like he had built a foundation to push off of, he followed it up with just 60 innings to date so far in 2022. The fallout from his lost season is that even if healthy in 2023, the Twins will have to handle him with kid gloves yet again. A jump in innings from 60ish to the mid-100s seems like a bit of a stretch. Also worth considering is that the likelihood that he’ll get healthier with age after having such a colorful injury history is incredibly low. Moving into a bullpen role where inning count won’t be an issue may be advantageous. Maximizing Pitch Mix Ober has a pitch mix that’s begging to be simplified, particularly in regard to his changeup. Each of his pitches gets a modest amount of whiffs, but the changeup is the one that has been crushed so far this season. The pitch has allowed a .391 BA and .522 SLG with expected numbers backing up these results. A move to the bullpen could mean he drops this pitch altogether. Plenty of pitchers go this route, and in Ober’s case with two definitive breaking balls, his splits in short stints against lefties shouldn’t be a disaster. His fastball may also play up higher, as we often already see awkward swings due to his size and extension on the pitch. Adding any more velocity in a transition could turn it into a legitimate weapon. The Clock is Ticking It may be a surprise to some, but Ober is already 27 years old. Look no further than top prospect Matt Canterino for an example of how time can catch up. The Twins toyed with Canterino as a starting pitcher through recurring injuries until his elbow finally fully gave way. He’ll now miss much of the 2023 season and will return at nearly 26 years of age having never established an innings floor or reached the majors. Ober is a less extreme example. He’s surpassed 100 innings in a season and made the majors, but it still seems like expecting a full starter's workload could become a futile effort very soon. He could similarly pull up with a significant injury one of these days if he continues to be pushed. A move to the bullpen doesn’t negate that chance, but it may pay off to change up what hasn’t worked to this point in his career while still providing value to the Twins. It also may take until 2024 if everything goes well for him to build up to even 150ish innings to be a starting pitcher, at which point he’ll be 29 years old. If he keeps losing seasons to injury as he nears his 30s, time is bound to eventually run out. Should the Twins actively look to move Ober to the bullpen next season? Not necessarily. He’s been relatively effective as a #3 or #4 starter and even that caliber of pitcher has been hard for the Twins to develop. That being said, in theory, the Twins have a returning staff of Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, and eventually Chris Paddack with several younger pitchers from AAA in the mix. If the Twins can bring in another quality starting pitcher, somebody is going to lose out. There’s a case to be made that Ober is the prime option. Would you agree with a move to the bullpen for Ober? Has he shown enough to get one last shot in the rotation?
  3. Few MLB teams have been bitten by the injury bug like the Twins this season. Could Minnesota win the AL Central with the players currently on the injured list? Image courtesy of Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports Minnesota's injury list has continued to fill up with players up and down the roster. No AL team has put more players on the injured list than the Twins, making it tough to evaluate the team's overall talent value. Looking back on the 2022 season, it will be easy to point to all the team's injuries as one of the reasons for its downfall. That being said, the AL Central is still up for grabs, so could the Twins' injured players win the division? Catcher: Ryan Jeffers Jeffers was supposed to take over the full-time catching duties this season after the team traded Mitch Garver. Before fracturing his thumb, he saw his OPS+ rise eight points compared to 2021. He also does a great job behind the plate as his framing ranks in the 65th percentile. 1B: Miguel Sano There's no question that Sano struggled during the 2022 season, but this is a player that averaged a 122 OPS+ over the last three seasons. He's been streaky throughout his career, which doesn't help how fans view him. His Twins tenure is likely done, but he was a solid contributor during that time. 2B: Jorge Polanco Polanco had avoided the injured list for much of his career until the 2022 season. He's played through injuries in the past and been relatively productive. This season the injuries were clearly bothering him at the plate, and his defensive numbers took a significant drop. Even with injuries, his WAR ranks in the team's top 5. 3B: No Current Injury <Knock on Wood> Minnesota doesn't have a current injured third baseman, but this position can be filled with an infielder from St. Paul. Andrew Bechtold seems like a possible fit since he can be a replacement-level player and has played third base during the 2022 season. SS: Royce Lewis It's hard not to think about what Lewis might have meant to the 2022 Twins if he had stayed healthy. His first taste of the big leagues was spectacular as he went 12-for-40 (.300) with four doubles and two home runs. Lewis looked like a star, and the Twins could desperately use a right-handed power bat for the stretch run. OF: Byron Buxton, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach Minnesota expected all three players to fit into the middle of the lineup this season. Buxton avoided the injured list for much of the season, but now he hasn't been available for the team's stretch run. Kirilloff put together some eye-popping numbers at Triple-A as he returned from injury. Unfortunately, something was still wrong with his wrist, and he underwent a unique surgery to alleviate some of the pain. Larnach had a 105 OPS+ in 2022, and the team has been forced to use replacement-level players to fill in for his production. Rotation: Tyler Mahle, Chris Paddack, Kenta Maeda, Bailey Ober, Randy Dobnak The top three pitchers in the injured rotation have been acquired by the current front office in trades. Now it seems unlikely that any of the three will be available for Minnesota's stretch run. Ober and Dobnak have started their rehab assignments, but it's questionable how much they will be able to provide the club for the season's remainder. Josh Winder is also another name to consider as he is no longer rehabbing but he is getting back to strength in the Saints rotation. Adding him to this rotation allows Dobnak to be a long-man out of the bullpen. Bullpen: Jorge Alcala, Danny Coulombe, Jhon Romero, Cole Sands, Cody Stashak Minnesota's bullpen has been a mess, so it's intriguing to consider what these missing players may have been able to provide the team. Alcala has the make-up to be an elite reliever and had the potential to take over a late-inning role in 2022. Stashak and Sands can fit into this team's imaginary set-up roles. Not much was expected from Coulombe and Romero, but relievers can surprise in small sample sizes. Cleveland and Chicago have flaws, and the Twins roster above might be good enough to compete in the AL Central. Do you think they'd have enough pieces to compete in the division? Is the Twins injured roster better than their current roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  4. Minnesota's injury list has continued to fill up with players up and down the roster. No AL team has put more players on the injured list than the Twins, making it tough to evaluate the team's overall talent value. Looking back on the 2022 season, it will be easy to point to all the team's injuries as one of the reasons for its downfall. That being said, the AL Central is still up for grabs, so could the Twins' injured players win the division? Catcher: Ryan Jeffers Jeffers was supposed to take over the full-time catching duties this season after the team traded Mitch Garver. Before fracturing his thumb, he saw his OPS+ rise eight points compared to 2021. He also does a great job behind the plate as his framing ranks in the 65th percentile. 1B: Miguel Sano There's no question that Sano struggled during the 2022 season, but this is a player that averaged a 122 OPS+ over the last three seasons. He's been streaky throughout his career, which doesn't help how fans view him. His Twins tenure is likely done, but he was a solid contributor during that time. 2B: Jorge Polanco Polanco had avoided the injured list for much of his career until the 2022 season. He's played through injuries in the past and been relatively productive. This season the injuries were clearly bothering him at the plate, and his defensive numbers took a significant drop. Even with injuries, his WAR ranks in the team's top 5. 3B: No Current Injury <Knock on Wood> Minnesota doesn't have a current injured third baseman, but this position can be filled with an infielder from St. Paul. Andrew Bechtold seems like a possible fit since he can be a replacement-level player and has played third base during the 2022 season. SS: Royce Lewis It's hard not to think about what Lewis might have meant to the 2022 Twins if he had stayed healthy. His first taste of the big leagues was spectacular as he went 12-for-40 (.300) with four doubles and two home runs. Lewis looked like a star, and the Twins could desperately use a right-handed power bat for the stretch run. OF: Byron Buxton, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach Minnesota expected all three players to fit into the middle of the lineup this season. Buxton avoided the injured list for much of the season, but now he hasn't been available for the team's stretch run. Kirilloff put together some eye-popping numbers at Triple-A as he returned from injury. Unfortunately, something was still wrong with his wrist, and he underwent a unique surgery to alleviate some of the pain. Larnach had a 105 OPS+ in 2022, and the team has been forced to use replacement-level players to fill in for his production. Rotation: Tyler Mahle, Chris Paddack, Kenta Maeda, Bailey Ober, Randy Dobnak The top three pitchers in the injured rotation have been acquired by the current front office in trades. Now it seems unlikely that any of the three will be available for Minnesota's stretch run. Ober and Dobnak have started their rehab assignments, but it's questionable how much they will be able to provide the club for the season's remainder. Josh Winder is also another name to consider as he is no longer rehabbing but he is getting back to strength in the Saints rotation. Adding him to this rotation allows Dobnak to be a long-man out of the bullpen. Bullpen: Jorge Alcala, Danny Coulombe, Jhon Romero, Cole Sands, Cody Stashak Minnesota's bullpen has been a mess, so it's intriguing to consider what these missing players may have been able to provide the team. Alcala has the make-up to be an elite reliever and had the potential to take over a late-inning role in 2022. Stashak and Sands can fit into this team's imaginary set-up roles. Not much was expected from Coulombe and Romero, but relievers can surprise in small sample sizes. Cleveland and Chicago have flaws, and the Twins roster above might be good enough to compete in the AL Central. Do you think they'd have enough pieces to compete in the division? Is the Twins injured roster better than their current roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  5. Under the current regime, Minnesota has acquired multiple pitchers that have suffered an injury after being acquired. Is this bad luck, or is this something the front office can avoid in the future? Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports Many teams struggled to find enough pitching to make it through the season, and the Twins are no stranger to this problem. Minnesota has been in the middle of a winning window over the last four seasons, requiring the front office to be active in the trade market. Unfortunately, multiple pitchers acquired by the team have ended up dealing with injuries after being acquired. Is this something the team can avoid? Sam Dyson, RP Acquired: 2019 Trade Deadline from the Giants Minnesota’s line-up was firing on all cylinders during the 2019 season, and the team looked to bolster the Bomba Squad at the trade deadline. Minnesota traded for relievers Sam Dyson and Sergio Romo, but Dyson’s Twins tenure was short-lived. He allowed nine earned runs in 11 1/3 innings while also making multiple trips to the IL. Eventually, he revealed that he had been pitching through shoulder discomfort for multiple weeks. The Twins eventually investigated if the Giants knew anything about his injury before the trade. There were no signs of his injury or poor performance before the trade, so this deal looks like bad luck for the Twins. Kenta Maeda, SP Acquired: Before the 2020 Season from the Dodgers The Twins were looking to build off the 2019 season, and acquiring Maeda helped to put them back in contention for 2020. His first season in Minnesota couldn’t have gone much better as he posted a 2.70 ERA while leading baseball with a 0.75 WHIP. Maeda’s second season in Minnesota didn’t go as smoothly as his ERA rose to 4.66, and he eventually needed to undergo Tommy John surgery. There were some concerns with Maeda’s elbow when he originally signed with the Dodgers, and that’s why Los Angeles was able to sign him to a team-friendly deal. He pitched over 760 innings before needing Tommy John surgery, so it doesn’t seem like the Twins should have noticed this red flag. Chris Paddack, SP Acquired: Before the 2022 Season from the Padres The trade that brought Paddack to Minnesota will be discussed for quite some time. In the end, both teams aren’t happy with the results, with all players struggling or dealing with an injury. One of the reasons the Twins were able to acquire Paddack was because of some of his lingering injury concerns. As a prospect in the Padres system, Paddack underwent Tommy John surgery, and his 2021 season ended after he sprained his UCL last September. It was a tough blow for Minnesota because of how well he’d pitched in 2022, but it wasn’t much of a surprise that his season ended with a second Tommy John procedure. Tyler Mahle, SP Acquired: 2022 Trade Deadline from the Reds Mahle was arguably Minnesota’s most prominent trade deadline acquisition, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. He has struggled with velocity in his last two starts, which have required stints on the injured list. Now there is no guarantee he will be able to help the team for their most important games in September. Before the trade deadline, Mahle had been on the injured list because of his shoulder, but he had returned and pitched well. Even in 2021, Mahle led all of baseball with 33 games started, so he has been a consistent starter for multiple seasons. His injuries can be even more frustrating when looking at the other names mentioned above. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are forced to be creative when it comes to making baseball decisions. They aren’t going to surrender the prospect capital needed to acquire a top-tier pitcher because of the long-term ramifications of emptying a farm system. This forces the team to examine trades for players with flaws, including previous injury concerns. Nearly every MLB pitcher deals with injuries at some point in their career, so Minnesota has gotten unlucky with some players mentioned above. In retrospect, Dyson’s deal looks the worst, but the other three pitchers have the potential to impact the 2023 Twins. Do you think the Twins can avoid these types of pitchers in the future? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  6. Many teams struggled to find enough pitching to make it through the season, and the Twins are no stranger to this problem. Minnesota has been in the middle of a winning window over the last four seasons, requiring the front office to be active in the trade market. Unfortunately, multiple pitchers acquired by the team have ended up dealing with injuries after being acquired. Is this something the team can avoid? Sam Dyson, RP Acquired: 2019 Trade Deadline from the Giants Minnesota’s line-up was firing on all cylinders during the 2019 season, and the team looked to bolster the Bomba Squad at the trade deadline. Minnesota traded for relievers Sam Dyson and Sergio Romo, but Dyson’s Twins tenure was short-lived. He allowed nine earned runs in 11 1/3 innings while also making multiple trips to the IL. Eventually, he revealed that he had been pitching through shoulder discomfort for multiple weeks. The Twins eventually investigated if the Giants knew anything about his injury before the trade. There were no signs of his injury or poor performance before the trade, so this deal looks like bad luck for the Twins. Kenta Maeda, SP Acquired: Before the 2020 Season from the Dodgers The Twins were looking to build off the 2019 season, and acquiring Maeda helped to put them back in contention for 2020. His first season in Minnesota couldn’t have gone much better as he posted a 2.70 ERA while leading baseball with a 0.75 WHIP. Maeda’s second season in Minnesota didn’t go as smoothly as his ERA rose to 4.66, and he eventually needed to undergo Tommy John surgery. There were some concerns with Maeda’s elbow when he originally signed with the Dodgers, and that’s why Los Angeles was able to sign him to a team-friendly deal. He pitched over 760 innings before needing Tommy John surgery, so it doesn’t seem like the Twins should have noticed this red flag. Chris Paddack, SP Acquired: Before the 2022 Season from the Padres The trade that brought Paddack to Minnesota will be discussed for quite some time. In the end, both teams aren’t happy with the results, with all players struggling or dealing with an injury. One of the reasons the Twins were able to acquire Paddack was because of some of his lingering injury concerns. As a prospect in the Padres system, Paddack underwent Tommy John surgery, and his 2021 season ended after he sprained his UCL last September. It was a tough blow for Minnesota because of how well he’d pitched in 2022, but it wasn’t much of a surprise that his season ended with a second Tommy John procedure. Tyler Mahle, SP Acquired: 2022 Trade Deadline from the Reds Mahle was arguably Minnesota’s most prominent trade deadline acquisition, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. He has struggled with velocity in his last two starts, which have required stints on the injured list. Now there is no guarantee he will be able to help the team for their most important games in September. Before the trade deadline, Mahle had been on the injured list because of his shoulder, but he had returned and pitched well. Even in 2021, Mahle led all of baseball with 33 games started, so he has been a consistent starter for multiple seasons. His injuries can be even more frustrating when looking at the other names mentioned above. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are forced to be creative when it comes to making baseball decisions. They aren’t going to surrender the prospect capital needed to acquire a top-tier pitcher because of the long-term ramifications of emptying a farm system. This forces the team to examine trades for players with flaws, including previous injury concerns. Nearly every MLB pitcher deals with injuries at some point in their career, so Minnesota has gotten unlucky with some players mentioned above. In retrospect, Dyson’s deal looks the worst, but the other three pitchers have the potential to impact the 2023 Twins. Do you think the Twins can avoid these types of pitchers in the future? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  7. September is shaping up to be an exciting month as the Twins find themselves in the thick of the playoff race. Here are four storylines to watch in the season’s final month. The Twins have been a roller coaster ride to watch this season, with great play through the season’s first two months and poor play over the last two months. Luckily, the team’s ineptitude hasn’t knocked them out of the playoff race because the team plays in one of baseball’s worst divisions. With weeks left in the season, there is plenty of pressure on the Twins to find a way to play in October. Correa Starting to Heat Up Minnesota signed Carlos Correa for various reasons, but his postseason experience is unlike few players in Twins history. Last weekend, Correa punished the ball in a three-game series against the Giants by going 8-for-12 with a double, a home run, and four RBI. Fans may be unimpressed with Correa’s numbers in a Twins uniform as his .790 OPS is over 40 points lower than his career mark. However, offense is down across baseball, and his 129 OPS+ is two points higher than his career total. Minnesota’s offense has struggled in the second half, and Correa may be the key to getting the team back on track. Buxton’s Ailing Hip Byron Buxton’s biggest goal for the 2022 season was to avoid going on the injured list. He made it to the end of August before needing an IL stint even though he had been battling multiple injuries this season. Buxton won’t join the team for their weekend series in Chicago, but there is a possibility he will join the club in New York for their big four-game series with the Yankees. The Twins are a better team with Buxton in the line-up, especially when facing left-handed pitchers. Buxton has talked his way out of going on the IL multiple times this year, and he is going to want to be at Yankee Stadium to start next week. Multiple Pitchers Returning from Injury Minnesota’s most prominent trade deadline acquisition, Tyler Mahle, didn’t look good the last time he was on the mound as his velocity was down. However, he threw a bullpen session on Monday and feels good. The Twins think he will be back on the mound this weekend in Chicago. Multiple other pitchers are also nearing a return from the IL. Josh Winder returned from the injured list at St. Paul this week. Randy Dobnak has made multiple rehab appearances, including two innings at Triple-A on Sunday. The Twins expect Bailey Ober to throw a live bullpen session this week before going on a rehab assignment. Minnesota won’t have room for all these arms on the roster, so it will be interesting to see how their rehabs progress. Maeda Needs More Time While multiple pitchers are returning from injury, Kenta Maeda may need more time before returning to the Twins roster. Maeda had Tommy John surgery on September 1, 2021, and there was hope he could return as a reliever during the regular season. There is still a possibility that he can return for the playoffs, but the team isn’t ready to make that commitment yet. “Everything kind of feels like it’s in a good place,” Derek Falvey told reporters. “(But) we aren’t going to push as hard over the next couple of weeks because we just want to make sure (Maeda’s) comfortable, the doctor’s comfortable and otherwise. We always were hopeful that maybe we were kind of getting him to a place where he thought, ‘Hey, let’s push and be a little more aggressive here.’ … Just based on his progression, how important he is for next year, making sure we’re in a good place, we just collectively didn’t feel like it’s time to say, ‘Go.’” Many of these storylines need to play out positively for the Twins to make a run to October. What storylines will you be watching over the next month? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  8. The Twins have been a roller coaster ride to watch this season, with great play through the season’s first two months and poor play over the last two months. Luckily, the team’s ineptitude hasn’t knocked them out of the playoff race because the team plays in one of baseball’s worst divisions. With weeks left in the season, there is plenty of pressure on the Twins to find a way to play in October. Correa Starting to Heat Up Minnesota signed Carlos Correa for various reasons, but his postseason experience is unlike few players in Twins history. Last weekend, Correa punished the ball in a three-game series against the Giants by going 8-for-12 with a double, a home run, and four RBI. Fans may be unimpressed with Correa’s numbers in a Twins uniform as his .790 OPS is over 40 points lower than his career mark. However, offense is down across baseball, and his 129 OPS+ is two points higher than his career total. Minnesota’s offense has struggled in the second half, and Correa may be the key to getting the team back on track. Buxton’s Ailing Hip Byron Buxton’s biggest goal for the 2022 season was to avoid going on the injured list. He made it to the end of August before needing an IL stint even though he had been battling multiple injuries this season. Buxton won’t join the team for their weekend series in Chicago, but there is a possibility he will join the club in New York for their big four-game series with the Yankees. The Twins are a better team with Buxton in the line-up, especially when facing left-handed pitchers. Buxton has talked his way out of going on the IL multiple times this year, and he is going to want to be at Yankee Stadium to start next week. Multiple Pitchers Returning from Injury Minnesota’s most prominent trade deadline acquisition, Tyler Mahle, didn’t look good the last time he was on the mound as his velocity was down. However, he threw a bullpen session on Monday and feels good. The Twins think he will be back on the mound this weekend in Chicago. Multiple other pitchers are also nearing a return from the IL. Josh Winder returned from the injured list at St. Paul this week. Randy Dobnak has made multiple rehab appearances, including two innings at Triple-A on Sunday. The Twins expect Bailey Ober to throw a live bullpen session this week before going on a rehab assignment. Minnesota won’t have room for all these arms on the roster, so it will be interesting to see how their rehabs progress. Maeda Needs More Time While multiple pitchers are returning from injury, Kenta Maeda may need more time before returning to the Twins roster. Maeda had Tommy John surgery on September 1, 2021, and there was hope he could return as a reliever during the regular season. There is still a possibility that he can return for the playoffs, but the team isn’t ready to make that commitment yet. “Everything kind of feels like it’s in a good place,” Derek Falvey told reporters. “(But) we aren’t going to push as hard over the next couple of weeks because we just want to make sure (Maeda’s) comfortable, the doctor’s comfortable and otherwise. We always were hopeful that maybe we were kind of getting him to a place where he thought, ‘Hey, let’s push and be a little more aggressive here.’ … Just based on his progression, how important he is for next year, making sure we’re in a good place, we just collectively didn’t feel like it’s time to say, ‘Go.’” Many of these storylines need to play out positively for the Twins to make a run to October. What storylines will you be watching over the next month? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  9. The Minnesota Twins have fallen to second place in the American League Central division, and while they needed an influx of pitching help at the deadline, the next wave of reinforcements may not come soon enough. With a 9-8 record and just 10 games left in August, the September stretch becomes vital, but who’s there to help? As I wrote last week, the expectation should be that the division is sorted out in the final month of the season. Minnesota will play the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Guardians a combined 17 times in September. Separated by anything less than four games when the calendar turns should represent striking distance. The problem is what will have changed for available options at that point? Right now Rocco Baldelli is forced to roll Jake Cave out on a regular basis. Gary Sanchez has been nothing behind the plate basically all season. The bullpen still has warts, and time is ticking. Over the weekend The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman provided a status update on many of Minnesota’s key pieces. Knowing how awful the lineup has been for weeks suggests that Trevor Larnach and Kyle Garlick could be the most impactful additions. It doesn’t sound like Ryan Jeffers will be back until the second half of September, but the pitching staff should get a few jolts before then. Maybe Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, and Randy Dobnak can provide value in the short term. Hopefully, Kenta Maeda is ready to go soon. No matter what though, all of the timelines still represent a substantial amount of gray area. There’s no denying that the Twins need to put their best foot forward if they’re going to make the postseason. There’s no reason why this team, even as it’s currently constructed, isn’t making up ground on Cleveland. Sure, the White Sox are without Tim Anderson, and have missed Luis Robert at times. The Guardians have shuffled pieces around Jose Ramirez and Andres Gimenez, but both of those clubs are working towards the same goal as Minnesota. It’s understandable to look at what could be coming back to the Twins clubhouse and be excited. Having that much impactful talent on the shelf is hardly a positive reality. Until we start seeing rehab assignments and activations though, it’s all just a theoretical hope that the next addition is the one that turns the tide. I don’t think you can make a case for many of the Twins pending activations to suddenly trend toward the season-ending type, but every day ripped off in September without additions will be an opportunity missed. As healing and rehab procedures trend toward their completion, Minnesota must be aggressive with the goal of maximizing the impact felt by each player. Taking a look at the Twins record on a rolling monthly basis to this point it’s clear this is a ship that’s been treading water. If they want to be the 18-12 team they were in May to close this out, they’ll have to hope there are no more guys being hidden throughout the roster biding time until they can be swapped out. View full article
  10. As I wrote last week, the expectation should be that the division is sorted out in the final month of the season. Minnesota will play the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Guardians a combined 17 times in September. Separated by anything less than four games when the calendar turns should represent striking distance. The problem is what will have changed for available options at that point? Right now Rocco Baldelli is forced to roll Jake Cave out on a regular basis. Gary Sanchez has been nothing behind the plate basically all season. The bullpen still has warts, and time is ticking. Over the weekend The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman provided a status update on many of Minnesota’s key pieces. Knowing how awful the lineup has been for weeks suggests that Trevor Larnach and Kyle Garlick could be the most impactful additions. It doesn’t sound like Ryan Jeffers will be back until the second half of September, but the pitching staff should get a few jolts before then. Maybe Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, and Randy Dobnak can provide value in the short term. Hopefully, Kenta Maeda is ready to go soon. No matter what though, all of the timelines still represent a substantial amount of gray area. There’s no denying that the Twins need to put their best foot forward if they’re going to make the postseason. There’s no reason why this team, even as it’s currently constructed, isn’t making up ground on Cleveland. Sure, the White Sox are without Tim Anderson, and have missed Luis Robert at times. The Guardians have shuffled pieces around Jose Ramirez and Andres Gimenez, but both of those clubs are working towards the same goal as Minnesota. It’s understandable to look at what could be coming back to the Twins clubhouse and be excited. Having that much impactful talent on the shelf is hardly a positive reality. Until we start seeing rehab assignments and activations though, it’s all just a theoretical hope that the next addition is the one that turns the tide. I don’t think you can make a case for many of the Twins pending activations to suddenly trend toward the season-ending type, but every day ripped off in September without additions will be an opportunity missed. As healing and rehab procedures trend toward their completion, Minnesota must be aggressive with the goal of maximizing the impact felt by each player. Taking a look at the Twins record on a rolling monthly basis to this point it’s clear this is a ship that’s been treading water. If they want to be the 18-12 team they were in May to close this out, they’ll have to hope there are no more guys being hidden throughout the roster biding time until they can be swapped out.
  11. The Minnesota Twins were granted an off day after the Toronto Blue Jays were gifted a win on a controversial play. They parlayed that into an absolute drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. While that’s understandable going on the road against the best team in baseball, the reactions warrant the question, “Does it really matter how Minnesota gets in?” Maybe this is a spoiler alert, but the answer should be “absolutely not!” The pinnacle of the sport is obviously a World Series, but to place that as the goal each season would be suggesting anything but an outcome afforded to one of thirty teams as a failure. Minnesota’s front office put a strong step forward at the trade deadline and to the club both for now and the future. In doing so, they’re still lightyears behind a Dodgers roster that has already surpassed 70 wins. Would it have been better to hang onto prospects and simply play for next year? Maybe Spencer Steer plays above his head and becomes the next Nolan Arenado. Maybe Cade Povich reaches the 200th percentile expectation and is the next Max Scherzer. None of that is likely, but it’s arguably as silly as worry about style points. It’s not the Twins fault that they play in the AL Central. Currently, the division is expected to be won by a team with somewhere around 84 victories. That’s just two above a .500 mark, and well below what the New York Yankees of the world will finish at. The Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Guardians continue to jockey for position alongside Minnesota, although no one has wanted to take a stranglehold on the lead. Minnesota isn’t alone in this pursuit. Both the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals find themselves in similar scenarios within the NL Central. That division has three of the worst teams in baseball however, a run down even from the American League counterpart. Frustrations certainly reign for both of those clubs as well, but the focus is on making it to October. At no point in their future history will the Twins be seen as a World Series favorite. They can be a team that contends for one though, and half the battle in doing so is making the tournament. The 2021 Atlanta Braves won the World Series coming off a season in which they finished with just 88 regular season wins. They then went 11-5 in the Postseason, winning three consecutive series, and grabbing their ring. Better teams existed, but they were the one that got it done. Ultimately what happens against the Dodgers on a random weeknight holds little weight when it comes to a final resting place. You don’t need to play the game in order to be aware New York, Los Angeles, or any host of other clubs have a better roster than the Twins. The games are played though, because on any given night, a different outcome can take place. Rocco Baldelli’s club faces the Cleveland Guardians and Chicago White Sox a combined 17 times after September 1. We still have a few weeks left in August for teams to jockey for position, but nothing is going to be decided until next month anyway. Evaluating games daily makes sense from a performance perspective. Suggesting each one is reflective of eventual outcomes when viewed through a vacuum isn’t a worthwhile practice. The Twins need to get Trevor Larnach, Kenta Maeda, Josh Winder, and Bailey Ober back. They need to continue to gel and have Tyler Mahle look like an ace with Sonny Gray following behind him. They need the lineup to work consistently with Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton leading them. Over the duration of the next few weeks, Minnesota’s goal should be to stack wins, same as any other period. The reality though, is that there are no style points to reaching the Postseason. Get there. Get it done. That’s the message sent by the front office when they added at the deadline. View full article
  12. Maybe this is a spoiler alert, but the answer should be “absolutely not!” The pinnacle of the sport is obviously a World Series, but to place that as the goal each season would be suggesting anything but an outcome afforded to one of thirty teams as a failure. Minnesota’s front office put a strong step forward at the trade deadline and to the club both for now and the future. In doing so, they’re still lightyears behind a Dodgers roster that has already surpassed 70 wins. Would it have been better to hang onto prospects and simply play for next year? Maybe Spencer Steer plays above his head and becomes the next Nolan Arenado. Maybe Cade Povich reaches the 200th percentile expectation and is the next Max Scherzer. None of that is likely, but it’s arguably as silly as worry about style points. It’s not the Twins fault that they play in the AL Central. Currently, the division is expected to be won by a team with somewhere around 84 victories. That’s just two above a .500 mark, and well below what the New York Yankees of the world will finish at. The Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Guardians continue to jockey for position alongside Minnesota, although no one has wanted to take a stranglehold on the lead. Minnesota isn’t alone in this pursuit. Both the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals find themselves in similar scenarios within the NL Central. That division has three of the worst teams in baseball however, a run down even from the American League counterpart. Frustrations certainly reign for both of those clubs as well, but the focus is on making it to October. At no point in their future history will the Twins be seen as a World Series favorite. They can be a team that contends for one though, and half the battle in doing so is making the tournament. The 2021 Atlanta Braves won the World Series coming off a season in which they finished with just 88 regular season wins. They then went 11-5 in the Postseason, winning three consecutive series, and grabbing their ring. Better teams existed, but they were the one that got it done. Ultimately what happens against the Dodgers on a random weeknight holds little weight when it comes to a final resting place. You don’t need to play the game in order to be aware New York, Los Angeles, or any host of other clubs have a better roster than the Twins. The games are played though, because on any given night, a different outcome can take place. Rocco Baldelli’s club faces the Cleveland Guardians and Chicago White Sox a combined 17 times after September 1. We still have a few weeks left in August for teams to jockey for position, but nothing is going to be decided until next month anyway. Evaluating games daily makes sense from a performance perspective. Suggesting each one is reflective of eventual outcomes when viewed through a vacuum isn’t a worthwhile practice. The Twins need to get Trevor Larnach, Kenta Maeda, Josh Winder, and Bailey Ober back. They need to continue to gel and have Tyler Mahle look like an ace with Sonny Gray following behind him. They need the lineup to work consistently with Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton leading them. Over the duration of the next few weeks, Minnesota’s goal should be to stack wins, same as any other period. The reality though, is that there are no style points to reaching the Postseason. Get there. Get it done. That’s the message sent by the front office when they added at the deadline.
  13. For multiple offseasons, the Twins' front office has needed to add depth to the starting rotation. Looking ahead to 2023, that may no longer be the case. So, does Minnesota have too many starting pitchers? Starting pitching depth is vital for any contending team, and the Twins have used a lot of their depth during the current season. In 2022, twelve different pitchers have made starts for the Twins, including eight pitchers who made five or more. Top of the Rotation: Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle None of these three pitchers were in the Twins system 14 months ago, which speaks to the front office's ability to acquire talent. Minnesota has used Ryan and Gray at the top of the rotation for all of 2022, with each posting an ERA+ of 104 or higher. Mahle's transition from Great American Ball Park to Target Field should help his numbers improve. Gray and Mahle can be under team control next season, while Ryan won't be arbitration eligible until 2025. Barring a significant injury, the Twins will look for these three arms to be at the top of the rotation throughout 2023. Returning from Injury: Kenta Maeda, Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, Chris Paddack, Randy Dobnak Winder and Ober are scheduled to throw bullpen sessions this week with a chance to impact the roster down the stretch. Winder has shown the flexibility to pitch as a starter and reliever, while Ober's appearances have all been as a starter. When healthy, both players have pitched well, so they should be in the mix for a rotation spot next season. More prominent question marks surround the other injured pitchers listed above. Maeda is also expected to be ready in September, but he will likely serve in a relief role if he makes it back in 2022. During the 2020 season, Maeda finished runner-up for the AL Cy Young, but there are no guarantees he will return to that form. Paddack likely won't be ready at the onset of the 2023 campaign since he had Tommy John surgery in May. Still, he was terrific during his brief Twins tenure and is under team control through 2024. Dobnak has been dealing with a finger injury for the last two seasons, so there are no guarantees he will be back to 100%. Down on the Farm: Jordan Balazovic, Blayne Enlow, Cole Sands, Devin Smeltzer, Simeon Woods Richardson, Matt Canterino, Louie Varland Minnesota's 40-man roster will be squeezed this winter when the team has to remove players from the 60-day IL. Balazovic, Enlow, Sands, and Smeltzer are all on the 40-man roster, but the team might have some tough decisions to make with some of the names. Balazovic has struggled at Triple-A this year, but he is still considered one of the team's top pitching prospects. Enlow returned from Tommy John surgery this year and has a 3.73 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 41 Double-A innings. Smeltzer saved the starting rotation during the middle portion of the season, while Sands has been limited to fewer than ten big-league appearances in his rookie campaign. Woods Richardson, Canterino, and Varland are among a group of prospects that will need to be added to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 Draft. During his second Double-A stint, Woods Richardson is having a breakout season with a sub-3.00 ERA while holding batters to a .583 OPS. Canterino has dealt with various elbow issues over the last two seasons, but he is dominant when he can pitch. Varland recently was promoted to Triple-A after posting a 3.34 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 105 innings at Double-A. All three pitchers should be added to the 40-man roster this winter, which makes them one step closer to the big leagues. The old adage states, "a team can never have too much pitching." It's clear the Twins will have options for the 2023 season, and there is no way to predict how injuries will impact the organization. Another option is to have some of these arms switch to permanent bullpen roles, but that is a decision for this winter. Which pitchers will make the most starts for the 2023 Twins? Will any of the younger pitchers be contributors to the rotation? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  14. Starting pitching depth is vital for any contending team, and the Twins have used a lot of their depth during the current season. In 2022, twelve different pitchers have made starts for the Twins, including eight pitchers who made five or more. Top of the Rotation: Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle None of these three pitchers were in the Twins system 14 months ago, which speaks to the front office's ability to acquire talent. Minnesota has used Ryan and Gray at the top of the rotation for all of 2022, with each posting an ERA+ of 104 or higher. Mahle's transition from Great American Ball Park to Target Field should help his numbers improve. Gray and Mahle can be under team control next season, while Ryan won't be arbitration eligible until 2025. Barring a significant injury, the Twins will look for these three arms to be at the top of the rotation throughout 2023. Returning from Injury: Kenta Maeda, Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, Chris Paddack, Randy Dobnak Winder and Ober are scheduled to throw bullpen sessions this week with a chance to impact the roster down the stretch. Winder has shown the flexibility to pitch as a starter and reliever, while Ober's appearances have all been as a starter. When healthy, both players have pitched well, so they should be in the mix for a rotation spot next season. More prominent question marks surround the other injured pitchers listed above. Maeda is also expected to be ready in September, but he will likely serve in a relief role if he makes it back in 2022. During the 2020 season, Maeda finished runner-up for the AL Cy Young, but there are no guarantees he will return to that form. Paddack likely won't be ready at the onset of the 2023 campaign since he had Tommy John surgery in May. Still, he was terrific during his brief Twins tenure and is under team control through 2024. Dobnak has been dealing with a finger injury for the last two seasons, so there are no guarantees he will be back to 100%. Down on the Farm: Jordan Balazovic, Blayne Enlow, Cole Sands, Devin Smeltzer, Simeon Woods Richardson, Matt Canterino, Louie Varland Minnesota's 40-man roster will be squeezed this winter when the team has to remove players from the 60-day IL. Balazovic, Enlow, Sands, and Smeltzer are all on the 40-man roster, but the team might have some tough decisions to make with some of the names. Balazovic has struggled at Triple-A this year, but he is still considered one of the team's top pitching prospects. Enlow returned from Tommy John surgery this year and has a 3.73 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 41 Double-A innings. Smeltzer saved the starting rotation during the middle portion of the season, while Sands has been limited to fewer than ten big-league appearances in his rookie campaign. Woods Richardson, Canterino, and Varland are among a group of prospects that will need to be added to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 Draft. During his second Double-A stint, Woods Richardson is having a breakout season with a sub-3.00 ERA while holding batters to a .583 OPS. Canterino has dealt with various elbow issues over the last two seasons, but he is dominant when he can pitch. Varland recently was promoted to Triple-A after posting a 3.34 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 105 innings at Double-A. All three pitchers should be added to the 40-man roster this winter, which makes them one step closer to the big leagues. The old adage states, "a team can never have too much pitching." It's clear the Twins will have options for the 2023 season, and there is no way to predict how injuries will impact the organization. Another option is to have some of these arms switch to permanent bullpen roles, but that is a decision for this winter. Which pitchers will make the most starts for the 2023 Twins? Will any of the younger pitchers be contributors to the rotation? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  15. Twins fans will be clamoring to add more pitching depth at the trade deadline, and there’s little doubt the team will need pitching. However, as they return from injury, these three pitchers can bolster the team’s pitching staff. Injuries can play a significant role in a team’s eventual finish to the season, as clubs that have their key players are more likely to stay in contention. Expectations were high for two of the three players below to help the Twins in 2022, and one possibly being a late-season addition to the team’s plans. All three are expected to return before the season ends for a team fighting to stay in first place. Bailey Ober, SP Injury: Right Groin Strain Expected Return: Early July Bailey Ober was arguably Minnesota’s best pitcher in the second half of 2021, so hopes remained high for him entering his sophomore season. In seven starts (33 2/3 innings), he posted a 4.01 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP and a 29-to-7 strikeout to walk ratio. Before going on the IL, he allowed eight earned runs in his last two starts, so his numbers may have been impacted by him trying to play through the injury. When healthy, Ober has been one of the team’s most consistent pitchers, and his return will be a welcome addition to an improving rotation. It will be interesting to see what the Twins decide to do with the starting rotation. Currently, the Twins have five pitchers already occupying rotation spots, so the team will have a few options. Bringing Ober back might push the team to move to a six-man rotation. Candidates to remove from the rotation include Devin Smeltzer and Dylan Bundy. Smeltzer has been pitching well, but he has minor league options remaining. Bundy would have to be moved to the bullpen or designated for assignment. It seems likely for the team to switch to a six-man rotation because another injury will likely occur to a starter. Jorge Alcala, RP Injury: Right Elbow Inflammation Expected Return: July Minnesota’s bullpen has been a question mark for most of the season, with few pitchers having any level of trust. Alcala was projected to be one of the team’s high leverage relievers, but he has been limited to two appearances this season. Elbow issues can be problematic and linger, especially for high-velocity pitchers. There’s little doubt the Twins bullpen would take on a remarkably different view if Alcala was healthy and pitching late in games. At the beginning of June, Alcala appeared in a rehab assignment with Fort Myers, where he was hitting 96-97 mph on the radar gun. Unfortunately, his throwing progression was temporarily halted due to stiffness in his right elbow. Minnesota had Alcala continue to work on strengthening exercises, and he is expected to resume throwing this week. Kenta Maeda, SP/RP Injury: Modified Tommy John Surgery Expected Return: Possibly September Kenta Maeda has a chance to turn into Minnesota’s not-so-secret playoff reliever, especially based on his track record with the Dodgers. Luckily, Maeda had an internal brace put in the elbow to cut his recovery time down by a couple of months. His procedure took place on September 1, 2021, and the recovery time is 9-12 months. At the beginning of June, he shifted his recovery from the team’s Fort Myers facilities to Minneapolis so he could be closer to the team. Maeda has been throwing from flat ground at 120 feet and is scheduled to throw off the mound near the beginning of July. There is obviously no guarantee that Maeda will be back on the team’s roster this season. If the team wants him to start games, he will need a more lengthy rehab assignment to build up his workload. His best option to help the 2022 Twins may be to come out of the bullpen if the team’s doctors feel he is up to the task. How much do you think these three pitchers will help the Twins in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  16. Injuries can play a significant role in a team’s eventual finish to the season, as clubs that have their key players are more likely to stay in contention. Expectations were high for two of the three players below to help the Twins in 2022, and one possibly being a late-season addition to the team’s plans. All three are expected to return before the season ends for a team fighting to stay in first place. Bailey Ober, SP Injury: Right Groin Strain Expected Return: Early July Bailey Ober was arguably Minnesota’s best pitcher in the second half of 2021, so hopes remained high for him entering his sophomore season. In seven starts (33 2/3 innings), he posted a 4.01 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP and a 29-to-7 strikeout to walk ratio. Before going on the IL, he allowed eight earned runs in his last two starts, so his numbers may have been impacted by him trying to play through the injury. When healthy, Ober has been one of the team’s most consistent pitchers, and his return will be a welcome addition to an improving rotation. It will be interesting to see what the Twins decide to do with the starting rotation. Currently, the Twins have five pitchers already occupying rotation spots, so the team will have a few options. Bringing Ober back might push the team to move to a six-man rotation. Candidates to remove from the rotation include Devin Smeltzer and Dylan Bundy. Smeltzer has been pitching well, but he has minor league options remaining. Bundy would have to be moved to the bullpen or designated for assignment. It seems likely for the team to switch to a six-man rotation because another injury will likely occur to a starter. Jorge Alcala, RP Injury: Right Elbow Inflammation Expected Return: July Minnesota’s bullpen has been a question mark for most of the season, with few pitchers having any level of trust. Alcala was projected to be one of the team’s high leverage relievers, but he has been limited to two appearances this season. Elbow issues can be problematic and linger, especially for high-velocity pitchers. There’s little doubt the Twins bullpen would take on a remarkably different view if Alcala was healthy and pitching late in games. At the beginning of June, Alcala appeared in a rehab assignment with Fort Myers, where he was hitting 96-97 mph on the radar gun. Unfortunately, his throwing progression was temporarily halted due to stiffness in his right elbow. Minnesota had Alcala continue to work on strengthening exercises, and he is expected to resume throwing this week. Kenta Maeda, SP/RP Injury: Modified Tommy John Surgery Expected Return: Possibly September Kenta Maeda has a chance to turn into Minnesota’s not-so-secret playoff reliever, especially based on his track record with the Dodgers. Luckily, Maeda had an internal brace put in the elbow to cut his recovery time down by a couple of months. His procedure took place on September 1, 2021, and the recovery time is 9-12 months. At the beginning of June, he shifted his recovery from the team’s Fort Myers facilities to Minneapolis so he could be closer to the team. Maeda has been throwing from flat ground at 120 feet and is scheduled to throw off the mound near the beginning of July. There is obviously no guarantee that Maeda will be back on the team’s roster this season. If the team wants him to start games, he will need a more lengthy rehab assignment to build up his workload. His best option to help the 2022 Twins may be to come out of the bullpen if the team’s doctors feel he is up to the task. How much do you think these three pitchers will help the Twins in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  17. The Twins have seen the organization’s depth tested this year with seven starters on the Injured List as recently as Monday. Pitching also continues to evolve, with relievers taking on an even more critical role. Minnesota’s relievers have accumulated the AL’s fourth-lowest fWAR total and have allowed the sixth-highest batting average. The line between starter and reliever continues to be blurred, which might help one reliever transition to a bullpen role in 2022. Kenta Maeda is on schedule to rejoin the team later this year after having modified Tommy John surgery last season. A brace was added to the impacted elbow to speed up his recovery time. This newer development can cut the recovery time from the standard 12-16 months to 9-12 months. Nine months after his surgery puts him on the mound in June, while 12 months would be September. “This is a rehab that we know takes time, and you have to be patient,” manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters. “There’s no way to speed up some of these things. We wish there was, but everything that we could ask from a player as far as the work that they put in, we get from Kenta.” Maeda had been rehabbing at the team’s Fort Myers facilities but rejoined the team at Target Field over the weekend. He has been throwing from 120 feet, and his next step is to get back on the mound in the next two to three weeks. A lot of things still need to go right for Maeda to pitch in 2022, but the Twins are in contention, and he has a history of being a dominant postseason reliever. “I’m simply happy to be back, seeing the guys, to simply be around with them,” Maeda said through interpreter Daichi Sekizaki. “Just to be able to continue the same program at the big league stadium gets me going. (It’s) very exciting.” The Dodgers used Maeda as a starter during the 2016 playoffs, but he allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings as his team fell to the Cubs in the NLCS. From 2017 to 2019, Los Angeles shifted Maeda to a relief role for postseason play, and he helped the team to back-to-back World Series appearances. In 22 innings, he allowed four earned runs (1.64 ERA) with 27 strikeouts and five walks (two intentional). His playoff prowess has been well documented, and the Twins may have an opportunity to use him out of the bullpen in 2022. Maeda’s regular-season numbers as a reliever are nearly as strong as his postseason dominance. He has pitched 42 1/3 relief innings with a 3.19 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP. As a starter, his K/9 is a respectable 9.7, but he has a 12.3 K/9 out of the bullpen. Opponents have hit .219/.275/.381 (.656) with 13 extra-base hits in 155 plate appearances. He’s also earned six regular-season saves and finished eight games, so he has the “proven closer” title. Maeda has plenty of more hurdles before joining the team’s roster. There is also the question of what the Twins will need when Maeda is ready. If the team needs a starter, he must make multiple rehab starts to get stretched out. If the team wants him in the bullpen, he may have an earlier return to the Target Field mound. Do you think Maeda will return to the Twins this season? What role will he fill for the club? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  18. Minnesota’s bullpen has struggled through different parts of the 2022 season, but a beacon of hope may be on the horizon. Can one returning pitcher help solidify the bullpen in the second half? The Twins have seen the organization’s depth tested this year with seven starters on the Injured List as recently as Monday. Pitching also continues to evolve, with relievers taking on an even more critical role. Minnesota’s relievers have accumulated the AL’s fourth-lowest fWAR total and have allowed the sixth-highest batting average. The line between starter and reliever continues to be blurred, which might help one reliever transition to a bullpen role in 2022. Kenta Maeda is on schedule to rejoin the team later this year after having modified Tommy John surgery last season. A brace was added to the impacted elbow to speed up his recovery time. This newer development can cut the recovery time from the standard 12-16 months to 9-12 months. Nine months after his surgery puts him on the mound in June, while 12 months would be September. “This is a rehab that we know takes time, and you have to be patient,” manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters. “There’s no way to speed up some of these things. We wish there was, but everything that we could ask from a player as far as the work that they put in, we get from Kenta.” Maeda had been rehabbing at the team’s Fort Myers facilities but rejoined the team at Target Field over the weekend. He has been throwing from 120 feet, and his next step is to get back on the mound in the next two to three weeks. A lot of things still need to go right for Maeda to pitch in 2022, but the Twins are in contention, and he has a history of being a dominant postseason reliever. “I’m simply happy to be back, seeing the guys, to simply be around with them,” Maeda said through interpreter Daichi Sekizaki. “Just to be able to continue the same program at the big league stadium gets me going. (It’s) very exciting.” The Dodgers used Maeda as a starter during the 2016 playoffs, but he allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings as his team fell to the Cubs in the NLCS. From 2017 to 2019, Los Angeles shifted Maeda to a relief role for postseason play, and he helped the team to back-to-back World Series appearances. In 22 innings, he allowed four earned runs (1.64 ERA) with 27 strikeouts and five walks (two intentional). His playoff prowess has been well documented, and the Twins may have an opportunity to use him out of the bullpen in 2022. Maeda’s regular-season numbers as a reliever are nearly as strong as his postseason dominance. He has pitched 42 1/3 relief innings with a 3.19 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP. As a starter, his K/9 is a respectable 9.7, but he has a 12.3 K/9 out of the bullpen. Opponents have hit .219/.275/.381 (.656) with 13 extra-base hits in 155 plate appearances. He’s also earned six regular-season saves and finished eight games, so he has the “proven closer” title. Maeda has plenty of more hurdles before joining the team’s roster. There is also the question of what the Twins will need when Maeda is ready. If the team needs a starter, he must make multiple rehab starts to get stretched out. If the team wants him in the bullpen, he may have an earlier return to the Target Field mound. Do you think Maeda will return to the Twins this season? What role will he fill for the club? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  19. Opening Day is nearly here, and with it comes the excitement of every team having an opportunity to turn into a contender. Here are five bold predictions about the 2022 Minnesota Twins. Minnesota's goal this year is to go from worst to first in the AL Central. Many predictions below will need to happen if the Twins want to overshoot their projected preseason position. Players need to be healthy and perform at a high level, while young pitchers will need to join the pitching staff and avoid rookie struggles. 5. Minnesota will have multiple Gold Glove winners Minnesota's up-the-middle defense is among baseball's best, and the Twins have two former Platinum Glove winners on the roster. Carlos Correa was arguably baseball's best defender last season, as he posted baseball's highest SABR Defensive Index total. Like Correa, Buxton has won a Platinum Glove, but he hasn't been on the field enough to qualify in recent years. When healthy, he is arguably the best defensive center fielder in the game. Other players on the roster have the chance to be in the Gold Glove conversation. Jorge Polanco's defense made great strides in his shift to second. Alex Kirilloff is tremendous at first base if the team moves him out of a corner outfield spot. 4. Kenta Maeda pitches games in September Last September, Maeda underwent Tommy John surgery, which can mean an entire season away from baseball. One reason for optimism with Maeda's recovery is an adjustment made to his Tommy John surgery. Maeda had a brace added to the impacted elbow to speed up his recovery time. This newer development can cut the recovery time from the standard 12-16 months to 9-12 months. Nine months after his surgery puts him on the mound in June, while 12 months would be September. At the time of the surgery, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said he is "hopeful for sure" that the right-hander will see the mound next year. Maeda can provide a late-season boost to the pitching staff that can help amid a pennant chase. 3. Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton will finish in the top-10 for AL MVP Many consider Buxton a dark-horse candidate for AL MVP, but the hype surrounding his 2022 season is real. His contract extension also includes incentives for him finishing in the MVP voting. Buxton has an opportunity to establish himself as baseball's best centerfielder. Correa has been a perennial MVP candidate when he is healthy. Because of his unique contract, he can re-enter free agency next winter, so he has an incentive to have a career year. If both players are in the MVP conversation, Minnesota will have to be in the playoff hunt, which has to get fans excited for 2022. 2. Max Kepler gets traded before the trade deadline Max Kepler is under team control through 2024, so his trade value may never be higher than in 2022. Outfield depth is one of Minnesota's strengths, so the team may be able to trade for an area of need. Trevor Larnach is at Triple-A, and the team still has faith in him to take over a full-time role at the big-league level. Austin Martin may also shift to an outfield spot, especially if the team deems him ready. Will the Twins need more starting pitching at the deadline? Can a bullpen upgrade put the team on a path to postseason success? Kepler might be the player needed to make a deadline deal. 1. The streak ends Minnesota hasn't won a playoff game in nearly two decades. The streak ends this season, and it will be exciting to see how far this team can go. Which bold prediction do you think is most likely to come to fruition? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  20. Minnesota's goal this year is to go from worst to first in the AL Central. Many predictions below will need to happen if the Twins want to overshoot their projected preseason position. Players need to be healthy and perform at a high level, while young pitchers will need to join the pitching staff and avoid rookie struggles. 5. Minnesota will have multiple Gold Glove winners Minnesota's up-the-middle defense is among baseball's best, and the Twins have two former Platinum Glove winners on the roster. Carlos Correa was arguably baseball's best defender last season, as he posted baseball's highest SABR Defensive Index total. Like Correa, Buxton has won a Platinum Glove, but he hasn't been on the field enough to qualify in recent years. When healthy, he is arguably the best defensive center fielder in the game. Other players on the roster have the chance to be in the Gold Glove conversation. Jorge Polanco's defense made great strides in his shift to second. Alex Kirilloff is tremendous at first base if the team moves him out of a corner outfield spot. 4. Kenta Maeda pitches games in September Last September, Maeda underwent Tommy John surgery, which can mean an entire season away from baseball. One reason for optimism with Maeda's recovery is an adjustment made to his Tommy John surgery. Maeda had a brace added to the impacted elbow to speed up his recovery time. This newer development can cut the recovery time from the standard 12-16 months to 9-12 months. Nine months after his surgery puts him on the mound in June, while 12 months would be September. At the time of the surgery, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said he is "hopeful for sure" that the right-hander will see the mound next year. Maeda can provide a late-season boost to the pitching staff that can help amid a pennant chase. 3. Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton will finish in the top-10 for AL MVP Many consider Buxton a dark-horse candidate for AL MVP, but the hype surrounding his 2022 season is real. His contract extension also includes incentives for him finishing in the MVP voting. Buxton has an opportunity to establish himself as baseball's best centerfielder. Correa has been a perennial MVP candidate when he is healthy. Because of his unique contract, he can re-enter free agency next winter, so he has an incentive to have a career year. If both players are in the MVP conversation, Minnesota will have to be in the playoff hunt, which has to get fans excited for 2022. 2. Max Kepler gets traded before the trade deadline Max Kepler is under team control through 2024, so his trade value may never be higher than in 2022. Outfield depth is one of Minnesota's strengths, so the team may be able to trade for an area of need. Trevor Larnach is at Triple-A, and the team still has faith in him to take over a full-time role at the big-league level. Austin Martin may also shift to an outfield spot, especially if the team deems him ready. Will the Twins need more starting pitching at the deadline? Can a bullpen upgrade put the team on a path to postseason success? Kepler might be the player needed to make a deadline deal. 1. The streak ends Minnesota hasn't won a playoff game in nearly two decades. The streak ends this season, and it will be exciting to see how far this team can go. Which bold prediction do you think is most likely to come to fruition? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  21. Returning from Tommy John surgery can take many pitchers close to a year. Kenta Maeda had surgery in September, and he's on track to be back on the mound in 2022. When Kenta Maeda had Tommy John surgery in September, it seemed likely to count him out of the team's starting rotation for the entire 2022 season. Now that might not be the case as he told Japanese reporters that he hopes to be back on the mound in September. According to the article, Maeda is on pace to start playing catch in mid-February. Hopefully, he will be playing catch as part of spring training, but the MLB lockout would need to be over for spring training to start on time. Another reason for optimism with Maeda's recovery is an adjustment made to his Tommy John surgery. Maeda had a brace added to the impacted elbow to speed up his recovery time. This newer development can cut the recovery time from the standard 12-16 months to 9-12 months. Nine months after his surgery puts him on the mound in June, while 12 months would be September. At the time of the surgery, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said he is "hopeful for sure" that the right-hander will see the mound next year. It will be intriguing to see how the Twins treat Maeda's recovery. By September, the team will know if they are in or out of the playoff race. Maeda has a chance to provide a late-season boost for a contending team. If Minnesota is out of the race, Maeda may still want to get back into a big-league game to prove he is healthy. Minnesota's initial acquisition of Maeda looked like a solid move by the front office, especially for a team searching for starting pitching. Brusdar Graterol looked like he would be a reliever, and that's how the Dodgers have used him. There's no question that Maeda greatly impacted the Twins rotation during the pandemic shortened 2020 campaign. In 11 starts, he dominated by posting a 2.70 ERA with an MLB-best 0.75 WHIP. He compiled an 80-to-10 strikeout to walk ratio and had a 160 ERA+. He set career-best marks in multiple statistical categories, including ground-ball rate (49.0%), walk percentage (4.0%), strikeout percentage (32.3%), swinging-strike rate (17.2%), and opponents' chase rate (40.8%). At the season's end, he finished second to Cleveland's Shane Bieber in the AL Cy Young voting. Last season, Maeda experienced regression before being shut down with his elbow injury. In 21 starts (106 1/3 innings), he posted a 4.66 ERA with a 1.30 WHIP and a 113-to-32 strikeout to walk ratio. Multiple reasons may factor into Maeda's struggles. His elbow may have been bothering him before he went on the IL, and MLB's crackdown on sticky substances may have impacted his spin rate. Dylan Bundy, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan are the three pitchers penciled into next year's starting rotation. Maeda would undoubtedly provide a second-half boost if his rehab stays on track. Organizationally, many of Minnesota's top prospects are pitchers close to the big-league level. Late in the season can be a time for younger pitchers to prove they belong. Will Minnesota want to give Maeda starts over some of their top prospects? That is a question to be answered later this year. Do you think Maeda makes an appearance with the 2022 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 View full article
  22. When Kenta Maeda had Tommy John surgery in September, it seemed likely to count him out of the team's starting rotation for the entire 2022 season. Now that might not be the case as he told Japanese reporters that he hopes to be back on the mound in September. According to the article, Maeda is on pace to start playing catch in mid-February. Hopefully, he will be playing catch as part of spring training, but the MLB lockout would need to be over for spring training to start on time. Another reason for optimism with Maeda's recovery is an adjustment made to his Tommy John surgery. Maeda had a brace added to the impacted elbow to speed up his recovery time. This newer development can cut the recovery time from the standard 12-16 months to 9-12 months. Nine months after his surgery puts him on the mound in June, while 12 months would be September. At the time of the surgery, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said he is "hopeful for sure" that the right-hander will see the mound next year. It will be intriguing to see how the Twins treat Maeda's recovery. By September, the team will know if they are in or out of the playoff race. Maeda has a chance to provide a late-season boost for a contending team. If Minnesota is out of the race, Maeda may still want to get back into a big-league game to prove he is healthy. Minnesota's initial acquisition of Maeda looked like a solid move by the front office, especially for a team searching for starting pitching. Brusdar Graterol looked like he would be a reliever, and that's how the Dodgers have used him. There's no question that Maeda greatly impacted the Twins rotation during the pandemic shortened 2020 campaign. In 11 starts, he dominated by posting a 2.70 ERA with an MLB-best 0.75 WHIP. He compiled an 80-to-10 strikeout to walk ratio and had a 160 ERA+. He set career-best marks in multiple statistical categories, including ground-ball rate (49.0%), walk percentage (4.0%), strikeout percentage (32.3%), swinging-strike rate (17.2%), and opponents' chase rate (40.8%). At the season's end, he finished second to Cleveland's Shane Bieber in the AL Cy Young voting. Last season, Maeda experienced regression before being shut down with his elbow injury. In 21 starts (106 1/3 innings), he posted a 4.66 ERA with a 1.30 WHIP and a 113-to-32 strikeout to walk ratio. Multiple reasons may factor into Maeda's struggles. His elbow may have been bothering him before he went on the IL, and MLB's crackdown on sticky substances may have impacted his spin rate. Dylan Bundy, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan are the three pitchers penciled into next year's starting rotation. Maeda would undoubtedly provide a second-half boost if his rehab stays on track. Organizationally, many of Minnesota's top prospects are pitchers close to the big-league level. Late in the season can be a time for younger pitchers to prove they belong. Will Minnesota want to give Maeda starts over some of their top prospects? That is a question to be answered later this year. Do you think Maeda makes an appearance with the 2022 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
  23. The intent of this list was to answer a question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? We ranked current MLB players and prospects based on factors like production, age, upside, pedigree, health, contract, and positional scarcity. Here's how the top 20 shakes out for 2022 (click on the player's name to find his writeup): 20. Matt Canterino, RHP 19. Josh Winder, RHP 18. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP 17. Gilberto Celestino, CF 16. Chase Petty, RHP 15. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B 14. Jhoan Duran, RHP 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 12. Trevor Larnach, OF 11. Luis Arraez, UTIL 10. Ryan Jeffers, C 9. Max Kepler, RF 8. Mitch Garver, C 7. Joe Ryan, RHP 6. Bailey Ober, RHP 5. Austin Martin, OF 4. Royce Lewis, SS 3. Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF 2. Jorge Polanco, 2B 1. Byron Buxton, CF If we're treating Kirilloff as an outfielder and Arraez as an infielder, that breaks down to: 8 pitchers 6 outfielders 4 infielders 2 catchers It's not a bad balance, roughly reflecting the proportions of positions on an MLB roster. However, the Twins do have a few clear areas of weakness and scarcity, as well as some areas of abundance that point to possible trade opportunities. We'll explore these along with other noteworthy observations and takeaways as we break down the list, taking stock of the Twins organization as a whole. Return of the King When I first took a shot at compiling this list, ahead of the 2018 season, Byron Buxton was at the top. At that time he was 24 years old, coming off a breakout season in which he was (mostly) healthy, a fringe MVP contender, and recipient of a Platinum Glove. It all seemed to be coming together. If only we knew. Recurring injuries and progressively diminishing team control have kept Buxton's stock in check since then, to the point where he nearly slipped out of the top 10 in last year's rankings. But all that's transpired since has vaulted him back to the #1 spot at last. While still dealing with his share of injuries in 2021, Buxton proved more than ever he's a rare difference-maker, stacking up against any player in franchise history on a per-rate basis. And after the season, Minnesota opportunistically locked him up. The uniquely team-friendly nature of Buxton's contract extension, which takes him through the entirety of his remaining prime, makes him one of the most valuable assets in all of baseball. The Fall of Maeda In last year's rankings, Kenta Maeda ranked #1. He was an accomplished veteran starter coming off a Cy Young runner-up season, with a highly favorable contract to boot. Maeda was the centerpiece around which the rotation would be built. Maeda didn't appear in this year's rankings. His dramatic drop-off encompasses the rotation's downfall as a whole. The 2021 season really couldn't have done much more to tank Maeda's value: he largely struggled through 21 starts, then underwent elbow surgery late in the season. By the time he returns in 2023, he'll be 35 and in his walk year. His team-friendly contract, with only $3M in guaranteed base salary, means Maeda's absence in 2022 won't hurt the team too much resource-wise, which was a big part of his value. But the Twins were counting on his arm for the coming season, and now they'll be without it, as well as that of José Berríos (#4 in last year's rankings). In a nutshell, this tees up the immense challenge of building a new starting rotation – from two starting pitchers among the top five assets to zero. On the bright side, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan (#6 and #7 this year) are both under control for the next six years, so if either or both can affirm their early promise, they are poised to become premium commodities. Notably, neither one cost this front office very much to acquire. Power and Parity in the Pitching Pipeline This franchise's success over the next 3-4 years will be heavily dependent on the fruits of a pitching pipeline this front office has been cultivating since it arrived. The disruption of a pandemic stalled progress, but the Twins currently have a huge assortment of high-upside arms nearing MLB-readiness. Those arms are all grouped together around the back end of this top 20 list. The last three players we ranked – Simeon Woods Richardson, Josh Winder, Matt Canterino – are all part of this group, and if we extended the list to 30 or 40, several more would show up: Cole Sands, Blayne Enlow, Louie Varland, Chris Vallimont, Drew Strotman. Maybe even Randy Dobnak and Griffin Jax. By passing up the high end of free agent pitching, the front office has essentially made clear that it's staking itself to this group. If next year's rankings are flush with pitchers from it, that'll be a good sign. If not, then that'll be the most damning strike against this regime yet. Short on Shortstops Around the time I first put these rankings together in 2018, people were wondering if the Twins were filling their system with *too many* shortstops. They'd taken Royce Lewis first overall in the previous draft, adding him to a system that already included Jorge Polanco, Nick Gordon, and Wander Javier (all of whom appeared in that inaugural top 20 ranking). What's happened since shows why it's so damn hard to develop shortstops (and why the great ones are such tremendous commodities). Javier flamed out. Polanco and Gordon have moved to different positions. Lewis is still tenuously considered a shortstop, but the jury is out. Outside of him, the cupboard is now bare. With Andrelton Simmons gone, there's no current occupant at the MLB level, though the Twins will presumably sign someone to a short-term deal. In the system, Lewis sorta stands alone as a high-end prospect with legitimate major-league shortstop potential. Lacking Left-handers One commonality among all eight pitchers to appear on this list – and the next handful of honorable mentions – is that they're all right-handers. The most glaring scarcity in this system, without question, is left-handed pitchers. Were we to extend the list, who would be the top-ranked lefty pitcher? It's an interesting question. Without thinking too deeply about it, it's probably a toss-up between their three top bullpen lefties: Taylor Rogers, Caleb Thielbar and Jovani Moran. But they're all relievers with flaws and limited upside. How much does this particular scarcity matter? Hard to say. The Twins aren't short on high-quality arms in their system, but the most valuable and projectable ones are virtually all right-handers. I wonder to what extent this was intentional, and to what extent the team might try to course-correct and add balance going forward. Top Trade Candidates One of the most pertinent insights to emerge through this exercise is a clear understanding of where the logjams exist and which areas of strength the Twins are most likely to trade from. That analysis feels especially meaningful in this offseason, because the front office essentially has no choice but to leverage the trade market in order to acquire impact talent, with free agency now picked at key positions. For me, this is a pretty simple equation: Which players rank lower on this Twins-specific list than they would in other organizations? From this angle, five names stand out (listed roughly in order of what they'd bring back): Austin Martin Max Kepler Luis Arraez Jose Miranda Gilberto Celestino One could theoretically add Mitch Garver or Ryan Jeffers to this list, although I'm not sure I have enough confidence in either one to feel good about trading the other. Kepler and Celestino are both made somewhat more expandable by the Buxton extension, but the most intriguing redundancy from my view is with Martin, Arraez, and Miranda. With Buxton now entrenched in center, Martin's most likely destinations seem to be second, third, or left. The same can basically said for Arraez and Miranda (though I suspect left field is considered much less desirable for both). Second and third are currently occupied by Jorge Polanco and Josh Donaldson, who are under guaranteed contract for two more years. Trading Donaldson would alleviate this logjam in a big way, but the team's opportunities to do so are much more limited. Martin, Arraez and Miranda are all coveted young players with appealing contract situations. If the Twins want to bring in frontline pitching via trade once the lockdown ends, this would appear to be the path. What strikes you as you review this evaluation of players in the Twins system? Are you feeling good about the state of the franchise? Bad? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to catch up on past lists for a trip down memory lane: Top 20 Twins Assets: 2018 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2019 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2020 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2021 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  24. Over the past couple of weeks, across four installments, we ranked the top 20 players in the Twins organization based on their value toward winning a championship. Today we'll recap that list in search of trends and takeaways, with an eye on assessing how well the franchise is positioned to achieve that ultimate goal with its current collection of assets. The intent of this list was to answer a question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? We ranked current MLB players and prospects based on factors like production, age, upside, pedigree, health, contract, and positional scarcity. Here's how the top 20 shakes out for 2022 (click on the player's name to find his writeup): 20. Matt Canterino, RHP 19. Josh Winder, RHP 18. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP 17. Gilberto Celestino, CF 16. Chase Petty, RHP 15. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B 14. Jhoan Duran, RHP 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 12. Trevor Larnach, OF 11. Luis Arraez, UTIL 10. Ryan Jeffers, C 9. Max Kepler, RF 8. Mitch Garver, C 7. Joe Ryan, RHP 6. Bailey Ober, RHP 5. Austin Martin, OF 4. Royce Lewis, SS 3. Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF 2. Jorge Polanco, 2B 1. Byron Buxton, CF If we're treating Kirilloff as an outfielder and Arraez as an infielder, that breaks down to: 8 pitchers 6 outfielders 4 infielders 2 catchers It's not a bad balance, roughly reflecting the proportions of positions on an MLB roster. However, the Twins do have a few clear areas of weakness and scarcity, as well as some areas of abundance that point to possible trade opportunities. We'll explore these along with other noteworthy observations and takeaways as we break down the list, taking stock of the Twins organization as a whole. Return of the King When I first took a shot at compiling this list, ahead of the 2018 season, Byron Buxton was at the top. At that time he was 24 years old, coming off a breakout season in which he was (mostly) healthy, a fringe MVP contender, and recipient of a Platinum Glove. It all seemed to be coming together. If only we knew. Recurring injuries and progressively diminishing team control have kept Buxton's stock in check since then, to the point where he nearly slipped out of the top 10 in last year's rankings. But all that's transpired since has vaulted him back to the #1 spot at last. While still dealing with his share of injuries in 2021, Buxton proved more than ever he's a rare difference-maker, stacking up against any player in franchise history on a per-rate basis. And after the season, Minnesota opportunistically locked him up. The uniquely team-friendly nature of Buxton's contract extension, which takes him through the entirety of his remaining prime, makes him one of the most valuable assets in all of baseball. The Fall of Maeda In last year's rankings, Kenta Maeda ranked #1. He was an accomplished veteran starter coming off a Cy Young runner-up season, with a highly favorable contract to boot. Maeda was the centerpiece around which the rotation would be built. Maeda didn't appear in this year's rankings. His dramatic drop-off encompasses the rotation's downfall as a whole. The 2021 season really couldn't have done much more to tank Maeda's value: he largely struggled through 21 starts, then underwent elbow surgery late in the season. By the time he returns in 2023, he'll be 35 and in his walk year. His team-friendly contract, with only $3M in guaranteed base salary, means Maeda's absence in 2022 won't hurt the team too much resource-wise, which was a big part of his value. But the Twins were counting on his arm for the coming season, and now they'll be without it, as well as that of José Berríos (#4 in last year's rankings). In a nutshell, this tees up the immense challenge of building a new starting rotation – from two starting pitchers among the top five assets to zero. On the bright side, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan (#6 and #7 this year) are both under control for the next six years, so if either or both can affirm their early promise, they are poised to become premium commodities. Notably, neither one cost this front office very much to acquire. Power and Parity in the Pitching Pipeline This franchise's success over the next 3-4 years will be heavily dependent on the fruits of a pitching pipeline this front office has been cultivating since it arrived. The disruption of a pandemic stalled progress, but the Twins currently have a huge assortment of high-upside arms nearing MLB-readiness. Those arms are all grouped together around the back end of this top 20 list. The last three players we ranked – Simeon Woods Richardson, Josh Winder, Matt Canterino – are all part of this group, and if we extended the list to 30 or 40, several more would show up: Cole Sands, Blayne Enlow, Louie Varland, Chris Vallimont, Drew Strotman. Maybe even Randy Dobnak and Griffin Jax. By passing up the high end of free agent pitching, the front office has essentially made clear that it's staking itself to this group. If next year's rankings are flush with pitchers from it, that'll be a good sign. If not, then that'll be the most damning strike against this regime yet. Short on Shortstops Around the time I first put these rankings together in 2018, people were wondering if the Twins were filling their system with *too many* shortstops. They'd taken Royce Lewis first overall in the previous draft, adding him to a system that already included Jorge Polanco, Nick Gordon, and Wander Javier (all of whom appeared in that inaugural top 20 ranking). What's happened since shows why it's so damn hard to develop shortstops (and why the great ones are such tremendous commodities). Javier flamed out. Polanco and Gordon have moved to different positions. Lewis is still tenuously considered a shortstop, but the jury is out. Outside of him, the cupboard is now bare. With Andrelton Simmons gone, there's no current occupant at the MLB level, though the Twins will presumably sign someone to a short-term deal. In the system, Lewis sorta stands alone as a high-end prospect with legitimate major-league shortstop potential. Lacking Left-handers One commonality among all eight pitchers to appear on this list – and the next handful of honorable mentions – is that they're all right-handers. The most glaring scarcity in this system, without question, is left-handed pitchers. Were we to extend the list, who would be the top-ranked lefty pitcher? It's an interesting question. Without thinking too deeply about it, it's probably a toss-up between their three top bullpen lefties: Taylor Rogers, Caleb Thielbar and Jovani Moran. But they're all relievers with flaws and limited upside. How much does this particular scarcity matter? Hard to say. The Twins aren't short on high-quality arms in their system, but the most valuable and projectable ones are virtually all right-handers. I wonder to what extent this was intentional, and to what extent the team might try to course-correct and add balance going forward. Top Trade Candidates One of the most pertinent insights to emerge through this exercise is a clear understanding of where the logjams exist and which areas of strength the Twins are most likely to trade from. That analysis feels especially meaningful in this offseason, because the front office essentially has no choice but to leverage the trade market in order to acquire impact talent, with free agency now picked at key positions. For me, this is a pretty simple equation: Which players rank lower on this Twins-specific list than they would in other organizations? From this angle, five names stand out (listed roughly in order of what they'd bring back): Austin Martin Max Kepler Luis Arraez Jose Miranda Gilberto Celestino One could theoretically add Mitch Garver or Ryan Jeffers to this list, although I'm not sure I have enough confidence in either one to feel good about trading the other. Kepler and Celestino are both made somewhat more expandable by the Buxton extension, but the most intriguing redundancy from my view is with Martin, Arraez, and Miranda. With Buxton now entrenched in center, Martin's most likely destinations seem to be second, third, or left. The same can basically said for Arraez and Miranda (though I suspect left field is considered much less desirable for both). Second and third are currently occupied by Jorge Polanco and Josh Donaldson, who are under guaranteed contract for two more years. Trading Donaldson would alleviate this logjam in a big way, but the team's opportunities to do so are much more limited. Martin, Arraez and Miranda are all coveted young players with appealing contract situations. If the Twins want to bring in frontline pitching via trade once the lockdown ends, this would appear to be the path. What strikes you as you review this evaluation of players in the Twins system? Are you feeling good about the state of the franchise? Bad? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to catch up on past lists for a trip down memory lane: Top 20 Twins Assets: 2018 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2019 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2020 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2021 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  25. There’s no denying that Derek Falvey has a ton of work to do when filling out Rocco Baldelli’s pitching staff. Jose Berrios has been traded. Kenta Maeda is on the shelf. Michael Pineda is gone. Bundy joins holdovers Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan as the only arms currently penciled into the big league rotation. Minnesota needs someone to own the designation of staff ace. The Twins also currently have a projected payroll of just $91 million. Put those two realities together, and you get an equation that results in needing to spend something like $40 million and find a top-tier arm. Come on down Carlos Rodon. The former Chicago White Sox lefty has been through quite the past few seasons. After pitching just seven and ⅔ innings in 2020, the White Sox non-tendered their former third overall pick. His season-best innings total came way back in 2016 when he threw 165. Often injured, Rodon has thrown just an average of 58 innings per season from 2017-2020. Then came 2021, and Rodon responded by putting up a breakout campaign. Named to his first All-Star Game, Rodon also finished 5th in the Cy Young voting. His 2.37 ERA was bolstered by a 2.65 FIP and a 0.957 WHIP. Dropping a full walk per nine off his career average and jumping his strikeouts per nine by more than three, it was every bit the dominant performance you’d hope to see. Rodon got there by allowing the lowest hard-hit rate of his career and gave up his second-lowest home run rate. Looking through his peripherals, there’s plenty to be excited about as well. Rodon generated a career-best 34% chase rate and another career-best 14.9% whiff rate. He’d never generated a CSW% (called and swinging strikes) better than 29.3% until he hit 30.3% last season. Those realities coincide with a velocity boost that Rodon saw an average fastball sitting at 95.4 mph, nearly a mile and a half bump on his career average. That’s where things also get sticky for Rodon. Dealing with a shoulder injury defined simply as “fatigue” in August, his velocities saw a decline down the stretch. Following a return from the IL, Rodon worked five games for Chicago, going 23 total innings, or an average of roughly four and ⅔ per start. The results were promising in that he posted a 2.35 ERA and held opposing batters to a .536 OPS with a 25/6 K/BB. An average fastball velocity that sat at 96-97 mph from June 8 through July 18 got back above 95 mph just once the rest of the way and averaged just 93.3 mph once he returned from the Injured List. Therein lies the rub and why Rodon is both available and a perfect fit for the Twins. This front office has avoided being locked into long-term pacts, especially with pitchers. They wanted no part of a seven-year deal with Jose Berrios, and even Kevin Gausman’s five-year contract may have been too much. There’s no denying they should’ve been a big player for Marcus Stroman on a three-year deal, but this is a spot to right that. Because Rodon has been hurt and Minnesota likes to keep risk relatively low, the two should be made for each other. Rather than getting the $20+ million annually or five-year deal Rodon may have earned in a normal situation, he likely should be available for something around $30 million on a two-year deal. The contention has remained that if the Twins want to avoid the market trends of length, they must be willing to spend above value on shorter-term opportunities. This is a perfect spot for Minnesota to strike, whether a one or two-year deal. Rodon gives the club an ace, and if the injuries persist, there’s no real setback with the short agreement. We won’t know how things work out for Rodon or Minnesota until the lockout is lifted. The landscape could change for players and ownership going forward, but it’s hard to see these two sides fitting any less perfect than they appear at this moment. Leaving just one option on the table gives Derek Falvey little room for error, but this is a situation where he needs to put his best foot forward and not miss. 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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