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  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. Right now, the Minnesota Twins have failed to do much of anything on the free-agent market. Despite the feeding frenzy leading up to the lockout, the only player they brought in was pitcher Dylan Bundy. It’s now slim pickings out there, but there’s one guy they have no excuse not to sign. 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 View full article
  8. 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
  9. If the Minnesota Twins should have been doing something before the lockout, it was paying for pitching. Dealing with a plethora of pitching injuries, building a rotation of short-term deals made a ton of sense. Now the club will have to decide how the group is built. After signing Dylan Bundy to a one-year deal with a 2023 option, Minnesota effectively has three of the five spots filled in their rotation. Kenta Maeda will be out for the season due to Tommy John surgery, and Jose Berrios is long gone. This group includes Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, but it was intended to be more flush with homegrown talent. The 2020 Minor League Baseball season being non-existent was always going to hurt the development of prospects, but the ripple effect that lacking game action had on injuries was crippling. All of the Twins top arms dealt with time on the shelf last season, which halted any of them being options for the 2022 Opening Day roster. Derek Falvey is supposed to be a pitching guru, and developing arms was his calling card with the Cleveland Guardians. That’s yet to bear any fruit in Minnesota, but there’s a group very close to bursting through. Take your pick from this lot: Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Josh Winder, Cole Sands, and Blayne Enlow. All of them are expected to provide varying degrees of rotational talent. Each of them has also been on the injured list during the past year, and whatever projection for a debut is further away than it once seemed. This is where opportunity presented itself for the Twins. In 2021 the big league roster was intended to again compete for an AL Central Division title. That fell flat because the pitching wasn’t good. With essentially the same roster intact, a re-do on the rotation is a quick way for Rocco Baldelli’s club to regain its status among the best in the sport. Bundy isn’t enough to do that on his own, and the options left available are now bare. Carlos Rodon is essentially a must for Minnesota. His shoulder issues are concerning, but there’s no denying he’s the ace-level pitching that could anchor the rotation. If the front office wants to play in those waters, they have to be willing to outspend the competition, especially when they shy away from duration. Trades also make sense for this club and worrying about how all the arms fit shouldn’t be part of the equation. As we just established, there’s been a run on injuries throughout the system and last year's depth was hardly the asset it once seemed. Much like position prospect Royce Lewis, the pitchers being shelved for long enough to delay debuts changed the plans for Minnesota. However, that’s been established for months, and the club did little to play in the free-agent waters. It’s now time that a substantial step forward is taken on pitching, spending and dealing, to establish a group capable of supporting what should be a strong lineup. It’s too bad that Falvey’s farm system hasn’t yet developed from the top group, but there are plenty of names that could stick. In the meantime, giving the big league club the additional firepower should be of the utmost importance. MORE TWINS CONTENT — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  10. After signing Dylan Bundy to a one-year deal with a 2023 option, Minnesota effectively has three of the five spots filled in their rotation. Kenta Maeda will be out for the season due to Tommy John surgery, and Jose Berrios is long gone. This group includes Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, but it was intended to be more flush with homegrown talent. The 2020 Minor League Baseball season being non-existent was always going to hurt the development of prospects, but the ripple effect that lacking game action had on injuries was crippling. All of the Twins top arms dealt with time on the shelf last season, which halted any of them being options for the 2022 Opening Day roster. Derek Falvey is supposed to be a pitching guru, and developing arms was his calling card with the Cleveland Guardians. That’s yet to bear any fruit in Minnesota, but there’s a group very close to bursting through. Take your pick from this lot: Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Josh Winder, Cole Sands, and Blayne Enlow. All of them are expected to provide varying degrees of rotational talent. Each of them has also been on the injured list during the past year, and whatever projection for a debut is further away than it once seemed. This is where opportunity presented itself for the Twins. In 2021 the big league roster was intended to again compete for an AL Central Division title. That fell flat because the pitching wasn’t good. With essentially the same roster intact, a re-do on the rotation is a quick way for Rocco Baldelli’s club to regain its status among the best in the sport. Bundy isn’t enough to do that on his own, and the options left available are now bare. Carlos Rodon is essentially a must for Minnesota. His shoulder issues are concerning, but there’s no denying he’s the ace-level pitching that could anchor the rotation. If the front office wants to play in those waters, they have to be willing to outspend the competition, especially when they shy away from duration. Trades also make sense for this club and worrying about how all the arms fit shouldn’t be part of the equation. As we just established, there’s been a run on injuries throughout the system and last year's depth was hardly the asset it once seemed. Much like position prospect Royce Lewis, the pitchers being shelved for long enough to delay debuts changed the plans for Minnesota. However, that’s been established for months, and the club did little to play in the free-agent waters. It’s now time that a substantial step forward is taken on pitching, spending and dealing, to establish a group capable of supporting what should be a strong lineup. It’s too bad that Falvey’s farm system hasn’t yet developed from the top group, but there are plenty of names that could stick. In the meantime, giving the big league club the additional firepower should be of the utmost importance. MORE TWINS CONTENT — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. Teams try to find any possible way to gain an advantage. One pitch is taking the league by storm, and the Twins look like they are ahead of the curve. Over at the Athletic, Eno Sarris wrote about an intriguing pitch being used more regularly across the league. Some people call it the Dodger Slider, while others refer to it as the Sweeper. A sweeper is a breaking pitch that is thrown faster than 77 mph with more than 6.5 inches of glove side movement and -2 inches of depth from 40 feet. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson is known for his focus on sliders, and this might be one reason the Twins have been so successful with this pitch. So how do the Twins compare to the rest of the league? Los Angeles is the clear leader when it comes to using the Sweeper, but the Twins rank as the second-best AL team when it comes to this pitch usage. The Yankees are not far behind the Twins, but the AL Central is much further behind. No other AL Central clubs rank in baseball's top-15. To rank this highly, Minnesota has seen multiple pitchers evolve their slider over the last handful of seasons. Jorge Alcala ranks as the Twins' best pitcher when it comes to Stuff+, where he ranks higher than Shohei Ohtani, Julio Urias, and Max Scherzer. Also, his slider ranks better than league average when it comes to horizontal movement. He uses his slider more than any of his other pitches, and he held batters to a .181 batting average and .277 slugging percentage on that pitch. His slider will be critical if Alcala is going to be part of the long-term bullpen solution. Taylor Rogers is another Twins pitcher that threw his slider more this season. He increased his slider usage from 43.3% to 54%. Both of his primary pitches, his sinker, and slider, rank well above the league average when it comes to horizontal movement. His unique arm action allows for a lot of natural horizontal movement, but what about a more obvious name? One name fans might expect to use a Dodger Slider is Kenta Maeda since he spent the majority of his career in the Dodgers organization. Three of his primary pitches get more horizontal movement than average, including his sinker, splitter, and four-seamer. However, his slider ranks below average (-2.5 inches) compared to the rest of the league. Former Twin Jose Berrios is known for the movement he can generate on his pitches, so he impacted the team's overall numbers this season. Three of his pitches (four-seamer, sinker, and curveball) all get more horizontal movement than the league average, with his curveball getting 5.2 more inches than average. Griffin Jax is one name that might surprise fans to appear on the leaderboards. When it comes to Stuff+, they rank ahead of Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito, and Madison Bumgarner. Jax saw his slider and four-seamer get four more inches of horizontal movement compared to the average. Jax may also have seen some bad luck this year as his xBA and xSLG were both lower than the batting average and slugging percentage he allowed. There were plenty of reasons to criticize Minnesota's pitching staff this season, but there may be a silver lining beneath it all. If the Twins focus on developing the Sweeper, the highly anticipated pitching pipeline might finally arrive at Target Field. Do you think the Twins can continue to use the Sweeper? 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
  12. Over at the Athletic, Eno Sarris wrote about an intriguing pitch being used more regularly across the league. Some people call it the Dodger Slider, while others refer to it as the Sweeper. A sweeper is a breaking pitch that is thrown faster than 77 mph with more than 6.5 inches of glove side movement and -2 inches of depth from 40 feet. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson is known for his focus on sliders, and this might be one reason the Twins have been so successful with this pitch. So how do the Twins compare to the rest of the league? Los Angeles is the clear leader when it comes to using the Sweeper, but the Twins rank as the second-best AL team when it comes to this pitch usage. The Yankees are not far behind the Twins, but the AL Central is much further behind. No other AL Central clubs rank in baseball's top-15. To rank this highly, Minnesota has seen multiple pitchers evolve their slider over the last handful of seasons. Jorge Alcala ranks as the Twins' best pitcher when it comes to Stuff+, where he ranks higher than Shohei Ohtani, Julio Urias, and Max Scherzer. Also, his slider ranks better than league average when it comes to horizontal movement. He uses his slider more than any of his other pitches, and he held batters to a .181 batting average and .277 slugging percentage on that pitch. His slider will be critical if Alcala is going to be part of the long-term bullpen solution. Taylor Rogers is another Twins pitcher that threw his slider more this season. He increased his slider usage from 43.3% to 54%. Both of his primary pitches, his sinker, and slider, rank well above the league average when it comes to horizontal movement. His unique arm action allows for a lot of natural horizontal movement, but what about a more obvious name? One name fans might expect to use a Dodger Slider is Kenta Maeda since he spent the majority of his career in the Dodgers organization. Three of his primary pitches get more horizontal movement than average, including his sinker, splitter, and four-seamer. However, his slider ranks below average (-2.5 inches) compared to the rest of the league. Former Twin Jose Berrios is known for the movement he can generate on his pitches, so he impacted the team's overall numbers this season. Three of his pitches (four-seamer, sinker, and curveball) all get more horizontal movement than the league average, with his curveball getting 5.2 more inches than average. Griffin Jax is one name that might surprise fans to appear on the leaderboards. When it comes to Stuff+, they rank ahead of Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito, and Madison Bumgarner. Jax saw his slider and four-seamer get four more inches of horizontal movement compared to the average. Jax may also have seen some bad luck this year as his xBA and xSLG were both lower than the batting average and slugging percentage he allowed. There were plenty of reasons to criticize Minnesota's pitching staff this season, but there may be a silver lining beneath it all. If the Twins focus on developing the Sweeper, the highly anticipated pitching pipeline might finally arrive at Target Field. Do you think the Twins can continue to use the Sweeper? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  13. The six-month semester is over, and it’s time for Twins report cards. How did members of the starting rotation grade out? Considerations: Expectations Projections Results Injury Leverage/Value *MINIMUM 50 INNINGS TO QUALIFY* KENTA MAEDA 2021: 21 starts, 106 1/3 IP, 4.66 ERA (91 ERA+), 25% K, 7% BB After a career year in 2020, expectations were through the roof for Kenta Maeda in 2021. He was now the clear No. 1 on the staff, with PECOTA projecting him to be the third most valuable pitcher (by WARP) in the American League, behind only Shane Bieber and Gerrit Cole. PECOTA cast him as a top-six starter in all of baseball, ahead of aces Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Corbin Burnes. It was apparent from Opening Day that wasn’t going to happen. Maeda’s command was faulty for much of the first half, contributing to a 5.56 ERA in his first 12 starts. His fastball velocity was down an entire tick from 2020, a key warning sign for his eventual elbow surgery. Before he was pulled for good at Yankee Stadium, Maeda was on an eight-start stretch where he posted a 2.98 ERA, 3.08 FIP, and a 4:1 strikeout-to-walk rate, in line with 2020. He was replicating the dominance, but it wouldn’t last long. Maeda underwent Tommy John surgery on September 1st, knocking him out until next June at the absolute earliest. It was an injury-riddled, forgettable season for Maeda, although he did pitch well for much of his second half. GRADE: C- JOSÉ BERRÍOS 2021 (with Twins): 20 starts, 121 2/3 IP, 3.48 ERA (122 ERA+), 25.7% K, 6.5% BB For the first time since his breakout in 2017, Berríos entered the season as the Twins’ second-best starter. He dazzled the Milwaukee Brewers in the second game of the year, pitching six perfect innings and further flashing his immense talent. Would this be his Cy Young tour? It wasn’t, but Berríos was still very good for the Twins. He replicated his numbers to this point of his career, which paints him as one of the best 20 or 30 starters in baseball. Berríos carried the Twins’ rotation through injuries and ineffectiveness, leading the team in innings despite being traded in July. José’s 2021 season, along with his career as a Twin, will be remembered in a very positive way. He’s the Twins’ best homegrown pitcher since Johan Santana, and he regularly gave them a chance to win. GRADE: B+ MICHAEL PINEDA 2021: 21 starts, 109 1/3 IP, 3.62 ERA (117 ERA+), 19.2% K, 4.6% BB We won’t know the full effects of the 2020 Covid season for quite some time, but it impacted Pineda. Because of his suspension, he pitched only 26 2/3 game innings from September of 2019 to April of 2021. On the one hand, Pineda barely surpassed 100 innings and required numerous IL stints throughout the year. His fastball velocity was down, and his strikeout rate was the lowest of his career. But here’s the beauty with him: it often doesn’t matter. He gets outs. Pineda was solidly above league-average with depleted stuff and ranked 20th in ERA+ (117) among 64 American League pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. Pineda was also outstanding in September, posting a 1.85 ERA in five Twins wins. The righty could return for another run if both sides see fit. GRADE: B MATT SHOEMAKER 2021: 11 starts, 60 1/3 IP, 8.06 ERA (53 ERA+), 14.1% K, 9.5% BB It may be hard to believe, but Shoemaker’s $2 million deal with the Twins initially looked savvy. He had a track record of injuries but also of success. Shoemaker entered the year with a career 103 ERA+, placing him above league average in over 600 innings. It was a reasonable plan: get as many quality innings as possible from Shoemaker and replace him with Randy Dobnak if need be. Great in theory, awful in practice. Shoemaker exploded after a strong debut in Detroit, allowing 53 runs over his next 54 1/3 innings. Shoemaker allowed opponents to hit .297/.367/.537 with 15 homers in just over 60 innings. His opponent’s OPS of .903 matches Kirby Puckett’s All-Star campaign in 1986, when he won the Silver Slugger award and finished sixth for MVP. Woof. GRADE: F- J.A. HAPP 2021: 19 starts, 98 1/3 IP, 6.77 ERA (63 ERA+), 17.3% K, 7% BB The J.A. Happ signing is an excellent example of ceiling and floor. The Twins inked Happ with an expectation of 150 innings of decent ball. Happ owned a 3.74 ERA in over 900 innings since 2015, so the veteran seemed like a sure thing. “Happer" was off and running with a sterling 1.91 ERA and .509 opponent’s OPS over his first five starts. With Alexander Colomé struggling, Matt Shoemaker matching him, and Andrelton Simmons middling, did the Twins make the right call on Happ? Oh, no, no, no. Unfortunately, the declining strikeout rates and fastball velocity were indeed an omen. The towering lefty got crushed by the White Sox in his next start and never looked back. From that point on, Happ allowed 92 runs in 124 innings. The Twins needed him, and he responded by allowing 28 homers, or over two per nine innings. Happ was slightly better than Shoemaker but did his damage over a larger sample. He was traded for RHP John Gant at the deadline. GRADE: F- BAILEY OBER 2021: 20 starts, 92 1/3 IP, 4.19 ERA (102 ERA+), 25.3% K, 5% BB Let’s get back on track with a promising rookie. Any reasonable expectation for Ober’s 2021 likely involved a late-September call-up, despite awe-inspiring numbers in the minors and increased velocity. Ober blew that out of the water. He had a 5.84 ERA after six starts, but his response was everything. Ober emerged as the Twins’ best starter with a 3.59 ERA and .282 opponent’s On-Base Percentage over his final 14 starts. Ober shut down prolific offenses along the way. He held the Red Sox scoreless at Fenway, stymied the White Sox at Target Field, and finished his campaign with five-plus great innings against a desperate and outstanding Blue Jays lineup. For someone who very few even mentioned among the Twins’ best handful of pitching prospects, he did pretty well. Most impressively, Ober still posted a better-than-average ERA despite allowing more homers (20) than walks (19). There’s room for growth. GRADE: A RANDY DOBNAK 2021: 6 starts, 14 games, 50 2/3 IP, 7.64 ERA (56 ERA+), 11.8% K, 5.3% BB "Dobber" signed an extension after shining for much of his first two seasons as a Twin. He posted a 3.12 ERA and 3.56 FIP in a combined 75 innings. In 2020, Dobnak’s sinker had more horizontal movement than any sinker in baseball (min. 300 pitches). You’d have to double the 3.4 inches of break on second-placed Adrian Houser’s sinker (3.4) to even get near Dobnak (7.8). Due to his finger injury or strange usage patterns early in the season, Dobnak never got on track in 2021. He was largely poor out of the bullpen and equally struggled as a starter. He got crushed with a declining groundball and strikeout rate. Hope for Dobnak remains. His sinker movement was still in elite territory but was down significantly from 2020. If he can get healthy and shore up his command, a bounce back in 2022 is definitely in the cards. GRADE: F GRIFFIN JAX 2021: 14 starts, 82 IP, 6.37 ERA (67 ERA+), 18.1% K, 8.1% BB Jax, like Ober, carried little expectations going into the season. He’d posted solid minor league numbers but remained under the radar due to less-than-stellar velocity or strikeout rates. Called up in early June, Jax entered his first four games as a reliever before making his first start on July 3rd in Kansas City. He became a fixture in the rotation, starting 14 games and working through massive home run issues (23 allowed in 82 IP). It’s hard to post a 6.37 ERA and *increase* your stock, but Jax had drastic splits. He held opponents to a .175 average and .597 OPS the first time through the order. This shows that Jax’s stuff can play, just maybe not as a starter. With a slider averaging nearly 3,000 RPMs of spin and a fastball that can reach 95, a future bullpen role looks promising. Spot him up against mostly righties with an exclusive fastball-slider combo and enjoy the results. GRADE: D+ 2021 MINNESOTA TWINS GRADES Starting Pitchers Infielders - Coming Soon! Relief Pitchers - Coming Soon! Outfielders - Coming Soon! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email — For The Locked On Twins Podcast, Click Here View full article
  14. Considerations: Expectations Projections Results Injury Leverage/Value *MINIMUM 50 INNINGS TO QUALIFY* KENTA MAEDA 2021: 21 starts, 106 1/3 IP, 4.66 ERA (91 ERA+), 25% K, 7% BB After a career year in 2020, expectations were through the roof for Kenta Maeda in 2021. He was now the clear No. 1 on the staff, with PECOTA projecting him to be the third most valuable pitcher (by WARP) in the American League, behind only Shane Bieber and Gerrit Cole. PECOTA cast him as a top-six starter in all of baseball, ahead of aces Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Corbin Burnes. It was apparent from Opening Day that wasn’t going to happen. Maeda’s command was faulty for much of the first half, contributing to a 5.56 ERA in his first 12 starts. His fastball velocity was down an entire tick from 2020, a key warning sign for his eventual elbow surgery. Before he was pulled for good at Yankee Stadium, Maeda was on an eight-start stretch where he posted a 2.98 ERA, 3.08 FIP, and a 4:1 strikeout-to-walk rate, in line with 2020. He was replicating the dominance, but it wouldn’t last long. Maeda underwent Tommy John surgery on September 1st, knocking him out until next June at the absolute earliest. It was an injury-riddled, forgettable season for Maeda, although he did pitch well for much of his second half. GRADE: C- JOSÉ BERRÍOS 2021 (with Twins): 20 starts, 121 2/3 IP, 3.48 ERA (122 ERA+), 25.7% K, 6.5% BB For the first time since his breakout in 2017, Berríos entered the season as the Twins’ second-best starter. He dazzled the Milwaukee Brewers in the second game of the year, pitching six perfect innings and further flashing his immense talent. Would this be his Cy Young tour? It wasn’t, but Berríos was still very good for the Twins. He replicated his numbers to this point of his career, which paints him as one of the best 20 or 30 starters in baseball. Berríos carried the Twins’ rotation through injuries and ineffectiveness, leading the team in innings despite being traded in July. José’s 2021 season, along with his career as a Twin, will be remembered in a very positive way. He’s the Twins’ best homegrown pitcher since Johan Santana, and he regularly gave them a chance to win. GRADE: B+ MICHAEL PINEDA 2021: 21 starts, 109 1/3 IP, 3.62 ERA (117 ERA+), 19.2% K, 4.6% BB We won’t know the full effects of the 2020 Covid season for quite some time, but it impacted Pineda. Because of his suspension, he pitched only 26 2/3 game innings from September of 2019 to April of 2021. On the one hand, Pineda barely surpassed 100 innings and required numerous IL stints throughout the year. His fastball velocity was down, and his strikeout rate was the lowest of his career. But here’s the beauty with him: it often doesn’t matter. He gets outs. Pineda was solidly above league-average with depleted stuff and ranked 20th in ERA+ (117) among 64 American League pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. Pineda was also outstanding in September, posting a 1.85 ERA in five Twins wins. The righty could return for another run if both sides see fit. GRADE: B MATT SHOEMAKER 2021: 11 starts, 60 1/3 IP, 8.06 ERA (53 ERA+), 14.1% K, 9.5% BB It may be hard to believe, but Shoemaker’s $2 million deal with the Twins initially looked savvy. He had a track record of injuries but also of success. Shoemaker entered the year with a career 103 ERA+, placing him above league average in over 600 innings. It was a reasonable plan: get as many quality innings as possible from Shoemaker and replace him with Randy Dobnak if need be. Great in theory, awful in practice. Shoemaker exploded after a strong debut in Detroit, allowing 53 runs over his next 54 1/3 innings. Shoemaker allowed opponents to hit .297/.367/.537 with 15 homers in just over 60 innings. His opponent’s OPS of .903 matches Kirby Puckett’s All-Star campaign in 1986, when he won the Silver Slugger award and finished sixth for MVP. Woof. GRADE: F- J.A. HAPP 2021: 19 starts, 98 1/3 IP, 6.77 ERA (63 ERA+), 17.3% K, 7% BB The J.A. Happ signing is an excellent example of ceiling and floor. The Twins inked Happ with an expectation of 150 innings of decent ball. Happ owned a 3.74 ERA in over 900 innings since 2015, so the veteran seemed like a sure thing. “Happer" was off and running with a sterling 1.91 ERA and .509 opponent’s OPS over his first five starts. With Alexander Colomé struggling, Matt Shoemaker matching him, and Andrelton Simmons middling, did the Twins make the right call on Happ? Oh, no, no, no. Unfortunately, the declining strikeout rates and fastball velocity were indeed an omen. The towering lefty got crushed by the White Sox in his next start and never looked back. From that point on, Happ allowed 92 runs in 124 innings. The Twins needed him, and he responded by allowing 28 homers, or over two per nine innings. Happ was slightly better than Shoemaker but did his damage over a larger sample. He was traded for RHP John Gant at the deadline. GRADE: F- BAILEY OBER 2021: 20 starts, 92 1/3 IP, 4.19 ERA (102 ERA+), 25.3% K, 5% BB Let’s get back on track with a promising rookie. Any reasonable expectation for Ober’s 2021 likely involved a late-September call-up, despite awe-inspiring numbers in the minors and increased velocity. Ober blew that out of the water. He had a 5.84 ERA after six starts, but his response was everything. Ober emerged as the Twins’ best starter with a 3.59 ERA and .282 opponent’s On-Base Percentage over his final 14 starts. Ober shut down prolific offenses along the way. He held the Red Sox scoreless at Fenway, stymied the White Sox at Target Field, and finished his campaign with five-plus great innings against a desperate and outstanding Blue Jays lineup. For someone who very few even mentioned among the Twins’ best handful of pitching prospects, he did pretty well. Most impressively, Ober still posted a better-than-average ERA despite allowing more homers (20) than walks (19). There’s room for growth. GRADE: A RANDY DOBNAK 2021: 6 starts, 14 games, 50 2/3 IP, 7.64 ERA (56 ERA+), 11.8% K, 5.3% BB "Dobber" signed an extension after shining for much of his first two seasons as a Twin. He posted a 3.12 ERA and 3.56 FIP in a combined 75 innings. In 2020, Dobnak’s sinker had more horizontal movement than any sinker in baseball (min. 300 pitches). You’d have to double the 3.4 inches of break on second-placed Adrian Houser’s sinker (3.4) to even get near Dobnak (7.8). Due to his finger injury or strange usage patterns early in the season, Dobnak never got on track in 2021. He was largely poor out of the bullpen and equally struggled as a starter. He got crushed with a declining groundball and strikeout rate. Hope for Dobnak remains. His sinker movement was still in elite territory but was down significantly from 2020. If he can get healthy and shore up his command, a bounce back in 2022 is definitely in the cards. GRADE: F GRIFFIN JAX 2021: 14 starts, 82 IP, 6.37 ERA (67 ERA+), 18.1% K, 8.1% BB Jax, like Ober, carried little expectations going into the season. He’d posted solid minor league numbers but remained under the radar due to less-than-stellar velocity or strikeout rates. Called up in early June, Jax entered his first four games as a reliever before making his first start on July 3rd in Kansas City. He became a fixture in the rotation, starting 14 games and working through massive home run issues (23 allowed in 82 IP). It’s hard to post a 6.37 ERA and *increase* your stock, but Jax had drastic splits. He held opponents to a .175 average and .597 OPS the first time through the order. This shows that Jax’s stuff can play, just maybe not as a starter. With a slider averaging nearly 3,000 RPMs of spin and a fastball that can reach 95, a future bullpen role looks promising. Spot him up against mostly righties with an exclusive fastball-slider combo and enjoy the results. GRADE: D+ 2021 MINNESOTA TWINS GRADES Starting Pitchers Infielders - Coming Soon! Relief Pitchers - Coming Soon! Outfielders - Coming Soon! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email — For The Locked On Twins Podcast, Click Here
  15. How did Twins starters fare in 2021? Let's grade them! View full video
  16. How did Twins starters fare in 2021? Let's grade them!
  17. Not much went right for the Twins during the 2021 campaign. Injuries and pitching issues were just some of the problems that pushed the Twins to the bottom of the AL Central. So, what went wrong with the 2021 Twins? When teams are winning, it can be hard to identify flaws. On the other hand, organizational issues can come to the top when teams are marred in a losing season. Below is a ranking of the top three things that went wrong for the 2021 Twins. 3. Injuries Byron Buxton shot out of the gates and played at an MVP level before injuries sidelined him for most of the season. Kenta Maeda looked to build off a terrific 2020 campaign before learning that he needed Tommy John surgery. Alex Kirilloff was impressive in his rookie campaign before wrist surgery ended his season. Taylor Rogers was nearly traded at the deadline before a finger injury put him on the bench. Randy Dobnak signed a big off-season contract before getting wrapped up in the worst season of his career. These are just some of the injuries that pushed the team’s depth to the limits. At one point during the year, the Twins were on the sixth option in center field. No teams plan for their sixth center field option to play an impactful role. Every team has injuries, but the Twins didn’t have the depth to cover up some of their holes this season. 2. The Bullpen Minnesota saw many key bullpen pieces leave last winter, which meant the team would need to search for replacements. Alex Colome and Hansel Robles arrived as late-inning options, but both struggled throughout parts of the season. Minnesota also brought in plenty of non-rostered arms to try and find the next Matt Wisler. None of those players significantly impacted the club, and the Twins used over 30 different relief pitchers in 2021. Looking back to Opening Day, there were issues from the start. Colome posted an 8.31 ERA in nine April appearances while opponents posted a .952 OPS. It was clear from the start that Dobnak was not cut out for his Opening Day role because the Twins didn’t find themselves in many situations where they needed a long-man. Cody Stashak suffered a back injury and hasn’t pitched since May. The list can continue with other players on the 60-day IL, but those were just some of the issues with the Opening Day bullpen. 1. Rotational depth As the old adage goes, a team can never have too much pitching. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker came in to add depth to the starting rotation, but neither of these players worked out the way the team envisioned. Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda spent significant time on the IL, and other depth starters like Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer, Dobnak, and Stashak were already injured. This forced the team to keep trotting out Happ and Shoemaker even though they were ineffective. Projections also had Minnesota’s top two pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic, ready to join the rotation. Neither of them has made their debut, and there is a chance Duran will need surgery on his elbow. At the deadline, the Twins added multiple pitching prospects, and other pitchers have gotten big-league starting experience in the second half. This experience helps prepare for the future, but the 2022 rotation is still in flux. How would you rank these issues from 2021? What would you add to the list? 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
  18. When teams are winning, it can be hard to identify flaws. On the other hand, organizational issues can come to the top when teams are marred in a losing season. Below is a ranking of the top three things that went wrong for the 2021 Twins. 3. Injuries Byron Buxton shot out of the gates and played at an MVP level before injuries sidelined him for most of the season. Kenta Maeda looked to build off a terrific 2020 campaign before learning that he needed Tommy John surgery. Alex Kirilloff was impressive in his rookie campaign before wrist surgery ended his season. Taylor Rogers was nearly traded at the deadline before a finger injury put him on the bench. Randy Dobnak signed a big off-season contract before getting wrapped up in the worst season of his career. These are just some of the injuries that pushed the team’s depth to the limits. At one point during the year, the Twins were on the sixth option in center field. No teams plan for their sixth center field option to play an impactful role. Every team has injuries, but the Twins didn’t have the depth to cover up some of their holes this season. 2. The Bullpen Minnesota saw many key bullpen pieces leave last winter, which meant the team would need to search for replacements. Alex Colome and Hansel Robles arrived as late-inning options, but both struggled throughout parts of the season. Minnesota also brought in plenty of non-rostered arms to try and find the next Matt Wisler. None of those players significantly impacted the club, and the Twins used over 30 different relief pitchers in 2021. Looking back to Opening Day, there were issues from the start. Colome posted an 8.31 ERA in nine April appearances while opponents posted a .952 OPS. It was clear from the start that Dobnak was not cut out for his Opening Day role because the Twins didn’t find themselves in many situations where they needed a long-man. Cody Stashak suffered a back injury and hasn’t pitched since May. The list can continue with other players on the 60-day IL, but those were just some of the issues with the Opening Day bullpen. 1. Rotational depth As the old adage goes, a team can never have too much pitching. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker came in to add depth to the starting rotation, but neither of these players worked out the way the team envisioned. Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda spent significant time on the IL, and other depth starters like Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer, Dobnak, and Stashak were already injured. This forced the team to keep trotting out Happ and Shoemaker even though they were ineffective. Projections also had Minnesota’s top two pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic, ready to join the rotation. Neither of them has made their debut, and there is a chance Duran will need surgery on his elbow. At the deadline, the Twins added multiple pitching prospects, and other pitchers have gotten big-league starting experience in the second half. This experience helps prepare for the future, but the 2022 rotation is still in flux. How would you rank these issues from 2021? What would you add to the list? 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
  19. Kenta Maeda is going under the knife today after a somewhat disappointing 2021 season. The extent of the injury will be known when the surgery is complete. (Editor's Update: Maeda had Tommy John surgery on Wednesday.) So, two seasons after the deal, can we answer yet which team won the Kenta Maeda trade? Minnesota had many reasons to be interested in trading for Kenta Maeda before the 2020 season. He had shown positive signs during his time in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers had an influx of starting pitching. He pitched over 125 innings in each of his first four big-league seasons, but the team tended to move him to a bullpen role as the season came to a close. Injury concerns might have been one of the reasons the Dodgers tried to limit Maeda’s innings. (At least that sounds better than trying to limit how much they had to pay him.) When he initially signed from Japan, his physical exam revealed “irregularities” in his right elbow. At the time, MLB.com said, “the strong suspicion is that he will need Tommy John reconstruction at some point.” This prognosis resulted in a very team-friendly eight-year contract which guaranteed Maeda a minimum of $25 million with a chance to be worth over $106 million. This gave the Dodgers some wiggle room if Maeda did go under the knife. He pitched over 600 innings for the Dodgers, and they went on multiple World Series runs, and his elbow wasn’t an issue. Team-controlled starting pitching is one of baseball’s most valuable assets, so Maeda was an easy target for the Twins. His team-friendly deal was a positive, and he hadn’t shown any injury concerns up to this point. Any team trading for a player gets access to their medical records, so there must not have been anything out of the ordinary regarding Maeda’s physical. Plus, the Twins saw their winning window was open, and Maeda helped make the team better. Maeda provided Minnesota with everything they wanted and more during his first season with the club. He finished runner-up for the Cy Young Award after a dominating season where he posted a 2.70 ERA and an MLB-leading 0.75 WHIP. He struck out 80 batters in 66 2/3 innings while only issuing ten walks. From the other perspective, Brusdar Graterol has pitched less than 50 innings for the Dodgers. He has posted a 3.50 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings. Graterol makes hitting triple-digits look easy, but he has yet to develop into a dominant late-inning reliever. He won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2023, and he can’t reach free agency until 2026, so there is plenty of time for the 22-year-old to develop. Two minor league players and a draft pick were also part of this trade. Luke Raley went back to LA after initially being part of the Brian Dozier trade. He has 30 big-league games under his belt, and he has hit .169/.246/.237 with two extra-base hits. He has mashed with a .982 OPS at Triple-A this season, and 29 extra-base hits in 58 games. The Dodger also received a 2020 competitive balance round pick (66th overall), which they used to select Clayton Beeter. He has been used in an opener style role this season while posting a 2.89 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP with 13.8 K/9. Minnesota received Jair Camargo, who has hit .233/.281/.452 with 21 extra-base hits at High-A Cedar Rapids this year. Maeda’s recent injury news means there is a good chance he misses all of the 2022 season, and that might be the season Minnesota needs him the most. Also, a missed season means the next time he steps on the mound will be during his age-35 campaign. So what do you think? Which team do you think won the trade, or is it still too early to judge? 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
  20. The Minnesota Twins were looking at an opportunity to re-tool for the year ahead. However, with Jose Berrios gone and Kenta Maeda shelved, the rotation is unquestionably thin. Who takes the ball on Opening Day 2022? I have been a big proponent of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine looking at the year ahead as an opportunity to right the ship that sunk in 2021. Unfortunately, the Maeda injury is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Replacing the entirety of a rotation, needing to overhaul the bullpen, and still being uncertain of what to do with Byron Buxton, this club has its hands full. It will be a busy winter but if we want the team to tackle one thing first, then starting on the bump is an excellent place to begin. Here is how I’m currently handicapping the odds for Rocco Baldelli’s starter on Opening Day this coming season. Bailey Ober 10% Ober has made 16 starts for the Twins in what has been a lost season, but he’s fully entrenched himself as a legitimate big-league arm. The sub-4.00 ERA includes a couple of rough turns, and he’s competed to the tune of a 9.3 K/9 while owning just a 2.0 BB/9 rate. The home run has been his bugaboo, and that can be something of a focus as he continues to learn the competition. I like Ober a lot. He’s got a shot to be a top-3 arm in Minnesota’s future rotation, but I don’t think this club wants to run him out as the ace after just getting his feet wet. Joe Ryan 5% He’s here, and he’s beautiful! That’s how this works, right? Ryan was acquired from the Rays in exchange for Nelson Cruz. I’m still baffled about how Minnesota pulled that off, but either way, the Olympic hurler has been great since joining the organization. His big-league debut went fine, with not much to be drawn from a lackluster Cubs lineup. It remains to be seen how the fastball will play at the highest level, lacking velocity, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t be a productive member of a good rotation. Unfortunately, Ryan is someone you likely want on the back half of the unit in 2022. The Prospects 2% It would’ve been great to see someone emerge from this group in a year that didn't feature much big league positivity. Ober was an outsider who made it, but Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Matt Canterino, Blayne Enlow, and Josh Winder all spent time on the shelf. Only two of them took turns at Triple-A, and all of them remain distant from any immediate plans. You can make a case that each has seen their prospect status take a hit, and while there’s plenty of reason to believe an impact arm or two will emerge here, none of them are going to be in the equation when the season kicks off. The Suspects 3% The additional one percent afforded to this group comes from the fact that they’ve already made it. Hello to Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, Charlie Barnes, and Lewis Thorpe. This foursome has taken turns for the Twins this year, but none of them have faired particularly well, and none of them should be considered beyond starting depth. Dobnak’s future is the clearest given his contract situation. There’s a real possibility the Australian (Thorpe) may be out of the organization in a couple of months, and while both Barnes and Jax have gotten their feet wet, it’s not fair to expect a substantial leap for either. This group isn’t producing your first starter of the season. The Field 80% Take your pick as to who the Twins will sign; they’re going to need at least three starters not presently with the club. Michael Pineda is a good bet to return, but if that’s your Opening Day starter, then you can imagine how the season will go. I’m less inclined to believe a long-term deal with Marcus Stroman or Noah Syndergaard makes sense when it could be a rebuilding year. Maybe an older veteran on a one-year deal happens depending on where the price tag lands. This winter, how Minnesota spends will hinge heavily on what happens with Buxton and the expectations for the returning core. Either way, I’d bet a reasonable sum that the man Baldelli gives the ball to on Opening Day is not currently in the organization. If you’re the manager, who is it that you’re going to? Put on your GM hat and share which arm you think gets plucked and tasked with kicking off 2022. 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
  21. The Twins brass has continued to hold the position that the team intends to compete in 2022. Standing in their way is one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball in 2021. Competing in 2022 will take a major rebound, but what might that rebound look like? The Twins had a tall order when it came to the 2022 pitching staff even when Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda were slotted into the first two spots. Berrios has since been traded and we’ve received word that Maeda has an ominous elbow injury and will have exploratory surgery next week which could turn into Tommy John. Kenta Maeda That brings us to the number one factor in the Twins rotation rebuild in 2022: Kenta Maeda needs to be anchoring it. The Twins can’t really affect whether Maeda is healthy and at this point it appears him being relied on in 2022 is a long shot, but not having a single veteran arm returning creates a scenario in which some might call it nearly impossible to field a reliable 1-5. Even if Maeda isn’t the bona fide ace we hoped, having him at 2 or 3 in the rotation would at least give the Twins something to work with. Without Maeda, the rotation troubles likely become too much to recover from. Build From Within There’s no doubt that the Falvey/Levine pitching pipeline is growing ever closer to MLB ready and some of it has already arrived. Bailey Ober is likely a favorite to shore up the rotation on Opening Day after he put up an ERA around 4.00 in his first 68 innings. Griffin Jax will likely finish the season in the rotation, and Randy Dobnak should be back in the rotation before year’s end. Joe Ryan may be up in short order as well. Additionally, the Twins do have Duran and Winder at the AAA level with newly-acquired Simeon Woods-Richardson, Cole Sands and Jordan Balazovic at AA. The issue with using internal options is it largely depends on youth, much of which hasn’t even pitched in the majors yet. For as talented as many of the Twins young arms might be, there’s no telling how they’ll perform in their first taste of the big leagues. Furthermore, the Twins simply won’t let any of these young arms throw enough innings to take the ball every fifth day through season’s end even if they are effective. Duran threw over 100 innings in 2019, had 2020 off, and has thrown 16 innings this season. Winder followed a similar trend and has thrown 72 innings this season. Bailey Ober, whose fans typically express their disgust with his limited innings in starts, leads this group with 84 innings in 2021. It would be simply shocking to see any of these young arms reach even 150 innings in 2022. Some innings will be filled internally, but it will likely take some of them debuting down the stretch rather than being leaned on throughout the entire season. Outside Help The Twins are going to have a heavy offseason of trying to acquire pitching on the free agent and hopefully trade market. Even coming into this year they preferred to spend $10m on a combination of Happ and Shoemaker to take up two spots rather than spending on a higher quality arm and dedicating a rotation spot to a young arm like Dobnak. Picking up two free agent starters with three already penciled in in 2021 hints that the Twins will likely pursue three to four starting pitchers this winter at the very least. There are some high level free agent arms available this offseason, but it’s hard to see the Twins pursuing any of them. Spending $15-20m on one single pitcher would limit the Twins ability to effectively fill 3-4 other rotation spots. Instead the Twins will likely have to fill their rotation with middling arms that they can try to tweak and unlock something with. Their rotation’s success will likely have everything to do with their ability to effectively identify some under the radar arms and make the necessary tweaks. So essentially the Twins are relying on a miracle when it comes to Maeda and their effectiveness in bringing in outside options when it comes to their pitching rebound. They’ll certainly be counting on some younger pitchers contributing, but they’re almost certainly going to try to make them complementary pieces. In short, the Twins are in a difficult spot no matter how you spin it. They’re likely going to be headed into 2022 with either four or five starting pitchers in the rotation that weren’t there on Opening Day 2021. That’s an incredibly steep mountain to climb for any front office trying to compete, let alone one that missed on nearly every pitching decision they made just last winter. It’s no fun being negative, but 2022 may be a year to just sit back and enjoy whatever positives shake out with this pitching staff rather than having soaring expectations. There will be a fair share of excitement along the way, but it may be wise for Twins fans to temper expectations. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here View full article
  22. I have been a big proponent of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine looking at the year ahead as an opportunity to right the ship that sunk in 2021. Unfortunately, the Maeda injury is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Replacing the entirety of a rotation, needing to overhaul the bullpen, and still being uncertain of what to do with Byron Buxton, this club has its hands full. It will be a busy winter but if we want the team to tackle one thing first, then starting on the bump is an excellent place to begin. Here is how I’m currently handicapping the odds for Rocco Baldelli’s starter on Opening Day this coming season. Bailey Ober 10% Ober has made 16 starts for the Twins in what has been a lost season, but he’s fully entrenched himself as a legitimate big-league arm. The sub-4.00 ERA includes a couple of rough turns, and he’s competed to the tune of a 9.3 K/9 while owning just a 2.0 BB/9 rate. The home run has been his bugaboo, and that can be something of a focus as he continues to learn the competition. I like Ober a lot. He’s got a shot to be a top-3 arm in Minnesota’s future rotation, but I don’t think this club wants to run him out as the ace after just getting his feet wet. Joe Ryan 5% He’s here, and he’s beautiful! That’s how this works, right? Ryan was acquired from the Rays in exchange for Nelson Cruz. I’m still baffled about how Minnesota pulled that off, but either way, the Olympic hurler has been great since joining the organization. His big-league debut went fine, with not much to be drawn from a lackluster Cubs lineup. It remains to be seen how the fastball will play at the highest level, lacking velocity, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t be a productive member of a good rotation. Unfortunately, Ryan is someone you likely want on the back half of the unit in 2022. The Prospects 2% It would’ve been great to see someone emerge from this group in a year that didn't feature much big league positivity. Ober was an outsider who made it, but Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Matt Canterino, Blayne Enlow, and Josh Winder all spent time on the shelf. Only two of them took turns at Triple-A, and all of them remain distant from any immediate plans. You can make a case that each has seen their prospect status take a hit, and while there’s plenty of reason to believe an impact arm or two will emerge here, none of them are going to be in the equation when the season kicks off. The Suspects 3% The additional one percent afforded to this group comes from the fact that they’ve already made it. Hello to Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, Charlie Barnes, and Lewis Thorpe. This foursome has taken turns for the Twins this year, but none of them have faired particularly well, and none of them should be considered beyond starting depth. Dobnak’s future is the clearest given his contract situation. There’s a real possibility the Australian (Thorpe) may be out of the organization in a couple of months, and while both Barnes and Jax have gotten their feet wet, it’s not fair to expect a substantial leap for either. This group isn’t producing your first starter of the season. The Field 80% Take your pick as to who the Twins will sign; they’re going to need at least three starters not presently with the club. Michael Pineda is a good bet to return, but if that’s your Opening Day starter, then you can imagine how the season will go. I’m less inclined to believe a long-term deal with Marcus Stroman or Noah Syndergaard makes sense when it could be a rebuilding year. Maybe an older veteran on a one-year deal happens depending on where the price tag lands. This winter, how Minnesota spends will hinge heavily on what happens with Buxton and the expectations for the returning core. Either way, I’d bet a reasonable sum that the man Baldelli gives the ball to on Opening Day is not currently in the organization. If you’re the manager, who is it that you’re going to? Put on your GM hat and share which arm you think gets plucked and tasked with kicking off 2022. 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. Minnesota had many reasons to be interested in trading for Kenta Maeda before the 2020 season. He had shown positive signs during his time in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers had an influx of starting pitching. He pitched over 125 innings in each of his first four big-league seasons, but the team tended to move him to a bullpen role as the season came to a close. Injury concerns might have been one of the reasons the Dodgers tried to limit Maeda’s innings. (At least that sounds better than trying to limit how much they had to pay him.) When he initially signed from Japan, his physical exam revealed “irregularities” in his right elbow. At the time, MLB.com said, “the strong suspicion is that he will need Tommy John reconstruction at some point.” This prognosis resulted in a very team-friendly eight-year contract which guaranteed Maeda a minimum of $25 million with a chance to be worth over $106 million. This gave the Dodgers some wiggle room if Maeda did go under the knife. He pitched over 600 innings for the Dodgers, and they went on multiple World Series runs, and his elbow wasn’t an issue. Team-controlled starting pitching is one of baseball’s most valuable assets, so Maeda was an easy target for the Twins. His team-friendly deal was a positive, and he hadn’t shown any injury concerns up to this point. Any team trading for a player gets access to their medical records, so there must not have been anything out of the ordinary regarding Maeda’s physical. Plus, the Twins saw their winning window was open, and Maeda helped make the team better. Maeda provided Minnesota with everything they wanted and more during his first season with the club. He finished runner-up for the Cy Young Award after a dominating season where he posted a 2.70 ERA and an MLB-leading 0.75 WHIP. He struck out 80 batters in 66 2/3 innings while only issuing ten walks. From the other perspective, Brusdar Graterol has pitched less than 50 innings for the Dodgers. He has posted a 3.50 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings. Graterol makes hitting triple-digits look easy, but he has yet to develop into a dominant late-inning reliever. He won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2023, and he can’t reach free agency until 2026, so there is plenty of time for the 22-year-old to develop. Two minor league players and a draft pick were also part of this trade. Luke Raley went back to LA after initially being part of the Brian Dozier trade. He has 30 big-league games under his belt, and he has hit .169/.246/.237 with two extra-base hits. He has mashed with a .982 OPS at Triple-A this season, and 29 extra-base hits in 58 games. The Dodger also received a 2020 competitive balance round pick (66th overall), which they used to select Clayton Beeter. He has been used in an opener style role this season while posting a 2.89 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP with 13.8 K/9. Minnesota received Jair Camargo, who has hit .233/.281/.452 with 21 extra-base hits at High-A Cedar Rapids this year. Maeda’s recent injury news means there is a good chance he misses all of the 2022 season, and that might be the season Minnesota needs him the most. Also, a missed season means the next time he steps on the mound will be during his age-35 campaign. So what do you think? Which team do you think won the trade, or is it still too early to judge? 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
  24. The Twins had a tall order when it came to the 2022 pitching staff even when Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda were slotted into the first two spots. Berrios has since been traded and we’ve received word that Maeda has an ominous elbow injury and will have exploratory surgery next week which could turn into Tommy John. Kenta Maeda That brings us to the number one factor in the Twins rotation rebuild in 2022: Kenta Maeda needs to be anchoring it. The Twins can’t really affect whether Maeda is healthy and at this point it appears him being relied on in 2022 is a long shot, but not having a single veteran arm returning creates a scenario in which some might call it nearly impossible to field a reliable 1-5. Even if Maeda isn’t the bona fide ace we hoped, having him at 2 or 3 in the rotation would at least give the Twins something to work with. Without Maeda, the rotation troubles likely become too much to recover from. Build From Within There’s no doubt that the Falvey/Levine pitching pipeline is growing ever closer to MLB ready and some of it has already arrived. Bailey Ober is likely a favorite to shore up the rotation on Opening Day after he put up an ERA around 4.00 in his first 68 innings. Griffin Jax will likely finish the season in the rotation, and Randy Dobnak should be back in the rotation before year’s end. Joe Ryan may be up in short order as well. Additionally, the Twins do have Duran and Winder at the AAA level with newly-acquired Simeon Woods-Richardson, Cole Sands and Jordan Balazovic at AA. The issue with using internal options is it largely depends on youth, much of which hasn’t even pitched in the majors yet. For as talented as many of the Twins young arms might be, there’s no telling how they’ll perform in their first taste of the big leagues. Furthermore, the Twins simply won’t let any of these young arms throw enough innings to take the ball every fifth day through season’s end even if they are effective. Duran threw over 100 innings in 2019, had 2020 off, and has thrown 16 innings this season. Winder followed a similar trend and has thrown 72 innings this season. Bailey Ober, whose fans typically express their disgust with his limited innings in starts, leads this group with 84 innings in 2021. It would be simply shocking to see any of these young arms reach even 150 innings in 2022. Some innings will be filled internally, but it will likely take some of them debuting down the stretch rather than being leaned on throughout the entire season. Outside Help The Twins are going to have a heavy offseason of trying to acquire pitching on the free agent and hopefully trade market. Even coming into this year they preferred to spend $10m on a combination of Happ and Shoemaker to take up two spots rather than spending on a higher quality arm and dedicating a rotation spot to a young arm like Dobnak. Picking up two free agent starters with three already penciled in in 2021 hints that the Twins will likely pursue three to four starting pitchers this winter at the very least. There are some high level free agent arms available this offseason, but it’s hard to see the Twins pursuing any of them. Spending $15-20m on one single pitcher would limit the Twins ability to effectively fill 3-4 other rotation spots. Instead the Twins will likely have to fill their rotation with middling arms that they can try to tweak and unlock something with. Their rotation’s success will likely have everything to do with their ability to effectively identify some under the radar arms and make the necessary tweaks. So essentially the Twins are relying on a miracle when it comes to Maeda and their effectiveness in bringing in outside options when it comes to their pitching rebound. They’ll certainly be counting on some younger pitchers contributing, but they’re almost certainly going to try to make them complementary pieces. In short, the Twins are in a difficult spot no matter how you spin it. They’re likely going to be headed into 2022 with either four or five starting pitchers in the rotation that weren’t there on Opening Day 2021. That’s an incredibly steep mountain to climb for any front office trying to compete, let alone one that missed on nearly every pitching decision they made just last winter. It’s no fun being negative, but 2022 may be a year to just sit back and enjoy whatever positives shake out with this pitching staff rather than having soaring expectations. There will be a fair share of excitement along the way, but it may be wise for Twins fans to temper expectations. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  25. Minnesota Twins pitcher Kenta Maeda was placed on the IL on Tuesday with what the team is calling right forearm tightness. MLB.com's Do-Hyoung Park later reported that Maeda will seek a second opinion regarding his diagnosis and that surgery is possible. Assuming the surgery in question is the dreaded Tommy John procedure, why would Maeda and the Twins even go about seeking a second opinion? It's an easy question, but the answer is wrapped in layers of complexity. Let's begin with a brief anatomy and biomechanics lesson. The ulnar collateral ligament — more frequently referred to as the UCL — is a robust and triangular sheet of tissue that helps support the inner elbow against valgus stress. The elbow experiences the most valgus stress during a baseball game when the arm is driven forward at high rates of speed while throwing a ball. Damage to the UCL occurs when the torque produced as the arm is thrust forward — the technical term is internal rotation — is more significant than what the structure can compensate. Injury can occur chronically as well as acutely and is generally described as a sprain. The degree of damage is graded on a scale of 1-3. Grade 1 sprains are usually minor injuries that heal within a week or two. Grade 2 sprains — also referred to as partial tears — cause instability in the joint as some 50% of the ligament fibers have been damaged; the most frequently reported symptoms are pain and swelling. The recovery timeline for grade 2 sprains generally extends into months. Grade 3 sprains — or ruptures — result in significant instability and require Tommy John surgery to address. Grade 2 sprains are where the best route of treatment is murkiest. As the UCL is technically an extension of the joint capsule — a larger sheet of tissue that envelops a joint and provides stability and nourishment — it has a relatively good blood supply, meaning it is technically capable of healing on its own without surgery. (Side note: This is why ACL injuries require surgery in most instances. Although the ACL is inside the knee, it is technically separate from the joint capsule, and, thus, has almost no blood supply.) However, the UCL does not have the same blood supply throughout its structure. A recent study found evidence to suggest that the blood supply is best nearer where it connects to the upper arm bone — proximal — and decreases as the ligament extends to the forearm — distal. This finding may suggest that grade 2 sprains of the UCL that occur proximally are more likely to heal without surgery than those that are distal (or, read another way, Tommy John surgeries that treat proximal tears are more likely to be "successful" than their distal counterparts.) (Another side note: Interestingly, a study conducted in 2020 found data to suggest the opposite, though it should be noted that the study had a small sample size and was retrospective; both factors limit the findings' strength.) Rest and anti-inflammatory medication are most often the first two steps in treating a grade 2 UCL sprains followed by physical therapy to improve range of motion and increase the strength of the surrounding muscles. While the UCL provides static stability for the inner elbow (i.e., its fibers don't contract and act as a brace), the forearm musculature provides dynamic stability (i.e., its fibers do contract and pull the inner elbow together). Having strong forearm muscles is vital for protecting the healing UCL. Another treatment often reported after an athlete is diagnosed with a UCL sprain is platelet-rich plasma (PRP). The theory behind PRP is sound. The process involves drawing blood into a test tube, spinning it around rapidly in a centrifuge to separate the blood into plasma and red blood cells, sucking the plasma into a syringe, and injecting the plasma into the injured tissue. Plasma contains a variety of cells and other substances, one of which are platelets. Platelets help form the foundation on which new tissue grows and secret substances that help aid the healing process. Again, theoretically. The results surrounding PRP injections and return to play in baseball are … inconclusive, at best. Read one study, and you may come away believing that they work exceptionally well. Read another, and you may think they're just a bunch of hocus pocus. The fact of the matter is this: Despite being relatively well studied, there is little evidence, at this point, to suggest that PRP injections are the medical savior they were once considered to be. So, back to the original question. Why should Maeda and the Twins even pursue a second opinion? Well, the short answer is "Why not?" If the injury Maeda suffered is a UCL sprain, and if he ultimately undergoes surgery, he'll miss the entirety of the 2022 season anyway. Waiting another week or two to gather more information won't prevent him from playing next year. The longer answer is that the most appropriate course of treatment may or may not be surgery, depending on various factors, including grade, location, and, frankly, a specific doctor's training and treatment philosophy. Again, if Maeda is dealing with UCL damage and if it is partial and proximal, it may have a chance to heal on its own. Also, and this bears repeating, what's the harm in trying conservative rehabilitation and waiting on surgery? Best case scenario: Maeda can pitch again in relatively short order and definitely be next season. Worst case scenario: Maeda has to undergo surgery, which, again, would keep him out of 2022 anyway. At this stage, there is minimal downside for the Twins and Maeda in gathering as much information as possible. The team isn't going to the playoffs, he's under contract next year, and he's one of the more critical pitching pieces in the Twins' system. I'll pose the question again. Why should Maeda and the Twins seek a second opinion? Because it's the right thing to do. View full article
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