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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Plenty has gone wrong for the Twins during the 2021 season, and these players have been adding to the trouble. Which Twins have been the least valuable so far in 2021? WAR According to FanGraphs, the Twins have four players that have accumulated a negative WAR total in 2021. Gilberto Celestino ranks lowest with a -0.7 WAR, but that was expected for a player forced into the big leagues before he had significant time in the high minors. Brent Rooker is just slightly negative at -0.1 WAR, with most of his negative value coming on the defensive side of the ball. The other two players with negative WAR are polarizing for Twins fans. Willians Astudillo and Andrelton Simmons are tied with -0.5 WAR, but their path to those totals is entirely different. Simmons posts strong defensive numbers, and his offense has been atrocious. His -23.0 OFF ranking is the lowest on the team, and it’s more than double the next closest player. Astudillo doesn’t have a perfect defensive home, and his offensive skills are limited. He even has a negative WAR as a relief pitcher. On the mound, Matt Shoemaker accumulated a negative WAR in his time as a starter (-0.2 WAR) and as a reliever (-0.5 WAR). Griffin Jax, Beau Burrows, and Andrew Albers are all tied with a -0.3 WAR among players classified as starters. Minnesota’s bullpen has been a mess as 12 players have a negative WAR total. Randy Dobnak, Brandon Waddell, Hansel Robles, and Edgar Garcia all have a -0.3 WAR as relievers. WPA Four Twins players have accumulated a Win Probability Added of more than -0.75. Andrelton Simmons has been worth -3.03 WPA, which is the team’s lowest total. Trevor Larnach ranks the second lowest (-1.78 WPA), with all his negative value coming on the defensive side. Miguel Sano (-1.44), Willians Astudillo (-1.48), and Ryan Jeffers (-1.59) round out the bottom five when it comes to WPA among position players. Among pitchers, J.A. Happ was worth -1.87 WPA during his Twins tenure, and the Twins were still able to get something for him at the trade deadline. Randy Dobnak is in the middle of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season. His -1.42 WPA is the second-worst and ranks just below Griffin Jax (-1.23 WPA) and Alex Colome (-1.26 WPA). Surprisingly, Matt Shoemaker only has the tenth worst WPA among Twins pitchers. Ranking the Top-5 Least Valuable Twins 5. Willians Astudillo: He can certainly be entertaining, and his relief appearances have added some fun to a disappointing season. Overall, his lack of defensive home and low offensive ceiling put him on this list. 4. J.A. Happ: In 19 starts for the Twins, he accumulated a 6.20 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings. Minnesota’s lack of pitching depth meant they had to keep trotting him out there. 3. Alex Colome: Colome would have topped this list in the early part of the season. However, he has been better lately (Editor's Note: For instance, he has recorded saves in four straight games), but it doesn’t take away from his disastrous start to the season. 2. Matt Shoemaker: Shoemaker didn’t cut it as a starter or a reliever. He claimed the Twins tried to make some adjustments during spring training that hurt his performance. 1. Andrelton Simmons: He ranks among baseball’s best defensive shortstops, which shows how inept his offense has been this year. His 57 OPS+ is 18 points lower than his previous career low. How would you rank these players? 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. WAR According to FanGraphs, the Twins have four players that have accumulated a negative WAR total in 2021. Gilberto Celestino ranks lowest with a -0.7 WAR, but that was expected for a player forced into the big leagues before he had significant time in the high minors. Brent Rooker is just slightly negative at -0.1 WAR, with most of his negative value coming on the defensive side of the ball. The other two players with negative WAR are polarizing for Twins fans. Willians Astudillo and Andrelton Simmons are tied with -0.5 WAR, but their path to those totals is entirely different. Simmons posts strong defensive numbers, and his offense has been atrocious. His -23.0 OFF ranking is the lowest on the team, and it’s more than double the next closest player. Astudillo doesn’t have a perfect defensive home, and his offensive skills are limited. He even has a negative WAR as a relief pitcher. On the mound, Matt Shoemaker accumulated a negative WAR in his time as a starter (-0.2 WAR) and as a reliever (-0.5 WAR). Griffin Jax, Beau Burrows, and Andrew Albers are all tied with a -0.3 WAR among players classified as starters. Minnesota’s bullpen has been a mess as 12 players have a negative WAR total. Randy Dobnak, Brandon Waddell, Hansel Robles, and Edgar Garcia all have a -0.3 WAR as relievers. WPA Four Twins players have accumulated a Win Probability Added of more than -0.75. Andrelton Simmons has been worth -3.03 WPA, which is the team’s lowest total. Trevor Larnach ranks the second lowest (-1.78 WPA), with all his negative value coming on the defensive side. Miguel Sano (-1.44), Willians Astudillo (-1.48), and Ryan Jeffers (-1.59) round out the bottom five when it comes to WPA among position players. Among pitchers, J.A. Happ was worth -1.87 WPA during his Twins tenure, and the Twins were still able to get something for him at the trade deadline. Randy Dobnak is in the middle of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season. His -1.42 WPA is the second-worst and ranks just below Griffin Jax (-1.23 WPA) and Alex Colome (-1.26 WPA). Surprisingly, Matt Shoemaker only has the tenth worst WPA among Twins pitchers. Ranking the Top-5 Least Valuable Twins 5. Willians Astudillo: He can certainly be entertaining, and his relief appearances have added some fun to a disappointing season. Overall, his lack of defensive home and low offensive ceiling put him on this list. 4. J.A. Happ: In 19 starts for the Twins, he accumulated a 6.20 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings. Minnesota’s lack of pitching depth meant they had to keep trotting him out there. 3. Alex Colome: Colome would have topped this list in the early part of the season. However, he has been better lately (Editor's Note: For instance, he has recorded saves in four straight games), but it doesn’t take away from his disastrous start to the season. 2. Matt Shoemaker: Shoemaker didn’t cut it as a starter or a reliever. He claimed the Twins tried to make some adjustments during spring training that hurt his performance. 1. Andrelton Simmons: He ranks among baseball’s best defensive shortstops, which shows how inept his offense has been this year. His 57 OPS+ is 18 points lower than his previous career low. How would you rank these players? 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. In the article written by Dean Spiros of the Pioneer Press, Shoemaker says he is now pitching "the opposite of how the Twins wanted [him] to pitch." Perhaps this is why in 20 innings with the St. Paul Saints, he has a 1.80/3.82 ERA/FIP with improved strikeout and walk rates compared to the 60 1/3 innings he pitched with the Twins. Although 20 innings is a small sample, he's also keeping opposing hitters in the ballpark, which was a massive problem in his time with the Twins, where he has the third-highest home run per nine innings rate among all pitchers who have thrown 60 or more innings. In fairness to Shoemaker, he didn't completely trash the Twins and shouldered some of the blame by saying that "[he] could have said no." He also hopes to be back with the big league club at some point by saying, "I really like the Twins organization," he said. "The guys up top, the staff, that's where it's tough…." Truthfully, I don't think there is anything wrong with what Shoemaker said and how he said it. I believe that some of the headlines generated from these quotes made Shoemaker out to be the bad guy when in reality, he was taking some responsibility for his struggles. I'm not here to debate the semantics of what was said and how the media and fans interpreted it. But we can look into his claims that the Twins asked him to make adjustments that ultimately lead to him getting DFA'd, unclaimed, and assigned to the St. Paul Saints on July 1st. Pre-Twins Tendencies Before coming to the Twins, Matt Shoemaker had thrown more than 600 innings with a 3.86/4.03 ERA/FIP, 3.7 K/BB, and a 1.3 HR/9 over eight injury-riddled seasons. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014 and had an excellent 2016 season, but since then, he hasn't thrown 80 innings in a season due to various injuries to his arm, knee, and shoulder. The Twins were undoubtedly taking a risk on him, but most assumed that he would be a suitable piece for the back end of a rotation that had World Series hopes as long as he's healthy. Even the biggest naysayer couldn't have predicted the season that Shoemaker ended up having. Even Jeremy Maschino, who has no affiliation to the Twins or Shoemaker, was optimistic about the signing. In the aforementioned Pioneer Press article, Shoemaker claims that he's had success when he works up and down in the strike zone with changing speeds. Being that he's been oft-injured from 2017 to 2020, I decided to go back to his last full season in 2016, which also happens to be the most successful season of his career. Reviewing his Statcast Pitch Arsenal on Baseball Savant in that season, you can see that he'd throw his four-seam fastball and sinker up in the zone while Shoemaker threw his change-up and slider down in the zone. Quick note: depending on the year and the source, his change-up can also be classified as a split-finger. That change-up/split-finger, in particular, was about eight miles per hour slower than his four-seam with significantly more vertical movement and, according to Brooks Baseball, hitters slugged just .286 off of the pitch in 2016. These tendencies remained consistent when I looked at his career from 2013 to 2020 and seemingly aligned with what he said in the article. So what does "the opposite" of those tendencies look like for Shoemaker? 2021 Tendencies with the Twins Right away, I'll again point out that what was classified as a "change-up" in 2016 was re-classified as a split-finger in 2017 and every year since. You can also see pretty quickly that Shoemaker did seem to adjust to the "Twins way" by relying more heavily on his slider in 2021 (thrown 24.5-percent of the time) than throughout his entire career (16.5-percent). That change may be what Shoemaker is referring to, which hitters have slugged .484 before the 2021 season. This year hitters are slugging .507 off his slider while his split-finger is still his most effective pitch with an opponent slugging percentage of .392. That said, I think Shoemaker needs to take a little more responsibility than saying, "I could have said no." Despite the increase in slider usage, his fastball, sinker, and split-finger tendencies are primarily in line with what he had done throughout his career. He throws his fastball higher in the zone coupled with his split-finger down in the zone, although his sinker heat map appears to be a little more erratic. In general, all of his heat maps are more erratic than those from his 2016, which is where I think he needs to take some responsibility for his struggles. Moreover, he may disagree with the pitch calling, but I can't imagine that the Twins were asking you to throw 92 mile per hour fastballs down the heart of the plate. Conclusion There is plenty of blame to share here. It's not all on the Twins, and it's not all on Matt Shoemaker. I think the Twins are at fault for asking Shoemaker to increase usage on the least effective pitch in his arsenal. As Shoemaker suggested in the article, what might work for one guy isn't necessarily going to work for the next guy. What's concerning to me is that his career numbers suggested that, yet the Twins went ahead with their heavy slider approach anyway. At the same time, it's clear that Shoemaker isn't as effective with his pitches as he was pre-injuries. Is that something that will improve as he gets more innings under his belt or something that can be fixed with a stint in the Minors? Time will tell, and now that the trade deadline has come and gone, I think it's only a matter of time before we see Shoemaker back in a Twins uniform. What were your thoughts on Shoemaker's claims? Were they legit or just a disgruntled player failing to own up to his struggles? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. Recently, Matt Shoemaker said, "The Twins wanted to get more out of me in spring training...but unfortunately, it failed miserably." Is there legitimacy in his claim, or is this just a struggling player looking to place blame elsewhere? I've investigated his career tendencies to answer this question. In the article written by Dean Spiros of the Pioneer Press, Shoemaker says he is now pitching "the opposite of how the Twins wanted [him] to pitch." Perhaps this is why in 20 innings with the St. Paul Saints, he has a 1.80/3.82 ERA/FIP with improved strikeout and walk rates compared to the 60 1/3 innings he pitched with the Twins. Although 20 innings is a small sample, he's also keeping opposing hitters in the ballpark, which was a massive problem in his time with the Twins, where he has the third-highest home run per nine innings rate among all pitchers who have thrown 60 or more innings. In fairness to Shoemaker, he didn't completely trash the Twins and shouldered some of the blame by saying that "[he] could have said no." He also hopes to be back with the big league club at some point by saying, "I really like the Twins organization," he said. "The guys up top, the staff, that's where it's tough…." Truthfully, I don't think there is anything wrong with what Shoemaker said and how he said it. I believe that some of the headlines generated from these quotes made Shoemaker out to be the bad guy when in reality, he was taking some responsibility for his struggles. I'm not here to debate the semantics of what was said and how the media and fans interpreted it. But we can look into his claims that the Twins asked him to make adjustments that ultimately lead to him getting DFA'd, unclaimed, and assigned to the St. Paul Saints on July 1st. Pre-Twins Tendencies Before coming to the Twins, Matt Shoemaker had thrown more than 600 innings with a 3.86/4.03 ERA/FIP, 3.7 K/BB, and a 1.3 HR/9 over eight injury-riddled seasons. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014 and had an excellent 2016 season, but since then, he hasn't thrown 80 innings in a season due to various injuries to his arm, knee, and shoulder. The Twins were undoubtedly taking a risk on him, but most assumed that he would be a suitable piece for the back end of a rotation that had World Series hopes as long as he's healthy. Even the biggest naysayer couldn't have predicted the season that Shoemaker ended up having. Even Jeremy Maschino, who has no affiliation to the Twins or Shoemaker, was optimistic about the signing. In the aforementioned Pioneer Press article, Shoemaker claims that he's had success when he works up and down in the strike zone with changing speeds. Being that he's been oft-injured from 2017 to 2020, I decided to go back to his last full season in 2016, which also happens to be the most successful season of his career. Reviewing his Statcast Pitch Arsenal on Baseball Savant in that season, you can see that he'd throw his four-seam fastball and sinker up in the zone while Shoemaker threw his change-up and slider down in the zone. Quick note: depending on the year and the source, his change-up can also be classified as a split-finger. That change-up/split-finger, in particular, was about eight miles per hour slower than his four-seam with significantly more vertical movement and, according to Brooks Baseball, hitters slugged just .286 off of the pitch in 2016. These tendencies remained consistent when I looked at his career from 2013 to 2020 and seemingly aligned with what he said in the article. So what does "the opposite" of those tendencies look like for Shoemaker? 2021 Tendencies with the Twins Right away, I'll again point out that what was classified as a "change-up" in 2016 was re-classified as a split-finger in 2017 and every year since. You can also see pretty quickly that Shoemaker did seem to adjust to the "Twins way" by relying more heavily on his slider in 2021 (thrown 24.5-percent of the time) than throughout his entire career (16.5-percent). That change may be what Shoemaker is referring to, which hitters have slugged .484 before the 2021 season. This year hitters are slugging .507 off his slider while his split-finger is still his most effective pitch with an opponent slugging percentage of .392. That said, I think Shoemaker needs to take a little more responsibility than saying, "I could have said no." Despite the increase in slider usage, his fastball, sinker, and split-finger tendencies are primarily in line with what he had done throughout his career. He throws his fastball higher in the zone coupled with his split-finger down in the zone, although his sinker heat map appears to be a little more erratic. In general, all of his heat maps are more erratic than those from his 2016, which is where I think he needs to take some responsibility for his struggles. Moreover, he may disagree with the pitch calling, but I can't imagine that the Twins were asking you to throw 92 mile per hour fastballs down the heart of the plate. Conclusion There is plenty of blame to share here. It's not all on the Twins, and it's not all on Matt Shoemaker. I think the Twins are at fault for asking Shoemaker to increase usage on the least effective pitch in his arsenal. As Shoemaker suggested in the article, what might work for one guy isn't necessarily going to work for the next guy. What's concerning to me is that his career numbers suggested that, yet the Twins went ahead with their heavy slider approach anyway. At the same time, it's clear that Shoemaker isn't as effective with his pitches as he was pre-injuries. Is that something that will improve as he gets more innings under his belt or something that can be fixed with a stint in the Minors? Time will tell, and now that the trade deadline has come and gone, I think it's only a matter of time before we see Shoemaker back in a Twins uniform. What were your thoughts on Shoemaker's claims? Were they legit or just a disgruntled player failing to own up to his struggles? 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
  7. The Minnesota Twins established a new front office under Derek Falvey and Thad Levine with the expectation that organizational pitching woes would be averted. It started that way, but things flopped hard in 2021. Across the division in Cleveland, Falvey grew a reputation for being able to develop pitching. Minnesota needed to overhaul that aspect of their development, and the early returns were promising. Despite the Bomba Squad emerging in 2019, Minnesota also became the best pitching version of itself that the franchise had seen in years. Taylor Rogers was elite, Tyler Duffey was transformed, and a number of fliers worked out. Enter 2021 and things couldn’t be further from that reality. This Twins club owns the 29th overall fWAR mark from their pitching staff, and both starters and relievers have been collectively terrible. The lineup took a bit to get going, but it hasn’t been an issue for weeks. With the White Sox now having all but ended Minnesota’s chances in the year ahead, a look at 2022 puts both Falvey and Levine squarely on the hot seat. Given the amount of talent eyeing a return on this roster, and the unexpected nature of these results, a full rebuild should not be the course of action in 2022. Reloading and trying it again with some new pieces makes all the sense in the world. What the front office must not do again however, is look to shop in the bargain bin and think the process will entirely translate into results. I have long harped on the infrastructure brought in by this front office as being exceptional. That still rings true. Wes Johnson is a good pitching coach, and throughout the farm there’s intelligent instructors. At some point though, you can’t bank entirely on a blueprint squeeze more juice from an already cashed fruit. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker were fine back-end additions, but they both relied entirely on depth with nothing done to raise the water level. From the vantage point we have now, walking through this smoldering warzone, Falvey has virtually nothing to show for this season. The plethora of waiver claims all failed to pan out, save for the small sample of Luke Farrell. Happ and Shoemaker have been terrible. Randy Dobnak was extended, then optioned, and has never had a real defined role. On the farm, each of the top prospects has now gone down with arm issues, likely due to the year off. Yes, Josh Winder and Jordan Balazovic look good, but there’s more reason to be cautious than excited at this point. In the year ahead it will be on the Twins to use their depth as a fall back plan rather than seeing it as a source of reliance. Signings like Happ and Shoemaker indicated a belief one or both would soon be bumped as prospects came for their spots. Now Shoemaker is gone entirely, and the lack of options becomes even more glaring with yet another miss added to the books. Jose Berrios has been good, but not yet elevated to the next step, and now the talk of trading him lands even more into a questionable realm for me. Over the winter the plan has to be pitching, spending on it, and making sure it’s right. Relief arms are generally fickle year over year. Expecting Alexander Colome to fall this hard wasn’t a good bet. In 2022 you can reshuffle that group and bring in new faces, but they can’t be supplemented with a bunch of fall back options just ran out in case of emergency. The starting staff needs a legit arm that slots in to the top three, and that’s on top of paying or at least keeping Berrios. One bad season in the midst of such turnaround isn’t going to cost the front office their jobs, but there is plenty of reason to question why Derek Falvey hasn’t come through with his calling card should we see two years’ worth of these results. It’s time to right this ship, fix it, and prove the belief has been warranted. Dollars, development, whatever path you want to take, pitching can not be a problem for the Twins in the year ahead. 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. Across the division in Cleveland, Falvey grew a reputation for being able to develop pitching. Minnesota needed to overhaul that aspect of their development, and the early returns were promising. Despite the Bomba Squad emerging in 2019, Minnesota also became the best pitching version of itself that the franchise had seen in years. Taylor Rogers was elite, Tyler Duffey was transformed, and a number of fliers worked out. Enter 2021 and things couldn’t be further from that reality. This Twins club owns the 29th overall fWAR mark from their pitching staff, and both starters and relievers have been collectively terrible. The lineup took a bit to get going, but it hasn’t been an issue for weeks. With the White Sox now having all but ended Minnesota’s chances in the year ahead, a look at 2022 puts both Falvey and Levine squarely on the hot seat. Given the amount of talent eyeing a return on this roster, and the unexpected nature of these results, a full rebuild should not be the course of action in 2022. Reloading and trying it again with some new pieces makes all the sense in the world. What the front office must not do again however, is look to shop in the bargain bin and think the process will entirely translate into results. I have long harped on the infrastructure brought in by this front office as being exceptional. That still rings true. Wes Johnson is a good pitching coach, and throughout the farm there’s intelligent instructors. At some point though, you can’t bank entirely on a blueprint squeeze more juice from an already cashed fruit. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker were fine back-end additions, but they both relied entirely on depth with nothing done to raise the water level. From the vantage point we have now, walking through this smoldering warzone, Falvey has virtually nothing to show for this season. The plethora of waiver claims all failed to pan out, save for the small sample of Luke Farrell. Happ and Shoemaker have been terrible. Randy Dobnak was extended, then optioned, and has never had a real defined role. On the farm, each of the top prospects has now gone down with arm issues, likely due to the year off. Yes, Josh Winder and Jordan Balazovic look good, but there’s more reason to be cautious than excited at this point. In the year ahead it will be on the Twins to use their depth as a fall back plan rather than seeing it as a source of reliance. Signings like Happ and Shoemaker indicated a belief one or both would soon be bumped as prospects came for their spots. Now Shoemaker is gone entirely, and the lack of options becomes even more glaring with yet another miss added to the books. Jose Berrios has been good, but not yet elevated to the next step, and now the talk of trading him lands even more into a questionable realm for me. Over the winter the plan has to be pitching, spending on it, and making sure it’s right. Relief arms are generally fickle year over year. Expecting Alexander Colome to fall this hard wasn’t a good bet. In 2022 you can reshuffle that group and bring in new faces, but they can’t be supplemented with a bunch of fall back options just ran out in case of emergency. The starting staff needs a legit arm that slots in to the top three, and that’s on top of paying or at least keeping Berrios. One bad season in the midst of such turnaround isn’t going to cost the front office their jobs, but there is plenty of reason to question why Derek Falvey hasn’t come through with his calling card should we see two years’ worth of these results. It’s time to right this ship, fix it, and prove the belief has been warranted. Dollars, development, whatever path you want to take, pitching can not be a problem for the Twins in the year ahead. 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. On Tuesday night, Twins fans that stayed up late to watch a West Coast game were treated with a real clunker. Minnesota faced off against a bad Seattle team and it escalated into an embarrassing loss. J.A. Happ allowed six earned runs in four innings to an anemic Mariners offense. Happ is only one issue with a pitching staff that might be the worst in franchise history. Out of the 15 American League teams, Minnesota ranks 13th or lower in ERA, hits, R, HR, and strikeouts, but it goes even further than that. While all those numbers show how bad the Twins have been this season, there are ways to compare the current team to former seasons. ERA- and FIP- are all statistics that allow fans to compare pitchers across different eras because it adjusts for the league and the park. For each area, 100 is league average and each point above or below 100 represents a percent above or below league average. If a team has a 90 ERA- that means they were 10 percentage points better than the league average. When it comes to ERA-, there is only one Minnesota team with a worse total than the 2021 Twins. The 1995 Twins finished the year with a 56-88 record and their starting staff was composed of a 22-year-old Brad Radke, Kevin Tapani, Mike Trombley, Frankie Rodriguez, Scott Erickson, and Jose Para. As a club, they had the ranked last or second to last in the American League when it came to ERA, HR, R, W, IP, and H. Entering play on Wednesday, the 2021 Twins (119 ERA-) were only one point behind the 1995 team (120 ERA-), so they certainly can end up in the bottom spot by season’s end. FIP is used to estimate a pitcher’s run prevention independent of the defensive performance behind the player. The 2021 Twins also have the second worse FIP- in team history, but this time the 1982 squad has the worst total. That squad finished 60-102, which was last place in the AL West. Starters on the team included Bobby Castillo, Brad Havens, Albert Williams, Frank Viola, and Jack O’Connor. Like the 1995 team, they ranked at or near the bottom of the AL in ERA, HR, ER, R, and BB. What makes it even more frustrating is how good last year’s staff was in comparison to the current team. Kenta Maeda was the runner-up for the Cy Young and he wasn’t the only one to find success. All four of Minnesota’s top four starters were above league average when it comes to ERA-. Minnesota’s bullpen also had many reliable arms whereas the 2021 team’s bullpen has been a train wreck. In the not-so-distant future, it seems likely for the 2021 Twins to cut ties to some of their veteran pitching options and start seeing what the team has for younger arms. Bailey Ober and Griffin Jax have been added to the staff and other prospects will be following closely behind. Minnesota’s top two pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic, have both showcased dominant stuff in the upper levels of the minors this season and their big-league debuts made come sooner rather than later. Do you think this is the worst pitching staff in team history? Leave a COMMENT and join the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. Derek Falvey was brought over from Cleveland to help the Twins build a pitching pipeline. Those dreams have yet to come to fruition as the 2021 Twins might be the worst pitching staff in team history. On Tuesday night, Twins fans that stayed up late to watch a West Coast game were treated with a real clunker. Minnesota faced off against a bad Seattle team and it escalated into an embarrassing loss. J.A. Happ allowed six earned runs in four innings to an anemic Mariners offense. Happ is only one issue with a pitching staff that might be the worst in franchise history. Out of the 15 American League teams, Minnesota ranks 13th or lower in ERA, hits, R, HR, and strikeouts, but it goes even further than that. While all those numbers show how bad the Twins have been this season, there are ways to compare the current team to former seasons. ERA- and FIP- are all statistics that allow fans to compare pitchers across different eras because it adjusts for the league and the park. For each area, 100 is league average and each point above or below 100 represents a percent above or below league average. If a team has a 90 ERA- that means they were 10 percentage points better than the league average. When it comes to ERA-, there is only one Minnesota team with a worse total than the 2021 Twins. The 1995 Twins finished the year with a 56-88 record and their starting staff was composed of a 22-year-old Brad Radke, Kevin Tapani, Mike Trombley, Frankie Rodriguez, Scott Erickson, and Jose Para. As a club, they had the ranked last or second to last in the American League when it came to ERA, HR, R, W, IP, and H. Entering play on Wednesday, the 2021 Twins (119 ERA-) were only one point behind the 1995 team (120 ERA-), so they certainly can end up in the bottom spot by season’s end. FIP is used to estimate a pitcher’s run prevention independent of the defensive performance behind the player. The 2021 Twins also have the second worse FIP- in team history, but this time the 1982 squad has the worst total. That squad finished 60-102, which was last place in the AL West. Starters on the team included Bobby Castillo, Brad Havens, Albert Williams, Frank Viola, and Jack O’Connor. Like the 1995 team, they ranked at or near the bottom of the AL in ERA, HR, ER, R, and BB. What makes it even more frustrating is how good last year’s staff was in comparison to the current team. Kenta Maeda was the runner-up for the Cy Young and he wasn’t the only one to find success. All four of Minnesota’s top four starters were above league average when it comes to ERA-. Minnesota’s bullpen also had many reliable arms whereas the 2021 team’s bullpen has been a train wreck. In the not-so-distant future, it seems likely for the 2021 Twins to cut ties to some of their veteran pitching options and start seeing what the team has for younger arms. Bailey Ober and Griffin Jax have been added to the staff and other prospects will be following closely behind. Minnesota’s top two pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic, have both showcased dominant stuff in the upper levels of the minors this season and their big-league debuts made come sooner rather than later. Do you think this is the worst pitching staff in team history? Leave a COMMENT and join the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  11. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/7 through Sun, 6/13 *** Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 26-39) Run Differential Last Week: -15 (Overall: -50) Standing: T-4th Place in AL Central (15.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 60 | NYY 8, MIN 4: New York Pulls Away Late, Wins Series Opener Game 61 | NYY 9, MIN 6: Yankees Tee Off on Dobnak in Victory Game 62 | MIN 7, NYY 5: Donaldson, Cruz Power Dramatic Comeback vs. Chapman Game 63 | HOU 6, MIN 4: Shoemaker's Late Lapse Leads to Loss Game 64 | MIN 5, HOU 2: Twins Win Behind Strong Effort from Berríos Game 65 | HOU 14, MIN 3: Astros Destroy Twins Pitching in Blowout NEWS & NOTES Relatively speaking, it was a pretty quiet week in terms of roster moves and injury updates. Byron Buxton, Kenta Maeda, Luis Arraez, and Max Kepler all embarked on rehab assignments in St. Paul, so the Twins figure to get back these important fixtures in the near future. Gilberto Celestino was optioned to Triple-A, then quickly recalled, as Kyle Garlick went on the shelf with a sports hernia. Rob Refsnyder is back. (He started in right field and batted cleanup on Sunday, which says a lot about the state of this roster.) HIGHLIGHTS The biggest highlight of the week, and the season, came in the ninth inning of Thursday's series finale against the Yankees. With the Twins trailing by two runs and facing a sweep, Aroldis Chapman came to the mound, carrying a 0.39 ERA, 4-0 record, and 12-for-13 save conversion rate. He'd been lights-out, and was going up against a Twins team that has constantly shrunk in big spots. All of which made the ensuing sequence of events astonishingly improbable. If you turned away from the TV, you might've missed one of the most exhilarating comeback wins in recent franchise history. It all happened so quickly. Jorge Polanco led off with a single. In stepped Josh Donaldson, who took ball one and then launched a mammoth game-tying home run to left-center. Willians Astudillo, pinch-hitting for Nick Gordon, followed with a first-pitch single of his own. And then came Nelson Cruz, who basically replicated what Donaldson did two ABs earlier by drilling a 1-0 pitch deep to center for the walk-off winner. Within a span of nine pitches, the Twins grasped victory from the jaws of defeat. For Twins fans, the feeling was bittersweet, because it was hard not to think about how much more epic and energizing that win would've been if the Twins hadn't cast themselves hopelessly out of contention. In anticipation of this season, we dreamed about Cruz and Donaldson coming through with game-changing jolts like this all year long, but instead, such marquee moments have been far and few between, which is part of the reason the team finds itself buried in last place. With that said, Cruz's bat has been showing some life at the plate again lately and that's good to see now matter how you slice it. He went 6-for-16 with three home runs and six RBIs on the week, equaling his totals in those categories from the entire month of May. He might not find himself leading the Twins on a pennant chase in August and September, but maybe he can do it for someone else, and score Minnesota a prospect or two in the process. Donaldson's clutch bomb was also part of a power-hitting rejuvenation, as he followed the next day by going deep twice against Houston – his second two-homer game in an eight-day span. His slugging percentage, which had sagged to .408 by the end of the Baltimore series in early June, is back up to .475. As I noted last week, Donaldson's been remarkably healthy and durable since his season-opening IL sint, leading the team in games played and plate appearances since returning. He's also been doing some very nice work with the glove. Polanco, whose single set up the dramatic finish against New York, has generally stayed hot at the plate. He went 6-for-21 with three homers and six RBIs last week. His left-handed swing is actually doing damage again and that's huge. Other standout offensive performances included Miguel Sanó (8-for-24 with two homers and four RBIs) and Alex Kirilloff (5-for-13 with just one strikeout in five games). There weren't many positives on the pitching side, but José Berríos certainly qualifies. He was masterful against the Astros on Saturday night, spinning seven innings of two-run ball. The righty allowed only five hits and two walks while striking out eight. Berríos has won five straight decisions and the Twins are 7-1 in his last seven starts dating back to the beginning of May. The other noteworthy pitching bright spot was a strong showing from Bailey Ober on Friday night, when he made a spot start in place of Matt Shoemaker. Going against an elite Houston offense, Ober tossed five innings and allowed just two runs, striking out seven with one walk. He continues to pump 92-93 MPH with his four-seamer, which is immensely encouraging. Ober looks like he could be a legitimate factor on a pitching staff that desperately needs help, both now and moving forward. LOWLIGHTS Even after being bumped from the rotation, Shoemaker continues to cost the Twins with his staggeringly poor play. He appeared in relief on Friday night against the Astros and took the loss, giving up two runs in the ninth to break a tie. (The decision by Rocco Baldelli to use him in this situation was ... questionable to say the least.) He came out of the bullpen again on Sunday and looked customarily awful, coughing up three runs on four hits and two walks in two innings of work. Shoemaker has the worst ERA in the league, he's been tagged with eight losses in 13 appearances, and seems to look worse every time he takes the mound. It's past time for the Twins to move on. Roster crunches and depth issues be damned: you can't justify continuing to run a guy like this out in major-league games. The same can also be said for Alex Colomé, whose brief stretch of effectiveness in May is now a distant memory. He gave up two runs on three hits in his one inning of work on Sunday, and has a 5.48 ERA on the season to go along with his league-worst (by a mile) negative-2.34 Win Probability Added. Colomé's departure is probably less imminent than Shoemaker's, because they're paying him three times as much and are so direly short-handed in the bullpen, but in both cases it's only a matter of time. These guys were complete free agent busts and wherever the Twins go from here, they aren't going to be part of it. The situation with Randy Dobnak is a bit more complicated. He's looked every bit as bad as Shoemaker, with his ERA inflating to 8.38 after allowing 14 earned runs in 6 ⅔ innings over the past week. Dobnak gave up five home runs in two appearances, with four coming against his reinvented slider which has changed from a powerful asset to a glaring weakness for him. That begs the question why he or the Twins thought it would be a good idea to tinker with that pitch in the first place. It's not pleasant to watch Dobnak pitch right now, but the solution isn't as simple as cutting bait like it is with Shoemaker. The Twins just signed Dobnak to a five-year contract extension on the heels of an outstanding spring training, and while the monetary commitment isn't huge, they are invested in him for better or worse. It behooves them to help him work through his issues because he's currently one of their few figments of long-term stability in the rotation picture. Fixing the pitching staff has become a primary crux for the Twins and their future outlook. The work is cut out for them here. Michael Pineda looks to be headed for the Injured List. Shoemaker is unusable and J.A. Happ hasn't been much better. Berríos is under contract for one more year after this and Maeda two more. It's tough to have much confidence in the front office filling tons of holes and constructing a quality unit from scratch during the offseason given how poorly all of their moves this year fared. As such, you can see why it's critically important for Ober to build on his early success and for Dobnak to get straightened out. The Twins need some things to break right with young pitchers or they simply won't be equipped to contend next year, in which case, why not just trade Berríos at the upcoming deadline? TRENDING STORYLINE For what it's worth, the Twins are about to get a lot closer to full strength. Maeda, Buxton, and Arraez have completed their rehab stints and will be traveling to Seattle for the upcoming road trip. Maeda is scheduled to start against the Mariners on Monday, and the other two will presumably be activated for that game as well. Kepler is be a bit further behind, given that he played his first rehab game in St. Paul on Sunday (and was the DH), but we could see him up before week's end. Those are some pretty key cogs the Twins have been playing without. We'll see if their returns, along with a softening of the schedule, can help this team get on a bit of a winning run here in the back half of June. So far, sustained hot streaks have eluded them. LOOKING AHEAD Get ready for some late-night baseball as the Twins head to Seattle for a showdown against the Mariners in Pacific Time. Then, following an off day, Minnesota heads down to Texas for a weekend series against the last-place Rangers. MONDAY, 6/13: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. LHP Marco Gonzales TUESDAY, 6/14: TWINS @ MARINERS – LHP J.A. Happ vs. RHP Chris Flexen WEDNESDAY, 6/15: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Justus Sheffield FRIDAY, 6/17: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Mike Foltynewicz SATURDAY, 6/18: TWINS @ RANGERS – TBD v. LHP Kolby Allard SUNDAY, 6/19: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Dane Dunning
  12. The Minnesota Twins are a bad baseball team. This was made painfully clear during another losing week in which they were thoroughly outplayed by two plainly superior contending clubs. Where do we go from here? Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/7 through Sun, 6/13 *** Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 26-39) Run Differential Last Week: -15 (Overall: -50) Standing: T-4th Place in AL Central (15.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 60 | NYY 8, MIN 4: New York Pulls Away Late, Wins Series Opener Game 61 | NYY 9, MIN 6: Yankees Tee Off on Dobnak in Victory Game 62 | MIN 7, NYY 5: Donaldson, Cruz Power Dramatic Comeback vs. Chapman Game 63 | HOU 6, MIN 4: Shoemaker's Late Lapse Leads to Loss Game 64 | MIN 5, HOU 2: Twins Win Behind Strong Effort from Berríos Game 65 | HOU 14, MIN 3: Astros Destroy Twins Pitching in Blowout NEWS & NOTES Relatively speaking, it was a pretty quiet week in terms of roster moves and injury updates. Byron Buxton, Kenta Maeda, Luis Arraez, and Max Kepler all embarked on rehab assignments in St. Paul, so the Twins figure to get back these important fixtures in the near future. Gilberto Celestino was optioned to Triple-A, then quickly recalled, as Kyle Garlick went on the shelf with a sports hernia. Rob Refsnyder is back. (He started in right field and batted cleanup on Sunday, which says a lot about the state of this roster.) HIGHLIGHTS The biggest highlight of the week, and the season, came in the ninth inning of Thursday's series finale against the Yankees. With the Twins trailing by two runs and facing a sweep, Aroldis Chapman came to the mound, carrying a 0.39 ERA, 4-0 record, and 12-for-13 save conversion rate. He'd been lights-out, and was going up against a Twins team that has constantly shrunk in big spots. All of which made the ensuing sequence of events astonishingly improbable. If you turned away from the TV, you might've missed one of the most exhilarating comeback wins in recent franchise history. It all happened so quickly. Jorge Polanco led off with a single. In stepped Josh Donaldson, who took ball one and then launched a mammoth game-tying home run to left-center. Willians Astudillo, pinch-hitting for Nick Gordon, followed with a first-pitch single of his own. And then came Nelson Cruz, who basically replicated what Donaldson did two ABs earlier by drilling a 1-0 pitch deep to center for the walk-off winner. Within a span of nine pitches, the Twins grasped victory from the jaws of defeat. For Twins fans, the feeling was bittersweet, because it was hard not to think about how much more epic and energizing that win would've been if the Twins hadn't cast themselves hopelessly out of contention. In anticipation of this season, we dreamed about Cruz and Donaldson coming through with game-changing jolts like this all year long, but instead, such marquee moments have been far and few between, which is part of the reason the team finds itself buried in last place. With that said, Cruz's bat has been showing some life at the plate again lately and that's good to see now matter how you slice it. He went 6-for-16 with three home runs and six RBIs on the week, equaling his totals in those categories from the entire month of May. He might not find himself leading the Twins on a pennant chase in August and September, but maybe he can do it for someone else, and score Minnesota a prospect or two in the process. Donaldson's clutch bomb was also part of a power-hitting rejuvenation, as he followed the next day by going deep twice against Houston – his second two-homer game in an eight-day span. His slugging percentage, which had sagged to .408 by the end of the Baltimore series in early June, is back up to .475. As I noted last week, Donaldson's been remarkably healthy and durable since his season-opening IL sint, leading the team in games played and plate appearances since returning. He's also been doing some very nice work with the glove. Polanco, whose single set up the dramatic finish against New York, has generally stayed hot at the plate. He went 6-for-21 with three homers and six RBIs last week. His left-handed swing is actually doing damage again and that's huge. Other standout offensive performances included Miguel Sanó (8-for-24 with two homers and four RBIs) and Alex Kirilloff (5-for-13 with just one strikeout in five games). There weren't many positives on the pitching side, but José Berríos certainly qualifies. He was masterful against the Astros on Saturday night, spinning seven innings of two-run ball. The righty allowed only five hits and two walks while striking out eight. Berríos has won five straight decisions and the Twins are 7-1 in his last seven starts dating back to the beginning of May. The other noteworthy pitching bright spot was a strong showing from Bailey Ober on Friday night, when he made a spot start in place of Matt Shoemaker. Going against an elite Houston offense, Ober tossed five innings and allowed just two runs, striking out seven with one walk. He continues to pump 92-93 MPH with his four-seamer, which is immensely encouraging. Ober looks like he could be a legitimate factor on a pitching staff that desperately needs help, both now and moving forward. LOWLIGHTS Even after being bumped from the rotation, Shoemaker continues to cost the Twins with his staggeringly poor play. He appeared in relief on Friday night against the Astros and took the loss, giving up two runs in the ninth to break a tie. (The decision by Rocco Baldelli to use him in this situation was ... questionable to say the least.) He came out of the bullpen again on Sunday and looked customarily awful, coughing up three runs on four hits and two walks in two innings of work. Shoemaker has the worst ERA in the league, he's been tagged with eight losses in 13 appearances, and seems to look worse every time he takes the mound. It's past time for the Twins to move on. Roster crunches and depth issues be damned: you can't justify continuing to run a guy like this out in major-league games. The same can also be said for Alex Colomé, whose brief stretch of effectiveness in May is now a distant memory. He gave up two runs on three hits in his one inning of work on Sunday, and has a 5.48 ERA on the season to go along with his league-worst (by a mile) negative-2.34 Win Probability Added. Colomé's departure is probably less imminent than Shoemaker's, because they're paying him three times as much and are so direly short-handed in the bullpen, but in both cases it's only a matter of time. These guys were complete free agent busts and wherever the Twins go from here, they aren't going to be part of it. The situation with Randy Dobnak is a bit more complicated. He's looked every bit as bad as Shoemaker, with his ERA inflating to 8.38 after allowing 14 earned runs in 6 ⅔ innings over the past week. Dobnak gave up five home runs in two appearances, with four coming against his reinvented slider which has changed from a powerful asset to a glaring weakness for him. That begs the question why he or the Twins thought it would be a good idea to tinker with that pitch in the first place. It's not pleasant to watch Dobnak pitch right now, but the solution isn't as simple as cutting bait like it is with Shoemaker. The Twins just signed Dobnak to a five-year contract extension on the heels of an outstanding spring training, and while the monetary commitment isn't huge, they are invested in him for better or worse. It behooves them to help him work through his issues because he's currently one of their few figments of long-term stability in the rotation picture. Fixing the pitching staff has become a primary crux for the Twins and their future outlook. The work is cut out for them here. Michael Pineda looks to be headed for the Injured List. Shoemaker is unusable and J.A. Happ hasn't been much better. Berríos is under contract for one more year after this and Maeda two more. It's tough to have much confidence in the front office filling tons of holes and constructing a quality unit from scratch during the offseason given how poorly all of their moves this year fared. As such, you can see why it's critically important for Ober to build on his early success and for Dobnak to get straightened out. The Twins need some things to break right with young pitchers or they simply won't be equipped to contend next year, in which case, why not just trade Berríos at the upcoming deadline? TRENDING STORYLINE For what it's worth, the Twins are about to get a lot closer to full strength. Maeda, Buxton, and Arraez have completed their rehab stints and will be traveling to Seattle for the upcoming road trip. Maeda is scheduled to start against the Mariners on Monday, and the other two will presumably be activated for that game as well. Kepler is be a bit further behind, given that he played his first rehab game in St. Paul on Sunday (and was the DH), but we could see him up before week's end. Those are some pretty key cogs the Twins have been playing without. We'll see if their returns, along with a softening of the schedule, can help this team get on a bit of a winning run here in the back half of June. So far, sustained hot streaks have eluded them. LOOKING AHEAD Get ready for some late-night baseball as the Twins head to Seattle for a showdown against the Mariners in Pacific Time. Then, following an off day, Minnesota heads down to Texas for a weekend series against the last-place Rangers. MONDAY, 6/13: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. LHP Marco Gonzales TUESDAY, 6/14: TWINS @ MARINERS – LHP J.A. Happ vs. RHP Chris Flexen WEDNESDAY, 6/15: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Justus Sheffield FRIDAY, 6/17: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Mike Foltynewicz SATURDAY, 6/18: TWINS @ RANGERS – TBD v. LHP Kolby Allard SUNDAY, 6/19: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Dane Dunning View full article
  13. 3. Trusting the Bullpen Castoffs Wes Johnson has done some amazing things with bullpen arms in the past and the Twins entered 2021 thinking that he would be able to replicate these results with a new group of bullpen castoffs. Now it’s the beginning of June and Minnesota has rotated through Shaun Anderson, Derek Law, Juan Minaya, and Brandon Waddell. There were some big shoes to fill in the bullpen (see below), but all these new additions faced struggles. From season’s start, almost nothing seemed to work when it came to the bullpen. It’s also tough to adequately assess relievers when they have such a small sample size of work. It also didn’t help that Randy Dobnak was pushed from the rotation and didn’t really find success in a relief role. One light at the end of the tunnel might be Luke Farrell as he is the lone bullpen castoff that has found success. However, it might be too little, too late for Minnesota this year. 2. Signing Alex Colome Minnesota lost multiple bullpen arms during the winter and there needed to be some replacements found for Tyler Clippard, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, and Matt Wisler. None of these players have shined with their new teams. Clippard is on the 60-day injured list with a shoulder issue. Both Romo and Wisler have ERAs north of 5.80. May’s strikeout numbers have dropped, and he has the highest WHIP since his rookie season. Needless to say, relief pitchers can be fickle especially on the heels of a shortened 2020 campaign. Colome looked like a savvy signing at the time as he was coming off two tremendous seasons in Chicago. In 83 1/3 innings, he had a 2.27 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP and 42 saves. Overall, the results were certainly there since he moved to the bullpen fulltime in 2016. Maybe the White Sox knew a little bit more about Colome’s current situation as they let him go after two tremendous seasons. Minnesota certainly hasn’t seen the previous version of Colome this season. He has a -2.24 win probability added (WPA), which means he’s cost the Twins over two wins so far this season. Also, he has the lowest WAR in baseball among relief pitchers. Things have gone better recently as he has posted a 3.09 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings since the start of May. During that stretch, he has still provided negative WPA and it’s not like the Twins have a lot of other bullpen options. 1. Signing Matt Shoemaker The Matt Shoemaker experience has been a rough one and it seems likely that his time with the Twins will quickly be coming to an end. He leads the American League in losses and earned runs. Among AL starters with more than 50 innings pitched, he is the only pitcher with a negative WAR total for the year. Unfortunately, the Twins have six pitchers currently on the IL including starters like Kenta Maeda, Lewis Thorpe, and Devin Smeltzer so the club has to keep him around for depth. Entering the season, he had a 3.86 career ERA, but he had been limited to 18 starts since the end of 2017. His list of injuries including multiple forearm injuries, a torn ACL, shoulder inflammation, and a fractured skull from a line drive off his head. Injuries haven’t been the issue this year as he already pitched more innings than his totals in each of the last three years. It’s not as if a lot was expected from Shoemaker. He was signed for $2 million and was coming of a string of significant injury issues over the last several years. There were signs of hope as his fastball velocity increased last year and his sinker and splitter were improving. Obviously, those things haven’t worked out like the front office had planned. How would you rank the Twins offseason mistakes? 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
  14. Something went wrong with Minnesota’s offseason blueprint in 2021. There is plenty of blame to be shared, but here are the Twins top three offseason mistakes. 3. Trusting the Bullpen Castoffs Wes Johnson has done some amazing things with bullpen arms in the past and the Twins entered 2021 thinking that he would be able to replicate these results with a new group of bullpen castoffs. Now it’s the beginning of June and Minnesota has rotated through Shaun Anderson, Derek Law, Juan Minaya, and Brandon Waddell. There were some big shoes to fill in the bullpen (see below), but all these new additions faced struggles. From season’s start, almost nothing seemed to work when it came to the bullpen. It’s also tough to adequately assess relievers when they have such a small sample size of work. It also didn’t help that Randy Dobnak was pushed from the rotation and didn’t really find success in a relief role. One light at the end of the tunnel might be Luke Farrell as he is the lone bullpen castoff that has found success. However, it might be too little, too late for Minnesota this year. 2. Signing Alex Colome Minnesota lost multiple bullpen arms during the winter and there needed to be some replacements found for Tyler Clippard, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, and Matt Wisler. None of these players have shined with their new teams. Clippard is on the 60-day injured list with a shoulder issue. Both Romo and Wisler have ERAs north of 5.80. May’s strikeout numbers have dropped, and he has the highest WHIP since his rookie season. Needless to say, relief pitchers can be fickle especially on the heels of a shortened 2020 campaign. Colome looked like a savvy signing at the time as he was coming off two tremendous seasons in Chicago. In 83 1/3 innings, he had a 2.27 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP and 42 saves. Overall, the results were certainly there since he moved to the bullpen fulltime in 2016. Maybe the White Sox knew a little bit more about Colome’s current situation as they let him go after two tremendous seasons. Minnesota certainly hasn’t seen the previous version of Colome this season. He has a -2.24 win probability added (WPA), which means he’s cost the Twins over two wins so far this season. Also, he has the lowest WAR in baseball among relief pitchers. Things have gone better recently as he has posted a 3.09 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings since the start of May. During that stretch, he has still provided negative WPA and it’s not like the Twins have a lot of other bullpen options. 1. Signing Matt Shoemaker The Matt Shoemaker experience has been a rough one and it seems likely that his time with the Twins will quickly be coming to an end. He leads the American League in losses and earned runs. Among AL starters with more than 50 innings pitched, he is the only pitcher with a negative WAR total for the year. Unfortunately, the Twins have six pitchers currently on the IL including starters like Kenta Maeda, Lewis Thorpe, and Devin Smeltzer so the club has to keep him around for depth. Entering the season, he had a 3.86 career ERA, but he had been limited to 18 starts since the end of 2017. His list of injuries including multiple forearm injuries, a torn ACL, shoulder inflammation, and a fractured skull from a line drive off his head. Injuries haven’t been the issue this year as he already pitched more innings than his totals in each of the last three years. It’s not as if a lot was expected from Shoemaker. He was signed for $2 million and was coming of a string of significant injury issues over the last several years. There were signs of hope as his fastball velocity increased last year and his sinker and splitter were improving. Obviously, those things haven’t worked out like the front office had planned. How would you rank the Twins offseason mistakes? 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
  15. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/31 through Sun, 6/6 *** Record Last Week: 3-4 (Overall: 24-35) Run Differential Last Week: -13 (Overall: -35) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (12.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 53 | MIN 3, BAL 2: Twins Edge O's Behind Strong Berríos Effort Game 54 | BAL 7, MIN 4: Orioles Snap Losing Streak Against Twins Game 55 | BAL 6, MIN 3: Twins Sink to New Low, Drop Series in Baltimore Game 56 | KC 6, MIN 5: Bats Unable to Overcome Happ's Poor Start Game 57 | KC 14, MIN 5: Okay, Now THIS Was a New Low Game 58 | MIN 5, KC 4: Home Runs Power Minnesota to Narrow Victory Game 59 | MIN 3, KC 2: Strong Effort from Staff Aids Another Close Win NEWS & NOTES This team is absolutely ravaged. A nonstop barrage of injuries has forced the Twins to reach into the deepest corners of their minor-league depth, routinely fielding lineups populated by guys playing out of position or above their appropriate competition level. Not only have the injuries been plentiful, but also astoundingly inconvenient and untimely. For example, our last Week in Review column noted that "the biggest bright spot on offense right now has got to be Mitch Garver, who suddenly looks like his old Silver Slugger self." Naturally, in the first inning of the first game last week, Garver went down. The catcher experienced a brutal mishap that no one would wish upon their worst enemy, taking a foul tip directly in the groin and requiring emergency surgery that night. He'll be sidelined for the foreseeable future. In last week's column we also noted "Rocco Baldelli's made no secret of the fact that he'll be riding Rob Refsnyder hard in the short-term, and the manager will have to hope his opportunistic 30-year-old can stay hot (and healthy)." Naturally, in the same game where Garver got hurt, Refsnyder ran into the outfield wall in Baltimore and soon after went on the shelf with a concussion. With Refsnyder joining Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Jake Cave on IL, the Twins had little choice but to call up prospect Gilberto Celestino, their only available center fielder on the 40-man roster. The 22-year-old, who'd played less than two dozen games above Single-A in the minors, has looked like a player that belongs nowhere near the big leagues, and I don't think the Twins would even deny that. But their alternative options are basically non-existent. Also hitting the Injured List this past week: relievers Caleb Thielbar (groin strain) and Shaun Anderson (blisters). Juan Minaya was designated for assignment and Dakota Chalmers was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. Griffin Jax and Bailey Ober were recalled, with the latter making an impressive start in Kansas City on Sunday. HIGHLIGHTS In a season where postseason hopes have been effectively snuffed out by early June, you have to focus on the smaller individual storylines to find fulfillment as a fan – especially those with potential to impact the long-term outlook as this team aims to pick up the pieces and remake itself with help from the internal pipeline. Ober is an intriguing asset from this standpoint. In a spot start on Sunday, he tossed four innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts and no walks. He induced an impressive eight swinging strikes on 51 pitches, flashing 93-94 MPH on the gun repeatedly with his four-seamer. Despite an intimidating 6-foot-9 frame, Ober has generally been viewed as having a limited ceiling, due mainly to his middling fastball velocity as a starter. While coming up as a prospect he usually worked in the high 80s or low 90s. The increase we're seeing now plays up his secondary stuff, and when you add strong command to the mix, you've got a pitcher with some real upside. He has a 21-to-5 K/BB ratio in 16 innings at Triple-A and now an 8-to-1 K/BB ratio in eight innings with the Twins. He should stick in the rotation and get a long look this summer. Another prospect taking advantage of his unexpected opportunity and running with it: Nick Gordon, who provided a rare heartwarming highlight amidst a barrage of uninspiring performances for the Twins last week. With his father Tom "Flash" Gordon watching from the stands on Friday, Gordon went 3-for-4 with his first major-league home run. In total, Gordon made four starts and went 7-for-16 (.438) with two RBIs and a stolen base. He's slashing .400/.429/.550 in his young big-league career, and dating back to 2019 he now has a .312 batting average and .474 slugging percentage in 340 at-bats between Triple-A and the majors. He's 22-for-26 on steal attempts during that span. Through all the tribulations he's faced over these past few years, Gordon has stepped it up on the field and really produced when given a chance. This season is a giant bummer, obviously, but if the Twins can take the opportunity to get extended looks at fringe-type prospects like Ober and Gordon, and find that maybe they actually have something in them, that's a big win with possible implications going forward. LOWLIGHTS It needs to be stated: The front office completely whiffed on nearly every significant pitching acquisition during the offseason. Starters, relievers, free agents, trades ... they've almost all panned out poorly. None worse than Matt Shoemaker, who received a $2 million deal to plug in as Minnesota's No. 5 starter and has been a total disaster. His start on Friday was one of the worst ever seen from a Twins pitcher, as the right-hander surrendered nine runs (eight earned) on eight hits and two walks while recording one out. The catastrophic performance inflated his ERA to 7.28 and tagged him with his league-leading seventh loss. Shoemaker absolutely deserves to be out of the rotation but that's not happening at this point, due to the aforementioned lack of bodies. The Twins can't afford to give away any of their MLB depth, no matter how atrocious it may be. Fellow free agent starter J.A. Happ hasn't been quite as bad as Shoemaker, but he sure hasn't been good. Happ gave up five earned runs on nine hits (three home runs) in five innings against Kansas City the previous night. He now owns a 5.61 ERA to go along with a 4.77 FIP. That includes a 10.17 ERA over his past five turns, during which opponents have slashed .360/.405/.680 against the veteran, who looks pretty cooked by now. Bullpen pickups have been similarly disappointing, just about across the board. Centerpiece free agency addition Alex Colomé gave up a two-run homer in Baltimore; his modest momentum built up in early May has now completely evaporated. Colomé has a 9.00 ERA in his past six outings and opponents are slashing .389/.450/.889. The team's lone trade acquisition of the winter, Anderson, pitched badly in his only appearance of the week before going back on IL. We've already seen Derek Law and Brandon Waddell pass through with lackluster stints. What happened to the mojo and moxie of this front office and coaching staff when it comes to identifying and developing arms? It's the top story of the season, in my opinion. Entering play on Sunday, the Twins had the third-worst ERA in the American League (ahead of only the Orioles and Angels) and the second-worst pitching WAR in the major leagues (ahead of only the Diamondbacks). The bats have their issues and the lineup is decimated but this lousy pitching staff gives the team no real shot at getting on any kind of sustained run. TRENDING STORYLINE It appears the Twins may be getting back two of their most critical pieces in the near future. Buxton, who has now missed a full month and counting since straining his hip on May 6th, completed a baserunning program without issue and will likely head on a rehab stint in the days ahead. It wouldn't be shocking to see him back in the outfield for next weekend's series against Houston. Meanwhile, Kenta Maeda went through a 35-pitch bullpen session on Sunday morning and came out of it fine. He too is on the verge of a rehab assignment, which presumably would entail one or two starts with the Saints. Will the time off prove an elixir for his woefully underwhelming performance up to this point? The Twins are probably in too deep of a hole, and plagued by too many flaws on the roster, for an historical comeback thrusting them back into contention to be realistic. If such a thing was ever going to happen though, getting back their best player and best pitcher at full strength will absolutely need to be a part of the equation. LOOKING AHEAD Well, here we go. After going 7-6 during their two-week soft patch against the Orioles and Royals, the Twins are about to see the difficulty level steepen sharply. The dreaded Yankees and Astros are coming to town. This could get ugly. (Uglier, I should say.) TUESDAY, 6/8: YANKEES @ TWINS – LHP Jordan Montgomery v. RHP Michael Pineda WEDNESDAY, 6/9: YANKEES @ TWINS – RHP Gerrit Cole v. RHP Randy Dobnak THURSDAY, 6/10: YANKEES @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP J.A. Happ FRIDAY, 6/11: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP José Urquidy v. RHP José Berríos SATURDAY, 6/12: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Luis Garcia v. RHP Bailey Ober SUNDAY, 6/13: ASTROS @ TWINS – LHP Framber Valdez v. RHP Michael Pineda
  16. It was yet another losing week for the Minnesota Twins – one that included some new lows with a series loss against the last-place Orioles in Baltimore and a humiliating blowout in Kansas City. Hurt and humbled, the wayward Twins limp forth in this summer of despair. Amid all of the misery, there are positives worth gravitating toward. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/31 through Sun, 6/6 *** Record Last Week: 3-4 (Overall: 24-35) Run Differential Last Week: -13 (Overall: -35) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (12.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 53 | MIN 3, BAL 2: Twins Edge O's Behind Strong Berríos Effort Game 54 | BAL 7, MIN 4: Orioles Snap Losing Streak Against Twins Game 55 | BAL 6, MIN 3: Twins Sink to New Low, Drop Series in Baltimore Game 56 | KC 6, MIN 5: Bats Unable to Overcome Happ's Poor Start Game 57 | KC 14, MIN 5: Okay, Now THIS Was a New Low Game 58 | MIN 5, KC 4: Home Runs Power Minnesota to Narrow Victory Game 59 | MIN 3, KC 2: Strong Effort from Staff Aids Another Close Win NEWS & NOTES This team is absolutely ravaged. A nonstop barrage of injuries has forced the Twins to reach into the deepest corners of their minor-league depth, routinely fielding lineups populated by guys playing out of position or above their appropriate competition level. Not only have the injuries been plentiful, but also astoundingly inconvenient and untimely. For example, our last Week in Review column noted that "the biggest bright spot on offense right now has got to be Mitch Garver, who suddenly looks like his old Silver Slugger self." Naturally, in the first inning of the first game last week, Garver went down. The catcher experienced a brutal mishap that no one would wish upon their worst enemy, taking a foul tip directly in the groin and requiring emergency surgery that night. He'll be sidelined for the foreseeable future. In last week's column we also noted "Rocco Baldelli's made no secret of the fact that he'll be riding Rob Refsnyder hard in the short-term, and the manager will have to hope his opportunistic 30-year-old can stay hot (and healthy)." Naturally, in the same game where Garver got hurt, Refsnyder ran into the outfield wall in Baltimore and soon after went on the shelf with a concussion. With Refsnyder joining Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Jake Cave on IL, the Twins had little choice but to call up prospect Gilberto Celestino, their only available center fielder on the 40-man roster. The 22-year-old, who'd played less than two dozen games above Single-A in the minors, has looked like a player that belongs nowhere near the big leagues, and I don't think the Twins would even deny that. But their alternative options are basically non-existent. Also hitting the Injured List this past week: relievers Caleb Thielbar (groin strain) and Shaun Anderson (blisters). Juan Minaya was designated for assignment and Dakota Chalmers was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. Griffin Jax and Bailey Ober were recalled, with the latter making an impressive start in Kansas City on Sunday. HIGHLIGHTS In a season where postseason hopes have been effectively snuffed out by early June, you have to focus on the smaller individual storylines to find fulfillment as a fan – especially those with potential to impact the long-term outlook as this team aims to pick up the pieces and remake itself with help from the internal pipeline. Ober is an intriguing asset from this standpoint. In a spot start on Sunday, he tossed four innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts and no walks. He induced an impressive eight swinging strikes on 51 pitches, flashing 93-94 MPH on the gun repeatedly with his four-seamer. Despite an intimidating 6-foot-9 frame, Ober has generally been viewed as having a limited ceiling, due mainly to his middling fastball velocity as a starter. While coming up as a prospect he usually worked in the high 80s or low 90s. The increase we're seeing now plays up his secondary stuff, and when you add strong command to the mix, you've got a pitcher with some real upside. He has a 21-to-5 K/BB ratio in 16 innings at Triple-A and now an 8-to-1 K/BB ratio in eight innings with the Twins. He should stick in the rotation and get a long look this summer. Another prospect taking advantage of his unexpected opportunity and running with it: Nick Gordon, who provided a rare heartwarming highlight amidst a barrage of uninspiring performances for the Twins last week. With his father Tom "Flash" Gordon watching from the stands on Friday, Gordon went 3-for-4 with his first major-league home run. In total, Gordon made four starts and went 7-for-16 (.438) with two RBIs and a stolen base. He's slashing .400/.429/.550 in his young big-league career, and dating back to 2019 he now has a .312 batting average and .474 slugging percentage in 340 at-bats between Triple-A and the majors. He's 22-for-26 on steal attempts during that span. Through all the tribulations he's faced over these past few years, Gordon has stepped it up on the field and really produced when given a chance. This season is a giant bummer, obviously, but if the Twins can take the opportunity to get extended looks at fringe-type prospects like Ober and Gordon, and find that maybe they actually have something in them, that's a big win with possible implications going forward. LOWLIGHTS It needs to be stated: The front office completely whiffed on nearly every significant pitching acquisition during the offseason. Starters, relievers, free agents, trades ... they've almost all panned out poorly. None worse than Matt Shoemaker, who received a $2 million deal to plug in as Minnesota's No. 5 starter and has been a total disaster. His start on Friday was one of the worst ever seen from a Twins pitcher, as the right-hander surrendered nine runs (eight earned) on eight hits and two walks while recording one out. The catastrophic performance inflated his ERA to 7.28 and tagged him with his league-leading seventh loss. Shoemaker absolutely deserves to be out of the rotation but that's not happening at this point, due to the aforementioned lack of bodies. The Twins can't afford to give away any of their MLB depth, no matter how atrocious it may be. Fellow free agent starter J.A. Happ hasn't been quite as bad as Shoemaker, but he sure hasn't been good. Happ gave up five earned runs on nine hits (three home runs) in five innings against Kansas City the previous night. He now owns a 5.61 ERA to go along with a 4.77 FIP. That includes a 10.17 ERA over his past five turns, during which opponents have slashed .360/.405/.680 against the veteran, who looks pretty cooked by now. Bullpen pickups have been similarly disappointing, just about across the board. Centerpiece free agency addition Alex Colomé gave up a two-run homer in Baltimore; his modest momentum built up in early May has now completely evaporated. Colomé has a 9.00 ERA in his past six outings and opponents are slashing .389/.450/.889. The team's lone trade acquisition of the winter, Anderson, pitched badly in his only appearance of the week before going back on IL. We've already seen Derek Law and Brandon Waddell pass through with lackluster stints. What happened to the mojo and moxie of this front office and coaching staff when it comes to identifying and developing arms? It's the top story of the season, in my opinion. Entering play on Sunday, the Twins had the third-worst ERA in the American League (ahead of only the Orioles and Angels) and the second-worst pitching WAR in the major leagues (ahead of only the Diamondbacks). The bats have their issues and the lineup is decimated but this lousy pitching staff gives the team no real shot at getting on any kind of sustained run. TRENDING STORYLINE It appears the Twins may be getting back two of their most critical pieces in the near future. Buxton, who has now missed a full month and counting since straining his hip on May 6th, completed a baserunning program without issue and will likely head on a rehab stint in the days ahead. It wouldn't be shocking to see him back in the outfield for next weekend's series against Houston. Meanwhile, Kenta Maeda went through a 35-pitch bullpen session on Sunday morning and came out of it fine. He too is on the verge of a rehab assignment, which presumably would entail one or two starts with the Saints. Will the time off prove an elixir for his woefully underwhelming performance up to this point? The Twins are probably in too deep of a hole, and plagued by too many flaws on the roster, for an historical comeback thrusting them back into contention to be realistic. If such a thing was ever going to happen though, getting back their best player and best pitcher at full strength will absolutely need to be a part of the equation. LOOKING AHEAD Well, here we go. After going 7-6 during their two-week soft patch against the Orioles and Royals, the Twins are about to see the difficulty level steepen sharply. The dreaded Yankees and Astros are coming to town. This could get ugly. (Uglier, I should say.) TUESDAY, 6/8: YANKEES @ TWINS – LHP Jordan Montgomery v. RHP Michael Pineda WEDNESDAY, 6/9: YANKEES @ TWINS – RHP Gerrit Cole v. RHP Randy Dobnak THURSDAY, 6/10: YANKEES @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP J.A. Happ FRIDAY, 6/11: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP José Urquidy v. RHP José Berríos SATURDAY, 6/12: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Luis Garcia v. RHP Bailey Ober SUNDAY, 6/13: ASTROS @ TWINS – LHP Framber Valdez v. RHP Michael Pineda View full article
  17. Three offensive explosions became three victories in a week where the Twins finally started to emerge from their profound funk. Much work still lies ahead, but their first series victory in three weeks is a start. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/26 through Sun, 5/2 *** Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 10-16) Run Differential Last Week: +12 (Overall: +3) Standing: 4th Place in AL Central (6.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 21 | CLE 5, MIN 3: Twins Fall to 0-5 in Extras as Colomé Takes 3rd Loss Game 22 | CLE 7, MIN 4: Maeda Can't Find Answers, Slump Drags On Game 23 | MIN 10, CLE 2: Buxton Keys Offense in Dominant Victory Game 24 | MIN 9, KC 1: Pineda Rolls as Kirilloff Breaks Out with 2 HR Game 25 | KC 11, MIN 3: Twins Blown Out as Shoemaker Implodes Game 26 | MIN 13, KC 4: Another Big Day for the Twins Bats NEWS & NOTES Last week in this space, I broke down Minnesota's immense difficulties at catcher, noting that while both Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers were looking totally lost, the struggles of the latter were more pressing given his status as a developing 23-year-old player. "The Twins may need to start thinking about how they'll proceed at the catcher position," I wrote, "if they determine Jeffers needs more time in the minors." It took only a few more days, and one more start from Jeffers – he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against Cleveland on Monday – for the Twins to decide they'd seen enough. On Friday he was optioned to the alternate site, and replaced by the team's other top catching prospect, Ben Rortvedt. Optioned alongside Jeffers on Friday was Brent Rooker, who has largely struggled during his time with the Twins. Concurrently, JT Riddle and Tzu-Wei Lin were designated for assignment to open space on the 40-man roster for the returns of Max Kepler and Kyle Garlick from COVID-IL. Miguel Sanó is reportedly ready to go with the hamstring that placed him on IL, but the Twins are going to give him a few days to take swings and get his timing back. (To the extent he ever had it to begin with.) He figures to be activated midway through the upcoming week. HIGHLIGHTS How about that Byron Buxton? He wrapped up the greatest month in Twins history with another phenomenal week, highlighted by Wednesday's 5-for-5 explosion in Cleveland. In five games, Buxton went 10-for-21 with two home runs, three doubles, and two stolen bases. TRENDING STORYLINE This team doesn't have the luxury of giving away games right now. The offense shows signs of turning a corner, but Baldelli can't afford to be trotting pitchers out to the mound he can't trust. Which brings us to the names mentioned above. Maeda's not going anywhere, and we'll just have to hope he can find himself in a hurry. Shoemaker, as a one-year signing who looked like a temporary plug to begin with, has a far shorter leash, especially considering how irredeemably bad he's looked. While Dobnak might not be the most appealing replacement at this time, Lewis Thorpe looked good in his spot start a few weeks ago, and we know the club was high on him in spring training. How much longer will they wait to make a move? As for Colomé, it's probably still too early to be thinking about a DFA, but there is certainly some urgency for the Twins to address their bullpen issues and he's clearly the primary culprit. This is a stickier situation than Shoemaker; replacing your closer is obviously tougher than replacing your fifth starter. While Taylor Rogers is now assuming ninth-inning duties, the Twins have key high-leverage innings to backfill. Unfortunately, their minimal margin for error makes it tough to audition uncertain commodities – such as Shaun Anderson, Brandon Waddell, or Ian Hamilton – on the fly. There simply aren't enough low-leverage innings to go around for testing these fringe arms and also accommodating Colomé. You can't count on the continuance of lopsided margins like we saw all weekend against Kansas City. We'll see where the Twins go from here. Trusting the bullpen to fix itself seems unwise. LOOKING AHEAD I can't stress this enough: it is CRUCIAL for the Twins to take advantage of the upcoming soft patch in their schedule. With a full slate in the week ahead, they'll be hosting last-place Texas for four games before traveling to Detroit for three against the lowly Tigers. After that, things get a whole lot tougher and the stakes will be raised considerably: 14 games against the White Sox (6), Cleveland (3), Oakland (3), and Los Angeles (2). We haven't seen the Sox yet but the Twins are thus far 1-6 against the other three clubs. If they can't make some inroads toward .500 in these next seven days, they'll be putting themselves in a very, very precarious position. Of note: On Tuesday, Kyle Gibson makes his return to Target Field as a Ranger. He's riding a hell of a hot streak: 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his past five starts. Gibby has allowed zero home runs all season. Can his former team solve him? MONDAY, 5/3: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Dane Dunning v. RHP Kenta Maeda TUESDAY, 5/4: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP J.A. Happ WEDNESDAY, 5/5: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Kohei Arihara v. RHP Michael Pineda THURSDAY, 5/6: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Jordan Lyles v. RHP Matt Shoemaker FRIDAY, 5/7: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Spencer Turnbull SATURDAY, 5/8: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Jose Urena SUNDAY, 5/9: TWINS @ TIGERS – LHP J.A. Happ v. RHP Casey Mize MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  18. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/26 through Sun, 5/2 *** Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 10-16) Run Differential Last Week: +12 (Overall: +3) Standing: 4th Place in AL Central (6.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 21 | CLE 5, MIN 3: Twins Fall to 0-5 in Extras as Colomé Takes 3rd Loss Game 22 | CLE 7, MIN 4: Maeda Can't Find Answers, Slump Drags On Game 23 | MIN 10, CLE 2: Buxton Keys Offense in Dominant Victory Game 24 | MIN 9, KC 1: Pineda Rolls as Kirilloff Breaks Out with 2 HR Game 25 | KC 11, MIN 3: Twins Blown Out as Shoemaker Implodes Game 26 | MIN 13, KC 4: Another Big Day for the Twins Bats NEWS & NOTES Last week in this space, I broke down Minnesota's immense difficulties at catcher, noting that while both Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers were looking totally lost, the struggles of the latter were more pressing given his status as a developing 23-year-old player. "The Twins may need to start thinking about how they'll proceed at the catcher position," I wrote, "if they determine Jeffers needs more time in the minors." It took only a few more days, and one more start from Jeffers – he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against Cleveland on Monday – for the Twins to decide they'd seen enough. On Friday he was optioned to the alternate site, and replaced by the team's other top catching prospect, Ben Rortvedt. Optioned alongside Jeffers on Friday was Brent Rooker, who has largely struggled during his time with the Twins. Concurrently, JT Riddle and Tzu-Wei Lin were designated for assignment to open space on the 40-man roster for the returns of Max Kepler and Kyle Garlick from COVID-IL. Miguel Sanó is reportedly ready to go with the hamstring that placed him on IL, but the Twins are going to give him a few days to take swings and get his timing back. (To the extent he ever had it to begin with.) He figures to be activated midway through the upcoming week. HIGHLIGHTS How about that Byron Buxton? He wrapped up the greatest month in Twins history with another phenomenal week, highlighted by Wednesday's 5-for-5 explosion in Cleveland. In five games, Buxton went 10-for-21 with two home runs, three doubles, and two stolen bases. https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/1388486584605896705 Buxton is making the Twins a must-watch even when the team at large has been hard to watch. He's an incredibly dynamic player and an early MVP frontrunner. But up until very recently, he wasn't getting much help. Alex Kirilloff is among those flipping the script for a languishing lineup. Given that he was hitting the ball harder than any Twins hitter, save for Buxton and Nelson Cruz, it felt like only a matter of time until Kirilloff broke through. That happened on Friday night at Target Field, when the rookie launched a pair of home runs against Kansas City, and he added another on both Saturday and Sunday. The big series lifted his OPS from .269 to .726. https://twitter.com/BallySportsNOR/status/1388963101970771968 One thing to note is that Kirilloff has been extremely aggressive at the plate, which has always been his M.O., but you do wonder if it's going to start to catch up with him. Dating back to spring training, he has drawn only two walks in 69 plate appearances. Then again, it's working just fine for his teammate Buxton, who ranks in the 11th percentile for chase rate and BB% but continues to dominate nonetheless. https://twitter.com/NickNelsonMN/status/1388902804517920771 Comparatively speaking, Garver's ongoing struggles were quite a bit more concerning than Kirilloff's. He was 0-for-his-last 17 with 11 strikeouts when he came to the plate for a third time in Cleveland on Wednesday. The catcher proceeded to launch a mammoth home run. Then, he did it again in his next AB. Garver added a three-run blast against the Royals on Sunday, and it was what we'd call a no-doubter. https://twitter.com/Nashwalker9/status/1388931880054104064 I'm not going to feel especially confident in Garver until he starts showing some dimensionality in his offensive game – in his past eight contests, he has four hits (three monster home runs and a ground ball single), zero walks, and 12 strikeouts. This all-or-nothing dynamic is very dependent on finding a mistake to destroy, which is not necessarily a sustainable formula. That said, it's good to see him unloading on some baseballs after a lengthy skid. Garver regaining his confidence (and competence) at the plate is especially critical with Jeffers now out of the mix. LOWLIGHTS Midway through March, reigning Cy Young runner-up Kenta Maeda looked more impervious than ever. Having not allowed a run or hit through his first few spring outings, the right-hander expressed concern he was having "too good" of a spring and – with tongue in cheek – yearned for a bit of adversity. In April, he got more than he bargained for. Through five starts, Maeda has a 6.56 ERA, with opponents crushing him to the tune of .350/.391/.641. His past two turns, which saw him surrender 12 earned runs on 16 hits and six homers in 8 ⅔ innings, represent the worst we've seen Maeda in a Twins uniform. In fact, you won't find a worse pair of back-to-back outings in his career. Last year, Maeda gave up six or more hits in only one of his 11 starts This year, he's allowed 6+ hits in every start. Meanwhile, Matt Shoemaker has completely fallen apart after a strong start to his Twins career. The righty gave up just one earned run through his first 11 innings, but has since coughed up an astounding 20 earned runs over 12 innings, with two strikeouts, seven walks, and six home runs allowed. The Twins have lost four straight with him on the mound. Saturday's outing was a nightmare as Shoemaker was obliterated by the Royals for nine runs, and his day ended on a sour note when he failed to back up home plate on overthrow. https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/1388606757740683264 It's going to be hard to send Shoemaker and his 8.22 ERA out for another start at this point. Unfortunately the top candidate to replace him, Randy Dobnak, has an 8.16 ERA so he's not the most inspiring alternative at this time. And in a further bit of unfortunate news, it'll be a while before either of the Twins' top two pitching prospects are even ready to start making their cases for a look. https://twitter.com/dohyoungpark/status/1388890802940792832 Meanwhile, a lingering headache in the bullpen won't go away. The Twins are trying their hardest to get Alex Colomé right, but the prized offseason bullpen addition continues to look unusable at every turn. He came in for the 10th inning on Monday against Cleveland and immediately gave up a walk-off homer. The following night, Rocco Baldelli sent him right back out in a lower-leverage "get-right" spot with the Twins trailing by a run in the eighth. Colomé looked perhaps the worst he has all season, laboring through six batters while issuing three walks (one with bases loaded) and an HBP. He appeared in a lower-stakes spot on Saturday, working a scoreless ninth but giving up plenty of hard contact in a blowout loss. Colomé seems incapable of throwing the ball in the zone without hanging it in a batter's wheelhouse. He's getting hit harder than any pitcher in the big leagues. No reliever in MLB history has had a more negative impact through his first 10 appearances with a new team. Truly an epic disaster of a free agent signing, unless Colomé can find a way to reverse course dramatically. https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/1387219157729480707 TRENDING STORYLINE This team doesn't have the luxury of giving away games right now. The offense shows signs of turning a corner, but Baldelli can't afford to be trotting pitchers out to the mound he can't trust. Which brings us to the names mentioned above. Maeda's not going anywhere, and we'll just have to hope he can find himself in a hurry. Shoemaker, as a one-year signing who looked like a temporary plug to begin with, has a far shorter leash, especially considering how irredeemably bad he's looked. While Dobnak might not be the most appealing replacement at this time, Lewis Thorpe looked good in his spot start a few weeks ago, and we know the club was high on him in spring training. How much longer will they wait to make a move? As for Colomé, it's probably still too early to be thinking about a DFA, but there is certainly some urgency for the Twins to address their bullpen issues and he's clearly the primary culprit. This is a stickier situation than Shoemaker; replacing your closer is obviously tougher than replacing your fifth starter. While Taylor Rogers is now assuming ninth-inning duties, the Twins have key high-leverage innings to backfill. Unfortunately, their minimal margin for error makes it tough to audition uncertain commodities – such as Shaun Anderson, Brandon Waddell, or Ian Hamilton – on the fly. There simply aren't enough low-leverage innings to go around for testing these fringe arms and also accommodating Colomé. You can't count on the continuance of lopsided margins like we saw all weekend against Kansas City. We'll see where the Twins go from here. Trusting the bullpen to fix itself seems unwise. LOOKING AHEAD I can't stress this enough: it is CRUCIAL for the Twins to take advantage of the upcoming soft patch in their schedule. With a full slate in the week ahead, they'll be hosting last-place Texas for four games before traveling to Detroit for three against the lowly Tigers. After that, things get a whole lot tougher and the stakes will be raised considerably: 14 games against the White Sox (6), Cleveland (3), Oakland (3), and Los Angeles (2). We haven't seen the Sox yet but the Twins are thus far 1-6 against the other three clubs. If they can't make some inroads toward .500 in these next seven days, they'll be putting themselves in a very, very precarious position. Of note: On Tuesday, Kyle Gibson makes his return to Target Field as a Ranger. He's riding a hell of a hot streak: 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his past five starts. Gibby has allowed zero home runs all season. Can his former team solve him? MONDAY, 5/3: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Dane Dunning v. RHP Kenta Maeda TUESDAY, 5/4: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP J.A. Happ WEDNESDAY, 5/5: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Kohei Arihara v. RHP Michael Pineda THURSDAY, 5/6: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Jordan Lyles v. RHP Matt Shoemaker FRIDAY, 5/7: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Spencer Turnbull SATURDAY, 5/8: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Jose Urena SUNDAY, 5/9: TWINS @ TIGERS – LHP J.A. Happ v. RHP Casey Mize MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. Minnesota didn’t make an offseason splash like the previous winter’s signing of Josh Donaldson. However, the Twins added multiple pieces to supplement the roster. So how have those free agents done so far this year?Andrelton Simmons, SS Contract: 1-year/$10.5 million Minnesota signed Simmons for his elite defensive skills, but he has provided plenty of offensive value so far in 2021. In 10 games, he has hit .355/.474/.452 with three extra-base hits. His 0.6 WAR ranks fourth on the team and that total is already higher than his entire 2020 season. Obviously, his positive COVID test puts a damper on his start to the year, but hopefully he comes out of it healthy, and he can continue to produce at a high level. Alexander Colomé, RP Contract: 1-year/$6.25 million Things haven’t exactly gone smoothly so far during Colomé’s Twins tenure as he has posted a 5.68 ERA. He’s allowed four earned runs and seven runs have scored with him on the mound. Minnesota’s bullpen has struggled through much of the season’s early innings especially in the last week when the bullpen’s ERA was north of 9.00. He has been a very successful closer in the past so Twins’ fans have to hope he finds his former form in the weeks ahead. J.A. Happ, SP Contract: 1-year/$8 million Happ missed time at the beginning of spring training as he tested positive for COVID. This set him back a little in his preparation, but his early results have been good, especially for a back of the rotation starter. Through two starts, he has allowed three runs on seven hits in 8 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and four walks. This is more than adequate for a 38-year-old in his 15th big league season. Happ won’t light the world on fire, but he fills a role nicely for the Twins that can be supplemented by the likes of Randy Donak or Lewis Thorpe at different parts of the season. Matt Shoemaker, SP Contract: 1-year/$2 million Like Happ, Shoemaker was slated to be penciled into the back of the rotation with a hope that he could add some rotational depth. Randy Dobnak had a chance to fill in the final rotation spot, but many teams are struggling with how they will cover innings in 2021. So far in 2021, he has allowed five earned runs across 11 innings, which isn’t terrible for a number five starter. He hasn’t pitched over 78 innings since 2016, so the team will need to continue to monitor his health. Hansel Robles, RP Contract: 1-year/$2 million Robles was a little bit of a wild card when the Twins signed him as he struggled with a 10.26 ERA last year. This year he has made six appearances and allowed three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. His role with the Twins might not yet be fully defined, but the Twins took a flyer on him. If the bullpen continues to struggle, Robles might get an opportunity to pitch in some higher leverage situations. The bullpen has been a mess, so Robles certainly hasn’t been the team’s biggest concern. What have been your impressions of these players so far in 2021? 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 Click here to view the article
  20. Andrelton Simmons, SS Contract: 1-year/$10.5 million Minnesota signed Simmons for his elite defensive skills, but he has provided plenty of offensive value so far in 2021. In 10 games, he has hit .355/.474/.452 with three extra-base hits. His 0.6 WAR ranks fourth on the team and that total is already higher than his entire 2020 season. Obviously, his positive COVID test puts a damper on his start to the year, but hopefully he comes out of it healthy, and he can continue to produce at a high level. Alexander Colomé, RP Contract: 1-year/$6.25 million Things haven’t exactly gone smoothly so far during Colomé’s Twins tenure as he has posted a 5.68 ERA. He’s allowed four earned runs and seven runs have scored with him on the mound. Minnesota’s bullpen has struggled through much of the season’s early innings especially in the last week when the bullpen’s ERA was north of 9.00. He has been a very successful closer in the past so Twins’ fans have to hope he finds his former form in the weeks ahead. J.A. Happ, SP Contract: 1-year/$8 million Happ missed time at the beginning of spring training as he tested positive for COVID. This set him back a little in his preparation, but his early results have been good, especially for a back of the rotation starter. Through two starts, he has allowed three runs on seven hits in 8 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and four walks. This is more than adequate for a 38-year-old in his 15th big league season. Happ won’t light the world on fire, but he fills a role nicely for the Twins that can be supplemented by the likes of Randy Donak or Lewis Thorpe at different parts of the season. Matt Shoemaker, SP Contract: 1-year/$2 million Like Happ, Shoemaker was slated to be penciled into the back of the rotation with a hope that he could add some rotational depth. Randy Dobnak had a chance to fill in the final rotation spot, but many teams are struggling with how they will cover innings in 2021. So far in 2021, he has allowed five earned runs across 11 innings, which isn’t terrible for a number five starter. He hasn’t pitched over 78 innings since 2016, so the team will need to continue to monitor his health. Hansel Robles, RP Contract: 1-year/$2 million Robles was a little bit of a wild card when the Twins signed him as he struggled with a 10.26 ERA last year. This year he has made six appearances and allowed three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. His role with the Twins might not yet be fully defined, but the Twins took a flyer on him. If the bullpen continues to struggle, Robles might get an opportunity to pitch in some higher leverage situations. The bullpen has been a mess, so Robles certainly hasn’t been the team’s biggest concern. What have been your impressions of these players so far in 2021? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. Projected Rotation: Kenta Maeda, José Berríos, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker Depth: Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, Bailey Ober Prospects: Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Blayne Enlow, Cole Sands THE GOOD Let's start at the top. Kenta Maeda: The long-awaited ace and reigning Cy Young runner-up. Maeda's first year in a Minnesota uniform yielded the best performance we've seen from a Twins starting pitcher since Johan Santana left town. One of the great sadnesses of the shortened 2020 season was that we didn't get to see him do more of it. From his first turn to his last, Maeda was superb. He never gave up more than three runs in a game, or more hits than innings pitched in a start. His whiff rate was third-highest in the game behind Jacob deGrom and Lucas Giolito. Maeda shut down Houston with five shutout innings in the playoffs. A month prior, he came within three outs of no-hitting Milwaukee at Target Field. With an offspeed-heavy mix and impeccable command, he left opposing batters helpless. https://twitter.com/MLB/status/1295914048043786241 This was a different version of Maeda than we ever saw in Los Angeles, where he was more good than great, leading to natural questions about how repeatable the breakout is. Indeed, the righty probably won't be quite so thoroughly dominant in a full-length follow-up, but there's little reason to think he won't be a credible rotation-fronter. The question is whether José Berríos will join him in that category. He's a very good starter, and one of the most reliably durable in the game, but Berríos hasn't quite been able to take that step into the highest tier despite flirting with it frequently. Last season might look like a setback, at a glance – his 4.00 ERA and 1.32 WHIP were both highest since Berríos' rocky debut in 2016. But they're also misleading, and emblematic of 2020's small-sample haziness. He gave up five runs in four innings against Chicago on Opening Day. From that point forward, the righty posted a 3.51 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, holding opponents to a .225 average. Same old Berríos. That's not including his postseason start against Houston, where he allowed one run on two hits in five frames. We'll see if he can find something more, and if he does, the Twins will boast one of the league's best 1-2 punches in the rotation. But they'd also be happy to get that same old Berríos again, because his baseline is a pretty damn good. And also: Minnesota has another underrated starter in the frontline discussion. Michael Pineda is finally coming into a season unhindered by injury rehab or suspension. When on the mound for Minnesota, he has consistently pitched well, and the Twins have played .677 baseball. He's 32 and playing for his next contract with free agency upcoming. As Twins GM Thad Levine put it, Pineda "has put himself in the best position he can to have a robust second chapter to his career.” https://twitter.com/NickNelsonMN/status/1361852125551157250 J.A. Happ is not a super flashy addition at age 38, but he's been basically as good as Berríos over the past handful of seasons, and he's a great asset as your fourth starter. Matt Shoemaker rounds out the rotation as a $2 million flier who probably has a 50/50 shot at lasting until the All-Star break. But as with any signing by this front office, there's upside here that's easy to see. The offseason additions might not have been too exciting, but what does excite about Minnesota's rotation picture this year is the internal depth. Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe both offer plenty of intrigue, especially with their buzz-stirring spring camps. Devin Smeltzer is a better eighth option than most other teams have. And that's before you turn to the farm. The Twins' top three pitching prospects – Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino – are verging on big-league ready. It's hard to say for sure since the 2020 minor-league season was wiped out, but had it been played, it's very possible any of those three would now be banging on the door – if not already debuted. Each is capable of a serious impact in short order, and the Twins are quietly counting on that to some degree. THE BAD One might argue the Twins have been extraordinarily lucky with the health of their starting pitchers over the past couple years. (Jake Odorizzi and Homer Bailey would disagree, but they're gone.) Berríos has continued to take the mound every fifth day, as usual. Maeda did the same in 2020, while transitioning from starter-reliever hybrid to relative workhorse. He experienced no issues, even after accruing a career-high 115 pitches in his no-hit bid. Pineda, so often injured before coming to Minnesota, has been perfectly healthy outside of the suspension. (Phantom DL stints not withstanding.) I'm not over here to trying to jinx anything. But it has to be acknowledged that this probably won't last forever. The rigors of being a starting pitcher in the major leagues are immense, and right now these guys are grappling with the transition back to a full-season workload, in the wake of 2020's disruption. If one of those top three starters goes down? Suddenly the Twins rotation doesn't look quite so sturdy anymore. Happ might be a nice luxury in the back half, but he's not necessarily someone you want to be depending on toward the front. Shoemaker, Dobnak, Thorpe and Smeltzer all have their own varying levels of promise and mystique, but also serious hurdles to overcome. The top prospects may well all need more seasoning, These aren't unique problems – all pitchers across the league will be facing the same readjustment challenges this year, and no team has infinite starting depth – but the Twins will need a bit of luck on their side to fulfill their potential in the rotation. They're relying heavily on some internal developments playing out well, because it's questionable whether the free agent talent incoming (Happ, Shoemaker) is better than the talent outgoing (Odorizzi, Rich Hill). Questionable might be putting it kindly. THE BOTTOM LINE This is a deep, well-rounded group with a high ceiling and a number of electrifying wild cards in play. Odorizzi is a significant loss, which should not be discounted, but the fact is, the Twins managed to post the second-best rotation ERA, FIP, and fWAR in the American League last year without him. An important thing to keep in mind is that, by retaining all prospect capital in the offseason, the Twins have positioned themselves nicely for a trade as the deadline approaches. That'll probably be a big storyline this summer, but I'm more eager to see what the system can provide internally after four years of remarkable progression under the new front office. "After four years of assembling the infrastructure and creating a culture of fearless development," wrote Dan Hayes at The Athletic recently, "the Twins front office feels as if its pitching pipeline is finally ready to churn out impressive arms at a more consistent rate." Their exhaustive work will be put to the test in what's certain to be a daunting and discombobulating year for MLB starting pitchers, with workloads thrown askew. READ OTHER 2021 POSITION ANALYSIS ARTICLES Catcher First Base Second Base Third Base Shortstop Left Field Center Field Right Field Designated Hitter
  22. If the Twins have ever fielded a better and deeper rotation than the one they're set to line up this year, I can't remember it. From top to bottom (and beyond) this unit looks stacked.Projected Rotation: Kenta Maeda, José Berríos, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker Depth: Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, Bailey Ober Prospects: Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Blayne Enlow, Cole Sands THE GOOD Let's start at the top. Kenta Maeda: The long-awaited ace and reigning Cy Young runner-up. Maeda's first year in a Minnesota uniform yielded the best performance we've seen from a Twins starting pitcher since Johan Santana left town. One of the great sadnesses of the shortened 2020 season was that we didn't get to see him do more of it. From his first turn to his last, Maeda was superb. He never gave up more than three runs in a game, or more hits than innings pitched in a start. His whiff rate was third-highest in the game behind Jacob deGrom and Lucas Giolito. Maeda shut down Houston with five shutout innings in the playoffs. A month prior, he came within three outs of no-hitting Milwaukee at Target Field. With an offspeed-heavy mix and impeccable command, he left opposing batters helpless. J.A. Happ is not a super flashy addition at age 38, but he's been basically as good as Berríos over the past handful of seasons, and he's a great asset as your fourth starter. Matt Shoemaker rounds out the rotation as a $2 million flier who probably has a 50/50 shot at lasting until the All-Star break. But as with any signing by this front office, there's upside here that's easy to see. The offseason additions might not have been too exciting, but what does excite about Minnesota's rotation picture this year is the internal depth. Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe both offer plenty of intrigue, especially with their buzz-stirring spring camps. Devin Smeltzer is a better eighth option than most other teams have. And that's before you turn to the farm. The Twins' top three pitching prospects – Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino – are verging on big-league ready. It's hard to say for sure since the 2020 minor-league season was wiped out, but had it been played, it's very possible any of those three would now be banging on the door – if not already debuted. Each is capable of a serious impact in short order, and the Twins are quietly counting on that to some degree. THE BAD One might argue the Twins have been extraordinarily lucky with the health of their starting pitchers over the past couple years. (Jake Odorizzi and Homer Bailey would disagree, but they're gone.) Berríos has continued to take the mound every fifth day, as usual. Maeda did the same in 2020, while transitioning from starter-reliever hybrid to relative workhorse. He experienced no issues, even after accruing a career-high 115 pitches in his no-hit bid. Pineda, so often injured before coming to Minnesota, has been perfectly healthy outside of the suspension. (Phantom DL stints not withstanding.) I'm not over here to trying to jinx anything. But it has to be acknowledged that this probably won't last forever. The rigors of being a starting pitcher in the major leagues are immense, and right now these guys are grappling with the transition back to a full-season workload, in the wake of 2020's disruption. If one of those top three starters goes down? Suddenly the Twins rotation doesn't look quite so sturdy anymore. Happ might be a nice luxury in the back half, but he's not necessarily someone you want to be depending on toward the front. Shoemaker, Dobnak, Thorpe and Smeltzer all have their own varying levels of promise and mystique, but also serious hurdles to overcome. The top prospects may well all need more seasoning, These aren't unique problems – all pitchers across the league will be facing the same readjustment challenges this year, and no team has infinite starting depth – but the Twins will need a bit of luck on their side to fulfill their potential in the rotation. They're relying heavily on some internal developments playing out well, because it's questionable whether the free agent talent incoming (Happ, Shoemaker) is better than the talent outgoing (Odorizzi, Rich Hill). Questionable might be putting it kindly. THE BOTTOM LINE This is a deep, well-rounded group with a high ceiling and a number of electrifying wild cards in play. Odorizzi is a significant loss, which should not be discounted, but the fact is, the Twins managed to post the second-best rotation ERA, FIP, and fWAR in the American League last year without him. An important thing to keep in mind is that, by retaining all prospect capital in the offseason, the Twins have positioned themselves nicely for a trade as the deadline approaches. That'll probably be a big storyline this summer, but I'm more eager to see what the system can provide internally after four years of remarkable progression under the new front office. "After four years of assembling the infrastructure and creating a culture of fearless development," wrote Dan Hayes at The Athletic recently, "the Twins front office feels as if its pitching pipeline is finally ready to churn out impressive arms at a more consistent rate." Their exhaustive work will be put to the test in what's certain to be a daunting and discombobulating year for MLB starting pitchers, with workloads thrown askew. READ OTHER 2021 POSITION ANALYSIS ARTICLES CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopLeft FieldCenter FieldRight FieldDesignated Hitter Click here to view the article
  23. Entering the offseason, it seemed likely for Dobnak to be penciled into the back end of the Twins’ starting rotation. Minnesota had three pitchers slated to begin the year as starters and Dobnak seemed to be at least guaranteed a shot at the fifth rotational spot. That plan was altered after the club signed J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker. Then the question was raised about whether Dobnak should be pitching out of the bullpen or be sent to the alternate site to continue to be stretched out as a starter. The Twins’ brass felt like Dobnak and his newly signed contract were a better fit as the bullpen’s long man, but the numbers point to this being a poor decision. Entering play on Wednesday, Dobnak had appeared in 22 big-league games with 15 coming as a starter and seven coming in relief. As a starter, he has a 3.41 ERA with a 43 to 18 strikeout to walk ratio while holding batters to a .645 OPS. His relief appearances have resulted in a 4.20 ERA with batters compiling an .870 OPS in almost 70 plate appearances. This isn’t exactly a large sample size, but his numbers as a starter are clearly better. Also, Minnesota has been using Dobnak in situations where he can continue to stay stretched out. He has been limited to just three appearances this year, because the Twins have only seen three of their games decided by more than two runs. This doesn’t exactly lend itself to naturally using a long man out of the bullpen, because Rocco Baldelli has turned to more of his high leverage arms in close and late game scenarios. https://twitter.com/MatthewTaylorMN/status/1382323416234086407?s=20 Having Dobnak stretched out will be useful since the team has 11 games over the next 10 days and the current starters won’t be able to make all of those starts. On the TV broadcast, Justin Morneau alluded to the fact that Dobnak will make a start during the next week. That being said, it’s hard to imagine him being able to pitch deep into a game since he hasn’t started since early in spring training. For Dobnak to get more relief opportunities, it might be beneficial for the Twins to separate Happ and Shoemaker in the rotation. Those two starters are the ones he is most likely going to piggyback with since neither are expected to pitch deep into games on a regular basis. Currently, they pitch on back-to-back days and that doesn’t allow Dobnak to piggyback for both of them Teams are using a variety of strategies this year to cover innings and piggybacking those two starters might be a strategy the Twins will need to start using. There’s likely going to be a time this season where Dobnak is going to be needed in the rotation. For now, his role in the bullpen needs to be altered so he can find more success. Do you think Dobnak should continue to be used as a reliver? 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. When the Minnesota Twins set out to supplement their roster this offseason a couple of different areas presented themselves as needs. Starting pitching will always remain one as you can never have enough, but the organization is in rarefied air. Following his signing with the Houston Astros it’s more than fair to suggest the Twins would’ve been well-served to wait out Jake Odorizzi. He clearly over-anticipated his market however and found a landing spot only after Framber Valdez dealt a blow to Dusty Baker’s starting rotation. Instead, Minnesota went with a one-year deal to Matt Shoemaker that set the club back just $2 million. At the time, and even now, that has the makings of a pretty shrewd move. If you’re at all familiar with Shoemaker’s track record you know this, he hasn’t been available often. Across seven full Major League seasons he’s made 15 or more starts just three times, while failing to reach double digits in each of the past three. Injury issues have plagued him, but it’s worth noting that the injuries haven’t been arm related. In hoping for a regression to the fluky nature that has kept him sidelined, you have to take note of the production that has been there. Back in 2016 was the last time Shoemaker threw more than 100 innings. Across 27 starts that year he posted a 3.88 ERA backed by a 3.51 FIP and an 8.0 K/9. It was the third year in a row in which he’d tallied both 20 starts and 130+ innings pitched. In that time, he owned a 3.80 ERA with a 3.77 FIP and an 8.0 K/9. When available the veteran has been incredibly consistent. He’s good for a high-threes ERA while striking out right around eight per nine and being very stingy on the free passes. Even as a third starter that would play, and he’ll pitch out of the Minnesota five-hole. What’s maybe most important for the Twins in all of this isn’t even what Shoemaker himself brings to the table, but rather what he affords the club in regards to those around him. Randy Dobnak has started a Postseason game, Lewis Thorpe is a former top prospect that has been the darling of Spring Training, and the duo of Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic are close. That doesn’t even touch on Devin Smeltzer, who has Major League experience as well. None of them will factor into the rotation on Opening Day. In 2020 Rocco Baldelli had 11 different players starts a game (two of which were openers). For the Bomba Squad a year prior, 10 different players made starts (one of which was an opener). Depth is something every team must have in the rotation, and that will probably ring truer than ever coming off such a shortened schedule a season ago. Because of what this front office has done in the development department, the Twins could be more prepared now than they ever have been before. A year ago, the Twins posted the 5th best fWAR among starters in baseball. That improved upon a 7th place finish in 2019. Derek Falvey had long been considered a pitching guru for his time in Cleveland, and he’s quickly carried that acumen to a new organization. I’m not sure who will contribute what, and which starters will be there at the end, but you can bet the stable is right where the organization feels comfortable when it comes to pieces at their disposal. Maybe Matt Shoemaker only gives his new club something like ten starts in 2021. That’s still more than Rich Hill or Homer Bailey a season ago, and the flexibility he provides the Twins in terms of additional depth is a bonus that can’t be overstated. Let him be healthy because he’s been good when available. When the time comes to make a change, options will be plentiful. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  25. Minnesota’s front office noticed some with Dobnak’s slider and suggest a small change. By keeping his hand in a more supinated position, he can get more break on his slider and keep hitters off balanced. Over the weekend, he threw three scoreless innings and struck out six of the 10 batters he faced. “It plays really well off my sinker, so we’re just trying to kind of get more break in between it,” Dobnak told reporters after the game. “Trying to create the tunnel and have it break apart more. But I threw it pretty well today, so I’m pretty satisfied with where I am with that.” Dobnak had been working on the tweak for a little over a week and batters were clearly not prepared for the pitch (even against last year’s AL pennant winners). He’s used it in two games so far and he has yet to allow a run in either appearance. While he has been pitching well this spring, Minnesota’s rotation seems to be full to start the year and this leaves Dobnak’s role up in the air. The five starters slated to be in Minnesota’s Opening Day rotation are Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, Matt Shoemaker, and J.A. Happ. Out of those names, Happ is a little behind the others as he missed the beginning of camp after testing positive for COVID-19. Dobnak can follow Happ in his starts at the beginning of the year as he increases his workload, but even Twins manager Rocco Baldelli doesn’t quite know what role Dobnak will fill. “[Dobnak] has established himself as a quality member of our pitching staff,” Baldelli said. “One way or the other, wherever he slots in, however he gets his innings, I’m pretty sure we are going to find a way to get him involved and let him pitch us to some wins. Exactly how that’s going to go from Opening Day on, I couldn’t tell you at this moment.” Another wrinkle in the Dobnak’s roster spot is the yet to be decided fourth option for Lewis Thorpe. If Thorpe is out of options, the team may need to keep him on the 26-man roster to avoid losing him for on waivers. Dobnak has multiple options remaining and this would allow him to continue to be stretched out as a starter if an injury were to arise in the season’s early games. In the last Twins Daily roster projection, Dobnak made the Opening Day roster and Thorpe was left off, because it had been widely reported that he would be granted a fourth option. Dobnak and Thorpe can easily swap places as the bullpen’s long man. Caleb Thielbar, who appeared in his first spring game on Monday, has also been dealing with a back injury, so there’s a chance he starts the year on the IL. If that happened, Dobnak and Thorpe can both have bullpen spots. Over the course of the 2021 campaign, Dobnak’s role will likely take on multiple forms. Shoemaker is going to have to prove he deserves to stay in the rotation, because the Twins don’t have a ton invested in him. Dobnak will relieve and start at different parts of the season, but his new slider might make it tough to keep him in the bullpen for very long. What do you think Dobnak’s role will be in 2021? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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