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  1. Two weeks have already passed in this young season and there are plenty of trends to keep an eye on, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg in a 162-game campaign. Sports Illustrated thinks Byron Buxton will make a run at the first offensive Triple Crown since Miguel Cabrera back in 2012. Buxton is up near the top of all three categories (batting average, home runs, and RBI) so let’s examine his chances in each category. Batting Average Buxton’s hot start has resulted in a .469 batting average, which ranked seventh in the AL entering play on Sunday. No player can continue to hit at that rate for an entire season. Ted Williams was the last player to post a batting average over .400 for an entire season and that was in 1941. There have been players that made a run at .400 include Minnesota’s Rod Carew. However, there may be some positive signs in Buxton’s numbers so far this year. Buxton leads all of baseball in barrels per plate appearance (19.4%) and only two players have a higher average exit velocity. For his career, Buxton is a .244/.295/.445 hitter so his numbers this season are significantly higher than any other season in his career. If he can stay healthy, he might be able to post some eye-popping numbers. Batting average seems like it might be the hardest area of the Triple-Crown for him to win. Home Runs Buxton ranks second in the AL in home runs, and he’s missed multiple games with a hamstring issue and the team’s COVID problems. His career high in home runs came back in 2017 when he hit 16 homers in 140 games. He’s well on his way to setting a personal best, but he will probably need to triple his best to be in the conversation for most AL home runs. In the last decade, the fewest amount of home runs to lead the AL was 40 from Nelson Cruz back in 2014. The last under 40 home run leader was in 2009 when Carlos Pena and Mark Teixeira tied with 39 longballs. Buxton has focused on adding strength in recent off-seasons and he might be seeing the fruits of his labor. Buxton had a 12 game stretch last season where he hit eight home runs in 12 games. Back in 2017, he hit 11 home runs in 34 games including a three-homer game in Toronto. RBI Out of the three categories, RBI is the one area that Buxton has little control over. He’s only had over 50 RBI once in his career and that was back in 2017. In previous seasons, he has typically been batting in the ninth spot in the batting order, which isn’t exactly a spot known for driving in a lot of runs. His hot bat this season has seen him batting more regularly in the heart of the order. He has multiple games batting third or fourth in the line-up and the lowest he has batted is sixth. As a team, the Twins have struggled with runners in scoring position this season. Buxton has gone 2-for7 with RISP including a home run and a double. Other Twins players at the top of the line-up will need to get in position for Buxton to drive them in. A healthy Buxton hitting at a torrid pace has a chance to make baseball history, but a Triple Crown takes a lot of things working in a batter’s favor. Buxton might be the early frontrunner for AL MVP, but a Triple Crown doesn’t seem likely. Do you think Buxton has a shot at the Triple Crown? 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
  2. Other American League Previews AL West: Houston, We Don’t Have a Problem AL East: New York State of Mind Key Additions: Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Matt Moore, Tyson Ross Josh Harrison, a two-time All-Star, will take over at second base. The Pirates declined his $10.5 million option and Harrison signed with Detroit on a one-year, $2 million deal. He can play multiple positions, but he figures to get the majority of his time at second base. During the last three seasons, he has hit .270/.317/.398. Jordy Mercer joins the Tigers from the Pirates organization. He hopes to fill the middle infield hole left by Jose Iglesias. Over the last three seasons, he has hit .254/.324/.387 while averaging 10 home runs and 25 doubles. According to SABR’s Defensive Index, he was the third worst defensive shortstop in the NL last season. Matt Moore and Tyson Ross signed one-year pacts in Detroit, and they will fight to be in the rotation. Moore was once considered one of the best pitching prospects in the game. Over the last three seasons, he has posted a 5.20 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. Tyson Ross has put up similar numbers over the same stretch with a 5.21 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. However, Moore has pitched 270 more innings than Ross. Key Departures: Victor Martinez, Alex Wilson, James McCann, Jose Iglesias Victor Martinez retired at the end of last season and that leaves a hole in the Tigers offense. James McCann leaves a spot open behind the plate for Greyson Greiner to take over. Wilson pitched 60 innings or more in each of the last four seasons, but he wasn’t tendered a contract. Since 2015, Jose Iglesias has started a minimum of 119 games at shortstop. He was an All-Star in 2015. Cincinnati signed him to a minor league contract at the end of February. Due to an injury, he will get to begin the year as a starter for the Reds. Potential X-Factors: Nick Castellanos It’s no secret that Detroit has been trying to deal Castellanos this off-season. He will be a free agent at season’s end. That being said, he is coming off a year where he hit .298/.354/.500 with 23 home runs and 46 doubles. Entering his age 27 season, he might be playing for a decent off-season contract. He’s played third base in the past, but he has shifted to the corner outfield in recent years. Corresponding with that shift has been a much-improved offensive player. His slugging percentage has been .490 or higher in each of the last three seasons. Can he be part of the solution in Detroit? Or will a hot start from Castellanos result in a trade before the deadline? FanGraphs Projected 2019 Record: 66-96 My Projected 2019 Record: 63-99 2018 Record: 64-98, (3rd Place in the AL Central) 2017 Record: 64-98 (5th Place in the AL Central) 2016 Record: 86-75 (2nd Place in the AL Central)
  3. Baseball quite literally is not making ballplayers like Joe Mauer anymore. In fact, he’s potentially the last of a bygone era, during which striking out was still frowned upon by coaches and downright despised by some players. Joe Mauer hates striking out — so much so he struck out just once in high school. Even as Major League Baseball evolved into a game with more pitchers throwing harder and nastier pitches than ever before, Mauer refused to change his approach and was good enough to not only get away with it, but force defenses to adjust to him just as Barry Bonds before him. Mauer received one of the most extreme defensive outfield shifts in baseball, and he got his hits despite it. Of the top 21 seasons in overall strikeouts in MLB history, Mauer played in 15. He struck out more than 100 times just once, and his OPS+ was under 100 in just two seasons of his career. But some still think Mauer was overpaid given the expectancy for him to catch full-time. Addressing Mauer’s Haters Mauer, a soft-spoken, Minnesota-nice guy, has his share of haters who think he should have cowboyed up and got behind the plate to earn his $23 million every year despite a concussion issue that not only threatened his career but his life off the field. An issue that reappeared this season upon a dive for a ball at first base and might be responsible for Mauer’s indecision regarding his playing future. Mauer’s haters should know over the course of his career, the Twins paid Joe just $374,856.42 more per win above a replacement player than the Marlins and Tigers paid Cabrera, and the Tigers still owe him at least $154 million. The Twins paid just $728,825.30 more per win above a replacement player than the Cardinals and Angels have paid Pujols, who’s still owed $87 million. If you average the WAR of both Cabrera and Pujols over their last seven years across the remaining years of their contracts, their cost per win above a replacement player balloons to $381,619.65 and $80,136.39 more per WAR than Joe, respectively. Not being overpaid relative to his fellow first basemen won’t make Mauer a first-ballot Hall of Famer like Pujols and Cabrera, but it doesn’t hurt. The Hall of Fame Question Most will say Mauer’s six All-Star appearances and 2,123 hits aren’t enough. Most will say he never won a playoff series. Most will say his 55.1 career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) isn’t even as good as another former Twin (David Ortiz, 55.3) despite it being top-100 all time amongst Hall of Fame position players and 151st all time in MLB history, according to Baseball Reference. Mauer’s integrity and humility are Hall-of-Fame caliber, however. Unlike Ortiz, who failed a 2003 performance-enhancing drug test, Mauer’s legacy is unquestioned and untarnished. Although Mauer only played in the post-steroid era of Major League Baseball (the drug policy as we know it was first implemented and enforced in 2004), he’s someone who might have benefited from steroids and had an “opportunity” to use them after sustaining a knee injury in his rookie season. At 21, Joe knew better, and at 28, when his body struggled recovering from surgery and then fell ill with pneumonia, Mauer probably never even considered using steroids. Mauer came back in 2012 to lead the league in on-base percentage (OBP), beating his 2011 OBP by 56 points (.420). His .351 OBP in 2018 is the worst of his career and was still the 50th-best in baseball and 10 percent better than the MLB average (.318). He was top-10 in league OBP and batting average seven times and top-10 in Adjusted OPS+ six times in his career. Mauer’s .3063 career batting average is, ironically, identical to his Hall of Fame manager’s, good for 138th-best all time. But Paul Molitor has 1,196 more hits than Joe. Regardless, Mauer’s career batting average is sandwiched between Hall of Famers Ernie Lombardi and George Kell, and is better than that of the next-best hitting catcher of his era, Buster Posey (.306). Mauer’s the only catcher ever to win three batting titles, too. But what makes Hall of Famers is their relative dominance of their respective eras. Barry Bonds didn’t have to beat Babe Ruth in career home runs; he just needed to dominate his era like Ruth his. Mauer is a Hall of Famer given his place amongst his peers. When compared to his peers, from 2004 to 2018, Mauer’s batting average ranks ninth, between Mike Trout and Buster Posey. His OBP is twelfth, between Hall of Famer Chipper Jones and Bryce Harper. His Weighted Runs Created (WRC) is tenth, whereas Posey ranks 94th. On an All-MLB 2004–18 Team, Mauer would clearly be the catcher, and he’s probably the fourth-best first baseman of his generation, behind Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Joey Votto — all first-ballot Hall of Famers. Mauer’s numbers aren’t first-ballot-Hall-of-Fame worthy, but the way he represented the game of baseball and himself on and off the field is worthy of first-ballot consideration, which he’ll receive. Joe might even be a victim of the Hall of Fame shrinking the length of time players stay on the ballot from 15 years to 10. Mauer won’t be eligible for induction until 2023 at the earliest, but judging from the lack of retirees expected this season, he could benefit from a lack of competition. We don’t know if this is Adrian Beltre’s final season, and if it isn’t, Mauer could be sharing the ballot with holdovers from previous years, not including Bonds or Roger Clemens, who will fall off the ballot in three years. Even if Joe isn’t voted into the MLB Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, he will most certainly get support from the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee. One way or another, Joe Mauer is a Hall of Fame player. Personally, I’d like to see if he’s a Hall of Fame manager.
  4. I was on 670 The Score out of Chicago last week to help them preview the AL Central. TAKE A LISTEN HERE. Cleveland Indians 2017: 102-60, first place, lost to New York in ALDS Manager: Terry Fancona (sixth season) New Faces: 1B-DH Yonder Alonso, LF Rajai David, RHP Alexi Ogando Key Losses: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RHP Bryan Shaw Outlook: Cleveland hasn’t won the World Series since 1948 and they’ve suffered through some postseason heartaches over the last two years. In the 2016 World Series, they blew a 3-1 to the Cubs. Last year, they were up 2-0 on the Yankees before losing in the divisional round. Cleveland might have the best pitching staff in all of baseball, including the reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Offensively, Jose Ramirez led the AL in doubles and Francisco Lindor smashed 33 home runs. Veteran players Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley need to stay healthy. It might be World Series or bust for Cleveland this year. Minnesota Twins 2017: 85-77, second place, lost to New York in Wild Card game. Manager: Paul Molitor (fourth season). New Faces: RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Jake Odorizzi, DH-1B Logan Morrison, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Addison Reed, LHP Zach Duke, RHP Michael Pineda. Key Losses: C Chris Gimenez, LHP Hector Santiago, LHP Glen Perkins Outlook: Minnesota surprised the baseball world by becoming the first team to finish in the playoffs one year after losing 100 or more games. Now the Twins will need to try to surprise again as they attempt to hunt down the Indians. With a core of players under the age of 25, the Twins seem to rising at the right time. Adding Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn to the rotation helps to address a weakness and there are plenty of other arms populating the Rochester staff. While the American League looks a little top heavy, the Twins should have enough to fight for a Wild Card spot. Thankfully, the Twins are scheduled to play each of the teams listed below 19 times in 2018. Kansas City Royals 2017: 80-82, third place. Manager: Ned Yost (ninth season). New Faces: RHP Jesse Hahn, CF Jon Jay, 1B Lucas Duda, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Justin Grimm. Key Losses: 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, RHP Joakim Soria, LHP Mike Minor, OF Melky Cabrera, DH Brandon Moss. Outlook: Out with the old and in with the new. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain are off to greener pastures, which is going to put more pressure on new additions Jon Jay and Lucas Duda. Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar didn’t get great offers on the free agent market so they returned to Kansas City. Even with them back in Royals blue, it could be tough for this club to be around the .500 mark. There are holes in nearly every part of their roster. Look for them to be busy at the trade deadline as they might be forced to go into full rebuilding mode. Chicago White Sox 2017: 67-95, fourth place. Manager: Rick Renteria (second season). New Faces: RHP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo. Key Losses: LHP Derek Holland, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Al Alburquerque, C Geovany Soto. Outlook: While the Royals haven’t hit full rebuild mode yet, Chicago traded away plenty of pieces last season. This means the White Sox have a nice young core with players like Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Miguel Gonzalez. There are other top prospects on the way but that could mean Chicago is still a year or two away from making a playoff push in the AL. A completely rebuilt bullpen makes it hard to know what to expect in late game situations. Chicago will likely continue to take its bruises this year while the young guns try to figure it all out at the big league level. Detroit Tigers 2017: 64-98, fifth place. Manager: Ron Gardenhire (first season). New Faces: OF Leonys Martin, RHP Mike Fiers, LHP Francisco Liriano, OF Victor Reyes. Key Losses: 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Anibal Sanchez, INF Andrew Romine, RHP Bruce Rondon. Outlook: Ron Gardenhire’s return to managing doesn’t seem exactly like a dream job. He will have to piece together a roster that traded away Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler over the last calendar year. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are still part of this roster but no one is sure how much they have left in the tank. Gardy is very familiar with the AL Central but he is going to have his hands full in a division that looks top heavy entering 2018. What are your predictions for the AL Central? What will it take to catch the Indians? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  5. Cleveland has been at the top of the AL Central for two consecutive seasons and things seem to be trending that way again in 2018. By season's end, the AL Central might end up being the easiest division in baseball. Besides Minnesota and Cleveland, there are a lot of young, rebuilding clubs. This could help both the Indians and the Twins to separate themselves from the pack in the American League. Will Minnesota be able to catch Cleveland, the Kings of the AL Central?I was on 670 The Score out of Chicago last week to help them preview the AL Central. TAKE A LISTEN HERE. Cleveland Indians 2017: 102-60, first place, lost to New York in ALDS Manager: Terry Fancona (sixth season) New Faces: 1B-DH Yonder Alonso, LF Rajai David, RHP Alexi Ogando Key Losses: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RHP Bryan Shaw Outlook: Cleveland hasn’t won the World Series since 1948 and they’ve suffered through some postseason heartaches over the last two years. In the 2016 World Series, they blew a 3-1 to the Cubs. Last year, they were up 2-0 on the Yankees before losing in the divisional round. Cleveland might have the best pitching staff in all of baseball, including the reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Offensively, Jose Ramirez led the AL in doubles and Francisco Lindor smashed 33 home runs. Veteran players Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley need to stay healthy. It might be World Series or bust for Cleveland this year. Minnesota Twins 2017: 85-77, second place, lost to New York in Wild Card game. Manager: Paul Molitor (fourth season). New Faces: RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Jake Odorizzi, DH-1B Logan Morrison, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Addison Reed, LHP Zach Duke, RHP Michael Pineda. Key Losses: C Chris Gimenez, LHP Hector Santiago, LHP Glen Perkins Outlook: Minnesota surprised the baseball world by becoming the first team to finish in the playoffs one year after losing 100 or more games. Now the Twins will need to try to surprise again as they attempt to hunt down the Indians. With a core of players under the age of 25, the Twins seem to rising at the right time. Adding Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn to the rotation helps to address a weakness and there are plenty of other arms populating the Rochester staff. While the American League looks a little top heavy, the Twins should have enough to fight for a Wild Card spot. Thankfully, the Twins are scheduled to play each of the teams listed below 19 times in 2018. Kansas City Royals 2017: 80-82, third place. Manager: Ned Yost (ninth season). New Faces: RHP Jesse Hahn, CF Jon Jay, 1B Lucas Duda, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Justin Grimm. Key Losses: 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, RHP Joakim Soria, LHP Mike Minor, OF Melky Cabrera, DH Brandon Moss. Outlook: Out with the old and in with the new. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain are off to greener pastures, which is going to put more pressure on new additions Jon Jay and Lucas Duda. Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar didn’t get great offers on the free agent market so they returned to Kansas City. Even with them back in Royals blue, it could be tough for this club to be around the .500 mark. There are holes in nearly every part of their roster. Look for them to be busy at the trade deadline as they might be forced to go into full rebuilding mode. Chicago White Sox 2017: 67-95, fourth place. Manager: Rick Renteria (second season). New Faces: RHP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo. Key Losses: LHP Derek Holland, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Al Alburquerque, C Geovany Soto. Outlook: While the Royals haven’t hit full rebuild mode yet, Chicago traded away plenty of pieces last season. This means the White Sox have a nice young core with players like Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Miguel Gonzalez. There are other top prospects on the way but that could mean Chicago is still a year or two away from making a playoff push in the AL. A completely rebuilt bullpen makes it hard to know what to expect in late game situations. Chicago will likely continue to take its bruises this year while the young guns try to figure it all out at the big league level. Detroit Tigers 2017: 64-98, fifth place. Manager: Ron Gardenhire (first season). New Faces: OF Leonys Martin, RHP Mike Fiers, LHP Francisco Liriano, OF Victor Reyes. Key Losses: 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Anibal Sanchez, INF Andrew Romine, RHP Bruce Rondon. Outlook: Ron Gardenhire’s return to managing doesn’t seem exactly like a dream job. He will have to piece together a roster that traded away Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler over the last calendar year. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are still part of this roster but no one is sure how much they have left in the tank. Gardy is very familiar with the AL Central but he is going to have his hands full in a division that looks top heavy entering 2018. What are your predictions for the AL Central? What will it take to catch the Indians? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  6. April has come and gone. With the calendar flipping to May, there have been plenty of story-lines to follow across the baseball world. Bryce Harper seems to have found his swing again. Aaron Judge is making himself known as a Bronx Bomber. Even Eric Thames is having a resurgence in Milwaukee. Teams in the AL Central have been making headlines of their own. The four top teams are separated by two games. Meanwhile, the Royals are the lone team with an under .500 record. What's been going well for each AL Central squad? What needs to improve in the coming months? Let's dive in.Cleveland Indians (April Record 14-10) What's Gone Right Following their World Series run, the Indians might have come out of the gate a little slower than they would like. Francisco Lindor is continuing his strong performance from last year's postseason. He leads all shortstops in home runs, slugging percentage and WAR. Jose Ramirez is also proving he can hold his own. Through April, he hitting .330/.388/.593 with six home runs, the second highest total on the team. Cleveland's pitching staff continues to be one of it's strengths. Indians pitchers have compiled the highest WAR total in all of baseball. Both their starters and relievers rank in the top six in WAR. Their 9.97 K/9 ranks as the best in baseball while their 2.79 BB/9 is the second lowest mark. Cleveland's strong pitching helped the club to sweep three-game series from the Twins and Rangers during the season's first month. Room For Improvement Edwin Encarnacion was the team's big free agent acquisition and he has't exactly gotten off to a hot start. Through April's action, he was hitting .200/343/.353 with one home run. Those averages are all below his career production. Jason Kipnis has been limited to nine games and his production has suffered when he's been on the field. Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer have both struggled at the back of the Indians rotation. Tomlin has posted an 8.87 ERA, the club's worst mark, while averaging less than five innings per start. Bauer's ERA is slightly better at 6.26 and he's been close to six innings per appearance. Cleveland was only swept by one team in April, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and both Tomlin and Bauer made starts in that series. Chicago White Sox (April Record 13-10) What's Gone Right The White Sox were supposed to be in the midst of a rebuild but they find themselves a half game out of first place after the season's first month. Avisail Garcia is batting .368/.409/.621 and he leads the team with 10 extra-base hits. Matt Davidson joins Garcia in the .600 slugging percentage club and he's also been getting on base over 33% of the time. Miguel Gonzalez and Derek Holland have been quiet surprises in the White Sox rotation. Gonzalez leads the team with three wins and he's posted a 3.27 ERA with 21 strikeouts. Holland's ERA is better at 2.17 and he's second on the team in strikeouts. Even former Twins Anthony Swarzak has been good out of the bullpen as he has yet to allow a run in over 12 innings. Improvement Areas Veterans on the team like Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera haven't started strong. Frazier is hitting under .185 while getting on base less than 29% of the time. Cabrera's .260 average is 25 points lower than his career mark. His .668 SLG would also be his lowest total since the 2014 campaign. Jose Quintana, the team's best starter a year ago, has struggled out of the gate. His ERA is north of 5.00 for April and his WHIP is over 1.46. James Shields was brought in as a veteran starter and he has been limited to three starts while currently being on the 10-day DL. Former Twin Mike Pelfrey has made a pair of starts so you know you're in desperation mode when you turn to Big Pelf. Detroit Tigers (April Record 12-12) What's Gone Right The Tigers took advantage of six games with the Twins as 25% of their victories have come against Minnesota. Justin Upton has provided the most value to the Tigers as he has gotten on base over 40% of the time while compiling a .968 OPS. Both of those totals, if sustained, would be career-best marks. Ian Kinsler and Alex Avial have also had good starts to the year. Detroit's pitching has been a mixture of good and bad. Michael Fulmer has put together the most consistent starts as he has a staff leading 3.19 ERA with 26 strikeouts over 31 innings. Justin Wilson and Shane Green have also limited damage out of the bullpen. Improvement Areas Former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera has been limited to five extra-base hits and a .268 average. He currently is on the 10-day DL. Veteran slugger Victor Martinez has been limited in his time at DH. He has combined to hit .218/.281/.276 with only three extra-base hits in over 96 plate appearances. Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann are supposed to be the anchors of this starting staff. Verlander, the 2016 runner-up for Cy Young, has a 4.60 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. Zimmermann has a 1.62 WHIP and and ERA of over 6.00. Francisco Rodriguez has also struggled as the closer as he has allowed 14 hits (3 home runs) and six earned runs in less than 10 innings. Kansas City Royals (7-16) What's Gone Right Not much has gone right for the 2016 World Series champions. Lorenzo Cain leads the team in WAR and over half of his value comes on the defensive side of the ball. Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas have combined for 13 home runs with each having OPS over .835. Other than that, there hasn't been much to write home about. The Royals top three starters (Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, and Jason Vargas) all have ERA totals under 3.00. Kennedy and Vargas have a WHIP under 1.00. Because of the strong start by the Royals starters, the club ranks first in the AL for WAR from their starting staff. Kansas City's lone sweep in the first month came in a three-game homestand versus the Angels. Improvement Areas Positive signs on the offensive side of the ball have been few and far between. The Royals rank at the bottom of the AL in many offensive categories. Their .210 batting average is 10 points lower than any team in the league. Slugging percentage doesn't rank them any better as they are in last by 14 points. While the front end of the rotation has been strong, the bullpen has been a weakness for Kansas City. The team's relief core has the third worst ERA in the AL while posting a negative WAR total. Relief pitchers Matt Strahm and Travis Wood both have ERA marks north of 11.50. Nate Karns and Jason Hammel have also struggled in the back end of the rotation. A lot of pitching help will be needed to turn things around in KC. What will May entail for the AL Central? Will anyone be able to separate themselves from the pack? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  7. Cleveland Indians (April Record 14-10) What's Gone Right Following their World Series run, the Indians might have come out of the gate a little slower than they would like. Francisco Lindor is continuing his strong performance from last year's postseason. He leads all shortstops in home runs, slugging percentage and WAR. Jose Ramirez is also proving he can hold his own. Through April, he hitting .330/.388/.593 with six home runs, the second highest total on the team. Cleveland's pitching staff continues to be one of it's strengths. Indians pitchers have compiled the highest WAR total in all of baseball. Both their starters and relievers rank in the top six in WAR. Their 9.97 K/9 ranks as the best in baseball while their 2.79 BB/9 is the second lowest mark. Cleveland's strong pitching helped the club to sweep three-game series from the Twins and Rangers during the season's first month. Room For Improvement Edwin Encarnacion was the team's big free agent acquisition and he has't exactly gotten off to a hot start. Through April's action, he was hitting .200/343/.353 with one home run. Those averages are all below his career production. Jason Kipnis has been limited to nine games and his production has suffered when he's been on the field. Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer have both struggled at the back of the Indians rotation. Tomlin has posted an 8.87 ERA, the club's worst mark, while averaging less than five innings per start. Bauer's ERA is slightly better at 6.26 and he's been close to six innings per appearance. Cleveland was only swept by one team in April, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and both Tomlin and Bauer made starts in that series. Chicago White Sox (April Record 13-10) What's Gone Right The White Sox were supposed to be in the midst of a rebuild but they find themselves a half game out of first place after the season's first month. Avisail Garcia is batting .368/.409/.621 and he leads the team with 10 extra-base hits. Matt Davidson joins Garcia in the .600 slugging percentage club and he's also been getting on base over 33% of the time. Miguel Gonzalez and Derek Holland have been quiet surprises in the White Sox rotation. Gonzalez leads the team with three wins and he's posted a 3.27 ERA with 21 strikeouts. Holland's ERA is better at 2.17 and he's second on the team in strikeouts. Even former Twins Anthony Swarzak has been good out of the bullpen as he has yet to allow a run in over 12 innings. Improvement Areas Veterans on the team like Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera haven't started strong. Frazier is hitting under .185 while getting on base less than 29% of the time. Cabrera's .260 average is 25 points lower than his career mark. His .668 SLG would also be his lowest total since the 2014 campaign. Jose Quintana, the team's best starter a year ago, has struggled out of the gate. His ERA is north of 5.00 for April and his WHIP is over 1.46. James Shields was brought in as a veteran starter and he has been limited to three starts while currently being on the 10-day DL. Former Twin Mike Pelfrey has made a pair of starts so you know you're in desperation mode when you turn to Big Pelf. Detroit Tigers (April Record 12-12) What's Gone Right The Tigers took advantage of six games with the Twins as 25% of their victories have come against Minnesota. Justin Upton has provided the most value to the Tigers as he has gotten on base over 40% of the time while compiling a .968 OPS. Both of those totals, if sustained, would be career-best marks. Ian Kinsler and Alex Avial have also had good starts to the year. Detroit's pitching has been a mixture of good and bad. Michael Fulmer has put together the most consistent starts as he has a staff leading 3.19 ERA with 26 strikeouts over 31 innings. Justin Wilson and Shane Green have also limited damage out of the bullpen. Improvement Areas Former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera has been limited to five extra-base hits and a .268 average. He currently is on the 10-day DL. Veteran slugger Victor Martinez has been limited in his time at DH. He has combined to hit .218/.281/.276 with only three extra-base hits in over 96 plate appearances. Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann are supposed to be the anchors of this starting staff. Verlander, the 2016 runner-up for Cy Young, has a 4.60 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. Zimmermann has a 1.62 WHIP and and ERA of over 6.00. Francisco Rodriguez has also struggled as the closer as he has allowed 14 hits (3 home runs) and six earned runs in less than 10 innings. Kansas City Royals (7-16) What's Gone Right Not much has gone right for the 2016 World Series champions. Lorenzo Cain leads the team in WAR and over half of his value comes on the defensive side of the ball. Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas have combined for 13 home runs with each having OPS over .835. Other than that, there hasn't been much to write home about. The Royals top three starters (Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, and Jason Vargas) all have ERA totals under 3.00. Kennedy and Vargas have a WHIP under 1.00. Because of the strong start by the Royals starters, the club ranks first in the AL for WAR from their starting staff. Kansas City's lone sweep in the first month came in a three-game homestand versus the Angels. Improvement Areas Positive signs on the offensive side of the ball have been few and far between. The Royals rank at the bottom of the AL in many offensive categories. Their .210 batting average is 10 points lower than any team in the league. Slugging percentage doesn't rank them any better as they are in last by 14 points. While the front end of the rotation has been strong, the bullpen has been a weakness for Kansas City. The team's relief core has the third worst ERA in the AL while posting a negative WAR total. Relief pitchers Matt Strahm and Travis Wood both have ERA marks north of 11.50. Nate Karns and Jason Hammel have also struggled in the back end of the rotation. A lot of pitching help will be needed to turn things around in KC. What will May entail for the AL Central? Will anyone be able to separate themselves from the pack? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. The Minnesota Twins announced the signing of outfielder Carlos Quentin to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp. The 33-year old last appeared in a game for Tacoma, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. His last big league appearance was in 20014 with the San Diego Padres. The former two-time All-Star was first round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2003. He played parts of two seasons at the big league level in Arizona before being dealt to the Chicago White Sox for Chris Carter. His debut season in Chicago was his best as he hit .288/.394/.571 with 36 home runs and 100 RBI while finishing fifth in the American League MVP vote. His 36 home runs were one behind Miguel Cabrera for the league lead. Quentin would make another All-Star team in 2011, his last year in Chicago. The White Sox would trade him to the Padres in the offseason. Injuries limited him to averaging under 75 games played per season in San Diego. In 2014, he batted just .177/.284/.315 and he has long been a below-average defender. Plus, there have been just three times in his career where he's played in 100 or more games in a season. Entering the 2015 season, he was sent to Atlanta as part of the deal that brought Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton to the Padres. The Braves released him and he signed with Seattle before retiring last May. He cited chronic knee injuries as his reason for stepping away from the game before his 33rd birthday. During his nine-year career, he hit .252/.347/.484 while hitting 13 home runs or more in six consecutive seasons. From 2008-2013, he hit .260 with an .860 OPS while averaging 30 homers per 150 games. At this point, it seems like Quentin is being added as organizational depth and he'll have to prove himself healthy and ready with Rochester. There are already plenty of first base and corner outfield options on the Twins roster including Joe Mauer, Byung Ho Park, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano, and Oswaldo Arcia. It seems hard to see him cracking the Opening Day roster unless the injury bug hits the team hard in Florida. What are your thoughts on the signing? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  9. This looks like the most compelling home series the Twins have played in five years. Is it the worst possible time to play the Tigers, or the best? On the one hand, the Tigers offense is clicking, they’ve won four of their last five series, and they’re 7-2 already this season versus Twins, the team they need to catch if they want to return to the postseason. On the other hand, the Tigers are barely above .500, they just lost their star player, their pitching has been abysmal, and a losing series (or, god forbid, a sweep) could make them re-evaluate their status at the trade deadline.The Tigers' road to their fifth straight divisional Central Division championship has been bumpy. After averaging 92 wins per year for the last four years, the Tigers have been struggling to clear .500. Their offense has been their savior; ranking third in the American League in runs scored. However, a lot of that was fueled by Miguel Cabrera and his 1.034 OPS, and he’s not going to be around for this series – or for this month. Cabrera has a Grade 3 calf strain and is expected to be sidelined for six weeks, meaning the Tigers won’t have him back until mid-August, two weeks after the trade deadline. However, his absence hasn’t significantly slowed down the potent Tigers lineup. In the five games he’s been out, they’ve still averaged more than seven runs per game. Manager Brad Ausmus can still write high-powered names in the lineup, like J.D. Martinez (24 HR), Yoenis Cespedes (800+ OPS) and Viktor Martinez, who has a 1.111 OPS since Cabrera was put on the disabled list. The Tigers enter today’s game 2.5 games behind the Twins, meaning a series win would put them right back in the mix for the Wild Card race. On the other hand, a series loss would put them back down to .500 and 4.5 games back. If they fall much further, the Tigers are going to need to make a tough decision. That’s because a few of their best players - starting pitcher David Price, closer Joakim Soria, and Cespedes - will become free agents at the end of the year. As General Manager Dave Dombrowski found out this summer with Max Scherzer, losing players like that for nothing can really hurt the future of a team. He’ll need to at least entertain the idea of swapping those players for players that can help them in 2016, when perhaps pitcher Justin Verlander (6.75 ERA) returns to form and Cabrera is again healthy. For those reasons, it’s hard to know for which team this is a bigger series. But make no mistake – it’s big. Let’s look at the pitching matchups. Thursday – 7:10 – David Price (8-2, 2.54) vs Mike Pelfrey (5-5, 3.94) Mike Pelfrey might be looking forward to a restful All-Star break more than most; he’s had three bad starts of his last five. Price, meanwhile, has a 1.90 ERA since June 1. The Tigers have a great opportunity to reassert their season-long dominance in the first game of this series. Friday – 7:10 – Justin Verlander (0-2, 6.75) vs Ervin Santana (0-0, 2.25) Both teams’ destinies are tied closely to these two starters who have been out most of the season. Verlander missed time with a triceps strain and had been inconsistent in his four starts since. Santana faced an 80-game suspension for PED use but was dominant in his first start last Sunday. Saturday – 3:05 – TBA, but probably Alfredo Simon (8-5, 4.18) vs. Phil Hughes (7-6, 4.19) Those stats couldn’t be much closer for these two, but the expectations couldn’t be much further apart. Hughes is supposed to be the Twins workhorse, and has been with 111.2 IP, but a slow start and WAY too many home runs have hurt his overall numbers. Simon has been hanging on to the Tigers’ back of the rotation for well over a year. Sunday – 1:10 – TBA, but probably Shane Greene (4-6, 5.82 ERA) vs. Kyle Gibson (7-6, 3.04) Greene is in the minors, but looks to be the likely callup. He was in Detroit’s rotation until he was demoted to Toledo in the beginning of June. Gibson has looked increasingly dominant each month of the season; his K/9 rate by month: April – 2.4, May – 5.4, June – 8.2, July – 9.0. Click here to view the article
  10. The Tigers' road to their fifth straight divisional Central Division championship has been bumpy. After averaging 92 wins per year for the last four years, the Tigers have been struggling to clear .500. Their offense has been their savior; ranking third in the American League in runs scored. However, a lot of that was fueled by Miguel Cabrera and his 1.034 OPS, and he’s not going to be around for this series – or for this month. Cabrera has a Grade 3 calf strain and is expected to be sidelined for six weeks, meaning the Tigers won’t have him back until mid-August, two weeks after the trade deadline. However, his absence hasn’t significantly slowed down the potent Tigers lineup. In the five games he’s been out, they’ve still averaged more than seven runs per game. Manager Brad Ausmus can still write high-powered names in the lineup, like J.D. Martinez (24 HR), Yoenis Cespedes (800+ OPS) and Viktor Martinez, who has a 1.111 OPS since Cabrera was put on the disabled list. The Tigers enter today’s game 2.5 games behind the Twins, meaning a series win would put them right back in the mix for the Wild Card race. On the other hand, a series loss would put them back down to .500 and 4.5 games back. If they fall much further, the Tigers are going to need to make a tough decision. That’s because a few of their best players - starting pitcher David Price, closer Joakim Soria, and Cespedes - will become free agents at the end of the year. As General Manager Dave Dombrowski found out this summer with Max Scherzer, losing players like that for nothing can really hurt the future of a team. He’ll need to at least entertain the idea of swapping those players for players that can help them in 2016, when perhaps pitcher Justin Verlander (6.75 ERA) returns to form and Cabrera is again healthy. For those reasons, it’s hard to know for which team this is a bigger series. But make no mistake – it’s big. Let’s look at the pitching matchups. Thursday – 7:10 – David Price (8-2, 2.54) vs Mike Pelfrey (5-5, 3.94) Mike Pelfrey might be looking forward to a restful All-Star break more than most; he’s had three bad starts of his last five. Price, meanwhile, has a 1.90 ERA since June 1. The Tigers have a great opportunity to reassert their season-long dominance in the first game of this series. Friday – 7:10 – Justin Verlander (0-2, 6.75) vs Ervin Santana (0-0, 2.25) Both teams’ destinies are tied closely to these two starters who have been out most of the season. Verlander missed time with a triceps strain and had been inconsistent in his four starts since. Santana faced an 80-game suspension for PED use but was dominant in his first start last Sunday. Saturday – 3:05 – TBA, but probably Alfredo Simon (8-5, 4.18) vs. Phil Hughes (7-6, 4.19) Those stats couldn’t be much closer for these two, but the expectations couldn’t be much further apart. Hughes is supposed to be the Twins workhorse, and has been with 111.2 IP, but a slow start and WAY too many home runs have hurt his overall numbers. Simon has been hanging on to the Tigers’ back of the rotation for well over a year. Sunday – 1:10 – TBA, but probably Shane Greene (4-6, 5.82 ERA) vs. Kyle Gibson (7-6, 3.04) Greene is in the minors, but looks to be the likely callup. He was in Detroit’s rotation until he was demoted to Toledo in the beginning of June. Gibson has looked increasingly dominant each month of the season; his K/9 rate by month: April – 2.4, May – 5.4, June – 8.2, July – 9.0.
  11. MINNESOTA TWINS – JOE MAUER After ten years as a major league catcher, foul tips to the mask finally caught up to Mauer and he made the move to first base in 2014. Did the concussion(s) affect the beginning of Mauer’s 2014 season at the plate? I think it would be hard to argue that it didn’t, and Mauer had the most difficult offensive season of his career. (Admittedly, he had set the bar very high) He hit just .277/.361/.371 (.732) with 27 doubles and four home runs. One big question for the Minnesota Twins in 2015 has to do with the soon-to-be 32-year-old Mauer. Will he be able to get close to those remarkable offensive numbers he put up for most of his first decade in the big leagues, or did that decade behind the plate do him in and he’ll continue to “struggle” in 2015? That’s the question, and of course, there is no way to answer that question with any certainty. So what are we projecting from Joe Mauer in 2015? The projections of our Twins Daily writers: Seth – .296/.371/.428 (.799) with 37 doubles and 8 HR. Nick – .315/.410/.445 (.855) with 40 doubles and 10 HR. Parker – John – .300/.380/.400 (780 OPS) with 35 doubles, and 8 HR. AL CENTRAL FIRST BASEMEN Opponent – Player – 2015 Age – 2014 Statistics Chicago – Jose Abreu – 28 - .317/.383/.581 (.964) with 35 doubles, 36-HR Cleveland – Carlos Santana – 29 - .231/.365/.427 (.792) with 25 doubles, 27-HR Detroit – Miguel Cabrera – 32 - .313/.371/.524 (.895) with 52 doubles, 25-HR Kansas City – Eric Hosmer – 25 - .270/.318/.398 (.716) with 35 doubles, 9-HR AL CENTRAL FIRST BASEMAN RANKINGS #1 – Jose Abreu – Chicago #2 – Miguel Cabrera – Detroit #3 – Carlos Santana – Cleveland #4 – Joe Mauer – Minnesota #5 – Eric Hosmer – Kansas City NOW IT’S YOUR TURN Give it a little thought and then go to the comments section below and post two things. First, make your statistical projection for Joe Mauer in 2015. Second, how would you rank the AL Central first basemen? Of course, then discuss with the rest of the Twins Daily community. Finally, check back throughout this next week as we’ll do these same things for each of the positions.
  12. Earlier, we discussed Kurt Suzuki and the rest of the AL Central catchers. Now, we take a look at Joe Mauer and the AL Central first basemen. Mauer had a tough season in 2014 and looks to rebound in 2015. There are some really good first basemen in the division as well. As we continue through this series, we’ll be taking a look at the Twins roster. We’ll make some projections and compare the Twins players to the rest of the American League Central.MINNESOTA TWINS – JOE MAUER After ten years as a major league catcher, foul tips to the mask finally caught up to Mauer and he made the move to first base in 2014. Did the concussion(s) affect the beginning of Mauer’s 2014 season at the plate? I think it would be hard to argue that it didn’t, and Mauer had the most difficult offensive season of his career. (Admittedly, he had set the bar very high) He hit just .277/.361/.371 (.732) with 27 doubles and four home runs. One big question for the Minnesota Twins in 2015 has to do with the soon-to-be 32-year-old Mauer. Will he be able to get close to those remarkable offensive numbers he put up for most of his first decade in the big leagues, or did that decade behind the plate do him in and he’ll continue to “struggle” in 2015? That’s the question, and of course, there is no way to answer that question with any certainty. So what are we projecting from Joe Mauer in 2015? The projections of our Twins Daily writers: Seth – .296/.371/.428 (.799) with 37 doubles and 8 HR. Nick – .315/.410/.445 (.855) with 40 doubles and 10 HR. Parker – John – .300/.380/.400 (780 OPS) with 35 doubles, and 8 HR. AL CENTRAL FIRST BASEMEN Opponent – Player – 2015 Age – 2014 Statistics Chicago – Jose Abreu – 28 - .317/.383/.581 (.964) with 35 doubles, 36-HR Cleveland – Carlos Santana – 29 - .231/.365/.427 (.792) with 25 doubles, 27-HR Detroit – Miguel Cabrera – 32 - .313/.371/.524 (.895) with 52 doubles, 25-HR Kansas City – Eric Hosmer – 25 - .270/.318/.398 (.716) with 35 doubles, 9-HR AL CENTRAL FIRST BASEMAN RANKINGS #1 – Jose Abreu – Chicago #2 – Miguel Cabrera – Detroit #3 – Carlos Santana – Cleveland #4 – Joe Mauer – Minnesota #5 – Eric Hosmer – Kansas City NOW IT’S YOUR TURN Give it a little thought and then go to the comments section below and post two things. First, make your statistical projection for Joe Mauer in 2015. Second, how would you rank the AL Central first basemen? Of course, then discuss with the rest of the Twins Daily community. Finally, check back throughout this next week as we’ll do these same things for each of the positions. Click here to view the article
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