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  1. The Minnesota Twins signed Byron Buxton to a seven-year contract extension worth $100 million earlier this week. I wanted to know what his production might look like, so obviously, I consulted the best source... MLB The Show. I simulated the 2021 season (in which the Twins wound up winning the World Series, crazy) and then signed Buxton to his lucrative extension. With him in tow for the better part of the next decade, I then simulated every season and offseason through 2028 while allowing the computer to do its thing. This might not be surprising, but the man is pretty good. Before we dive into what took place, let’s catch you up to where we are now. Following the 2028 season, Buxton is 34 years old and an 86 overall player in the game. He began this process as a 90 overall player at age 28 and has only started to see a slight decline. In terms of relatable advanced analytics, MLB The Show uses its own calculation for WAR. In 2019, when Buxton posted an .827 OPS and 2.7 fWAR, The Show valued him at 2.9 WAR. That gives us a pretty even comparison. Now, let’s dive in. Even in real life, Buxton should never be expected to hit for a real high average (though he did over 61 games in 2021). That was true in The Show during the first year of his contract. Despite being worth 3.8 WAR, he posted just a .225 average. It translated to a .700 OPS with 17 dingers and seven triples. That’s where things took off. In each of the following three seasons, Buxton posted increasing WAR marks. Starting with a 4.6 effort in 2023, going to 4.7 in 2024, and topping out at 4.9 in 2025. He led the league with 19 outfield assists in 2023 and stole 24 bases. His 26 long balls were a new career-high, and he tallied eight triples. It was that 2025 season where the magic happened. Rewarded for his career year, the .261 average and .779 OPS were enough to earn him American League MVP honors. His 12 triples were a career-high, and the 17 homers added some nice thump to a decent Minnesota lineup. From 2022 through 2026, Buxton averaged 148 games per year, playing in all but three during the 2026 season. Injuries got him a bit the last two seasons of his deal, in which he played just 124 games in 2027 and 79 in 2028. Throughout the extension, Buxton compiled 24.2 WAR which Fangraphs valued as worth roughly $191.9 million, or just shy of double his contract. Accolades were often tallied for the Twins centerfielder. He racked up five straight Gold Gloves from 2022-26 and was named to three All-Star teams. The roster was largely turned over, with names such as Logan Webb, Abraham Toro, and Carlos Correa welcomed. Still, Buxton remained the organization’s best player for the vast majority of his time. He didn’t get to play with a couple of top Twins prospects as Royce Lewis was shipped to the Cubs after the 2023 season, and Jordan Balazovic went to the Yankees in 2025. I found myself interested in how Buxton’s final years would go, so there was a need to play out the string of his career. When reaching free agency for the first time, Buxton was handed a qualifying offer from the Twins. He hit the market as the best available centerfielder. Buxton opted to remain with Minnesota on a one-year deal worth $9.5 million when the dust settled. Another year of regression for Buxton at age-35 had him playing in just 71 games and bottoming out to the tune of a .391 OPS. He now has dropped to an 81 overall talent and enters the free agency market with significantly depressed value. He’s competing for a payday against top players such as Gabriel Maciel, the Twins prospect who was traded to Kansas City in 2022 and put up a 4.6 WAR season in 2028. Maciel wound up signing a six-year $116.4 million deal with the Diamondbacks. Royce Lewis also hit free agency for the first time this season, and San Diego inked the 88 overall 29-year-old to a four-year deal worth $56 million. Despite having 26 and 33-year-old centerfielders who are better, the Los Angeles Angels gave Buxton a one-year deal worth $4.2 million for his age-36 season. Byron played just 25 games for the Angels before his release. He bounced back from the disastrous end in Minnesota and posted a .796 OPS, but the opportunities weren’t there. Now looking at free agency as a 37-year-old, Buxton had to convince a team he still had something in the tank with his overall dropping to 76. Unsigned heading into Opening Day, this looked like it could be the end of the road. Ultimately no suitor presented themselves, and after sitting out the 2031 calendar season, that’s where Minnesota’s mega-star would call it quits. Buxton retired following the conclusion of the World Series. For his career, Buxton compiled 14.160 years of service time and had a slash line of .232/.295/.422. He ripped 204 homers and stole exactly 200 bases while recording 62 triples. His 37.3 WAR would be good enough for 66th best among centerfielders all-time per Fangraphs. While not having a Hall of Fame-caliber resume, it’s certainly fair to deduce that MLB The Show sees Byron Buxton contributing as a star for many more years. Coincidentally, there was another superstar outfielder that retired in 2031 as well. He was an immediate induction into the Hall of Fame with 601 career homers. Congrats Mr. Trout. What do you think? Would you sign up for this type of trajectory Twins fans? 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. I simulated the 2021 season (in which the Twins wound up winning the World Series, crazy) and then signed Buxton to his lucrative extension. With him in tow for the better part of the next decade, I then simulated every season and offseason through 2028 while allowing the computer to do its thing. This might not be surprising, but the man is pretty good. Before we dive into what took place, let’s catch you up to where we are now. Following the 2028 season, Buxton is 34 years old and an 86 overall player in the game. He began this process as a 90 overall player at age 28 and has only started to see a slight decline. In terms of relatable advanced analytics, MLB The Show uses its own calculation for WAR. In 2019, when Buxton posted an .827 OPS and 2.7 fWAR, The Show valued him at 2.9 WAR. That gives us a pretty even comparison. Now, let’s dive in. Even in real life, Buxton should never be expected to hit for a real high average (though he did over 61 games in 2021). That was true in The Show during the first year of his contract. Despite being worth 3.8 WAR, he posted just a .225 average. It translated to a .700 OPS with 17 dingers and seven triples. That’s where things took off. In each of the following three seasons, Buxton posted increasing WAR marks. Starting with a 4.6 effort in 2023, going to 4.7 in 2024, and topping out at 4.9 in 2025. He led the league with 19 outfield assists in 2023 and stole 24 bases. His 26 long balls were a new career-high, and he tallied eight triples. It was that 2025 season where the magic happened. Rewarded for his career year, the .261 average and .779 OPS were enough to earn him American League MVP honors. His 12 triples were a career-high, and the 17 homers added some nice thump to a decent Minnesota lineup. From 2022 through 2026, Buxton averaged 148 games per year, playing in all but three during the 2026 season. Injuries got him a bit the last two seasons of his deal, in which he played just 124 games in 2027 and 79 in 2028. Throughout the extension, Buxton compiled 24.2 WAR which Fangraphs valued as worth roughly $191.9 million, or just shy of double his contract. Accolades were often tallied for the Twins centerfielder. He racked up five straight Gold Gloves from 2022-26 and was named to three All-Star teams. The roster was largely turned over, with names such as Logan Webb, Abraham Toro, and Carlos Correa welcomed. Still, Buxton remained the organization’s best player for the vast majority of his time. He didn’t get to play with a couple of top Twins prospects as Royce Lewis was shipped to the Cubs after the 2023 season, and Jordan Balazovic went to the Yankees in 2025. I found myself interested in how Buxton’s final years would go, so there was a need to play out the string of his career. When reaching free agency for the first time, Buxton was handed a qualifying offer from the Twins. He hit the market as the best available centerfielder. Buxton opted to remain with Minnesota on a one-year deal worth $9.5 million when the dust settled. Another year of regression for Buxton at age-35 had him playing in just 71 games and bottoming out to the tune of a .391 OPS. He now has dropped to an 81 overall talent and enters the free agency market with significantly depressed value. He’s competing for a payday against top players such as Gabriel Maciel, the Twins prospect who was traded to Kansas City in 2022 and put up a 4.6 WAR season in 2028. Maciel wound up signing a six-year $116.4 million deal with the Diamondbacks. Royce Lewis also hit free agency for the first time this season, and San Diego inked the 88 overall 29-year-old to a four-year deal worth $56 million. Despite having 26 and 33-year-old centerfielders who are better, the Los Angeles Angels gave Buxton a one-year deal worth $4.2 million for his age-36 season. Byron played just 25 games for the Angels before his release. He bounced back from the disastrous end in Minnesota and posted a .796 OPS, but the opportunities weren’t there. Now looking at free agency as a 37-year-old, Buxton had to convince a team he still had something in the tank with his overall dropping to 76. Unsigned heading into Opening Day, this looked like it could be the end of the road. Ultimately no suitor presented themselves, and after sitting out the 2031 calendar season, that’s where Minnesota’s mega-star would call it quits. Buxton retired following the conclusion of the World Series. For his career, Buxton compiled 14.160 years of service time and had a slash line of .232/.295/.422. He ripped 204 homers and stole exactly 200 bases while recording 62 triples. His 37.3 WAR would be good enough for 66th best among centerfielders all-time per Fangraphs. While not having a Hall of Fame-caliber resume, it’s certainly fair to deduce that MLB The Show sees Byron Buxton contributing as a star for many more years. Coincidentally, there was another superstar outfielder that retired in 2031 as well. He was an immediate induction into the Hall of Fame with 601 career homers. Congrats Mr. Trout. What do you think? Would you sign up for this type of trajectory Twins fans? 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. We’re now less than a week away from the release of 2021 Topps Series 1 baseball. Earlier this week I attempted a video Q&A session; it didn’t go well. Given that medium isn’t my forte, I’m hardly surprised. Looking to provide value and accomplish a similar goal, the focus turned to a mailbag instead. Sourcing questions from readers and followers on Twitter, there should be a very good sample of talking points here. Without delay, let’s dive in. If you aren’t interested in ponying up for a player’s 1st Bowman card (autograph or otherwise) the next best thing value wise would be considered their first Topps Chrome autograph. Kirilloff isn’t going to be in Series 1 Flagship, instead debuting in Series 2. He should have Chrome autos in 2021, so waiting for those to drop would be the next best thing. Obviously the most economical route will be his Series 2 base card (or any number of the parallels). Hobby shops, along with a handful of online breakers, were how I got back into cards. Luckily, we have a handful of options in the Twin Cities area. My go to is Pal’s in Andover, but Real Breaks in Champlin has emerged as a new favorite as well. There’s a store in Golden Valley, and an option down near Woodbury. 2Bros is in Northtown Mall in Blaine, and Three Stars has locations in Bloomington and Little Canada. Hobby shops have the allure of immediate product, and many also sell singles for you to peruse through. There’s also the excitement or joy of just being in that type of environment with like-minded collectors as well. I have started to downsize my collection for a more focused approach. I only collect Twins, Mike Trout, and Shohei Ohtani. Rather than stockpiling a bunch of base cards I rarely look through, I wanted to make sure I could appreciate what I have. That process worked backwards too in that I had some very nice cards I didn’t display, and them sitting in a box wasn’t desirable to me. I have a new space I am going to be outfitting soon, so we’ll see how things display when I’m done. Checking for retail has literally become a crapshoot. Pretty much any time I walk into Target or Walmart I’ll look and anticipate finding nothing. People have connections with distributors or simply wait for product to be put on the shelves. Wax isn’t that important to me since my PC is so narrowly focused. When I open, most of what I pull gets sold anyways. If I’m jonesing to rip something, I typically hit up a hobby shop. That’s tough as I’ve not heard of water getting into a slab before. However, it’s probably a good reminder about buying the card rather than the grade. In this situation it’s free so you win either way, but not all examples of cards at the same grade have the same appeal. I’ve kicked around buying a 1986 Fleer Jordan in a PSA 1 for a while but wanting the right one to move me before I actually make the purchase. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  4. Looking to stretch the winning streak to seven games, the Minnesota Twins came up just short in their final contest with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now onto another cellar dweller in the Kansas City Royals, Rocco Baldelli’s club faces another series with ample opportunity to bolster the number in the win column.Last Night's Game Recap PIT 6, MIN 5: Taylor Rogers Blows Save, Win Streak Snapped Today: Minnesota @ Kansas City Royals, 7:05 PM CT Betting Lines: MIN -155, O/U 9.5 Twins Starter: Devin Smeltzer, LHP 1-0 11.57 ERA Tonight is Smeltzer’s first start of the year as he’s worked as a bulk reliever for his two outings on the season. In six starts a year ago he posted a 4.11 ERA and allowed a .704 OPS to opposing hitters. While his ERA registered at just 3.44 when working in relief for the 2019 Twins, opponents OPS was nearly 200 points higher at .898. Smelter may be fond of Kansas City as they provided his first Major League win. When facing them at Target Field on August 4, 2019 he went 6.0 IP allowing no runs on just two hits while fanning four and walking one. Download attachment: Smeltzer.PNG The prototypical profile of a soft-tossing lefty, Smeltzer’s 89 mph average on the fastball won’t blow anyone away. His primary second pitch is the curveball, and it’s there that he looks for punchouts. He’s been a high strikeout guy in the minors and generated 7.0 K/9 last year as a rookie. The homer is his bugaboo and if he can avoid some of the Royals boppers tonight should go well for him. Royals Starter: Jakob Junis, RHP 0-0 4.15 ERA Junis has made just one appearance this season and it was a start against the Chicago White Sox. He lasted just 4.1 IP during that one and ceded two runs on six hits. Now in his fourth Major League season, the book has all but been written on Junis given the consistency he’s shown year over year. Download attachment: Junis.PNG You can pencil him in for an ERA in the mid fours, and it’ll be complimented by a modest walk and strikeout rate. He’s been an innings eater of sorts throwing over 170 IP in each of the past two years for Kansas City. Where the biggest opportunity for opponents against Junis comes is launching the longball. He’s never allowed less than 1.4 HR/9 and was up to 1.6 HR/9 each of the past two seasons. Lefties had substantially more success against him last year, though the power numbers came from both sides of the plate. Kansas City knocked the Chicago Cubs around for 13 runs last night so it will be interesting to see if the bats have any runs support left in them. Lineup News & Notes - The St. Louis Cardinals return to the field today following their COVID-19 outbreak. It’s the first time they’ll have played a game since July 29, and the first time all 30 teams are active and healthy since the Marlins outbreak on July 26. UPDATE: More positives for the Cardinals, so no full slate tonight and St. Louis has a postponed game today. - Shohei Ohtani returned to the lineup for the Los Angeles Angels following the MRI revealing a forearm injury that will keep him off the mound for the rest of 2020. He homered. - Today, Mike Trout turns 29. At 74.0 fWAR he’s already posted the 46th highest mark in MLB history. What comes from here is anyone’s guess but it’s clear we’re watching one of the best ever. Around the AL Central CLE 13, CIN 0 KCR 13, CHC 2 MIL 8, CHW 3 1. MIN 10-3 (+29 run differential) 2. CLE 8-6 (+17) 3. CWS 7-6 (+2) 4. DET 5-5 (-11) 5. KCR 4-10 (-11) Click here to view the article
  5. Last Night's Game Recap PIT 6, MIN 5: Taylor Rogers Blows Save, Win Streak Snapped Today: Minnesota @ Kansas City Royals, 7:05 PM CT Betting Lines: MIN -155, O/U 9.5 Twins Starter: Devin Smeltzer, LHP 1-0 11.57 ERA Tonight is Smeltzer’s first start of the year as he’s worked as a bulk reliever for his two outings on the season. In six starts a year ago he posted a 4.11 ERA and allowed a .704 OPS to opposing hitters. While his ERA registered at just 3.44 when working in relief for the 2019 Twins, opponents OPS was nearly 200 points higher at .898. Smelter may be fond of Kansas City as they provided his first Major League win. When facing them at Target Field on August 4, 2019 he went 6.0 IP allowing no runs on just two hits while fanning four and walking one. The prototypical profile of a soft-tossing lefty, Smeltzer’s 89 mph average on the fastball won’t blow anyone away. His primary second pitch is the curveball, and it’s there that he looks for punchouts. He’s been a high strikeout guy in the minors and generated 7.0 K/9 last year as a rookie. The homer is his bugaboo and if he can avoid some of the Royals boppers tonight should go well for him. Royals Starter: Jakob Junis, RHP 0-0 4.15 ERA Junis has made just one appearance this season and it was a start against the Chicago White Sox. He lasted just 4.1 IP during that one and ceded two runs on six hits. Now in his fourth Major League season, the book has all but been written on Junis given the consistency he’s shown year over year. You can pencil him in for an ERA in the mid fours, and it’ll be complimented by a modest walk and strikeout rate. He’s been an innings eater of sorts throwing over 170 IP in each of the past two years for Kansas City. Where the biggest opportunity for opponents against Junis comes is launching the longball. He’s never allowed less than 1.4 HR/9 and was up to 1.6 HR/9 each of the past two seasons. Lefties had substantially more success against him last year, though the power numbers came from both sides of the plate. Kansas City knocked the Chicago Cubs around for 13 runs last night so it will be interesting to see if the bats have any runs support left in them. Lineup News & Notes - The St. Louis Cardinals return to the field today following their COVID-19 outbreak. It’s the first time they’ll have played a game since July 29, and the first time all 30 teams are active and healthy since the Marlins outbreak on July 26. UPDATE: More positives for the Cardinals, so no full slate tonight and St. Louis has a postponed game today. https://twitter.com/markasaxon/status/1291780266684559360 - Shohei Ohtani returned to the lineup for the Los Angeles Angels following the MRI revealing a forearm injury that will keep him off the mound for the rest of 2020. He homered. https://twitter.com/Angels/status/1291472127955091457 - Today, Mike Trout turns 29. At 74.0 fWAR he’s already posted the 46th highest mark in MLB history. What comes from here is anyone’s guess but it’s clear we’re watching one of the best ever. Around the AL Central CLE 13, CIN 0 KCR 13, CHC 2 MIL 8, CHW 3 1. MIN 10-3 (+29 run differential) 2. CLE 8-6 (+17) 3. CWS 7-6 (+2) 4. DET 5-5 (-11) 5. KCR 4-10 (-11)
  6. Coming in as a first round pick, Luke was a highly sought-after prospect out of Georgia Tech. His brother had established himself as an elite setup man, and Minnesota hoped they found someone cut from a similar cloth. Luke’s best season in the Twins organization was unquestionably 2017 when he owned a 2.76 ERA and 13.6 K/9 at Double and Triple-A. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be given an opportunity at the big-league level that year and never debuted in Minnesota. 2018 followed with his first big league action coming for the Los Angeles Angels, and it was followed by 49 innings of solid work a year ago. As he embarks on his third Major League season, there’s plenty of excitement both for and around him this year. His brother Daniel, who last pitched in the majors seven years ago has made the Colorado Rockies Opening Day roster. Luke calls guys like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani teammates. On his own, he’ll be looking to bolster a bullpen that has World Series aspirations in a division chasing down the Houston Astros. Catching up with him before the season starts, I wanted to pick his brain on a handful of different topics: Twins Daily: Take us back to 2012. You're drafted in 42nd overall by the Twins out of Georgia Tech, you've got a brother in the big leagues, and jumped up 15 rounds from your high school selection. What's going through your head and how much do you have to prove? Luke Bard: It really was a dream come true. I think all players coming out of college don’t realize how tough professional baseball is. The season is three times longer, strike zones are smaller, and hitters are just better. Having had a brother make it to the big leagues so quickly with immediate success maybe made me have too high of expectations on myself. Injuries certainly did not help but there is definitely a lot to prove baseball wise from the time you’re drafted to the time you are ready to be in the big leagues. I’ve learned that lesson over the years and am grateful to still be doing what I love. TD: Fast forward to 2017 and you are at Double-A Chattanooga striking out everyone. You put up great numbers and earned a promotion to Triple-A. The Twins were in contention that year, but any resentment or disappointment you didn't get to debut with your drafting organization? LB: I had always envisioned myself playing in the major leagues for the Twins, but God had other plans. After the 2017 season I felt pretty confident I could pitch in the big leagues. When I wasn’t put on the 40-man roster that offseason I was pretty disappointed but was equally as excited when the Angels gave me a chance. Having been with Los Angeles for my 3rd season now I can’t imagine being anywhere else. TD: You've now pitched in the majors for two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. What has the difference been like between the organizations, and how has your approach and game changed facing the best of the best on a nightly basis? LB: I will always be grateful to the Angels for believing in me and giving me a shot. I have really enjoyed my time here and can’t say enough good things about everyone in the organization and the culture they’ve created. The big leagues are tough though, and you can do everything right but still fail. It’s about finding ways to be consistent, durable, and competitive every outing for 162 games. It’s definitely a grind but that’s what makes it so enjoyable. TD: Speaking of the Angels, what's it like to have a front row seat to Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Are we watching the best ever, and the closest thing to a Babe Ruth comparison in today's game? LB: I probably take it for granted because I just see them as regular guys. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t awesome. Definitely something I will tell my grandkids about one day. TD: I know you're a dad and have a family so going back to the game in weird circumstances is undoubtedly tough during 2020. How did you stay sharp during the layoff, and how do you expect the 60-game sprint to change how you both prepare and contribute this season? LB: Unfortunately, I am away from my family right now with all the Covid issues. I miss them like crazy but am glad it’s just for 60 games. Thank God for FaceTime. I’m sure teams will go to the bullpen early if need be similar to playoff games. I hope the shorter season will make games even more intense and I think it could be just what baseball needs from a fan’s perspective. TD: Your brother just made the Colorado Rockies Opening Day roster after having not pitched in the big leagues since 2013 as a 28-year-old. What is that like for you as a fan of his, and how did he get back? LB: To say I’m proud would be an understatement. He’s been through hell and back baseball wise and is still here seven years later competing on the biggest stage. The determination he’s shown is unmatched and somebody needs to make a movie about it haha. TD: Let's wrap with this, what do you see as the best avenue for you to take the next step in 2020, and what are you looking forward to in a season that will be rivaled by none other? LB: I think just getting a defined role that I can settle into would help me. Other than that, just execute when called upon. At the end of the day it’s usually the guy that executes better that wins. It is easier said than done but makes for a simple way to look at it. I’m looking forward to hopefully playing playoff baseball. We’ve got a great team with some of the game’s biggest stars and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. The Twins 2020 schedule was only released last week and now MLB has released the 2021 schedule with the thought that teams will be able to play 162-games. This might be a big assumption on the part of MLB because it will like only happen, if there is a widely available COVID-19 vaccine. The current season is in jeopardy because of the current state of our nation. However, let’s take a dive into the 2021 season and see what it could mean for your potential 2020 World Series Champions and their chances for a repeat.Minnesota is scheduled to start the season on a six-game road trip with three games in Milwaukee and Detroit. This allows for the Twins to open at home as part of a three-game series versus Seattle on April 8. The Twins than face off against the Red Sox for four games before heading to the West Coast for six games split between the Angels and the Athletics. From there the Twins have a tough stretch in June with a back-to-back series with the Yankees and the Astros from June 8-13. Some other important series include the an interleague series with the Reds from June 21-22. Then in June, the Angles and Mike Trout, the best player of all-time, come back to Minneapolis for three games (July 22-25). The end of August also provides a critical part of the schedule against National League foes. After starting the year in Milwaukee, the Twins will face-off with the Brewers for three games in Minnesota. Milwaukee is going to be a strong team in 2020 and this could continue in 2021. At the end of August, Minnesota is scheduled to play the Cubs at Target Field. Obviously, there are plenty of important series against other AL Central squads. That being said, there are plenty of questions about what the future might hold for baseball. Will Cleveland continue to trade away pieces? How will the White Sox adjust to being contenders? Are the Royals and the Tigers going to rise in the years to come? 2021 Important Dates: Opening Day: April 1 at Milwaukee Home Opener: April 8 vs. Seattle Trout Visits MN: July 22-25 Milwaukee at MN: August 27-29 Cubs at MN: August 31- September 1 Last Home Series: Tigers from September 28-30 Final Series: Twins @ Royals on October 1-3 Do you think the Twins will play a full schedule in 2021? What could change for the Twins before the 2021 season begins? 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
  8. Minnesota is scheduled to start the season on a six-game road trip with three games in Milwaukee and Detroit. This allows for the Twins to open at home as part of a three-game series versus Seattle on April 8. The Twins than face off against the Red Sox for four games before heading to the West Coast for six games split between the Angels and the Athletics. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1281273260517339136?s=20 From there the Twins have a tough stretch in June with a back-to-back series with the Yankees and the Astros from June 8-13. Some other important series include the an interleague series with the Reds from June 21-22. Then in June, the Angles and Mike Trout, the best player of all-time, come back to Minneapolis for three games (July 22-25). The end of August also provides a critical part of the schedule against National League foes. After starting the year in Milwaukee, the Twins will face-off with the Brewers for three games in Minnesota. Milwaukee is going to be a strong team in 2020 and this could continue in 2021. At the end of August, Minnesota is scheduled to play the Cubs at Target Field. Obviously, there are plenty of important series against other AL Central squads. That being said, there are plenty of questions about what the future might hold for baseball. Will Cleveland continue to trade away pieces? How will the White Sox adjust to being contenders? Are the Royals and the Tigers going to rise in the years to come? 2021 Important Dates: Opening Day: April 1 at Milwaukee Home Opener: April 8 vs. Seattle Trout Visits MN: July 22-25 Milwaukee at MN: August 27-29 Cubs at MN: August 31- September 1 Last Home Series: Tigers from September 28-30 Final Series: Twins @ Royals on October 1-3 Do you think the Twins will play a full schedule in 2021? What could change for the Twins before the 2021 season begins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. During this global pandemic one thing that has seen a massive boost in the sports world is collectibles, or trading cards, affectionately categorized as The Hobby. With something for everyone, and fans of every sport, your bound to find a way to pique your interest. In the modern baseball world, the Angels outfielder is king, and Mike Trout did it again over the weekend. As the unquestioned best player in the game today, Trout holds a special place at the top of the modern baseball card collecting ranks. His base cards transcend “common” status, and his rarer pieces fetch exorbitant prices. It’s the 2011 Topps Update that has become his iconic rookie issue, but some of the prospect cards, namely the 2009 Bowman Chrome Autograph, have driven the market bonkers. Back in 2018 the eccentric Dave “Vegas Dave” Oancea grabbed Mike Trout’s 2009 Bowman Chrome Superfractor 1/1 autograph for a cool $400,000. He noted having turned down offers near $1 million and said he was sitting on it until a $5 million offer came through. You’ll have to excuse his crass nature in the video, but it appears his statements aren’t nearly as outlandish as one may have assumed. On Sunday night a 2009 Bowman Chrome Red /5 Autograph of Trout’s wrapped up through Ken Goldin’s auction house. That card brought in $525,000 and obviously doesn’t reach the same height as a 1/1. Assuming the red that was sold wasn’t Oancea’s, he too owns one of those cards as well as a handful of the orange version numbered to 25. To say the man is sitting on a mountain of Mike Trout moola is probably putting it lightly. This explosion isn’t just in a single card though. ESPN’s The Last Dance brought tons of buyers for Michael Jordan cards out of the woodwork. Trout’s standard base issue 2011 Update has gone from a $500 card last February to a $3,000 card today. Topps has been rolling out limited print to order Project 2020 cards with different artists and the early offerings are now in such demand the price exponentially multiples on the secondary market before each card even gets into the hands of collectors. You should never view pieces of cardboard as an investment similar to that of a stock or bond. However, classifying trading cards as pieces of cardboard is also severely missing the point if you know what you’re looking for. The return is not there for every purchase, but it’s become more than clear the hobby has a place in today’s current culture and it certainly looks like it will be here to stay. Only a select few people are interested in buying a baseball card selling for north of $500,000, but you can bet that number grows in multiples as you back off the buy in, and there’s lots of fun to be had at any level. Mike Trout, Michael Jordan, or whoever is the next big thing, you can bet their faces on cardboard will attract plenty of fans. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  10. I’m doing this a bit earlier than normal this year, and that could wind up being a silly decision depending on injuries and how Spring Training plays out. Regardless, we aren’t sitting on a slew of unsigned talent in early March, and I’m confident with the look of many big-league squads going into 2020 at this point. Let’s hand out some hardware. The Washington Nationals will head into the season looking to defend their World Series trophy. That hasn’t been successfully accomplished in 20 years, since the New York Yankees ripped off three in a row. I don’t see that trend changing in 2020, and that should be an exciting reality for baseball fans. The sport has never seen so many young superstars, and the landscape of the league’s best is once again shifting. Here's what I had going into 2019. I got a couple of the awards right, and nailed the World Series, but ultimately came up just short of getting the winner. MVP: American League – Mike Trout (Dark Horse Gleyber Torres) National League – Bryce Harper (Dark Horse Kris Bryant) Until further notice, Mike Trout is the selection in the American League. He’s not only the greatest player in the game right now, but very well could be the best we’ve ever seen do it. There isn’t a hole in his game, and he seems to find ways to take another step forward each year. The Angels star now has a more loaded lineup around him and will look to get back to playing 150+ games. Generating 10+ fWAR for the first time since 2013 seems like a good bet. After signing the massive deal with the Phillies, Bryce Harper had somewhat of a disappointing season. You’ll certainly take an .882 OPS any day of the week however, and now acclimated entering his age-27 campaign, a jump back up to a 1.000+ OPS is something I’m comfortable with. Marry the last two years patience and production to generate something that should be near the total package. On the dark horse side, it’s more about what I like in each situation as opposed to legitimate threats to the actual award. Gleyber looks like an absolute superstar, and the Yankees are already going to be leaning on him heavily. Bryant has been plagued by injuries and underwhelming narratives, but he’s still coming off a .903 OPS. I don’t know what the Cubs will do, but he’ll stir that drink for sure. Cy Young: American League – Gerrit Cole (Dark Horse Jose Berrios) National League – Walker Buehler (Dark horse Jack Flaherty) Switching teams worked out well for Cole the last time he did it, and there’s no reason to expect his dominance to fade in New York. He’s pitched in a hitter’s ballpark before, and the Yankees rotation will count on him heavily. I tabbed Buehler as the pick last year in the National League, and I might have been just a year early. He finished with the 4th best fWAR and could certainly catch the two Nationals arms in the 2020 season. This is still Jacob deGrom’s title to lose, but I like the Dodgers ace. Maybe recycling Jose Berrios as a dark horse here isn’t fair, but he’s truly so close. A strong finish to his 2019 would’ve have him in a much better position, and he still finished 7th among AL starters in terms of fWAR. Minnesota is going to make noise again, and he should be expected to lead the rotation. If you’ve watched the Cardinals at all then there’s nothing under-the-radar about Flaherty. He’s a stud and emerging as one of baseball’s best arms. He mixed into the tier right below elite territory last year, but another step forward would have him second to no one. Rookie of the Year: American League – Luis Robert (Dark Horse Jo Adell) National League – Gavin Lux (Dark Horse Mitch Keller) One of the chief requirements in garnering Rookie of the Year consideration is playing time, and Luis Robert will have that on his side. He’s an uber-prospect and will be with the White Sox from the jump. I’d expect some growing pains, but there’s too much talent not to side with the favorite in the AL. Lux made his debut last season for the Dodgers and will be unleashed fully in 2020. He’s a middle infield stud and should have little issue producing with a star-studded lineup around him. Back to that playing time issue, which is the only reason I don’t like Adell over Robert. I think the Angels start their outfield prospect in the minors and holding him out for a month or two could make the counting stats lag behind. He looks the part of a worth specimen to play in a Mike Trout led outfield, and you can bet he’ll hold his own. Keller’s big-league career began ugly with the Pirates last year, but he’s far too talented to continue going down that road. He still has rookie eligibility and should use the lessons from 2019 to establish himself as a very good arm for Derek Shelton’s squad. Postseason: American League- Yankees, Twins, Astros Wild Card – Angels, Rays National League- Braves, Cubs, Dodgers Wild Card – Reds, Nationals ALCS – Twins over Yankees NLDS – Dodgers over Braves World Series – Dodgers over Twins This probably comes off looking like a homer pick, but the Twins showed they’re for real last year. Sure, they didn’t hit in a three-game sample size against New York, but this is a team that will win less regular season games and ultimately be better positioned in the Postseason. Both New York and Houston are going to be very good, but losing Severino is a big blow, while the Astros are eventually going to be squashed by the scrutiny. One of the most interesting teams in the AL this year should be the Angels. On the National League side, it’s hard to look away from the talent Atlanta has throughout the lineup. Acuna is established, but I think Albies is the guy that takes another step forward. That division will be tightly contested, but I like Washington more than I’ll ever trust the Mets. Chicago is a complete wild card, and Cincinnati is one of those “won the offseason” clubs. It all comes down to how good the Dodgers are, and the only definition needed there is “very.” Los Angeles has come up short two of the past three years. That ends in 2020 regardless of who is across the diamond. Mookie Betts wasn’t even a necessary addition, but with him in the mix, they’ll be an unstoppable force come October. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  11. The Twins Trade: Byron Buxton, Royce Lewis, and Alex Kiriloff The Twins Receive: Mike Trout and Albert Pujols Why the Angels do it--they get out from under $66M in salary this year, and $67M next year. If they use that space to sign Cole and Rendon, they can add 15-20 WAR to the 2020 team (when Buxton is included), while only giving up 8-10 WAR, and all for about the same cost. Not to mention they catapult their farm system into the top 5, with 3 near MLB ready hitters. Why the Angels don't do it--they give up the franchise icon, who may be the best player in baseball history, at the height of his powers. Why the Twins do it--the 101 win 2019 team loses less than 3 WAR, while picking up 8-10. An Arraez/Cruz/Trout/Kepler/Garver/Sano/Polanco Top 7 of the lineup is as good as anything in baseball. With 4 first division regulars (Kepler/Polanco/Garver/Arraez) under contract for (probably) $11M, $16M, $22M, and $35M over the next 4 years, you can afford to stomach the two massive contracts, particularly since Pujols' deal expires after 2021. Butts in seats. Why the Twins don't do it--the Twins and $300M contracts don't really go together. While Pujols only has two years left, it's two years of negative value for a team trying to win now. It leaves little to no money for pitching, which means at best one of Odorizzi and Pineda--if at least 2 of the Graterol/Balazovic/Thorpe/Dobnak/Smeltzer group can't become good MLB starters, the Twins will lose a lot of 9-8 ballgames.
  12. While covering the Minnesota Twins this season, I’ve also made sure to include a brief foray into some additional was the game of baseball is enjoyed. Posted typically at Off the Baggy, or accessible in the Twins Daily blog section, a series on Topps baseball card offerings has been a long running topic. Gone are the years of the junk wax era in which cards became overproduced and less valuable than the cardstock they were printed on. We now are in a place where “The Hobby” as it’s affectionally known, is as much an investing market as it is a booming collectors haven.Twins Daily contributor Jamie Cameron sparked this discussion when he tweeted something that caught my eye last week. Baseball cards have expanded into a much larger industry than simply going into your local retail store and grabbing a wax pack. With someone genuinely curious and questions at hand, it seemed a great opportunity to dissect where the industry is as it stands today. Timing for this piece couldn’t be better either. Starting Wednesday and running through Sunday, The National (The National Sports Collectors Convention) is taking place just outside of Chicago, Illinois. A yearly event each summer (that swaps between Chicago, Atlantic City, and Cleveland), The National is the epicenter of the collecting universe and offers an endless supply of cardboard dreams. Setting the stage for Jamie’s questions, he denotes his background being born and raised in the United Kingdom. Having been in the Twin Cities for roughly 15 years now, baseball has always been a passion of his. He doesn’t have the childhood memories of card collecting however, and as stated earlier, the game has changed significantly since then. Here’s what he wanted to know. How did you get into collecting? As a kid or an adult? I found myself collecting cards as a kid, seeing it as an inexpensive way to connect with athletes I enjoyed. My parents would often be ok with a pack or two from the local retail store when we stopped in on occasion. By my teenage years I had a couple binders full of early late 90’s and early 2000’s sports cards that I no longer cared about. Eventually they were parted with at a garage sale I would imagine. Getting back into the hobby in late 2016, I found myself stumbling into what is known as a “break room” (where groups of people buy into a product and split cards). Having always enjoyed decorating and displaying memorabilia in my basement, cards represented an avenue to capture moments and collect objects of a bit smaller physical footprint. How do you purchase products? Packs from a store, direct from dealers, or something else? The two main avenues are your retail stores such as Target or Walmart, and hobby shops. Hobby shops are designated by the term LCS (local card store). They aren’t nearly as plentiful as they may have been years ago, but many larger cities have one. Whether specializing in cards, comics, or some other collectible, they get what is known as hobby products. These boxes and packs may have different offerings in them to incentivize consumer from buying there. Retail options include more cost-effective offerings. While hobby boxes at an LCS can run from $50 all the way into the $1,000’s, smaller blaster boxes, fat packs, hanger boxes, and single packs can all be had at a retail store for $20 or less. If there’s no LCS in sight retail becomes the lone option. It’s a great place to dip your feet in. Just be aware that the individually wrapped packs could be picked over like the best offerings in the produce aisle. What are the best brands? What determines that? There are really only three baseball card manufacturers, and only two of them are the major players. Topps is the lone company with an MLB license and that makes them the premium product. Panini is a football first company, and while they are licensed with the MLBPA, the lack of MLB license means there’s no logos or team names on any of their cards. Leaf is another offering while being unlicensed as well. Although Panini does make some very visually appealing cards, value is always at its highest with Topps. How much time and money do people put into collecting? As with any hobby this is going to have a ridiculously wide range. Collecting anything is obviously a personal adventure. Some people collect single players or teams, while others look at cards as an investment vehicle. Those investing typically trend towards prospects or vintage cards, and the time is a large component as you must study the market and make sure you’re targeting the players with the best present and future ROI. A player or team collector may simply want each card of whoever they’re after, and sites like eBay and Comc (Check Out My Cards) provide a very quick way to grab and go. From a monetary standpoint, you can land all over the board. Topps alone puts out something like 25 different products each year. You can find a new release calendar at a site like Cardboard Connection in order to keep track. The bulk of those products cost $200 or less, while a small minority can get over $1,000. Each product has significant “hits” or desirable cards that, on the secondary market, can fetch hundreds to tens of thousands. The level of buy in is again up to the collector. What’s your favorite card? Why? Too difficult to chose just one, so I’ll go with two. I collect Minnesota Twins cards and have smaller collections of both Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. There are some really nice cards in my Twins PC (personal collection, which you can view here), but it’s two Trout cards that stick out for me. The first is a 2018 Topps Heritage Relic Autograph /25 that I pulled from a blaster box. Purchasing a $20 retail offering from Target and hitting something like this is like winning the lottery. I was stunned and it’s a card I’ll almost certainly never sell. Having been back into collecting for roughly three years now, I have added some higher end cards of the players I really like. Mike Trout is trending towards the greatest player baseball has ever seen, and his rookie card market is reflective of that. A non-descript card few thought twice of seven or eight years ago, it’s now the must have subject of the modern era. PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator- a third party grading company) graded copies of the card in a Gem Mint 10 went for roughly $500 as recently as this winter. They are now worth near or over $1,000 and continue to rise. My wife surprised me with one for our five-year wedding anniversary in February. Download attachment: Capture.PNG What do you get from it? Overall, why is this a hobby for you? Personally, I find it as a connection to differing passions. I have always been artistically inclined, and love looking at the photography and designs these companies continue to put out while tying in a sport I enjoy. The thrill of pulling an autograph or hit, as well as the fun in buying the next cool card to hang onto is something I’ve gotten behind. I’m not interested in the investment side of the hobby or looking to make money, so grabbing what I like is much easier without worrying what the return or loss may be. I find myself continually going back to look through cards in my collection. Reminiscing on players or events that were depicted is fun, and not looking through them on a consistent basis lends to a thrill of excitement each time I peruse what I have. Displaying some of my collection has made for neat memorabilia showcases in my house, but a further connection to the game of baseball is really what it’s about for me. This is obviously far from all encompassing, and there’s certainly more nuanced questions about the hobby, and collecting in general, to be asked. Do you have a collection to show off? Do you have questions to ask? Anything else you’d like to know? Feel free to share in the comments below. Click here to view the article
  13. Twins Daily contributor Jamie Cameron sparked this discussion when he tweeted something that caught my eye last week. Baseball cards have expanded into a much larger industry than simply going into your local retail store and grabbing a wax pack. With someone genuinely curious and questions at hand, it seemed a great opportunity to dissect where the industry is as it stands today. Timing for this piece couldn’t be better either. Starting Wednesday and running through Sunday, The National (The National Sports Collectors Convention) is taking place just outside of Chicago, Illinois. A yearly event each summer (that swaps between Chicago, Atlantic City, and Cleveland), The National is the epicenter of the collecting universe and offers an endless supply of cardboard dreams. Setting the stage for Jamie’s questions, he denotes his background being born and raised in the United Kingdom. Having been in the Twin Cities for roughly 15 years now, baseball has always been a passion of his. He doesn’t have the childhood memories of card collecting however, and as stated earlier, the game has changed significantly since then. Here’s what he wanted to know. How did you get into collecting? As a kid or an adult? I found myself collecting cards as a kid, seeing it as an inexpensive way to connect with athletes I enjoyed. My parents would often be ok with a pack or two from the local retail store when we stopped in on occasion. By my teenage years I had a couple binders full of early late 90’s and early 2000’s sports cards that I no longer cared about. Eventually they were parted with at a garage sale I would imagine. Getting back into the hobby in late 2016, I found myself stumbling into what is known as a “break room” (where groups of people buy into a product and split cards). Having always enjoyed decorating and displaying memorabilia in my basement, cards represented an avenue to capture moments and collect objects of a bit smaller physical footprint. How do you purchase products? Packs from a store, direct from dealers, or something else? The two main avenues are your retail stores such as Target or Walmart, and hobby shops. Hobby shops are designated by the term LCS (local card store). They aren’t nearly as plentiful as they may have been years ago, but many larger cities have one. Whether specializing in cards, comics, or some other collectible, they get what is known as hobby products. These boxes and packs may have different offerings in them to incentivize consumer from buying there. Retail options include more cost-effective offerings. While hobby boxes at an LCS can run from $50 all the way into the $1,000’s, smaller blaster boxes, fat packs, hanger boxes, and single packs can all be had at a retail store for $20 or less. If there’s no LCS in sight retail becomes the lone option. It’s a great place to dip your feet in. Just be aware that the individually wrapped packs could be picked over like the best offerings in the produce aisle. What are the best brands? What determines that? There are really only three baseball card manufacturers, and only two of them are the major players. Topps is the lone company with an MLB license and that makes them the premium product. Panini is a football first company, and while they are licensed with the MLBPA, the lack of MLB license means there’s no logos or team names on any of their cards. Leaf is another offering while being unlicensed as well. Although Panini does make some very visually appealing cards, value is always at its highest with Topps. How much time and money do people put into collecting? As with any hobby this is going to have a ridiculously wide range. Collecting anything is obviously a personal adventure. Some people collect single players or teams, while others look at cards as an investment vehicle. Those investing typically trend towards prospects or vintage cards, and the time is a large component as you must study the market and make sure you’re targeting the players with the best present and future ROI. A player or team collector may simply want each card of whoever they’re after, and sites like eBay and Comc (Check Out My Cards) provide a very quick way to grab and go. From a monetary standpoint, you can land all over the board. Topps alone puts out something like 25 different products each year. You can find a new release calendar at a site like Cardboard Connection in order to keep track. The bulk of those products cost $200 or less, while a small minority can get over $1,000. Each product has significant “hits” or desirable cards that, on the secondary market, can fetch hundreds to tens of thousands. The level of buy in is again up to the collector. What’s your favorite card? Why? Too difficult to chose just one, so I’ll go with two. I collect Minnesota Twins cards and have smaller collections of both Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. There are some really nice cards in my Twins PC (personal collection, which you can view here), but it’s two Trout cards that stick out for me. The first is a 2018 Topps Heritage Relic Autograph /25 that I pulled from a blaster box. Purchasing a $20 retail offering from Target and hitting something like this is like winning the lottery. I was stunned and it’s a card I’ll almost certainly never sell. https://twitter.com/tlschwerz/status/971119224080003073 Having been back into collecting for roughly three years now, I have added some higher end cards of the players I really like. Mike Trout is trending towards the greatest player baseball has ever seen, and his rookie card market is reflective of that. A non-descript card few thought twice of seven or eight years ago, it’s now the must have subject of the modern era. PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator- a third party grading company) graded copies of the card in a Gem Mint 10 went for roughly $500 as recently as this winter. They are now worth near or over $1,000 and continue to rise. My wife surprised me with one for our five-year wedding anniversary in February. What do you get from it? Overall, why is this a hobby for you? Personally, I find it as a connection to differing passions. I have always been artistically inclined, and love looking at the photography and designs these companies continue to put out while tying in a sport I enjoy. The thrill of pulling an autograph or hit, as well as the fun in buying the next cool card to hang onto is something I’ve gotten behind. I’m not interested in the investment side of the hobby or looking to make money, so grabbing what I like is much easier without worrying what the return or loss may be. I find myself continually going back to look through cards in my collection. Reminiscing on players or events that were depicted is fun, and not looking through them on a consistent basis lends to a thrill of excitement each time I peruse what I have. Displaying some of my collection has made for neat memorabilia showcases in my house, but a further connection to the game of baseball is really what it’s about for me. This is obviously far from all encompassing, and there’s certainly more nuanced questions about the hobby, and collecting in general, to be asked. Do you have a collection to show off? Do you have questions to ask? Anything else you’d like to know? Feel free to share in the comments below.
  14. There is no denying that Miguel Sano hasn't been clicking on all cylinders.This season, Sano has approximately one portion of the zone in which his swing does damage. See if you can pick that out. On balls that are thrown on the outer-third/middle-third section, Sano is hitting .579 with five home runs. It is absolutely crazy that teams still manage to pour a pitch or two in that area every couple of games -- just like the Royals did twice this past series -- but it happens because Sano’s largest swing holes happen to be a section above or a section below that spot. Let's start by discussing his inefficiencies above that spot. Sano’s swing path is highly susceptible to fastballs up in the zone. With the increasing emphasis on high spin fastballs, it is no surprise that teams have gone upstairs on him. In two-strike counts this year, Sano has swung-and-missed at 90 percent of fastballs. That’s helpless territory. So what can the big man do to fill this swing hole that can be seen from space? The first is simply learn to lay off that pitch. To Sano’s credit, he has actually decreased the amount of swings at fastballs up in the zone over his previous years. Early in the count he spits on those pitches, swinging at only a quarter whereas in the past, there was a 50-50 chance that he would take a hack. Contrary to what you might have heard on the local broadcasts, umpires are actually not calling more strikes on fastballs up in the zone. In 2011, if you took an elevated fastball, there was a 23 percent chance it would be called a strike. So far in 2019 those fastballs have been called a strike 17 percent of the time, which is the lowest rate dating back to 2009. So there isn’t a grand umpire conspiracy to call more elevated fastballs strikes. Laying off more of those pitches is not going to advance the count in a pitcher’s favor. What’s more is that hitters in general have curbed their appetites for high fastballs as well, demonstrating a swing diet three percentage points lower this season than it was in 2017 when the Boston Red Sox pitching staff rode the elevated fastball to the American League’s second best ERA. Teams have started to use spin data to help hitters know when they should adjust their approach, swinging above the baseball when there’s a high spin hurler on the mound. They have also incorporated more high velocity pitching machines in batting practice that attempts to duplicate what they will face that night rather than facing a soft-tossing coach for on-field bee pee. So it is no surprise to see offenses starting to counter the attack. That being said, when hitters do offer at high fastballs, they are missing at a greater rate than ever before and Miguel Sano is no exception. Although he is swinging less frequently than he has in his career, he is swinging through more. Compared to last year, Sano swung and missed at 34 percent of elevated four-seamers. This year that’s at a grotesque 50 percent clip (and you will recall the sheer futility in the aforementioned two-strike situations). So far in 2019 Sano has opted for the path of least resistance -- not swinging at elevated fastballs, at least until it is imperative that he protect the zone. Given what he is currently working with, this is a decent option. Sano has what ill-informed broadcasters like to call a “launch angle swing” but, more accurately, Sano’s swing path is down-to-up trajectory that does a ton of damage on balls down in the zone. In his career, the big man holds a .698 slugging percentage against all fastball types in the lower third of the zone. At the top of the zone, pitchers have turned him into Drew Butera with a .287 slugging percentage. It is no surprise then to see that in a series versus Boston, frontrunners in the high fastball industry, Sano struck out 9 times in 15 plate appearances as the Red Sox pitchers threw 26 of their 41 fastballs in the upper third of the strike zone (he swung through 36 percent of those too). So while we can point to Sano’s swing path as a reason why he has trouble catching high fastballs on the barrel that doesn’t answer the question as to why he swings over breaking balls that actually bounce in a neighboring zip code. For anyone who follows PitchingNinja or Driveline coaches on Twitter knows, pitchers have some absolutely filthy stuff right now and, to make matters worse, they have also found ways to make it even more disgusting. The TrackMan data has helped pitchers tunnel pitches better. The high speed cameras and Rapsodo devices have helped add extra break. Hitters are completely outgunned. At the very least Major League Baseball has seemingly done the hitters a solid by tossing in a juiced ball to help even the playing field but pitchers have the development advantage. So there is an element of that behind Sano’s increased strikeout rate. There is also an element of simply telling Miguel Sano to go up there and be Miguel Sano -- the man who can crush monster second deck tanks. Rip the governor off and open it up. Chuck three pointers and don’t worry about the missed shots. Strikeouts be damned. But that’s not why Sano has trouble with his pitch selection. One issue that appears to be hindering him his timing mechanism in his mechanics. It is a main reason why he keeps getting beat on fastballs up, regardless of velocity. And it’s one of the factors behind his inability to lay off those acid-soaked breaking balls. Watch this clip of Sano next to teammate Nelson Cruz. Watch for where they get their hands to the launch point (where the bat starts firing forward). If you are stumped, here it is: What you will notice is that Cruz has his hands and bat in a position to fire forward before the 97-mile-per-hour fastball leaves Gerrit Cole’s fingers. It requires no extra travel from this point. This gives him additional time to read and react. Sano, on the other hand, brings his hands back to a spot when Ryan Braiser’s 97-mile-per-hour cheese is quickly approaching the plate. This means he has to make his decision to swing earlier -- before getting the right read on the spin. This is part of the reason why you see Sano swinging over so many breaking balls: out of the hand they look destined for that juicy lower third of the zone before *fart noises* vanishing. Furthermore, Sano has a rolling launch point, almost continually moving his hands which means that he will get beat on fastballs up as well as inside if he starts them late. As another example, consider Mike Trout. Admittedly, it is cheating to take the world’s greatest living hitter and say “do what he’s doing” but there are some existing components in Trout’s swing path that is similar to Sano’s. Both Trout and Sano share that down-to-up swing that decimates balls low in the zone. However, Trout has the ability to get to pitches up in the zone (although, like Sano, this year he’s spitting on more of them). Similar to Cruz, Trout gets his hands to the launch point early, giving him time to recognize the pitch and shut down his swing on things he doesn’t like. It’s difficult to tell hitters change their approach drastically in midseason -- especially when every one out of eleven at bats results in a home run. Still, it is not about a total overhaul, it’s making the right tweaks to improve deficiencies. This is something that just a few years ago, Jorge Polanco cleaned up and has since entered the land of ten thousand rakes. Prior to making that change, he had posted a .245/.296/.351 batting line in 147 games. Since taking the slack out of his drawback, Polanco has hit .308/.368/.502 over his last 204 games. Polanco had been blessed with world class bat-to-ball skills but this modification has allowed him to drive the ball. Another successful Twins convert of the reduced slack swing was Eduardo Escobar. Escobar modified his swing in 2017 which gave him the ability to better differentiate fastballs and breaking balls. From 2014 through 2016, Escobar produced a .626 OPS versus breaking balls with a 30 percent strikeout rate. From 2017 on, he’s posted a .815 OPS against breaking balls and reduced his strikeout rate to 25 percent. And he still hammers fastballs. Sano could be one of them. He could be like Polanco or Escobar. He could be a non-slacker. While the movement may seem minor, it takes a lot of muscle memory to commit that to the body. There are plenty of hitters too, like Sano, who have similar big pre-swing movements (Josh Donaldson comes to mind) but those hitters get their hands to the launch point sooner as well. The solution may not be to swing like Cruz, Polanco or Trout, it maybe simply get your hands moving earlier in the process. There is no question that Sano can hit a ton in his swing plane. His exit velocity on fastballs down in the zone is 98 miles per hour. But more teams are seeing the blueprints to getting him out -- avoid the lower portion of the zone. When or if the adjustments come, then maybe -- just maybe -- we can stop reading about Miguel Sano’s supposed failure as a player.
  15. When Miguel Sano first arrived in Minnesota in 2015, Twins team president Dave St. Peter said that fans “don't want to miss a Miguel Sano at-bat because you just never know what might happen, and at any given moment, he may hit a home run 500-plus feet. That's a trait very few players have.” In August 2015 during the Summer of Sano, the rookie bashed nine home runs, one dinger every 10.78 at bats. He also struck out in 38 percent of his plate appearances. Four seasons later, Sano still has that massive power. He has hit a home run in one out of every 11.67 at bats in 2019. He also has struck out in 42 percent of his plate appearances. From day one it’s an all-or-nothing approach for Sano but the narrative feels like it is trending more to the nothing. It does not have to be this way. Sano doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing hitter. Here's how he can move toward being a complete hitter.There is no denying that Miguel Sano hasn't been clicking on all cylinders.This season, Sano has approximately one portion of the zone in which his swing does damage. See if you can pick that out. Download attachment: trumedia_baseball_grid.png On balls that are thrown on the outer-third/middle-third section, Sano is hitting .579 with five home runs. It is absolutely crazy that teams still manage to pour a pitch or two in that area every couple of games -- just like the Royals did twice this past series -- but it happens because Sano’s largest swing holes happen to be a section above or a section below that spot. Let's start by discussing his inefficiencies above that spot. Sano’s swing path is highly susceptible to fastballs up in the zone. With the increasing emphasis on high spin fastballs, it is no surprise that teams have gone upstairs on him. In two-strike counts this year, Sano has swung-and-missed at 90 percent of fastballs. That’s helpless territory. So what can the big man do to fill this swing hole that can be seen from space? The first is simply learn to lay off that pitch. To Sano’s credit, he has actually decreased the amount of swings at fastballs up in the zone over his previous years. Early in the count he spits on those pitches, swinging at only a quarter whereas in the past, there was a 50-50 chance that he would take a hack. Contrary to what you might have heard on the local broadcasts, umpires are actually not calling more strikes on fastballs up in the zone. In 2011, if you took an elevated fastball, there was a 23 percent chance it would be called a strike. So far in 2019 those fastballs have been called a strike 17 percent of the time, which is the lowest rate dating back to 2009. So there isn’t a grand umpire conspiracy to call more elevated fastballs strikes. Laying off more of those pitches is not going to advance the count in a pitcher’s favor. What’s more is that hitters in general have curbed their appetites for high fastballs as well, demonstrating a swing diet three percentage points lower this season than it was in 2017 when the Boston Red Sox pitching staff rode the elevated fastball to the American League’s second best ERA. Teams have started to use spin data to help hitters know when they should adjust their approach, swinging above the baseball when there’s a high spin hurler on the mound. They have also incorporated more high velocity pitching machines in batting practice that attempts to duplicate what they will face that night rather than facing a soft-tossing coach for on-field bee pee. So it is no surprise to see offenses starting to counter the attack. That being said, when hitters do offer at high fastballs, they are missing at a greater rate than ever before and Miguel Sano is no exception. Although he is swinging less frequently than he has in his career, he is swinging through more. Compared to last year, Sano swung and missed at 34 percent of elevated four-seamers. This year that’s at a grotesque 50 percent clip (and you will recall the sheer futility in the aforementioned two-strike situations). So far in 2019 Sano has opted for the path of least resistance -- not swinging at elevated fastballs, at least until it is imperative that he protect the zone. Given what he is currently working with, this is a decent option. Sano has what ill-informed broadcasters like to call a “launch angle swing” but, more accurately, Sano’s swing path is down-to-up trajectory that does a ton of damage on balls down in the zone. In his career, the big man holds a .698 slugging percentage against all fastball types in the lower third of the zone. At the top of the zone, pitchers have turned him into Drew Butera with a .287 slugging percentage. It is no surprise then to see that in a series versus Boston, frontrunners in the high fastball industry, Sano struck out 9 times in 15 plate appearances as the Red Sox pitchers threw 26 of their 41 fastballs in the upper third of the strike zone (he swung through 36 percent of those too). So while we can point to Sano’s swing path as a reason why he has trouble catching high fastballs on the barrel that doesn’t answer the question as to why he swings over breaking balls that actually bounce in a neighboring zip code. For anyone who follows PitchingNinja or Driveline coaches on Twitter knows, pitchers have some absolutely filthy stuff right now and, to make matters worse, they have also found ways to make it even more disgusting. The TrackMan data has helped pitchers tunnel pitches better. The high speed cameras and Rapsodo devices have helped add extra break. Hitters are completely outgunned. At the very least Major League Baseball has seemingly done the hitters a solid by tossing in a juiced ball to help even the playing field but pitchers have the development advantage. So there is an element of that behind Sano’s increased strikeout rate. There is also an element of simply telling Miguel Sano to go up there and be Miguel Sano -- the man who can crush monster second deck tanks. Rip the governor off and open it up. Chuck three pointers and don’t worry about the missed shots. Strikeouts be damned. But that’s not why Sano has trouble with his pitch selection. One issue that appears to be hindering him his timing mechanism in his mechanics. It is a main reason why he keeps getting beat on fastballs up, regardless of velocity. And it’s one of the factors behind his inability to lay off those acid-soaked breaking balls. Watch this clip of Sano next to teammate Nelson Cruz. Watch for where they get their hands to the launch point (where the bat starts firing forward). Download attachment: FSFrameGIFImage (2).GIF If you are stumped, here it is: Download attachment: Cruz-Sano.png What you will notice is that Cruz has his hands and bat in a position to fire forward before the 97-mile-per-hour fastball leaves Gerrit Cole’s fingers. It requires no extra travel from this point. This gives him additional time to read and react. Sano, on the other hand, brings his hands back to a spot when Ryan Braiser’s 97-mile-per-hour cheese is quickly approaching the plate. This means he has to make his decision to swing earlier -- before getting the right read on the spin. This is part of the reason why you see Sano swinging over so many breaking balls: out of the hand they look destined for that juicy lower third of the zone before *fart noises* vanishing. Furthermore, Sano has a rolling launch point, almost continually moving his hands which means that he will get beat on fastballs up as well as inside if he starts them late. As another example, consider Mike Trout. Admittedly, it is cheating to take the world’s greatest living hitter and say “do what he’s doing” but there are some existing components in Trout’s swing path that is similar to Sano’s. Both Trout and Sano share that down-to-up swing that decimates balls low in the zone. However, Trout has the ability to get to pitches up in the zone (although, like Sano, this year he’s spitting on more of them). Similar to Cruz, Trout gets his hands to the launch point early, giving him time to recognize the pitch and shut down his swing on things he doesn’t like. Download attachment: Sano Cruz Trout.png It’s difficult to tell hitters change their approach drastically in midseason -- especially when every one out of eleven at bats results in a home run. Still, it is not about a total overhaul, it’s making the right tweaks to improve deficiencies. This is something that just a few years ago, Jorge Polanco cleaned up and has since entered the land of ten thousand rakes. Prior to making that change, he had posted a .245/.296/.351 batting line in 147 games. Since taking the slack out of his drawback, Polanco has hit .308/.368/.502 over his last 204 games. Polanco had been blessed with world class bat-to-ball skills but this modification has allowed him to drive the ball. Another successful Twins convert of the reduced slack swing was Eduardo Escobar. Escobar modified his swing in 2017 which gave him the ability to better differentiate fastballs and breaking balls. From 2014 through 2016, Escobar produced a .626 OPS versus breaking balls with a 30 percent strikeout rate. From 2017 on, he’s posted a .815 OPS against breaking balls and reduced his strikeout rate to 25 percent. And he still hammers fastballs. Sano could be one of them. He could be like Polanco or Escobar. He could be a non-slacker. While the movement may seem minor, it takes a lot of muscle memory to commit that to the body. There are plenty of hitters too, like Sano, who have similar big pre-swing movements (Josh Donaldson comes to mind) but those hitters get their hands to the launch point sooner as well. The solution may not be to swing like Cruz, Polanco or Trout, it maybe simply get your hands moving earlier in the process. There is no question that Sano can hit a ton in his swing plane. His exit velocity on fastballs down in the zone is 98 miles per hour. But more teams are seeing the blueprints to getting him out -- avoid the lower portion of the zone. When or if the adjustments come, then maybe -- just maybe -- we can stop reading about Miguel Sano’s supposed failure as a player. Click here to view the article
  16. Despite playing on the West Coast I find myself staying up many late nights to watch the tandem of Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Encompassing both the best and most exciting players in the game, the duo is must-watch television. Seeing Trout barreling towards yet another MVP award this year, I wondered if pulling his numbers out of the Twins lineup is at all possible. His current stats are lofty to say the least, so we may have to stretch some, but I think it’s doable. .299 Batting Average- Mitch Garver (.301) Trout’s .299 average comes in a 71-game sample size. Garver has split time with Jason Castro, and missed 16 games, but when he’s been in the lineup he’s produced. It was Ohtani who sent him to the IL with an ankle sprain, and in the 11 games since his return, he’s compiled just a .250 average. Still north of .300 on the season though, Mitch is having as good of an offensive season as any backstop not named Willson Contreras. .462 On-Base Percentage- Joe Mauer 2009 (.444) Admittedly this is cheating. The goal here was to construct a cumulative player from the current Minnesota roster. However, the nearly 50% clip that Trout is reaching base is truly absurd. Joe Mauer won and MVP in 2009 leading the league in AVG, OBP, and SLG yet his on-base numbers are still nearly 20 points shy of Trout. The Angels outfielder has struck out plenty throughout his career, and both 2014/15 were high water marks. Right now, though he leads the league in walks and is 10 above his strikeouts in that category. The best lineup in baseball doesn’t have a guy like this. .651 Slugging Percentage- Mitch Garver (.642) Back to the land of small sample sizes in looking for a challenger here. Garver has blasted 11 homers in just 123 at bats, and he’s added another eight extra-base hits. His 25.6% HR/FB rate is a career high, and so to is the 46.6% hard hit rate. Since returning from the injury the production has slowed a bit, but Garver’s bat has always played for power and he’s posted the best number there thus far for the Twins. Finishing in the .600’s would be remarkable, but a teammate such as Max Kepler or Nelson Cruz could tag in for him. 59 Runs Scored- Max Kepler (50) Batting leadoff quite often for the Twins has its benefits this season. Kepler is also able to drive himself in with the longball, but his .359 OBP presents plenty of opportunity for the guys behind him. Leading the league in run differential, and leading the majors in runs scored, it’s been the German who’s crossed the plate most for Rocco Baldelli’s club. 17 Doubles- Jorge Polanco (21) It was Byron Buxton who ran out to the major league lead early in the 2019 campaign. However, his doubles were largely a reflection of stretched singles or balls that weren’t carrying over the wall. The Twins centerfielder is always going to be able to leg out extra bases, but as the weather has warmed, distances have grown on the gap shots and they’ve left the park. Polanco is a gap to gap hitter, and while there’s plenty of power in his bat as well, the extra-base pop inside the outfield fence seems reflective of Trout’s efforts. 22 Home Runs- Eddie Rosario (19) Across his nine-year career Trout has swatted more than 40 dingers just once. Already at 22 through 71 games, that changes in 2019. Although Rosario is an incredibly streaky hitter for the Twins, I think there’s an outside chance he reaches that mark for the first time in Minnesota since Brian Dozier did it. Rosario isn’t ever going to be a patient hitter, but he’s certainly a potent one. All the added thump around him helps to give him more hittable offerings and he’s certainly crushing them at a good clip. 56 Runs Batted In- Eddie Rosario (53) Just ahead of teammate Max Kepler (50), Rosario benefits from hitting more towards the middle of the lineup. You can expect that he’ll hit plenty of long balls, and both Kepler and Polanco should provide plenty of baserunners to drive in the rest of the way. We’ve come to see RBI more as an outcome of opportunity rather than individual performance at this point but expecting Eddie to capitalize on what’s in front of him is a good bet. Essentially what we’ve come up with here is a torrid start by Mitch Garver, career years for Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco, and a high level of performance from Eddie Rosario all combine to equal something close to what Mike Trout is by himself. Given how well the Minnesota Twins have played this season, and what the lineup looks like, it’s truly unfathomable to equate how valuable one single player is. Mike Trout is the type of guy we’ll go decades without seeing again. In watching the level of greatness Twins Territory has this season, it’s mind-boggling to note that one player can account for that same level of production on his own. The Minnesota Twins are going to continue the crash course towards the postseason. They’ll lay waste to plenty of foes over the course of their next 90+ games. Big numbers should be expected when the dust settles and fall baseball will be plenty of fun. If the Los Angeles Angels don’t join them though, at least Baldelli’s club can attempt a combination effort to put Trout on the big stage.
  17. Houston Astros The Astros won the World Series two years ago and are coming off a franchise record 103 wins. Houston’s lineup and top starting pitchers are among the league’s best. This is just one of the many reasons the club will be at the top of the AL for the third consecutive year. It’s crazy to think how deep this lineup is with the likes of Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Jose Altuve. Gone from the rotation are Charlie Morton (free agent) and Lance McCullers Jr. (Tommy John surgery). Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are a strong one-two punch and the team added Wade Miley to be the club’s number three pitcher. While the club might not get to 100 wins, it’s Houston’s division to lose. Oakland Athletics The As won 97 games last season and no, that’s not a typo. Oakland rode a strong offense built around a lot of power to a surprising playoff berth. Matt Chapman, Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty are all capable of hitting 25+ home runs. Former top prospect Jurickson Profar is going to try and find himself by the Bay. Former Twin Robbie Grossman could also play a role in the outfield. Last season, Oakland’s biggest weakness was their rotation. The club is scheduled to start the year with Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, and Frankie Montas. That’s not exactly a murder’s row of a rotation. Can the bullpen bail them out for the second consecutive year? Oakland will take a step back this season but could contend for the second Wild Card spot. Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout just got paid and he is well worth the price of admission. Unfortunately for Angels fans, there isn’t much else to get excited about in LA. Shohei Ohtani certainly brought some excitement last season but he had Tommy John surgery so his two-way playing will be limited to DH duties. Albert Pujols isn’t getting any younger, so Justin Bour was brought in for first base. A few new acquisitions could help the club. Jonathan Lucroy could add something behind the plate, but he’s been trending in the wrong direction offensively. Cody Allen add some stability to the late-innings. Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill could surprise at the back-end of the rotation. New manager Brad Ausmus could guide LA to a wild card but don’t count on it. Seattle Mariners The list of players departed from Seattle’s roster could form the core of a strong roster. Robinson Cano, James Paxton, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, and Mike Zunino are all gone. Seattle is in rebuild mode and the team’s above them on this preview should be able to beat up on what’s left of the Mariners. Edwin Encarnacion joins the club, but it was only to help trade away players like Carlos Santana and Jean Segura. Jay Bruce, Mitch Haniger, and Dee Gordon are still in the in the lineup. Kyle Seager will start the year on the DL. Felix Hernandez is only 32, but he has a lot of miles on his arm and has struggled recently. Seattle won’t be focused on winning this year. Eyes are on the future. Texas Rangers There’s not much in Texas except a whole lot of rebuilding. Joey Gallo can clobber the ball. Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor form a decent middle infield. Their top prospects don’t figure to get much time in Arlington in 2019. This leaves players like Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Hunter Pence to fill-in until other younger players are ready to take over. Former Twin Lance Lynn is scheduled to be the number two starter. Let that sink in for a minute. The good news is there should be plenty of long balls for fans to catch if they sit through the Texas heat. Also, the club should end up with a top draft pick next summer. What do you think about the AL West? Can anyone catch Houston? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  18. Houston is coming off a 103-win season and the Astros have won the AL West in two consecutive seasons. Oakland and Seattle were in the playoff hunt last season. Los Angeles has the best player in the galaxy, while Texas seems destined for a second consecutive 90 loss campaign. Can anyone catch Houston? Or will the Astros be crowned kings of the Wild West?Houston Astros The Astros won the World Series two years ago and are coming off a franchise record 103 wins. Houston’s lineup and top starting pitchers are among the league’s best. This is just one of the many reasons the club will be at the top of the AL for the third consecutive year. It’s crazy to think how deep this lineup is with the likes of Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Jose Altuve. Gone from the rotation are Charlie Morton (free agent) and Lance McCullers Jr. (Tommy John surgery). Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are a strong one-two punch and the team added Wade Miley to be the club’s number three pitcher. While the club might not get to 100 wins, it’s Houston’s division to lose. Oakland Athletics The As won 97 games last season and no, that’s not a typo. Oakland rode a strong offense built around a lot of power to a surprising playoff berth. Matt Chapman, Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty are all capable of hitting 25+ home runs. Former top prospect Jurickson Profar is going to try and find himself by the Bay. Former Twin Robbie Grossman could also play a role in the outfield. Last season, Oakland’s biggest weakness was their rotation. The club is scheduled to start the year with Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, and Frankie Montas. That’s not exactly a murder’s row of a rotation. Can the bullpen bail them out for the second consecutive year? Oakland will take a step back this season but could contend for the second Wild Card spot. Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout just got paid and he is well worth the price of admission. Unfortunately for Angels fans, there isn’t much else to get excited about in LA. Shohei Ohtani certainly brought some excitement last season but he had Tommy John surgery so his two-way playing will be limited to DH duties. Albert Pujols isn’t getting any younger, so Justin Bour was brought in for first base. A few new acquisitions could help the club. Jonathan Lucroy could add something behind the plate, but he’s been trending in the wrong direction offensively. Cody Allen add some stability to the late-innings. Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill could surprise at the back-end of the rotation. New manager Brad Ausmus could guide LA to a wild card but don’t count on it. Seattle Mariners The list of players departed from Seattle’s roster could form the core of a strong roster. Robinson Cano, James Paxton, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, and Mike Zunino are all gone. Seattle is in rebuild mode and the team’s above them on this preview should be able to beat up on what’s left of the Mariners. Edwin Encarnacion joins the club, but it was only to help trade away players like Carlos Santana and Jean Segura. Jay Bruce, Mitch Haniger, and Dee Gordon are still in the in the lineup. Kyle Seager will start the year on the DL. Felix Hernandez is only 32, but he has a lot of miles on his arm and has struggled recently. Seattle won’t be focused on winning this year. Eyes are on the future. Texas Rangers There’s not much in Texas except a whole lot of rebuilding. Joey Gallo can clobber the ball. Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor form a decent middle infield. Their top prospects don’t figure to get much time in Arlington in 2019. This leaves players like Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Hunter Pence to fill-in until other younger players are ready to take over. Former Twin Lance Lynn is scheduled to be the number two starter. Let that sink in for a minute. The good news is there should be plenty of long balls for fans to catch if they sit through the Texas heat. Also, the club should end up with a top draft pick next summer. What do you think about the AL West? Can anyone catch Houston? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  19. As the 2019 Major League Baseball season quickly approaches, I find myself running out of time to get out ahead of the yearly prediction game. Looking at the key individual awards, as well as how the Postseason will shake out, there’s plenty of excitement to come in the year ahead. I am of the belief there’s a significant number of teams not currently trying, but there’s a good cluster that will battle against each other in both leagues this year. Before we get to how I see the year going for teams, it’s worth looking at what the cream of the crop may look like individually. We don’t have the obvious Shohei Ohtani out of the gate, and we’ll need to see the emergence of the next Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto. Pitching awards are littered with favorites of guys that have done it all before, but there’s also some new names right on the cusp. Here’s who I see capturing individual recognition. MVP: American League – Mike Trout (Dark Horse Carlos Correa) National League – Nolan Arenado (Dark Horse Cody Bellinger) One guy is looking for his third MVP award while another is looking to get over the hump and capture his first. Mookie Betts jumped up and nabbed the title out from under Mike Trout last year, but the greatest player in the game is ready to take back his throne in 2019. On the flip side, Arenado came ever so close to his first MVP a season ago but fell just short. With the ink still drying on his newly signed contract extension, he should find the hardware as a nice reward for his efforts. I’m not all in on either dark horse candidate here but think they both have some nice post-hype appeal. Correa hasn’t played a full season in two years, but flashed MVP caliber abilities at multiple points throughout his career. Bellinger ran away with the Rookie of the Year vote in 2017, and then slide backwards a bit in 2018. I’d think his true ability lies somewhere in between, but at just 23-years-old, there’s no reason to think that the ceiling may not be even higher. Cy Young: American League – Justin Verlander (Dark Horse Jose Berrios) National League – Walker Buehler (Dark Horse German Marquez) Outside of Verlander, this may be my favorite prediction of the offseason. I love how many new names are popping up on the elite pitching scene, and as baseball fans, we all stand to benefit from them. Verlander was right there a season ago and could be looking at his second victory (and first with the Astros). For the Dodgers it’s obviously disheartening seeing the decline of the great Clayton Kershaw, but what better way to mitigate that than to have Walker Buehler in tow. This kid is the real deal, and I wouldn’t be shocked if we’re talking about multiple victories a handful of years from now. The dark horse candidates for the Cy Young are so fun. Jose Berrios is already a staff ace for the Minnesota Twins, and looks like a bit more refinement could have him making a significant leap forward. The breaking pitches are ridiculous and commanding them a bit better should do the trick. German Marquez may be the best under-the-radar hurler in the game right now, and he’s working to dispel the notion that pitchers can’t be great in Colorado (with teammate Kyle Freeland doing the same). Rookie of the Year: American League – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Dark Horse Forrest Whitley) National League – Victor Robles (Dark Horse Nick Senzel) There’s no prospect that has been talked up more in baseball than Vlad Jr. Son of the recently inducted Hall of Famer, Guerrero Jr. wields a bat that is otherworldly. The Blue Jays have suppressed his service time all they can, and while he’ll need to wait a few more weeks before breaking into the big leagues, there’s no reason why the bat shouldn’t play. He’s not going to last at third base long, but if the OPS is north of .900 in his debut campaign, he’ll run away with this. Now that Bryce Harper is gone for the Nationals, Victor Robles finally has a clear path to playing time. Previously the best overall prospect in baseball, his breakout following teammate Juan Soto of a year ago would be a nice development for Washington. It almost seems unfair that the Astros would be able to add another ace to their pitching staff, but Forrest Whitley could prove to be just that. The best pitching prospect in the game has looked great this spring, and he’d be a mid-season addition any team would love to have. He may not be up long enough to catch Vlad, but he should make this interesting. The Reds are going to give Nick Senzel a shot to stick in the outfield after coming through the system as an infielder. His bat should play for both average and power, while all early indications suggest he’s made a seamless position change. Postseason: American League - Yankees, Twins, Astros Wild Card – Red Sox, Angels National League – Nationals, Brewers, Dodgers Wild Card – Phillies, Rockies ALDS – Astros over Yankees NLDS – Nationals over Dodgers World Series – Astros over Nationals A big believer in what the Nationals did this offseason, despite losing Bryce Harper, they’re going to be a tough team to beat. That rotation should be one of the best in baseball, and is Robles breaks out as expected, their outfield could challenge that title as well. Depth could be a concern in multiple places here, but I like what Dave Martinez must work with. Houston came up just short last season losing to the Red Sox in five games. Boston has taken a step backwards, and the Astros are ready to make it two World Series victories in three years. This lineup is loaded, the pitching staff is for real, and A.J. Hinch has a group that knows how to win. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  20. The American League Finalists for MVP Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox Betts was a key cog in Boston’s dominant regular season run in the American League. He led the American League in batting average with an outstanding .346 mark. He wasn’t just about the average though as he led the big leagues in slugging percentage (.640) and runs scored (129). He was a record-setter this year as well. He became the first batting champion to have 30 or more steals and home runs. Betts is also one of the best defenders in the league and this helped him to have the top WAR total according to both versions of WAR (FanGraphs and Baseball Reference) Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians Ramirez joined an elite club during the 2018 campaign. He became just the fifth third baseman to join the 30-30 club. He also compiled a lot of other statistics the voters like to see, with 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs. Only 25 players have been members of the 30-30 club while scoring over 100 runs and driving in over 100 runs. Ramirez and the Indians beat up on the AL Central and he played a large role in the club winning their third straight division title. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels Trout has been the game’s best player for most of the last decade. That being said, he has only been awarded two AL MVP awards during that time (2014, 2016). The Angels have struggled during his career and this has likely cost him the opportunity to win other MVP awards. Even with the Angels posting an under .500 record, Trout notched career highs in OPS (1.088) and on-base percentage (.460). It seems like the award will be handed to Betts and Trout will be the runner-up for the fourth time in the last seven seasons. Cody’s American League MVP Ballot 10. Whit Merrifield, Royals 9. Gerrit Cole, Astros 8. J.D. Martinez, Red Sox 7. Justin Verlander, Astros 6. Matt Chapman, Athletics 5. Francisco Lindor, Indians 4. Alex Bregman, Astros 3. Jose Ramirez, Indians 2. Mike Trout, Angels 1. Mookie Betts, Red Sox The National League Finalist for MVP Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies Arenado has been a rock for the Rockies over the course of his career and he is headed for his highest MVP finish. He’s arguably the best defensive third baseman in the National League. However, defense isn’t the only story with Arenado. He led the league in home runs and he had an OPS over .900. Colorado was a surprise team this season and Arenado is the face of the franchise. It seems likely that he will win an MVP at some point in his career, but this doesn’t seem like the year. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs Baez logged over 20 games at three different defensive positions this season as Joe Maddon took advantage of his versatility. He seemed to fill up almost every part of the stat sheet. His 111 RBIs lead the National League and he finished second in extra-base hits. Overall, he finished with 40 doubles, over 30 home runs, and over 20 steals. He was a fantasy owner’s dream with all of those stats. Chicago ultimate fell short of their goal, but Baez helped them to stay neck and neck with Milwaukee. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers Much like Betts in the American League, Yelich led the National League in both versions of WAR. Also, he won the batting title (.326) and finished first in OPS (1.000) and total bases (343). During the middle of the season, there was some talk about Jacob deGrom being the front-runner for this award. Yelich put most of those whispers to rest as he dominated in September and pushed the Brewers to the NL Central title. During that final month, he posted a 1.312 OPS, so he can probably start preparing his acceptance speech. Cody’s National League MVP Ballot 10. Trevor Story, Rockies 9. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks 8. Lorenzo Cain, Brewers 7. Max Scherzer, Nationals 6. Freddie Freeman, Braves 5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals 4. Jacob deGrom, Mets 3. Javier Baez, Cubs 2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies 1. Christian Yelich, Brewers Who would be on your ballot? Should deGrom have been a finalist for the MVP? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  21. Major League Baseball and the Baseball Writers Association of America released the top three finalists for their major awards earlier this week. For fans, it can be fun to look at the credentials of the top candidates. What should be considered when naming the league’s top player? Should it be the player with the highest WAR? How important is defense in the overall equation? Does the player have to be playing on a contending team? Here’s a look at the finalists and how my ballot would look for the AL and NL MVP.The American League Finalists for MVP Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox Betts was a key cog in Boston’s dominant regular season run in the American League. He led the American League in batting average with an outstanding .346 mark. He wasn’t just about the average though as he led the big leagues in slugging percentage (.640) and runs scored (129). He was a record-setter this year as well. He became the first batting champion to have 30 or more steals and home runs. Betts is also one of the best defenders in the league and this helped him to have the top WAR total according to both versions of WAR (FanGraphs and Baseball Reference) Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians Ramirez joined an elite club during the 2018 campaign. He became just the fifth third baseman to join the 30-30 club. He also compiled a lot of other statistics the voters like to see, with 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs. Only 25 players have been members of the 30-30 club while scoring over 100 runs and driving in over 100 runs. Ramirez and the Indians beat up on the AL Central and he played a large role in the club winning their third straight division title. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels Trout has been the game’s best player for most of the last decade. That being said, he has only been awarded two AL MVP awards during that time (2014, 2016). The Angels have struggled during his career and this has likely cost him the opportunity to win other MVP awards. Even with the Angels posting an under .500 record, Trout notched career highs in OPS (1.088) and on-base percentage (.460). It seems like the award will be handed to Betts and Trout will be the runner-up for the fourth time in the last seven seasons. Cody’s American League MVP Ballot 10. Whit Merrifield, Royals 9. Gerrit Cole, Astros 8. J.D. Martinez, Red Sox 7. Justin Verlander, Astros 6. Matt Chapman, Athletics 5. Francisco Lindor, Indians 4. Alex Bregman, Astros 3. Jose Ramirez, Indians 2. Mike Trout, Angels 1. Mookie Betts, Red Sox The National League Finalist for MVP Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies Arenado has been a rock for the Rockies over the course of his career and he is headed for his highest MVP finish. He’s arguably the best defensive third baseman in the National League. However, defense isn’t the only story with Arenado. He led the league in home runs and he had an OPS over .900. Colorado was a surprise team this season and Arenado is the face of the franchise. It seems likely that he will win an MVP at some point in his career, but this doesn’t seem like the year. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs Baez logged over 20 games at three different defensive positions this season as Joe Maddon took advantage of his versatility. He seemed to fill up almost every part of the stat sheet. His 111 RBIs lead the National League and he finished second in extra-base hits. Overall, he finished with 40 doubles, over 30 home runs, and over 20 steals. He was a fantasy owner’s dream with all of those stats. Chicago ultimate fell short of their goal, but Baez helped them to stay neck and neck with Milwaukee. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers Much like Betts in the American League, Yelich led the National League in both versions of WAR. Also, he won the batting title (.326) and finished first in OPS (1.000) and total bases (343). During the middle of the season, there was some talk about Jacob deGrom being the front-runner for this award. Yelich put most of those whispers to rest as he dominated in September and pushed the Brewers to the NL Central title. During that final month, he posted a 1.312 OPS, so he can probably start preparing his acceptance speech. Cody’s National League MVP Ballot 10. Trevor Story, Rockies 9. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks 8. Lorenzo Cain, Brewers 7. Max Scherzer, Nationals 6. Freddie Freeman, Braves 5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals 4. Jacob deGrom, Mets 3. Javier Baez, Cubs 2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies 1. Christian Yelich, Brewers Who would be on your ballot? Should deGrom have been a finalist for the MVP? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  22. Seth Stohs I have no idea, but it needs to. When diehards like myself have a hard time getting through nine innings anymore, something might be wrong. So many pitching changes. Shifting not only on every batter, but dependent on count. So many swings and misses. I know it is no longer cool to say it, but I miss the old game. The crisp pitching, batters not being so passive. There's a reason I tweet "Have I mentioned how much I love watching Eddie Rosario play baseball? That said, I don't think they can or should eliminate shifts. I definitely don't think Jim Kaat's seven-inning game idea is a good idea. Analytics and over-thinking everything are now part of the game and that isn't going away. So I think we're just going to have to grin and bear it. Strikeout. Walks. Home Runs. More bullpen usage. It's all here to stay, and there are some that like that, and it can be fun at times... But it will be hard to grow this game in the States with this pace of play situation as it is and getting worse. My hope is that this great game will continue to evolve, as it has for 140-150 years to make itself better. No one wants to get rid of tradition, but something needs to happen. Tom Froemming In terms of the on-field product, a lot of what may happen will depend upon what happens to the actual baseball itself, in my opinion. If MLB tries to "deaden" the ball, teams will start to value hitters who put the ball in play more often. Otherwise, things will keep escalating in the direction they're going and soon defense will become a relative afterthought due to the lack of balls put in play. The MLB's current labor agreement with the umpires ends after next season. I think we'll see some of the framework for an automated strike zone in their next agreement. While "robo umps" would be a welcome sight, they'd also tie into the devaluation of defense. Catcher framing goes extinct if that ever happens. What else? Expansion, probably. Universal DH, probably. Players continue to fight pace of play changes, resulting in games becoming even longer. The 2028 NL Manager of the Year award goes to a 23-year-old rookie skipper who is a recent computer science grad from MIT. Bartolo Colon leads the league in innings that season. Cody Christie The year is 2028… Separated by two votes in the final tally, Royce Lewis narrowly takes home the American League MVP Award after beating out Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Mike Trout could have won his record setting eighth MVP but he finished a distant third. The Twins have been in three straight ALCS but the 2028 season saw the club finally break-through and win the club’s fourth AL Pennant. The World Series came back to Minnesota. While this utopian idea of the year 2028 sounds great to Twins fans, things need to change with the game. Here are some of the things I foresee happening over the next decade. 20 second pitch clock Universal designated hitter Relievers must face multiple batters Shifts will continued to be allowed Replay will be quicker and used more frequently Expansion will also add two teams to Montreal, Canada and Portland, Oregon. As I wrote about last October, expansion would mean a shift in the divisions and the removal of two leagues. I also think the number of games will be dropped to around 156. This would also allow for the playoffs to expand to 12 teams with four division winners (first round byes) and four wild card games. SD Buhr I'll let the others dwell on MLB, though I do believe we will have 32 teams and a 154 game schedule. But since the question just said "baseball," I'm going to mention the changes I see coming for minor league ball. The current agreement between MLB and MiLB expires in 2020 and therefore no affiliation agreements have been extended beyond that year. I believe there will be some significant changes, most notably a reduction in the number of affiliations, perhaps even elimination of 1-2 entire classes of minor league ball. Baseball currently has 3 levels of short-season ball, though few teams field teams at all 3 levels. Add 4 full-season levels and that makes 7 minor league levels in the US (plus those in Latin America). I'll predict that one level of short-season will be eliminated and it's POSSIBLE that there will no longer be two levels of Class A ball. MLB was threatening minor league teams with contraction to get them to shore up Congressional support during the debate over minor league pay. But now that they won that battle, there's no reason to think MLB wouldn't contract anyway. Bottom line is that I believe there will be fewer minor league teams and that means roster spots for fewer minor league players. I suspect that means a worldwide draft and/or fewer rounds in the US draft. Ted Schwerzler Given the consistent cries for the pace of play to be addressed, baseball is going to need to change one way or another. I don’t believe the issues are dire, but Rob Manfred seems set on changing the game. I do believe we’ll see electronic strike zones sooner rather than later, and that’s a good thing. Specialization has become a large portion of the game and I don’t foresee that going away. I’m not sure what other on-field changes are in store, but a decade from now it will be fun to see Mike Trout having overtaken the last few of Babe Ruth’s numbers. Steve Lein What will happen and what I’d like to see happen are probably two different things. On the latter side, I think there needs to be a shift in the type of game they try to promote, with the recent All-Star Game being a great example of the problem I see. A new record was set for both the number of home runs (10), and strikeouts (25) by both teams (as would have the 23 K’s in nine-innings). We’re seeing a historically low amount of balls-in-play as home runs and strikeouts have been on the rise. To keep future fans into the game, this trend needs to go in the other direction in my opinion. Nobody likes seeing as much “nothing” happening in a game as there is now. Dingers are sweet, but also alter the pacing of a game negatively. As for the former, I think the juiced ball will get fixed. I also think rules relating to shifting are going to be implemented. I do love the strategy of it on defense, while also thinking hitters should just take the damn base when it’s given to them. But for the prior reasons mentioned above, this just isn’t the game promoted or taught anymore. While this won't increase balls-in-play, it would allow more action to occur during a game instead of groundouts into the outfield. If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links: Floundered Second Half Star Sell, Sell, Sell? Fixing the Offense Romero’s Rotation Spot
  23. Boston Red Sox The Red Sox and the Yankees are setting up for quite the battle in the AL East. FanGraphs is projecting both teams to finish with more than 90 wins. Boston has claimed back-to-back AL East titles but this might be the year for them to fall a little short. David Price might be the team’s biggest question mark after his 2017 campaign was shrouded with elbow issues. Dustin Pedroia is coming off of off-season knee surgery and isn’t expected to be back until the end of May. JD Martinez could add some offensive pop to a lineup that includes young hitters like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts. Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout might be the best player of this generation and the Angels have only been to the playoffs one time during his career. The club’s last win in the playoffs was in 2009. Los Angeles added multiple pieces this off-season with the addition of Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, and two-way Japanese star Shohoei Ohtani. Ohtani has struggled this spring but he wasn’t brought in to help the Angles to win pre-season games. Andrelton Simmons and Kinsler make-up the best defensive middle infield in the AL. Some computer models also think the Angels are set-up for failure this season. Houston should run away with the AL West so LA might be forced to fight for a Wild Card spot. Toronto Blue Jays Toronto should be in the playoff hunt but the division might be out of reach with the Yankees and the Red Sox fighting at the top. In 2017, the Blue Jays missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Toronto’s rotation will start the season without their ace, Marcus Stroman, sidelined with shoulder inflammation. Other pitchers like JA Happ, Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez help to complete a strong rotation but playing the rest of the AL East could hurt any starting staff. Offensively last season, the Blue Jays scored the fewest runs and Toronto’s lineup isn’t getting any younger. Seattle Mariners Twins fans might think they’ve had it rough but the Mariners haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2001. Felix Hernandez hasn’t been the King over the last couple of seasons as his fastball dropped to barely over 90 miles an hour. Only three current starters (CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Justin Verlander) have more innings pitched than Hernandez. Adding Dee Gordon should help the top of the lineup but his shift to center field comes with some questions. Some of the key offensive pieces are getting older as well. Robinson Cano will be 35, Nelson Cruz will be 37, and Kyle Seager will be 30. With a top-heavy American League, it looks like the Mariners playoff drought might continue. I was on 670 The Score out of Chicago this week to preview the AL Central. Take a listen here: https://670thescore.radio.com/media/audio-channel/nick-shepkowski-al-central-preview Who is the biggest threat to Minnesota taking a Wild Card spot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  24. As we did in the Dozier article, research was done to consider comparable deals. It can be more difficult to find guys who have signed long-term deals after just over two years of service time, and how many of them put up over four WAR in large part due to his defense? But we tried and we’ll use the information we find to try to project what it might take to sign Buxton to an extension. For this analysis, let’s start out at the top of the spectrum. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are at the top of the pay scales. One could argue that they are, especially considering their ages and ages at debut, the two more valuable players in the game today. Byron Buxton is at 2.064 years of service. That means, he will be arbitration-eligible following the 2018 season. Mike Trout signed for $1 million in 2014, his final pre-arbitration salary. Following another MVP caliber season, Trout signed a huge six year, $144.5 extension that bought out his three arbitration years and three years of free agency. His three arbitration-year salaries were $5.25 million, $15.25 million and $19.25 million. He then will get $33.25 million each of the next three years (those bought-out free agent years). Bryce Harper was the #1 overall pick in the 2010 draft to a Major League contract. He came up quickly and following the 2014 season, he was already approaching arbitration. Instead, he and the Nationals ripped up the final year of his original deal, and he signed for $2.5 million in 2015 and $5.0 million in 2016. He made $13.625 million this season, and earlier in the year, he signed for $21.65 million in what would have been his fourth arbitration year. *TBD will equal some really, really big numbers Now, Byron Buxton isn’t going to command the same contracts as Trout or Harper if he signs now. Those guys had MVPs and All Star experiences under their belt. Buxton’ hasn’t yet, but his 3.5 bWAR based highly on his defense certainly point in the direction of him being at a level just below those top two guys. So who are some others who signed this type of deal? In the chart below, I’ve listed some players that I think would be pretty comparable to where Buxton is right now, guys who signed long-term extensions. I should note that Christian Yelich signed his deal one year earlier in the process. Justin Upton was the most established at the point of his deal. He was also drafted at the top of his draft. Juan Lugares has won a Gold Glove. Odubel Herrera was an All Star. Christian Yelich was a high-ranking prospect of the Marlins and was part of Team USA this year. I also included Andrelton Simmons. Despite the fact that he’s an infielder, I think he is a good comp for Buxton. Early in Simmons’ career, he really struggled offensively, but his glove was elite. He won several Gold Gloves and was generally considered the best defensive player in baseball for several years. I think Buxton fits into that category, but at the same time, Buxton’s offensive potential is significantly higher. So with that information as the background, he is an estimate of the parameters that might make sense for a Buxton extension. That would equate to a seven year, $76.5 million.Obviously that is a huge investment, but Buxton still has a ton of potential beyond his golden glove and speed. He has power to go with it, and if he can reduce his strikeouts the way he did in 2017 again, he will be a multi-time All Star, and a potential MVP candidate. There is risk for the Twins, but if the Twins choose to go year to year with Buxton, he could cost more per year and could be gone to free agency after the 2021 season. However, the risk for the Twins in not signing him this offseason is that he could take another step forward offensively and end up with 30-50% higher annual salaries if they did a deal in a year. Of course, with Buxton banging into walls with frequency, injury is a potential risk as well. The risk for Buxton is just that. He could potentially make quite a bit more by going year to year and then become a free agent at age 28. At that time, he could look for an eight to ten year deal. So what do you think? Should the Twins consider a multi-year extension for Buxton? At what point would you be less comfortable? How many years of risk would you be willing to take while at the same time being realistic? Discuss. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- COMING SOON! A reminder, Nick Nelson is leading the way in the final steps of creating the Twins Daily Annual Offseason Handbook. More details, and the ability to pre-order, will be made available later this week. As we have in the past, we'll take a look at what options the Twins may have during the upcoming offseason. Trade Targets. Free Agents. Exclusive articles from the Twins Daily owners only available in the electronic book. Definitely something Twins fans will want at their fingertips.
  25. How does this strategy work when creating the starting line-ups? I'm glad you asked... American League All-Star Starters C: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals 1B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers 2B: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros 3B: Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins SS: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros OF: George Springer, Houston Astros OF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels OF: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees DH: Corey Dickerson, Tampa Bay Rays SP: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox There aren't too many surprises on this starting line-up. Catching has become a wasteland across the baseball world but Perez provides some offensive punch and solid defensive skills. At first base, there isn't anyone that stood out to me from the first half so I picked Cabrera, the player likely on his way to Cooperstown. Houston is off to a tremendous start and their core trio of players all deserve starting nods. Trout is injured but he is still the best player in the game and he deserves to be recognized. Miguel Sano is in a tight race with the Indians' Jose Ramirez for the starting job at third. My vote goes to Sano for his bat and what he has meant to the Twins in the first half. Judge had a first half for the ages and his numbers can't be ignored. Dickerson leads a designated hitter pack that doesn't have a lot of standout candidates. Sale seems like the logical choice to be the American League's starting pitcher. Twins' fans saw first hand what he did to Minnesota's line-up when the club was in Boston. He's at the top of the AL in a variety of pitching categories and it makes sense to trot him out for the first couple of innings. National League All-Star Starters C: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants 1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks 2B: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals 3B: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs SS: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers OF: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals OF: Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies OF: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers SP: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals There were a couple of tough decisions on the National League side of the game. There are a handful of players with strong credentials at first base but I eventually settled on Goldschmidt for what he can do on both sides of the ball. Third base was another challenge. Bryant had an amazing 2016 and he has been doing well this season so he gets the starting nod (even though he was just hurt). I'm a big fan of Nolan Arenado so as a fan I would vote for him. Harper and Blackmon stand out as strong candidates in the outfield. With Trout injured, Blackmon might be the best center fielder in the game. Bellinger has been a force since being called up so the only thing holding him back might be his late arrival. Posey, Murphy and Seager were easy choices at their position. Like Sale in the American League, Scherzer is off to a tremendous start. As the reigning NL Cy Young winner, Scherzer looks poised to make another All-Star squad and be the first pitcher on the mound. Clayton Kershaw would be another candidate but Scherzer's numbers are too strong this season. So there's my starters with a few picks that were tough to make. Who would part of your All-Star starting rosters? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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