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  1. With Luis Arraez off to less green pastures, what kind of lineup combinations can we expect, assuming full (or terrible) health? Image courtesy of © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports The Twins would seem to have quite a hole to fill in their lineup, and some utility lost given Luis Arraez’s ability to play multiple positions. The reality is that, as much as we love Luis, his production is replaceable (but not his at-bats), and his fielding is very replaceable. He also would have made it difficult for Nick Gordon, Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach to get at-bats as they each approach the second half of their twenties. So what kind of lineup combinations can we expect this year sans Arraez? With Joey Gallo and Michael A. Taylor aboard, here’s my projection for opening day against a righty: You can quibble with whether Buxton or Polanco leads off (or Gallo for that matter), but I wouldn’t expect much deviation from this configuration, even though I would certainly prefer Gallo further down in the lineup. Lefties dominated Twins hitters last year, especially down the stretch. How will the 2023 team counter? Probably something like this: This is also where I could see the team looking at Luke Voit or possibly Anthony Santander, because it seems like this iteration of the lineup is a bat short. It does have the potential to defend really well, however. If the infield is even average, the outfield alone makes this a top-five defense. Let’s run through a few more just for fun: The Sunday Getaway Day Lineup The Outfield gets Besmirched AGAIN (This one assumes that we suffer the same number of season-ending outfield injuries as last year) The Trade for Anthony Santander (Santander had a .913 OPS against lefties last year and the Orioles are listening) The Miranda Can’t Handle Third (If the team wants to avoid putting Gordon on the infield, this outcome means Larnach is sent down. Hope the sexy new body helps, Jose!) The Lewis and Lee have Arrived and Aren’t Taking Prisoners (AKA what the front office prays for every night) And lastly, my personal favorite: Nick Gordon Leading Off on Opening Day He’ll be the skinniest DH in history, but I’ll bet he makes the score 1-0 more times than you would think. How would you configure the 2023 lineup? Should the team make more additions? Who would you put in the leadoff spot? View full article
  2. The Minnesota Twins outfielders coined a phrase “Nothing Falls but Raindrops” a few seasons ago, and while it was fitting, none of them knew what was coming. This collection could be the best in the sport, and it may not even be close. Image courtesy of © Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports Yes, gone is Eddie Rosario, and maybe Max Kepler will be jettisoned at some point as well. What stands as truth either way, however, is that Rocco Baldelli should lay claim to having baseball’s best outfield. As always, Byron Buxton needs to stay healthy. That has been the case forever and will continue to be as much. His 92 games last season was the most he has played since 2017, and that was the last time he won a Gold Glove. We aren’t just hoping for a guy to contribute in the field anymore either, as when Buxton is out there, he’s among the best in the game. Now having developed into a Mike Trout or Aaron Judge type on a per-game basis, Buxton represents the gold standard in centerfield. When the Twins brought in Joey Gallo, it immediately made more sense for them to move Kepler. With Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach vying for time on the corners, and all being left handed, the glut had to be reduced somehow. Still, Kepler being parted out for nothing makes little sense. Although the offensive profile is nowhere near that of Buxton’s he contributes to a very similar level on defense. Rating highly by both defensive runs saved and outs above average, Kepler is among the premier players in right field. Gallo is traditionally seen as the slugging bat that is home run or bust. That simplifies his game far more than should be warranted. He is also a strong on-base contributor, and among the best outfielders in the game by his own right. Able to play any of the three spots on the grass, Gallo is quicker than you’d expect given his size, and the arm strength is notable as well. He has two Gold Glove awards to his credit, and neither are simply a byproduct of what he did on offense. Behind the starters is where Minnesota has also made massive strides. Rather than needing to play Jake Cave, or ask Tim Beckham to learn a new position, Michael A. Taylor represents the next man up. His bat has never been anything to write home about, but he represents a Gold Glove caliber centerfield talent, and could start on nearly any other team in baseball. With a desire to keep Buxton off his feet on occasion, filling in with that level of defensive talent is beyond impressive. From there the Twins could turn to either Nick Gordon, who filled in admirably last year, or Gilberto Celestino. Gordon showed a consistent level of development as he worked to acclimate himself in centerfield. His arm strength has been a question at shortstop, but his speed and closing ability played well in the outfield. Now more of a utility talent, being capable on the grass gives him plenty of opportunity. Celestino has always looked the part of a strong defender, and the growth he showed during year two in the big leagues was substantial. There is probably more to unlock with him, and Minnesota should continue to find ways to do so. At the end of the day there won’t be a surefire way to replace the production lost by either Buxton or Gallo if either miss time. Dealing Kepler could hurt should Minnesota need to replace injured bodies. When Spring Training commences though, it’s hard to think of another roster in baseball that can lay claim to the same level of defensive talent. One would hope that Royce Lewis can return this summer and play on the dirt. He found his way to the outfield last year with guys missing time and the roster needing help. The latter part should no longer be an issue, and with Target Field having an expansive amount of space to cover, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have given their pitchers the best players to do it. A season ago Minnesota was a top five unit in the outfield defensively. For 2023, the focus should be 1st or bust. View full article
  3. The Twins would seem to have quite a hole to fill in their lineup, and some utility lost given Luis Arraez’s ability to play multiple positions. The reality is that, as much as we love Luis, his production is replaceable (but not his at-bats), and his fielding is very replaceable. He also would have made it difficult for Nick Gordon, Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach to get at-bats as they each approach the second half of their twenties. So what kind of lineup combinations can we expect this year sans Arraez? With Joey Gallo and Michael A. Taylor aboard, here’s my projection for opening day against a righty: You can quibble with whether Buxton or Polanco leads off (or Gallo for that matter), but I wouldn’t expect much deviation from this configuration, even though I would certainly prefer Gallo further down in the lineup. Lefties dominated Twins hitters last year, especially down the stretch. How will the 2023 team counter? Probably something like this: This is also where I could see the team looking at Luke Voit or possibly Anthony Santander, because it seems like this iteration of the lineup is a bat short. It does have the potential to defend really well, however. If the infield is even average, the outfield alone makes this a top-five defense. Let’s run through a few more just for fun: The Sunday Getaway Day Lineup The Outfield gets Besmirched AGAIN (This one assumes that we suffer the same number of season-ending outfield injuries as last year) The Trade for Anthony Santander (Santander had a .913 OPS against lefties last year and the Orioles are listening) The Miranda Can’t Handle Third (If the team wants to avoid putting Gordon on the infield, this outcome means Larnach is sent down. Hope the sexy new body helps, Jose!) The Lewis and Lee have Arrived and Aren’t Taking Prisoners (AKA what the front office prays for every night) And lastly, my personal favorite: Nick Gordon Leading Off on Opening Day He’ll be the skinniest DH in history, but I’ll bet he makes the score 1-0 more times than you would think. How would you configure the 2023 lineup? Should the team make more additions? Who would you put in the leadoff spot?
  4. These five players have key questions to answer in the season ahead. I promise none of them have to do with injuries. Image courtesy of Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports Yes, we all know that health uncertainty is the banner headline for the 2023 Twins. "If they're healthy" is the rallying cry for even the most optimistic fan. As pivotal as they are, these situations just aren't very fun to analyze or talk about, because they feel so beyond anyone's control. Much of the team's outlook hinges on whether Tyler Mahle can pitch without shoulder weakness, and Alex Kirilloff can swing without pain. These things either will happen or they won't, and if they don't, it's not necessarily anyone's fault. The human body is fickle. Today I'm going to look at five critical points of uncertainty for the Twins that have nothing to do with injuries. (Well, almost nothing.) Instead, it's about these players proving they can deliver in areas where the club really needs them if they're to achieve their goals. 1. Can Joe Ryan excel against good teams? Hidden in Ryan's very good overall numbers last year (13-8, 3.55 ERA in 147 innings over 27 starts) is the fact that his success was largely buoyed by beating up on horrible AL Central opponents. In eight starts against the Royals and Tigers, the two teams he faced more than any other, Ryan went 8-0 with a 0.94 ERA. He won every start, allowing just five earned runs on 26 hits (one homer) in 48 innings. Look: that's an absurd level of dominance against any major-league lineup. Ryan certainly deserves a ton of credit for being absolutely automatic in those match-ups. But the flip side is that against all other opponents, he went 5-8 with a 4.80 ERA. The 26-year-old has already established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter who can take care of business against lesser lineups. But with so many question marks elsewhere in the rotation, the Twins are really leaning on him to be more. Showing he can up his game against better offenses than Detroit and KC will be key, both because he'll face less of each in the rebalanced schedule, and because the Twins will (hopefully) need starters they can count on in the postseason. 2. Can Jorge Polanco fill Luis Arraez's OBP void? There's no question that Arraez's ability to get on base will be deeply missed, and his departure raises questions about how a power-driven lineup will fare without his penchant for creating opportunities. There's reason to hope Polanco can make up for some of what the top of the order just lost. You might look at Polanco's career .334 OBP and say, eh, nothing special. Even his .346 mark last year was quite ordinary. But here's the thing: he posted it while batting a career-low .235, thanks to DOUBLING his walk rate from 2021. Polanco's 14.4% BB rate last year would've ranked fifth-best in baseball if his at-bats qualified. If the newfound patience sticks and Polanco is able to sustain a similar walk rate while his batting average rebounds to somewhere in the range of his .270 career benchmark, you've got the recipe for an Arraez-like OBP, or better. To wit: if Polanco walked at same rate in 2021 – when he batted .269 with a .323 OBP – as he did in 2022, he would've had 92 walks and a .395 on-base percentage. 3. Can Nick Gordon make himself essential? Gordon is coming off a breakthrough season that earned him Most Improved Twin honors and saw him accrue nearly 450 plate appearances. In many cases, a campaign like that for a former first-round draft pick would open the door for a big opportunity, if not a starting role. But the circumstances of the offseason leave him in a spot where he'll be scrapping for playing time from the start, and potentially buried on the depth chart. He's not their top backup center fielder (that's Michael A. Taylor). He's not their best lefty-swinging backup corner OF or DH option (that's Trevor Larnach). He's not their top backup anywhere in the infield, and in fact, I'd be somewhat surprised if the Twins view him as anything more than an emergency option on the dirt. Injuries can of course change the equation here, but as things stand, Gordon will have a hard time finding his way off the bench with any regularity. That is, unless he can force the issue. At times last year the former light-hitting shortstop looked like a game-changing offensive force, like in August when he slashed .321/.360/.531 with three steals and 17 RBIs in 26 games. Gordon was electric. Bring more of that to the table, and Rocco Baldelli will find a way to get Gordon into the lineup as much as he can. 4. Can José Miranda play third base effectively? The viability of Miranda's bat is not in question after a convincing rookie campaign that saw him handle everything MLB pitchers could throw at him, thanks to high-contact swing that generated power to all fields. Now he needs to define his defensive future. If he's able to hold on as a capable third baseman, at least for a few years, as opposed to switching to 1B/DH duty, it'd be a boon for the team's planning and lineup-building. An early slide down the defensive spectrum diminished Arraez's value in the front office's eyes, but Miranda can still avoid that route. Thus far, I would say the signs are less than encouraging. His defense at third base checked out pretty poorly last year, by almost any measure or metric, and scouting reports were hardly glowing in the minors. But plenty of third basemen who looked rough as rookies went on to establish themselves at the hot corner (calling Corey Koskie), and Miranda's still only 24. His offseason efforts to slim down have also notably resulted in a body that, per Carlos Correa, "looks sexy." We'll see if the defense can follow suit. 5. Can Jorge Alcalá get lefties out? Coming off a season where he made only two appearances due to an elbow injury that ultimately required debridement surgery, Alcalá is obviously a health question mark. Can his arm hold up, much less get back to pumping the upper-90s heat that led to big results in 2020/21? The Twins seem to be counting on it, because they have yet to make any significant additions to their bullpen this offseason. Unless that changes, they're banking largely on Alcalá's return to provide depth in the mid-to-late innings, setting the table for Jhoan Durán and Jorge López at the back end. Even assuming he's healthy, Alcalá needs to turn one more corner to be the kind of weapon the Twins need him to be. He needs to overcome his susceptibility against left-handed pitchers, who have pummeled him to the tune of .275/.358/.508 in his MLB career. That .866 OPS is 354 points higher than his mark against righties. Baldelli will have the ability to strategically deploy Alcalá in favorable match-ups to an extent, but if the righty wants to truly be relied upon as a key late-inning weapon, he'll need to show he can handle the lefty sluggers and pinch-hitters that come his way. View full article
  5. Yes, gone is Eddie Rosario, and maybe Max Kepler will be jettisoned at some point as well. What stands as truth either way, however, is that Rocco Baldelli should lay claim to having baseball’s best outfield. As always, Byron Buxton needs to stay healthy. That has been the case forever and will continue to be as much. His 92 games last season was the most he has played since 2017, and that was the last time he won a Gold Glove. We aren’t just hoping for a guy to contribute in the field anymore either, as when Buxton is out there, he’s among the best in the game. Now having developed into a Mike Trout or Aaron Judge type on a per-game basis, Buxton represents the gold standard in centerfield. When the Twins brought in Joey Gallo, it immediately made more sense for them to move Kepler. With Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach vying for time on the corners, and all being left handed, the glut had to be reduced somehow. Still, Kepler being parted out for nothing makes little sense. Although the offensive profile is nowhere near that of Buxton’s he contributes to a very similar level on defense. Rating highly by both defensive runs saved and outs above average, Kepler is among the premier players in right field. Gallo is traditionally seen as the slugging bat that is home run or bust. That simplifies his game far more than should be warranted. He is also a strong on-base contributor, and among the best outfielders in the game by his own right. Able to play any of the three spots on the grass, Gallo is quicker than you’d expect given his size, and the arm strength is notable as well. He has two Gold Glove awards to his credit, and neither are simply a byproduct of what he did on offense. Behind the starters is where Minnesota has also made massive strides. Rather than needing to play Jake Cave, or ask Tim Beckham to learn a new position, Michael A. Taylor represents the next man up. His bat has never been anything to write home about, but he represents a Gold Glove caliber centerfield talent, and could start on nearly any other team in baseball. With a desire to keep Buxton off his feet on occasion, filling in with that level of defensive talent is beyond impressive. From there the Twins could turn to either Nick Gordon, who filled in admirably last year, or Gilberto Celestino. Gordon showed a consistent level of development as he worked to acclimate himself in centerfield. His arm strength has been a question at shortstop, but his speed and closing ability played well in the outfield. Now more of a utility talent, being capable on the grass gives him plenty of opportunity. Celestino has always looked the part of a strong defender, and the growth he showed during year two in the big leagues was substantial. There is probably more to unlock with him, and Minnesota should continue to find ways to do so. At the end of the day there won’t be a surefire way to replace the production lost by either Buxton or Gallo if either miss time. Dealing Kepler could hurt should Minnesota need to replace injured bodies. When Spring Training commences though, it’s hard to think of another roster in baseball that can lay claim to the same level of defensive talent. One would hope that Royce Lewis can return this summer and play on the dirt. He found his way to the outfield last year with guys missing time and the roster needing help. The latter part should no longer be an issue, and with Target Field having an expansive amount of space to cover, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have given their pitchers the best players to do it. A season ago Minnesota was a top five unit in the outfield defensively. For 2023, the focus should be 1st or bust.
  6. Yes, we all know that health uncertainty is the banner headline for the 2023 Twins. "If they're healthy" is the rallying cry for even the most optimistic fan. As pivotal as they are, these situations just aren't very fun to analyze or talk about, because they feel so beyond anyone's control. Much of the team's outlook hinges on whether Tyler Mahle can pitch without shoulder weakness, and Alex Kirilloff can swing without pain. These things either will happen or they won't, and if they don't, it's not necessarily anyone's fault. The human body is fickle. Today I'm going to look at five critical points of uncertainty for the Twins that have nothing to do with injuries. (Well, almost nothing.) Instead, it's about these players proving they can deliver in areas where the club really needs them if they're to achieve their goals. 1. Can Joe Ryan excel against good teams? Hidden in Ryan's very good overall numbers last year (13-8, 3.55 ERA in 147 innings over 27 starts) is the fact that his success was largely buoyed by beating up on horrible AL Central opponents. In eight starts against the Royals and Tigers, the two teams he faced more than any other, Ryan went 8-0 with a 0.94 ERA. He won every start, allowing just five earned runs on 26 hits (one homer) in 48 innings. Look: that's an absurd level of dominance against any major-league lineup. Ryan certainly deserves a ton of credit for being absolutely automatic in those match-ups. But the flip side is that against all other opponents, he went 5-8 with a 4.80 ERA. The 26-year-old has already established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter who can take care of business against lesser lineups. But with so many question marks elsewhere in the rotation, the Twins are really leaning on him to be more. Showing he can up his game against better offenses than Detroit and KC will be key, both because he'll face less of each in the rebalanced schedule, and because the Twins will (hopefully) need starters they can count on in the postseason. 2. Can Jorge Polanco fill Luis Arraez's OBP void? There's no question that Arraez's ability to get on base will be deeply missed, and his departure raises questions about how a power-driven lineup will fare without his penchant for creating opportunities. There's reason to hope Polanco can make up for some of what the top of the order just lost. You might look at Polanco's career .334 OBP and say, eh, nothing special. Even his .346 mark last year was quite ordinary. But here's the thing: he posted it while batting a career-low .235, thanks to DOUBLING his walk rate from 2021. Polanco's 14.4% BB rate last year would've ranked fifth-best in baseball if his at-bats qualified. If the newfound patience sticks and Polanco is able to sustain a similar walk rate while his batting average rebounds to somewhere in the range of his .270 career benchmark, you've got the recipe for an Arraez-like OBP, or better. To wit: if Polanco walked at same rate in 2021 – when he batted .269 with a .323 OBP – as he did in 2022, he would've had 92 walks and a .395 on-base percentage. 3. Can Nick Gordon make himself essential? Gordon is coming off a breakthrough season that earned him Most Improved Twin honors and saw him accrue nearly 450 plate appearances. In many cases, a campaign like that for a former first-round draft pick would open the door for a big opportunity, if not a starting role. But the circumstances of the offseason leave him in a spot where he'll be scrapping for playing time from the start, and potentially buried on the depth chart. He's not their top backup center fielder (that's Michael A. Taylor). He's not their best lefty-swinging backup corner OF or DH option (that's Trevor Larnach). He's not their top backup anywhere in the infield, and in fact, I'd be somewhat surprised if the Twins view him as anything more than an emergency option on the dirt. Injuries can of course change the equation here, but as things stand, Gordon will have a hard time finding his way off the bench with any regularity. That is, unless he can force the issue. At times last year the former light-hitting shortstop looked like a game-changing offensive force, like in August when he slashed .321/.360/.531 with three steals and 17 RBIs in 26 games. Gordon was electric. Bring more of that to the table, and Rocco Baldelli will find a way to get Gordon into the lineup as much as he can. 4. Can José Miranda play third base effectively? The viability of Miranda's bat is not in question after a convincing rookie campaign that saw him handle everything MLB pitchers could throw at him, thanks to high-contact swing that generated power to all fields. Now he needs to define his defensive future. If he's able to hold on as a capable third baseman, at least for a few years, as opposed to switching to 1B/DH duty, it'd be a boon for the team's planning and lineup-building. An early slide down the defensive spectrum diminished Arraez's value in the front office's eyes, but Miranda can still avoid that route. Thus far, I would say the signs are less than encouraging. His defense at third base checked out pretty poorly last year, by almost any measure or metric, and scouting reports were hardly glowing in the minors. But plenty of third basemen who looked rough as rookies went on to establish themselves at the hot corner (calling Corey Koskie), and Miranda's still only 24. His offseason efforts to slim down have also notably resulted in a body that, per Carlos Correa, "looks sexy." We'll see if the defense can follow suit. 5. Can Jorge Alcalá get lefties out? Coming off a season where he made only two appearances due to an elbow injury that ultimately required debridement surgery, Alcalá is obviously a health question mark. Can his arm hold up, much less get back to pumping the upper-90s heat that led to big results in 2020/21? The Twins seem to be counting on it, because they have yet to make any significant additions to their bullpen this offseason. Unless that changes, they're banking largely on Alcalá's return to provide depth in the mid-to-late innings, setting the table for Jhoan Durán and Jorge López at the back end. Even assuming he's healthy, Alcalá needs to turn one more corner to be the kind of weapon the Twins need him to be. He needs to overcome his susceptibility against left-handed pitchers, who have pummeled him to the tune of .275/.358/.508 in his MLB career. That .866 OPS is 354 points higher than his mark against righties. Baldelli will have the ability to strategically deploy Alcalá in favorable match-ups to an extent, but if the righty wants to truly be relied upon as a key late-inning weapon, he'll need to show he can handle the lefty sluggers and pinch-hitters that come his way.
  7. At points this winter, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Max Kepler was headed out of Minnesota. It’s starting to look like he’s staying, however, which means it’s time for the Twins to realize what they have in their former everyday right fielder. Image courtesy of Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports There have been points this winter where we were waiting for a Max Kepler trade announcement within the coming hours, such as when Joey Gallo was signed. Here we are at the end of January, however, and not only is Max Kepler still a Twin, it appears that may not change after all. When Disco Dan Hayes makes such a statement, it’s wise to listen. The Twins still see value in Kepler, at least more than other teams appear to on the trade market. It’s a fair stance. It’s hard to trade a player for less than a team feels they’re worth. That being said, if Max Kepler stays in Minnesota another year, the Twins need to get realistic about what they have in their homegrown corner outfielder. Max Kepler was seen as a breakout candidate for years before finally doing so in 2019. His 122 wRC+ that year made him appear to be a future star player, slugging 36 homers and crushing lefties, his biggest weakness as a hitter. We now have about 1,500 plate appearances prior to 2019 and over 1000 after saying that Max Kepler is not the player he was in 2019, and it’s time the Twins stop pretending he is. The realistic description of Max Kepler is that he’s a defense first strong side platoon player with a plate approach that should keep him out of the everyday lineup. In about 1,100 plate appearances since 2019, Max Kepler has slashed .220/.314/.392. His 98 wRC+ is 2% below league average for that time period, but playing the premier offensive position of corner outfield means that he’s even further below average than that relative to his positional peers. The Twins roster is ripe with reasons for Max Kepler not to have right field locked down everyday. Trevor Larnach nearly had as many Defensive Runs saved as Kepler in far fewer innings defensively in 2022, and there’s still a chance he hits left handed pitching and becomes a legitimate everyday player. Joey Gallo, for as much hate as he gets, is a legit plus player in the outfield defensively, and his career wRC+ is over 30 points higher against left handed pitching while his splits against right handed pitching are nearly identical to Kepler. Newly added outfielder Michael Taylor, who is known for being a non contributor offensively, blows Kepler away against left handed pitching for their careers. In 2022, Max Kepler took 60% of his plate appearances in the 1-4 spots of the lineup and about 43% of his plate appearances in the cleanup spot. There’s simply no justification for the Twins to continue this moving forward. With a career .744 OPS, Kepler hasn’t even reached the .720 mark since the shortened 2020 season. Even against right handed pitching Kepler has been surpassed by players such as Nick Gordon, who performed considerably better offensively as a platoon player in 2022. The Twins have assembled enough depth to keep Kepler from hitting in the heart of the lineup, and from playing in same-handed matchups at all. At 30 years old it’s time to recognize that this is the caliber of player that Max Kepler is. All of this to say that Max Kepler is a fine player… as a depth piece. There will be times where his defensive value is needed, and given the Twins recent injuries, he'll be a fine everyday fill-in for short periods if need be. In terms of 2022 calculated value per WAR, Kepler was still a value as he was paid $6.75m and was worth a bit over $10m by 2022 free agency measures. His $8.5m salary in 2023 and $10m team option for 2024 become much more in question however. If Kepler plays less in 2023 and/or his defensive value declines even slightly, he becomes less of a value and a prime candidate to have his 2024 option declined. This is why it’s still somewhat puzzling that the Twins don’t appear to be determined to trade him. With the shift ban on the horizon, it’s not a stretch to call it likely that Kepler’s value may never be higher despite the fact that it doesn’t look like he’ll benefit all that much from the rule change. The Twins may still very well trade Max Kepler. If they don’t however, they need to use him in an appropriate role. He’s not a player whose performance demands at bats. He’s not part of the core of the lineup. View full article
  8. The Twins acquired centerfielder Michael A. Taylor from the Kansas City Royals Monday evening. The trade sets him up to be the primary backup to Byron Buxton in centerfield. Does Taylor's defensive skill give the Twins their best centerfield depth in years? Image courtesy of Wendell Cruz, USA TODAY Sports The Twins didn’t make this trade to get Michael A. Taylor for his bat. He’s here to play defense, and some very good defense in ccenter field Taylor won a Gold Glove in 2021 and joining the Twins alleviates the pressure for Byron Buxton pushing his physical limits to play every day in center field. Taylor has also played the corner outfield positions in his career, but in the last two seasons, he's played exclusively in center. The acquisition of Taylor puts nine outfielders on the Twins' 40-man roster, as the Twins designated pitcher A.J. Alexy for assignment following the trade. As the roster currently stands, a Twins everyday outfield could consist of Joey Gallo in left, a Buxton/Taylor platoon in center, and Max Kepler in right. This off-season, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have worked hard to address each of the Twins' issues and added depth at each position, and brining in Taylor solidifies a commitment to put the best possible team out there and ensure more playing time for Buxton when healthy. For a Twins team needing strong outfield depth after two chaotic seasons with centerfielder after centerfielder going down with injuries, Taylor provides hope that they can avoid having a player like Rob Refsnyder playing in center field because no one else is available due to injuries. The line of duty for center field behind Buxton and Taylor is likely to fall onto Gordon if either cannot play. The Twins have also said that Gallo can be an option in center if push comes to shove. Of course there is also the option of Celestino, who is now likely to start his season in St. Paul to hone in on his hitting skills that have not translated well in the Majors. Again, Taylor’s hitting numbers don’t jump off the back of his baseball card as he hit .254/.313/.357 (.670) in 2022. However, his fielding numbers per Statcast tell a different story. His percentile for arm strength ranks one percent higher than Buxton, two percent more than Gallo and 19 percent higher than Kepler. The only outfielder on the Twins 40-man who was in a higher percentile than Taylor for the 2022 season was Gilberto Celestino, in the 93rd percentile. One area where Taylor may shine for the Twins in 2023 is stolen bases. Taylor had just four steals in 2022, but he had 14 stolen bases in 2021. With Taylor in the outfield, Twins fans can take a sigh of relief that Buxton has a great chance to hit the 100 games played threshold for the first time since 2017. Plus if injuries are down in 2023 from how high they were in 2022. Many players will enjoy more playing time and needed rest days with the Twins depth in the outfield only growing stronger. View full article
  9. There have been points this winter where we were waiting for a Max Kepler trade announcement within the coming hours, such as when Joey Gallo was signed. Here we are at the end of January, however, and not only is Max Kepler still a Twin, it appears that may not change after all. When Disco Dan Hayes makes such a statement, it’s wise to listen. The Twins still see value in Kepler, at least more than other teams appear to on the trade market. It’s a fair stance. It’s hard to trade a player for less than a team feels they’re worth. That being said, if Max Kepler stays in Minnesota another year, the Twins need to get realistic about what they have in their homegrown corner outfielder. Max Kepler was seen as a breakout candidate for years before finally doing so in 2019. His 122 wRC+ that year made him appear to be a future star player, slugging 36 homers and crushing lefties, his biggest weakness as a hitter. We now have about 1,500 plate appearances prior to 2019 and over 1000 after saying that Max Kepler is not the player he was in 2019, and it’s time the Twins stop pretending he is. The realistic description of Max Kepler is that he’s a defense first strong side platoon player with a plate approach that should keep him out of the everyday lineup. In about 1,100 plate appearances since 2019, Max Kepler has slashed .220/.314/.392. His 98 wRC+ is 2% below league average for that time period, but playing the premier offensive position of corner outfield means that he’s even further below average than that relative to his positional peers. The Twins roster is ripe with reasons for Max Kepler not to have right field locked down everyday. Trevor Larnach nearly had as many Defensive Runs saved as Kepler in far fewer innings defensively in 2022, and there’s still a chance he hits left handed pitching and becomes a legitimate everyday player. Joey Gallo, for as much hate as he gets, is a legit plus player in the outfield defensively, and his career wRC+ is over 30 points higher against left handed pitching while his splits against right handed pitching are nearly identical to Kepler. Newly added outfielder Michael Taylor, who is known for being a non contributor offensively, blows Kepler away against left handed pitching for their careers. In 2022, Max Kepler took 60% of his plate appearances in the 1-4 spots of the lineup and about 43% of his plate appearances in the cleanup spot. There’s simply no justification for the Twins to continue this moving forward. With a career .744 OPS, Kepler hasn’t even reached the .720 mark since the shortened 2020 season. Even against right handed pitching Kepler has been surpassed by players such as Nick Gordon, who performed considerably better offensively as a platoon player in 2022. The Twins have assembled enough depth to keep Kepler from hitting in the heart of the lineup, and from playing in same-handed matchups at all. At 30 years old it’s time to recognize that this is the caliber of player that Max Kepler is. All of this to say that Max Kepler is a fine player… as a depth piece. There will be times where his defensive value is needed, and given the Twins recent injuries, he'll be a fine everyday fill-in for short periods if need be. In terms of 2022 calculated value per WAR, Kepler was still a value as he was paid $6.75m and was worth a bit over $10m by 2022 free agency measures. His $8.5m salary in 2023 and $10m team option for 2024 become much more in question however. If Kepler plays less in 2023 and/or his defensive value declines even slightly, he becomes less of a value and a prime candidate to have his 2024 option declined. This is why it’s still somewhat puzzling that the Twins don’t appear to be determined to trade him. With the shift ban on the horizon, it’s not a stretch to call it likely that Kepler’s value may never be higher despite the fact that it doesn’t look like he’ll benefit all that much from the rule change. The Twins may still very well trade Max Kepler. If they don’t however, they need to use him in an appropriate role. He’s not a player whose performance demands at bats. He’s not part of the core of the lineup.
  10. Spring is in the air, with fans starting to think about when the 2023 season will begin. Frigid fans gathered in Fargo in eager anticipation for one of the most critical Twins seasons in recent history. Image courtesy of Madison Quinn, KFGO The Twins Winter Caravan has been a staple of the Upper Midwest for over 60 years. This annual event sends current and former Twins players, along with broadcasters, to cities throughout Twins Territory. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced the cancellation of the last two Winter Caravans, but the Twins are back on the road this season with a much more limited schedule. Local Twins radio affiliate KFGO sponsored the festivities in downtown Fargo at the Sanctuary Events Center. Fans were treated to highlight videos, a ballpark meal, a question-and-answer session, and autographs from the Twins contingent. Among the attendees were current Twins players Jose Miranda and Nick Gordon and third base coach Tommy Watkins. New Twins Hall of Fame outfielder and radio voice Dan Gladden was supposed to be there, but he stayed back to attend the funeral of Jake Mauer, the father of Jake, Billy, and Joe Mauer. Miranda obviously has the added pressure of his sophomore season and the team handing him the starting third base job. However, Carlos Correa's return is going to help him to continue to improve. Miranda stressed the importance of the Puerto Rico connection between the two players and that he was a teenager when the Astros drafted Correa with the first overall pick. Miranda mentioned, "He gives me a lot of advice on how to get better, especially on how to make it through 162 games." During the 2022 season, Miranda started the year at Triple-A, and the coaches had a clear message for him. "They told me to go have fun and play like you are seven years old." He focused on working hard so he could finally get the call to the big-league level. It worked, and he ended up leading the Twins in RBI last season and provided one of the team's most dramatic moments. Gordon also faced some challenges during the 2022 season. He played multiple new defensive positions but had some help along the way. "It's challenging playing all the positions, but Tommy and Buck (Byron Buxton) helped me transition to the outfield." It was a tough transition, but he stressed the importance of continuing to work through struggles. Family is clearly important to both players. Gordon talked about growing up in a baseball family, with his father and brother being big-league players. He said everything was a competition, from eating dinner to getting ready in the morning. Miranda discussed his father serving as his batting coach throughout his life. "I can go 3-for-4, and he will tell me about the one I missed." Both players have reached this point in their careers because of their strong connection to their families. Miranda couldn't escape answering a question about his famous cousin, Lin Manuel Miranda. He said his favorite production from his famous cousin is the movie Encanto because his two-year-old daughter loves the film. "I have to watch it 100 times per day." That number will likely need to decrease with the Twins' season starting in the coming months. Anyone following the Twins last season is aware of how injuries plagued the team. When asked about their goals for the season, both players stressed that staying healthy was the number one goal. Both players want to be able to help the team win every day. They tied staying healthy to the team winning, a clear focus of the players in 2023. Miranda went on to say that they want the team to make the playoffs for the next five to ten years. It's a lofty goal, but this core has a chance to do some damage in the AL Central during the next decade. What are you looking forward to from Miranda and Gordon in 2023? What other stories did you hear at the other Winter Caravan stops? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  11. The Twins Winter Caravan has been a staple of the Upper Midwest for over 60 years. This annual event sends current and former Twins players, along with broadcasters, to cities throughout Twins Territory. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced the cancellation of the last two Winter Caravans, but the Twins are back on the road this season with a much more limited schedule. Local Twins radio affiliate KFGO sponsored the festivities in downtown Fargo at the Sanctuary Events Center. Fans were treated to highlight videos, a ballpark meal, a question-and-answer session, and autographs from the Twins contingent. Among the attendees were current Twins players Jose Miranda and Nick Gordon and third base coach Tommy Watkins. New Twins Hall of Fame outfielder and radio voice Dan Gladden was supposed to be there, but he stayed back to attend the funeral of Jake Mauer, the father of Jake, Billy, and Joe Mauer. Miranda obviously has the added pressure of his sophomore season and the team handing him the starting third base job. However, Carlos Correa's return is going to help him to continue to improve. Miranda stressed the importance of the Puerto Rico connection between the two players and that he was a teenager when the Astros drafted Correa with the first overall pick. Miranda mentioned, "He gives me a lot of advice on how to get better, especially on how to make it through 162 games." During the 2022 season, Miranda started the year at Triple-A, and the coaches had a clear message for him. "They told me to go have fun and play like you are seven years old." He focused on working hard so he could finally get the call to the big-league level. It worked, and he ended up leading the Twins in RBI last season and provided one of the team's most dramatic moments. Gordon also faced some challenges during the 2022 season. He played multiple new defensive positions but had some help along the way. "It's challenging playing all the positions, but Tommy and Buck (Byron Buxton) helped me transition to the outfield." It was a tough transition, but he stressed the importance of continuing to work through struggles. Family is clearly important to both players. Gordon talked about growing up in a baseball family, with his father and brother being big-league players. He said everything was a competition, from eating dinner to getting ready in the morning. Miranda discussed his father serving as his batting coach throughout his life. "I can go 3-for-4, and he will tell me about the one I missed." Both players have reached this point in their careers because of their strong connection to their families. Miranda couldn't escape answering a question about his famous cousin, Lin Manuel Miranda. He said his favorite production from his famous cousin is the movie Encanto because his two-year-old daughter loves the film. "I have to watch it 100 times per day." That number will likely need to decrease with the Twins' season starting in the coming months. Anyone following the Twins last season is aware of how injuries plagued the team. When asked about their goals for the season, both players stressed that staying healthy was the number one goal. Both players want to be able to help the team win every day. They tied staying healthy to the team winning, a clear focus of the players in 2023. Miranda went on to say that they want the team to make the playoffs for the next five to ten years. It's a lofty goal, but this core has a chance to do some damage in the AL Central during the next decade. What are you looking forward to from Miranda and Gordon in 2023? What other stories did you hear at the other Winter Caravan stops? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  12. The Twins didn’t make this trade to get Michael A. Taylor for his bat. He’s here to play defense, and some very good defense in ccenter field Taylor won a Gold Glove in 2021 and joining the Twins alleviates the pressure for Byron Buxton pushing his physical limits to play every day in center field. Taylor has also played the corner outfield positions in his career, but in the last two seasons, he's played exclusively in center. The acquisition of Taylor puts nine outfielders on the Twins' 40-man roster, as the Twins designated pitcher A.J. Alexy for assignment following the trade. As the roster currently stands, a Twins everyday outfield could consist of Joey Gallo in left, a Buxton/Taylor platoon in center, and Max Kepler in right. This off-season, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have worked hard to address each of the Twins' issues and added depth at each position, and brining in Taylor solidifies a commitment to put the best possible team out there and ensure more playing time for Buxton when healthy. For a Twins team needing strong outfield depth after two chaotic seasons with centerfielder after centerfielder going down with injuries, Taylor provides hope that they can avoid having a player like Rob Refsnyder playing in center field because no one else is available due to injuries. The line of duty for center field behind Buxton and Taylor is likely to fall onto Gordon if either cannot play. The Twins have also said that Gallo can be an option in center if push comes to shove. Of course there is also the option of Celestino, who is now likely to start his season in St. Paul to hone in on his hitting skills that have not translated well in the Majors. Again, Taylor’s hitting numbers don’t jump off the back of his baseball card as he hit .254/.313/.357 (.670) in 2022. However, his fielding numbers per Statcast tell a different story. His percentile for arm strength ranks one percent higher than Buxton, two percent more than Gallo and 19 percent higher than Kepler. The only outfielder on the Twins 40-man who was in a higher percentile than Taylor for the 2022 season was Gilberto Celestino, in the 93rd percentile. One area where Taylor may shine for the Twins in 2023 is stolen bases. Taylor had just four steals in 2022, but he had 14 stolen bases in 2021. With Taylor in the outfield, Twins fans can take a sigh of relief that Buxton has a great chance to hit the 100 games played threshold for the first time since 2017. Plus if injuries are down in 2023 from how high they were in 2022. Many players will enjoy more playing time and needed rest days with the Twins depth in the outfield only growing stronger.
  13. Unlike other professional sports leagues, baseball’s first-round draft picks take time to develop and reach the major leagues. Here is a look back at the last decade of MLB Drafts and the players selected by the Twins. Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports Many first-round picks quickly move into the organization’s top prospect lists. Minnesota has seen some successes and failures in recent drafts, with multiple top prospects on the way to Target Field. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have focused on certain types of players in the draft, which might help the team keep its winning window open as long as possible. Here’s a look at the last decade of first-round picks for the Twins. 2022: Brooks Lee (8th overall) Lee is one of the most exciting hitting prospects to come through the Twins organization in quite some time. Some evaluators thought he could be the number one overall pick, but he fell to the Twins with the eighth pick. Last season, he played at three levels and hit .303/.389/.451 (.839) with six doubles and four home runs. The Twins don’t need to rush things with Lee, and he will probably spend most of the season at Double-A. If he performs well, there is a chance he will make his debut in 2023 and is a top-25 global prospect by this time next year. 2021: Chase Petty (26th overall) It can take a long time for high school pitchers to develop in the minor leagues. Minnesota thought Petty had enough upside to take on that risk before drafting him late in the first round. Leading into last season, the Twins traded him to the Reds organization for Sonny Gray. In his age-19 season, the Reds pushed him to High-A, and he compiled a 3.48 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 8.8 K/9. For 2023, Petty should get a full season at High-A with a chance to pitch over 100 innings for the first time in his career. 2020: Aaron Sabato (27th overall) The 2020 MLB Draft will be interesting to analyze in the years ahead. College teams saw limited action before the shutdown, and many high school players never stepped on the field that spring. Sabato destroyed the ball in college (1.158 OPS) before being drafted by the Twins. In 2022, he hit .215/.336/.438 (.774) with 17 doubles and 22 home runs while reaching Double-A. Sabato was over a year younger than the average age of the competition in the Texas League, so he should spend most of 2022 at that level. 2019: Keoni Cavaco (13th overall) Cavaco has spent the last two seasons at Fort Myers while shifting from shortstop to third base. Last season, he hit .231/.275/.397 (.672) with 18 doubles, five triples, and 11 home runs. His OPS jumped 74 points compared to 2021, and he was roughly the same age as the average competition at his level. He will be pushed to Cedar Rapids in 2023 with a chance to reach Double-A by the season’s end. 2018: Trevor Larnach (20th overall) Larnach has averaged fewer than 80 games per season over the last two years. He’s been a streaky hitter during his big-league career, but some of his performance might be tied to his injury history. He posted a 104 OPS+ in 2022 and destroyed the ball in May with a 1.077 OPS. Minnesota has a plethora of left-handed power-hitting bats, which might make Larnach expendable as part of a trade. 2017: Royce Lewis (1st overall) It looked like the Twins might be willing to turn shortstop over to Royce Lewis before the team signed Carlos Correa to a long-term deal. Now, Lewis will need to shift to other defensive positions if Correa continues to stay healthy. During the 2023 season, Lewis isn’t expected to return to action until mid-season while recovering from his second ACL tear over the last two seasons. 2016: Alex Kirilloff (15th overall) Kirilloff has battled through wrist issues during his first two big-league seasons, and the Twins hope his latest surgery helps him in the long term. There have been glimpses of the strong hitter Kirilloff was at the start of his professional career, but his nagging wrist has slowed down his development. He will get regular time at first base and in a corner outfield spot for the 2023 Twins. 2015: Tyler Jay (6th overall) Jay never made it to the big leagues with the Twins organization. He topped out at the Double-A level in four seasons in the organization. The Twins traded Jay to the Reds organization during the 2019 season for cash considerations, but he only spent part of a season pitching for that organization. Last year, he made 22 appearances with a 1.64 ERA and 9.8 K/9 for the Joliet Slammers in the independent Frontier League. It seems likely that he can get another job in independent baseball if he wants to continue pitching. 2014: Nick Gordon (5th overall) It may have taken longer than expected, but Gordon found a niche with the 2022 Twins. He became an everyday player for a team struggling through injuries and posted a 113 OPS+ in 136 games. Minnesota has plenty of corner outfield options on the 40-man roster, so it will be interesting to see how the Twins will use Gordon in 2023. He is out of MLB options, so he needs to be kept on the Opening Day roster. 2013: Kohl Stewart (4th overall) Stewart played eight seasons in the Twins organization and made six appearances at the big-league level. He struggled in the upper minors with a 4.65 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in over 160 innings at Triple-A. For 2023, the Royals signed Stewart to a minor league deal, but he isn’t expected in big-league camp as he continues to rehab from an elbow injury. Which players will have the most significant impact on the 2023 roster? Which player was the biggest disappointment? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  14. The Twins traded Luis Arraez, in part, because he was functionally redundant with the makeup of their roster and position player mix. However, his departure does leave a clear hole in the projected regular starting lineup. How will they fill it? Image courtesy of Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports On March 30th in Kansas City, the Twins will kick off their season against the Royals and presumably a right-handed starter (Brady Singer?). Prior to last week's Pablo López trade, the most likely Opening Day lineup for Minnesota would have featured Alex Kirilloff at first base, José Miranda at third base, and Luis Arraez at designated hitter. Now, they'll need to find another way to fill that last spot. In some ways, the question feels rather unimportant; it's just one game, and the Twins are likely to rotate different players like Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, and Miranda through the DH spot frequently. There doesn't necessarily need to be a "primary" guy at the position, and indeed we saw this play out last year in the absence of Nelson Cruz, with 10 different players getting distributed starts at DH. However, trying to figure out who Rocco Baldelli will write in at designated hitter against a right-handed pitcher on Opening Day will tell us a great deal about the current state of the roster, the quality of the 'A lineup,' and the decisions (or opportunities) that still lie ahead. INTERNAL OPTIONS If the Twins don't make any more significant additions to the mix (which I rather doubt), here are the options in play to handle DH on Opening Day, and on a semi-regular basis against righties: Nick Gordon Gordon is probably the simplest default answer, in that he will assuredly be on the roster and won't have a designated starting position. He slashed .289/.329/.465 against right-handed pitchers last year so he's definitely a viable threat versus someone like Singer but ... the wiry utility man would be an odd fit as designated hitter on Opening Day, or as the regular plug there. Last year, he made zero starts at DH. Trevor Larnach I think Larnach is by far the best fit as lefty-swinging DH option for the Twins, so long as he is on the roster. At the moment, it's not totally clear he will be. If the club is carrying Joey Gallo, Max Kepler, Kirilloff and Gordon, is there room for a fifth lefty-swinging corner guy? Maybe – especially if they treat Larnach as more of a regular DH and Gordon more as the fourth outfielder. But Larnach is still developing and the Twins need to be thoughtful about getting him consistent action. Matt Wallner Similar to Larnach, Wallner is victimized by the backlog of lefty corner outfielders. Since he's behind (a healthy) Larnach in line, his path to claiming this role is even more obstructed. Trading Kepler would create a much clearer path for either to carve out an immediate spot on the big-league roster. Edouard Julien The emergence of Julien was likely a major factor in the front office's willingness to deal Arraez. Julien is quite similar in profile: a lefty-hitting infielder with excellent OBP skills and no clear defensive fit. If the Twins wanted to replace some semblance of what Arraez brought to the table in the DH spot, this would be the route. It would also be pretty aggressive, as the 23-year-old Julien has yet to play above Double-A (where he slashed a ridiculous .332/.465/.566 vs. RHP last year). If the Twins keep their current personnel and hold an open competition at DH this spring, I could see Julien claiming the gig, drawing most of the DH starts against righties while Buxton, Correa, and Miranda fill in against lefties. Alex Kirilloff I'm including Kirilloff in this list because he would theoretically be a logical fit as DH against right-handers. He'll probably get the occasional look there. But I think the Twins view him as by far their best defensive first baseman. If his wrist is good enough to swing, it's good enough to play first base, and that's where they'll want him on Opening Day and most days. EXTERNAL OPTIONS None of the above options would be bad, per se. But for the Twins to go one of those routes would feel like leaving an opportunity on the table – opportunity to add one more potential impact veteran bat, and a player who could be useful in additional ways. Here are a few options that stand out to me as potential late-offseason additions capable of upgrading the Twins' lineup and helping fill in at DH with Arraez gone. Yuli Gurriel He was a longtime fixture at first base for the Astros, and preceded Arraez as AL batting champ in 2021. He's also 38 and struggled to an 84 OPS+ this past season, which is why he's still trying to land a contract at this stage of the offseason. Gurriel is a righty hitter, so he doesn't quite fit the bill as a masher to rotate in against RHP, but his splits are fairly neutral. The hope here would be that his bat rebounds, while his contending experience (including 85 career postseason games) and veteran presence combine to deliver a "Nelson Cruz Lite" impact. Interestingly, the Twins have reportedly shown interest in Gurriel of late. Robbie Grossman Our old friend spent three seasons with the Twins (2016-18), accruing a .266/.371/.400 slash line, which is basically Arraez with fewer singles. He's since spent time with Oakland, Detroit, and Atlanta, struggling last year to a .622 OPS. He maintained his usual patience, and the switch-hitting 33-year-old would represent a cheap rebound bet. (In 2020-21 he had a 118 OPS+.) This is the kind of modest gamble the Twins could afford – so long as they're willing to cut the cord relatively quickly if it's not working – because they have so many fallback options in place. Jurickson Profar In terms of the role we're discussing here, this is probably the biggest splash the Twins could realistically make. Profar is one of the best remaining free agents on the market, coming off a 2.5 fWAR season in San Diego. He's an intriguing fit for the Twins as a switch-hitter with defensive versatility. Profar also has ties to Thad Levine from his days in Texas. An acquisition of this magnitude would really put a bow on the offseason, but you wonder if Minnesota's realistically willing to offer enough guaranteed money or playing time to sway the 29-year-old. Miguel Sanó Look, there would be no risk in signing Sanó to a minor-league contract and seeing what he's got in spring training, if he's not getting bites elsewhere. A version of the big slugger that even approximates his career 116 OPS+ would be useful to the Twins as a part-time DH and starter at first against lefties. No one wants to hear it anymore but Sanó was actually hitting the ball reasonably well in 2022, despite the paltry production before a knee injury ended his season. While skill sets like his tend to degrade more quickly, I'm not convinced he's cooked. Franmil Reyes This would be similar to the Sanó gamble, except with a fresh face and less all the baggage. Reyes was of course a highly touted young slugger when Cleveland acquired him from San Diego in 2019, but he's stagnated and regressed after some early success. Alas, Reyes is only 27 and has a .251/.313/.470 career slash line. Why not? As recently as 2021 he launched 30 homers in 121 games with an .846 OPS. Luke Voit Voit would represent a lower-upside but higher-floor variation of the above two suggestions. The Twins wouldn't be banking so much on a rebound because he wasn't bad in 2022, he was just himself: a plodding righty slugger who will strike out a bunch and hit some home runs, translating to average-ish production overall. He definitely belongs at DH but can fill in at first base occasionally. What are your thoughts? Does anyone on the free agent or trade market stand out as a strong fit to you? Or are you more interested in going with internal options? View full article
  15. Many first-round picks quickly move into the organization’s top prospect lists. Minnesota has seen some successes and failures in recent drafts, with multiple top prospects on the way to Target Field. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have focused on certain types of players in the draft, which might help the team keep its winning window open as long as possible. Here’s a look at the last decade of first-round picks for the Twins. 2022: Brooks Lee (8th overall) Lee is one of the most exciting hitting prospects to come through the Twins organization in quite some time. Some evaluators thought he could be the number one overall pick, but he fell to the Twins with the eighth pick. Last season, he played at three levels and hit .303/.389/.451 (.839) with six doubles and four home runs. The Twins don’t need to rush things with Lee, and he will probably spend most of the season at Double-A. If he performs well, there is a chance he will make his debut in 2023 and is a top-25 global prospect by this time next year. 2021: Chase Petty (26th overall) It can take a long time for high school pitchers to develop in the minor leagues. Minnesota thought Petty had enough upside to take on that risk before drafting him late in the first round. Leading into last season, the Twins traded him to the Reds organization for Sonny Gray. In his age-19 season, the Reds pushed him to High-A, and he compiled a 3.48 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 8.8 K/9. For 2023, Petty should get a full season at High-A with a chance to pitch over 100 innings for the first time in his career. 2020: Aaron Sabato (27th overall) The 2020 MLB Draft will be interesting to analyze in the years ahead. College teams saw limited action before the shutdown, and many high school players never stepped on the field that spring. Sabato destroyed the ball in college (1.158 OPS) before being drafted by the Twins. In 2022, he hit .215/.336/.438 (.774) with 17 doubles and 22 home runs while reaching Double-A. Sabato was over a year younger than the average age of the competition in the Texas League, so he should spend most of 2022 at that level. 2019: Keoni Cavaco (13th overall) Cavaco has spent the last two seasons at Fort Myers while shifting from shortstop to third base. Last season, he hit .231/.275/.397 (.672) with 18 doubles, five triples, and 11 home runs. His OPS jumped 74 points compared to 2021, and he was roughly the same age as the average competition at his level. He will be pushed to Cedar Rapids in 2023 with a chance to reach Double-A by the season’s end. 2018: Trevor Larnach (20th overall) Larnach has averaged fewer than 80 games per season over the last two years. He’s been a streaky hitter during his big-league career, but some of his performance might be tied to his injury history. He posted a 104 OPS+ in 2022 and destroyed the ball in May with a 1.077 OPS. Minnesota has a plethora of left-handed power-hitting bats, which might make Larnach expendable as part of a trade. 2017: Royce Lewis (1st overall) It looked like the Twins might be willing to turn shortstop over to Royce Lewis before the team signed Carlos Correa to a long-term deal. Now, Lewis will need to shift to other defensive positions if Correa continues to stay healthy. During the 2023 season, Lewis isn’t expected to return to action until mid-season while recovering from his second ACL tear over the last two seasons. 2016: Alex Kirilloff (15th overall) Kirilloff has battled through wrist issues during his first two big-league seasons, and the Twins hope his latest surgery helps him in the long term. There have been glimpses of the strong hitter Kirilloff was at the start of his professional career, but his nagging wrist has slowed down his development. He will get regular time at first base and in a corner outfield spot for the 2023 Twins. 2015: Tyler Jay (6th overall) Jay never made it to the big leagues with the Twins organization. He topped out at the Double-A level in four seasons in the organization. The Twins traded Jay to the Reds organization during the 2019 season for cash considerations, but he only spent part of a season pitching for that organization. Last year, he made 22 appearances with a 1.64 ERA and 9.8 K/9 for the Joliet Slammers in the independent Frontier League. It seems likely that he can get another job in independent baseball if he wants to continue pitching. 2014: Nick Gordon (5th overall) It may have taken longer than expected, but Gordon found a niche with the 2022 Twins. He became an everyday player for a team struggling through injuries and posted a 113 OPS+ in 136 games. Minnesota has plenty of corner outfield options on the 40-man roster, so it will be interesting to see how the Twins will use Gordon in 2023. He is out of MLB options, so he needs to be kept on the Opening Day roster. 2013: Kohl Stewart (4th overall) Stewart played eight seasons in the Twins organization and made six appearances at the big-league level. He struggled in the upper minors with a 4.65 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in over 160 innings at Triple-A. For 2023, the Royals signed Stewart to a minor league deal, but he isn’t expected in big-league camp as he continues to rehab from an elbow injury. Which players will have the most significant impact on the 2023 roster? Which player was the biggest disappointment? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  16. On March 30th in Kansas City, the Twins will kick off their season against the Royals and presumably a right-handed starter (Brady Singer?). Prior to last week's Pablo López trade, the most likely Opening Day lineup for Minnesota would have featured Alex Kirilloff at first base, José Miranda at third base, and Luis Arraez at designated hitter. Now, they'll need to find another way to fill that last spot. In some ways, the question feels rather unimportant; it's just one game, and the Twins are likely to rotate different players like Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, and Miranda through the DH spot frequently. There doesn't necessarily need to be a "primary" guy at the position, and indeed we saw this play out last year in the absence of Nelson Cruz, with 10 different players getting distributed starts at DH. However, trying to figure out who Rocco Baldelli will write in at designated hitter against a right-handed pitcher on Opening Day will tell us a great deal about the current state of the roster, the quality of the 'A lineup,' and the decisions (or opportunities) that still lie ahead. INTERNAL OPTIONS If the Twins don't make any more significant additions to the mix (which I rather doubt), here are the options in play to handle DH on Opening Day, and on a semi-regular basis against righties: Nick Gordon Gordon is probably the simplest default answer, in that he will assuredly be on the roster and won't have a designated starting position. He slashed .289/.329/.465 against right-handed pitchers last year so he's definitely a viable threat versus someone like Singer but ... the wiry utility man would be an odd fit as designated hitter on Opening Day, or as the regular plug there. Last year, he made zero starts at DH. Trevor Larnach I think Larnach is by far the best fit as lefty-swinging DH option for the Twins, so long as he is on the roster. At the moment, it's not totally clear he will be. If the club is carrying Joey Gallo, Max Kepler, Kirilloff and Gordon, is there room for a fifth lefty-swinging corner guy? Maybe – especially if they treat Larnach as more of a regular DH and Gordon more as the fourth outfielder. But Larnach is still developing and the Twins need to be thoughtful about getting him consistent action. Matt Wallner Similar to Larnach, Wallner is victimized by the backlog of lefty corner outfielders. Since he's behind (a healthy) Larnach in line, his path to claiming this role is even more obstructed. Trading Kepler would create a much clearer path for either to carve out an immediate spot on the big-league roster. Edouard Julien The emergence of Julien was likely a major factor in the front office's willingness to deal Arraez. Julien is quite similar in profile: a lefty-hitting infielder with excellent OBP skills and no clear defensive fit. If the Twins wanted to replace some semblance of what Arraez brought to the table in the DH spot, this would be the route. It would also be pretty aggressive, as the 23-year-old Julien has yet to play above Double-A (where he slashed a ridiculous .332/.465/.566 vs. RHP last year). If the Twins keep their current personnel and hold an open competition at DH this spring, I could see Julien claiming the gig, drawing most of the DH starts against righties while Buxton, Correa, and Miranda fill in against lefties. Alex Kirilloff I'm including Kirilloff in this list because he would theoretically be a logical fit as DH against right-handers. He'll probably get the occasional look there. But I think the Twins view him as by far their best defensive first baseman. If his wrist is good enough to swing, it's good enough to play first base, and that's where they'll want him on Opening Day and most days. EXTERNAL OPTIONS None of the above options would be bad, per se. But for the Twins to go one of those routes would feel like leaving an opportunity on the table – opportunity to add one more potential impact veteran bat, and a player who could be useful in additional ways. Here are a few options that stand out to me as potential late-offseason additions capable of upgrading the Twins' lineup and helping fill in at DH with Arraez gone. Yuli Gurriel He was a longtime fixture at first base for the Astros, and preceded Arraez as AL batting champ in 2021. He's also 38 and struggled to an 84 OPS+ this past season, which is why he's still trying to land a contract at this stage of the offseason. Gurriel is a righty hitter, so he doesn't quite fit the bill as a masher to rotate in against RHP, but his splits are fairly neutral. The hope here would be that his bat rebounds, while his contending experience (including 85 career postseason games) and veteran presence combine to deliver a "Nelson Cruz Lite" impact. Interestingly, the Twins have reportedly shown interest in Gurriel of late. Robbie Grossman Our old friend spent three seasons with the Twins (2016-18), accruing a .266/.371/.400 slash line, which is basically Arraez with fewer singles. He's since spent time with Oakland, Detroit, and Atlanta, struggling last year to a .622 OPS. He maintained his usual patience, and the switch-hitting 33-year-old would represent a cheap rebound bet. (In 2020-21 he had a 118 OPS+.) This is the kind of modest gamble the Twins could afford – so long as they're willing to cut the cord relatively quickly if it's not working – because they have so many fallback options in place. Jurickson Profar In terms of the role we're discussing here, this is probably the biggest splash the Twins could realistically make. Profar is one of the best remaining free agents on the market, coming off a 2.5 fWAR season in San Diego. He's an intriguing fit for the Twins as a switch-hitter with defensive versatility. Profar also has ties to Thad Levine from his days in Texas. An acquisition of this magnitude would really put a bow on the offseason, but you wonder if Minnesota's realistically willing to offer enough guaranteed money or playing time to sway the 29-year-old. Miguel Sanó Look, there would be no risk in signing Sanó to a minor-league contract and seeing what he's got in spring training, if he's not getting bites elsewhere. A version of the big slugger that even approximates his career 116 OPS+ would be useful to the Twins as a part-time DH and starter at first against lefties. No one wants to hear it anymore but Sanó was actually hitting the ball reasonably well in 2022, despite the paltry production before a knee injury ended his season. While skill sets like his tend to degrade more quickly, I'm not convinced he's cooked. Franmil Reyes This would be similar to the Sanó gamble, except with a fresh face and less all the baggage. Reyes was of course a highly touted young slugger when Cleveland acquired him from San Diego in 2019, but he's stagnated and regressed after some early success. Alas, Reyes is only 27 and has a .251/.313/.470 career slash line. Why not? As recently as 2021 he launched 30 homers in 121 games with an .846 OPS. Luke Voit Voit would represent a lower-upside but higher-floor variation of the above two suggestions. The Twins wouldn't be banking so much on a rebound because he wasn't bad in 2022, he was just himself: a plodding righty slugger who will strike out a bunch and hit some home runs, translating to average-ish production overall. He definitely belongs at DH but can fill in at first base occasionally. What are your thoughts? Does anyone on the free agent or trade market stand out as a strong fit to you? Or are you more interested in going with internal options?
  17. Last season the Minnesota Twins struggled in plenty of areas as they ultimately watched their AL Central lead slip away. Despite signing Carlos Correa last week, one of those areas was on the dirt defensively. They’ll look to reverse course this season, and Correa himself could spearhead the change. Image courtesy of Aaron Josefczyk-USA TODAY Sports When watching a game last year and seeing Carlos Correa make throws, it was hard not to be impressed at the sheer velocity he put behind the baseball. Sometimes it is noticeable as to how quick a guy transitions the ball from glove to hand, while others look as though a rocket exploded from their fist. Correa definitely seemed to be more of the latter, but there is still room for growth. Recently Statcast began measuring arm strength across the league as a whole. Correa is well behind leading shortstop O’Neill Cruz, and checks in 9th, behind division rival Javier Baez. His 88.1 mph average is certainly impressive, but likely seems even greater after watching the likes of Jorge Polanco and Nick Gordon field the position. Beyond arm strength, Correa has always been seen as a solid defender. Maybe not to the level previous Minnesota infielder Andrelton Simmons was believed to be in his prime, but Correa is no slouch. The winner of both a Gold and Platinum Glove, Correa has previously been recognized with personal accolades. Analytically, 2022 was not a great year however. In more than 1,100 innings Correa posted just three defensive runs saved for Minnesota. That represents the lowest tally of his career and is a far cry from the 20 DRS he put up a year prior. Statcast mimicked that sentiment as Correa graded out with a -3 outs above average tally, and a -2 runs above average total in 2022. Defensive metrics are often difficult to quantify even on a year-over-year sample, but get increasingly more difficult in small samples. Looking to further assess the deficiencies faced from Correa last year, it makes sense to understand where Statcast graded him on a directional basis. Charging the ball, Correa was among the best in the game. Getting strong jumps and being able to throw across the diamond on the move is a definite asset for him. Where things went wrong was in having to cover towards second base. Infield alignment will be an interesting factor in looking at success rates in 2023 and beyond. The shift being banned now limits the positioning of fielders. Correa was learning how to play alongside Polanco for the first time last season, and Minnesota already was aware that their failed shortstop had limitations defensive. When putting Luis Arraez at second base, things take an even further step backwards. Correa needing to control the hole and get to balls behind second base stretches him relatively thin. It’s certainly not as though Correa hasn’t performed at a high level in the field before, and there is no reason to think he can’t again. At his introductory press conference last spring Correa talked about acclimating with Polanco. He had played alongside Jose Altuve for years, and understood what Alex Bregman brought on the other side. Even if Minnesota began working through things as a unit last year, there is still a substantial growing process. This season Rocco Baldelli will likely have Jose Miranda at the hot corner significantly more often, and Correa will continue to gel with Polanco. As the three adapt to rule changes that will change their positioning, chemistry between the group will also continue to develop on and off the field. Minnesota was 12th in baseball by defensive runs saved last year, but virtually all of that production came from the outfield. If they can be better on the dirt, there are plenty more games for them to win. Now entrenched as their starting shortstop for the better part of the next decade, this is Correa’s infield to quarterback. He has the leadership abilities to make that work, but we have also seen the talent that can help raise the water level for everyone else as well. View full article
  18. When watching a game last year and seeing Carlos Correa make throws, it was hard not to be impressed at the sheer velocity he put behind the baseball. Sometimes it is noticeable as to how quick a guy transitions the ball from glove to hand, while others look as though a rocket exploded from their fist. Correa definitely seemed to be more of the latter, but there is still room for growth. Recently Statcast began measuring arm strength across the league as a whole. Correa is well behind leading shortstop O’Neill Cruz, and checks in 9th, behind division rival Javier Baez. His 88.1 mph average is certainly impressive, but likely seems even greater after watching the likes of Jorge Polanco and Nick Gordon field the position. Beyond arm strength, Correa has always been seen as a solid defender. Maybe not to the level previous Minnesota infielder Andrelton Simmons was believed to be in his prime, but Correa is no slouch. The winner of both a Gold and Platinum Glove, Correa has previously been recognized with personal accolades. Analytically, 2022 was not a great year however. In more than 1,100 innings Correa posted just three defensive runs saved for Minnesota. That represents the lowest tally of his career and is a far cry from the 20 DRS he put up a year prior. Statcast mimicked that sentiment as Correa graded out with a -3 outs above average tally, and a -2 runs above average total in 2022. Defensive metrics are often difficult to quantify even on a year-over-year sample, but get increasingly more difficult in small samples. Looking to further assess the deficiencies faced from Correa last year, it makes sense to understand where Statcast graded him on a directional basis. Charging the ball, Correa was among the best in the game. Getting strong jumps and being able to throw across the diamond on the move is a definite asset for him. Where things went wrong was in having to cover towards second base. Infield alignment will be an interesting factor in looking at success rates in 2023 and beyond. The shift being banned now limits the positioning of fielders. Correa was learning how to play alongside Polanco for the first time last season, and Minnesota already was aware that their failed shortstop had limitations defensive. When putting Luis Arraez at second base, things take an even further step backwards. Correa needing to control the hole and get to balls behind second base stretches him relatively thin. It’s certainly not as though Correa hasn’t performed at a high level in the field before, and there is no reason to think he can’t again. At his introductory press conference last spring Correa talked about acclimating with Polanco. He had played alongside Jose Altuve for years, and understood what Alex Bregman brought on the other side. Even if Minnesota began working through things as a unit last year, there is still a substantial growing process. This season Rocco Baldelli will likely have Jose Miranda at the hot corner significantly more often, and Correa will continue to gel with Polanco. As the three adapt to rule changes that will change their positioning, chemistry between the group will also continue to develop on and off the field. Minnesota was 12th in baseball by defensive runs saved last year, but virtually all of that production came from the outfield. If they can be better on the dirt, there are plenty more games for them to win. Now entrenched as their starting shortstop for the better part of the next decade, this is Correa’s infield to quarterback. He has the leadership abilities to make that work, but we have also seen the talent that can help raise the water level for everyone else as well.
  19. Minnesota shocked the baseball world and signed Carlos Correa to a long-term deal. So, what does that mean for the team's projected Opening Day roster? Image courtesy of Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports Last season, the lockout forced MLB to allow teams to begin the year with 28-man rosters. The lockout forced a shortened spring training, and baseball was worried about an increased chance of player injuries. For 2023, teams must narrow their final roster to 26 players. Players listed below with the ** are on the bubble for the final roster spots. Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Ryan Jeffers Entering the offseason, Ryan Jeffers was the lone catcher on the team's 40-man roster. Adding Christian Vazquez helps bolster the organization's catching depth. Last winter, the Twins traded Mitch Garver to allow Ryan Jeffers to become the primary catcher. However, many teams utilize a multi-catcher approach to keep players healthy and help their offensive production. Minnesota also signed veteran catcher Tony Wolters to a minor league deal, but he likely won't make the Opening Day roster. The Twins will need Walters during the season, and he has caught over 2800 innings at the big-league level. Infielders (6): Luis Arraez, Carlos Correa, Kyle Farmer, Alex Kirilloff**, Jose Miranda, Jorge Polanco Adding Correa to this group changes the entire look of the infield. Farmer can now shift to a utility role and play all over the diamond. He was penciled in as the team's starting shortstop until Royce Lewis returned from his ACL injury. Minnesota is handing Miranda the starting third base job after the team traded Gio Urshela to the Angels. All the projected infielders can be used at multiple defensive positions, which will help Rocco Baldelli create the best line-ups on any given day. Minnesota was in the driver's seat for the AL Central last season before injuries ravaged the roster. Correa's return puts the Twins back in the conversation as a playoff team in 2023 and beyond. The depth here comes from the likes of Royce Lewis, when he returns (hopefully in June or July), who can play all over the diamond. Austin Martin can get whatever time he needs in St. Paul. The team can be patient with Brooks Lee rather than push him up too quickly. Outfielders (5): Byron Buxton, Gilberto Celestino, Joey Gallo, Nick Gordon**, Max Kepler Correa's signing also pushes other players off the 26-man roster. In my initial roster projection, Trevor Larnach was on the bubble, and now he will be in St. Paul's outfield with Matt Wallner. Both players will get playing time in 2023, but there needs to be room to keep them on the Opening Day roster. Kyle Garlick is also an interesting player because there might be other right-handed free-agent upgrades. Joey Gallo and Max Kepler fill similar roles for the Twins, so the Twins will likely trade Kepler, allowing them to carry a right-handed bench bat. Nick Gordon is out of minor-league options so the Twins will keep him based on his breakout performance in 2022. Rotation (5): Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober On paper, this starting five is a group that can win the AL Central, but there are health concerns with multiple pitchers on the roster. Mahle struggled with shoulder issues after the Twins acquired him, Maeda is returning from Tommy John surgery, and Ober dealt with various injuries last season. The Twins have starting pitching depth on the 40-man roster, with Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson ready to contribute at the big-league level. Jordan Balazovic is also an interesting name to consider if he is healthy to start the year. Minnesota has also been rumored to be interested in some of the remaining veteran free agents, but the club may want to rely on its pitching pipeline. Bullpen (8): Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagan, Jorge Alcala**, Jovani Moran**, Trevor Megill** Minnesota hopes Lopez can return to his previous form and combine with Duran to be a dominant back-end duo. ZiPS projects feel like the Twins' bullpen is top-heavy, which makes sense considering the recent track record of players expected to be on the roster. Jax could be a breakout reliever and fill a fireman role that Tyler Duffey had previously occupied. Pagan continues to be a question mark, but the Twins offered him arbitration, so they hope his performance improves in 2023. The Twins have also shown a tendency to move relievers up and down from Triple-A, a trend likely to continue next year. Minnesota will have some decisions at the bullpen's backend with other 40-man roster options like Ronny Henriquez and Cole Sands. What changes will happen to the team's roster before Opening Day? Where do the Twins rank compared to other AL Central squads? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  20. Last season, the lockout forced MLB to allow teams to begin the year with 28-man rosters. The lockout forced a shortened spring training, and baseball was worried about an increased chance of player injuries. For 2023, teams must narrow their final roster to 26 players. Players listed below with the ** are on the bubble for the final roster spots. Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Ryan Jeffers Entering the offseason, Ryan Jeffers was the lone catcher on the team's 40-man roster. Adding Christian Vazquez helps bolster the organization's catching depth. Last winter, the Twins traded Mitch Garver to allow Ryan Jeffers to become the primary catcher. However, many teams utilize a multi-catcher approach to keep players healthy and help their offensive production. Minnesota also signed veteran catcher Tony Wolters to a minor league deal, but he likely won't make the Opening Day roster. The Twins will need Walters during the season, and he has caught over 2800 innings at the big-league level. Infielders (6): Luis Arraez, Carlos Correa, Kyle Farmer, Alex Kirilloff**, Jose Miranda, Jorge Polanco Adding Correa to this group changes the entire look of the infield. Farmer can now shift to a utility role and play all over the diamond. He was penciled in as the team's starting shortstop until Royce Lewis returned from his ACL injury. Minnesota is handing Miranda the starting third base job after the team traded Gio Urshela to the Angels. All the projected infielders can be used at multiple defensive positions, which will help Rocco Baldelli create the best line-ups on any given day. Minnesota was in the driver's seat for the AL Central last season before injuries ravaged the roster. Correa's return puts the Twins back in the conversation as a playoff team in 2023 and beyond. The depth here comes from the likes of Royce Lewis, when he returns (hopefully in June or July), who can play all over the diamond. Austin Martin can get whatever time he needs in St. Paul. The team can be patient with Brooks Lee rather than push him up too quickly. Outfielders (5): Byron Buxton, Gilberto Celestino, Joey Gallo, Nick Gordon**, Max Kepler Correa's signing also pushes other players off the 26-man roster. In my initial roster projection, Trevor Larnach was on the bubble, and now he will be in St. Paul's outfield with Matt Wallner. Both players will get playing time in 2023, but there needs to be room to keep them on the Opening Day roster. Kyle Garlick is also an interesting player because there might be other right-handed free-agent upgrades. Joey Gallo and Max Kepler fill similar roles for the Twins, so the Twins will likely trade Kepler, allowing them to carry a right-handed bench bat. Nick Gordon is out of minor-league options so the Twins will keep him based on his breakout performance in 2022. Rotation (5): Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober On paper, this starting five is a group that can win the AL Central, but there are health concerns with multiple pitchers on the roster. Mahle struggled with shoulder issues after the Twins acquired him, Maeda is returning from Tommy John surgery, and Ober dealt with various injuries last season. The Twins have starting pitching depth on the 40-man roster, with Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson ready to contribute at the big-league level. Jordan Balazovic is also an interesting name to consider if he is healthy to start the year. Minnesota has also been rumored to be interested in some of the remaining veteran free agents, but the club may want to rely on its pitching pipeline. Bullpen (8): Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagan, Jorge Alcala**, Jovani Moran**, Trevor Megill** Minnesota hopes Lopez can return to his previous form and combine with Duran to be a dominant back-end duo. ZiPS projects feel like the Twins' bullpen is top-heavy, which makes sense considering the recent track record of players expected to be on the roster. Jax could be a breakout reliever and fill a fireman role that Tyler Duffey had previously occupied. Pagan continues to be a question mark, but the Twins offered him arbitration, so they hope his performance improves in 2023. The Twins have also shown a tendency to move relievers up and down from Triple-A, a trend likely to continue next year. Minnesota will have some decisions at the bullpen's backend with other 40-man roster options like Ronny Henriquez and Cole Sands. What changes will happen to the team's roster before Opening Day? Where do the Twins rank compared to other AL Central squads? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  21. Let’s all take a collective deep breath here first; they did it. They really did it! In back-to-back offseasons, the Minnesota Twins landed arguably the greatest free agent available. Carlos Correa is staying in Minnesota. Image courtesy of © Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports As reported this morning by Jeff Passan, the Minnesota Twins have officially agreed to terms with Carlos Correa. No, it’s not the $300+ million deal that the San Francisco Giants or New York Mets initially agreed to, but it is the largest contract this franchise has ever handed out to a free agent. Correa is locked in at six years and $200 million with a no-trade clause and no opt-outs through his age-33 season. The deal includes vesting options for years seven through ten, which could bring the total value to $270 million. The negotiations over the past several weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. From the time the New York Mets expressed concern over Correas health, through weeks of negotiations decreasing the guaranteed money, Minnesota remained persistent. Their efforts finally paid off Monday night when Correa's agent Scott Boras ended conversations with the Mets. Rocco Baldelli now has a significant amount of certainty regarding his infield on Opening Day. While Royce Lewis remains out for at least the first half of the year, Correa will play shortstop into the foreseeable future. Jorge Polanco is locked in as the starting second baseman, and Minnesota wants Jose Miranda to play the hot corner. It’s conceivable that Joey Gallo could factor in at first base, or it could be a combination of Luis Arraez and Alex Kirilloff. Either way, only the long-term replacement of Miguel Sano is truly up in the air. For Minnesota, the revolving door at shortstop is over. Yes, they acquired Kyle Farmer to set a baseline this offseason, but he’ll now be pushed to more of a utility role. Correa starts at short for the second straight Opening Day. No Minnesota shortstop has made three consecutive Opening Day starts since Cristian Guzman last did so in 2004. That level of fluctuation has never been a good thing at such a premium position. Last year Correa showed an immeasurable amount of leadership and production in the clubhouse. His 4.4 fWAR led the team, and Steamer projections have him coming in at 4.9 fWAR for 2023. Still entering his prime, there is no reason why Minnesota can’t see Correa replicating the 6.0 fWAR season he previously put up with the Houston Astros or potentially pushing the bar even further and winning an MVP. The clubhouse has to be elated to get such a rare monumental talent back for the long haul. Polanco, Arraez, and Miranda all found themselves on FaceTime with Correa during the Twins jersey reveal at Mall of America, and it’s clear this group is more than excited to have him still on their team. Outfielder Byron Buxton took to Twitter to show his emotions as well. For the rest of the roster, there is a bit of fallout to deal with. Correa, as mentioned, likely pushes Farmer to a utility role. Unfortunately, that impacts Nick Gordon the most. He could factor in as an extra outfielder, but the bat of Kyle Garlick could be a bigger draw. On the infield, it’s both Lewis and Brooks Lee that see a bit of an adjustment. Lee has yet to debut and now may have the luxury of more time to develop. Lewis has plenty of runway to clear before his health is restored, but he has positional flexibility already built-in with his athleticism. It remains to be seen what the Twins will do on the trade market. Their outfield seems packed, and now there are some assets on the infield that competitors could covet in trade. At this point, Minnesota is better off having Correa in their clubhouse, and they can shuffle the pieces as they need to when the time comes. View full article
  22. As reported this morning by Jeff Passan, the Minnesota Twins have officially agreed to terms with Carlos Correa. No, it’s not the $300+ million deal that the San Francisco Giants or New York Mets initially agreed to, but it is the largest contract this franchise has ever handed out to a free agent. Correa is locked in at six years and $200 million with a no-trade clause and no opt-outs through his age-33 season. The deal includes vesting options for years seven through ten, which could bring the total value to $270 million. The negotiations over the past several weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. From the time the New York Mets expressed concern over Correas health, through weeks of negotiations decreasing the guaranteed money, Minnesota remained persistent. Their efforts finally paid off Monday night when Correa's agent Scott Boras ended conversations with the Mets. Rocco Baldelli now has a significant amount of certainty regarding his infield on Opening Day. While Royce Lewis remains out for at least the first half of the year, Correa will play shortstop into the foreseeable future. Jorge Polanco is locked in as the starting second baseman, and Minnesota wants Jose Miranda to play the hot corner. It’s conceivable that Joey Gallo could factor in at first base, or it could be a combination of Luis Arraez and Alex Kirilloff. Either way, only the long-term replacement of Miguel Sano is truly up in the air. For Minnesota, the revolving door at shortstop is over. Yes, they acquired Kyle Farmer to set a baseline this offseason, but he’ll now be pushed to more of a utility role. Correa starts at short for the second straight Opening Day. No Minnesota shortstop has made three consecutive Opening Day starts since Cristian Guzman last did so in 2004. That level of fluctuation has never been a good thing at such a premium position. Last year Correa showed an immeasurable amount of leadership and production in the clubhouse. His 4.4 fWAR led the team, and Steamer projections have him coming in at 4.9 fWAR for 2023. Still entering his prime, there is no reason why Minnesota can’t see Correa replicating the 6.0 fWAR season he previously put up with the Houston Astros or potentially pushing the bar even further and winning an MVP. The clubhouse has to be elated to get such a rare monumental talent back for the long haul. Polanco, Arraez, and Miranda all found themselves on FaceTime with Correa during the Twins jersey reveal at Mall of America, and it’s clear this group is more than excited to have him still on their team. Outfielder Byron Buxton took to Twitter to show his emotions as well. For the rest of the roster, there is a bit of fallout to deal with. Correa, as mentioned, likely pushes Farmer to a utility role. Unfortunately, that impacts Nick Gordon the most. He could factor in as an extra outfielder, but the bat of Kyle Garlick could be a bigger draw. On the infield, it’s both Lewis and Brooks Lee that see a bit of an adjustment. Lee has yet to debut and now may have the luxury of more time to develop. Lewis has plenty of runway to clear before his health is restored, but he has positional flexibility already built-in with his athleticism. It remains to be seen what the Twins will do on the trade market. Their outfield seems packed, and now there are some assets on the infield that competitors could covet in trade. At this point, Minnesota is better off having Correa in their clubhouse, and they can shuffle the pieces as they need to when the time comes.
  23. The Minnesota Twins are looking at 2023 needing to put up a winning season for the first time since 2021. A significant portion of that being a possibility rests on the shoulders of the guys currently within the organization. Given the graduations from Minnesota’s farm system, Derek Falvey needs to see youth carry the next wave of competitiveness. Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports Rocco Baldelli’s team held onto a division lead for a substantial portion of the 2022 season. That continued to be the reality despite mounting injuries and a roster that needed more done during the offseason. Ultimately it led to a September of non-competitive baseball, and a stretch run that carried zero playoff implications. In that, the silver lining was certainly the development of players that should be looked at as cornerstones in the year ahead. Here is a look at a group that could be considered the top five. Nick Gordon After being thrust into more than 70 games during the 2021 season, it was clear that Nick Gordon had some utility for the Twins. He didn’t do enough to show what exactly that utility was. He played everywhere, but was below average as a hitter, and while he was good on the base paths it was difficult for him to get there. Fast forward a year and Gordon looks the part of a late-blooming asset. He was particularly valuable in the outfield as a replacement, and his 113 OPS+ was a substantial step forward. He made plenty of blunders, both defensively and on the base paths, that should question how tuned in he is while between the lines, but there’s certainly a 26-man roster asset here. Jose Miranda No one put up a better year in the minors, especially for the Twins, than Jose Miranda did during 2021. His .973 OPS didn’t earn him a spot on the Opening Day roster with veterans ahead of him, but it didn’t take long before he made his debut. In 125 games, Miranda posted a 116 OPS+ and blasted 15 homers. He certainly struggled a bit down the stretch as the opposition made changes to combat his abilities, but that is something he can grow into as he continues to develop. Miranda won’t be 25 until the summer and he should have more positional stability in the upcoming season. Playing less first base would be good for him, and that probably says a good deal about the production of Alex Kirilloff and Joey Gallo as well. Royce Lewis Maybe this is a surprise position for a guy who saw such limited action during the season as a whole, but it’s impossible to overlook how much of an impact was made. Lewis had gone two full years without playing an actual game thanks to the pandemic and an injury. He then debuted at Triple-A and posted a .940 OPS forcing his way into big-league action. Carlos Correa going down with an injury opened a spot, and then Lewis’ continued production allowed a position change to be another way he got onto the field. An unfortunate ACL injury ended his season a second year in a row, but it hasn’t stopped the belief in him from the organization. Since he was drafted there has been no reason to doubt him, and once again, he proved that. Griffin Jax For a guy that was a failed starter a season ago, the organization and Jax continued to work together as they have throughout his career. From finding a way to get him action while still dealing with military eligibility, to transitioning towards a bullpen role, it’s always been a work in progress for Jax. His 3.36 ERA was bolstered by a 3.17 FIP and a K/9 that jumped substantially to 9.7 K/9. His velocity saw an uptick, and he emerged as a late-inning option for a bullpen that needed more arms to trend that way. Jhoan Duran If Jax was a guy that emerged as a late-inning option, Duran was the guy that emerged as the late-inning option. A former starting pitching prospect that threw just 16 innings since 2019, he forced his way onto the Opening Day roster. Baldelli probably saw Duran as a godsend given how poor the bullpen was from the get go. Emilio Pagan flopped out of the gate, and Tyler Duffey was DFA worthy well before he ultimately was given that pink slip. Duran put up a ridiculous 1.86 ERA with an 11.8 K/9 and re-wrote the Twins record books when it comes to velocity readings. There isn’t a single player in this group that won’t be counted on by the Twins from the get go in 2023. Baldelli has had a few changes to his projected roster from a season ago, and while the front office still has work to do, there’s no denying that 20% of the roster is represented here (once Lewis is healthy), and each of them will be expected to take another step forward. View full article
  24. Rocco Baldelli’s team held onto a division lead for a substantial portion of the 2022 season. That continued to be the reality despite mounting injuries and a roster that needed more done during the offseason. Ultimately it led to a September of non-competitive baseball, and a stretch run that carried zero playoff implications. In that, the silver lining was certainly the development of players that should be looked at as cornerstones in the year ahead. Here is a look at a group that could be considered the top five. Nick Gordon After being thrust into more than 70 games during the 2021 season, it was clear that Nick Gordon had some utility for the Twins. He didn’t do enough to show what exactly that utility was. He played everywhere, but was below average as a hitter, and while he was good on the base paths it was difficult for him to get there. Fast forward a year and Gordon looks the part of a late-blooming asset. He was particularly valuable in the outfield as a replacement, and his 113 OPS+ was a substantial step forward. He made plenty of blunders, both defensively and on the base paths, that should question how tuned in he is while between the lines, but there’s certainly a 26-man roster asset here. Jose Miranda No one put up a better year in the minors, especially for the Twins, than Jose Miranda did during 2021. His .973 OPS didn’t earn him a spot on the Opening Day roster with veterans ahead of him, but it didn’t take long before he made his debut. In 125 games, Miranda posted a 116 OPS+ and blasted 15 homers. He certainly struggled a bit down the stretch as the opposition made changes to combat his abilities, but that is something he can grow into as he continues to develop. Miranda won’t be 25 until the summer and he should have more positional stability in the upcoming season. Playing less first base would be good for him, and that probably says a good deal about the production of Alex Kirilloff and Joey Gallo as well. Royce Lewis Maybe this is a surprise position for a guy who saw such limited action during the season as a whole, but it’s impossible to overlook how much of an impact was made. Lewis had gone two full years without playing an actual game thanks to the pandemic and an injury. He then debuted at Triple-A and posted a .940 OPS forcing his way into big-league action. Carlos Correa going down with an injury opened a spot, and then Lewis’ continued production allowed a position change to be another way he got onto the field. An unfortunate ACL injury ended his season a second year in a row, but it hasn’t stopped the belief in him from the organization. Since he was drafted there has been no reason to doubt him, and once again, he proved that. Griffin Jax For a guy that was a failed starter a season ago, the organization and Jax continued to work together as they have throughout his career. From finding a way to get him action while still dealing with military eligibility, to transitioning towards a bullpen role, it’s always been a work in progress for Jax. His 3.36 ERA was bolstered by a 3.17 FIP and a K/9 that jumped substantially to 9.7 K/9. His velocity saw an uptick, and he emerged as a late-inning option for a bullpen that needed more arms to trend that way. Jhoan Duran If Jax was a guy that emerged as a late-inning option, Duran was the guy that emerged as the late-inning option. A former starting pitching prospect that threw just 16 innings since 2019, he forced his way onto the Opening Day roster. Baldelli probably saw Duran as a godsend given how poor the bullpen was from the get go. Emilio Pagan flopped out of the gate, and Tyler Duffey was DFA worthy well before he ultimately was given that pink slip. Duran put up a ridiculous 1.86 ERA with an 11.8 K/9 and re-wrote the Twins record books when it comes to velocity readings. There isn’t a single player in this group that won’t be counted on by the Twins from the get go in 2023. Baldelli has had a few changes to his projected roster from a season ago, and while the front office still has work to do, there’s no denying that 20% of the roster is represented here (once Lewis is healthy), and each of them will be expected to take another step forward.
  25. Nick Gordon surprised many with his breakout performance in 2022. What can he provide the Twins in the upcoming season? Image courtesy of Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports Entering the 2022 season, expectations were low for Nick Gordon and what he could provide the Twins. The former top-five draft pick spent much of the last decade considered one of the organization's top prospects. He was on national top 100 lists from 2015-2018 and reached Triple-A as a 22-year-old. In 2019, injuries limited Gordon to 70 games, but he posted a .801 OPS to offer some hope for the future. Gordon likely should have made his big-league debut during the 2020 season, but he tested positive for COVID and missed time. He worked his way back and made his debut during the 2021 season. In 73 games, he hit .240/.292/.355 (.647) with nine doubles and four home runs. As a 25-year-old, the team likely considered removing him from the 40-man roster. Luckily, the Twins' front office showed faith in the former top prospect, and he rewarded that faith with a breakout 2022 season. Entering last season, Gordon figured to fit into a utility role with the potential to play multiple infield positions and even some outfield. Injuries forced many Twins players to take on new roles, and Gordon played the second most games on the team. He started more games in left field than any other Twins player and played 36 games or more at three different positions. Gordon's defensive versatility wasn't the only trait keeping him in the line-up. Many evaluators touted his offensive promise as a prospect, and he found his swing at the big-league level. Offense was down across baseball, but Gordon showed skills at getting on base and hitting for power. In 138 games, he hit .272/.316/.427 (.743) with 28 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, and a 113 OPS+. Some of those numbers can be fluky, but some of his underlying totals also pointed to a breakout. He ranked in the 74th percentile or higher in average exit velocity, hard hit %, and xSLG. It was also his first season seeing significant time in the outfield, and he finished in the top 5 among AL left fielders in SABR's Defensive Index. Twins Daily named him the team's most improved player at the season's end. Gordon proved his value last season, but it's hard to see where he fits into the team's plans for 2023. Last week, the Twins signed Joey Gallo, a left-handed hitter who plays corner outfielder like Gordon. Even before adding Gallo, Minnesota's corner outfield depth chart is already packed with players like Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, Gilberto Celestino, Kyle Garlick, and Mark Contreras. It seems likely for the Twins to trade at least one player in this group, but Gordon isn't likely to start regularly over many of these names. The biggest elephant in the room is not knowing how many injuries will impact the 2023 Twins. Gordon's path to regular playing time last season was injuries to multiple key contributors. FanGraphs' ZiPS projections estimate Gordon to get 400 plate appearances while hitting .258/.304/.416 (.720) with a 100 OPS+ and a 0.7 WAR. Baseball-Reference projects him to get 443 plate appearances and post a .720 OPS with 37 extra-base hits. Every projection model will predict regression for Gordon, but these totals would point to him continuing to be a solid contributor with semi-regular playing time. At this point last winter, no one would have projected that Gordon would provide more WAR than Trevor Larnach, Ryan Jeffers, Gary Sanchez, and Alex Kirilloff. The team didn't expect him to have a regular role, but he thrived in a regular role. Now, it's time to see what Gordon can do for an encore. What can fans expect from Gordon in 2023? Can he reach another level of success, or have we already seen the best he has to offer? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
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