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  1. Of course, it’s the beginning of January and hope springs eternal. Maybe that sentiment is more traditionally reserved for Spring Training, but the dead of winter needs some heat in Twins Territory. An offseason ago the front office paid the man, now in 2023 it’s time to watch Byron Buxton break loose. Image courtesy of © Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Realistically fans of the Minnesota Twins have been awaiting a breakout from Byron Buxton for the better part of seven years. In that time he’s either flashed ability, or shown a very brief glimpse of availability. Only once, in 2020, did we come close to seeing what it looked like together and even that is debatable. For Minnesota, paying Buxton should’ve been a no-brainer. He’s among the best players in the world when healthy, and the only reason they were in position as the only to be able to give him a $100 million contract is because free agency and a $300 million contract has been thwarted by injury. Buxton spent the early portion of his Major League career being instructed to put the ball on the ground, utilize his speed, and sacrifice a power tool that was so evident during his pre-draft process. The Georgia native looked to project as a true five-tool player, and a previous Minnesota regime sought to get less of a ceiling while attempting to ensure a safer floor. By 2017, we began to see how silly that looked. Buxton racked up MVP consideration largely for his defense, winning both a Platinum and Gold Glove. He did hit 16 longballs though, and that came across a big league best 140 games. Injury struck again in 2018, but by 2019 it was clear the Twins star was an offensive threat too. In 2020 he advanced his MVP positioning while posting a career-best 125 OPS+. It’s hard to count the contribution as whole however, given that he played in just over 50% of an already truncated 60 game season. The past two seasons we have seen Buxton compile a 150 OPS+ and look the part of a guy who should rack up bombs and extra-base hits with ease. While still seeking a season of true availability to pair it with, 2022 brings promise. In the first year of a new seven-year deal, Buxton played in 92 games. That is the most he’s logged in any season since 2017, and comes with the caveat that he was injured almost from the get go. Despite needing consistent fluid drains of his knee following a slide against the Boston Red Sox, Buxton continued to produce. Although his pendulum swung a bit too far in the slugging over on-base direction, he managed pain and remained available for Rocco Baldelli’s club for much of the competitive duration. Despite the Twins feeling good about where Buxton is in his offseason program, there is some reason for caution. He underwent a knee surgery following the regular season, and will soon ramp back up to baseball activities. Given what he produced while playing with a substantial injury last season though, it’s more than clear that Minnesota stands to come up big time if he can be kept on the field. That has definitely been the mantra throughout the duration of his eight year career, but Buxton posted numbers that would extrapolate to 49 homers, five triples, and 23 doubles over the course of a full season. His 7.0 fWAR would have ranked 6th in baseball, and behind only American League MVP winner Aaron Judge among hitters. There is no one more focused on keeping Buxton on the field this season than himself, and the Twins are certainly attempting to put a new foot forward with Nick Paparesta leading the training staff. For the vast majority of Minnesota’s roster, the production from those carried over will largely impact how much noise this club makes. We shouldn’t be questioning how good Buxton is anymore, he’s otherworldly. The only question is if he can remain out there, and fighting through what he did a season ago and racking up 92 games, should bring some promise for something we haven’t seen in years. View full article
  2. Realistically fans of the Minnesota Twins have been awaiting a breakout from Byron Buxton for the better part of seven years. In that time he’s either flashed ability, or shown a very brief glimpse of availability. Only once, in 2020, did we come close to seeing what it looked like together and even that is debatable. For Minnesota, paying Buxton should’ve been a no-brainer. He’s among the best players in the world when healthy, and the only reason they were in position as the only to be able to give him a $100 million contract is because free agency and a $300 million contract has been thwarted by injury. Buxton spent the early portion of his Major League career being instructed to put the ball on the ground, utilize his speed, and sacrifice a power tool that was so evident during his pre-draft process. The Georgia native looked to project as a true five-tool player, and a previous Minnesota regime sought to get less of a ceiling while attempting to ensure a safer floor. By 2017, we began to see how silly that looked. Buxton racked up MVP consideration largely for his defense, winning both a Platinum and Gold Glove. He did hit 16 longballs though, and that came across a big league best 140 games. Injury struck again in 2018, but by 2019 it was clear the Twins star was an offensive threat too. In 2020 he advanced his MVP positioning while posting a career-best 125 OPS+. It’s hard to count the contribution as whole however, given that he played in just over 50% of an already truncated 60 game season. The past two seasons we have seen Buxton compile a 150 OPS+ and look the part of a guy who should rack up bombs and extra-base hits with ease. While still seeking a season of true availability to pair it with, 2022 brings promise. In the first year of a new seven-year deal, Buxton played in 92 games. That is the most he’s logged in any season since 2017, and comes with the caveat that he was injured almost from the get go. Despite needing consistent fluid drains of his knee following a slide against the Boston Red Sox, Buxton continued to produce. Although his pendulum swung a bit too far in the slugging over on-base direction, he managed pain and remained available for Rocco Baldelli’s club for much of the competitive duration. Despite the Twins feeling good about where Buxton is in his offseason program, there is some reason for caution. He underwent a knee surgery following the regular season, and will soon ramp back up to baseball activities. Given what he produced while playing with a substantial injury last season though, it’s more than clear that Minnesota stands to come up big time if he can be kept on the field. That has definitely been the mantra throughout the duration of his eight year career, but Buxton posted numbers that would extrapolate to 49 homers, five triples, and 23 doubles over the course of a full season. His 7.0 fWAR would have ranked 6th in baseball, and behind only American League MVP winner Aaron Judge among hitters. There is no one more focused on keeping Buxton on the field this season than himself, and the Twins are certainly attempting to put a new foot forward with Nick Paparesta leading the training staff. For the vast majority of Minnesota’s roster, the production from those carried over will largely impact how much noise this club makes. We shouldn’t be questioning how good Buxton is anymore, he’s otherworldly. The only question is if he can remain out there, and fighting through what he did a season ago and racking up 92 games, should bring some promise for something we haven’t seen in years.
  3. New Twins trainer lays down law, calls into question previous health and injury practices. Image courtesy of © Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Of the many issues that befell the 2022 Minnesota Twins, a run of truly wretched injury luck was a decisive factor. Per Baseball Reference, they lost 9.4 Wins Above Replacement to injuries. It drove the team to hire a new athletic trainer, Nick Paparesta, away from Oakland. And the changes are coming fast. “I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus,” said Paparesta. “This is not a metaphor. They would actually put players under the team bus last year to quote ‘blast their abs’ unquote. They shouldn’t have done that. It’s wildly irresponsible.” Paparesta, who spent the last 12 seasons with the Athletics, also called into question the team’s practice of not letting anyone leave after the game without licking their locker clean to prevent the spread of germs and bad humors. “There was a sign above the exit that said ‘If you’re not licking you’re losing.’ The entire team had thrush the entire season. They had diseases usually associated with 17th century sailors. The bullpen had a malaria outbreak. Mosquitoes feared them.” Although it’s impossible to eliminate hazards of the game like comebackers and wild pitches, Paparesta emphasized there are things you can do to mitigate the injury risk. “This shouldn’t need to be said, but if a pitch is coming towards your head, do not open your mouth for good luck in the coming harvest season,” said Paparesta. “You’ll wreck your teeth. No one here is a farmer. I’m baffled by this approach.” “Similarly, if there is comebacker to the mound, thrusting your midsection at the ball to assert dominance and virility is not sound advice,” continued Paparesta. “A lot of these young guys want to start families someday. Taking a rocket to the gooch works against that.” The team offered no further comment on previous health and injury guidelines but confirmed that they’re sourcing their 2023 sunflower seeds from a supplier that uses less cobra venom in the seasoning process. “We had never heard of ‘nightmare diarrhea’ before. It was a teachable moment,” said a front office source. "It's still going to smell like World War I for a while, that's not going away anytime soon." View full article
  4. Of the many issues that befell the 2022 Minnesota Twins, a run of truly wretched injury luck was a decisive factor. Per Baseball Reference, they lost 9.4 Wins Above Replacement to injuries. It drove the team to hire a new athletic trainer, Nick Paparesta, away from Oakland. And the changes are coming fast. “I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus,” said Paparesta. “This is not a metaphor. They would actually put players under the team bus last year to quote ‘blast their abs’ unquote. They shouldn’t have done that. It’s wildly irresponsible.” Paparesta, who spent the last 12 seasons with the Athletics, also called into question the team’s practice of not letting anyone leave after the game without licking their locker clean to prevent the spread of germs and bad humors. “There was a sign above the exit that said ‘If you’re not licking you’re losing.’ The entire team had thrush the entire season. They had diseases usually associated with 17th century sailors. The bullpen had a malaria outbreak. Mosquitoes feared them.” Although it’s impossible to eliminate hazards of the game like comebackers and wild pitches, Paparesta emphasized there are things you can do to mitigate the injury risk. “This shouldn’t need to be said, but if a pitch is coming towards your head, do not open your mouth for good luck in the coming harvest season,” said Paparesta. “You’ll wreck your teeth. No one here is a farmer. I’m baffled by this approach.” “Similarly, if there is comebacker to the mound, thrusting your midsection at the ball to assert dominance and virility is not sound advice,” continued Paparesta. “A lot of these young guys want to start families someday. Taking a rocket to the gooch works against that.” The team offered no further comment on previous health and injury guidelines but confirmed that they’re sourcing their 2023 sunflower seeds from a supplier that uses less cobra venom in the seasoning process. “We had never heard of ‘nightmare diarrhea’ before. It was a teachable moment,” said a front office source. "It's still going to smell like World War I for a while, that's not going away anytime soon."
  5. The Minnesota Twins hired new athletic trainer Nick Paparesta to lead the team to more healthy waters. But how much impact can one athletic trainer have? Image courtesy of Lance Iversen, USA Today Forgive me for beating a dead horse, but the Minnesota Twins were among the most injured teams in MLB during the 2022 regular season. In total, Twins players missed a staggering 2,332 days due to injury, the second-most in baseball and the fifth-most since Baseball Prospectus began tracking injury data following the 2018 season. As a result, the team parted ways with head athletic trainer Michael Salazar, who had served in the position since 2020. The Athletic’s Dan Hayes cited the number of soft tissue injuries suffered by the Twins as well as questionable rehabilitation practices, particularly that starting pitcher Tyler Mahle had not been participating in a shoulder strengthening regimen despite landing on the IL three times with shoulder fatigue, played a large role in the team’s decision to move on. This past Thursday the team announced that they had hired former Oakland A’s head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta to fill the hole left by Salazar. Paparesta spent the last 12 years with Oakland and was named to the 2018 Major League Athletic Training Staff of the Year. (For what it’s worth, Salazar was also named to the team in 2016.) According to Baseball Prospectus, the A’s have been among the league’s healthiest teams over the last five seasons, though it should also be noted that the Twins weren’t far behind. Below is how the two team’s have stacked up as of late: While both teams overall have been well-managed, there is a noticeable trend over the past three seasons with the A’s ranking among MLB’s healthiest squads and the Twins falling down a well. Minnesota is hoping that the arrival of Paparesta will help right the ship, but the question is: How much can one athletic trainer impact a team’s injury rates? The unsatisfactory answer is that it’s difficult to know. Injuries and re-injuries are complex, multifactorial, and often random events, making it difficult, at times, to determine direct cause and effect. Nutrition, genetics, anatomical makeup, sleep hygiene, chronic workload, acute workload, and past injury history are all critical variables in determining an athlete’s injury risk and not all of them can be treated or modified, particularly by a single athletic trainer. As such, it’s critical that the entire performance team—often comprised of the athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and sports scientists—be in lockstep with each other and communicate with the athletes efficiently and effectively. The best rehabilitation and strength training techniques aren’t of much value if the athletes don’t buy into their individual management routines. From purely a treatment perspective, it’s unlikely that Paparesta will employ anything unique from what Salazar was performing. Most athletic trainers at the MLB level have similar skills and levels of knowledge. However, what may change are details around the margins, such as refined exercise prescription, soft tissue management frequency, sleep practices, interactions with the athletes, etc. It's impossible to know how the hiring of Paparesta will play in the clubhouse from the outside. By all accounts, Salazar was well-liked by the athletes and coaching staff and it's tough to stick around a team for over a decade in Paparesta's case if you aren't respected. While it's difficult to project how the transition from Salazar to Paparesta will impact the team's health, it isn't particularly difficult to make the following claim: Michael Salazar was not the lone reason why the Twins were depleted by injuries last season and Nick Paparesta won’t be the the lone reason why the team may be healthier next summer. It’s possible that Salazar did everything “right” and simply ran into bad luck. It’s also possible that Paparesta simply possesses intrinsic qualities that are difficult to describe and quantify, but simply lead to better outcomes. (There’s a lot of “soft science” in rehabilitation, such as psychology and personal skills in addition to the “hard science” of concrete data.) Regardless, there’s no way that the Twins can be more injury-plagued in 2023, right? View full article
  6. Forgive me for beating a dead horse, but the Minnesota Twins were among the most injured teams in MLB during the 2022 regular season. In total, Twins players missed a staggering 2,332 days due to injury, the second-most in baseball and the fifth-most since Baseball Prospectus began tracking injury data following the 2018 season. As a result, the team parted ways with head athletic trainer Michael Salazar, who had served in the position since 2020. The Athletic’s Dan Hayes cited the number of soft tissue injuries suffered by the Twins as well as questionable rehabilitation practices, particularly that starting pitcher Tyler Mahle had not been participating in a shoulder strengthening regimen despite landing on the IL three times with shoulder fatigue, played a large role in the team’s decision to move on. This past Thursday the team announced that they had hired former Oakland A’s head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta to fill the hole left by Salazar. Paparesta spent the last 12 years with Oakland and was named to the 2018 Major League Athletic Training Staff of the Year. (For what it’s worth, Salazar was also named to the team in 2016.) According to Baseball Prospectus, the A’s have been among the league’s healthiest teams over the last five seasons, though it should also be noted that the Twins weren’t far behind. Below is how the two team’s have stacked up as of late: While both teams overall have been well-managed, there is a noticeable trend over the past three seasons with the A’s ranking among MLB’s healthiest squads and the Twins falling down a well. Minnesota is hoping that the arrival of Paparesta will help right the ship, but the question is: How much can one athletic trainer impact a team’s injury rates? The unsatisfactory answer is that it’s difficult to know. Injuries and re-injuries are complex, multifactorial, and often random events, making it difficult, at times, to determine direct cause and effect. Nutrition, genetics, anatomical makeup, sleep hygiene, chronic workload, acute workload, and past injury history are all critical variables in determining an athlete’s injury risk and not all of them can be treated or modified, particularly by a single athletic trainer. As such, it’s critical that the entire performance team—often comprised of the athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and sports scientists—be in lockstep with each other and communicate with the athletes efficiently and effectively. The best rehabilitation and strength training techniques aren’t of much value if the athletes don’t buy into their individual management routines. From purely a treatment perspective, it’s unlikely that Paparesta will employ anything unique from what Salazar was performing. Most athletic trainers at the MLB level have similar skills and levels of knowledge. However, what may change are details around the margins, such as refined exercise prescription, soft tissue management frequency, sleep practices, interactions with the athletes, etc. It's impossible to know how the hiring of Paparesta will play in the clubhouse from the outside. By all accounts, Salazar was well-liked by the athletes and coaching staff and it's tough to stick around a team for over a decade in Paparesta's case if you aren't respected. While it's difficult to project how the transition from Salazar to Paparesta will impact the team's health, it isn't particularly difficult to make the following claim: Michael Salazar was not the lone reason why the Twins were depleted by injuries last season and Nick Paparesta won’t be the the lone reason why the team may be healthier next summer. It’s possible that Salazar did everything “right” and simply ran into bad luck. It’s also possible that Paparesta simply possesses intrinsic qualities that are difficult to describe and quantify, but simply lead to better outcomes. (There’s a lot of “soft science” in rehabilitation, such as psychology and personal skills in addition to the “hard science” of concrete data.) Regardless, there’s no way that the Twins can be more injury-plagued in 2023, right?
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