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  1. We are just one sleep from Opening Day, and I feel comfortable suggesting we’ll have a season that begins tomorrow. I say that because I prefaced this piece last year by writing, “I’m doing this a bit earlier than normal this year, and that could wind up being a silly decision depending on injuries and how Spring Training plays out.” That was on March 4, eight days later Covid shut down baseball. At any rate, fans are in the stands and the world is trending back towards normal. Despite a truncated season the Los Angeles Dodgers did as expected and emerged victorious with a World Series trophy. They are the odds-on favorites going into 2021, and it isn’t much of a surprise given the additional firepower they’ve brought in. Tampa Bay will look for a return trip to the World Series, but 162 games should allow for more nuanced results to take shape. This is an exciting rookie class, especially from a Minnesota perspective, so individual awards will be worth watching as well. Here’s the 2020 picks which included a correct World Series champion and NLCS matchup. Let’s get into it for 2021. MVP: American League – Mike Trout (Dark Horse Byron Buxton) National League – Juan Soto (Dark Horse Bryce Harper) It’s maybe unfair to pick Trout every year but given he’s literally the best the game has ever seen, it’s also incredibly hard to go against him. He posted a down year in 2020 and still wound up with a .993 OPS and a career worst fifth place finish in the AL MVP race. There are some contenders in the American League, and I like bounce back years for guys like Gleyber Torres and Alex Bregman, but this is Trout’s award until further notice. As a longshot the Twins Buxton makes sense. If he’s ever healthy for a full season, an OPS around .840 and his defense will get him a substantial number of votes. On the National League side, I’m going with a pair of players tied to the Washington Nationals. For a winner, it’s Juan Soto nabbing his first of what should be multiple individual awards. Sure, he’s got a Silver Slugger, but missing out on the Rookie of the Year would be vindicated with a quicker MVP than Ronald Acuna Jr. Soto is an anomaly in that he not only hits for ridiculous power, but also has now shown he can do so with an exceptional average. The plate discipline has always been there but the league leading 1.185 OPS a year ago was bananas. I liked Harper to take this award home last year as he had settled into Philadelphia a bit more, and then oddities hit in regards to the season. He’s a polarizing player, but ultimately underrated, and I think we get another award to substantiate that reality. Cy Young: American League – Kenta Maeda (Dark Horse Eduardo Rodriguez) National League – Jack Flaherty (Dark Horse Walker Buehler) I can understand if the Maeda pick looks homerish, but he’s coming off a second place finish a season ago and there’s no reason to believe he slows down. The Twins ace was untouchable this spring, and it seems people are sleeping on Minnesota with all of the White Sox hype this offseason. Maeda has long been a dominant arm and being hidden in Los Angeles didn’t get him his due. Another season like he had last year and he’s just a slight step back from Shane Bieber or Gerrit Cole away from taking the crown. Boston initially tabbed Rodriguez as their Opening Day starter prior to a bout of dead arm. He’s a feel-good story in returning from Covid-19 complications last season, but he’s also an incredibly good pitcher. I don’t know what to make of the Red Sox, but their ace should provide little to worry about. In the National League Central we may see more mediocrity than any other division in baseball. Both the Brewers and Cardinals would appear to be favorites, but neither have much to separate them from anyone else. If there’s a diamond in the rough for me, it’s Flaherty. He has looked the part since his debut, and another step forward would classify him as the type of ace any team would covet. It’s also probably not fair to dub Buehler as a dark horse, especially after picking him in this space a season ago. However, he’s working behind both Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer for the Dodgers and a meteoric rise should be in the works. Rookie of the Year: American League – Jarred Kelenic (Dark Horse Wander Franco) National League Ke’Bryan Hayes (Dark Horse Dylan Carlson) Seattle all but admitted they are manipulating Kelenic’s service time, which is both unfortunate and understandable. The reality is that he’ll be there sooner rather than later though, and all the kid has done is rake. Kelenic put on a show this spring and was already successful at Double-A in 2019 as a teenager. The bat is going to play, and he should be a difference maker for Seattle as soon as May. I like Randy Arozarena in this space a decent amount but went with Franco as the dark horse anyways. The Rays have some exciting young options once again, and the greatest thing holding Franco back could be how soon he reaches the majors. Having watched Hayes in person a few times this spring it was apparent that he’s special. Third base is such a smooth position for him defensively, and that seems to help a young player acclimate if the bat wavers at any point. He hits rockets all over the place, and in a National League landscape that lacks top tier names, he should establish himself as the guy. St. Louis has a lot to like in Carlson, especially the power his bat brings to the plate. There’s probably going to be a few slumps throughout the season, but a few nice stretches of homer production could push him to the top of the leaderboard as well. Postseason: American League – Angels, Twins, Yankees Wild Card – Blue Jays, White Sox National League – Dodgers, Cardinals, Braves Wild Card – Padres, Mets ALCS – Twins over Yankees NLCS – Dodgers over Mets World Series – Dodgers over Twins I really liked this matchup a year ago and nailed half of it, time to go back to the well. Yeah, the Twins haven’t won a Postseason game in forever, but a post-hype situation seems like the perfect spot for them. Minnesota can not only win a game this year but take a couple of series on the way to representing the American League in the World Series. Too much is being made of a White Sox team without depth and looking at young volatility. Houston gets left out of the Postseason altogether but could both overtake the Angels or one of the Wild Card spots. I don’t love the Yankees going to the ALCS, regardless of who the face, because of the pitching staff. That said, you know they’ll add when warts present themselves during the course of the regular season. It shouldn’t e pre-determined in baseball with the season as long as it is, but I’m not going to be the one to pick against the Dodgers. They have a third starter that is one of the best arms in baseball, and a former top prospect that may struggle to find a real role anywhere. In short, the team is loaded. I don’t have much belief in anyone coming out of the NL Central, but the East should be a blast with Atlanta again being great and the Mets having overhauled their roster. San Diego is going to be a fun team all year and the coasts of the National League could really be where some of the best baseball is played. A repeat World Series winner for the first time since 2000, and the first back-to-back World Series victor from the National League since 1976, it’s happening. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  2. The Minnesota Twins have played more than a handful of Spring Training games and Opening Day is less than a month away. Who will make up the 26-man roster in Milwaukee on April 1? There’s been a couple of additions since roster projection 1.0 exactly one month ago, and spring performances may wind up influencing some of the roster decisions as well. It appears there will be fans in the stands no matter where you turn on Opening Day, so who will fans of the reigning AL Central division champions be seeing? Here’s the first revision: Starting Pitchers (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker Randy Dobnak gets bumped from the group as the addition of Shoemaker on a one-year deal worth $2 million all but cements his place as the final starter. The former Angels pitcher has been good when healthy, he’s just rarely remained that for significant stretches of time. Minnesota has solid starting depth, even if the ceiling is lowered behind Pineda. This should be a solid group. Relief Pitchers (8): Taylor Rogers, Alex Colome, Tyler Duffey, Hansel Robles, Jorge Alcala, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe I’m really uncertain what to do with this group. Only six spots seem like certainties, and despite Caleb Thielbar needing to be a seventh, he may miss the start of the season with an injury. Minnesota also seems likely to carry 14 pitchers given the workload differential in adding 102 games this season. That said, I have no idea how they get there. Shaun Anderson is on the 40-man roster already. Thorpe and Dobnak have looked good this spring, but both should remain stretched out to start. Ian Hamilton, Ian Gibault, and Brandon Waddell would all need a spot on the 40-man roster if they were to be included. Catchers (2): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers Removing Willians Astudillo here solely from the idea that the options elsewhere seem better suited for the roster. He’s not a true catcher and the top two should be able to split duties evenly. Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Andrelton Simmons, Josh Donaldson, Luis Arraez No changes here and the only thing that could make some sense would be a true shortstop to spell Andrelton Simmons. Jorge Polanco will likely be asked to play that role at times rather than including someone like J.T. Riddle, who would need a 40-man spot should he make the club. Outfielders (5): Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Jake Cave, Brent Rooker Talk about a group brimming with options. Kirilloff should be the Opening Day left fielder. The team has suggested Arraez isn’t being groomed to play the outfield, and there’s no Triple-A action for a month. Jake Cave is the holdover fourth outfielder, but he’s a bit redundant as another left-handed bat. Keon Broxton is a non-roster guy that can truly play centerfield and he’s looked very good in the early going. Kyle Garlick is a right-handed hitter with a 40-man spot who’s also looked good, but he’s probably destined more for the corners. If you’re adding another bat, it probably needs to be Brent Rooker. He’s not a centerfielder, but he too is right-handed and looked the part before his injury in 2020. Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz No change here For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  3. My dad was huge Twins fan, and he suffered with dementia for the last 8 years, and he passed away last Christmas. I put down some of what I have been thinking about. And I hope baseball romantics like me can find some joy in it. Opening Day by Spencer Legred The warm sun comforts you On this very first day And you pause to remember Maybe it’s family Maybe it’s friends And if you’re like me Maybe it’s Dad Yes, on this day of rebirth On this day of new life Your mind cannot shake Those in the great by and by Yes, today is a ball game Not bound by space and by time As we gather on this same beautiful day We do so much more than just play a game We have gathered for generations In war and peace In sickness and health The dates may change But humanity 60 feet, 6 inches This very first day All, all remain the same So on this very first day, we stop And for one eternal new day Love the game both past and present As we gather with loved ones Past, future, and present On this day of communion This Opening Day There’s angels in the outfield And Dad’s there today -Spencer Legred
  4. You’re reading this, and are here at Twins Daily, because of baseball. This day matters because you invested time and emotion into a 2019 Bomba Squad that put up arguably the most legendary regular season performance in franchise history. Target Field would have been filled to the brim with fans because of what was, and the expectation of what is to come. Today we won’t have the opportunity of hitting up a local watering hole, and then grabbing that first roller grilled hot dog. There will be no pyrotechnics, and TC Bear will need to wait a while for his photo opportunities. All those things are saddening, and maybe even maddening, but the celebration can go on. It is because of what we are doing right now that has baseball on track to return. By joining together for the greater good, we are mitigating future disaster, improving the pace in which normal can return, and ultimately providing the quickest roadmap for the National Pastime to once again deliver a first pitch. While we do that there’s still no reason not to celebrate what was, and the expectation of what is to come. As I said before, think back on that 2019 squad, we may never see something like that again. A regular season home run record that could take substantial time to break. A win total that was outdone by just one other campaign in franchise history. A rookie manager that made his mark en route to a rookie Manager of the Year designation. Those are just some of the highlights, but the reel sharing all of them could’ve ran forever. You can bet that prior to first pitch from a Minnesota arm today, there would have been plenty of recaps involving that special 2019 team. Sure, the club would’ve played a road trip and had a few wins under their belt at this point, but one last hoorah to the groundwork that was laid for the year ahead seems more than fair. Then the jets fly over, fireworks pop, and the first pitch is delivered. In what was scheduled to be the first of 81 home games the journey towards what was to come begins. This Twins team was set up in a way we haven’t seen for over a decade. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine supplemented an already talented squad with some legit pitching additions and the largest free agent contract in team history. Already viewed as the AL Central division favorite, Minnesota had a legitimate shot to represent the American League in the World Series. We don’t know what the schedule will look like when play resumes. There could be significant changes to who is on the roster, or where the Twins ultimately find themselves. None of that takes away what was though, and the uncertainty of what is to come remains driven by a very strong and successful front office that has repeatedly shown a capability to win. Today we don’t get the home opener as desired. I go without a beer and bowl of potato soup from O’Donovans before entering Target Field. There are no free giveaways to all fans in attendance, and that first lap around the concourse will have to wait. None of us are alone in those realities though, and as much celebration at Twins Territory enjoys together, this too is a uniting moment and one that will ultimately lead to a glorious reunion when those first grass stains are brought back to us. Share your traditions for what the home opener day generally looks like. Talk through the disappointment of the void we are currently experiencing. Creating further anticipation for the story yet to unfold will only lead to thunderous roars when it is again inevitably upon us. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. What does Opening Day mean to you? For me, it can be a source of energy. It is one morning that I typically have had no problem waking up, excited for the day. In years past, I would take the afternoon off, set up two TVs side-by-side and watch anywhere from two to four games at a time throughout the afternoon. Spring Training is done. A long offseason is over. All our thoughts and opinions on what our favorite team will now become a reality. Hope reigns eternal. As Twins fans, it is especially difficult. The team won 101 games in 2019, and made some big moves in the offseason. It is entirely possible that the 2020 Twins roster is even better. The 2020 Twins season was to start in Oakland later this afternoon. While we all fully understand the gravity of the situation of the global pandemic, it is OK to still be disappointed that we don’t get Opening Day games today. The teams. The players. The fans. We all would much prefer to have baseball games today and know that there would be baseball for the next seven months. There are many things that Opening Day means to people. Living in northern Minnesota, there is - of course - still snow on the ground. But Opening Day means that there soon will not be snow on the ground, that the long winter is coming to an end shortly. There is a normalcy. As Nick wrote recently, baseball provides a sense of routine to a fan’s life. It is just something that you know will be there 162 times over six months, and hopefully seven months for your favorite team. There are the emerging story lines that we would now have answers to. Today, we would know who won the fifth starter job? Would the Twins go with 13 pitchers, or just 12 pitchers to start the season? We would all much rather be wondering right now if we would see Byron Buxton’s name in the lineup today. Who was named the 26th man? Most of even the most die hard baseball fans can certainly put those questions into proper perspective. Social Distancing has become a term we all have learned and now use in daily conversation. Shelter from home. Schools closing and parents, teachers and students trying to figure out what that means for them. Nearly 3.3 million jobless claims filed in the last week. Baseball feels so unimportant right now. And obviously, right now, it isn’t important. But at some point in the future - maybe in a month, maybe in July - there will be baseball again. We will get Opening Day. We don’t have any real idea of what that will look like yet. Frankly, I might argue that it is great to read news that MLB is having conversations about trying to still play a large number of games, though probably not 162, even if that means baseball in December. There may be a time when games are played with no fans in the stands. Baseball has a lot of very difficult discussions going on and coming in the near future. But the fact that there are planning meetings for a 2020 MLB season does provide hope. Hope that we will again see baseball this year, and hope that means that this global pandemic has been somewhat restrained. So we all do our parts. We wash our hands often. We cough and sneeze into our sleeves. We stay at home. We do those things to protect ourselves, and our family and loved ones, for our community, our state, our country and our world. And on the periphery of all that, we do it so that we will be able to see baseball on our TVs, hear baseball on our radios, and eventually congregate at stadiums like Target Field, or even our local community ball fields. And in the meantime, stop by Twins Daily. We are a community, here for each other. We can provide a place to keep talking baseball, and talking about our favorite team, even debate with other fans, in large part because we need it. We need the distraction. We need baseball. We need hope. And we need patience. There will be an Opening Day. We just need to wait a little bit. But, patience is a virtue, they say.
  6. Today was supposed to be Opening Day… In a “normal” year, that is such a meaningful term. People have suggested that MLB’s Opening Day should be deemed a national holiday (maybe jokingly, maybe not). Unfortunately, Opening Day 2020 has been postponed, and we still have no idea when baseball will return. We do know that Minnesota will be sheltering in place for at least the next two weeks.What does Opening Day mean to you? For me, it can be a source of energy. It is one morning that I typically have had no problem waking up, excited for the day. In years past, I would take the afternoon off, set up two TVs side-by-side and watch anywhere from two to four games at a time throughout the afternoon. Spring Training is done. A long offseason is over. All our thoughts and opinions on what our favorite team will now become a reality. Hope reigns eternal. As Twins fans, it is especially difficult. The team won 101 games in 2019, and made some big moves in the offseason. It is entirely possible that the 2020 Twins roster is even better. The 2020 Twins season was to start in Oakland later this afternoon. While we all fully understand the gravity of the situation of the global pandemic, it is OK to still be disappointed that we don’t get Opening Day games today. The teams. The players. The fans. We all would much prefer to have baseball games today and know that there would be baseball for the next seven months. There are many things that Opening Day means to people. Living in northern Minnesota, there is - of course - still snow on the ground. But Opening Day means that there soon will not be snow on the ground, that the long winter is coming to an end shortly. There is a normalcy. As Nick wrote recently, baseball provides a sense of routine to a fan’s life. It is just something that you know will be there 162 times over six months, and hopefully seven months for your favorite team. There are the emerging story lines that we would now have answers to. Today, we would know who won the fifth starter job? Would the Twins go with 13 pitchers, or just 12 pitchers to start the season? We would all much rather be wondering right now if we would see Byron Buxton’s name in the lineup today. Who was named the 26th man? Most of even the most die hard baseball fans can certainly put those questions into proper perspective. Social Distancing has become a term we all have learned and now use in daily conversation. Shelter from home. Schools closing and parents, teachers and students trying to figure out what that means for them. Nearly 3.3 million jobless claims filed in the last week. Baseball feels so unimportant right now. And obviously, right now, it isn’t important. But at some point in the future - maybe in a month, maybe in July - there will be baseball again. We will get Opening Day. We don’t have any real idea of what that will look like yet. Frankly, I might argue that it is great to read news that MLB is having conversations about trying to still play a large number of games, though probably not 162, even if that means baseball in December. There may be a time when games are played with no fans in the stands. Baseball has a lot of very difficult discussions going on and coming in the near future. But the fact that there are planning meetings for a 2020 MLB season does provide hope. Hope that we will again see baseball this year, and hope that means that this global pandemic has been somewhat restrained. So we all do our parts. We wash our hands often. We cough and sneeze into our sleeves. We stay at home. We do those things to protect ourselves, and our family and loved ones, for our community, our state, our country and our world. And on the periphery of all that, we do it so that we will be able to see baseball on our TVs, hear baseball on our radios, and eventually congregate at stadiums like Target Field, or even our local community ball fields. And in the meantime, stop by Twins Daily. We are a community, here for each other. We can provide a place to keep talking baseball, and talking about our favorite team, even debate with other fans, in large part because we need it. We need the distraction. We need baseball. We need hope. And we need patience. There will be an Opening Day. We just need to wait a little bit. But, patience is a virtue, they say. Click here to view the article
  7. The last stab I took at this was on January 20th. There haven’t been many moves since then, but the ones that have been made are absolutely monumental. While I felt good about where that version of the Twins was, it’s undeniable they are much better off now. Putting out one final projection prior to Spring Training getting underway, here’s where I see things as of today. Projection 1.0 Catchers (2) – Mitch Garver, Alex Avila No change here. These two are locked in and ready to go. Garver will need to stave off some expected regression, but he’ll also be dealing with an expanded workload. If Willians Astudillo pushes his was onto the roster, I don’t see the playing time coming behind the plate. Infield (5) – Miguel Sano, Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson. Ehire Adrianza Another position group with no change. Donaldson punctuated the offseason when Minnesota signed him to the 4th biggest deal handed out this winter. This group will need to take a step forwards defensively, and I’m confident that they should be able to. Outfield (5) – Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave More status quo here. The final position spot comes down to Jake Cave or Willians Astudillo for me, and I don’t see the utility of Astudillo being a net positive. He’s below average everywhere, while Cave can handle the bat and play all three outfield positions. The infield is more stable this season, and although Marwin should spend most of his time in a corner outfield spot, he’s the utility guy you feel comfortable about moving around. Designated Hitter (1) – Nelson Cruz Yes, still here to hit bombas. Rotation (5) – Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacin This is the group that has seen the most change. Chacin was signed to a minor league deal, and while 2019 was awful, he was great in 2018. If the Twins see signs of that at all during the spring, they’ll have picked up a very solid 5th starter. I like the long-term ability of Lewis Thorpe, and both Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer have looked strong, but they all have options remaining. Now adding a bonafide stud in Kenta Maeda, this is a group that should be plenty capable of racing out to a second straight division title. Bullpen (8) – Taylor Rogers. Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, Tyler Clippard, Zack Littell, Matt Wisler, Cody Stashak This group stays the same as I had it in round one, but that was prior to Minnesota designating Brusdar Graterol a reliever. He absolutely would have been on the roster, but instead was used to swing the deal for Maeda. Coming off a 2019 that saw this group finish as the third best unit in baseball, they’ve added some very quality pieces to make another run at the top. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  8. As I am anxiously waiting to head Downtown and enjoy the pregame atmosphere at Brothers Bar & Grill, I decided to write about my Twins predictions for this season. Record: 84 - 78, 2nd in division At one point, it looked like the Indians were in a sell mode, but they were able to keep the core of Lindor, Ramirez, Kluber, and Bauer together while replacing Edwin Encarcion with Carlos Santana. I think this team is still a high 80's win team. Postseason: Loses Wild-Card Play-In Game to NYY (again) I hate to say it, but I don't see the Twins surviving the Wild Card game against the Yankees or Red Sox. Even if they were to surprise people and win the division they would be pitted against a 100 win Houston Astros team. Lets just be happy with a playoff appearance this season. MVP: Nelson Cruz I was a big fan of the big stick signing and think it will pay off big time, especially with Sano out for the first two month or so. Cy Young: Jose Berrios Improving each of the last three seasons and coming off of his best year at the Major League level, this is the year Berrios takes off. Most Improved: Byron Buxton IF he can stay healthy, his floor for 2019 will be 2017. I think this is, and has to be, the year that Buxton figures it out at the plate. Reliever of the Year: Trevor May May was one of the best relievers in baseball at the end of the last season and that will continue this season. He'll solidify himself as, not only the Twins closer, but also one of the top closers in baseball. Rookie of the Year: Stephen Gonsalves Fernando Romero pitched 55 innnings (limit is 50) in 2018, which no longer makes him a "rookie" by MLB's definition. Otherwise, he'd be the easy selection. If all goes well this year (the baseball gods owe us after last year), then there shouldn't be a need for any significants contributions from a rookie this season. That said, after Romero, I think Gonsalves is the next pitcher in line to receive some big league innings for a spot start or to fill-in during an injury. What are your predictions for the season?
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  10. It’s nearly the middle of March, and the Minnesota Twins are just 17 days away from their 2019 Opening Day game against the Cleveland Indians. Roughly one month ago I made my first roster projection for the season, and a handful of things have transpired since then. Heading down to Fort Myers to see the club in action this week, I figured now was a good time to come out with a revised edition. Most notably, the club signed Marwin Gonzalez and Miguel Sano is destined to begin the season on the Injured List. That shuffles a few things for position players, but there’s a relative level of clarity there. It’s on the pitching side that things remain up in the air, and that will be worth monitoring down the stretch. Here’s how I see things looking on March 28 given the information we have today. Rotation (5): Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Martin Perez Changes: None The rotation has all been locked in since the beginning of Spring Training. Martin Perez was inked as the 5th starter, and while the move has drawn plenty of ire (myself included), it appears the Twins are right thus far. Wes Johnson has the former Rangers prospect shoving near 97 mph, and he’s working with a different pitch mix that could unlock a new level of effectiveness. Minnesota targeted Anibal Sanchez as an outlier last year and witnessed him succeed in the Braves organization. Perez looks to be that guy in 2019, and everyone wants to see it come together here. Bullpen (7): Trevor May, Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger, Adalberto Mejia, Fernando Romero, Matt Magill Changes: Addison Reed to IL Addison Reed was signed to a two-year contract last winter, and he was coming off a 2.84 ERA. He’s been very good out of the pen for most of his career, and he’d pitched in high-leverage situations tallying 125 saves to his credit. Unfortunately, with Minnesota, he turned in a 4.50 ERA, 5.11 FIP, and the strikeout numbers sagged dramatically. He also lost another mph of velocity for the third year in a row, and the swinging strikes fell off a cliff. Despite the small sample, spring training hasn’t been kind to him either. I’m not sure if he’s still hurt from 2018, but the club could make a case to stash him and let him find a bit more success on a rehab stint. Should the Twins decide that Reed is right, and he needs to come north, the decision then comes down to the trio of Matt Magill, Trevor Hildenberger, and Fernando Romero. Magill looks like he has plenty of supporters in the clubhouse and will make the roster. Hildenberger has options, but despite late season struggles, has been plenty reliable in the past. No matter how much talk there’s been about Romero, letting him have a couple weeks of working as a reliever in real game action at Triple-A could be good. If Minnesota needs to make a tough decision, I’d bet on it being a short trip to Rochester for Fernando. Catchers (3): Jason Castro, Mitch Garver Changes: Add Willians Astudillo There’s somewhat of a domino effect caused by Miguel Sano needing to start the year on the IL. Marwin Gonzalez goes from super utility to primary third basemen, and that opens a bench spot. Astudillo isn’t the most ideal catcher, but he provides defensive flexibility with the ability to play all over the diamond. La Tortuga probably isn’t going to live up to his September hype, but he’ll be given the opportunity early. Castro returns with a clean bill of health, and although he’ll be the presumed starter, a defensively revitalized Mitch Garver could challenge sooner rather than later. Castro is in the final year of his deal, and Garver assuming a more serious hold on the full-time role would be a great development for the Twins. Infielders (5): C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Jorge Polanco, Ehire Adrianza, Marwin Gonzalez Changes: Miguel Sano to IL, Lucas Duda released Miguel Sano had as impressive of a winter as the Twins could’ve hoped, but it ended on an unlucky note with a gash to the back of his heel halting the start of his 2019 season. He’ll be ready in May, but we could end up waiting to see him until June. That development makes the addition of Marwin Gonzalez even more imperative. The Astros used Marwin all over the place last year, and Minnesota will likely do the same as soon as they are able. Ehire Adrianza will be able to spell most of the infield positions, and Marwin will need to slot in primarily at third from the get-go. A platoon at first base doesn’t appear likely, meaning Tyler Austin needs to be dealt or passed through waivers (unlikely) before hitting Triple-A. Duda was a nice get for camp, but not making the team, he’ll look to latch on elsewhere. Outfielders (5): Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Jake Cave Changes: None No changes to the outfield, and that’s a serious positive for this group. Byron Buxton has been en fuego this spring, while the starting trio has remained healthy. Jake Cave is due for some regression from his impressive rookie season, but he’s more than a serviceable fourth regardless. It took a while for Nelson Cruz to appear in game action this spring, but being the veteran he is, that was never cause for concern. He won’t play outfield aside from the remote possibility of appearing in interleague action. That said, the 38-year-old year old should launch plenty of longballs from the heart of Minnesota’s lineup this year. If there is something to monitor here, it’s Michael Reed. Like Jake Cave before him, the front office tabbed Reed as a player with a potential for more. He was hurt to start the spring and has just begun getting into game action. Zack Granite was jettisoned off the 40 man before him, and the hope would be that he could be shipped to Triple-A. Without options though, Reed will need to clear waivers before being able to be removed off the 40 man. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow at @tlschwerz
  11. Each baseball season Topps kicks off the card collecting calendar with their flagship offering of Series 1. The product is designed to unveil the new look of cards for that season, and sets the stage for players in new uniforms, as well as the unveiling of new rookie cards. A few weeks later, Opening Day follows up as a more affordable, and kid friendly product. With hobby boxes selling for just $29.99, and single packs available at retail stores for a buck, Opening Day is designed to get younger collectors excited about the hobby. It is an easy sell as an impulse product, and while there’s a lot of crossover from Series 1 here, there’s plenty of new inserts to make the set worth checking out. For Twins fans, there’s a couple of specific draws that will make ripping some packs more than worth it. Base Set Minnesota has eight cards in the 200-card base set. Jonathan Schoop gets his first flagship style offering in a Twins uniform, and stars like Jose Berrios and Eddie Rosario are present as well. The most notable card here is #153. Willians Astudillo will be presented on his first licensed rookie card in which he does not share the cardboard. In 2019 Topps Heritage, Astudillo has a rookie offering in which both Kohl Stewart and Stephen Gonsalves appear as well. If his personality and alluring image are to be trusted, this should be a card to check out. Inserts Attempting to distance itself a bit from the traditional Series 1 set, Opening Day brings its own unique inserts to the table. Staying in the kid-friendly vein, a mascot set is typically one highlight. TC Bear is among the most recognizable figures in the baseball world, and he is one of the 25 entertainers depicted in this set. Max Kepler gets a card in the Rally Time insert offering, and Jose Berrios makes an appearance on the Sock it to Me! checklist. In total, Minnesota has offerings in three of the seven insert sets. Hits No matter the year, Opening Day is not a hit driven product. Keeping the autographs and relics to a minimum helps to drive down the price of the product. Although there are patches, autographs, and dirt relics to be had in the product, it’s the mascot avenue in which Minnesota is represented. TC Bear is once again an autograph subject, and he also has a relic offering. Given the short print status of mascot hits in the product, these cards typically command a pretty penny on the secondary market. Given the cheap entry fee, 2019 Opening Day should once again be a fun rip. Don’t expect anything big out of a pack, but there’s plenty to enjoy here. The highlight for Twins fans is going to be Astudillo’s rookie card, and if you happen to pull a TC relic along the way, it’s all gravy. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  12. There may be three-and-a-half feet of snow covering Minnesota today, but the Twins hope to take the field in three weeks. And the man who will lead them onto the field will be none other than Jose Berrios.Twins manager Rocco Baldellli said the team informed Berrios on Monday morning. "Truthfully, we were all very happy to give him that news," Baldelli said. "I also think he was very happy to hear it. He’s earned it. He’s a wonderful guy and I was happy to see him so excited." Baldelli revealed a little of the decision-making process, saying that he conferred with his coaching staff. "Our staff did spend some time talking about it. Just to make sure to hear different opinions," he said, "but in this instance there wasn’t a ton of discussions. Basically everybody was happy for him." Berrios, who will be 24 years old when the season starts, will be the Twins' youngest Opening Day starter since Brad Radke in 1997. Click here to view the article
  13. Twins manager Rocco Baldellli said the team informed Berrios on Monday morning. "Truthfully, we were all very happy to give him that news," Baldelli said. "I also think he was very happy to hear it. He’s earned it. He’s a wonderful guy and I was happy to see him so excited." Baldelli revealed a little of the decision-making process, saying that he conferred with his coaching staff. "Our staff did spend some time talking about it. Just to make sure to hear different opinions," he said, "but in this instance there wasn’t a ton of discussions. Basically everybody was happy for him." Berrios, who will be 24 years old when the season starts, will be the Twins' youngest Opening Day starter since Brad Radke in 1997.
  14. Down in sunny Fort Myers, Florida the Minnesota Twins pitchers and catchers have officially reported, and practice is underway. With many position players either already in camp, or soon to join them, real game action is not far off. Attempting to decipher how Rocco Baldelli will shape his first major league roster should be a fun exercise and doing a first projection before we see anything take shape is plenty exciting. In past seasons there was some level of continuity with how Paul Molitor wanted his roster to look. The front office had influence, but it was the skipper that ultimately was responsible for the 25 men that headed north. Now having to get used to a new process, we’ll have to figure out how the former Rays star feels about organizing the ends of his roster. For your first Opening Day roster projection of 2019, here’s how I see the Twins embarking upon Target Field: Rotation (5): Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Martin Perez Barring another signing, this group looks to be inked in pen. The Perez signing is a head scratcher, and he was better in relief for the Rangers in 2018. That said, the front office has been bullish about him being their 5th guy, and none of the depth behind him makes that a ridiculous proposition. Minnesota could still go out and acquire another arm, with the bar being relatively low, but today this is where we’re at. Bullpen (7): Trevor May, Addison Reed, Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger, Adalberto Mejia, Fernando Romero The Twins bullpen was an area capable of improving the most going into 2019, and while it’s ok, there’s still plenty of uncertainty. Rogers looks like a very reliable, and high-quality arm, while May projects as one of the better relievers in the division. Reed is a prime candidate for a bounce back year and Hildenberger has flashed plenty of potential in his previous exploits. Mejia is out of options, and I’d imagine the Twins won’t move on without reason. Really the only question here is what happens with Romero. Ideally, he still gets developed as a starter, but he could very well be an elite level reliever right now. Catchers (2): Jason Castro, Mitch Garver Going into the year Castro will get the lion’s share of the reps but seeing that swing as the season goes on would not be a surprise. Garver needs to take steps forward defensively, but the bat is impressive and needs to be in the lineup often. He was under-utilized at times by Molitor, and that’s hopefully not a path Baldelli goes down. There’s no Willians Astudillo here which will disappoint some, but his days as a catcher could also be limited. Infielders (6): C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Ehire Adrianza, Lucas Duda There’s not much question regarding the starters around the diamond. I could listen to an argument that Duda and Tyler Austin make up a platoon that pushes out Cron, but I don’t think there’s much steam to that. The front office made upgrades at both first and second base this winter, and the returning tandem of Sano and Polanco looks enticing on paper. Adrianza will once again play the utility role, and Duda as a platoon partner and bench bat makes a good deal of sense. Outfielders (5): Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Jake Cave Like the infield, Minnesota’s outfield is all but set in stone. The corners are well established, and Buxton will return to start in center. This needs to be the campaign in which he puts it all together, and that taking shape could lead to his first All Star appearance. Nelson Cruz is going to be a full-time DH but could see time in the field during interleague play, although everyone would probably prefer that doesn’t happen. There should be worry about regression from Cave this year, and that could open the door for another suitor, but he’ll have the role to start. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  15. Here is a first guess as to the opening day / everyday batting order. I think of this as a jumping off point and invite iterations. Two assumption: 1. No new (important) batters are signed, and 2. (BIG assumption) Bux and Sano have great spring trainings. Here we go: Buxton CF Polanco SS Rosario LF Sano 3B Cruz DH Cron 1B Kepler RF Castro C Schoop 2B (Of course, if both Bux and Sano don't: Polanco SS Schoop 2B Rosario LF Cruz DH Cron 1B Kepler RF Sano 3B Castro C Buxton CF) Thoughts?
  16. With the Minnesota Twins now involved in spring training action, and exhibition games well under way, it's a good time to take a look at the 25 that will head north with the club at the end of March. Having had significant turnover and uncertainty throughout seasons in recent memory, 2018 brings a breath of fresh air. This club should be relatively simple to project, and that's the mark of a strong team. Following up a Postseason berth and a strong showing over the course of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, the Twins had a few key areas to improve in order to take the next step. This offseason, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have executed a near flawless blueprint, and they have the product on the field positioned to make a run for the AL Central division title. Although not set in stone, there's significant clarity when it comes to deciphering the Opening Day 25 man, and here's a good bet at what it could look like: Infielders (9) Jason Castro C Mitch Garver C Ehire Adrianza Util Brian Dozier 2B Eduardo Escobar Util Joe Mauer 1B Jorge Polanco SS Miguel Sano 3B Logan Morrison 1B Both catcher positions are all but locked in, and the starting combination up the middle should be set. Joe Mauer is inked at first, and Logan Morrison will back him up while serving as the full-time designated hitter. Although Adrianza could be pushed by Erick Aybar for a job, I think the former's best chance to get on the roster is a potential suspension to Miguel Sano. Sano is already set to play the field in spring training games, so his injury recovery should be all but over. Major League Baseball has yet to speak with Miguel in regards to allegations, and no matter what the outcome, I'd think a 30 game suspension is the max penalty. Outside of the third basemen, there really is no level of intrigue here. Outfielders (4) Byron Buxton CF Robbie Grossman LF/RF Max Kepler RF Eddie Rosario LF This group is virtually locked in as well. The trio of "Nothing falls but raindrops" is a given, and their rotational fourth should end up being Grossman. Zack Granite is a significantly better defender, and would provide a nice speed option on the bench, but he has options remaining and is available to Minnesota at any point in time. I could see Granite forcing his way onto the roster this spring, but the more likely scenario is that Grossman sticks until it no longer works. The Twins would need to DFA him, and doing that before necessary doesn't seem like a pressing matter. Pitchers (12) Jose Berrios SP Tyler Duffey RP Zach Duke RP Kyle Gibson SP Trevor Hildenberger RP Phil Hughes SP Adalberto Mejia SP Jake Odorizzi SP Ryan Pressly RP Addison Reed RP Fernando Rodney RP Taylor Rogers RP Despite not having Ervin Santana available to them out of the gate, I'd still imagine the Twins go with a full five-man starting rotation. That group would include Berrios, Odorizzi, Gibson, Mejia, and Hughes. The last two spots are somewhat up in the air, but Hughes' contract should afford him an opportunity, and Minnesota would need to see significant improvement from Anibal Sanchez this spring to pencil him in. The relief corps is vastly improved, and that group should be relatively set in stone. If Minnesota is serious about using Duffey as a starter, I suppose a trip to Triple-A could make some sense, in which case Alan Busenitz takes his spot in the bullpen. Again, in comparison to recent years, this Minnesota Twins squad has the least amount of question marks when looking at Opening Day. Obviously that's a great thing, and a testament to the talent available to Paul Molitor. Having defined roles and positions from the get go is a good place to be, and allows the club to work from depth as situations present themselves. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  17. You find a magic lamp with a genie inside. He allows you make a decision that will affect and change the world as we know it. You get to choose the Minnesota Twins 2015 Opening Day roster. The catch is you get only one of 3 options. Some seem more realistic than others, but now all are possible with the genie’s powers! Which would you choose, and why? TEAM 1: “Win Now” Catcher: K. Suzuki 1st: J. Mauer 2nd: E. Escobar 3rd: E. Nunez SS: D. Santana LF: M. Cabrera CF: M. Kemp RF: O. Arcia DH: K. Vargas Rotation: 1. J. Lester 2. J. Shields 3. P. Hughes 4. K. Gibson 5. R. Nolasco This is a Twins team that spent a lot of money in the off-season. In this scenario, Terry Ryan felt the heat from the fans and the front office and opened up the check book. He signed the trio of pitchers Jon Lester and James Shields as well as Melky Cabrera to multi-year deals. He also traded rehabbing 3rd basemen Trevor Plouffe and next to All-Star Brian Dozier after career years and brought in Matt Kemp. Running Eduardo Nunez out is worrisome, but TR believes that prospect Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano will be ready to enter the big leagues midway through ’15. Critics have said that TR is blocking top prospects like Alex Meyer, JO Berrios, Trevor May and Byron Buxton. Although the Twins are the new favorite to win not only the AL central, but make a run at a world title. TEAM 2: “Future Now” Catcher: K. Suzuki 1st: J. Mauer 2nd: B. Dozier 3rd: M. Sano SS: D. Santana LF: O. Arcia CF: B. Buxton RF: A. Hicks DH: K. Vargas Rotation: 1. P. Hughes 2. K. Gibson 3. T. May 4. A. Meyer 5. J. Berrios The Twins had a quiet off-season, yet had a very exciting spring training. They did everything they could to move Ricky Nolasco, and did late in the spring. The team went against the “Twins Way” by removing a player after one bad year. They had to eat the majority of Nolasco’s contract. Most of the team’s top prospects made it deep into Spring Training and most actually cracked the 25 man, to the dismay and confusion of many. Recently injured Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton were named starters. The top two pitching prospects made the starting five in the rotation, as Alex Meyer and young JO Berrios were brought up. “The future is here, and we believe we are ready to win,” GM Terry Ryan stated. Many expect those prospects to struggle in their first taste in the big leagues. Vegas predicts the 2015 Twins to be a .500 ball club. TEAM 3: “Patient Now” Catcher: K. Suzuki 1st: J. Mauer 2nd: B. Dozier 3rd: T. Plouffe SS: E. Escobar LF: J. Schafer CF: D. Santana RF: O. Arcia DH: K. Vargas Rotation: 1. P. Hughes 2. K. Gibson 3. R. Nolasco 4. T. May 5. T. Milone Even as their season ticket numbers drop and their fan base starts to abandon them, the Twins decided to stand pat in the 2015 offseason. Signing no one and basically running with what ended ’14, The Twins are sticking to the strategy of waiting for the Calvary. To the anger of many, the team will continue running Rookie of the Year runner up Danny Santana in Center and not at his natural position of Short. The Twins are hoping and relying on their multitude of prospects, not only panning out, but staying healthy and stay on their designated course. This team will get good, maybe even great, but it seems it will take years as each group of players arrive from the minors. I’m just curious about what everyone else wants the mission and path of action to be. Thanks for reading and responding! -Noah Trautmann
  18. I expected last year to be a transition season where "out with the old, in with the new" would happen. Some movement occurred, but it was late--Morneau and now Doumit are gone and the pitching staff has new faces--and the season was a gigantic mess. I am again expecting major changes this year. I expect that the starting staff will be sort of stable because of the guaranteed contracts for four of the projected starters, but Correia has to be a likely midseason or earlier trade candidate and whoever seizes the fifth spot will probably be switched out at some point. The Twins starters at third, center field, left field, DH and shortstop probably won't see another Opening Day with the club. I am hoping that a young potential-filled club will be on display by midseason or September 1 at the latest. Players who currently have less than one season--Arcia, Hicks, Pinto, Gibson--should be mainstays and we should know whether there is anything to Plouffe, Florimon, and Parmelee. If not, they should be gone and not coming back. Sano, for sure, should see his major league time and perhaps Rosario and Buxton, along with Alex Meyer on the mound. Guys at the end of their contracts--Willingham, Correia, Suzuki--should either be gone or re-upped. I don't want to see a holding pattern like most of last season was. I want the club to know what they have to pursue in Free Agency in order to contend until 2020.
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