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  1. Like many other Minnesota Twins, Max Kepler enjoyed a banner 2019 regular season en route to over 100 victories. Kepler assumed the leadoff position in the batting order and flourished. He hit 36 homers and drove in 90 runs and played good defense in right field. Kepler also more than held his own against left handed pitching, hitting .283 with an .880 OPS against southpaws. The season, however, didn't end well for the Berlin native. He was injured and slumped in September and the team was swept out of the playoffs by the Yankees. Max was 0-10 in the 2019 playoffs. Since the breakout season, Kepler has not fared well. Max's OPS fell from to .760 in 2020 and is .692 this year. Kep has spent time on the Injured List both in 2019 and this season, including ten days on the COVID list. He's particularly struggled against left handed pitching making 2019 look like an extreme outlier in that regard. Kepler remains a good defender and is an adequate center fielder as well as well above average in right. Kepler's injuries and illness have given other players a chance. Career minor leaguers Rob Refsnyder and Kyle Garlick have fared well in limited roles and certainly done better against lefties than Kepler. Top prospects Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach have gotten an opportunity and shown that they are ready to hit big league pitching. Quite suddenly, there is a case to be made that Kepler shouldn't be getting regular play when everyone is healthy (I know it never seems to happen, but it might). Kepler is signed for two more years, at $6.75m in 2022 and $8.5m in 2023. That is more than reasonable for an above average starting corner outfielder, but is a lot to pay for a utility or platoon outfielder. Unfortunately, the trio of Larnach, Kirilloff and Kepler all hit left handed. Early results show the two rookies as handling southpaws better than the more veteran Kepler. What to do with Max?
  2. Arcia has been in the Twins' system for seven years. In his minor league career, Oswaldo had an OBP of .376 and a batting average of .314. His top home run season was 17 in 124 games, but home run power seems to be his primary asset as a major leaguer. I submit that his batting percentage and OBP have been disappointments. He seems to be very fond of hitting long home runs at the expense of being a total hitter. Much has been made of a mechanical flaw but the problem is exacerbated by trying to hit the ball 500 feet. Oswaldo is going to hit home runs if he gets at-bats. He needs to be a more well-rounded hitter to get regular at-bats, not Adam Dunn minus the walks. Arcia hit below the Mendoza line against left-handed pitching, with a .574 OPS. The Twins used 2014 as a training/learning experience for him, despite his paltry numbers. If he continues to struggle against southpaws, it wouldn't surprise me that the new manager will limit his at-bats against lefties. This year Arcia played exclusively in right field. He made more good plays than last year and displayed a strong arm. That is the good news. He continued to make some bad misplays and missed cutoff men and threw to the wrong base far too often. I continue to see enough for Arcia to be an average or better defender, but he has to focus and work on his defense as hard as he works on his swing. Arcia has shown enough to have earned a lot of rope before he would be benched, platooned or demoted. He needs to make progress both at the plate and in the field to guarantee continued regular playing time in 2015 and beyond. I think he needs to have a much better two-strike plan. He is still only 23. Barring injury, Oswaldo Arcia will start 2015 as the Twins regular right fielder and will still be 23 years old. He is still a very raw player, often doing amazing and stupefying things in the same game. He has shown the ability to be an all-star hitter in the middle of a contending lineup and he can look like an 18-year-old in he Rookie League. 2015 should be a big season for Arcia. If he progresses, he'll probably be a cornerstone of a fast-improving franchise. If he stagnates, Twins fans will move on to look for someone else to be their power-hitting right fielder-- Adam Brett Walker anyone?
  3. I saw Danny Santana play in a lot of games in Spring Training of 2014. I was impressed with his swing and his speed, but thought that he was a long way from helping the Twins in 2014. Santana showed the baseball world that he was ready when he was recalled in early May. He hit early and continued to hit throughout the season. Danny finished with a .319 batting average and an OPS of .824, both of which would have led the team easily if he had enough plate appearances. Danny made the All-Rookie team and is a cinch to be the Twins Rookie of the Year for 2014. Santana assumed the leadoff spot in the order at midseason and thrived there. He hit over .300 and stole 19 bases as the leadoff man. Santana scored 70 runs in just over 100 games and had 41 extra-base hits in 430 plate appearances. Danny's BABIP was .405, a very high number and it was an astounding .443 as a right handed hitter. Beyond his offensive contributions, Santana saved the Twins by playing center field. Danny started 62 games there after playing center only a handful of games in the low minors. His defense wasn't good at the start, but he improved and was adequate by the conclusion of the season. Two questions loom over Danny Santana for 2015 and beyond: 1) Can he sustain his outstanding offensive performance? 2) What will his defensive position be? First, I find it hard to believe that Santana will continue to hit .319 next year and beyond. He's got great speed, a nice swing and unflappable attitude, but that BABIP is pretty close to otherworldly, especially from the right side. I expect the major regression will come on his right handed hitting because his K percentage is much higher (32% vs. 19% as a LH hitter). Also, I think Danny has to learn to be a bit more selective at the plate. He chased a lot of pitches out of the zone making for short or defensive at-bats. Adding to his walk percentage would be a good idea, as well (only 4.4% in 2014). Where Santana should play going forward has been a top topic on Twins Daily. The team got solid production from last year's de facto starting shortstop, Eduardo Escobar, and did not get anything close to solid production in center field from anyone else on the current roster. Santana was a shortstop playing center field in 2014, he could be more than that if the team decides he is need in the outfield. However, he has the arm and range to be an outstanding defensive shortstop. It is a quandary that the next manager will have to deal with. Any solution will be controversial. I hope the team picks a position for Danny and leaves him there, at least for 2015.
  4. "Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you". Aaron Hicks has been the starting center fielder for the Twins the last two Opening Days. He was a thorough disappointment in 2013, eventually getting demoted to AAA and not being recalled in September. With the bar set considerably lower in 2014, Hicks still fell far short of expectations and offered a lot of content for sports analysts with his supposed lack of preparation and short-lived decision to abandon switch hitting. Hicks spent much of this summer in New Britain and Rochester, but was recalled in September. Aaron got 70 plate appearances in September with the big club. There was talk of better focus and more confidence, but the result was something short of scintillating. Hicks hit .250 with a .648 OPS. His OBP was an entirely acceptable .348, but he had only three extra-base hits in those seventy plate appearances. My "eye test" observation was equally unimpressed. Hicks hit the ball hard only a handful of times that I can remember. Getting good wood on the ball is a part of his hit tool that seems to be missing to this point. On top of the offensive struggles, there have been whispers and inferences that Hicks is not committed to being a great baseball player. He skipped winter ball last year. He supposedly didn't know who was pitching one day and showed up late for a non-mandatory session with the training staff so that the manager felt he couldn't use him on that particular day. And then there is the switch-hitting debacle. Hicks has always been better as a right handed hitter. Many on this site thought the answer was simple--abandon switch hitting. Without consulting his manager and not discussing it with anyone else on the team, to my knowledge, Hicks decided to give up switch hitting. When it became obvious he needed work to have an acceptable chance against right handers and because he was able to rehab after a disabling injury, Hicks was sent to Double A and then optioned there when his rehab time ended. The idea was to work on the swing, but shortly after being optioned, Hicks went back to switch hitting. The platoon splits are pretty stark--Hicks' combined OPS was .615 but his OPS was .792 against left handed pitchers and only .512 vs right handers. To me, this is the contrast between tools and skills. Everyone remarks that Hicks has tools and he does--good speed, strong throwing arm, and big athletic body. The tools are good, but they aren't exceptional, except for maybe his outstanding throwing arm. The skills haven't caught up with the tools. Maybe they never will. I think Hicks' absolute upside is Austin Jackson--supposedly the next great all-around center fielder, who has been pretty good, but never an All-Star and a guy that hasn't become a high average hitter, accomplished power hitter, stolen base threat or Gold Glove defender. Given the Twins' dearth of outfield options, Hicks will most likely get another chance to make good on his potential. I maintain that what is best for his development and ultimately best for the team is to go to Triple A and build his confidence by dominating at that level. He has just turned 25 so there is a chance that he is a late bloomer who will thrive when he "gets it". The Twins, however, can't assume that he will. Fool them three times, shame on them.
  5. The early season gave Escobar his chance. Pedro Florimon, already seen as a subpar hitter, got off to a woeful start and Escobar got several early starts at shortstop. The rest is, as they say, history. Escobar hit .357 in April and backed that up with a .322 (.865 OPS) May. Florimon was demoted and Escobar became the de facto starting shortstop. Escobar returned to earth in June and July--his average fell to .274 at the end of June--and then he stabilized. Eduardo finished with a .275 batting average and his OPS ended at .721, good for a 102 OPS+. The season qualifies as a breakthrough. Escobar had more plate appearances than in his previous three years combined (over a year and a half in the majors). Escobar set career highs in almost every offensive category, played solid defense at three infield positions (metrics vary among the three) and showed durability. Esco still has some issues. He struck out 93 times and walked only 24, keeping his OBP relatively low at .315. Many, including myself, doubt he can replicate his extra-base numbers (35 doubles among 43 XBH). Escobar is not an explosive runner and thus will never have excellent range. All of this limits his upside to about what he was this year. Escobar ended with dramatic platoon splits. In just over 300 ABs, he had only a .654 OPS as a left-handed hitter, while in 131 at-bats as a right-handed hitter, his OPS was .877. It does appear that Eduardo has been a stronger RH batter throughout his limited major league career. If someone had said going into the season that the Twins would have a young switch-hitting shortstop who could field capably, and be an asset at the bottom of the order, most Twins fans would have been ecstatic and guaranteed the guy a starting spot for years. However Escobar's rise coincided with the emergence of Danny Santana, who has the speed and explosiveness that Eddie 400 lacks. Next year's role for Escobar is up in the air. He may revert to a 3-position utility guy or he could become a "10th starter" filling in for multiple infielders, but not having a specific position. If injuries occur, Escobar could slide in for whoever gets hurt. If Santana stays in the outfield, perhaps he could hold shortstop.
  6. Entering 2014, Eduardo Escobar was pegged by most as a standard-order utility infielder. He was a switch-hitter with a pretty good glove and OK speed who had demonstrated the ability to capably fill in at short, third and second. There was some chatter that EE shouldn't make the Twins coming out of spring training, but most viewed him as a good fit for the utility infielder role. Some wanted to see "Eddie 400" in 2014--that is at least 400 at-bats-- to see what the still-young Venezuelan could do with more consistent playing time.The early season gave Escobar his chance. Pedro Florimon, already seen as a subpar hitter, got off to a woeful start and Escobar got several early starts at shortstop. The rest is, as they say, history. Escobar hit .357 in April and backed that up with a .322 (.865 OPS) May. Florimon was demoted and Escobar became the de facto starting shortstop. Escobar returned to earth in June and July--his average fell to .274 at the end of June--and then he stabilized. Eduardo finished with a .275 batting average and his OPS ended at .721, good for a 102 OPS+. The season qualifies as a breakthrough. Escobar had more plate appearances than in his previous three years combined (over a year and a half in the majors). Escobar set career highs in almost every offensive category, played solid defense at three infield positions (metrics vary among the three) and showed durability. Esco still has some issues. He struck out 93 times and walked only 24, keeping his OBP relatively low at .315. Many, including myself, doubt he can replicate his extra-base numbers (35 doubles among 43 XBH). Escobar is not an explosive runner and thus will never have excellent range. All of this limits his upside to about what he was this year. Escobar ended with dramatic platoon splits. In just over 300 ABs, he had only a .654 OPS as a left-handed hitter, while in 131 at-bats as a right-handed hitter, his OPS was .877. It does appear that Eduardo has been a stronger RH batter throughout his limited major league career. If someone had said going into the season that the Twins would have a young switch-hitting shortstop who could field capably, and be an asset at the bottom of the order, most Twins fans would have been ecstatic and guaranteed the guy a starting spot for years. However Escobar's rise coincided with the emergence of Danny Santana, who has the speed and explosiveness that Eddie 400 lacks. Next year's role for Escobar is up in the air. He may revert to a 3-position utility guy or he could become a "10th starter" filling in for multiple infielders, but not having a specific position. If injuries occur, Escobar could slide in for whoever gets hurt. If Santana stays in the outfield, perhaps he could hold shortstop. Click here to view the article
  7. Entering 2014, I had Eduardo Escobar pegged as a standard-order utility infielder. He was a switch-hitter with a pretty good glove, okay speed who had demonstrated the ability to capably fill in at short, third and second. There was some chatter that EE shouldn't make the Twins coming out of spring training, but most viewed him as a good fit for the utility infielder role. Some wanted to see "Eddie 400" in 2014--that is at least 400 at-bats to see what the still-young Venezuelan could do with more consistent playing time. The early season gave Escobar his chance. Pedro Florimon, already seen as a subpar hitter, got off to a woeful start and Escobar got several early starts at shortstop. The rest, as they say, is history. Escobar hit .357 in April and backed that up with a .322 (.865 OPS) May. Florimon was demoted and Escobar became the de facto starting shortstop. Escobar returned to earth in June and July--his average fell to .274 at the end of June--and then he stabilized. Eduardo finished with a .275 batting average and his OPS ended at .721, good for a 102 OPS+. The season qualifies as a breakthrough. Escobar had more plate appearances than in his previous three years combined (over a year and a half in the majors). Escobar set career highs in almost every offensive category and played solid defense at the three infield positions (metrics vary) and showed durability. Esco still has some issues. He struck out 93 times and walked only 24, keeping his OBP relatively low (.315). Many, including myself, doubt that he can replicate his extra base numbers (35 doubles among 43 XBH). Escobar is not a explosive runner and thus will never have excellent range. All of this limits his upside to about what he was this year. Escobar ended up with dramatic platoon splits. In just over 300 ABs, he had only a .654 OPS as a left handed hitter, while in 131 at-bats as a right handed hitter, his OPS was .877. It does appear that Eduardo has been a stronger RH batter throughout his limited major league career. If someone would have said going into the season that the Twins would have a young switch hitting shortstop who could field capably and be an asset at the bottom of the order, most Twins fans would have been ecstatic and guarantee the guy a starting spot for years, however Escobar's rise coincided with the emergence of Danny Santana, who has the speed and explosiveness that Eddie 400 lacks. Next year's role for Escobar is up in the air. He may revert to a 3-position utility guy, he could become a "10th starter", filling in for multiple infielders, but not having a specific position. Perhaps he can hold shortstop, if Santana stays in the outfield. If injuries occur, Escobar could slide in for whoever gets hurt.
  8. Oswaldo Arcia finished 2014 playing in 103 games, mostly due to a wrist injury suffered early in the season. His statistics are similar to his rookie season in 2013. Arcia pounded 20 homers, but struck out 127 times in just 410 plate appearances. Arcia also hit .231 with a .300 OBP. The power is undeniable, but the combination of the large number of no-chance at-bats and below average defense has made Arcia less than a productive player. Arcia has been in the Twins' system for seven years. In his minor league career, Oswaldo had an OBP of .376 and a batting average of .314. His top home run season was 17 in 124 games, but home run power seems to be his primary asset as a major leaguer. I submit that his batting percentage and OBP have been a disappointment. He seems to be very fond of hitting long home runs at the expense of being a total hitter. Much has been made of a mechanical flaw but the problem is exacerbated by trying to hit the ball 500 feet. Oswaldo is going to hit home runs if he gets at-bats. He needs to be a more well-rounded hitter to get regular at-bats, not Adam Dunn minus the walks. Arcia hit below the Mendoza line against left handed pitching, with a .574 OPS. The Twins used 2014 as a training/learning experience for him, despite his paltry numbers. If he continues to struggle against southpaws, it wouldn't surprise me that the new manager will limit his at-bats against lefties. This year Arcia played exclusively in right field. He made more good plays and displayed a strong arm. That is the good news. He continued to make some bad misplays and missed cutoff men and threw to the wrong base far too often. I continue to see enough for Arcia to be an average or better defender, but he has to focus and work on his defense as hard as he works on his swing. Arcia has shown enough to have earned a lot of rope before he would be benched, platooned or demoted. He needs to make progress both at the plate and in the field to guarantee continued regular playing time in 2015 and beyond. I think he needs to have a much better two-strike plan. He is still only 23. Barring injury, Oswaldo Arcia will start 2015 as the Twins regular right fielder and will still be 23 years old. He is still a very raw player, often doing amazing and stupefying things in the same game. He has shown the ability to be an All-Star hitter in the middle of a contending lineup and then turned around and looked like an 18-year-old in he Rookie League. 2015 should be a big season for Arcia. If he progresses, he'll probably be a cornerstone of a fast-improving franchise. If he stagnates, Twins fans will move on to someone else to be their power-hitting right fielder (Adam Brett Walker anyone?).
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