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  1. With today being an off-day for the Twins, I have taken a longer look at the stat sheets. I think it is interesting to compare and contrast Kirilloff and Larnach. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach have much in common. Both are rookie outfielders for the Minnesota Twins, both were #1 draft choices for their team and both hit left handed. They represent a big part of the future of the franchise. Kirilloff has been in the organization longer and was the first to be promoted to the Twins. He started the second game of the 2021 playoffs versus the Houston Astros and did get a hit. Alex began 2021 in the minor leagues, although he was recalled before play began in the AAA season. Kirilloff had a stint on the Injured List due to a wrist injury but has returned and played almost every day. Larnach was drafted the year after Kirilloff, but is a year older, as a former college player. He was promoted in May and has been in the lineup regularly. Trevor has played mostly left field, but has played six games in right. Kirilloff has split his time three ways, starting ten or more games at first, right field and left field. Many on the boards have suggested that Kirilloff's future is as a first baseman and I don't disagree. However, it would appear that he could be an adequate corner outfielder if someone on the roster could only handle first. I've watched both players intently and think that the future is pretty bright for both. It seems their stat lines jump around from day to day, but currently Kirilloff has ten more plate appearances, despite a higher batting average Alex has a lower OBP. Both have five homers, but Kirilloff has only one long ball since returning from the IL. Larnach has only 12 RBI so far, a result of poor performance with runners on base, especially when they're in scoring position. It seems every day I change sides on which rookie will be the better player for the Twins. Today, I'm picking Kirilloff. I think his approach and swing are less prone to long slumps. He might become a gold glover at first base and he's going to hit for some power. The wrist problem worries me more than anything. Larnach generates a lot of power and has managed to keep a decent OBP and batting average despite high strikeout numbers. I think he'll be a good outfielder, as well. Hopefully, both are perennial All-Stars. What is your opinion?
  2. It's weird talking about the Twins making their last pick on the second day of the draft. It's even weirder talking about their fourth pick being their last pick. But here we are...If you're just catching up, the Twins took Aaron Sabato in the first round. Sabato is a first baseman from North Carolina. You can learn about him here. In the second round, the Twins took an outfielder, Alerick Soularie, from Tennessee. There's a ton of information on Soularie on this site. After forfeiting their third round pick, the Twins took a prep pitcher, Marco Raya, in the fourth round. The last pick the Twins made of the 2020 Draft is who this article is about: Kala'i Rosario, a prep outfielder from Hawaii. The Twins popped the best prospect from Hawaii in outfielder Kala'i Rosario, a slugger who has impressed with raw power and impressive exit velocities. Twins Scouting Director Sean Johnson said, "This guy can do real damage to the baseball. He’s strong. He’s got a good swing. Much in line with the three hitters we took." You can view some video of Rosario hitting here. Johnson said that the team met with about 50 of the top 60 players on their draft board via Zoom meetings. They didn't meet with ten or so at the top that they just knew wouldn't be there at 27. "We were able to connect with him. Technology really helped us here too, getting to know the player. John had a great relationship with the kid. We were lucky to connect with him on Zoom, like we did every guy we considered in the first 60 picks." Along with area scout John Leavitt, who was the only Twins guy to see Rosario play this spring before the seasons were cut short, they also received rave reviews from Kolton Wong's father. "We drafted Kolton. His brother is a phenomenal player as well. (Rosario) trains with that group. Kolton’s dad had rave reviews about the player. Comes from a great family. Tremendous kid. Really wired the right way." Baseball America has Rosario ranked as the draft's 88th best prospect and says this about the California Baptist commit: "Hawaii’s top 2020 draft prospect, Rosario separated himself last summer when he tied for the second-highest exit velocity at PG National and won the home run derby at the Area Code Games, sending one shot 440 feet. A strong, physical right-handed hitter, Rosario already posts exit velocities upward of 100 mph and elevates the ball to get the most from his brute strength. He draws consistent plus-plus power grades from evaluators and even an occasional 80. More than just a slugger, Rosario is a mature hitter who makes adjustments, can shoot the ball the other way and limits his strikeouts, although he is prone to swinging and missing at times. He is a good athlete for his size who currently plays center field but projects to move to a corner, likely left field unless his arm improves. Rosario has the bat to profile at any position and the strong makeup components to get the most from his talent. Many scouts consider him Hawaii's best high school draft prospect since 2014 first-rounder Kodi Medeiros." MLB.com viewed Rosario a little lower, plugging him in at 188. "All talk around Rosario centers around his bat, more specifically his plus-plus raw power. Rosario beat fellow Draft prospect Blaze Jordan in the Area Code Games home run derby last summer. He can get a little pull-happy and out front on his swing at times, and there are some concerns about his ability to hit enough to get to that raw pop consistently in games at the next level." "Rosario is a decent athlete, and he does play center field in high school, but as a tick-below-average runner who is already fairly physically mature, he is likely going to be limited to a corner, with left field his likely destination. He does have the power potential to profile well in an outfield corner, and that could be enough for the California Baptist recruit to get drafted." After five round (four picks), with three being offensive players, it was clear that the Twins continue to view the draft as an avenue to add players that they believe will be very good in the batter's box. It's less clear where these players will play defensively and, honestly, where the fit in the hierarchy of the existing depth chart - in many cases, we figure behind many others. But when you have a surplus, or potentially have a surplus, it makes it much easier to make moves to supplement your current major league team. And that's a position that we hope the Twins are at - adding to a potential world series team. The Twins added four assets in the last two days. Let's see what else they have up their sleeves. Click here to view the article
  3. If you're just catching up, the Twins took Aaron Sabato in the first round. Sabato is a first baseman from North Carolina. You can learn about him here. In the second round, the Twins took an outfielder, Alerick Soularie, from Tennessee. There's a ton of information on Soularie on this site. After forfeiting their third round pick, the Twins took a prep pitcher, Marco Raya, in the fourth round. The last pick the Twins made of the 2020 Draft is who this article is about: Kala'i Rosario, a prep outfielder from Hawaii. The Twins popped the best prospect from Hawaii in outfielder Kala'i Rosario, a slugger who has impressed with raw power and impressive exit velocities. Twins Scouting Director Sean Johnson said, "This guy can do real damage to the baseball. He’s strong. He’s got a good swing. Much in line with the three hitters we took." You can view some video of Rosario hitting here. Johnson said that the team met with about 50 of the top 60 players on their draft board via Zoom meetings. They didn't meet with ten or so at the top that they just knew wouldn't be there at 27. "We were able to connect with him. Technology really helped us here too, getting to know the player. John had a great relationship with the kid. We were lucky to connect with him on Zoom, like we did every guy we considered in the first 60 picks." Along with area scout John Leavitt, who was the only Twins guy to see Rosario play this spring before the seasons were cut short, they also received rave reviews from Kolton Wong's father. "We drafted Kolton. His brother is a phenomenal player as well. (Rosario) trains with that group. Kolton’s dad had rave reviews about the player. Comes from a great family. Tremendous kid. Really wired the right way." Baseball America has Rosario ranked as the draft's 88th best prospect and says this about the California Baptist commit: "Hawaii’s top 2020 draft prospect, Rosario separated himself last summer when he tied for the second-highest exit velocity at PG National and won the home run derby at the Area Code Games, sending one shot 440 feet. A strong, physical right-handed hitter, Rosario already posts exit velocities upward of 100 mph and elevates the ball to get the most from his brute strength. He draws consistent plus-plus power grades from evaluators and even an occasional 80. More than just a slugger, Rosario is a mature hitter who makes adjustments, can shoot the ball the other way and limits his strikeouts, although he is prone to swinging and missing at times. He is a good athlete for his size who currently plays center field but projects to move to a corner, likely left field unless his arm improves. Rosario has the bat to profile at any position and the strong makeup components to get the most from his talent. Many scouts consider him Hawaii's best high school draft prospect since 2014 first-rounder Kodi Medeiros." MLB.com viewed Rosario a little lower, plugging him in at 188. "All talk around Rosario centers around his bat, more specifically his plus-plus raw power. Rosario beat fellow Draft prospect Blaze Jordan in the Area Code Games home run derby last summer. He can get a little pull-happy and out front on his swing at times, and there are some concerns about his ability to hit enough to get to that raw pop consistently in games at the next level." "Rosario is a decent athlete, and he does play center field in high school, but as a tick-below-average runner who is already fairly physically mature, he is likely going to be limited to a corner, with left field his likely destination. He does have the power potential to profile well in an outfield corner, and that could be enough for the California Baptist recruit to get drafted." After five round (four picks), with three being offensive players, it was clear that the Twins continue to view the draft as an avenue to add players that they believe will be very good in the batter's box. It's less clear where these players will play defensively and, honestly, where the fit in the hierarchy of the existing depth chart - in many cases, we figure behind many others. But when you have a surplus, or potentially have a surplus, it makes it much easier to make moves to supplement your current major league team. And that's a position that we hope the Twins are at - adding to a potential world series team. The Twins added four assets in the last two days. Let's see what else they have up their sleeves.
  4. While Max Kepler hasn't exactly been consistent this year, I think his season has gone very well. After the excellent series against the White Sox, Max's OPS is .889, second only to Shin-Soo Choo of the Rangers among AL right fielders. Kepler's WAR is listed as 1.6, again second among AL right fielders (behind Mookie Betts). We are just about to the 1/3 mark of the season. Multiplying the traditional stats by three would yield a season of .276, 36 homers and and 99 RBI. I guess that would be pretty good! Batting at the top of the lineup a 3 or 4 game snag could end up being a 1-20, but right now Max is rolling. Combined with his very good defense and youth (26 years of age), it looks like the Twins made a good move extending Kepler.
  5. The Twins played their 39th game this season yesterday. Their record remains the best in baseball (by percentage points), despite a 5-3 loss to Detroit. While 40 games is closer to the 1/4 mark, there are more than 24 hours between games to consider where the Twins are and what changes (if any) should be made. Obviously, with that good record, the weaknesses aren't too glaring and the strengths are pretty evident. Why are the Twins 25-14? Power and pitching are the easy answers. They are on a club-record pace for long balls, with a lineup that legitimately could have eight or nine 20-homer hitters. Starting pitching has been well above expectations, as well, with José Berríos putting up ace numbers, while probably the two biggest surprises are Jake Odorizzi and Martín Pérez, both of whom have been outstanding. The bullpen has, on balance, gotten the job done. There have been hiccups in the 'pen, especially callups and middle inning guys, but one can only point to a game or two where the bullpen is to blame for a loss. If Marwin Gonzalez is considered part of the bench, the Twins have a deep and versatile group of players to fill in. Gonzalez has gotten over 500 plate appearances every year since 2016 while playing multiple positions. Willians Astudillo and Ehire Adrianza also play multiple positions and either of the two primary catchers are hitting well right now. Garver can also play multiple positions. The team's defense is far better with centerfielder Byron Buxton playing full-time and healthy. The three new defenders in the infield have been very good, as well. Super-utility player Gonzalez has been the principal 3rd baseman and probably will be until third baseman Miguel Sanó returns. Here is one person's thoughts on problems for this club: 1) Bullpen--Blake Parker has gotten the job done as a closer, Taylor Rogers has continued to be an outstanding late-inning arm. Beyond that, there are questions. Trevor May has been OK as a 7th-8th inning guy, but he's been inconsistent. Trevor Hildenberger has faltered recently. It doesn't appear that the manager trusts any of the other bullpen pitchers with high-leverage situations. Another arm or two is needed, if the Twins want to get to October and win games in postseason. 2) Starting depth--The front four starters have been great. Miguel Pineda has struggled, but shows signs of shaking off the rust. Beyond that, it appears the Twins best hopes to bolster their starting rotation are in AA (or just promoted to AAA). Teams almost always need more than five starters and the cupboard is pretty bare beyond #5 for the Twins. 3) Speed and a backup outfielder--Way down the list, but the Twins have only one real threat on the base paths. Buxton has all but two of the teams stolen bases and demonstrates his blazing speed running out extra-base hits and tracking fly balls. Jake Cave is a major league player, but is essentially a backup corner outfielder and he is backing up two left-handed hitting corner outfielders. It would be helpful if the Twins had a speedy, good defensive outfielder who hit right handed and handled LH pitching. These are my thoughts at almost 40 games. I wonder how they'll change after 81, the halfway point.
  6. The Twins have ridden the roller coaster during the Paul Molitor era. Up in 2015, way down in 2016, a peek at the playoffs in 2017 and now way down in 2018. The roller coaster claimed a front-office victim in longtime GM Terry Ryan two years ago and now there has to be some heat on field manager Molitor after this season's extreme disappointment. The complaints about the old regime included being too "old school", including pitch-to-contact staffs, not using advanced metrics, cookie cutter approaches to hitting, and of course, not spending enough to bring in and keep talent. Fair complaints all, I think. However, in the Levine/Falvey era, we see little real progress and a real lack of talent in the upper minors. This year's crop of September call-ups is among the most uninspiring in recent memory. I believe there are two keys to being competitive and sustaining that competitiveness for a number of years. The first is pitching. Levine and Falvey are supposed to be pitching guys. They have acquired pitching, but with mixed results at best. Their best talent at the top levels of the farm system doesn't have many, if any, outstanding talents. Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi didn't move the needle much for the big club this year. Perhaps they have suffered from some bad luck and just need to add quality until it sticks and stays. All I can say is this, the Twins rank in the bottom third of almost every meaningful pitching stat. You don't win year after year with far below average pitching. The other component which is missing in my opinion is defense. For the last two years, the Twins have gone with a primary shortstop who is well below average defensively, couple that with a revolving door in center field this year, the trading of the regular second baseman and the season-ending injury to primary catcher Jason Castro, and you have a toxic mess turning outs into outs. Further, and if there is one complaint about Molitor that sticks, it is this. The team has been woeful at executing fundamental baseball. I'm talking about throwing to the proper base, making needless throws, failing to hit cutoff men and the like. Add in that opposing baserunners are taking extra bases like free gifts and this is tough to watch. I think the front office needs to commit to pitching and defense in a big way this offseason. That would include making every effort to keep their most gifted defender (Byron Buxton) in Minnesota and on the field as much as possible. Secondly, I think the Twins need a defensive-minded shortstop, with the idea that Jorge Polanco can move to what I think is his natural position, second base. On the pitching front, more and better arms to augment the so-so rotation (I think Gibson/Berrios/Odorizzi is fine for #2-4) and a questionable bullpen. I like May/Hildenberger/Rogers, but more is needed included a closer. The Twins have been in the baseball wilderness long enough. They need to have a solid plan for improvement, stick with it and stay relevant not for an occasional year, but consistently. I think the long suffering fan base deserves it.
  7. Last year at DH for the Twins looked like this: Player PA R OBP SLG wOBA Robbie Grossman 257 39 .336 .398 .320 Kennys Vargas 129 17 .310 .425 .313 Miguel Sano 100 7 .300 .267 .254 Eduardo Escobar 74 7 .297 .424 .308 Joe Mauer 57 8 .386 .347 .331 Mitch Garver 12 1 .417 .500 .391 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Total 629 79 .326 .384 .309 Last year at the plate for Lucas Duda: Player PA R OBP SLG wOBA Lucas Duda 491 50 .322 .496 .341 The 31 year old played 792 innings last season at 1B for the Mets and Rays. Defensive metrics show he's similar to a Chris Davis or Matt Carpenter, but that is not what the Twins need since Joe Mauer is one of the top defensive 1B in the MLB. Here is my pitch for why the Twins should sign Duda: 1. Power (since 2015) Player SLG ISO XBH/100 HARD% Lucas Duda .479 .248 12.6 39.2% Eric Hosmer .463 .169 9.02 32.2% Chris Davis .486 .252 11.2 41.0% Duda has great power numbers comparable to some of the better 1B power bats over the past few seasons, being in the AL where he can DH will definitely boost his numbers since he can take more at-bats. 2. Age At 31, Duda is no spring chicken, but 1B has been on of the most forgiving positions as players age. Other 31 year-old 1B numbers: Player Year ISO OBP SLG wOBA Mike Napoli 2013 .223 .360 .482 .367 Jim Thome 2002 .373 .445 .677 .461 Edwin Encarnacion 2014 .279 .354 .547 .389 Justin Morneau 2012 .149 .333 .440 .330 3. Cost As far as contracts go, the high end Duda would go for is 1-2 years, $10M per season. A lot depends on how the free agent market changes during the off season. If the Twins can sign a defensive catcher in Castro for $8M per, they should be able to spend around the same amount for a power bat, if not more. 4. Ballpark How exciting would it be to see Duda driving balls out over the RF porch onto the concourse? As a lefty, Duda's swing would work perfect at Target Field. He hits 30.3% to CF and 46.2% to RF. 42.1% of his batted balls are hit hard, while less than 20% are hit soft. This combination of hard hit balls being hit to to the right side of the field is a lethal combination at Target Field. Click here for an image of every 2017 Lucas Duda home run with the Target Field dimensions overlaid. Conclusion: The Twins could use Duda as a DH and reliable 1B replacement for Mauer. He would thrive in Target Field and would produce extra pop in the middle of the Twins lineup. I'm a huge Eduardo Escobar fan, and I would love to see him be a key piece for the Twins as well. I believe signing Duda would allow for Escobar to be a full-time utility man at 3B/SS/2B/ My projections: PA R OBP SLG 450 47 .345 .485 500 51 .343 .488 550 64 .340 .490 600 75 .337 .492 650 76 .335 .486 700 81 .333 .482 My 2018 lineup: 1. Dozier 2B 2. Mauer 1B 3. Sano 3B 4. Rosario LF 5. Duda DH 6. Polanco SS 7. Buxton CF 8. Kepler RF 9. Castro C Thanks for reading and please leave a comment if you agree/disagree with anything.
  8. Over the course of this long, horrible season, Brian Dozier has often been a hot topic of conversation in Twins Territory. He isn't shy about stepping up to a microphone, my wife and daughters think he's good-looking and he's been a regular with the club as their second baseman for four years. If someone casually follows the Twins, he knows who Dozier is, so it figures that he would be a topic of conversation. Let's see why Dozier has been discussed so much and what I think should be the conclusion of the topic: First of all, when the season started, Dozier couldn't get it going. After a bad second half in 2015, Dozier came out of the gate slow in 2016. Through all of April and May, Dozier barely reached .200 and the signature power was lacking. Had the league figured him out? Was the 28 year old (turned 29 in mid-May) regressing already? Should he be benched or put at the bottom of the order? My thought, then and now, was that it is a long season. If a guy is a good player, he'll come out of a funk. Robbie Cano had a similar stretch at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 and Cano might be a Hall-of-Famer. Along for the ride early in the season were the questions of whether BD was too pull-happy and if he used the whole field, would he be a more consistent and productive hitter. My thought was that Dozier needed to be able to hit the ball with authority when he was pitched away and as the season has progressed, he has accumulated some oppo hits and several to the middle of the field, the key being that he hit the ball hard, not lazy popups or routine fly balls. Moving on, Dozier has spent most of the season hitting #1 or #2. Many have thought it wasn't ideal for a guy whose calling card is big power to hit first or second. My thought then was that the Twins simply didn't have a better option. Dozier takes some of the longest at-bats on the team, he's walked a fair amount since arriving in the majors and he's a good base runner who doesn't clog the bases for those behind him. Ideally, he should have hit lower in the order to make a few more of his homers multi-run shots and I think that where Dozier hits in the lineup in 2017 will be a hot controversial topic if he is in a Twins' uniform next year. As the season rolled toward the All-Star break, the calls to sell and rebuild the Twins included Dozier's name prominently. He had some value and the club is/was going nowhere in '16, so cashier him for a prospect or two and let Jorge Polanco handle second base. In June and July, Dozier recovered from his slow start. He put up a great line in June, posting an OPS for the month in excess of 1.000. He slowed in July, hitting only .240 but still putting up an OPS of .824. Trade Dozier at the deadline? Didn't happen and IMHO shouldn't have happened. He hasn't slowed down much since his monster June and with a team-friendly contract and relative youth, his value should only be higher in the off-season or at next year's trade deadline. Another topic that has emerged is defense. After a truly stout year in 2013, Dozier's defense has been categorized as below average by most metrics. While I don't believe Dozier is elite defensively, my eyes tell me he is in the average range. He makes a few outstanding plays (probably more than any other Twins player) and doesn't get to some balls he should, perhaps because of shifting, maybe because the position of shortstop has been in flux since he became a second baseman, maybe because in three of the last four years, the team never had a shot at contention. I don't know. In checking BB Ref, Dozier lags in zone rating but is above average in runs saved. I see it as a wash, making Dozier average in the field. I'm waiting for someone to refute this, but in the final analysis, defense probably is an "eyes of the beholder" topic. Since the All-Star break, Brian Dozier has been en fuego. He's hitting .320, with an OPS of 1.091 and an MLB-leading 21 homers. I guess that puts to rest the "first half player" meme that was circulating among the diehard fans who remained. The question that stems from his performance in both the cold April and May and his elite performance since is what to expect going forward. I have turned over in my mind what the most likely trajectory of Dozier's career figures to be. One extreme is Dan Uggla, who like Dozier wasn't highly regarded, got a chance in his mid-twenties and became a star in large part because of his power numbers. Uggla fell off a cliff in his early thirties. An opposing example is Jeff Kent. Kent was an okay player, but not even a full-time regular until he was 29. Starting from age 30, Kent won an MVP, was an All-Star five times with three different teams and posted OPS+ numbers over 119 every year until he was 39. These seem to be the extremes for power-hitting second basemen. Is Dozier going to be productive for most of another decade or is regression going to meet him around his 30th birthday? My answer is that no one knows for sure. It appears to me that Dozier has made adjustments to become a more complete hitter without diminishing his best asset--home run power. This makes him a candidate to sustain high-end performance, although his work from mid-2015 through May of this year give a good argument that he could turn into a pumpkin at any time. In the last few weeks as the tumult in my life has moved Twins baseball onto the back burner, I've managed to check the box scores, cluck over the disastrous pitching and watch highlights of games. Dozier has been front and center continuing his power surge. He now projects to exceed 40 homers and if he hits just one more long ball, he will have hit more in a single season than any Twin since Harmon in 1970. 40 homers would be a Top Ten season in franchise history dating back to the Senators who started playing at the turn of the 20th century. Only Harmon and Roy Sievers (once) have ever hit 40 homers in a single season in franchise history. Dozier is projected to score and drive in over 100 runs, also a rare feat, especially for a guy who has hit first or second most of the season. He may or may not make 40 homers, 100 RBIs or 100 runs, but on such a bad team those numbers stand out big and bold. Although I'm not a big fan of WAR, it does represent a quick and dirty assessment of value and Dozier's 5.6 WAR for this season is in the Top Ten in the league. Because the season has been so bad, I don't think Dozier has gotten the attention he deserves for his huge season. He won't win a Silver Slugger or MVP, he won't win the HR championship or set any other records, so there hasn't been any national coverage, but his overall season and particularly his production since June have been off the charts. Now in the season's final month, most Twins fans are thinking about the future (with good reason). Augmenting a terrible rotation is Priority One and trading Brian Dozier to get pitching help makes sense, since his value should be at an all-time high. This argument is buttressed by the play of Polanco, who has hit over .300, showed good on-base skills, but a questionable glove at short or third. I believe Jorge Polanco is best suited to second base and I believe adding him for Dozier wouldn't be all bad since Polanco is a switch hitter and wouldn't be prone to long slumps with his swing and approach. However, unless the payoff is monumental, Brian Dozier should be the Twins second baseman next year. He has had a season for the ages despite the wreckage around him, he's only 29 and if the last 100 days are an indication, he might get even better. Finally, he's been a solid citizen off the field. If the club wants somebody as the face of the franchise, they could do worse than Mr. Dozier. Just a couple more thoughts before I summarize--Dozier has been durable. Since becoming the team's second baseman, he hasn't been disabled and has missed only a handful of games with injuries. Secondly, my observation is that he is a good teammate. He doesn't sulk, cheers for his mates, appears to like their company off the field (loved the State Fair video) and despite having strong religious views, doesn't put that in the face of his teammates or the media. I have mentioned many of these thoughts in previous threads on the forums of Twins Daily. I find this player to be fascinating, especially in light of his minor league career and low status when drafted. I think Brian Dozier is a fine player who hasn't gotten the appreciation he deserves for this, his best season. I will continue to be a Dozier fan, even if he is traded, but hopefully he continues as a Minnesota Twin. In the event that he is traded, I will be pulling for the players acquired in return and hope they make the Twins better.
  9. Let me preface what will undoubtedly be a long entry by saying I am a Dozier fan. I have spoken to him at Spring Training a couple of times and like the young man. I believe he has been the Twins MVP for each of the last four seasons (counting this one) and I have no doubt that he is the team's best player at this point. Certainly, he isn't flawless, but the Twins need more players like Brian Dozier, not less. Over the course of this long, horrible season, Brian Dozier has often been a hot topic of conversation in Twins Territory. He isn't shy about stepping up to a microphone, my wife and daughters think he's good-looking and he's been a regular with the club as their second baseman for four years. If someone casually follows the Twins, they know who Dozier is, so it figures that he would be a topic of conversation. Let's see why Dozier has been discussed so much and what I think should be the conclusion for the topic: First of all, as the Twins started the season, Dozier couldn't get it going. After a bad second half in 2015, Dozier came out of the gate slow in 2016. Through all of April and May, Dozier barely reached .200 and the signature power was lacking. Had the league figured him out? Was the 28 year old (turned 29 in mid-May) regressing already? Should he be benched or put at the bottom of the order? My thought, then and now, was that it is a long season. If a guy is a good player, he'll come out of a funk. Robbie Cano had a similar stretch at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 and Cano might be a Hall-of-Famer. Along for the ride early in the season was the question whether BD was too pull-happy and if he used the whole field, he would be a more consistent and productive hitter. My thought was that Dozier needed to be able to hit the ball with authority when he was pitched away and as the season has progressed, he has accumulated some oppo hits and several to the middle of the field, the key being that he hit the ball hard, not a lazy popup or routine fly ball. Moving on, Dozier has spent most of the season hitting #1 or #2. Many have thought it wasn't ideal for a guy whose calling card is big power for his position to hit first or second. My thought then was that the Twins simply didn't have a better option. Dozier takes some of the longest at-bats on the team, he's walked a fair amount since arriving in the majors and he's a good base runner who doesn't clog the bases for those behind him. Ideally, he should have hit lower in the order to make a few more of his homers multi-run shots and I think that where Dozier hits in the lineup in 2017 will be a hot controversial topic if he is in a Twins' uniform next year. As the season rolled toward the All-Star break, the call to sell and rebuild the Twins included Dozier's name prominently. He had some value and the club is/was going nowhere in '16, so cashier him for a prospect or two and let Jorge Polanco handle second base. In June and July, Dozier recovered from his slow start. He put up a great line in June, posting an OPS for the month in excess of 1.000, he slowed in July, hitting only .240 but still putting up an OPS of .824. Trade Dozier at the deadline? Didn't happen and IMHO shouldn't have happened. He hasn't slowed down much since his monster June and with a team-friendly contract and relative youth, his value should only be higher in the off-season or at next year's trade deadline. Another topic that has emerged is defense. After a truly stout year in 2013, Dozier's defense has been categorized as below average by most metrics. While I don't believe Dozier is elite defensively, my eyes tell me he is in the average range. He makes a few outstanding plays (probably more than any other Twins player) and doesn't get to some balls he should, perhaps because of shifting, maybe because the position of shortstop has been in flux since he became a second baseman, maybe because in three of the last four years, the team never had a shot at contention. I don't know. In checking BB Ref, Dozier lags in zone rating, but is above average in runs saved. I see it as a wash, making Dozier average in the field. I'm waiting for someone to refute this, but in the final analysis, defense probably is an "eyes of the beholder" topic. Since the All-Star break, Brian Dozier has been en fuego. He's hitting .320, with an OPS of 1.091 and a mlb-leading 21 homers. I guess that puts to rest the "first half player" meme that was circulating among the diehard fans remaining. The question that stems from his performance both the cold April and May and his elite performance since is what to expect going forward. I have turned over in my mind what the most likely trajectory of Dozier's career figures to be. One extreme is Dan Uggla, who like Dozier wasn't highly regarded, got a chance in his mid-twenties and became a star in large part because of his power numbers. Uggla fell off a cliff in his early thirties. An opposing example is Jeff Kent. Kent was an okay player, but not even a full-time regular until he was 29. Starting from age 30, Kent won an MVP, was an All-Star five times with three different teams and posted OPS+ numbers over 119 every year until he was 39. This seems to be the extremes for power-hitting second basemen. Is Dozier going to be productive for most of another decade or is regression going to meet him around his 30th birthday? My answer is that no one knows for sure. It appears to me that Dozier has made adjustments to become a more complete hitter without diminishing his best asset--home run power. IMHO, it makes him a candidate to sustain high-end performance, although the end of 2015 and April-May of this year give a good argument that he could turn into a pumpkin at any time. In the last few weeks as the tumult in my life has moved Twins baseball on the back burner, I've managed to check the box scores, cluck over the disastrous pitching and watch highlights of games. Dozier has been front and center continuing his power surge. He now projects to exceed 40 homers and if he hits just one more long ball, he will have hit more in a single season than any Twin since Harmon in 1970. 40 homers would be a Top Ten season in franchise history dating back to the Senators who started playing at the turn of the 20th century. Only Harmon and Roy Sievers (once) have ever hit 40 homers in a single season in franchise history. Dozier is projected to score and drive in over 100 runs, also a rare feat, especially for guy who has hit first or second most of the season. He may or may not make 40 homers, 100 RBI or 100 runs, but on such a bad team those numbers stand out big and bold. Although I'm not a big fan of WAR, it does represent a quick and dirty assessment of value and Dozier's 5.6 WAR for this season is in the Top Ten in the league. Because the season has been so bad, I don't think Dozier has gotten the attention he deserves for his huge season. He won't win a Silver Slugger or MVP, he won't win the HR championship or set any other records, so there hasn't been any national coverage, but his overall season and particularly his production since June has been off the charts. Now in the season's final month, most Twins fans are thinking about the future (with good reason). Augmenting a terrible rotation is Priority One and trading Brian Dozier to get pitching help makes sense, since his value should be at an all-time high. This argument is buttressed by the play of Polanco, who has hit over .300, showing good on-base skills, but a questionable glove at short or third. I believe Jorge Polanco is best suited to second base and I believe adding him for Dozier wouldn't be all bad since Polanco is a switch hitter and wouldn't be prone to long slumps with his swing and approach. However, unless the payoff is monumental, Brian Dozier should be the Twins second baseman next year. He has had a season for the ages despite the wreckage around him, he's only 29 and if the last 100 days are an indication, he might get even better. Finally, he's been a solid citizen off the field. If the club wants somebody as the face of the franchise, they could do worse than Mr. Dozier. Just a couple more thoughts before I summarize--Dozier has been durable. Since becoming the team's second baseman, he hasn't been disabled and has missed only a handful of games with injuries. Secondly, my observation is that he is a good teammate. He doesn't sulk, cheers for his mates, appears to like their company off the field (loved the State Fair video) and despite having strong religious views, doesn't put that in the face of his teammates or the media. I have mentioned many of these thoughts in previous threads on the forums of Twins Daily. I find this player to be fascinating, especially in light of his minor league career and low status when drafted. I think Brian Dozier is a fine player who hasn't gotten the appreciation he deserves for this, his best season. I will continue to be a Dozier fan, hopefully as he continues to be a Minnesota Twin, but even if he's traded. In the event that he is traded, I will be pulling for the players acquired in return and hope they make the Twins better.
  10. At the All-Star break, the Twins sit with a terrible 32-56 record and it is only that good because they've won the last three series against three AL West clubs. For most of the season, the Twins have scored the fewest runs in the AL while allowing the most. I wasn't totally surprised that the Twins pitching staff was bad, but it just doesn't seem right that they would be last in runs scored justifiably because they weren't getting on base and not hitting when they did manage to get runners in scoring position. With good work of late from their offense, the Twins have improved in offensive categories. They rank 10th in runs scored, 8th in OPS and slugging, 9th in OBP and 10th in homers. I would expect those numbers to continue to rise. There's plenty of talent and a lot of them are starting to realize their potential. Certainly, the pitching needs to improve, both the rotation and the back end of the bullpen. However, some guys have stepped up. Fernando Abad was brilliant for the first quarter of the season, but has faded. Brandon Kinzler was signed to a minor league contract, but recalled this spring and has been pretty good. Taylor Rogers looks like he belongs in the bullpen and Ryan Pressly and Michael Tonkin have shown enough to hold spots in the Twins bullpen. There is enough offense to be a good team soon. There isn't enough pitching. The Twins don't have an ace and their most consistent veteran is supposedly on the block. I am of the opinion that every trade made by the Twins from now until they are a true contender has to bring back pitching or catching. It is my belief that the Twins will be good again when their staff is better than average. I'm willing to bet the members of that staff will be homegrown or acquired in minor deals or the Rule V Draft. Signing free agent pitchers is like going against the house in Vegas. You might win once in a while, but long term the house always wins. Ryan has attempted to sign pitchers to eight figure (per year) contracts and it hasn't worked out. I expect the Twins to be more competitive in the second half of the season. I sincerely hope they trade a couple of veterans to allow the kids to play. Chargois and Berrios can cut their teeth in the major leagues. Some of Suzuki, Plouffe, Nuñez, Santana, Nolasco, and Abad should be sold off. I really don't think they are that far away, if they can get middle of the pack pitching. The other factor, which I think is overlooked in the Twins demise this year is defense. The pitching staff has enough trouble getting three outs in an inning and too often, because of misplays, a fourth or fifth out has been donated to the opponent. If the Twins get a new catcher or catching tandem, I would hope they get a solid defender who can limit opponent's running game. Also, another glaring deficiency has been shortstop. Eduardo Nuñez is below average as a shortstop and Eduardo Escobar has had a poor year playing short IMHO. A trade of Nuñez would probably net better defense at short
  11. After the back-slapping is done at Twins Way, the general manager should have time to take a long, hard look at the season that just played out. The Twins won 83 games and were competitive. The season was highlighted by one fine month (May) and a pluckiness that kept them from sinking too far when times got tough. The Twins pitching improved more than their metrics indicated while offensively the team scored more runs than their numbers indicated. The Twins scored 695 runs, while the league averaged 710. In 2014, the club scored 715 runs, ranking in the top half of most offensive statistics except for home runs. What changed? Plenty. In 2014, the Twins had better than average performance from a player at all nine positions. In 2015, they managed to have players with an OPS+ above 100 at three positions, and only one player (Miguel Sano) whose numbers could be classified as well above average. The team was dead last in on-base percentage and their top hitter had a batting average of .265. The 2014 had more than 100 more walks than the 2015 team, while accumulating 65 more strikeouts. Somehow the 2015 group finished in the middle of the pack in runs scored, but overall offense took a severe downturn. Part of that can be explained by personnel--the Twins got more than 450 at-bats from Eddie Rosario, who provided first-rate defense in the outfield corners instead of playing lumbering DHs and first basemen in the outfield. Regression hit the Twins hard as well. 2014 newcomers Santana and Vargas along with Oswaldo Arcia all struggled and were banished to the minor leagues, with Arcia not even being recalled when rosters were expanded. Full-time regulars Dozier and Plouffe saw their seasons fall off after seeing career bests in 2014. 2014 All-Star Kurt Suzuki came back to earth with a BA 40 points lower and his OPS+ falling from 104 to 67. Pitching was more of a mixed bag. The Twins' rotation wasn't great, but wasn't the embarrassment that previous editions had been. Only Kyle Gibson made it through the season without missing a start, but every starter had good moments. The bullpen, which all along seemed to be a weak link, was aided by the addition of a couple of guys via trade and one guy via demotion from the starting rotation. Also assisting in the staff's improvement was better, more athletic defense, particularly in the outfield. Still, the Twins still ranked last in strikeouts and first in hits allowed while yielding the second-fewest walks, a continuation of the much-maligned "pitch-to-contact" meme from previous seasons. Looking at the roster, it is a combination of veterans and young players with a couple (Dozier and Plouffe) in between. Suzuki, Mauer, and Hunter are all in the second half of their careers, while youngsters handle the other positions. The pitching staff had many over-30 guys pitching, including almost all of the bullpen. In general, the offense needs to improve by getting on base more. Too much of the team's power is concentrated in right handed hitters, and more speed would help. On the mound, more power arms are needed. There are specific questions that need to be answered, as well. Here are five questions that need to be answered in the off-season and my takes on each one: 1) What will Trevor May's role be for the 2016 Twins? May is one of the top arms on the Twins. While he wants to start and profiles to be a good one, I think he should be in the bullpen as the eighth inning guy, and perhaps as the closer. His stuff "played up" in the bullpen and he had several outings that were dominant. 2) How can the Twins augment the catcher position? Kurt Suzuki had a 67 OPS+ and his backups were dreadful at the plate. Suzuki was among the worst at throwing out base stealers (his pitchers didn't help much) and there were too many unblocked pitches. I think there are two options--acquire a backup from outside the organization or get a starting replacement also from outside the organization. I don't know who that player is, but I think a lefty hitter who is respectable defensively. Ideally, Suzuki should either share time or be the backup. 3) What of Torii Hunter? Hunter was a valuable presence who provided 22 homers, but he hit .242 with a .701 OPS at a premium offensive position. Hunter has stated that he doesn't want to be a part-time player and the Twins have top prospect Byron Buxton and minor league Player of the Year Max Kepler perhaps ready to help next year. Oswaldo Arcia also figures in here. 4) Is it time for Trevor Plouffe to be traded? He has led the club in RBIs the last two years, provided steady and improved defense and has become a team leader. However, Miguel Sano looks the part of a superstar and shouldn't be a DH at 22 years of age. I think that it is in fact time. Plouffe is a good player, but he shouldn't stand in the way of Sano. The Twins could perhaps fill the catcher gap by trading Plouffe. 5) Rick Nolasco is still under contract for two more years. He's been a total disappointment for the first two years of his contract. Can the Twins get out from under his contract? It would be great if Terry Ryan could slough off the contract, but I doubt it. I think Nolasco enters the 2016 season as one of the guys in the Twins rotation. That, in my opinion, seals the deal that May starts in the bullpen. It also indicates that JO Berrios and Tyler Duffey will have a mountain to climb in order to make the rotation to start the season. While it seems silly not to have the best arms starting the season, every rotation goes through changes over the course of the season. I see only eight guys on the short list of starters in the Twins' organization, including May. That isn't too much depth and might not be enough.
  12. I'm jumping the gun by a day, but the Twins are approaching the All-Star break and they certainly qualify as contenders. After beating Detroit today, they are tied for the second best record in the league at eight games over .500. One can't help but be a little optimistic about the Twins chances for the last 74 games. Today was a high point, not only hammering Detroit's starting pitcher, but also the mid-game announcement that Brian Dozier would indeed make the 2015 All-Star team, all on the heels of the startling comeback the earned the Twins a near miraculous victory on Friday night. However, there are obvious flaws on the team. The leading percentage hitter currently is Joe Mauer, hitting in the mid-.270s and until this home stand the Twins had struggled to score runs for the better part of six weeks. We've seen a bullpen that is far from dominant and still have unsettled and unproductive positions (catcher and shortstop). The starting staff continues to allow far fewer runs than their peripherals would suggest. Since the Twins outstanding month of May, analysis has focused on how the club is winning and also if they can sustain that performance. Most analysts still think the club is suspect. A good example is Baseball Prospectus, which provides a Postseason Probability for each team. They currently peg the Twins at 21.6%, lower than the Tigers (2.5 games behind the Twins) and the Indians (4.5 behind Minnesota). This is supposedly scientific analysis. The team is far different that the one that opened the season in Detroit. Eddie Rosario has claimed an outfield spot, Aaron Hicks appears to be here to stay this year, and several members have changed in the bullpen. The rotation has added Ervin Santana to the rotation. I think more changes are in the offing. Either by trade or promotion, I think the bullpen will continue to be redone. Byron Buxton figures to return to Minnesota after a rehab and perhaps an option to AAA, Oswaldo Arcia has begun to pound the ball at Triple A, I am still not convinced the Twins are a playoff team, but it looks like they could easily be in it for the two and a half months. I'm predicting a couple of moves that will fortify the bullpen (perhaps trading for a lefty reliever and promoting a hard thrower) and also perhaps a trade for a catcher, who could help this year and beyond. I would expect improvement from the offense, combined with a bit of regression from the rotation. I have predicted 85 wins for the club since they broke camp in Florida. I hope that number is reached although I'm not sure if it will be enough to gain admission to the post season.
  13. The Twins take on the Royal at Target Field today. The winner of today's game will take over first place in the American League Central. The Twins and Royals have split the first six games of their season series. The Royals started the season on a tear. They have been at or near the top of the division since the season started. The Twins started slow in April, but caught fire in May. They currently hold a one-game lead in the Central. Here's a look at the prospects for today's game: Who's Hot/Who's Not--(HOT) Royals bullpen. They've been the #1 strength of the team this year and last year. If the Royals get a lead in the seventh, the game is basically over. Royals are #1 in run suppression in the American League. They have a staff of hard throwers and perhaps the best defense in baseball. (NOT) Offense. No one is going really well and several regulars are struggling (Cain, Rios, Perez, Morales). The Royals now rank just behind the Twins in runs scored per game next to last in homers. (HOT) Brian Dozier leads the league in runs scored, extra base hits and doubles, leads second sackers in homers. Dozier has never hit .250 in a season and currently is hitting .267. Twins starters are a net 24-15 with a 3.89 ERA, a huge improvement from the last three years. (NOT) Most of the lineup is struggling. Starting shortstop Danny Santana was sent to AAA on Sunday. Starters: Phil Hughes vs. Jason Vargas. Hughes hasn't been the pitcher he was in 2014. He's been okay in most starts, but has allowed too many home runs. His strikeouts and velocity are down. This will be Hughes first start this year against the Royals. Vargas was hit pretty hard by the Twins in two early starts, getting a loss and a no-decision. He spent time on the Disabled List and so far hasn't gone longer than six innings in any game. The Royals were eight games over .500 in April, but have played .500 ball since. This is a pretty big series for early June. A series win would be nice for Minnesota, but there is a lot of season left. If either team sweeps, it will be a big boost. Short of that, the battle will go on. I like the Twins to win the opener with some power and solid pitching from Hughes.
  14. 27 games is one sixth of the season. A team can't win a championship in 27 games and seldom will lose one (except maybe Milwaukee this year) in such a short span of time. I'm satisfied with the Twins' record, but not satisfied with many individuals. Last night, I was going to summarize this first section of games, and after an exciting and fortunate 8-7 win, I was going to speculate that maybe the tide had turned. Today's loss sours my mood enough to not make that claim. Today's game was a chance to steal a win when the hitters were totally handcuffed by the opponents' starter. It didn't happen. Also, a perfectly good start was diminished because a relief pitcher couldn't keep a run from scoring when taking over with two out and a runner on first. Finally, the aging veteran could make contact to drive in the tying run with one out and the tying run on third, followed by the top hitter on the team failing to get a hit with the tying run in scoring position. Here are some observations on the 2015 Twins: 1) After a slow start, the offense has been pretty good. Most of the slow starters have at least righted their batting averages. The power hasn't been there--on target for just 100 homers. Of late, the homers have come with runners on base--several three-run homers and a Plouffe grand slam, Most hitters have not matched their career norm. However, going into today's game, all the players were over .200 and the guys with the lowest averages had been hitting well of late. 2) Putting together pitching and defense, the Twins are just about exactly in the middle for run prevention. Given the notes that the Twins FIP is lowest in the league, that may be hard to sustain. I don't think FIP will ever be kind to a staff that strikes out the fewest in the league. 3) A big reason for optimism is that there would appear to be real help on the farm. Aaron Hicks is hitting very well at Rochester, while Byron Buxton has been white-hot for the last ten days. Several pitchers have thrived, as well. 4) The Twins, for the first time since 2010, have played better at home. They have a nice 10-5 mark at Target Field, while only going 4-8 on the road. Run scoring reflects a .500 team, as of today outscored by 1 run through the 27 games. 5) I expect the team to transition by mid-season. Some players will be disabled and a couple of guys will most likely be discarded. I like what I've seen from May and Gibson and Aaron Thompson has been a revelation. The bench guys have performed well when given a chance.
  15. I saw a note on the "other baseball" thread that mentioned that Chris Carter of the Astros was available and my first thought was "not the Twins" with their backlog of DH and poor-fielding corner players. I started thinking what the Twins might want to trade for and besides high-ceiling starting pitching, I really don't see what they would be looking for. I guess they could use premier talent at any position, but they appear to have starting depth (at least now), relief pitching depth and a prospect at almost every position. My point here is that it would seem unlikely that the Twins will be trading for any out-of-options types or any guys who would be only a small improvement over what they have. We have all noted that the starting corner outfielders don't profile as good defenders. There is a competition in center between three candidates who haven't set the big leagues on fire, and there are at least three positions where significant regression is (unfortunately) pretty likely. If the Twins were to trade some pitching excess (starting or relieving) who or what should they be looking for in return?
  16. September complaints about Twins lineups centered on two players--Danny Santana and Josmil Pinto. The fans remaining at Twins Daily wanted Santana to get reps at shortstop (and opportunities for Aaron Hicks) and they wanted to see the state of Josmil Pinto's catching ability. The fans were mostly disappointed. Santana mostly stayed in center field and Pinto only started eight games at catcher and left one of them before he either hit or caught. We will wait for answers (or at least more definitive evidence) in the spring. For his entire length of stay with the Twins in 2014, Pinto was a bit of a lightning rod. Many wanted him in the lineup every day either as the DH or catcher. Some are convinced that he can never be a regular catcher because he doesn't have the necessary defensive tools and skills. If anything, this season was evidence that as far as Pinto is concerned, it can't be a half-in half-out proposition. Due to injuries, Pinto got a lot of at-bats in April and his hitting was decent. He didn't catch much and he was noticeably less than adequate behind the plate. This meant fewer games catching, and when everyone got healthy Pinto didn't get at-bats at DH and was sub-standard behind the plate. He was optioned in June reportedly to work on his defense. I expected Pinto to be back before September 1st, but he didn't force his way back from his performance in Rochester and Kurt Suzuki had a career year. The controversy over Pinto concerns his offense and his defense. How good a hitter can he be with regular at bats? I think he could be very good. He is strong and demonstrated extra-base power for the Twins in his stints with the club. He also has a good idea of the strike zone and will take a walk. Pinto uses the whole field and has plenty of power to put balls over the fence. I think if he were given regular at-bats, he would be in the upper third of catchers offensively. Defensively, the slings and arrows come from all directions. He was 0-20 throwing out base runners in 2014. He has consistently graded out poorly when it comes to framing pitches. Pinto, after nearly a decade in the organization, has been called lacking in pitch calling and blocking pitches. That is a whole lot of things to improve upon! In watching Pinto throw, there is no question that his arm is strong enough to stay behind the plate. However, there is no question that his mechanics in throwing were screwed up before he was optioned to Rochester. It is certainly not all his fault that he failed to throw out a single base stealer, but on the other hand, he should be in line for more of the blame than any other individual. As for pitch framing, Josmil was the personal catcher for the thoroughly inconsistent Samuel Deduno, if there was one pitcher on the Twins that probably didn't deserve having borderline pitches called strikes due to total unpredictability it was Deduno. It stands to reason that Pinto's pitch framing numbers would be bad. I think game calling a being a coach on the field is in the eye of the beholder. For what it is worth, an ump said it was "night and day" as far as viewing pitches after Pinto returned in September and Kyle Gibson credited Pinto with calling a good game in both of his last two starts (both good starts for Gibson). I see good potential in Josmil Pinto's bat. I don't see anything that precludes him from being at least adequate as a receiver at some point. I do have a point and counterpoint. Pinto has been known as a hard worker and no one has questioned his work ethic. However, he has been in the organization since 2006 and he, by all accounts, has quite a ways to go to be a competent major league receiver.
  17. Plouffe came to camp looking strong and had a decent spring. He started out the regular season strongly as well. Trevor hit .307 in April with a robust .892 OPS. Plouffe had his ups and downs during the season and hit the disabled list in mid-June. From then on, he played almost every day until he broke his forearm during the last home game of the season. He finished with a .258 batting average and .751 OPS setting personal bests for almost all offensive stats except home runs. Plouffe also had a positive defensive rating for the first time. One word summarized Plouffe's season--improved--every facet of his game seemed to pick up a notch. He walked slightly more, struck out slightly less, hit better with runners on base and set a team record for doubles by a third baseman. As noted earlier, Trevor made large strides in playing third base. He seemed more focused, better positioned, and seems to have mastered the barehanded pickup and throw. Plouffe has a reputation as a lefty masher and indeed he's always hit left handers better then righties, but this year he improved markedly against right-handed pitching, recording an OPS of .738 against same-handed hurlers. Off the score sheet, there seems to be improved focus, a better approach when hitting and certainly more maturity in dealing with the ups and downs of a long major league season playing for a 70 win team. He seems to be one of the leaders of the team, quite a change from when he was first promoted in 2010. Plouffe's future remains cloudy despite his very good season. Sano should be healthy next year, hitting home runs in the upper minors. He most likely will get recalled sometime during the season and figures to displace Plouffe. I have always thought that Plouffe could move to another position and one outfield slot seems to be open. However, his strong season and relatively low salary--he'll be in his second year of arbitration eligibility-- would seem to make Plouffe desirable to some teams. I think Trevor stays with the Twins this offseason. Sano remains a prospect and perhaps not a sure thing. Plouffe's RH bat is pretty valuable. If Sano does move up early, it is quite possible Plouffe will have to change positions. I think he could be a capable corner outfielder, although he probably would be pretty rough at first. My sense is that Plouffe is not done improving and that the best is yet to come from him. However, depending on Sano's role, there is a possibility that Trevor's best might come in another uniform.
  18. Joe Mauer is a former MVP and a three-time batting champion. As a catcher, he has won five Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves. These are Hall of Fame credentials for a 31-year-old. Last year, Mauer was shut down after suffering a concussion. The symptoms were present until well into the offseason. Mauer and his advisors decided it was time to give up catching. With the exit of Justin Morneau, a move to first base was an easy call. I was among those that thought that Mauer would be able to play more games and provide more power as long as he abandoned catching. For the 2014 season, I was wrong. Mauer had a career-low .277 batting average and managed only 518 plate appearances. Mauer's OPS and OPS+ approached career lows, as well, and he managed only 4 homers, about one homer per 130 plate appearances. In addition, Joe continued a disturbing trend of increasing strikeouts. He fanned 96 times, about 18.5% of the time, compared to maxing out at less than 12 percent his first eight years in the league. His strikeout percentage has increased dramatically each of his last three seasons. Mauer suffered injuries, missing games with back spasms and an elbow injury and getting disabled with an oblique injury that reportedly bothered him for most of the rest of the season. It has also been reported that Mauer was rusty coming in to the spring because he didn't have his normal workout regimen due to the concussion. Combined with the adjustment of switching fulltime to first base, Mauer had an uncomfortable first half of the season. At the All-Star break, he was hitting .271 with a .695 OPS. Joe picked up the pace after the All-Star break. His OBP after the break was .397 and his OPS after the break was .805. Mauer had pretty dramatic platoon splits. Against left handers, he managed only four extra base hits and had an OPS of .654 (.776 against right handers). No one can dispute that Mauer's numbers were far below career norms. The question is whether he is going hard in decline mode or whether he can recapture his Hall of Fame worthy form from his first ten years in the majors. No one really knows and no one knows the extent of the injuries, including the concussion he suffered in 2013. My speculation is that Mauer has long been a premier player using his somewhat unique approach. I think that he now needs to adjust that approach. He needs to be more aggressive early in the count and find pitches to drive. He also needs to be stronger, so that some of his 360 foot fly balls turn into 380 foot home runs. Defensively, Mauer looked uncomfortable at first at the beginning of the year. By playing 100 games at first, he got more comfortable and became a pretty good defensive first baseman. All of that matters little if he can't come back and again be a top hitter.
  19. In my book, Brian Dozier was the Twins best position player in 2013. He had a better year in 2014 and again I think he was the best everyday player on the team. Dozier is a study in contrasts--he isn't a big guy, but has led the team in home runs the last two years. He is a converted shortstop who has become totally comfortable as a second baseman. Most guys his size are told to "use the whole field", but he is perhaps the most pronounced pull hitter on the team, certainly among the right handed hitters. Dozier had an up and down season. He started slowly, lifted his average through June and then tailed off. Dozier hit a bunch of homers early and continued hitting an occasional long ball until the All-Star break. The power tailed off from there and he was stuck on 20 homers for a long time. He finished with 23 long balls and 21 steals, one of only a handful of Twins all time to reach 20 in both categories. One improvement Brian made throughout the season was his ability to take a free pass. He had 89 walks (3rd in the AL) and was hit by nine pitches giving him 98 walks to first base. Despite having nearly the same batting average, he increased his OBP by 33 points to .345. Dozier scored 112 runs (2nd in the AL), the most by a Twin in this century. He drove in 71 runs despite hitting first or second almost exclusively. Dozier's defense was highly appreciated by TD regulars in 2013 and there was a carryover into 2014. He did make more than his share of web gems, but he committed too many errors (15). Dozier is a better than average defensive second baseman, but he needs to fight the urge to try to make the spectacular play sometimes. While their personalities are polar opposites, Dozier reminds me of another Twins second sacker, Chuck Knoblauch. Each year Knoblauch added another facet to his game. Dozier added selectivity this year and I expect next year he'll be a better situational hitter or better bunter or perhaps win a Gold Glove. I think he has the desire to win and excel and the Twins need more of that. Dozier has solidified his position with the Twins. If he doesn't improve at all, he still is a better than average player who can win a game with his bat, his glove and his legs on the bases. His durability, power, and defense and the fact that he'll be under team control for four more years make him desirable to other teams, but I believe he has great value for a Twins team that may be on it's way up. I expect Dozier to have another solid year in 2015 and be a major contributor when the Twins again are contenders.
  20. With one game to go in the month, here are the Twins' hitting statistics for the month of August: http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/stats/batting/_/name/min/split/44/minnesota-twins Who is the player of the month? Arcia has the power numbers, but Plouffe has put up a very good overall month and has the better OPS. The Twins have scored exactly as many runs as they have allowed. They've been outhomered by four, but have stolen more bases than they've allowed. Schafer has had a really nice month, getting on at a .400 and of course stealing those 10 bases. Dozier hasn't hit for much power, but he's drawn 25 walks in the month and scored 23 runs. Of the nine regulars, seven have an OPS over .800, then Escobar (.723) and finally Suzuki (.653). Edit: This is after games of 8/31/14
  21. In today's major league baseball, we have 12 and 13-man pitching staffs, which means that benches are three or four players. That bench contingent usually has a light-hitter backup catcher and a couple more players. Despite their poor record, the last several weeks have seen the Twins evolve into having a near-set lineup. The bench has been three players--the light-hitting catcher (Fryer) along with Chris Parmelee and Eduardo Nuñez. Yesterday, both Parmelee and Nuñez started the get-away game in Kansas City and both guys had good games. I am not advocating that space be made so these guys can start, but I think they could be part of a pretty good bench, not only for the balance of this year, but also for next year. It appears to me that neither Parmelee nor Nuñez will get a real opportunity to win starting spots next year if they are retained, but I believe they have the makeup and necessary skills to be decent bench options. First of all, not everyone can be a good bench player. I suggested on another thread that Jordan Schafer would be the example of a guy who might need to play regularly in order to help his club, basing this mostly on his miserable 2/3 season as a bench guy for the Braves. The Twins appear to be using both Parmelee and Nuñez in bench roles, having them sit for three or four games and seldom starting more than one game in a row. Both have pinch hit a fair amount and both have demonstrated some extra-base sock, although neither would be classed as a slugger. Parmelee (first and the corner OF) plays three positions and Nuñez has been used sparingly at second and in right along with left, third and shortstop. Nuñez also offers plus speed. Neither guy is a glove-first type. I think the Twins will go into 2015 hoping to contend. If they do proceed in this manner, they may well have a bench of Nuñez and Parmelee, even thought these two guys don't have the highest upside. Having versatile, experienced guys coming off the bench and playing sparingly might be the way to go.
  22. Brian Dozier has made it to the 20-20 club (HRs and SB), but has struggled since the All-Star break. While Dozier looks like a fixture on the club, I don't know if his position in the lineup is assured. Dozier had done a admirable job in the leadoff role, but Danny Santana has supplanted him in that role. Things haven't been as smooth for Brian in the #2 slot. With Mauer injured, Dozier actually had a few games as the Twins #3 hitter. The splits say Dozier is a bit better in the leadoff position, hitting .238 with a .746 OPS, while hitting .221 with an OPS of .730 when hitting #2. Dozier doesn't profile as an ideal #2 hitter because of his extreme pull and fly ball tendencies, plus he is strikeout prone, being the first Twin to get to 100 Ks this year. I submit that Dozier should hit down in the order, at least until his OBP is higher. His base stealing ability is more readily used when not getting on in front of Mauer and the power hitters and he might have some runners to drive in with his home runs. The primary difference for Dozier between last year and this year is the number of walks he has drawn, already netting 71 free passes (plus seven HBP) on the season. That makes his OBP an acceptable .335 despite the low BA. I expect that Dozier will try to adjust a bit next season--probably bunting more and trying to use the whole field more--but the player he is could be a real asset hitting 6-8 in the order.
  23. I wanted to start a discussion on the status of Escobar as an everyday player. I decided to contrast and compare him with previous Twins' utility infielders. Due to the length of that comparison, I posted the entry as a blog entry http://twinsdaily.com/entry.php/5400-Twins-Utility-Infielders I hope this starts some conversation about the future roles on the Twins of Eduardo Escobar.
  24. The Twins have played 72 games. They are doing a bit better than (4 more wins) than at this point last year. I am looking for reasons why they are better (how is that for positive?) and noticed that despite the second least homers in the American League, they have outhomered their opponents by two (68-66). Willingham leads the team with 10 homers which projects to only 25 for the full season, but the Twins have eight guys with more than five homers, which would project to double digits over an entire season. The pitchers have done a pretty good job limiting the long ball, which seems to be the least sustainable component of the positive home run differential going forward. Particularly, the bullpen has yielded only 16 homers in 254 innings. I would guess that the number of runs from homers is higher for opponents than for the Twins, but it is promising that they are reaching the seats marginally more than their opponents. The lineup does have more power sprinkled from top to bottom than they have in past years.
  25. I looked at the Twins' surge in home runs in recent games. Read the rest of it at Yahoo! Sports. What do you think? Is this a trend or just a SSS fluke?
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