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  1. When you talk to people about Royce Lewis and what makes him special, you will invariably hear about his intangible character and leadership qualities. While difficult to quantify, there is undoubtedly value in having the 'it' factor. Even in another season wrecked by injury, the former No. 1 overall pick is finding ways to show up. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker, USA Today Sports In a parallel dimension of the multiverse – where there was no pandemic-ruined season, no ACL tear suffered on a freak offseason incident, no ACL re-tear suffered on an outfield wall collision – Royce Lewis would already be an established MLB player. He finished 2019 in Double-A before all that went down. He's a big-league talent, as we saw in a limited glimpse this year. Alas, just as he was getting going, calamity struck and Lewis had another season wiped out. He never pouted about it. And here as this lost season winds down, it's been noticeable to me how present he's been in the dugout. Whenever the camera flashes down in that direction during a game, you seem to see Lewis – with his whole 12 games of major-league experience – leaning over the railing, smiling, engaged in a conversation with some veteran teammate he's barely shared the field with. Somehow it's like he's been there for years. He's a natural. But as we discussed, Lewis hasn't been there for years. He's been sidetracked and derailed at every turn. So he can relate to anyone trying to savor that moment of triumphant accomplishment. The trials he's gone through give him a unique empathy and relatability to so many players throughout this organization, which is a strength he shares with the manager. I tend to think Lewis is gaining a lot of value from spending so much time around the big-leaguers and soaking in the experience. It will help prepare him for a role he's set to inherit that seems equally unfilled as starting shortstop: the more energetic and active clubhouse leader to counterbalance Byron Buxton's quiet confidence. A genuinely humble former first overall pick who's gained the perspective of going through hell injury-wise, and seems equally comfortable talking to an MVP-caliber veteran or a fringy minor-leaguer. That's Royce Lewis. He can become the connective glue of a clubhouse that figures to soon begin transitioning from a veteran core featuring the likes of Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler to an emerging young wave headlined by Lewis as well as fellow former first-rounders Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Brooks Lee, and Austin Martin. The timing of his knee rehab, which will carry over into the 2023 season, makes things a bit challenging, but the Twins would be silly not to make Lewis a central part of their plan. With a central locker location in the clubhouse. [EDITOR'S NOTE; This story was updated to remove a mistaken reference to Royce Lewis and Caleb Hamilton embracing in the dugout. Turns out they just look similar from behind.] View full article
  2. In a parallel dimension of the multiverse – where there was no pandemic-ruined season, no ACL tear suffered on a freak offseason incident, no ACL re-tear suffered on an outfield wall collision – Royce Lewis would already be an established MLB player. He finished 2019 in Double-A before all that went down. He's a big-league talent, as we saw in a limited glimpse this year. Alas, just as he was getting going, calamity struck and Lewis had another season wiped out. He never pouted about it. And here as this lost season winds down, it's been noticeable to me how present he's been in the dugout. Whenever the camera flashes down in that direction during a game, you seem to see Lewis – with his whole 12 games of major-league experience – leaning over the railing, smiling, engaged in a conversation with some veteran teammate he's barely shared the field with. Somehow it's like he's been there for years. He's a natural. But as we discussed, Lewis hasn't been there for years. He's been sidetracked and derailed at every turn. So he can relate to anyone trying to savor that moment of triumphant accomplishment. The trials he's gone through give him a unique empathy and relatability to so many players throughout this organization, which is a strength he shares with the manager. I tend to think Lewis is gaining a lot of value from spending so much time around the big-leaguers and soaking in the experience. It will help prepare him for a role he's set to inherit that seems equally unfilled as starting shortstop: the more energetic and active clubhouse leader to counterbalance Byron Buxton's quiet confidence. A genuinely humble former first overall pick who's gained the perspective of going through hell injury-wise, and seems equally comfortable talking to an MVP-caliber veteran or a fringy minor-leaguer. That's Royce Lewis. He can become the connective glue of a clubhouse that figures to soon begin transitioning from a veteran core featuring the likes of Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler to an emerging young wave headlined by Lewis as well as fellow former first-rounders Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Brooks Lee, and Austin Martin. The timing of his knee rehab, which will carry over into the 2023 season, makes things a bit challenging, but the Twins would be silly not to make Lewis a central part of their plan. With a central locker location in the clubhouse. [EDITOR'S NOTE; This story was updated to remove a mistaken reference to Royce Lewis and Caleb Hamilton embracing in the dugout. Turns out they just look similar from behind.]
  3. The Minnesota Twins are barreling towards the end of their 2022 regular season. With postseason hopes all but dwindling, the clock on Carlos Correa’s decision to opt out of his three-year contract now comes front and center. Minnesota has to get to work. Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports Last winter, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine hammered out a deal with Carlos Correa’s agent Scott Boras. Having previously assumed Isiah Kiner-Falefa would be their Opening Day shortstop, the Twins pivoted after dealing Josh Donaldson and freeing up substantial money for the payroll. Correa was never the expected plan for Minnesota, and he probably didn’t see himself here either. When a $300 million mega-deal didn’t materialize, the opportunity to secure a Major League-record deal for an infielder arose and he had to take it. Boras and the Twins structured the deal in a way that Correa could once again explore the open market this winter. That had to always be his plan and is why he’ll opt out. Sure, the Twins could’ve made more aggressive actions towards an extension (and maybe they have), but this front office would’ve been negotiating against itself. Knowing that Correa’s true intentions are a long-term pact, it behooves the organization to throw out a number and see where it lands amongst the competition. Maybe the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers are more interested this time around. Maybe the San Francisco Giants or Chicago Cubs bite. Maybe Correa decides to return for a longer period of time in the Twins Cities. No matter what, Minnesota needs (and likely has already started) thinking about succession plans. It’s pretty hard to replace a player the caliber of Correa, and internally there are few options. Royce Lewis won’t be ready on Opening Day as he returns from a second season in which he underwent surgery for a torn ACL. Noah Miller has been heralded as an MLB-ready defender, but he’s hardly handled that bat at the Low-A level for Fort Myers. 2022 top pick Brooks Lee is finishing this season at Double-A, but it’d be beyond aggressive for him to start at the Major Leagues in 2023. The developmental staff and front office will have to blueprint a game plan as to what the timeline of succession looks like. Do they want a long-term shortstop brought in from outside? Is Lewis the man waiting in the wings, or is there a different position he’s more suited for? How about Lee? Is he the shortstop of the future, and will that future begin in the season ahead? Much of what the front office has done from a talent acquisition perspective this season has been with a focus on more than just one season. As they enter into 2023, they’ll be positioned to start kicking in their window with the developed youth. Jose Miranda is a big-leaguer. Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff will hopefully be healthy. Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan have now all seen how the highest level works. Punting on the shortstop position with a roster on the brink doesn’t seem like the way they’ll go about things. It’d be great if Correa was back manning the middle for Minnesota next season, but if and when he’s not, the blueprint to surviving his absence must be ironclad. View full article
  4. Last winter, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine hammered out a deal with Carlos Correa’s agent Scott Boras. Having previously assumed Isiah Kiner-Falefa would be their Opening Day shortstop, the Twins pivoted after dealing Josh Donaldson and freeing up substantial money for the payroll. Correa was never the expected plan for Minnesota, and he probably didn’t see himself here either. When a $300 million mega-deal didn’t materialize, the opportunity to secure a Major League-record deal for an infielder arose and he had to take it. Boras and the Twins structured the deal in a way that Correa could once again explore the open market this winter. That had to always be his plan and is why he’ll opt out. Sure, the Twins could’ve made more aggressive actions towards an extension (and maybe they have), but this front office would’ve been negotiating against itself. Knowing that Correa’s true intentions are a long-term pact, it behooves the organization to throw out a number and see where it lands amongst the competition. Maybe the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers are more interested this time around. Maybe the San Francisco Giants or Chicago Cubs bite. Maybe Correa decides to return for a longer period of time in the Twins Cities. No matter what, Minnesota needs (and likely has already started) thinking about succession plans. It’s pretty hard to replace a player the caliber of Correa, and internally there are few options. Royce Lewis won’t be ready on Opening Day as he returns from a second season in which he underwent surgery for a torn ACL. Noah Miller has been heralded as an MLB-ready defender, but he’s hardly handled that bat at the Low-A level for Fort Myers. 2022 top pick Brooks Lee is finishing this season at Double-A, but it’d be beyond aggressive for him to start at the Major Leagues in 2023. The developmental staff and front office will have to blueprint a game plan as to what the timeline of succession looks like. Do they want a long-term shortstop brought in from outside? Is Lewis the man waiting in the wings, or is there a different position he’s more suited for? How about Lee? Is he the shortstop of the future, and will that future begin in the season ahead? Much of what the front office has done from a talent acquisition perspective this season has been with a focus on more than just one season. As they enter into 2023, they’ll be positioned to start kicking in their window with the developed youth. Jose Miranda is a big-leaguer. Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff will hopefully be healthy. Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan have now all seen how the highest level works. Punting on the shortstop position with a roster on the brink doesn’t seem like the way they’ll go about things. It’d be great if Correa was back manning the middle for Minnesota next season, but if and when he’s not, the blueprint to surviving his absence must be ironclad.
  5. Major League Baseball changed the rules for next year's draft, which can be good news for teams out of contention. Here's how the Twins can earn one of next year's top draft picks. Image courtesy of Twins Daily Last winter's lockout may not have been all bad for baseball because one new aspect of the collective bargaining agreement is a change to MLB's Draft. Recently, the team with baseball's worst record received the first overall pick and the highest pick in each subsequent round. For many reasons, tanking became a common practice by many organizations looking to rebuild a franchise. The Houston Astros may be the most famous example, as they lost over 100 games in three consecutive seasons before eventually rebuilding into an American League powerhouse. Starting in 2023, the first six picks in each year's draft will be assigned through a draft lottery. All 18 teams that fail to qualify for the postseason will have a chance to move into the top six picks. Odds for each team receiving the number one selection are assigned in reverse order of regular season winning percentage. If a team doesn't receive a lottery selection, they will pick in reverse order of winning percentage from the previous season. The odds of receiving the draft's top pick are as follows: Worst record: 16.5% 2nd-worst record: 16.5% 3rd-worst record: 16.5% 4th: 13.25% 5th: 10% 6th: 7.5% 7th: 5.5% 8th: 3.9% 9th: 2.7% 10th: 1.8% 11th: 1.4% 12th: 1.1% 13th: 0.90% 14th: 0.76% 15th: 0.62% 16th: 0.48% 17th: 0.36% 18th: 0.23% Adding a lottery helps to deter tanking, but other rules were added to deter tanking even further. Teams that receive revenue sharing can't receive a top-six pick for more than two consecutive seasons. On the opposite side, clubs that pay revenue sharing can't get a lottery pick more than one year in a row. Organizations are significantly helped by adding talent at the top of the draft, and Minnesota's system has dropped according to national rankings. The Twins' top two prospects, Royce Lewis and Brooks Lee, were both top-8 picks in the first round of their respective draft. Lewis looked fantastic in his first taste of the big leagues, and Lee's already seen his stock rise since joining the Twins organization. The more times the Twins can get a top-10 pick, the better their chances of adding impact talent to a farm system that needs a boost. Entering play on Monday, the Twins have a .500 record which translates to baseball's 15th worst record. Minnesota would have a 0.62% chance of earning the first overall pick if the season ended today. Minnesota trails Boston by two games for the 14th spot and San Francisco by 3.5 games for the 13th worst record. Gaining ground on these teams helps increase Minnesota's odds, but it's only a small jump for teams that have been in contention. If you'd like to simulate MLB's draft lottery, Tankathon has updated its site to include a simulation tool for the lottery. My first lottery scored the Twins the third overall pick, but the team never won the top overall pick in over 200 simulations. Minnesota has time to help their odds over the season's final weeks, so it will be interesting to see how the team fares in their first chance at the draft lottery. Do you like MLB's new lottery system? Do you think it will deter teams from tanking in the years ahead? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  6. Last winter's lockout may not have been all bad for baseball because one new aspect of the collective bargaining agreement is a change to MLB's Draft. Recently, the team with baseball's worst record received the first overall pick and the highest pick in each subsequent round. For many reasons, tanking became a common practice by many organizations looking to rebuild a franchise. The Houston Astros may be the most famous example, as they lost over 100 games in three consecutive seasons before eventually rebuilding into an American League powerhouse. Starting in 2023, the first six picks in each year's draft will be assigned through a draft lottery. All 18 teams that fail to qualify for the postseason will have a chance to move into the top six picks. Odds for each team receiving the number one selection are assigned in reverse order of regular season winning percentage. If a team doesn't receive a lottery selection, they will pick in reverse order of winning percentage from the previous season. The odds of receiving the draft's top pick are as follows: Worst record: 16.5% 2nd-worst record: 16.5% 3rd-worst record: 16.5% 4th: 13.25% 5th: 10% 6th: 7.5% 7th: 5.5% 8th: 3.9% 9th: 2.7% 10th: 1.8% 11th: 1.4% 12th: 1.1% 13th: 0.90% 14th: 0.76% 15th: 0.62% 16th: 0.48% 17th: 0.36% 18th: 0.23% Adding a lottery helps to deter tanking, but other rules were added to deter tanking even further. Teams that receive revenue sharing can't receive a top-six pick for more than two consecutive seasons. On the opposite side, clubs that pay revenue sharing can't get a lottery pick more than one year in a row. Organizations are significantly helped by adding talent at the top of the draft, and Minnesota's system has dropped according to national rankings. The Twins' top two prospects, Royce Lewis and Brooks Lee, were both top-8 picks in the first round of their respective draft. Lewis looked fantastic in his first taste of the big leagues, and Lee's already seen his stock rise since joining the Twins organization. The more times the Twins can get a top-10 pick, the better their chances of adding impact talent to a farm system that needs a boost. Entering play on Monday, the Twins have a .500 record which translates to baseball's 15th worst record. Minnesota would have a 0.62% chance of earning the first overall pick if the season ended today. Minnesota trails Boston by two games for the 14th spot and San Francisco by 3.5 games for the 13th worst record. Gaining ground on these teams helps increase Minnesota's odds, but it's only a small jump for teams that have been in contention. If you'd like to simulate MLB's draft lottery, Tankathon has updated its site to include a simulation tool for the lottery. My first lottery scored the Twins the third overall pick, but the team never won the top overall pick in over 200 simulations. Minnesota has time to help their odds over the season's final weeks, so it will be interesting to see how the team fares in their first chance at the draft lottery. Do you like MLB's new lottery system? Do you think it will deter teams from tanking in the years ahead? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  7. Trevor Larnach’s second half of the season will likely be a wash for the second consecutive year. In a season in which he could have established himself, he’s been missing again. Can the Twins rely on him moving forward? Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports 2021 and 2022 held a lot of similarities for Trevor Larnach. In both cases, he burst onto the scene showing a glimpse of the lineup-changing hitter he’s capable of being. Unfortunately in both cases he tailed off in his production only for an injury to eventually come out as the main cause. So what do we think of Larnach moving forward? In 2021 Larnach began his season with a .845 OPS in May before the league adjusted. He posted a .704 mark in June and a brutal .518 in July. He would finish the season in St. Paul eventually being shut down with a hand issue, an injury that turned out to be nagging him for longer than Twins fans had known about. In 2022 Larnach looked even more encouraging. In March and April, Larnach posted a modest .703 OPS, actually above average for the offensive environment at the time. Then in May he posted an absurd 1.077 OPS. In addition to his hitting, his brief time in the majors was enough for teams to stop running on him in the outfield, as his throwing arm became a weapon against runners trying to get an extra base. Once again, however, he faded off in a huge way, posting an OPS of .429 in June before getting shut down at the end of the month for a core muscle injury he had been dealing with for the entire month. His timeline was 6-8 weeks putting him at a mid to late August return. At the time of this writing in mid-September, however, Larnach is finally making his first rehab appearance in the minors. With the calendar dwindling, it's likely at this point that Larnach’s 2022 season has come to an end, but he finishes with a modest .231/.306/.406 batting line which was heavily weighed down by a brutal final month. His 1.1 Wins Above Replacement in just 51 games played alludes to the possibility of an everyday regular in the lineup moving forward. But can we trust Larnach to fill such a role? The first concern at this point has to be health. Larnach has failed to reach 100 games played in each of the last two seasons due to injury. The hand contusion in 2021 may have been a fluke, but 2022's core muscle injury that cost him half the season is more of a concern. Larnach relies on such muscles for every swing he takes, every route to a fly ball he runs, and every rocket he throws into a base. The delay on his return alludes to the Twins making sure he’s at as little risk of aggravating this injury as possible. Headed into 2023 we have to hope it pays off. The second concern is whether Larnach can consistently channel his talent into on-field production. While injury has hampered his numbers to an extent these last two years, it’s easy to be concerned about him long-term given his swing-and-miss tendencies. Easily the biggest knock on his offensive profile, his incredible power and fantastic eye at the plate can easily be outweighed if he fails to make contact with pitches in the strike zone as we’ve seen at times in his young career. It would be nice if Larnach was more of a known commodity after two years of MLB exposure, especially given the murky futures of fellow top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. Of the three, Larnach appears to be the most stable however due not only to the flashes of offensive and defensive value, but because of the nature of the injuries that have ended each of their seasons. Headed into 2023 it’s hard to be 100% confident in Larnach, but there has to be some hope that he can be the Opening Day left fielder and hold onto the job for the next 4-5 years. He’s shown a tremendous ceiling but he doesn’t have to reach it to be a valuable player. Max Kepler has spent the last three years providing league average offense at best and has still added value because of his defense. Larnach’s 2022 should provide hope that he can at the very least do the same while providing a much more balanced offensive profile aside from the strikeouts. Certainly, we have to be disappointed with Larnach’s 2022, but like most disappointing seasons, there are some redeeming qualities. Headed into 2023 it’s hard to argue against handing Larnach the keys to a starting job and seeing if it’s finally the year that it comes together. The Twins don’t have any immediate alternative options and it’s safe to say that if they want to prioritize replacing any outfielder, it should be the aforementioned Max Kepler. Larnach should be given another chance to make himself a piece of the Twins future. Do you agree? View full article
  8. The Minnesota Twins are limping through September and it’s looking more like they’ll miss the postseason for a second straight year. Walking wounded and trying to make it through the finish line, there've been more than a handful of instances things have gone wrong. Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports Rocco Baldelli has done everything he can to hold this Twins team together. With the injured list total mounting, and lackluster output coming on the field, it’s been a perfect storm of negative outcomes this season. Unfortunately the bad omens came early on this year, and the hits really didn’t stop. Emilio Pagan takes his first loss On April 12 the Minnesota Twins faced the Los Angeles Dodgers at Target Field. It was an absolutely dominant series from the NL West champs, one in which Clayton Kershaw nearly threw a no-hitter. The front office flipped closers right before Opening Day, and Emilio Pagan was making his second appearance. He gave up a single hit and walk while being credited with a loss. The Dodgers rallied for six runs in the 8th inning and the game went up in smoke. In and of itself, that loss wasn’t entirely damning. It was foreshadowing though, and Pagan has all but sunk the Twins season. He’s racked up six blown saves and is also responsible for six losses. He’s routinely coughed up games against the Guardians, Minnesota’s toughest competition, and all season it’s been a belief in stuff that hasn’t provided any positive results. Byron Buxton jams his knee On April 15 playing against the Boston Red Sox, Byron Buxton slid awkwardly and jammed his knee into the ground. It looked awful and he reacted as such. Being lifted from the game, but walking off the field under his own power, Minnesota’s newly extended $100 million man seemed destined for the injured list. Instead, Buxton was back less than a week later and playing through general knee soreness. Sure, Byron has compiled 4.0 fWAR this season and has been worth every bit of his extension, but it’s been a constant battle as to whether the knee will hold up. He’s had it drained routinely throughout the year, and there have been fears of further damage due to the number of injections. Ultimately a hip injury landed him on the injured list and may end his season. Even with as good as he’s been, it’s hard not to think “what if” given a clean bill of health. There’s no denying the amount of strength this man has to play through what he did in 2022. Royce Lewis goes down The Minnesota Twins found themselves in a bind when record-setting free agent Carlos Correa was hit by a pitch. Despite having missed all of 2021 due to a torn ACL, Royce Lewis established himself immediately on the farm this season and forced his debut at the highest level. In an 11-game cameo, he posted an .889 OPS and looked solid at shortstop. Sent back when Correa returned, Lewis then sought to enter the lineup elsewhere. Playing centerfield for Byron Buxton a leap at the wall on May 29 sent him to the ground. After some waiting on the swelling, it was determined he’d torn his ACL for a second time. Lewis looked like the breakout rookie Twins Territory could get behind. His debut had been heavily anticipated for some time, and then it all came crashing down in a matter of weeks. He’s on the road to recovery, but it’s not likely that he’ll be ready for Opening Day 2023. Minnesota will get their star prospect back, but waiting will be involved. Alex Kirilloff undergoes season-ending surgery, again On August 9 it was announced that Alex Kirilloff would again go under the knife in an attempt to fix his nagging wrist issues. After surgery last year shut him down, a more extensive procedure was required this time around. Kirilloff had looked like a shell of what expectations are, and aside from a brief hot stretch at Triple-A, he never found his power this year. After thinking things were trending in a better direction following the first surgery, Kirilloff revealed that his wrist had never fully recovered. He shut things down in the offseason, and was clearly bothered at the plate for Minnesota. After having to break and shorten his wrist, the hope would be that Kirilloff’s healing process goes smoothly and he can tap back into the player he was prior to the injury. Baserunning and Clutch Situations Without pointing to a specific circumstance, the Twins have been horrid once reaching base this year. Fangraphs keeps track of baserunning via the BsR metric, and only the Washington Nationals rank lower across the league than Minnesota this season. While aggressiveness is desirable, being thrown out by a longshot or running into outs has been something far too regular this season. There's also the ineptitude that Minnesota has displayed when hitting with runners in scoring position. Despite a lineup that should've been expected to score with regularity this season, the Twins have been shut out in nearly 10% of their games and routinely have taken poor at bats with runners in scoring position. What other lowlights come to mind for you this season? View full article
  9. Rocco Baldelli has done everything he can to hold this Twins team together. With the injured list total mounting, and lackluster output coming on the field, it’s been a perfect storm of negative outcomes this season. Unfortunately the bad omens came early on this year, and the hits really didn’t stop. Emilio Pagan takes his first loss On April 12 the Minnesota Twins faced the Los Angeles Dodgers at Target Field. It was an absolutely dominant series from the NL West champs, one in which Clayton Kershaw nearly threw a no-hitter. The front office flipped closers right before Opening Day, and Emilio Pagan was making his second appearance. He gave up a single hit and walk while being credited with a loss. The Dodgers rallied for six runs in the 8th inning and the game went up in smoke. In and of itself, that loss wasn’t entirely damning. It was foreshadowing though, and Pagan has all but sunk the Twins season. He’s racked up six blown saves and is also responsible for six losses. He’s routinely coughed up games against the Guardians, Minnesota’s toughest competition, and all season it’s been a belief in stuff that hasn’t provided any positive results. Byron Buxton jams his knee On April 15 playing against the Boston Red Sox, Byron Buxton slid awkwardly and jammed his knee into the ground. It looked awful and he reacted as such. Being lifted from the game, but walking off the field under his own power, Minnesota’s newly extended $100 million man seemed destined for the injured list. Instead, Buxton was back less than a week later and playing through general knee soreness. Sure, Byron has compiled 4.0 fWAR this season and has been worth every bit of his extension, but it’s been a constant battle as to whether the knee will hold up. He’s had it drained routinely throughout the year, and there have been fears of further damage due to the number of injections. Ultimately a hip injury landed him on the injured list and may end his season. Even with as good as he’s been, it’s hard not to think “what if” given a clean bill of health. There’s no denying the amount of strength this man has to play through what he did in 2022. Royce Lewis goes down The Minnesota Twins found themselves in a bind when record-setting free agent Carlos Correa was hit by a pitch. Despite having missed all of 2021 due to a torn ACL, Royce Lewis established himself immediately on the farm this season and forced his debut at the highest level. In an 11-game cameo, he posted an .889 OPS and looked solid at shortstop. Sent back when Correa returned, Lewis then sought to enter the lineup elsewhere. Playing centerfield for Byron Buxton a leap at the wall on May 29 sent him to the ground. After some waiting on the swelling, it was determined he’d torn his ACL for a second time. Lewis looked like the breakout rookie Twins Territory could get behind. His debut had been heavily anticipated for some time, and then it all came crashing down in a matter of weeks. He’s on the road to recovery, but it’s not likely that he’ll be ready for Opening Day 2023. Minnesota will get their star prospect back, but waiting will be involved. Alex Kirilloff undergoes season-ending surgery, again On August 9 it was announced that Alex Kirilloff would again go under the knife in an attempt to fix his nagging wrist issues. After surgery last year shut him down, a more extensive procedure was required this time around. Kirilloff had looked like a shell of what expectations are, and aside from a brief hot stretch at Triple-A, he never found his power this year. After thinking things were trending in a better direction following the first surgery, Kirilloff revealed that his wrist had never fully recovered. He shut things down in the offseason, and was clearly bothered at the plate for Minnesota. After having to break and shorten his wrist, the hope would be that Kirilloff’s healing process goes smoothly and he can tap back into the player he was prior to the injury. Baserunning and Clutch Situations Without pointing to a specific circumstance, the Twins have been horrid once reaching base this year. Fangraphs keeps track of baserunning via the BsR metric, and only the Washington Nationals rank lower across the league than Minnesota this season. While aggressiveness is desirable, being thrown out by a longshot or running into outs has been something far too regular this season. There's also the ineptitude that Minnesota has displayed when hitting with runners in scoring position. Despite a lineup that should've been expected to score with regularity this season, the Twins have been shut out in nearly 10% of their games and routinely have taken poor at bats with runners in scoring position. What other lowlights come to mind for you this season?
  10. 2021 and 2022 held a lot of similarities for Trevor Larnach. In both cases, he burst onto the scene showing a glimpse of the lineup-changing hitter he’s capable of being. Unfortunately in both cases he tailed off in his production only for an injury to eventually come out as the main cause. So what do we think of Larnach moving forward? In 2021 Larnach began his season with a .845 OPS in May before the league adjusted. He posted a .704 mark in June and a brutal .518 in July. He would finish the season in St. Paul eventually being shut down with a hand issue, an injury that turned out to be nagging him for longer than Twins fans had known about. In 2022 Larnach looked even more encouraging. In March and April, Larnach posted a modest .703 OPS, actually above average for the offensive environment at the time. Then in May he posted an absurd 1.077 OPS. In addition to his hitting, his brief time in the majors was enough for teams to stop running on him in the outfield, as his throwing arm became a weapon against runners trying to get an extra base. Once again, however, he faded off in a huge way, posting an OPS of .429 in June before getting shut down at the end of the month for a core muscle injury he had been dealing with for the entire month. His timeline was 6-8 weeks putting him at a mid to late August return. At the time of this writing in mid-September, however, Larnach is finally making his first rehab appearance in the minors. With the calendar dwindling, it's likely at this point that Larnach’s 2022 season has come to an end, but he finishes with a modest .231/.306/.406 batting line which was heavily weighed down by a brutal final month. His 1.1 Wins Above Replacement in just 51 games played alludes to the possibility of an everyday regular in the lineup moving forward. But can we trust Larnach to fill such a role? The first concern at this point has to be health. Larnach has failed to reach 100 games played in each of the last two seasons due to injury. The hand contusion in 2021 may have been a fluke, but 2022's core muscle injury that cost him half the season is more of a concern. Larnach relies on such muscles for every swing he takes, every route to a fly ball he runs, and every rocket he throws into a base. The delay on his return alludes to the Twins making sure he’s at as little risk of aggravating this injury as possible. Headed into 2023 we have to hope it pays off. The second concern is whether Larnach can consistently channel his talent into on-field production. While injury has hampered his numbers to an extent these last two years, it’s easy to be concerned about him long-term given his swing-and-miss tendencies. Easily the biggest knock on his offensive profile, his incredible power and fantastic eye at the plate can easily be outweighed if he fails to make contact with pitches in the strike zone as we’ve seen at times in his young career. It would be nice if Larnach was more of a known commodity after two years of MLB exposure, especially given the murky futures of fellow top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. Of the three, Larnach appears to be the most stable however due not only to the flashes of offensive and defensive value, but because of the nature of the injuries that have ended each of their seasons. Headed into 2023 it’s hard to be 100% confident in Larnach, but there has to be some hope that he can be the Opening Day left fielder and hold onto the job for the next 4-5 years. He’s shown a tremendous ceiling but he doesn’t have to reach it to be a valuable player. Max Kepler has spent the last three years providing league average offense at best and has still added value because of his defense. Larnach’s 2022 should provide hope that he can at the very least do the same while providing a much more balanced offensive profile aside from the strikeouts. Certainly, we have to be disappointed with Larnach’s 2022, but like most disappointing seasons, there are some redeeming qualities. Headed into 2023 it’s hard to argue against handing Larnach the keys to a starting job and seeing if it’s finally the year that it comes together. The Twins don’t have any immediate alternative options and it’s safe to say that if they want to prioritize replacing any outfielder, it should be the aforementioned Max Kepler. Larnach should be given another chance to make himself a piece of the Twins future. Do you agree?
  11. It was a vastly different experience going to that little ballpark compared to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, but watching unknown minor leaguers play on those fields always filled my mind with delusions of grandeur to be like them one day—a professional baseball player chasing their dream to become a Major Leaguer. That is the main reason I do a little bit different of a list heading into a new season than all those “Top Prospects” lists you see here at Twins Daily, on MLB.com, or at other outlets like FanGraphs and Baseball America. There are so many of them these days I don’t think this amateur scout can tell you anything you haven’t already heard. Instead, I want to recognize all those guys who have worked hard to get where they are, whether they’re a top prospect or not, and whom you might see make their MLB debut at Target Field during the upcoming season—those ready to make their childhood dreams like mine come true. Across all of Major League Baseball during the 2021 season, 265 players made their Major League debut, with eight members of the Minnesota Twins organization contributing to that number. They included pitchers Charlie Barnes, Griffin Jax, Jovani Moran, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan, as well as position players Gilberto Celestino, Nick Gordon, Trevor Larnach, and Ben Rortvedt. All four of those hitters and pitchers Jax and Ober were profiled in this same column before the start of the 2021 season, and you’ll see some of the same names in this list below for the 2022 calendar year that didn’t quite make the jump. So, who are the prospects that could make their Major League debut and become the next Minnesota Twins during the 2022 season? ON THE 40-MAN ROSTER: The Twins enter the 2022 season with a 40-man MLB roster that does not have much room for position players yet to make their MLB debut. That list is just two players, but any fan should be excited about the names that are included in this section. There is, however, much more room for pitchers in both the starting rotation and the bullpen, and the top end talent is almost all at the top of their system to start the 2022 season. Royce Lewis (22 years old on opening day), IF/OF – Twins Daily’s #2 Prospect (Lewis made his MLB debut on 5/6, playing SS against the Oakland Athletics and batting 7th. He finished 1-for-4, picking up a single in the 8th inning of a 2-1 win) It’s hard to gauge where Royce Lewis is at in his development, given he’s missed two entire years’ worth of time due to Covid and tearing his ACL. But when we last saw him, he was crushing in the Arizona Fall League to the point he took home the league’s MVP award. He has continued to work on his swing while off the field, and I expect big things during the 2022 season when he finds his footing. The biggest question continues to be what position he will play when he reaches the majors. I have been critical of his shortstop play in the past, but there is no doubt he can be an elite defender in the outfield. He excelled at third base in the AFL as well if that does not work out. That is to say, if he’s hitting well and anyone in the outfield or middle infield on the Major League roster goes out for an extended period, it would not surprise me at all if Lewis is the name that gets called to fill in if he is hitting. Plus, he looked good at short for the Saints on Tuesday if you were wondering: Jordan Balazovic (23), RHP – TD’s #4 Prospect Balazovic is ticketed for the starting rotation with the St. Paul Saints in 2022, though he will start the season on the Injured List with a left knee strain. While he does not necessarily get the accolades around his pure “stuff” that some of the other guys on this list do, he has been one to get better results as he’s climbed the ladder. That can be attributed some to having better command, but he has also shown steady improvement with his offerings year over year, showcased by his fastball averaging around 96 MPH with Wichita last season. One thing going against him is innings, as his 97 in 2021 were a career high after missing the first two months with a back injury. There is little doubt when it comes to Balazovic that he will break through as a starting pitcher and stay there when he reaches the majors, compared to others further down this list. Jose Miranda (23), 3B – TD’s #3 Prospect (Miranda made his MLB debut on 5/2, playing third base and batting sixth against the Baltimore Orioles. He was 0-for-4 in a 2-1 Twins win) The thing with Miranda was never about talent, as the Twins had always seen a good bat in the infielder from Puerto Rico. However, before the 2021 season that bat had never quite lived up to expectations, producing just one season with an OPS above .750 and that was all the way back in rookie ball. But coaches continued to encourage him to alter his approach and wait for pitches he could do damage with, instead of swinging first and asking questions later. He took it to heart and ran with it for the 2021 season, enroute to one of the most impressive Minor League seasons you have ever seen from a Twins prospect. He led all of the minors in total bases, clubbing 32 doubles and 30 home runs in 127 games between Wichita and St. Paul. He finished with a .344/.401/.572 slash line and rocketed up prospect lists by the end of the year. He’s basically only a corner infielder and won’t win any Gold Glove awards with his defense, but if he’s even close to repeating those hitting numbers in 2022 at triple-A, his bat will force the issue sooner rather than later. Jhoan Duran (24), RHP – TD’s #7 Prospect (Duran made his MLB debut on opening day, pithing two innings against the Seattle Mariners. He allowed two hits, walked one, and struck out four in a scoreless outing) Whether they’ve been trying or not, since I’ve been a fan of the Twins they have always had a velocity problem. Duran is one of the pitchers who can continue to change that, whether that comes as a starter or a reliever. He has size, is capable of hitting 100+ MPH with his fastball, and throws a weird sinker he can play off that velocity to get swings and misses. Like many young hurlers, consistency is key and despite his stuff he has had trouble maintaining that start-to-start in the past. When he is on Duran is fully capable of dominating an outing, but has thrown only 16 innings in live games since the end of the 2019 season. If you were asking me before the start of Spring Training, I would have fully expected Duran to begin the season in the St. Paul Saints rotation. Instead, he has been absolutely dominant in his outings thus far and will come North with the Twins to start the year! Josh Winder (25), RHP – TD’s #9 Prospect (Winder made his MLB debut on 4/12, pitching one inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He allowed one run on two walks and struck out one. He made his first MLB start on 5/1, and picked up the win with 6 innings of shutout baseball. He allowed just two hits, walked one, and struck out seven against the Tampa Bay Rays) A casual fan may not recognize Winder’s name as much as others, but I recommend paying a lot more attention to him this season. I have seen evidence from the Twins over the past two years that they may think he is the best of the starting pitching bunch they have approaching the majors. Plus, as of writing this he is still on the bubble to come North to Minneapolis instead of St. Paul to start the 2022 season. While he only threw 72 innings last year, they were so good that he was the Twins representative to play in the Futures Game during All Star Weekend. He was promoted to triple-A immediately after that and made four starts for the Saints before being shut down for the rest of the season with a shoulder impingement. He was solid in his outings this spring, starting three games (meaning he was facing mostly MLB players) and allowing just two runs on seven hits and two walks, while striking out nine in eight total innings pitched. While there is no reason for the Twins to put him in the bullpen permanently, it would not shock me to see him as part of a 16-man pitching staff to start the season in a piggy-backing role. I can even envision him performing better than whomever he follows to the point he takes over when rosters get cut down from 28 players. Cole Sands (24), RHP – TD’s #13 Prospect (Sands made his MLB debut on 5/1, pitching two innings of relief against the Tampa Bay Rays. He allowed two earned runs on three hits, and struck out two.) Making his professional debut during the 2019 season, Sands was a standout performer and as a result pitched at three levels, reaching double-A for one start to end the year. He finished the season with a 2.68 ERA and struck out 108 hitters over 97 1/3 innings. He followed that up in 2021 by dominating with Wichita to the tune of a 2.46 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 80 1/3 innings. He missed some time due to an injury, but will be in the Saints rotation to start the 2022 season. His path reminds me a bit of one Bailey Ober and if the Twins can get more of that, they would be ecstatic. Since he is on the 40-man roster, you never know—if he is lined up to pitch on the right day, an injury on the Twins could spur a cab ride across the river to Target Field at any point. Drew Strotman (25), RHP The second half of the trade package the Twins received from the Tampa Bay Rays for Nelson Cruz, Strotman was thought by some evaluators to be the better prospect in the deal at the time. I do not think that is the case now, considering Joe Ryan is slated to pitch opening day for the Twins while Strotman fell off a bit after coming over, but it should give you an idea of how well the Twins did in that trade to get both of those guys. He throws in the mid-90s with a good cutter that catches the attention of scouts, but command has been a bit of an issue since having Tommy John Surgery back in 2018. He is being fully transitioned to the bullpen in 2022 and could turn into another high-octane option there as the season progresses. Ronny Henriquez (21), RHP – TD’s #16 Prospect (Henriquez made his MLB debut on September 19th against the Cleveland Guardians, pitching four innings of long-relief. He allowed three runs on four hits while walking two and striking out two.) With the flurry of trade activity that happened after the lockout ended, the Twins ended up with an intriguing right-hander from the Texas Rangers in sending off Mitch Garver. You will hear a lot about his size or lack thereof, but there is a lightning arm attached to his right shoulder that hits the mid-90s with ease. He has consistently piled up strikeouts and limited baserunners, but the long ball has been a bugaboo as he gave up nearly two per nine innings pitched in double-A last season. He has primarily started games in his pro career thus far and should continue to do so with the Twins, but his profile sounds a lot like a future reliever when it is all said and done. Chris Vallimont (25), RHP The moniker of the “Vallimonster” is apt for the right-hander, as he can perform quite the Jekyll and Hyde routine whenever he is on the mound. He paired a 13.0/9IP strikeout rate with a 5.8/9IP walk rate during the 2021 season and if you go game to game, you will see that up and down nature in his stat lines as well. A switch to the bullpen to maximize his pure stuff in shorter stints is something to watch for during the season if that pattern continues. TOP PROSPECTS: Consider this entry more of a “not-yet-on-the-40-man-roster” section heading into this season since a lot of the top prospects have already appeared above, but what remains below still holds the theme that these guys are close to Major League ready. All three of them are on the double-A roster of the Wichita Wind Surge to start the year, with a few of them sure to move up quickly when the 40-man depth above is called upon by the Twins. Austin Martin (23), IF/OF – TD’s #1 Prospect The top prospect on our board, it is slightly odd that Martin returns to double-A to start the season after spending all of the 2021 season there, but he does have some things to work on. Those being his defense at shortstop (or elsewhere), and tapping into some power that may have been hindered by a wrist injury throughout last year. That said, he posted a .414 on-base percentage in 93 games that led all of double-A and you would be hard-pressed to find a more prototypical leadoff hitter anywhere in the minors. As soon as a spot opens up in St. Paul I expect Martin to be promoted, but the depth the Twins have when it comes to position players pushes a debut timeline out to later in the summer. He is the type of talent who can force that issue sooner rather than later, however. Simeon Woods Richardson (21), RHP – TD’s #8 Prospect Plenty of people seem to be down on SWR going into the 2022 season, but I am not one of them. You cannot blame him for the 2020 season being canceled or for competing in the Olympics (though he didn’t pitch at all) in the middle of the 2021 campaign. There was absolutely some rust to shake off by the time he put on a Wind Surge uniform, but he did flash what makes him highly regarded as well: A key point to consider with him in comparison to every other player on this list is his age. Even after missing a full season, he was only 20 years old and pitching in double-A at the beginning of last year. Especially for the Twins, this is a rare occurrence. Jose Berrios, for example, had turned 21 a couple of months before he reached double-A and was the quickest moving pitcher the Twins had produced in a long time. If he can reign back in his control, Berrios is also a great comp for the type of ceiling we are talking about for Woods Richardson, who has dwarfed any strikeout rates the former Twins pitcher ever produced in the minors. Matt Canterino (23), RHP – TD’s #6 Prospect Canterino finds himself in double-A to start the 2022 season despite pitching only 23 total innings last year with Cedar Rapids. That was due to elbow troubles, which is a legitimate concern moving forward given his history coming out of Rice University and herky-jerky mechanics, but you cannot deny the numbers. He struck out over half the hitters he faced while walking only four in his time on the mound, resulting in a 0.78 ERA and 0.61 WHIP. His stuff is electric, with a fastball that can reach the high 90’s and a slider and changeup that are both legitimate swing-and-miss offerings as well. Due to those health concerns, there are many evaluators who see the bullpen in his future, but if you are looking for a pitcher that can make some serious noise during the 2022 campaign, Canterino is your guy. MINOR LEAGUE DEPTH: While these players may not necessarily be top prospects, they are at or near the top of the system and have performed well to get themselves there. It could be a situation where a pitcher is lined up to pitch on the right day the Twins need a spot-start across the river at Target Field, or an injury leads to needing a specific position covered and there is no other ready replacement available. Maybe something new has clicked and they have improved their stock from internal evaluators. No matter how it happens, players like these are always needed at some point during the MLB season. Ryan Mason (26), RHP Mason has been a standout performer in the bullpens of Twins affiliates since being taken in the 13th round of the 2016 draft. Missing the 2020 season hurt guys like him more than most, but he came back in 2021 to post stellar numbers and finished the final two months of the season in St. Paul. While there, he posted a career-high strikeout rate of 12.1/9IP, and guys like him are always among my favorites to root for. Yennier Cano (27), RHP (Even though he didn't throw a pitch as the game was suspended, Yennier Cano was credited with his MLB debut on 5/11 against the Houston Astros. When he did take the mound the next day, he delivered two perfect innings before running into some trouble in his third. In total, he allowed three runs on three hits, and struck out two.) A sneaky international signing all the way back in 2019, Cano finally got to showcase his talents for a full season during the 2021 campaign, spending the bulk of it in St. Paul. He boasts a mid-90s fastball and deep repertoire, as well as an intimidating mound presence that reminds me a lot of Aroldis Chapman (both are around 6’4” and 230 lbs). He will need to reign in the walks that spiked once he reached triple-A, but certainly looks the part of a bullpen horse. Mark Contreras (27), OF (Contreras made his MLB debut on 5/12, when the suspended game from the day before resumed he took over for Byron Buxton, playing left field. He finished 0-for-2, but scored a run and drove in one with a sac fly in the 11-3 loss to the Houston Astros.) Contreras made his mark in the Twins organization with his defense, taking home a MiLB Gold Glove award after the 2019 season, but something clicked for him in the batter’s box in 2021. Spending the bulk of the year with St. Paul, the lefty nearly matched his career home run total to that point (23) with 20 on the year, 18 of them coming in his 95 games at triple-A. I would not expect Contreras to get the call as a long-term starter in the majors, but you can do a lot worse with a fourth outfielder type as he can play all the outfield positions well, including center in a pinch. Jermaine Palacios (25), IF (Palacios made his MLB debut on 5/31, playing SS in both games of a doubleheader. He picked up his first run scored, and hit, by finishing the day 1-for6 with a BB) Palacios is a bit buried on an organizational depth chart with the names Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis, and Austin Martin in the fold, but what he has above the other two prospects is that he is definitely a shortstop. That fact plays against him a little for the 2022 season as those two prospects above him need the work, but he is in triple-A where he will be moved around the infield depending on the day. He also showed some pop with 19 home runs for Wichita last year, and was also spectacular in the Venezuelan Winter League during the offseason, posting a .987 OPS in 42 games. DARK HORSES: There always seems to be a player or two who comes out of nowhere to make a surprise debut during the season. They might be a known name but are not that far up the ladder at the season’s outset, returning from an injury so they have been forgotten some, or have a unique skill set or background that is intriguing and could pay big dividends if something else falls into place. These are my shots in the dark at guys that could be in 2022. Jordan Gore (27), RHP The former shortstop begins the season as a high-leverage option out of the St. Paul Saints bullpen. He split time between Cedar Rapids and Wichita during the 2021 season, picking up seven saves and striking out 11.7/9IP with a WHIP below 1.00. Plus, he has great hair. Louie Varland (24), RHP – TD’s #14 Prospect (Varland made his MLB debut on 9/7 against the New York Yankees on the road. He was fantastic, going 5 1/3 innings, striking out Aaron Judge for his first career strikeout. He allowed two runs on three hits, walked one, and struck out seven) First of all, he is #OneOfUs, growing up in Maplewood and being drafted out of Concordia University in St. Paul in the 15th round of the 2019 draft. Second of all, he is the reigning Twins and Twins Daily’s, Minor League Pitcher of the Year. That is because he struck out 142 hitters in 103 innings pitched last season split between Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids. He is buried on a starting pitching depth chart at this point, but if he continues that type of dominance in double-A and eventually triple-A this season, there will be a spot for him at some point. Edouard Julien (22), OF – TD’s #19 Prospect I have long been a fan of the type of player Julien was during the 2021 season, where he led all of the minors in walks (110 in 112 games) and had an on-base percentage flirting with .500 for a large chunk of the season. He also tapped into some power upon being promoted to Cedar Rapids, launching 15 homers in 65 games after getting out of the Florida State League. He starts the 2022 season with Wichita, and he and Austin Martin should prove extremely annoying to double-A pitching for much of the summer. So, there you have it, my picks for some of the minor league players I think could be called up to the majors and put on a Minnesota Twins uniform for the first time during the coming season. When do you think any of them will show up at Target Field? Who are you looking forward to the most? And who are some of the prospects you think I have missed that could make that jump? Let’s play ball!
  12. As we pick up the pieces on this 2022 Twins season, which looked so promising for so long, there will be plenty of hindsight analysis, parsing of blame. But it's all overshadowed by the ugly elephant in the room: a catastrophic, unrelenting onslaught of injuries. The reality is that, while this doesn't absolve the coaching staff or front office of any culpability, there was no preparing for this. No team could have survived the almost incomprehensible level of soul-crushing attrition the Twins faced this year. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker, USA Today Sports The purpose of this article is try and lay out, in no uncertain terms, the insurmountable magnitude of injuries and medical odysseys to which this year's Twins roster has been subjected. There are worthwhile conversations to be had about the way this team is managing players physically, evaluating new acquisitions, and handling rehab plans. But let's take a step back. When you acknowledge that, to a large degree, injury rates and recoveries are driven by luck and uncontrollable forces, I don't see much of a case for holding the manager or even the front office primarily accountable for what's gone down this season. There's no planning for, or adapting, to the way injuries have impacted this roster. There's no managing a bunch of backups and fourth-string options to sustained contention. I recognize this is very unsatisfying for those who demand accountability and want to see heads roll in the wake of such a disappointing turn of events. But when you remove emotion and try to see the situation objectively, I'm not sure how much more you could expect from the execs and decision makers dealt an unwinnable hand. Could they have done certain things better? Of course. Was it going to turn the unstoppable tide that has plunged this ship asunder? No. This side-by-side comparison of the injured lists for Cleveland and Minnesota, here in the heart of the stretch run, kind of says it all. Sixteen Twins players on IL, including several vital cornerstones, compared to three Guardians. How do you realistically overcome that? Let's review all these injuries that have torpedoed a promising season, and the context behind them. I've tried to order them from most devastating to least. Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. When people talk about the 2022 season and what's gone wrong, I feel like this calamity gets glossed over way too much. To me, it is the '1A' headline for all the team's unmet potential. This horrible twist of fate is what I would categorize as unthinkably disastrous. Lewis and Kirilloff are two of the most important assets for this franchise. (I ranked them #3 and #4 during the offseason, behind Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco – also both currently on IL.) They are at the ages and junctures of development where you'd expect them to start making a real impact the major-league level, and both showed that ability in brief flashes this year. However, both of their seasons were ended in premature fashion. And in BOTH cases, major surgery was required to address the SAME injury that knocked them out for the previous season. (Did I mention this is essentially the third straight lost season for both?) Kirilloff's wrist surgery from last year didn't take, so now he's undergone a more invasive, last-ditch operation to try and alleviate the debilitating issue. Lewis, during his first game back in what appeared to be a permanent call-up, tore the very same ACL he had reconstructive surgery on last year. You can't make this stuff up. And what's most crushing about it all is that both of these absolutely critical players will inevitably be shrouded in doubt going forward. Can Lewis rebound from a second straight surgery on the same knee, especially when his game is founded on agility and foot speed? Will this somewhat experimental surgery for Kirilloff correct a problem that's been plaguing him for years now, sapping his most elite skill? Realistically, it's hard to feel much assurance on either front, and for that reason it's hard to feel optimistic about the Twins' immediate future. It really can't be overstated how disruptive these unforeseeable developments are for a front office trying to build a championship. Tyler Mahle and Chris Paddack. We all understand that Mahle and Paddack came with known injury risk to varying degrees. At the same time, so do a lot of trades. You've got to believe a club carefully reviews medicals and gains a level of comfort before pulling the trigger on significant deals like these ones. Yeah, it's easy to scream "incompetence" in hindsight. Too easy. There are a lot of top-of-field experts involved in these decisions. Maybe, taking each player on his own, it shouldn't be all that surprising that Mahle or Paddack succumbed to (likely) season-ending arm injuries. But for both to do so? And not only that, but for it happen SO quickly in both cases? Paddack made it to his fifth start before his partially torn UCL gave way, requiring elbow surgery. Mahle lasted only three before his velocity nosedived and a mysterious shoulder injury threatened to end his campaign. A combination of worst-case injury scenarios. Of course. And it really hurts, because the talent evaluation in both cases was sound. I genuinely believe that if healthy these would be the Twins' two best starters. Alas, much like Lewis and Kirilloff, their uncertain futures complicate the front office's planning going forward. Paddack will be coming back from a second Tommy John surgery. Who knows what's going on with Mahle but it seems impossible we'll go into the offseason feeling confident about his shoulder, with one year of team control left. Byron Buxton. Look, we know injuries for Buxton have to be expected and accounted for. They're baked into his legacy, and his new contract. Still, this year the gravity of his durability issues came into sharper focus than ever, primarily because it constitutes a "healthy" season for Buxton. He's already made the second-most plate appearances of his career. He avoided the injured list until August. He still might get to 100 games! And yet, that old injury phantom has conspicuously followed Buxton all year, ever since he came up slamming his hand into the dirt at Fenway one week in. Despite his mightiest efforts, he couldn't outrun his eternal tormentor, and now this season is wrapping up like so many before it: Buxton on the sidelines, watching his team fall short. I guess the point of this blurb is not so much about the micro misfortune of injuries sabotaging another year for Buxton, but more an observation about his appropriateness as face of the franchise: The Twins to lost their way into drafting one of the most talented, electric, special players in modern baseball history who also happens to be the (?) single-most injury prone at that level. Ryan Jeffers and Trevor Larnach. I group these two together because while neither injury was totally unforeseeable – catchers get hurt a lot by nature, and Larnach was also sidelined for much of last year – they definitely qualify as bad luck, and both absences led to huge drop-offs in terms of backup plans. Jeffers was having a reasonably solid season before suffering a thumb fracture in mid-July, which may cost him his entire second half. Larnach developed a sports hernia requiring surgery in mid-June, and still hasn't made it back yet. In both cases, the path to returning has arduously dragged well beyond original estimates, and continues to do so – another unfortunate commonality. With Jeffers sidelined, the Twins were left at catcher with the husk of Gary Sánchez and trade acquisition Sandy León, who'd been toiling in the minors for Cleveland. It's been ugly, much like the outfield in the absence of Larnach, Kirilloff and Buxton. Bailey Ober and Josh Winder. Winder is no longer on the injured list, but I view him much as the same as Ober: a homegrown talent, 25 years old and coming off a great season, clearly a core part of the Twins pitching plans. Granted, they both had their own warning labels coming into this season, but no clear red flags. As it turns out, both will end up maxing out around 50 innings pitched in the majors – big setback seasons for developing pitchers who will now be challenged to rebuild their workloads once again. In each case, the injury seems not well understood. Ober went down with a groin injury first framed as minor that never seemed to heal. Winder's had recurring bouts with an impinged, but structurally sound, shoulder dating back to last year. On their own, these are losses you could withstand, which is why they're relatively low on this list. But combined with all of the above? Getting almost nothing from Ober, or Winder, or Paddack, or their marquee deadline acquisition Mahle? How do you cobble together a decent rotation through all of that? The only Twins starting pitchers that have truly managed to stay healthy are the guys they signed cheaply to fill the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Jorgé Alcala and Matt Canterino. These two are lumped as high-upside relievers who could have had transformative impacts on the Twins bullpen, but instead fell victim to essentially worst-case scenarios with their elbows. Alcala missed all of this season; Canterino never made it to the majors and will likely miss all of the next one. Maybe these blows would've been easier to sustain if some of the relief contingency plans held up. However... Danny Coulombe, Cody Stashak, and Jhon Romero. None of these three were projected to be pivotal late-inning weapons, but they were all viewed as important parts of the depth mix. Coulombe and Romero were on the Opening Day roster, and Stashak a late cut. All suffered season-ending injuries early on. Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak. I have these two at the bottom because, unlike everyone above, no one realistically expected much out of them this year. But it would have been nice to get something, *anything* from either. Both have been derailed so much for both that it's easy to forget that, coming out of the 2020 season, we were envisioning each as key long-term pieces for the pitching staff. You can look back now and say, "Well the front office shouldn't have been planning around these guys." Or they shouldn't have traded for Paddack or Mahle and the associated risk. Or they shouldn't have committed to Buxton as a centerpiece, or they should have better medical personnel and training philosophies, and so on. There may be truth to these things. But you bet on players you like, and you accept a certain amount of risk. Otherwise, you end up where the previous front office was for so long, treading water in a pointless middle ground. At the end of the day, injuries happen. They're never as predictable or controllable or correctable as people want to believe. Sadly, this scourge has been especially prevalent for the Twins and, more sadly, a lot of these health woes are going to carry forward in terms of their implications. I firmly believe the front office built a team capable of winning the division this year, and Rocco Baldelli was the guy to lead that group. For a while, it was all coming together as planned. Unfortunately, the current team barely resembles what was built. View full article
  13. The Minnesota Twins postseason hopes are dwindling, and for a team that splurged on the starting lineup this season, no one should be happy with how things went. What happens to the front office when the dust settles, and should they be back? Image courtesy of © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports First and foremost, yes Derek Falvey and Thad Levine should and will be back for the Twins in 2023. Now that that’s out of the way, there’s absolutely more to dissect here. Coming into 2022, Carlos Correa fell into the Minnesota Twins' lap. He needed a place to play, and the Twins had money to spend. $35.1 million allowed Correa to claim the richest contract by average annual value for an infielder across Major League Baseball history. He’s now produced to a point worth that valuation, and he’s going to get paid this offseason. The Twins structured his contract to allow for the length he sought last year, and the opt-outs allow him to capitalize on timing. Yes, he’s opting out. No, that doesn’t mean Minnesota can’t find a way to bring him back. Just because Correa was on this team didn’t mean that the front office was going all in. Jhoan Duran was not intended to make the Opening Day roster, and Jose Miranda started the year in St. Paul. Despite swinging a trade for Sonny Gray, Minnesota’s pitching depth included Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer rounding out the rotation. Joe Smith, an aging veteran, was the only bullpen addition. In short, there were some big moves made, but this was a rather conservative stance on talent acquisition. The goal from the beginning for this front office has been to create a sustainable winner. While they haven’t necessarily done that, they certainly haven’t failed either. Minnesota has been consistently competitive for the bulk of the past few years, and the farm system has begun to bear fruit. The Twins minor league rankings have dropped in large part due to the graduations. The development of names like Jose Miranda and Joe Ryan has been substantial, and being able to turn prospects like Cade Povich and Spencer Steer into big-league assets is a testament to growth. Falvey and Levine have consistently focused on the future though, and as they barrel towards it, now would be a misguided time to pull the plug. The core of Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano was not their group. That talent was a catalyst during the Bomba Squad season, and they remain intact now, but the pairing of what this front office has developed is where they want to go. Royce Lewis, Miranda, and a fast emergence of Brooks Lee, Matt Wallner, Trevor Larnach, and Alex Kirilloff are what Falvey and Levine see in the lineup. They’re hoping to have the likes of Simeon Woods Richardson, Jordan Balazovic, Ronny Henriquez, Blayne Enlow, and Cole Sands give them real starter innings. Everyone mentioned there is close, and they all should provide a higher ceiling than the depth thrust onto the Twins roster this season. Of course, no plans are guaranteed, so maybe this wave flops or fails to develop, but after years of Terry Ryan or his referred successors, there’s just very little reason for ownership to pull the plug now. View full article
  14. Before hopping into the list, I wanted to say a few things about this process: I started these writeups to kill time, but I’ve found them fun to write, and the community has responded with great support. My system lacks the professionalism of scouts, but I want to strive toward respectability; this edition is the one I’m most proud of. Previous write-ups lacked consistency, and I failed to consider crucial aspects of a player’s performance. Reminder: tier matters more than specific ranking. Royce Lewis (Prev: 1) I think Royce Lewis is a legitimate franchise-altering player with a greater potential influence than any other prospect. He still has questions—his ability at shortstop remains in flux—but no one can deny his aura, a baseball and personal sense innate in his spirit. He also hit like a machine before suffering his injury in 2022. Brooks Lee (Prev: 2) Brooks Lee could fall out of bed and hit. Since the last writeup, the 2022 1st round pick packed his bags for Cedar Rapids and—while still being younger than the average hitter at the level—has continued to hit. The switch-hitter is walking 9.3% of the time while striking out in just 17.3% of plate appearances. Is Lee a shortstop long-term? Probably not; his clumsiness at the position has already shown, but the bat is such a lock that his position barely matters. Lee could legitimately start at 3rd base for the Twins in 2023 if they desire to push him. ------------------------- Noah Miller (Prev: 3) Noah Miller’s numbers have declined since his white-hot start, but I remain high on the 19-year-old for two reasons: he’s a virtual lock to play shortstop, which is rare and vital, and his hitting peripherals remain solid. The extra-base authority isn’t there, but his elite 15.8% walk rate and stomachable 23.5% strikeout rate reflect a deep understanding of the strike zone. The power should come later, but even if it doesn’t, Miller could stick around for a while as a glove-first shortstop; that’s a piece many teams could use. Emmanuel Rodriguez (Prev: 4) You could flip-flop Emmanuel Rodriguez and Miller without hearing a peep from me; the young outfielder steamrolled low-A with an athletic force unique amongst Twins prospects at that level. Naturally, he suffered a brutal knee injury that curtailed his season, but I don’t anticipate a drop-off for Rodriguez when he returns in 2023. Expect big things from him once he’s healthy. Connor Prielipp (Prev: 5) Professional baseball has still not yet seen Connor Prielipp on the mound, but that barely affects his prospect stock; the college lefty possesses immense “boom” ability if he can return from Tommy John surgery. He owns arguably the best slider of anyone drafted in 2022; his fastball is a plus pitch as well. There have been whispers—a tweet here and there—about Prielipp pitching before the season ends, but nothing is official yet. He will be a name to remember for 2023. Simeon Woods Richardson (Prev: 7) This is where I admit a past error in these lists: I failed to consider Simeon Woods Richardson’s league while evaluating him. The Texas League tilts towards hitters, so while Woods Richardson’s numbers looked fine, they reflected an impressive ability to thrive in a competitive context built to suffocate him. His play with St. Paul since his promotion proves this; the young righty made two excellent starts, showcasing an elevated strikeout rate of 34.3%. Woods Richardson should impact the Twins soon, and he may become a rotation staple for years. Edouard Julien (Prev: 10) The lack of support for Edouard Julien as a genuine top prospect is baffling to me; the French-Canadian is a walking machine with pop; do people understand how rare that is? August was another dominant month, as he slashed .290/.426/.473 with three stolen bases (and three caught attempts). Sure, he’s a defender in name only, but the Twins could stomach merely passable defense at 2nd base to go with a tremendous bat—they’re already doing that with Jorge Polanco. I earnestly think Julien could be the starting 2nd baseman sooner than later—or at least he should be. ------------------------- Marco Raya (Prev: 9) Marco Raya only pitched twice in August—probably due to injury, but I couldn’t confirm this—yet, he remains a marvel through his raw stuff. “Electric” is the only word that can accurately describe him; his slider, curveball, and fastball possess desirable traits; whether he can put it all together is the big question. The Twins treated the youngster with kid gloves, so he will end 2022 with fewer innings than other, older prospects. Still, Raya remains a talented and intriguing arm. Matt Wallner (Prev: 11) I was low on Matt Wallner to start the season—even while he crushed the ball, his strikeouts always caused me to hesitate when considering his prospect status. What changed? Wallner has shaved points of his strikeout rate—it now sits at 26.9% in August, which I can live with. He’s still an on-base wizard and owns a bazooka out in right field; these tools add up to a volatile player, but one with more impact than I gave him credit for earlier in the season. If it all clicks, we’re looking at a consistent ~3-win player who could crack a few All-Star games. Louie Varland (Prev: 13) Like Woods Richardson, my failure to consider the context of Louie Varland’s league caused me to rank him far too low on these lists. Varland isn’t just a cute hometown kid story; the righty owns a deadly fastball that overpowers hitters and sets a strong foundation from which his other pitches can grow. Those secondary offerings remain iffy, but Joe Ryan has proved that a great fastball can lead to success early in one’s major league career while other pitches develop in the background. Varland has struck out 27.5% of hitters at AAA. Yasser Mercedes (Prev: 19) Of all the young players on this list, Yasser Mercedes possess the best chance of becoming a dynamic star; the 17-year-old—yes, he still needs an adult in the car while driving in the United States—lit the DSL on fire, stealing 30 bags while slashing .355/.420/.555. He played 41 games. If that’s a sign of things to come—and that’s a major “if” given his age—the Twins could have a future superstar. Misael Urbina (Prev: 23) Misael Urbina is growing into some power and looks like a much finer prospect because of it. In 2021, the athletic outfielder couldn’t find a double if someone pointed it out on a map, but he’s now slugging .506 with a slightly worse BB/K rate; I think both he and the Twins are ok with that. There’s still a lot of development in front of Urbina, but 2022 is an excellent step in the right direction. Austin Martin (Prev: 6) I’ve been downright mean to Austin Martin on these lists, and I think that needs a slight correction. He’s not a shortstop, and his lack of power still scares me, but you don’t see guys who walk about as often as they strike out every day, and he could carve out a niche as a super-utility guy in the mold of Nick Gordon. Such a role represents a step-down from his potential when coming out of Vanderbilt, but that type of player is still valuable for a major-league team. His drop on my list results from other players rising, not necessarily him falling. ------------------------- Brent Headrick (Prev: 15) Brent Headrick spent all of August at AA and posted impressive numbers; he struck out 36.8% of batters against just a 6.3% walk rate. The lefty is creeping up on 100 innings pitched in 2022, and I imagine the Twins will strongly consider protecting him from the rule 5 draft after the season. Jordan Balazovic (Prev: 8 ) Jordan Balazovic might be the hardest player to rank in the system; the righty crushed his competition in previous years, but AAA batters have taken him to town, and I have no clue what to make of it. August was another rough month for Balazovic, and I’m left wondering if his stuff fell off a cliff or if the team is forcing him to pitch through an obviously debilitating injury; batters have hit 16 homers against him in just 49 ⅔ innings. Cole Sands (Prev: 16) I have a soft spot for Cole Sands; the righty commands one of the finest sweeping breaking balls in the system, and his new split-change could aid him against left-handed batters. Unfortunately, a right elbow contusion halted his great run in the majors, but he’s set to start a rehab assignment soon. The timing of his injury could not have been worse as Sands had pitched seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts since re-joining the Twins in August. Ronny Henriquez (Prev: 17) On the surface, Ronny Henriquez’s 2022 season looks like a disaster; the righty owns a 5.79 ERA after all, but promising signs are hiding underneath the surface; he’s a 22-year-old with very little professional experience coming off a month where he punched out 28% of batters. I think the Twins will sit on him for a while, instead choosing to let Henriquez develop at AAA for most of 2023 before giving him the call. Noah Cardenas (Prev: 21) Much like his Noah brethren—the one with “Miller” as his surname—Noah Cardenas represents my favorite kind of position-playing prospect: a lock at a demanding defensive position with a chance to provide above-average value through their bat. Cardenas is smoking A ball as an old-for-the-level hitter—he’s walking more than he’s striking out—so the real challenge will begin once he sees more advanced pitching. For now, he’s a great piece to dream on. Jose Rodriguez (Prev: Unranked) As a 17-year-old, Jose Rodriguez bashed 13 homers in 55 games in the DSL. Yes, we should all be wary of hyping up literal teenagers, but that total led the league, and Rodriguez did it as a well-touted prospect who also batted .289 with a palatable strikeout rate of 23.7%. Like Mercedes, Rodriguez’s development will be a slow burn, but his initial impression has been excellent. David Festa (Prev: 12) David Festa has cooled significantly since his excellent start to the season, enough, in fact, that it raises questions about whether he was playing over his head. The college arm had a great ERA in August (1.15), but a dreadful FIP (5.27) thanks to a mediocre strikeout rate and an inflated walk rate (20.6% and 11.8%, respectively). I believe he can turn it around—he’s younger than the average A+ pitcher—but September will be crucial for Festa. Blayne Enlow (Prev: 14) August was a fine month for Blayne Enlow; he worked almost entirely in relief, striking out 20.5% of hitters against a high but still palatable 9.5% walk rate. The move to the pen raises some eyebrows—is this a long-term move or perhaps a play to shuffle him upwards towards the majors quickly? I believe in the latter, so Enlow remains a well-regarded prospect. Chris Williams (Prev: 20) Hiding behind the word “interesting” is a soft move, but I’m not sure any other word can more precisely describe what Chris Williams is. The 25-year-old popped out of his bed one day earlier in the season, started mashing, and hasn’t slowed down since. A promotion to AAA has only fueled his fire as he’s slashing .241/.368/.667 since joining the Saints and has hit seven homers in 17 games. ------------------------- Cody Laweryson (Prev: Unranked) There’s something irresistibly intriguing about Cody Laweryson; the righty doesn’t throw hard and has never impacted major prospect lists, but his equal parts graceful and aggressive delivery has befuddled AA hitters. Laweryson carried a 2.13 FIP in August, buoyed by a monstrous 31.9% K rate; he split time as a starter and a reliever. It’s low-hanging fruit, but one is reminded of Joe Ryan when Laweryson is at his best. Alex Isola (Prev: Unranked) 29th-round picks don’t usually stick around as Alex Isola has; the righty has more than held his own at AA and could find himself in promotion conversations soon. You don’t see catchers with a 12.3% walk rate and a sub-20% K rate too often. Yunior Severino (Prev: 25) Yunior Severino brewed as a prospect for years before annihilating A+ ball to start 2022; the Twins were so impressed that they promoted him to AA a few days after the start of August. The higher competition level has stifled Severino—the walks and strikeouts have each trended in directions hitters don’t like—but the sample is so small that I’m willing to overlook it for now. September will be an important month for Severino. Alerick Soularie (Prev: 24) Alerick Soularie was in the process of melting A+ ball pitchers in August before the Kernels suddenly stopped playing him halfway through the month. If he’s injured—and I don’t see another answer—then I hope it doesn’t steal too much playing time; Soularie is already an old-for-his-level hitter with serious strikeout problems; he needs at-bats. Tanner Schobel (Prev: Unranked) The Twins drafted Tanner Schobel in the 2nd round of the 2022 draft. He has all of 81 plate appearances, so judging him off his stats is unwise; he’ll need more time to marinate before his prospect picture becomes clearer. Cesar Lares (Prev: 22) Cesar Lares is a DSL statistical outlier to whom I attached myself and will refuse to ignore. He led the DSL in K% amongst pitchers with at least 40 innings (37.6%) and, I mean, that’s an impressive number! Lares just turned 19, so his early dominance is an encouraging sign; next season will be important for the lefty. Aaron Sabato (Prev: 26) I’ve been harsh on Sabato—perhaps unfairly; maybe justified—but I may need to change my tune; he has now twice bounced back from dreadful starts at a level to match expectations drawn from his 1st round pedigree. It’s been no different at Wichita; the righty’s slash line is unsightly, but he’s walked a hearty amount since his promotion (11.3%), and his BABIP is dirt-low. There’s a good chance he turns it around in September. Jair Camargo (Prev: Unranked) A number of players could have claimed this spot, but I chose Jair Camargo, the hitting machine. Camargo has slashed a lopsided .275/.320/.514 throughout a few levels of the minors in 2022, perhaps revealing legitimate power from the catching position. He’s still younger than the average AA hitter.
  15. First and foremost, yes Derek Falvey and Thad Levine should and will be back for the Twins in 2023. Now that that’s out of the way, there’s absolutely more to dissect here. Coming into 2022, Carlos Correa fell into the Minnesota Twins' lap. He needed a place to play, and the Twins had money to spend. $35.1 million allowed Correa to claim the richest contract by average annual value for an infielder across Major League Baseball history. He’s now produced to a point worth that valuation, and he’s going to get paid this offseason. The Twins structured his contract to allow for the length he sought last year, and the opt-outs allow him to capitalize on timing. Yes, he’s opting out. No, that doesn’t mean Minnesota can’t find a way to bring him back. Just because Correa was on this team didn’t mean that the front office was going all in. Jhoan Duran was not intended to make the Opening Day roster, and Jose Miranda started the year in St. Paul. Despite swinging a trade for Sonny Gray, Minnesota’s pitching depth included Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer rounding out the rotation. Joe Smith, an aging veteran, was the only bullpen addition. In short, there were some big moves made, but this was a rather conservative stance on talent acquisition. The goal from the beginning for this front office has been to create a sustainable winner. While they haven’t necessarily done that, they certainly haven’t failed either. Minnesota has been consistently competitive for the bulk of the past few years, and the farm system has begun to bear fruit. The Twins minor league rankings have dropped in large part due to the graduations. The development of names like Jose Miranda and Joe Ryan has been substantial, and being able to turn prospects like Cade Povich and Spencer Steer into big-league assets is a testament to growth. Falvey and Levine have consistently focused on the future though, and as they barrel towards it, now would be a misguided time to pull the plug. The core of Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano was not their group. That talent was a catalyst during the Bomba Squad season, and they remain intact now, but the pairing of what this front office has developed is where they want to go. Royce Lewis, Miranda, and a fast emergence of Brooks Lee, Matt Wallner, Trevor Larnach, and Alex Kirilloff are what Falvey and Levine see in the lineup. They’re hoping to have the likes of Simeon Woods Richardson, Jordan Balazovic, Ronny Henriquez, Blayne Enlow, and Cole Sands give them real starter innings. Everyone mentioned there is close, and they all should provide a higher ceiling than the depth thrust onto the Twins roster this season. Of course, no plans are guaranteed, so maybe this wave flops or fails to develop, but after years of Terry Ryan or his referred successors, there’s just very little reason for ownership to pull the plug now.
  16. The purpose of this article is try and lay out, in no uncertain terms, the insurmountable magnitude of injuries and medical odysseys to which this year's Twins roster has been subjected. There are worthwhile conversations to be had about the way this team is managing players physically, evaluating new acquisitions, and handling rehab plans. But let's take a step back. When you acknowledge that, to a large degree, injury rates and recoveries are driven by luck and uncontrollable forces, I don't see much of a case for holding the manager or even the front office primarily accountable for what's gone down this season. There's no planning for, or adapting, to the way injuries have impacted this roster. There's no managing a bunch of backups and fourth-string options to sustained contention. I recognize this is very unsatisfying for those who demand accountability and want to see heads roll in the wake of such a disappointing turn of events. But when you remove emotion and try to see the situation objectively, I'm not sure how much more you could expect from the execs and decision makers dealt an unwinnable hand. Could they have done certain things better? Of course. Was it going to turn the unstoppable tide that has plunged this ship asunder? No. This side-by-side comparison of the injured lists for Cleveland and Minnesota, here in the heart of the stretch run, kind of says it all. Sixteen Twins players on IL, including several vital cornerstones, compared to three Guardians. How do you realistically overcome that? Let's review all these injuries that have torpedoed a promising season, and the context behind them. I've tried to order them from most devastating to least. Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. When people talk about the 2022 season and what's gone wrong, I feel like this calamity gets glossed over way too much. To me, it is the '1A' headline for all the team's unmet potential. This horrible twist of fate is what I would categorize as unthinkably disastrous. Lewis and Kirilloff are two of the most important assets for this franchise. (I ranked them #3 and #4 during the offseason, behind Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco – also both currently on IL.) They are at the ages and junctures of development where you'd expect them to start making a real impact the major-league level, and both showed that ability in brief flashes this year. However, both of their seasons were ended in premature fashion. And in BOTH cases, major surgery was required to address the SAME injury that knocked them out for the previous season. (Did I mention this is essentially the third straight lost season for both?) Kirilloff's wrist surgery from last year didn't take, so now he's undergone a more invasive, last-ditch operation to try and alleviate the debilitating issue. Lewis, during his first game back in what appeared to be a permanent call-up, tore the very same ACL he had reconstructive surgery on last year. You can't make this stuff up. And what's most crushing about it all is that both of these absolutely critical players will inevitably be shrouded in doubt going forward. Can Lewis rebound from a second straight surgery on the same knee, especially when his game is founded on agility and foot speed? Will this somewhat experimental surgery for Kirilloff correct a problem that's been plaguing him for years now, sapping his most elite skill? Realistically, it's hard to feel much assurance on either front, and for that reason it's hard to feel optimistic about the Twins' immediate future. It really can't be overstated how disruptive these unforeseeable developments are for a front office trying to build a championship. Tyler Mahle and Chris Paddack. We all understand that Mahle and Paddack came with known injury risk to varying degrees. At the same time, so do a lot of trades. You've got to believe a club carefully reviews medicals and gains a level of comfort before pulling the trigger on significant deals like these ones. Yeah, it's easy to scream "incompetence" in hindsight. Too easy. There are a lot of top-of-field experts involved in these decisions. Maybe, taking each player on his own, it shouldn't be all that surprising that Mahle or Paddack succumbed to (likely) season-ending arm injuries. But for both to do so? And not only that, but for it happen SO quickly in both cases? Paddack made it to his fifth start before his partially torn UCL gave way, requiring elbow surgery. Mahle lasted only three before his velocity nosedived and a mysterious shoulder injury threatened to end his campaign. A combination of worst-case injury scenarios. Of course. And it really hurts, because the talent evaluation in both cases was sound. I genuinely believe that if healthy these would be the Twins' two best starters. Alas, much like Lewis and Kirilloff, their uncertain futures complicate the front office's planning going forward. Paddack will be coming back from a second Tommy John surgery. Who knows what's going on with Mahle but it seems impossible we'll go into the offseason feeling confident about his shoulder, with one year of team control left. Byron Buxton. Look, we know injuries for Buxton have to be expected and accounted for. They're baked into his legacy, and his new contract. Still, this year the gravity of his durability issues came into sharper focus than ever, primarily because it constitutes a "healthy" season for Buxton. He's already made the second-most plate appearances of his career. He avoided the injured list until August. He still might get to 100 games! And yet, that old injury phantom has conspicuously followed Buxton all year, ever since he came up slamming his hand into the dirt at Fenway one week in. Despite his mightiest efforts, he couldn't outrun his eternal tormentor, and now this season is wrapping up like so many before it: Buxton on the sidelines, watching his team fall short. I guess the point of this blurb is not so much about the micro misfortune of injuries sabotaging another year for Buxton, but more an observation about his appropriateness as face of the franchise: The Twins to lost their way into drafting one of the most talented, electric, special players in modern baseball history who also happens to be the (?) single-most injury prone at that level. Ryan Jeffers and Trevor Larnach. I group these two together because while neither injury was totally unforeseeable – catchers get hurt a lot by nature, and Larnach was also sidelined for much of last year – they definitely qualify as bad luck, and both absences led to huge drop-offs in terms of backup plans. Jeffers was having a reasonably solid season before suffering a thumb fracture in mid-July, which may cost him his entire second half. Larnach developed a sports hernia requiring surgery in mid-June, and still hasn't made it back yet. In both cases, the path to returning has arduously dragged well beyond original estimates, and continues to do so – another unfortunate commonality. With Jeffers sidelined, the Twins were left at catcher with the husk of Gary Sánchez and trade acquisition Sandy León, who'd been toiling in the minors for Cleveland. It's been ugly, much like the outfield in the absence of Larnach, Kirilloff and Buxton. Bailey Ober and Josh Winder. Winder is no longer on the injured list, but I view him much as the same as Ober: a homegrown talent, 25 years old and coming off a great season, clearly a core part of the Twins pitching plans. Granted, they both had their own warning labels coming into this season, but no clear red flags. As it turns out, both will end up maxing out around 50 innings pitched in the majors – big setback seasons for developing pitchers who will now be challenged to rebuild their workloads once again. In each case, the injury seems not well understood. Ober went down with a groin injury first framed as minor that never seemed to heal. Winder's had recurring bouts with an impinged, but structurally sound, shoulder dating back to last year. On their own, these are losses you could withstand, which is why they're relatively low on this list. But combined with all of the above? Getting almost nothing from Ober, or Winder, or Paddack, or their marquee deadline acquisition Mahle? How do you cobble together a decent rotation through all of that? The only Twins starting pitchers that have truly managed to stay healthy are the guys they signed cheaply to fill the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Jorgé Alcala and Matt Canterino. These two are lumped as high-upside relievers who could have had transformative impacts on the Twins bullpen, but instead fell victim to essentially worst-case scenarios with their elbows. Alcala missed all of this season; Canterino never made it to the majors and will likely miss all of the next one. Maybe these blows would've been easier to sustain if some of the relief contingency plans held up. However... Danny Coulombe, Cody Stashak, and Jhon Romero. None of these three were projected to be pivotal late-inning weapons, but they were all viewed as important parts of the depth mix. Coulombe and Romero were on the Opening Day roster, and Stashak a late cut. All suffered season-ending injuries early on. Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak. I have these two at the bottom because, unlike everyone above, no one realistically expected much out of them this year. But it would have been nice to get something, *anything* from either. Both have been derailed so much for both that it's easy to forget that, coming out of the 2020 season, we were envisioning each as key long-term pieces for the pitching staff. You can look back now and say, "Well the front office shouldn't have been planning around these guys." Or they shouldn't have traded for Paddack or Mahle and the associated risk. Or they shouldn't have committed to Buxton as a centerpiece, or they should have better medical personnel and training philosophies, and so on. There may be truth to these things. But you bet on players you like, and you accept a certain amount of risk. Otherwise, you end up where the previous front office was for so long, treading water in a pointless middle ground. At the end of the day, injuries happen. They're never as predictable or controllable or correctable as people want to believe. Sadly, this scourge has been especially prevalent for the Twins and, more sadly, a lot of these health woes are going to carry forward in terms of their implications. I firmly believe the front office built a team capable of winning the division this year, and Rocco Baldelli was the guy to lead that group. For a while, it was all coming together as planned. Unfortunately, the current team barely resembles what was built.
  17. Every single year we hear about the reality that every Major League Baseball club is dealing with injury. There’s absolutely no denying that notion, especially given the grind of a 162-game season. It is worth wondering, are the Minnesota Twins in a league of their own in 2022? Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports The American League Central Division has been nothing short of an abomination this season. The Cleveland Guardians have done little to assert themselves as favorites, despite having overtaken the lead late in the year. Tony La Russa’s Chicago White Sox may have the most talented roster, but it’s certainly been the most poorly managed thus far. Rocco Baldelli has been given an opportunity for his team to rebound from 2021, but they’ve struggled to break through. Looking at the state of the division it’s easy to suggest that any of the three clubs in contention to take it will be wiped off the map come Postseason action. Diving into the Twins specifically, however, it’s worth trying to understand why September returns seem so immeasurable. As of September 3rd, the Twins had been forced to use 24 different position players and had 33 separate pitchers on the mound. Despite operating just from a 40-man roster, the Twins had a total of 17 players on varying injured lists after putting deadline acquisition Tyler Mahle on it. To say every team goes through injury waters down a bit of what Minnesota has been dealing with. Early on this season the club’s most important player, Byron Buxton, seemingly suffered a season-ending knee injury. Sliding against the Boston Red Sox on Jackie Robinson Day, Buxton looked to have suffered something gruesome. Instead, he never hit the injured list and played into late August while routinely getting his knee drained. There were multiple instances where a shutdown seemed likely. Concerns as to whether an infection could develop were real. What level of pain tolerance even the best athlete could endure was a question. All of that was taking place despite Buxton posting a team-leading 4.0 fWAR. The front office dealt for Chris Paddack, and Emilio Pagan, right before Opening Day. The former made just five starts but the stuff was so good his 0.9 fWAR remains 6th among pitchers still into September. Carlos Correa, the superstar shortstop, missed time with a hand that appeared to be broken. A superstar prospect in Royce Lewis stepped up before suffering a second straight ACL tear. Again, it may be sugarcoating it to suggest that every team goes through injury. It’s probably fair to understand there’s varying degrees of maladies suffered throughout a season, but it certainly seems as though Minnesota has been bit harder than most. For a team looking to reverse course following a bad 2021 season, far more has to go right from a health perspective alone to push the envelope. The Twins front office never viewed this season as one in which they’d push all the chips in, and that was evident at the deadline when they doubled-down dealing almost exclusively for players under team control. There’s still hope the clubhouse can continue responding to the adversity they’ve been dealt but each new name to hit the shelf seems like another knockout punch. View full article
  18. The American League Central Division has been nothing short of an abomination this season. The Cleveland Guardians have done little to assert themselves as favorites, despite having overtaken the lead late in the year. Tony La Russa’s Chicago White Sox may have the most talented roster, but it’s certainly been the most poorly managed thus far. Rocco Baldelli has been given an opportunity for his team to rebound from 2021, but they’ve struggled to break through. Looking at the state of the division it’s easy to suggest that any of the three clubs in contention to take it will be wiped off the map come Postseason action. Diving into the Twins specifically, however, it’s worth trying to understand why September returns seem so immeasurable. As of September 3rd, the Twins had been forced to use 24 different position players and had 33 separate pitchers on the mound. Despite operating just from a 40-man roster, the Twins had a total of 17 players on varying injured lists after putting deadline acquisition Tyler Mahle on it. To say every team goes through injury waters down a bit of what Minnesota has been dealing with. Early on this season the club’s most important player, Byron Buxton, seemingly suffered a season-ending knee injury. Sliding against the Boston Red Sox on Jackie Robinson Day, Buxton looked to have suffered something gruesome. Instead, he never hit the injured list and played into late August while routinely getting his knee drained. There were multiple instances where a shutdown seemed likely. Concerns as to whether an infection could develop were real. What level of pain tolerance even the best athlete could endure was a question. All of that was taking place despite Buxton posting a team-leading 4.0 fWAR. The front office dealt for Chris Paddack, and Emilio Pagan, right before Opening Day. The former made just five starts but the stuff was so good his 0.9 fWAR remains 6th among pitchers still into September. Carlos Correa, the superstar shortstop, missed time with a hand that appeared to be broken. A superstar prospect in Royce Lewis stepped up before suffering a second straight ACL tear. Again, it may be sugarcoating it to suggest that every team goes through injury. It’s probably fair to understand there’s varying degrees of maladies suffered throughout a season, but it certainly seems as though Minnesota has been bit harder than most. For a team looking to reverse course following a bad 2021 season, far more has to go right from a health perspective alone to push the envelope. The Twins front office never viewed this season as one in which they’d push all the chips in, and that was evident at the deadline when they doubled-down dealing almost exclusively for players under team control. There’s still hope the clubhouse can continue responding to the adversity they’ve been dealt but each new name to hit the shelf seems like another knockout punch.
  19. The Minnesota Twins are all but expecting Carlos Correa to opt out, and that should be seen as a near certainty, but is the big payday really there? With another loaded free agent class, the answer isn’t as certain. An immediate note on Carlos Correa opting out should be that it does not mean his time with the Minnesota Twins is done. He’s going to opt out because it makes sense for him to do so from a longevity standpoint. Soon-to-be 28-years-old, Correa would be better off landing a long-term deal as opposed to playing next season at $35.1 million. If he kept this current contract, he’d hit the market again at 30-years-old, making the long-term expectation that much more contentious. This offseason Correa had Scott Boras angle for $35.1 million. That extra $100,000 landed Correa the highest paying deal for a Major League infielder by average annual value. It came in ahead of another Boras client in Anthony Rendon. To a certain extent, Correa has already earned a record deal. Now, what does he want to do from here? Looking at things as they stand currently, Correa would be no better than the 4th best option in terms of 2022 fWAR among 2023 free agents. Dansby Swanson (5.2) leads the position, with Trea Turner (4.7) just behind him and Xander Bogaerts (4.2) coming in third. Correa’s 2.2 fWAR checks in 13th among qualified shortstops. Age wise, Turner is a bit older at 29 while Swanson is less than a year separated from Minnesota’s shortstop. Bogaerts paces the group at nearly 30-years-old, which could provide an interesting case study for Correa should he surprisingly choose to play out the string on his deal now. Making just $20 million through 2024, Bogaerts is all but certain to opt out of his contract with the Boston Red Sox, and it seems there’s been little dialogue regarding an extension. I think you can make the case that Turner is a superior player to Correa, while Swanson’s emergence has been more recent. Bogaerts is probably ahead of the Puerto Rican as well, but again, has a bit of age constraints going against him. Then there’s the understanding that the market would need to shift substantially. Last year Correa was looking for that big $300 million deal. He never found it, and instead signed with the Twins. Sure, the Los Angeles Dodgers could be in play needing to replace Turner, but that’d be pretty awkward given the reality that he’s the fanbase's favorite player to boo. It’s tough to see the New York Yankees getting in after opting for Isiah Kiner-Falefa instead, and having Anthony Volpe as their top prospect near ready to go. With that, you’ve immediately taken out two of the top spenders. Oh, and Steve Cohen already has Francisco Lindor with the New York Mets. So, where does that leave Correa? If last winter was a cold shoulder, maybe this one is even moreso. There’s no denying he’s an elite talent, and he’s going to get paid, but maybe not to the extent he hopes. A five or six year deal may happen, but it will come at a substantially lesser average annual value. A six-year deal at $200 million isn’t much of a drop, still $33.3 million. I don’t know that $150 million gets it done, but over five years that’s still $30 million per season. The decision probably lands on what level of future security is desired, and how much the average annual value matters. Anything close to either of those scenarios would be a record spend for Minnesota, but given the current financial obligations, it’s a pool they could certainly play in. Not having to fight against the biggest markets, Correa opting-out could ultimately result in him choosing to return to a place he’s stated feeling comfortable. Noted as a homebody, maybe weight is placed on not moving again, and this is certainly a fanbase that would embrace him for the long term. Having a left side of the infield that includes Royce Lewis and Correa for something like the next handful of years would be quite the stabilizing force for a team looking to take another step forward. View full article
  20. An immediate note on Carlos Correa opting out should be that it does not mean his time with the Minnesota Twins is done. He’s going to opt out because it makes sense for him to do so from a longevity standpoint. Soon-to-be 28-years-old, Correa would be better off landing a long-term deal as opposed to playing next season at $35.1 million. If he kept this current contract, he’d hit the market again at 30-years-old, making the long-term expectation that much more contentious. This offseason Correa had Scott Boras angle for $35.1 million. That extra $100,000 landed Correa the highest paying deal for a Major League infielder by average annual value. It came in ahead of another Boras client in Anthony Rendon. To a certain extent, Correa has already earned a record deal. Now, what does he want to do from here? Looking at things as they stand currently, Correa would be no better than the 4th best option in terms of 2022 fWAR among 2023 free agents. Dansby Swanson (5.2) leads the position, with Trea Turner (4.7) just behind him and Xander Bogaerts (4.2) coming in third. Correa’s 2.2 fWAR checks in 13th among qualified shortstops. Age wise, Turner is a bit older at 29 while Swanson is less than a year separated from Minnesota’s shortstop. Bogaerts paces the group at nearly 30-years-old, which could provide an interesting case study for Correa should he surprisingly choose to play out the string on his deal now. Making just $20 million through 2024, Bogaerts is all but certain to opt out of his contract with the Boston Red Sox, and it seems there’s been little dialogue regarding an extension. I think you can make the case that Turner is a superior player to Correa, while Swanson’s emergence has been more recent. Bogaerts is probably ahead of the Puerto Rican as well, but again, has a bit of age constraints going against him. Then there’s the understanding that the market would need to shift substantially. Last year Correa was looking for that big $300 million deal. He never found it, and instead signed with the Twins. Sure, the Los Angeles Dodgers could be in play needing to replace Turner, but that’d be pretty awkward given the reality that he’s the fanbase's favorite player to boo. It’s tough to see the New York Yankees getting in after opting for Isiah Kiner-Falefa instead, and having Anthony Volpe as their top prospect near ready to go. With that, you’ve immediately taken out two of the top spenders. Oh, and Steve Cohen already has Francisco Lindor with the New York Mets. So, where does that leave Correa? If last winter was a cold shoulder, maybe this one is even moreso. There’s no denying he’s an elite talent, and he’s going to get paid, but maybe not to the extent he hopes. A five or six year deal may happen, but it will come at a substantially lesser average annual value. A six-year deal at $200 million isn’t much of a drop, still $33.3 million. I don’t know that $150 million gets it done, but over five years that’s still $30 million per season. The decision probably lands on what level of future security is desired, and how much the average annual value matters. Anything close to either of those scenarios would be a record spend for Minnesota, but given the current financial obligations, it’s a pool they could certainly play in. Not having to fight against the biggest markets, Correa opting-out could ultimately result in him choosing to return to a place he’s stated feeling comfortable. Noted as a homebody, maybe weight is placed on not moving again, and this is certainly a fanbase that would embrace him for the long term. Having a left side of the infield that includes Royce Lewis and Correa for something like the next handful of years would be quite the stabilizing force for a team looking to take another step forward.
  21. The Twins farm system continues to drop in national rankings, so should fans be concerned about the organization's future? Here are three reasons why the system continues to drop. National rankings of a team's farm systems can be taken with a grain of salt. A lot of hope and high expectations are tied to the team's top prospects, but most fans will focus on whether or not the big-league team is consistently winning. Front offices must find a balance between building homegrown talent and trading for pieces that can help the current roster. Baseball America updated its farm system rankings based on changes from this year's draft and the trade deadline. Minnesota's system ranked 25th, the team's lowest ranking since 2017. Baseball American and MLB Pipeline have three Twins prospects in their top 100, including Brooks Lee, Royce Lewis, and Emmanuel Rodriguez. So, why did the Twins drop so much? Trades Minnesota was active at the 2022 trade deadline by dealing away some of the organization's most improved prospects. Spencer Steer, Cade Povich, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Steven Hajjar were all top-30 prospects in the system. Last winter, the Twins also traded Chase Petty, the team's 2021 first-round pick, to acquire Sonny Gray. Losing that kind of talent will hurt any organization's farm system ranking. Luckily, there are some obvious reasons why Minnesota's ranking dropped. Under 25 Big-League Players When looking at the health of an organization, it's essential to look at young players that are no longer prospects but are impacting the big-league roster. The Twins have gotten plenty of production this season from players that are 25 years old or younger. During his rookie campaign, Jose Miranda emerged as a middle-of-the-order bat. On the pitching side, Jhoan Duran completely altered how the team approaches late-inning pitching situations. However, the list of players that are 25 or younger doesn't stop there. Gilberto Celestino, a 23-year-old, has allowed the Twins to give Byron Buxton more regular days off from center field. Cole Sands, Josh Winder, and Jovani Moran have impacted the team's rotation and bullpen. Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff have shown how good their bats can be when they are healthy. Even regulars like Ryan Jeffers and Luis Arraez are in their age-25 season. Obviously, the Twins will need to continue to see continued development from these players while they help the team win. Injuries and Underperformance Injuries to key prospects are another reason the team's ranking continues to drop. Royce Lewis, Emmanuel Rodriguez, and Matt Canterino are all out for the year. Lewis was already impacting the big-league roster before undergoing his second ACL surgery in the last two seasons. Rodriguez had a breakout season before suffering a knee injury on a slide. Canterino's elbow health has been an issue throughout his professional career, and the hope is that Tommy John surgery will get him back on track. All three players should return at some point during the 2023 season. Multiple top prospects have also underperformed during the 2022 campaign. Austin Martin was widely considered one of the organization's top prospects after he was acquired as part of the Jose Berrios trade. In 65 Double-A games, he is hitting .244/.372/.306 (.678) with 11 extra-base hits. Minnesota added Jordan Balazovic to the 40-man roster last winter, but he has struggled throughout the 2022 season. In 15 Triple-A appearances, he has a 9.26 ERA with a 2.17 WHIP across 45 2/3 innings. Both of these players have seen their prospect stock drop significantly. Luckily, the Twins are keeping their winning window open despite the perceived talent drop in the farm system. Minnesota's trades have added controllable talent to the big-league roster, and the team has plenty of young talent up-and-down the roster. Are you concerned about the farm system's drop in national rankings? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  22. National rankings of a team's farm systems can be taken with a grain of salt. A lot of hope and high expectations are tied to the team's top prospects, but most fans will focus on whether or not the big-league team is consistently winning. Front offices must find a balance between building homegrown talent and trading for pieces that can help the current roster. Baseball America updated its farm system rankings based on changes from this year's draft and the trade deadline. Minnesota's system ranked 25th, the team's lowest ranking since 2017. Baseball American and MLB Pipeline have three Twins prospects in their top 100, including Brooks Lee, Royce Lewis, and Emmanuel Rodriguez. So, why did the Twins drop so much? Trades Minnesota was active at the 2022 trade deadline by dealing away some of the organization's most improved prospects. Spencer Steer, Cade Povich, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Steven Hajjar were all top-30 prospects in the system. Last winter, the Twins also traded Chase Petty, the team's 2021 first-round pick, to acquire Sonny Gray. Losing that kind of talent will hurt any organization's farm system ranking. Luckily, there are some obvious reasons why Minnesota's ranking dropped. Under 25 Big-League Players When looking at the health of an organization, it's essential to look at young players that are no longer prospects but are impacting the big-league roster. The Twins have gotten plenty of production this season from players that are 25 years old or younger. During his rookie campaign, Jose Miranda emerged as a middle-of-the-order bat. On the pitching side, Jhoan Duran completely altered how the team approaches late-inning pitching situations. However, the list of players that are 25 or younger doesn't stop there. Gilberto Celestino, a 23-year-old, has allowed the Twins to give Byron Buxton more regular days off from center field. Cole Sands, Josh Winder, and Jovani Moran have impacted the team's rotation and bullpen. Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff have shown how good their bats can be when they are healthy. Even regulars like Ryan Jeffers and Luis Arraez are in their age-25 season. Obviously, the Twins will need to continue to see continued development from these players while they help the team win. Injuries and Underperformance Injuries to key prospects are another reason the team's ranking continues to drop. Royce Lewis, Emmanuel Rodriguez, and Matt Canterino are all out for the year. Lewis was already impacting the big-league roster before undergoing his second ACL surgery in the last two seasons. Rodriguez had a breakout season before suffering a knee injury on a slide. Canterino's elbow health has been an issue throughout his professional career, and the hope is that Tommy John surgery will get him back on track. All three players should return at some point during the 2023 season. Multiple top prospects have also underperformed during the 2022 campaign. Austin Martin was widely considered one of the organization's top prospects after he was acquired as part of the Jose Berrios trade. In 65 Double-A games, he is hitting .244/.372/.306 (.678) with 11 extra-base hits. Minnesota added Jordan Balazovic to the 40-man roster last winter, but he has struggled throughout the 2022 season. In 15 Triple-A appearances, he has a 9.26 ERA with a 2.17 WHIP across 45 2/3 innings. Both of these players have seen their prospect stock drop significantly. Luckily, the Twins are keeping their winning window open despite the perceived talent drop in the farm system. Minnesota's trades have added controllable talent to the big-league roster, and the team has plenty of young talent up-and-down the roster. Are you concerned about the farm system's drop in national rankings? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  23. Injuries impact every farm system, but the Twins have had three of their top-10 prospects suffer season-ending injuries. All three players should return over the next year with various timelines to impact the big-league level. Matt Canterino, SP Injury: Tommy John surgery Expected Return: Fall 2023 On Wednesday, it was announced that Matt Canterino would undergo Tommy John surgery which usually has a 12-month recovery timeline. Canterino has missed significant time throughout his professional career, and there's hope that this surgery will be able to solve those issues. In three minor league seasons, he has posted a 1.48 ERA with 13.8 K/9, but injuries have limited him to 85 innings. Canterino has a chance to get into game action at the end of 2023, and the Twins have to decide whether or not to add him to the 40-man roster before this winter's Rule 5 Draft. Royce Lewis, SS/OF Injury: ACL surgery Expected Return: June 2023 Lewis has already gone through this surgery and has shown a positive mindset throughout the process. Last month, he was already ahead of schedule in his rehab, so that is a positive sign for when he may return in 2023. ACL surgery is typically a 12-month recovery, but Lewis told MLB.com that he hopes to be ready in 10-11 months. During his debut, Lewis was fantastic as he hit .300/.317/.550 (.867) with four doubles and two home runs. What made it even more impressive was the fact Lewis hadn't appeared in a game throughout the 2020 or 2021 seasons. At Twins Daily, Lewis is still considered the organization's top prospect, so his health is critical to the team's future success. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF Injury: Knee surgery Expected Return: Spring 2023 Rodriguez was in the midst of a breakout season at Low-A before suffering a knee injury on a slide. In 47 games, he hit .272/.493/.552 (1.044) with five doubles, three triples, and nine home runs. He did all of this while being over two years younger than the average age of the competition in the Florida State League. Throughout the season, he only faced younger pitchers in four plate appearances. His surgery puts him on track to be back on the field early next season, so he will still be young for the FSL if the team sends him back to that level. Injuries have also impacted other young players that have graduated from prospect lists. Alex Kirilloff, one of the team's former top prospects, is out for the year after having wrist surgery. His wrist had been bothering him over the last two seasons, so the hope is this will put him back on track for 2023. Not every prospect pans out at the big-league level, but the Twins are hoping all of these players have healthy careers moving forward. Which recovery worries you the most? Who will be back earlier than expected? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  24. Minnesota's farm system ranks in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of baseball. That makes this year's key prospect injuries even tougher to withstand. Injuries impact every farm system, but the Twins have had three of their top-10 prospects suffer season-ending injuries. All three players should return over the next year with various timelines to impact the big-league level. Matt Canterino, SP Injury: Tommy John surgery Expected Return: Fall 2023 On Wednesday, it was announced that Matt Canterino would undergo Tommy John surgery which usually has a 12-month recovery timeline. Canterino has missed significant time throughout his professional career, and there's hope that this surgery will be able to solve those issues. In three minor league seasons, he has posted a 1.48 ERA with 13.8 K/9, but injuries have limited him to 85 innings. Canterino has a chance to get into game action at the end of 2023, and the Twins have to decide whether or not to add him to the 40-man roster before this winter's Rule 5 Draft. Royce Lewis, SS/OF Injury: ACL surgery Expected Return: June 2023 Lewis has already gone through this surgery and has shown a positive mindset throughout the process. Last month, he was already ahead of schedule in his rehab, so that is a positive sign for when he may return in 2023. ACL surgery is typically a 12-month recovery, but Lewis told MLB.com that he hopes to be ready in 10-11 months. During his debut, Lewis was fantastic as he hit .300/.317/.550 (.867) with four doubles and two home runs. What made it even more impressive was the fact Lewis hadn't appeared in a game throughout the 2020 or 2021 seasons. At Twins Daily, Lewis is still considered the organization's top prospect, so his health is critical to the team's future success. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF Injury: Knee surgery Expected Return: Spring 2023 Rodriguez was in the midst of a breakout season at Low-A before suffering a knee injury on a slide. In 47 games, he hit .272/.493/.552 (1.044) with five doubles, three triples, and nine home runs. He did all of this while being over two years younger than the average age of the competition in the Florida State League. Throughout the season, he only faced younger pitchers in four plate appearances. His surgery puts him on track to be back on the field early next season, so he will still be young for the FSL if the team sends him back to that level. Injuries have also impacted other young players that have graduated from prospect lists. Alex Kirilloff, one of the team's former top prospects, is out for the year after having wrist surgery. His wrist had been bothering him over the last two seasons, so the hope is this will put him back on track for 2023. Not every prospect pans out at the big-league level, but the Twins are hoping all of these players have healthy careers moving forward. Which recovery worries you the most? Who will be back earlier than expected? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  25. Studs: Royce Lewis Nothing has changed here; Royce Lewis is a phenomenally talented shortstop on the mend with his second ACL tear. All we can do is hope he’ll return quickly enough next season to impact the team meaningfully. Brooks Lee It’s a miracle that Brooks Lee fell to the Twins at 8. We should thank the Cubs and Mets every day—the former for reaching on a pop-up college arm; the latter for turning their noses at Kumar Rocker in 2021, allowing the Rangers to snag him, re-creating the Vanderbilt 1-2 punch. Lee is a great prospect, checking all the offensive boxes with a pedigree as a coach’s son. Sure, he may not stick at shortstop, but people have said that about every infielder ever drafted; only time will prove whether he will have to switch positions. Until then, we can cherish having a guy who slashed .357/.462/.664 in 2022. ------------------------- Guys I love: Noah Miller I don’t like placing Noah Miller this high; either Austin Martin or Jordan Balazovic should be here, but they have underperformed so drastically that I can’t, in good conscience, continue to act like nothing is wrong with them. Miller’s defense remains elite, but his bat has lost its early-season thunder; he slugged .270 in July. I don’t know when I saw a slugging percent that low. Nick Punto slugged .323 over his career. Miller cut down on the Ks, but he’ll need to re-find his power before this placement reflects his ability instead of needing someone to be here. Emmanuel Rodriguez Emmanuel Rodriguez hasn’t played since his brutal injury, but not playing means he couldn’t tank his value by performing poorly. It’s funny how prospect evaluation can work like that; he’s like Schrödinger's baseball player. His strikeouts were still high, but we’re talking about a 19-year-old who walked 28.6% of the time while slugging .551 during his first stint at A-ball; beggars can’t be choosers. Connor Prielipp The pessimist would point out that a freshly-drafted pitcher being the best pitching prospect in the Twins system is a bad sign, but I choose to look at it in another way: Connor Prielipp had a legitimate claim to go first overall before undergoing Tommy John surgery. The procedure is still a severe setback, but modern health advancements have prettied up its boogeyman face, and all reports point towards his stuff returning to previous levels. I’m incredibly excited to see what Prielipp can do in the Twins organization. ------------------------- Guys I like with reservations: Austin Martin Checking Austin Martin’s slash line is like learning that a childhood hero is a scumbag; it’s depressing, and a harsh reminder that the world sucks. Martin’s strikeout rate has plummeted to an impressive rate (13.8%), but he has 11 extra-base hits on the year. 11. It’s August. Martin hasn’t played since the month’s opening game—perhaps the Twins have him locked away deep in the chasms of Fort Myers until he builds more than Jamey Carrollian power—but maybe the reset helps him find his old groove. Until that happens, I have to drop him down the list. Simeon Woods Richardson Simeon Woods Richardson quietly slid to the IL in June—the Wind Surge never announced the move, which I thought was odd—but has finally returned. I remain a skeptic; his high walk rate, low BABIP, and low home run rate all scream vicious regression, but Woods Richardson has avoided that trap, and given that every other top pitching arm has capitulated, he’ll remain here by default. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team calls him up out of desperation for somebody, anybody who can save this pitching staff. Jordan Balazovic Jordan Balazovic’s AAA numbers don’t even make sense, and not in a good way; he’s walking a batter every two innings, and his HR/FB rate is a cartoonish 38.9%. Let me put it in another way: over 34 ⅔ innings, Balazovic has allowed 14 home runs. It’s clear that he isn’t healthy, and I have little clue as to why the team continues to let him die on the mound when he can’t net outs in his current state. I’ll keep Balazovic at this spot because he has dominated hitters in a way I have not seen in a post-José Berríos landscape. Marco Raya The Twins still refuse to let Marco Raya pitch longer than four innings in a game—yes, I know that’s how teams deal with young pitchers these days, but it still feels ridiculous, especially since no research exists that proves this strategy works—but he has crushed his competition. Raya struck out 24.3% of batters he faced in July, and he has been almost untouchable since mid-June. I don’t anticipate a promotion soon, but Raya is well-positioned for a big 2023 if he can stay healthy. Edouard Julien Edouard Julien keeps chugging, taking walks, and putting up impressive slash lines. Julien hit .287/.443/.517 in July, a healthy line that will play in any environment. He also walked as much as he struck out. The worry with Julien is still this: where is his position, and will he have enough power to sustain production there? If he’s a second baseman, that answer becomes more straightforward, but we will have to wait and see. He should be in St. Paul soon. Matt Wallner I previously said that a player needs to have legendary power to offset a strikeout rate like Matt Wallner’s, and he may have that jolt. Wallner’s homer in the Future Games was comical, and it’s easy to imagine his exit velocities translating well in the major leagues. AAA has not been kind to Wallner, but he struggled during his first taste of AA also, so that could just be how the big guy operates. Is he Joey Gallo 2.0? Is that something the Twins want? We shall see. David Festa David Festa is holding his own at A+ ball; the righty is 3rd in the system in innings and owns an ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line of 2.24/2.83/3.39. He struggled with command in July, walking 11.8% of batters, but I believe that to be a blip, not a worrisome trend. He also picked off three straight baserunners during a game in July, which I’ve never seen before in a baseball match. ------------------------- Guys I’m intrigued by: Louie Varland I’ve been one of the low-men on Louie Varland for a while. His peripherals weren’t great last season, and he’s continued that trend at AA ball in 2022. Varland’s July was good (3.91 ERA, 18.6 K-BB%), but those numbers are inflated by an eight-strikeout performance at the end of the month; the rest of his starts were inconsistent and a little sloppy. Blayne Enlow I’m still cutting Blayne Enlow an enormous amount of slack. The righty is trying to pitch his first mostly-full season since 2019, and getting him accustomed to pitching again is the goal for 2022. July was remarkable for his ERA—he allowed two runs over 13 innings—but the walk rate was elevated, and, well, it was just a 13-inning sample. Hopefully, we can see more dominant performances, like his three-inning, five strikeout relief outing to conclude the month. Brent Headrick Brent Headrick crushed A+ ball and earned a promotion to AAin July. He made one disastrous outing—seriously, don’t look it up—but I can chalk that up to jitters around making his first AA appearance. Headrick has the potential to fly up this list even further as the season continues, and he’s now undoubtedly the best left-handed pitching prospect in the system after Cade Povich and Steve Hajjar found new homes. Cole Sands Given the Twins’ inability to pitch at even a watchable level, I’m surprised that Cole Sands hasn’t earned an extended leash in the majors. He sometimes struggles with command, but his sweeper is deadly enough to coax an extra strikeout or two when he really needs it. Sands struck out 30.4% of batters at AAA in July; I think the team could use that. Ronny Henriquez In July, Ronny Henriquez secretly turned a corner; the newly acquired ex-Ranger farmhand put up an ERA of 3.05 with a healthy K-BB% of 20.9. Henriquez had struggled—and I mean struggled—at AAA to begin the season, but this great month could prove to be the launching point for the 22-year-old. Add him to the list of arms the team could look to in their pursuit of pitching. Matt Canterino Matt Canterino is a reliever who can’t stay healthy. I don’t care about stuff or anything else; a pitcher with a James Paxton-level of durability should not rank highly on any prospect list. If Canterino returns to AA and throws strikes, the team should move him to the major league bullpen before August ends. ------------------------- Possible diamonds in the rough: Yasser Mercedes It’s typically unwise to rank DSL players, but Yasser Mercedes commanded a signing bonus of $1.7 million; we aren’t dealing with a random Joe here. As a 17-year-old, Mercedes is hitting well during his first stint in professional baseball; he’s currently good for a .324/.394/.532 slash line. Chris Williams Missing Chris Williams was the most glaring mistake in my previous ranking. I’ve had my eye on Williams since he put together some powerful stretches in 2019, but his play has been dreadfully inconsistent. The 25-year-old slumped during an injury-plagued 2021 season, but he’s evolved into the Terminator recently, slugging a truly absurd .708 in July. He may be somewhat positionless, but you’ll move heaven and earth to find a place for that bat. Noah Cardenas Noah Cardenas is walking 18.2% of the time at A ball, and I feel like no one has mentioned it. Cardenas can already field the position well, so the newfound offensive boost could give his game a new, exciting wrinkle. I would suggest keeping your eye on him. Cesar Lares Cesar Lares is striking out 44.2% of hitters faced at the DSL. This concludes fun facts with Cesar Lares. Misael Urbina Misael Urbina had a late start to the season—visa issues limited his movement—but it seems like that problem is far behind Urbina. The talented outfielder slugged .589 at A ball in July, a good sign considering that power was his most prominent issue in 2021. Urbina could quickly move up a tier or two if he continues to smoke the ball well. Alerick Soularie Alerick Soularie shed the strike-out problems that clouded his prospect status; he punched out in just 19.8% of plate appearances in July while hitting for a solid 123 wRC+. His power output is still low, but that feels like a nitpick in an otherwise excellent hitting package. Yunior Severino Post-post-hype can still exist for a ballplayer; a statement never more true than with Yunior Severino. After the Twins snagged the infielder when the Braves got caught with their hand in the cookie jar, it seemed that Severino had greatness in his future. That timeline branched off into a far more boring story, but Severino did slug .690 in July, so he may still have a chance. ------------------------- Guys: Aaron Sabato The first spot in my “guys” list goes to one of the more frustrating prospects in the Twins’ system. Aaron Sabato has not yet put together an extended period of excellent performance–at least not in my eyes—but he did slug .709 in July while bringing home a Midwest League Hitter of the Week award. Is this a hot streak or a sign of things to come? I’m pessimistic, but we will see. Keoni Cavaco Keoni Cavaco remaining on this list is the baseball equivalent of the lifetime achievement award; he hasn’t impressed since the team took him in the 1st round in 2019, and he’s only here because of that pedigree. He did crawl above a league-average hitting line in July (110 wRC+), but his strikeout problem is still critical. Michael Helman Is Michael Helman just a feel-good story? Maybe. He’s 26 and is just holding his own at AAA, not dominating. No one attribute sticks out about Helman, but there’s a slight chance he’s called up in a pinch and proves enough to stick around. Kala’i Rosario Kala’i Rosario’s hitting peripherals—walks and strikeouts especially—look gross and not in a good way: a 5.8% walk rate compared to a 35.8% K rate. Still, the young, athletic outfielder has serious power potential, which could lead him to future success. Brayan Medina I still don’t know what to make of Brayan Medina, and he’s walking a small village in the low minors. He has almost no professional innings to his name, though, so I’m willing to wait before critically analyzing him. This group of names looked a lot better a few days ago when I started this writeup; of course, the team was always going to lose crucial players if they wanted to buy enough to offset their major league weaknesses. Still, I don’t feel like they lost major foundational pieces; Spencer Steer hurts, but he had no immediate fit on the Twins’ roster; Cade Povich is the primary, painful loss in my eyes. I think Povich will continue to evolve and become a valuable starting pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. I’m lower than a lot on Christian Encarnacion-Strand—he’s a butcher on the field, and that’s difficult for a major league team to hide—Steve Hajjar has command and shoulder issues, and Sawyer Gipson-Long feels replaceable. This system still isn’t great, but I think it’s in a better spot than it was last month—and that’s while considering the players they lost at the deadline.
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