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  1. This winter, the Twins picked up some sneaky good bats versus southpaws. Image courtesy of © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports Adding a right-handed bat has been a talking point for the Minnesota Twins all off-season. They somewhat addressed it by trading for Michael A Taylor, who hits right-handed but doesn't hit left-handed pitching exceptionally. With five left-handed hitters currently on the 26-man and switch hitter Jorge Polanco being better from the left side, this might be an issue for the Twins. Fortunately, I think this weakness might be overstated. Of the five left-handed hitters projected to get significant playing time, only two have a clear need for a platoon partner - Nick Gordon (career 54 wRC+ vs. LHP) and Max Kepler (career 73 wRC+ vs. LHP). Of the remaining hitters, Joey Gallo was abysmal against left-handers last season (23 wRC+ in 2022) but has handled them well throughout his career (104 wRC+ vs. LHP). Both Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff have even splits between lefties and righties, albeit small samples. The Twins should see if either former top prospect can hit southpaws at the Major League level before condemning them to platoon roles. Given some big-time moves this off-season, it would be easy to forget the Twins' first acquisition, Kyle Farmer. Perhaps it was undersold as a skill, but Farmer is one of the best hitters in baseball against left-handed pitchers. In 2022, per FanGraphs, among hitters with 150 plate appearances versus left-handers, Farmer ranked 13th with a 157 wRC+ (ahead of Trea Turner, whom Tony La Russa intentionally walked in a 1-2 count vs. a lefty), 7th with a .948 OPS, 7th in wOBA at .404, and 9th in batting average at .309. There is a very strong case that Kyle Farmer is one of the ten best hitters in all of baseball versus left-handed pitching. So what would a potential lefty-killing lineup look like for the Twins? I mentioned that Kyle Farmer might be a top 10 hitter against lefties, but they also have two other hitters on that list in Byron Buxton (159 wRC+ vs. LHP in 2022) and Carlos Correa (168 wRC+ vs. LHP in 2022). If he had enough plate appearances, Ryan Jeffers would also be on there (161wRC+ vs. LHP in 2022). Against a left-handed starter, a potential lineup could be: Byron Buxton CF 159 wRC+ vs. LHP Carlos Correa SS 168 wRC+ vs. LHP Kyle Farmer 2B 157 wRC+ vs. LHP Jose Miranda 3B 132 wRC+ vs. LHP Alex Kirilloff 1B 99 wRC+ vs. LHP (career) Ryan Jeffers DH 161 wRC+ vs. LHP Joey Gallo RF 104 wRC+ vs. LHP Christian Vazquez C 130 wRC+ vs. LHP Trevor Larnach LF 108 wRC+ vs. LHP (career) The Twins' front office has also stated Farmer could see some time in the outfield. You could sub out either corner outfielder for Jorge Polanco (career 93 wRC+ vs. LHP), move Farmer to the outfield, and move Polanco to 2B. Michael A Taylor was also left off this lineup but figures to see most of his plate appearances against lefties. If the Twins wanted to DH Buxton or not have two catchers in the lineup, Taylor slides into CF. Taylor could also play in either corner outfield spot and spell any left-handed bats in the lineup. He would be a one-for-one swap in either LF or RF, but if Kirilloff needs a rest day, Gallo can cover 1B for that day. If things start to fall apart, the Twins also have Kyle Garlick stashed in AAA, who's made a name for himself mashing lefties. The front office certainly thought that a right-handed bat would be useful, being mentioned with names like Yuli Gurriel, A.J. Pollock, and Andrew McCutchen . Still, I feel good about the current roster construction's ability to hit left-handed pitching and don't see this as something that needs to be addressed. View full article
  2. Adding a right-handed bat has been a talking point for the Minnesota Twins all off-season. They somewhat addressed it by trading for Michael A Taylor, who hits right-handed but doesn't hit left-handed pitching exceptionally. With five left-handed hitters currently on the 26-man and switch hitter Jorge Polanco being better from the left side, this might be an issue for the Twins. Fortunately, I think this weakness might be overstated. Of the five left-handed hitters projected to get significant playing time, only two have a clear need for a platoon partner - Nick Gordon (career 54 wRC+ vs. LHP) and Max Kepler (career 73 wRC+ vs. LHP). Of the remaining hitters, Joey Gallo was abysmal against left-handers last season (23 wRC+ in 2022) but has handled them well throughout his career (104 wRC+ vs. LHP). Both Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff have even splits between lefties and righties, albeit small samples. The Twins should see if either former top prospect can hit southpaws at the Major League level before condemning them to platoon roles. Given some big-time moves this off-season, it would be easy to forget the Twins' first acquisition, Kyle Farmer. Perhaps it was undersold as a skill, but Farmer is one of the best hitters in baseball against left-handed pitchers. In 2022, per FanGraphs, among hitters with 150 plate appearances versus left-handers, Farmer ranked 13th with a 157 wRC+ (ahead of Trea Turner, whom Tony La Russa intentionally walked in a 1-2 count vs. a lefty), 7th with a .948 OPS, 7th in wOBA at .404, and 9th in batting average at .309. There is a very strong case that Kyle Farmer is one of the ten best hitters in all of baseball versus left-handed pitching. So what would a potential lefty-killing lineup look like for the Twins? I mentioned that Kyle Farmer might be a top 10 hitter against lefties, but they also have two other hitters on that list in Byron Buxton (159 wRC+ vs. LHP in 2022) and Carlos Correa (168 wRC+ vs. LHP in 2022). If he had enough plate appearances, Ryan Jeffers would also be on there (161wRC+ vs. LHP in 2022). Against a left-handed starter, a potential lineup could be: Byron Buxton CF 159 wRC+ vs. LHP Carlos Correa SS 168 wRC+ vs. LHP Kyle Farmer 2B 157 wRC+ vs. LHP Jose Miranda 3B 132 wRC+ vs. LHP Alex Kirilloff 1B 99 wRC+ vs. LHP (career) Ryan Jeffers DH 161 wRC+ vs. LHP Joey Gallo RF 104 wRC+ vs. LHP Christian Vazquez C 130 wRC+ vs. LHP Trevor Larnach LF 108 wRC+ vs. LHP (career) The Twins' front office has also stated Farmer could see some time in the outfield. You could sub out either corner outfielder for Jorge Polanco (career 93 wRC+ vs. LHP), move Farmer to the outfield, and move Polanco to 2B. Michael A Taylor was also left off this lineup but figures to see most of his plate appearances against lefties. If the Twins wanted to DH Buxton or not have two catchers in the lineup, Taylor slides into CF. Taylor could also play in either corner outfield spot and spell any left-handed bats in the lineup. He would be a one-for-one swap in either LF or RF, but if Kirilloff needs a rest day, Gallo can cover 1B for that day. If things start to fall apart, the Twins also have Kyle Garlick stashed in AAA, who's made a name for himself mashing lefties. The front office certainly thought that a right-handed bat would be useful, being mentioned with names like Yuli Gurriel, A.J. Pollock, and Andrew McCutchen . Still, I feel good about the current roster construction's ability to hit left-handed pitching and don't see this as something that needs to be addressed.
  3. For the Twins to get back into the playoffs in 2023, they will need a host of elements to go well. Not only will the Twins require significantly better health in 2023 — they will also need some players to make leaps in the new year. Whether it’s younger established players or prospects, the Twins need big improvements from some young players to be a successful team. I’ve put together a list of players I think can take those steps to be impact players in 2023. Joe Ryan Since the Twins acquired Joe Ryan in exchange for Nelson Cruz at the 2021 trade deadline, he has impressed, and at times, dominated. In 32 starts, he has pitched 173.2 innings with an ERA of 3.63 and a FIP of 3.90. He has had a 25.7% strikeout rate and a 7.1% walk rate. These are all very good numbers for a guy coming off of his rookie year, and he would slot into just about any rotation in baseball. Ryan isn’t a typical breakout candidate due to his early success, but I believe at 26 years old, he has the ability to develop into more of a frontline starter and break out as a true star. In 2022, Ryan was much worse after a tough bout with Covid-19. Per Fangraphs, in starts before his long absence due to the virus, Ryan had a 2.25 ERA and a 3.25 FIP, but in starts after he came back, he had a 4.08 ERA and 4.30 FIP. Essentially, before his 3-week Covid absence, he was the frontline starter the Twins needed him to be, and after, he was a back-end of the rotation starter. Hopefully, once fully recovered in 2023, we can see Ryan lead the rotation and be a frontline starter. Beyond his mediocre numbers after his Covid-19 absence, Ryan’s performance against right-handed hitters in 2022 surprised me. I expected him to be a typical pitcher who performs better against same-sided batters. In the minors, Ryan had typical splits, where he was better against righties than lefties, but that was not the case in 2022. Against right-handed batters in 2022, Ryan threw fewer fastballs and more sliders. But his fastball was one of the best pitches in baseball in 2022 based on Baseball Savant’s run value metric, while his slider was well below average. For Ryan to become a frontline starter, he will need to improve his performance against right-handed batters, by either improving his slider or throwing fewer sliders against right-handed batters. If either of those strategies is effective and he can return to top physical shape, Ryan can be the Twins best starting pitcher (as the roster is currently constructed) and possibly become the frontline starter the Twins need in 2023. Jovani Moran Almost every number available shows that Jovani Moran is a really good relief pitcher who is ready to be an impact reliever for the Twins from Opening Day forward. From his 2.21 ERA and 1.78 FIP in 2022 for the Twins in 40.2 innings, to his 11.95 K/9, Twins fans should be excited for him to join the fold more in 2023. While his numbers holistically are awesome, he does walk a ton of batters. However, he limits home runs and strikes out enough hitters that the walks have rarely haunted him at any level, and his overall numbers should continue to be strong in 2023. While Moran has been extremely stingy against both righties and lefties, as a 2-pitch pitcher who relies a ton on nasty changeup, he has reverse splits, meaning he is better against right-handed batters than lefties. Because of this, he would benefit if the Twins add an additional left-handed reliever, so if Caleb Thielbar is unavailable, he doesn’t have to be the guy to just come in against lefties. Instead, he should be used in other high leverage situations, whether it’s an 8th inning in a 1- run game, or if there are guys on second and third and one out. If the Twins are going to hunt any matchups for Moran, they should seek right-handed hitters in 2023. Facing primarily righties will further improve his numbers and make him a weapon in a bullpen that could be the best in years for the Twins. Alex Kirilloff Kirilloff has unfortunately been on these types of lists for 3 years. The Twins expected that in 2021, once they blatantly manipulated his service time, he could come in and be a star left fielder every day for years to come. That expectation was reasonable at the time. In 2018, he was the Twins Minor League Player of the Year, and his strong performances continued in 2019 during his first taste of the upper minors at AA. He had wrist problems flare up for the first time in 2019, but after a strong performance at the Twins alternate site in 2020, which they believed warranted a rare playoff Major League Baseball debut, it was time for the global top 20 prospect to be an impact player for the Twins. That has not yet happened for Kirilloff as his wrist has bogged him down. Over the past two seasons, Twins fans at times saw him hit the ball hard and really be the hitter prospect analysts promised us, but far more often his wrist left him sidelined, or he at least performed at a subpar level. In 2021, his batted ball data indicated that he would start seeing a lot of hits and extra base hits with a .544 xSLG, but he didn’t play enough for those results to come, only playing 59 games for the Twins. In 2022, he was bad in the MLB, but at AAA he showed that a great hitter is in there, with a 1.106 OPS. There even was a stretch with the Twins from July 2nd to July 23rd when he posted a 157 wRC+, making him a 57% above average hitter. During that stretch, it seemed that he was finally coming along, especially when he went 6 for 13 with 2 home runs and 6 RBIs, in what seemed like a pivotal series against the White Sox. Soon after, he fell off a cliff and didn’t play another game in the majors for the Twins in 2022. Wrists are tricky and sometimes hitters never get back to their best due to a wrist injury. That could be the unfortunate reality for Kirilloff. But if the new medical staff can help him navigate the wrist problem, he can be a huge bat in the middle of the lineup, hitting for extra bases and average, and could even be the best left-handed hitter in the Twins lineup. Ryan Jeffers When the Twins drafted Ryan Jeffers and signed him above slot value, he was seen as a player who would be a really good power hitter, but he likely would have to move off catcher due to his defense. Thus far, he has been a very solid defensive catcher, but he has not yet tapped into the bat that the Twins thought they were getting. In 2022, Jeffers was an above average pitch framer, who handled the staff well, and a well below average hitter, with a wRC+ of 87, making him 13% below average. If he can tap into more power, which prospect analysts believed he had, he can be a real asset for the Twins in 2023. If the Twins can get above average offensive production from catcher, that’s a huge advantage on the competition, when most catchers are their team’s worst hitters. We saw that when Mitch Garver had a monstrous season in 2019, and when the Twins had AJ Pierzynski and Joe Mauer in the 2000s. The most obvious way for him to put up better offensive numbers is for him to play almost every game when the Twins are facing a left-handed pitcher. If that’s around 40-50 games, he’ll be in a great position to succeed, especially if he can even slightly improve against right-handed pitchers. While Christian Vázquez has been better against lefties than righties, he hasn’t been nearly as good over his career as Jeffers has been. Against lefties, Jeffers has crushed, with a wRC+ of 125, which is really good for anybody, but especially for a catcher. Hopefully, he can thrive getting more of those platoon matchups while continuing to be a very good defensive catcher. If he does, the Twins could have a big offensive advantage at catcher, making their lineup dangerous enough to really contend for a division title.
  4. For the second season in a row Derek Falvey and Thad Levine watched as the roster they architected failed to finish with a winning percentage above .500. Despite leading the AL Central for much of the season, injuries mounted and September baseball became apathetic before an uninspiring October finish. Who helps them turn things around remains paramount for the 2023 club. Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports Coming into the offseason there was no denying that a reunion with Carlos Correa needed to be priority number one. With the Twins never advancing far past their original plan during the season, an offer that Scott Boras would entertain never became present. That meant a pivot needed to happen in acquiring more talent for Rocco Baldelli’s group. Both Christian Vazquez and Joey Gallo are fine additions, but they won’t be enough. It’s certainly possible that whatever is done to raise Minnesota’s payroll as a whole before March is uninspiring. That’s why the bulk of Minnesota’s heavy lifting is going to need to come from within. For a team that believes they were snakebit with injury, and an organization that has seen the graduation of many top prospects, it’s beyond fair to tell those established on the 26-man roster “we need you now.” Among those, these are the five (in no particular order) with the most to prove: Ryan Jeffers This should almost go without saying. The Twins front office had an immense amount of belief in Jeffers when they took him in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft. They then doubled down by trading Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers prior to last season, and sent the only capable prospect in Ben Rortvedt to New York. Unfortunately he couldn’t recreate the 119 OPS+ from his first 26 Major League games, and instead sank to a career worst .648 OPS while playing just 67 games due to injury. Jeffers looked like he was righting the ship for a time before hitting the injured list, and now with Vazquez in the fold, will be fighting for time again. Gary Sanchez is gone, and the Twins farm system remains relatively empty behind the dish. Having Jeffers put it together would be the long awaited promise everyone has been hoping for. Alex Kirilloff Maybe this is a lot to put on a guy that’s only recently just turned 25-years-old, but Kirilloff is no longer a young player. Still ahead of his prime, the biggest issue here is being healthy and real with where he’s at. Kirilloff never got his surgically repaired wrist right last offseason, and therefore was never able to truly take over in left or at first base for the Twins. He’s now undergone an even more substantial procedure, and while the reports have been encouraging, the waiting game has to end. This is a top prospect that looked like a lineup cornerstone. First base could be his with Miguel Sano gone and Luis Arraez having more utility. Finding a way to be a legitimate big league offensive threat is a must. It starts with health. Trevor Larnach Much like Kirilloff, this is a similar scenario with a player that’s almost an entire year older. Larnach will be 26 for Minnesota this season, and despite the flashes a year ago, he played in just 51 games due to a core muscle injury. The solid on-base and slugging skills are real, and he’s always been praised for his incredible bat. We got to see an advanced defender in left, and that would be a substantial boost to the outfield flanking Byron Buxton. Larnach will be given every opportunity to post better than the 104 OPS+ he had in limited action last season, and there is no reason he should be seen as incapable of reaching that. Staying on the field is a must, and like Kirilloff, he will be expected to contribute from the middle of the lineup. Joe Ryan Maybe this jumps out as a weird inclusion for a guy that was the 2022 Opening Day starter, and someone that posted a 3.55 ERA. The problem is he became a true five-and-dive guy while owning a 3.99 FIP and 4.35 xFIP. Ryan feasted on a lot of bad opponents in the AL Central, but he was battered consistently against better competition. A fine guy to have at the back end of the rotation, Ryan’s necessary workload from 2022 is why the Twins could certainly use another arm better than Sonny Gray or Tyler Mahle. He’ll be 27 this season, and there is no denying this is a quality Major League arm, but with the velocity as limited as it is, does Minnesota have a number three or a number five here? Bailey Ober There are a few other arms that may have merit for the final spot, but it should be the guy currently penciled in for the rotation’s final spot. Ober was good to the tune of a 3.21 ERA and 2.92 FIP last season. Even aside from the more gaudy 4.18 xFIP, the problem has always been what level of reliability he’ll bring to the table. Minnesota trotted out arms in droves during 2022 because guys couldn’t stay healthy. Ober was among them, throwing just 56 innings across 11 starts. 2021 was a professional best inning total going 92 1/3 on the year, but he’s never previously surpassed 80 in a single season despite five years of work. It seems the Twins have developed a capable arm, but it can’t be relied on if it breaks down this often. Looking to rebound in an AL Central that should be tight at the top, it will be on players that have gotten used to the divisional race that need to step up. There is plenty of talent for the Twins to make noise if things break in their direction, but it wouldn’t hurt if they made their own luck as well. View full article
  5. Coming into the offseason there was no denying that a reunion with Carlos Correa needed to be priority number one. With the Twins never advancing far past their original plan during the season, an offer that Scott Boras would entertain never became present. That meant a pivot needed to happen in acquiring more talent for Rocco Baldelli’s group. Both Christian Vazquez and Joey Gallo are fine additions, but they won’t be enough. It’s certainly possible that whatever is done to raise Minnesota’s payroll as a whole before March is uninspiring. That’s why the bulk of Minnesota’s heavy lifting is going to need to come from within. For a team that believes they were snakebit with injury, and an organization that has seen the graduation of many top prospects, it’s beyond fair to tell those established on the 26-man roster “we need you now.” Among those, these are the five (in no particular order) with the most to prove: Ryan Jeffers This should almost go without saying. The Twins front office had an immense amount of belief in Jeffers when they took him in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft. They then doubled down by trading Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers prior to last season, and sent the only capable prospect in Ben Rortvedt to New York. Unfortunately he couldn’t recreate the 119 OPS+ from his first 26 Major League games, and instead sank to a career worst .648 OPS while playing just 67 games due to injury. Jeffers looked like he was righting the ship for a time before hitting the injured list, and now with Vazquez in the fold, will be fighting for time again. Gary Sanchez is gone, and the Twins farm system remains relatively empty behind the dish. Having Jeffers put it together would be the long awaited promise everyone has been hoping for. Alex Kirilloff Maybe this is a lot to put on a guy that’s only recently just turned 25-years-old, but Kirilloff is no longer a young player. Still ahead of his prime, the biggest issue here is being healthy and real with where he’s at. Kirilloff never got his surgically repaired wrist right last offseason, and therefore was never able to truly take over in left or at first base for the Twins. He’s now undergone an even more substantial procedure, and while the reports have been encouraging, the waiting game has to end. This is a top prospect that looked like a lineup cornerstone. First base could be his with Miguel Sano gone and Luis Arraez having more utility. Finding a way to be a legitimate big league offensive threat is a must. It starts with health. Trevor Larnach Much like Kirilloff, this is a similar scenario with a player that’s almost an entire year older. Larnach will be 26 for Minnesota this season, and despite the flashes a year ago, he played in just 51 games due to a core muscle injury. The solid on-base and slugging skills are real, and he’s always been praised for his incredible bat. We got to see an advanced defender in left, and that would be a substantial boost to the outfield flanking Byron Buxton. Larnach will be given every opportunity to post better than the 104 OPS+ he had in limited action last season, and there is no reason he should be seen as incapable of reaching that. Staying on the field is a must, and like Kirilloff, he will be expected to contribute from the middle of the lineup. Joe Ryan Maybe this jumps out as a weird inclusion for a guy that was the 2022 Opening Day starter, and someone that posted a 3.55 ERA. The problem is he became a true five-and-dive guy while owning a 3.99 FIP and 4.35 xFIP. Ryan feasted on a lot of bad opponents in the AL Central, but he was battered consistently against better competition. A fine guy to have at the back end of the rotation, Ryan’s necessary workload from 2022 is why the Twins could certainly use another arm better than Sonny Gray or Tyler Mahle. He’ll be 27 this season, and there is no denying this is a quality Major League arm, but with the velocity as limited as it is, does Minnesota have a number three or a number five here? Bailey Ober There are a few other arms that may have merit for the final spot, but it should be the guy currently penciled in for the rotation’s final spot. Ober was good to the tune of a 3.21 ERA and 2.92 FIP last season. Even aside from the more gaudy 4.18 xFIP, the problem has always been what level of reliability he’ll bring to the table. Minnesota trotted out arms in droves during 2022 because guys couldn’t stay healthy. Ober was among them, throwing just 56 innings across 11 starts. 2021 was a professional best inning total going 92 1/3 on the year, but he’s never previously surpassed 80 in a single season despite five years of work. It seems the Twins have developed a capable arm, but it can’t be relied on if it breaks down this often. Looking to rebound in an AL Central that should be tight at the top, it will be on players that have gotten used to the divisional race that need to step up. There is plenty of talent for the Twins to make noise if things break in their direction, but it wouldn’t hurt if they made their own luck as well.
  6. With the arrival of a new year, it's time to update my annual rankings of the top 20 most valuable player assets in the Minnesota Twins organization. Read on to see where I landed on #11 through #15 for the list. Image courtesy of Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports If you like, you can quickly catch up on the ground rules for this exercise in the first installment. The short version is this that we're attempting to rank Twins players and prospects through a big-picture lens in asking: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? Here in this second installment, breaking down my picks for #11 through #15, we find an interesting cross-section of rising and falling stocks. It feels like there's a lot at stake here; a couple of true breakthroughs at this level would profoundly impact the franchise's future fortunes. First, a recap of the list as it stands, from Part 1: 20. Matt Wallner, OF 19. Louie Varland, RHP 18. Sonny Gray, RHP 17. Jorge Lopez, RHP 16. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023: 11 through 15 15. Ryan Jeffers, C 2022 Ranking: 10 Good major-league catchers are really hard to find. The offseason market is typically sparse; this year the Twins were happy to land a reliably average veteran in Christian Vazquez on a three-year deal that – while reasonable – could hardly be described as team-favorable. Even with Vazquez's addition, catching depth is sparse in the Twins system, which is why Jeffers remains a fairly vital if unexciting asset for the organization. Two straight sub-par offensive seasons have tempered expectations, but the defensively-acclaimed Jeffers remains heir apparent behind the plate, with the Twins surely hoping he'll have emerged as primary starter by the tail end of Vazquez's contract. 14. Trevor Larnach, OF 2022 Ranking: 12 Around this time last year, we were wondering if Larnach's fade during a promising rookie season in 2021 meant he was hitting a wall or merely enduring a speed-bump in his development. The good news is that he fueled the "speed-bump" narrative in 2022 ... at least for a while. Larnach emerged as one of the best hitters in the lineup, earning his way into the heart of the order by June, but a worsening groin/core injury tanked his performance leading up to surgery that ended his season halfway through. There's no reason to believe that particular issue will be a factor going forward, and Larnach in general stands out as a player who figures to benefit from a fresh leadership voice on the training staff. Last year's performance, when healthy, left little doubt as to his viability as a starting outfielder in the big leagues – but at the same time, he hasn't firmly established himself as such and turns 26 in February. 13. Austin Martin, SS/OF 2022 Ranking: 5 Martin's huge regression at Double-A was one of the top headlines for the Twins system in 2022. He'd emerged as arguably their top prospect – centerpiece of the Jose Berrios trade and OBP wizard extraordinaire – but his bat went silent in a follow-up at the same level where he'd spent the entire previous year. While remaining true to his trademark calling card – namely, a knack for getting on base via the BB or HBP and then wreaking havoc as an aggressive runner – Martin batted just .241 with a .316 slugging percentage in his encore at Wichita. He managed two home runs in 90 games. Meanwhile, we gained no real clarity on his defensive future, as he continued to make nearly all of his starts at shortstop, where no one expects him to play in the majors. With all that being said, Martin is still the same player he was a year ago, when he ranked #5 on this list, as well as #1 on our top prospects list and consensus top-50 status on global lists. It feels rash to drop him more than eight spots here in response to one tough season at age 23. In the wake of said tough season, Martin did put together a very encouraging showing in the Arizona Fall League, slashing .374/.454/.482 with six doubles and a homer in 21 games. Something to build upon heading into a crucial 2023 campaign. 12. Connor Prielipp, LHP 2022 Ranking: NR The Twins need to hit big on a premium arm in the draft. It's been a persistent sore spot for this front office. Yes, they've managed to develop some late-round picks like Bailey Ober, Louie Varland and Josh Winder into capable big-league starters, but in seven years, they haven't jumped on a high-end pitcher at the top of the draft and developed him into a frontline stud – and that's really what it feels like this franchise most desperately needs. Prielipp has a real chance to finally break through as that guy. Easily enough said for a player who's yet to throw a professional inning, I realize. But in naming him Minnesota's most intriguing pick in last year's draft, The Athletic notes that before blowing out his elbow in the spring of 2021, "Prielipp was a consensus top-10 draft prospect with a chance to pitch himself into the No. 1 pick conversation." He was fully rehabbed from Tommy John surgery by the time Minnesota selected him 48th overall, but didn't see any official action last year. Baseball America already rates his slider as the best in the Twins system, even though he's yet to technically throw one as part of it. Obviously there's a fair amount of risk attached to Prielipp, and that's why the University of Alabama product lasted into the second round of the draft, but you won't find much more pure upside in a collegiate pitcher draft pick. The Twins really need this one to click. 11. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP 2022 Ranking: 18 Earlier I mentioned that Martin's step backward was one of the top headlines in the Twins system last year. The flip side is that Woods Richardson's emergence was another of the top headlines, and – given he came over in the same trade package – it helps take some of the sting out of Martin's drop-off. Whereas Martin stumbled at Double-A after thriving there the previous year, Woods Richardson had the opposite experience. He found his footing in a second turn at Wichita, posting a 3.06 ERA over 70 innings, then pitched brilliantly after a promotion to Triple-A where he went 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA in seven starts. It all culminated with a late-season MLB debut, making him the youngest pitcher to appear in the big leagues in 2022. He's very polished and it showed at every stop, but at the same time, Woods Richardson's stuff and approach don't quite scream "frontline starter." Not yet. He just turned 22 in September though, so there's plenty of room for growth. With his big 6-foot-3 frame and excellent demeanor for pitching, he's got much to work with. View full article
  7. If you like, you can quickly catch up on the ground rules for this exercise in the first installment. The short version is this that we're attempting to rank Twins players and prospects through a big-picture lens in asking: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? Here in this second installment, breaking down my picks for #11 through #15, we find an interesting cross-section of rising and falling stocks. It feels like there's a lot at stake here; a couple of true breakthroughs at this level would profoundly impact the franchise's future fortunes. First, a recap of the list as it stands, from Part 1: 20. Matt Wallner, OF 19. Louie Varland, RHP 18. Sonny Gray, RHP 17. Jorge Lopez, RHP 16. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023: 11 through 15 15. Ryan Jeffers, C 2022 Ranking: 10 Good major-league catchers are really hard to find. The offseason market is typically sparse; this year the Twins were happy to land a reliably average veteran in Christian Vazquez on a three-year deal that – while reasonable – could hardly be described as team-favorable. Even with Vazquez's addition, catching depth is sparse in the Twins system, which is why Jeffers remains a fairly vital if unexciting asset for the organization. Two straight sub-par offensive seasons have tempered expectations, but the defensively-acclaimed Jeffers remains heir apparent behind the plate, with the Twins surely hoping he'll have emerged as primary starter by the tail end of Vazquez's contract. 14. Trevor Larnach, OF 2022 Ranking: 12 Around this time last year, we were wondering if Larnach's fade during a promising rookie season in 2021 meant he was hitting a wall or merely enduring a speed-bump in his development. The good news is that he fueled the "speed-bump" narrative in 2022 ... at least for a while. Larnach emerged as one of the best hitters in the lineup, earning his way into the heart of the order by June, but a worsening groin/core injury tanked his performance leading up to surgery that ended his season halfway through. There's no reason to believe that particular issue will be a factor going forward, and Larnach in general stands out as a player who figures to benefit from a fresh leadership voice on the training staff. Last year's performance, when healthy, left little doubt as to his viability as a starting outfielder in the big leagues – but at the same time, he hasn't firmly established himself as such and turns 26 in February. 13. Austin Martin, SS/OF 2022 Ranking: 5 Martin's huge regression at Double-A was one of the top headlines for the Twins system in 2022. He'd emerged as arguably their top prospect – centerpiece of the Jose Berrios trade and OBP wizard extraordinaire – but his bat went silent in a follow-up at the same level where he'd spent the entire previous year. While remaining true to his trademark calling card – namely, a knack for getting on base via the BB or HBP and then wreaking havoc as an aggressive runner – Martin batted just .241 with a .316 slugging percentage in his encore at Wichita. He managed two home runs in 90 games. Meanwhile, we gained no real clarity on his defensive future, as he continued to make nearly all of his starts at shortstop, where no one expects him to play in the majors. With all that being said, Martin is still the same player he was a year ago, when he ranked #5 on this list, as well as #1 on our top prospects list and consensus top-50 status on global lists. It feels rash to drop him more than eight spots here in response to one tough season at age 23. In the wake of said tough season, Martin did put together a very encouraging showing in the Arizona Fall League, slashing .374/.454/.482 with six doubles and a homer in 21 games. Something to build upon heading into a crucial 2023 campaign. 12. Connor Prielipp, LHP 2022 Ranking: NR The Twins need to hit big on a premium arm in the draft. It's been a persistent sore spot for this front office. Yes, they've managed to develop some late-round picks like Bailey Ober, Louie Varland and Josh Winder into capable big-league starters, but in seven years, they haven't jumped on a high-end pitcher at the top of the draft and developed him into a frontline stud – and that's really what it feels like this franchise most desperately needs. Prielipp has a real chance to finally break through as that guy. Easily enough said for a player who's yet to throw a professional inning, I realize. But in naming him Minnesota's most intriguing pick in last year's draft, The Athletic notes that before blowing out his elbow in the spring of 2021, "Prielipp was a consensus top-10 draft prospect with a chance to pitch himself into the No. 1 pick conversation." He was fully rehabbed from Tommy John surgery by the time Minnesota selected him 48th overall, but didn't see any official action last year. Baseball America already rates his slider as the best in the Twins system, even though he's yet to technically throw one as part of it. Obviously there's a fair amount of risk attached to Prielipp, and that's why the University of Alabama product lasted into the second round of the draft, but you won't find much more pure upside in a collegiate pitcher draft pick. The Twins really need this one to click. 11. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP 2022 Ranking: 18 Earlier I mentioned that Martin's step backward was one of the top headlines in the Twins system last year. The flip side is that Woods Richardson's emergence was another of the top headlines, and – given he came over in the same trade package – it helps take some of the sting out of Martin's drop-off. Whereas Martin stumbled at Double-A after thriving there the previous year, Woods Richardson had the opposite experience. He found his footing in a second turn at Wichita, posting a 3.06 ERA over 70 innings, then pitched brilliantly after a promotion to Triple-A where he went 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA in seven starts. It all culminated with a late-season MLB debut, making him the youngest pitcher to appear in the big leagues in 2022. He's very polished and it showed at every stop, but at the same time, Woods Richardson's stuff and approach don't quite scream "frontline starter." Not yet. He just turned 22 in September though, so there's plenty of room for growth. With his big 6-foot-3 frame and excellent demeanor for pitching, he's got much to work with.
  8. As the calendar turns to a new year, it is often a time for players and fans to reflect on the future. Here are three players the Twins need to step up in 2023 for the team to return to contention. Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports When it comes to 2023, improved health has to be the Twins’ most important resolution. Minnesota sat atop the AL Central for most of 2022, but the club couldn’t overcome one of baseball’s most injured rosters. Luckily, a new year brings hope for the club’s future, and these three players need to prove they can fit into new roles for the club. Jose Miranda, 3B Minnesota showed plenty of faith in Miranda by trading away Gio Urshela earlier this offseason. Urshela was coming off a season where he posted a 121 OPS+ in 144 games, so Miranda will be stepping into some big shoes to fill. However, it was clear from the onset of the offseason that the Twins wanted Miranda to take over an everyday role at third base. He was the organization’s 2021 Minor League Player of the Year after destroying the upper minors with a .937 OPS, 32 doubles, and 30 home runs. Now the Twins hope he can produce at a similar level in the big leagues. Projection systems point to Miranda being an above-average offensive third baseman. Baseball-Reference projects Miranda to post a .748 OPS with 22 doubles and 13 home runs in just over 400 at-bats. FanGraphs' ZiPS points to Miranda having a better season with 31 doubles, 19 home runs, and a .778 OPS. It is important to note that ZiPS projects Miranda to get over 140 more at-bats than Baseball Reference. Minnesota would undoubtedly be happy if Miranda could reach his 119 OPS+ projected by ZiPS. Jorge Lopez, RHP Reliever’s on-field results can be fickle, especially with the small sample sizes pitched by bullpen arms in any given season. Lopez was terrific during the first half of 2022 as he shifted from starting pitcher to the bullpen. He was selected to his first All-Star Game and posted a 1.68 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 44 games. For Lopez, nearly every statistical area declined after the Twins acquired him, including strike rate, walk rate, exit velocity, etc. Minnesota tried to adjust Lopez, but the results were not positive, as Parker outlined (for Twins Daily Caretakers) last week. Few relievers can post the numbers Lopez compiled with Baltimore in 2022’s first half. Baseball-Reference projects Lopez to post a 4.28 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP and an 8.4 K/9 across 80 innings. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projects have Lopez compiling a 4.41 ERA with an 8.7 K/9 in close to 86 innings. To put that in perspective, ZiPS projects Emilio Pagan to have a better ERA and a higher strikeout rate than Lopez. For Minnesota’s bullpen to be successful, Lopez needs to improve over his second-half numbers and be a late-inning bullpen weapon. Ryan Jeffers, C The Twins signed Christian Vazquez to add to the team’s catching depth, but Jeffers is still part of the team’s long-term plans. Last winter, the club dealt away Mitch Garver, assuming that Jeffers was ready to take on a more significant catching role. Like many Twins last season, injuries limited Jeffers to 67 games with a .648 OPS and a 62-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He doesn’t turn 26 until next June, and he is under team control for four more seasons, so the Twins have hopes he can put it all together. ZiPS projects Jeffers to hit .226/.302/.406 (.708) while producing a career-high 1.9 WAR. Those totals are in 355 plate appearances, over 60 more than he has accumulated in any previous season. Baseball Reference projects him to get 347 PA with a .682 OPS and double-digit totals in doubles and home runs. It’s also important to consider that Jeffers was limited to 24 games above High-A before debuting as a 23-year-old. COVID impacted player development, and Jeffers can continue to make adjustments at the big-league level. Which players do you hope make the most significant improvements in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  9. When it comes to 2023, improved health has to be the Twins’ most important resolution. Minnesota sat atop the AL Central for most of 2022, but the club couldn’t overcome one of baseball’s most injured rosters. Luckily, a new year brings hope for the club’s future, and these three players need to prove they can fit into new roles for the club. Jose Miranda, 3B Minnesota showed plenty of faith in Miranda by trading away Gio Urshela earlier this offseason. Urshela was coming off a season where he posted a 121 OPS+ in 144 games, so Miranda will be stepping into some big shoes to fill. However, it was clear from the onset of the offseason that the Twins wanted Miranda to take over an everyday role at third base. He was the organization’s 2021 Minor League Player of the Year after destroying the upper minors with a .937 OPS, 32 doubles, and 30 home runs. Now the Twins hope he can produce at a similar level in the big leagues. Projection systems point to Miranda being an above-average offensive third baseman. Baseball-Reference projects Miranda to post a .748 OPS with 22 doubles and 13 home runs in just over 400 at-bats. FanGraphs' ZiPS points to Miranda having a better season with 31 doubles, 19 home runs, and a .778 OPS. It is important to note that ZiPS projects Miranda to get over 140 more at-bats than Baseball Reference. Minnesota would undoubtedly be happy if Miranda could reach his 119 OPS+ projected by ZiPS. Jorge Lopez, RHP Reliever’s on-field results can be fickle, especially with the small sample sizes pitched by bullpen arms in any given season. Lopez was terrific during the first half of 2022 as he shifted from starting pitcher to the bullpen. He was selected to his first All-Star Game and posted a 1.68 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 44 games. For Lopez, nearly every statistical area declined after the Twins acquired him, including strike rate, walk rate, exit velocity, etc. Minnesota tried to adjust Lopez, but the results were not positive, as Parker outlined (for Twins Daily Caretakers) last week. Few relievers can post the numbers Lopez compiled with Baltimore in 2022’s first half. Baseball-Reference projects Lopez to post a 4.28 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP and an 8.4 K/9 across 80 innings. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projects have Lopez compiling a 4.41 ERA with an 8.7 K/9 in close to 86 innings. To put that in perspective, ZiPS projects Emilio Pagan to have a better ERA and a higher strikeout rate than Lopez. For Minnesota’s bullpen to be successful, Lopez needs to improve over his second-half numbers and be a late-inning bullpen weapon. Ryan Jeffers, C The Twins signed Christian Vazquez to add to the team’s catching depth, but Jeffers is still part of the team’s long-term plans. Last winter, the club dealt away Mitch Garver, assuming that Jeffers was ready to take on a more significant catching role. Like many Twins last season, injuries limited Jeffers to 67 games with a .648 OPS and a 62-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He doesn’t turn 26 until next June, and he is under team control for four more seasons, so the Twins have hopes he can put it all together. ZiPS projects Jeffers to hit .226/.302/.406 (.708) while producing a career-high 1.9 WAR. Those totals are in 355 plate appearances, over 60 more than he has accumulated in any previous season. Baseball Reference projects him to get 347 PA with a .682 OPS and double-digit totals in doubles and home runs. It’s also important to consider that Jeffers was limited to 24 games above High-A before debuting as a 23-year-old. COVID impacted player development, and Jeffers can continue to make adjustments at the big-league level. Which players do you hope make the most significant improvements in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  10. Ryan Jeffers wasn't going to be the only catcher on the Twins' roster this year. With Christian Vazquez signed, how can the Twins get the most from the catcher role? Image courtesy of Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports Word broke on Monday evening that the Twins and Christian Vazquez had agreed to a three-year contract. Catcher was one of the team's glaring needs because Ryan Jeffers was the lone catcher on the 40-man roster. Vazquez and Jeffers don't form a perfect platoon, but each player provides strong defensive skills and the potential for offensive upside. Vazquez is 32 years old and served as Boston's primary catcher in recent seasons. He was traded to Houston at last year's trade deadline and helped the Astros to the World Series. Since 2018, he has the fifth-highest defensive runs saved among catchers. Last season, he ranked fifth among AL backstops in SABR's Defensive Index. He ranked in the 71st percentile for pop time to second base and in the 55th percentile in framing. Offensively, Vazquez compiled strong offensive numbers from 2019-20 with the Red Sox. In 185 games, he hit .278/.327/.472 (.799) with 35 doubles, 30 home runs, and a 105 OPS+. His bat has cooled off over the last two campaigns (257 games) as his OPS+ dipped to 87 with 46 doubles and 15 home runs. Outside of Willson Contreras, he was the best available free-agent catcher. Vazquez has started 115 games or more at catcher in three consecutive seasons outside the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. On paper, the Twins are signing a full-time catcher, with Jeffers moving to a backup role. In recent years, the Twins have preferred having a two-catcher rotation with players roughly splitting time. It may be more logical to use Vazquez two-thirds of the time, with Jeffers getting one-third of the starts. When the Twins drafted him, many viewed Jeffers as a bat-first college catcher, but Twins scouts saw indications that he could be a very good defensive catcher too. He worked on pitch framing after signing with the Twins and ranked in the 66th percentile last season. Jeffers has yet to replicate his offensive output from his rookie season. In 2020, he hit .273/.355/.436 (.791) with three home runs and a 119 OPS+. Over the last two seasons, he has combined to hit .203/.277/.384 (.661) with an 85 OPS+. Minnesota entered last winter believing Jeffers could take on more of a full-time role, but those plans may have been altered with Vazquez's signing. Some thought the Twins might target a left-handed hitting catcher to pair with Jeffers, who is right-handed. It would form a more natural platoon, and Jeffers destroys lefties with an OPS 177 points higher. Vazquez also does better against southpaws, but his .731 OPS is only 49 points higher than when he faces righties. The Twins could try and match up Jeffers against lefties as much as possible, but that takes away favorable at-bats from Vazquez. Minnesota could also convince Vazquez that playing fewer games can help his overall offensive numbers. If he starts 95 games instead of 115, his legs will have less wear and tear. This switch might help him stay healthy and improve his power numbers. The Twins can plan for Vazquez to start 95 games while Jeffers starts 60 games and other catchers fill in around the margins. Unfortunately, injuries are another part of the equation. Vazquez has caught nearly 5,500 innings behind the plate, so he has a lot of miles on his legs. As mentioned above, he has been relatively healthy in recent years. Jeffers has caught 1,329 innings but has never started more than 77 big-league games at catcher (2021 when he made 13 more starts in St. Paul). In 2022, Jeffers missed time with a broken thumb after having minor elbow surgery last offseason. During the 2021 season, he dealt with knee and heel injuries. Minnesota can hope Jeffers is healthy, but he's been limited the last two seasons. Vazquez was a clear target for the Twins, but the organization still lacks other options in the high minors. Minnesota will need other veteran options at the big-league level if and when injuries strike. What are your thoughts on the Vazquez signing? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  11. Word broke on Monday evening that the Twins and Christian Vazquez had agreed to a three-year contract. Catcher was one of the team's glaring needs because Ryan Jeffers was the lone catcher on the 40-man roster. Vazquez and Jeffers don't form a perfect platoon, but each player provides strong defensive skills and the potential for offensive upside. Vazquez is 32 years old and served as Boston's primary catcher in recent seasons. He was traded to Houston at last year's trade deadline and helped the Astros to the World Series. Since 2018, he has the fifth-highest defensive runs saved among catchers. Last season, he ranked fifth among AL backstops in SABR's Defensive Index. He ranked in the 71st percentile for pop time to second base and in the 55th percentile in framing. Offensively, Vazquez compiled strong offensive numbers from 2019-20 with the Red Sox. In 185 games, he hit .278/.327/.472 (.799) with 35 doubles, 30 home runs, and a 105 OPS+. His bat has cooled off over the last two campaigns (257 games) as his OPS+ dipped to 87 with 46 doubles and 15 home runs. Outside of Willson Contreras, he was the best available free-agent catcher. Vazquez has started 115 games or more at catcher in three consecutive seasons outside the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. On paper, the Twins are signing a full-time catcher, with Jeffers moving to a backup role. In recent years, the Twins have preferred having a two-catcher rotation with players roughly splitting time. It may be more logical to use Vazquez two-thirds of the time, with Jeffers getting one-third of the starts. When the Twins drafted him, many viewed Jeffers as a bat-first college catcher, but Twins scouts saw indications that he could be a very good defensive catcher too. He worked on pitch framing after signing with the Twins and ranked in the 66th percentile last season. Jeffers has yet to replicate his offensive output from his rookie season. In 2020, he hit .273/.355/.436 (.791) with three home runs and a 119 OPS+. Over the last two seasons, he has combined to hit .203/.277/.384 (.661) with an 85 OPS+. Minnesota entered last winter believing Jeffers could take on more of a full-time role, but those plans may have been altered with Vazquez's signing. Some thought the Twins might target a left-handed hitting catcher to pair with Jeffers, who is right-handed. It would form a more natural platoon, and Jeffers destroys lefties with an OPS 177 points higher. Vazquez also does better against southpaws, but his .731 OPS is only 49 points higher than when he faces righties. The Twins could try and match up Jeffers against lefties as much as possible, but that takes away favorable at-bats from Vazquez. Minnesota could also convince Vazquez that playing fewer games can help his overall offensive numbers. If he starts 95 games instead of 115, his legs will have less wear and tear. This switch might help him stay healthy and improve his power numbers. The Twins can plan for Vazquez to start 95 games while Jeffers starts 60 games and other catchers fill in around the margins. Unfortunately, injuries are another part of the equation. Vazquez has caught nearly 5,500 innings behind the plate, so he has a lot of miles on his legs. As mentioned above, he has been relatively healthy in recent years. Jeffers has caught 1,329 innings but has never started more than 77 big-league games at catcher (2021 when he made 13 more starts in St. Paul). In 2022, Jeffers missed time with a broken thumb after having minor elbow surgery last offseason. During the 2021 season, he dealt with knee and heel injuries. Minnesota can hope Jeffers is healthy, but he's been limited the last two seasons. Vazquez was a clear target for the Twins, but the organization still lacks other options in the high minors. Minnesota will need other veteran options at the big-league level if and when injuries strike. What are your thoughts on the Vazquez signing? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  12. Coming into the offseason the Minnesota Twins had just a single catcher on their 40-man roster. While Ryan Jeffers did return to the lineup prior to the final game of the 2022 season, he wound up spending most of it injured and ineffective. Now he’s got a partner to share some of the load. Minnesota came to terms with veteran Christian Vazquez. Image courtesy of © Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports It wasn’t long ago that the Minnesota Twins employed a veteran alongside Ryan Jeffers in the form of Mitch Garver. When he was traded to the Texas Rangers last offseason, Derek Falvey targeted Gary Sanchez in a deal that sent Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt to the Yankees. Sanchez wasn’t awful, but didn’t make the strides that would’ve warranted a return. While the catching market looked thin behind All-Star Willson Contreras, the Twins keyed in all along on former Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros backstop Christian Vazquez. Having spent the entirety of his professional career in Boston up until 2022, Vazquez was dealt at the trade deadline with the Red Sox falling out of contention. At the time he was dealt, Vazquez owned a 109 OPS+ for Boston and was a solid defender with a great clubhouse presence. The position is not one that is often seen as a strong offensive contributor, but he’s remained slightly above-average in each full season since 2019. Coming off a World Series victory with the Houston Astros, Vazquez has worked with every type of pitcher including future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. He’ll look to handle a Twins pitching staff headlined by the trio of Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, and Joe Ryan. Kenta Maeda will also start the season in the rotation, and it’s well documented that Minnesota would like to add another starter. Behind the plate, Vazquez has been a solid defender for the majority of his career. He ranked 22nd in pop time last season per Statscast and generated an additional framing run for his efforts. His 47.8% strike rate ranks just below former Astros teammate Martin Maldonado. In signing Vazquez, Minnesota puts Jeffers back on the smaller end of a split. Similar to the scenario he was in with Garver, it should be expected that Vazquez operates as the 1A option among the pair. The Twins front office still has plenty of belief in Jeffers’ bat, and he’s come a long way defensively since the draft. If he can stay healthy, there’s a good chance he gets significant work against lefties and can raise his overall numbers. The front office made their first substantial move of the offseason in addressing the catcher situation. They’ll now refocus their efforts on Carlos Correa at shortstop and what they can find on the starting pitching market. View full article
  13. The Minnesota Twins signed former Houston Astros catcher Christian Vazquez to a three-year, $30 million deal Monday evening to serve as one of the team's primary backstops. Here's a breakdown of some of his pitch framing metrics. Image courtesy of Troy Taormina, USA Today Christian Vazquez has developed a reputation for being strong behind the plate, though the majority is due to his lightning quick ball exchange speed—0.67 seconds, tied for the second fastest in MLB in 2022—and solid pop time to second base—1.94 seconds, ranking in the 71st percentile. What he isn’t as well-known for, though, is his pitch framing. The ability to steal strikes is a valuable asset for modern baseball teams. Stolen strikes add up over the course of a season and can contribute to opposing team’s scoring fewer runs. The median catcher framing runs saved last season was 0, an intuitive figure. (New York Yankees catcher Jose Trevino was the best pitch framer in baseball saving his team 17 runs. In contrast, Baltimore Orioles catcher Robinson Chirinos placed 60th out of 60 as he cost his team 14 runs.) For the bulk of his career, Vazquez has graded out as a solidly above average pitch framer, with one season of elite performance. The last couple, however, he’s only been average. But there’s a reason. Below is an image depicting Vazquez’s framing performance since 2016. (Red squares are good, blue are bad.) What stands out is that over the past four seasons, Vazquez has displayed good ability to steal strikes at the top of the zone; this is shown by the presence of red boxes in the columns corresponding to Zones 11, 12, and 13. This is good news for the likes of Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle, and Bailey Ober, all of whom love to pound the upper zone with their fastballs. However, Vazquez isn’t as strong at stealing strikes on the corners; Zones 14 and 16, and to a less extent Zones 17 and 19. Although he started out strong early in his career, his ability to convert balls to strikes on the outer edges has fallen multiple seasons in a row and reached their nadir last summer. Bad news for Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda, who tend to work more on the outer half of the plate. Interestingly, though perhaps unsurprisingly, Ryan Jeffers has traditionally been slightly better at snagging the corners, but is by no means elite. (See the chart below.) Therefore, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Vazquez catch Ryan, Mahle, and Ober while Jeffers gets Gray and Maeda. In this respect, Vazquez is a great platoon match with Jeffers despite both hitting from the right side of the plate. What will be interesting to following during the 2023 season is how much of Vazquez's drop in production on the corners is something that can be adjusted. Is the difference between Jeffers and Vazquez simply rooted in organizational philosophy or is it something that is inherent in their skill sets? Regardless, even if Vasquez remains simply slightly above average in the pitch framing department, his other defensive attributes and ability to put the ball in play regularly at the plate should provide a boon for the Twins. At $10 million annually, bringing on Vazquez was a prudent move by the front office. View full article
  14. Christian Vazquez has developed a reputation for being strong behind the plate, though the majority is due to his lightning quick ball exchange speed—0.67 seconds, tied for the second fastest in MLB in 2022—and solid pop time to second base—1.94 seconds, ranking in the 71st percentile. What he isn’t as well-known for, though, is his pitch framing. The ability to steal strikes is a valuable asset for modern baseball teams. Stolen strikes add up over the course of a season and can contribute to opposing team’s scoring fewer runs. The median catcher framing runs saved last season was 0, an intuitive figure. (New York Yankees catcher Jose Trevino was the best pitch framer in baseball saving his team 17 runs. In contrast, Baltimore Orioles catcher Robinson Chirinos placed 60th out of 60 as he cost his team 14 runs.) For the bulk of his career, Vazquez has graded out as a solidly above average pitch framer, with one season of elite performance. The last couple, however, he’s only been average. But there’s a reason. Below is an image depicting Vazquez’s framing performance since 2016. (Red squares are good, blue are bad.) What stands out is that over the past four seasons, Vazquez has displayed good ability to steal strikes at the top of the zone; this is shown by the presence of red boxes in the columns corresponding to Zones 11, 12, and 13. This is good news for the likes of Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle, and Bailey Ober, all of whom love to pound the upper zone with their fastballs. However, Vazquez isn’t as strong at stealing strikes on the corners; Zones 14 and 16, and to a less extent Zones 17 and 19. Although he started out strong early in his career, his ability to convert balls to strikes on the outer edges has fallen multiple seasons in a row and reached their nadir last summer. Bad news for Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda, who tend to work more on the outer half of the plate. Interestingly, though perhaps unsurprisingly, Ryan Jeffers has traditionally been slightly better at snagging the corners, but is by no means elite. (See the chart below.) Therefore, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Vazquez catch Ryan, Mahle, and Ober while Jeffers gets Gray and Maeda. In this respect, Vazquez is a great platoon match with Jeffers despite both hitting from the right side of the plate. What will be interesting to following during the 2023 season is how much of Vazquez's drop in production on the corners is something that can be adjusted. Is the difference between Jeffers and Vazquez simply rooted in organizational philosophy or is it something that is inherent in their skill sets? Regardless, even if Vasquez remains simply slightly above average in the pitch framing department, his other defensive attributes and ability to put the ball in play regularly at the plate should provide a boon for the Twins. At $10 million annually, bringing on Vazquez was a prudent move by the front office.
  15. It wasn’t long ago that the Minnesota Twins employed a veteran alongside Ryan Jeffers in the form of Mitch Garver. When he was traded to the Texas Rangers last offseason, Derek Falvey targeted Gary Sanchez in a deal that sent Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt to the Yankees. Sanchez wasn’t awful, but didn’t make the strides that would’ve warranted a return. While the catching market looked thin behind All-Star Willson Contreras, the Twins keyed in all along on former Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros backstop Christian Vazquez. Having spent the entirety of his professional career in Boston up until 2022, Vazquez was dealt at the trade deadline with the Red Sox falling out of contention. At the time he was dealt, Vazquez owned a 109 OPS+ for Boston and was a solid defender with a great clubhouse presence. The position is not one that is often seen as a strong offensive contributor, but he’s remained slightly above-average in each full season since 2019. Coming off a World Series victory with the Houston Astros, Vazquez has worked with every type of pitcher including future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. He’ll look to handle a Twins pitching staff headlined by the trio of Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, and Joe Ryan. Kenta Maeda will also start the season in the rotation, and it’s well documented that Minnesota would like to add another starter. Behind the plate, Vazquez has been a solid defender for the majority of his career. He ranked 22nd in pop time last season per Statscast and generated an additional framing run for his efforts. His 47.8% strike rate ranks just below former Astros teammate Martin Maldonado. In signing Vazquez, Minnesota puts Jeffers back on the smaller end of a split. Similar to the scenario he was in with Garver, it should be expected that Vazquez operates as the 1A option among the pair. The Twins front office still has plenty of belief in Jeffers’ bat, and he’s come a long way defensively since the draft. If he can stay healthy, there’s a good chance he gets significant work against lefties and can raise his overall numbers. The front office made their first substantial move of the offseason in addressing the catcher situation. They’ll now refocus their efforts on Carlos Correa at shortstop and what they can find on the starting pitching market.
  16. No free agents landed a splash contract with the Twins during the Winter Meetings. Is one of those contracts still to come soon for the Twins following the conclusion of the Winter Meetings? Image courtesy of Lon Horwedel, USA Today Sports The 2022 Winter Meetings have concluded in San Diego without any Major League transactions for the Minnesota Twins. While the Twins made little noise, their plans have remained intact because of other teams' free-agent acquisitions. Here are the best moves the Twins can make in free agency following the Winter Meetings. 1. Resign Carlos Correa At this point, it is practically beating a dead horse to stress how important for the Twins to bring back Carlos Correa. Fortunately for the Twins, he is still on the market and there are fewer teams to compete with the Philadelphia Phillies signing Trea Turner and the San Diego Padres signing Xander Bogaerts. Now the biggest challenge for the Twins is enticing Correa and super-agent Scott Boras with an offer, plus incentives, that could do better than the current favorites to sign him, the San Francisco Giants. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle has reported the Giants have now emerged as the favorites to sign Correa following the Winter Meetings. Slusser writes that the Giants have the incentive to give out a deal to Correa that exceeds Trea Turner’s 11-year, $300 million deal with the Phillies. However, with the Padres signing Bogaerts, it makes their chances at the postseason harder within the NL West. Fellow Twins Daily writer Nash Walker pointed out in a tweet, that between the Twins, Giants, and even the Cubs. Correa’s best chances of making the postseason in 2023 may be back in Minnesota based on division strength. The urgency to return to October baseball for Correa could be a major selling factor for the Twins to resign him, but some other big moves may need to correspond with such an offer. 2. Pursuing Rodon and Bassitt The starting pitching market in free agency has shortened really quickly after the Winter Meetings. The best remaining starter is objectively Carlos Rodon and while the Twins have been linked as a team interested in signing him, there have been no reports of the team meeting with Rodon. With lower-end pitchers such as Kyle Gibson, Matthew Boyd, and Mike Clevinger receiving $10-12 million on one-year deals. Rodon came out asking for a contract worth $30-35 million per season over six or more seasons. The demand from Rodon surpasses those that the Twins were rumored to give to Yu Darvish and Zack Wheeler in recent years. However, the Twins are already willing to spend much, much more on Correa but likely over a longer period of time. Still, if they miss out on Correa, Rodon would be the best remaining free agent for the Twins to sign if he’s still there. In the case that Correa does resign with the Twins, Rodon is likely off the table for budgetary reasons. In that case, former Met Chris Bassitt may be the next best choice to help bolster the Twins rotation. Bassitt is seeking a four-year deal but has not had a set annual price for a contract. He did decline a $19 million mutual option for 2023. Given the amount of money ($72 million) his former teammate Taijuan Walker has received in his four-year deal, Bassitt will likely want at an equivalent four-year, $72 million deal. . Bassitt turns 34 in February and will be 37 by the end of any four-year deal. But his immediate value comes from what he can bring to an already deep group of rotation options would certainly make the Twins better come Opening Day. 3. Sign Christian Vazquez Conversations have happened between the Twins' front office and reigning World Series champ Christian Vazquez and as of this week, an offer has been extended to Vazquez from the Twins as reported by Darren Wolfson of KSTP. The full details of the offer are not currently known but Vazquez would certainly strengthen platoon options at catcher between him and Ryan Jeffers. With Wilson Contreras off to St. Louis and the availability of A's backstop Sean Murphy currently unknown, Vazquez is the best option to help behind the plate. Even if Vazquez declines an offer from Minnesota, a good backup option to sign at catching might be Omar Narvaez. While Narvaez’s defense is not as strong as Vazquez, he still swings a strong bat from the left side of the plate. The conclusion of the Winter Meetings has not slowed down signings as the Mets picked up two big names in Brandon Nimmo and David Robertson on Thursday night. The players the Twins want may not remain available in a week's time. Their best hope is to set new franchise records in contract length and spending with these remaining players they hope to acquire. View full article
  17. The 2022 Winter Meetings have concluded in San Diego without any Major League transactions for the Minnesota Twins. While the Twins made little noise, their plans have remained intact because of other teams' free-agent acquisitions. Here are the best moves the Twins can make in free agency following the Winter Meetings. 1. Resign Carlos Correa At this point, it is practically beating a dead horse to stress how important for the Twins to bring back Carlos Correa. Fortunately for the Twins, he is still on the market and there are fewer teams to compete with the Philadelphia Phillies signing Trea Turner and the San Diego Padres signing Xander Bogaerts. Now the biggest challenge for the Twins is enticing Correa and super-agent Scott Boras with an offer, plus incentives, that could do better than the current favorites to sign him, the San Francisco Giants. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle has reported the Giants have now emerged as the favorites to sign Correa following the Winter Meetings. Slusser writes that the Giants have the incentive to give out a deal to Correa that exceeds Trea Turner’s 11-year, $300 million deal with the Phillies. However, with the Padres signing Bogaerts, it makes their chances at the postseason harder within the NL West. Fellow Twins Daily writer Nash Walker pointed out in a tweet, that between the Twins, Giants, and even the Cubs. Correa’s best chances of making the postseason in 2023 may be back in Minnesota based on division strength. The urgency to return to October baseball for Correa could be a major selling factor for the Twins to resign him, but some other big moves may need to correspond with such an offer. 2. Pursuing Rodon and Bassitt The starting pitching market in free agency has shortened really quickly after the Winter Meetings. The best remaining starter is objectively Carlos Rodon and while the Twins have been linked as a team interested in signing him, there have been no reports of the team meeting with Rodon. With lower-end pitchers such as Kyle Gibson, Matthew Boyd, and Mike Clevinger receiving $10-12 million on one-year deals. Rodon came out asking for a contract worth $30-35 million per season over six or more seasons. The demand from Rodon surpasses those that the Twins were rumored to give to Yu Darvish and Zack Wheeler in recent years. However, the Twins are already willing to spend much, much more on Correa but likely over a longer period of time. Still, if they miss out on Correa, Rodon would be the best remaining free agent for the Twins to sign if he’s still there. In the case that Correa does resign with the Twins, Rodon is likely off the table for budgetary reasons. In that case, former Met Chris Bassitt may be the next best choice to help bolster the Twins rotation. Bassitt is seeking a four-year deal but has not had a set annual price for a contract. He did decline a $19 million mutual option for 2023. Given the amount of money ($72 million) his former teammate Taijuan Walker has received in his four-year deal, Bassitt will likely want at an equivalent four-year, $72 million deal. . Bassitt turns 34 in February and will be 37 by the end of any four-year deal. But his immediate value comes from what he can bring to an already deep group of rotation options would certainly make the Twins better come Opening Day. 3. Sign Christian Vazquez Conversations have happened between the Twins' front office and reigning World Series champ Christian Vazquez and as of this week, an offer has been extended to Vazquez from the Twins as reported by Darren Wolfson of KSTP. The full details of the offer are not currently known but Vazquez would certainly strengthen platoon options at catcher between him and Ryan Jeffers. With Wilson Contreras off to St. Louis and the availability of A's backstop Sean Murphy currently unknown, Vazquez is the best option to help behind the plate. Even if Vazquez declines an offer from Minnesota, a good backup option to sign at catching might be Omar Narvaez. While Narvaez’s defense is not as strong as Vazquez, he still swings a strong bat from the left side of the plate. The conclusion of the Winter Meetings has not slowed down signings as the Mets picked up two big names in Brandon Nimmo and David Robertson on Thursday night. The players the Twins want may not remain available in a week's time. Their best hope is to set new franchise records in contract length and spending with these remaining players they hope to acquire.
  18. There were only a handful of transactions on Monday as baseball's annual Winter Meetings began in San Diego. However, a couple of interesting moves and rumors may help signal the Twins direction. Image courtesy of Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports The Winter Meetings are upon us. While lots of roster cleanup has happened since the World Series ended about a month ago, the offseason really begins with these meetings. To this point, a couple of the top free agent starting pitchers have signed huge deals while several veteran, fifth starter types have signed with new teams. One of the Big Four shortstops has signed. Aaron Judge may or may not show up in San Diego on Tuesday after watching Tom Brady and the Buccaneers get a final-minute win in Tampa. Will he sign? Will he just meet with people? Could he possibly get 10 years and $400 million? Is that really possible? Here are a few themes that I thought of on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings: The Twins Aren't (and Shoudn't) Sign Carlos Rodon The Twins clearly want to add a starting pitcher, a veteran who is as good or better than Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle. Carlos Rodon fits that category and the Twins have certainly shown interest in the former White Sox southpaw. So why won't he sign with the Twins? Why? Let me count the ways. First, Jacob deGrom inexplicably got a five-year deal with the Rangers for $185 million despite missing more than half of his starts the past two seasons. That said, if he's healthy, he is baseball's best pitcher. On Sunday, news broke that Justin Verlander was signing with the Mets for two years and $86 million. The Twins weren't going to be in on either of them. However, certainly in part due to those contracts and especially the length of deGrom's deal, Carlos Rodon is reported to be looking for six or more years and $30-35 million per season. He's right to ask for it, and he will likely get it. The fact that there are reportedly at least eight teams that have had conversations with Rodon's team (including the Twins), the number will jump up. So are Jose Quintana and Andrew Heaney in play for the Twins? Maybe. It was reported on Monday night that Heaney has several three year deals on the table, so now he's looking for four years. You hate to see it, but maybe @Matt Braun was correct. Andrew Heaney may just be the best the Twins can do, and I personally don't think that's a bad thing. We have written for months that the Twins should no longer be signing fifth starter types. And as we have seen this offseason, the money veteran fifth starters are getting is a bit silly. Mike Clevinger signed with the White Sox for $12 million guaranteed. Matthew Boyd somehow got $10 million to return to the Tigers. And over the weekend, former Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson got $10 million from the Orioles. With all that in mind, I'll still say that the Twins would be wise to keep focusing on pitcher development. Instead of signing those guys (like Archer, Bundy, Happ, Shoemaker and many more before that), they should give guys like Louie Varland, Josh Winder, Simeon Woods Richardson, Cole Sands, Jordan Balazovic and others. All-Rise... So, how are the Twins going to go about getting a high-quality, ace-like starting pitcher? Well, Twins fans won't want to hear it, but first thing on Monday morning, Dan Hayes posted an article indicating that Luis Arraez's name has been discussed in trade talks for pitching. Arraez is coming off of a(nother) breakout season. He was an All Star, won his first batting title, won a Silver Slugger and received MVP votes. But again, if we are talking about acquiring a pitcher who would jump right into the top spot in the Twins rotation, they're going to have to give up a painful amount. Also of note, this is approximately the third straight offseason where the Twins have been rumored to be willing to trade Arraez, and as you are fully aware, they are yet to do it. Catching Up... The Twins are reportedly looking for a catcher who can share time with Ryan Jeffers who is currently the lone catcher on the Twins 40-man roster. Two tidbits on that search from Day 1 of the Winter Meetings include: Ken Rosenthal reported that the Twins are one of six teams who that are "in on" Christian Vasquez. The long-time Red Sox backstop was traded to the Astros at the trade deadline and teamed with Martin Maldonado. There were rumors circulating that A's catcher Sean Murphy might be traded early in the Winter Meetings. It hasn't happened yet. Frankly, it sounds like there are so many teams in on Murphy that the cost probably doesn't make any sense for the Twins. Correa Stuff The A-talker of the week for Twins fans is Carlos Correa. Will the Twins be able to bring him back? This is going to be interesting. On Monday, the Phillies grabbed Trea Turner in a deal that will guarantee him $300 million over the next 11 seasons. Why is that noteworthy to Twins fans? Because most evaluators would put Turner and Correa very close to each other in terms of value so this is a good deal to kind of establish a market for Correa. Correa is a year younger than Turner, so is it possible that he could get a 12 year deal, maybe even 13 years? And how much beyond $300 million will Scott Boras help Correa attain. In his press conference on Monday, manager Rocco Baldelli said that he believes that the Twins are well positioned to bring back Correa. He noted that he had a dinner with Correa (and also Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Rodon, all Boras clients) that was very nice. data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAPABAP///wAAACH5BAEKAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAICRAEAOw== Darren Wolfson found out that the Twins are willing to offer 10-year deals and include multiple opt-outs. The Twins may have to get creative to make it work, but potentially adding the extra years also brings down the AAV (Average Annual Value). There is a lot of competition. The Cubs are certainly interested, and they reportedly had a meeting with Correa on Monday. There were also indications that the Cubs might try to sign two of the Big Four (3 remaining) shortstops. After losing Turner, the Dodgers likely will want a shortstop. Would the Dodgers bring in Correa after their players and fans, made him the lead target of their post-2017 World Series angst? The Cardinals are rumored to be pursuing Dansby Swanson. If he signed elsewhere, would Atlanta really be willing to go with Vaughn Grissom at shortstop? In reality, it seems to be that if the San Francisco Giants don't sign Aaron Judge, they'll throw all their eggs into the Correa basket. If Judge signs with the Yankees, I do believe that the Twins have at least a real opportunity to bring back Correa. To be honest, this is all on Correa's timeline. He's the lead player available at shortstop and he can play the proverbial field, maybe even encouraged to do so by Boras. Do the Twins need to establish a deadline for Correa before moving on to Bogaerts or another option? Probably not since Boras Agency represents both. And the Twins met with Carlos Correa according to a 2 am Jon Heyman tweet. Draft Lottery For the first time in baseball history, MLB will have a Draft Lottery and tonight at 7:30 on MLB Network, we will find out if the Twins will be able to move up in the draft. The NBA has done this for a long time. The 18 teams that did not get into the playoffs will all have a chance to move up to the #1 spot in the draft. However, the worse the team's record, the less likely they get the top pick. In an attempt to have teams not intentionally tank for the worst record, the bottom three teams will each have a 16.5% chance of getting the top pick. The Twins odds of jumping to the #1 spot is just 0.9% Yes, I'm saying there is a chance! The lottery will determine the top six picks of the 2023 draft. Can the Twins jump into the Top 6, or will they stay at the #13 pick? Keep up with Twins-related rumors at our Twins Rumors page here. View full article
  19. On Sunday, the eyes of the baseball world will be upon San Diego and the Winter Meetings. Let’s take a look at what the Minnesota Twins need to accomplish this offseason. Obviously not all of it will be completed over the next week, but it is an opportunity to get all parties in one location, able to have discussions. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports Here we are in the first days of December, and there are some fans who are already wondering if this has been a lost offseason for the Twins. Aside from the standard roster cleanup at the end of the season and the 40-man roster additions, the only moves made have been bringing back minor-league free agents Jair Camargo and Elliot Soto. It is also important to note that the annual Winter Meetings are set up for league meetings, rules meetings, minor-league meetings and more. It is also a place where people will bring their resumes and meet with teams, hoping to get jobs or internships. Those looking for jobs in baseball will be dressed in suits and ties. GMs and media are often seen in business casual, if not shorts and a beach button down shirt. If the season started today… I think that it is always important to know the current status. That way, we are able to look at where the roster stands, and see where there are weaknesses and strengths. This is all stuff that the front office does, though much more in-depth and thoroughly than any of us. But for us, it’s where we’re starting. If the season started today, what would the roster look like? C: Ryan Jeffers 1B: Alex Kirilloff 2B: Jorge Polanco 3B: Jose Miranda SS: Kyle Farmer LF: Trevor Larnach CF: Byron Buxton RF: Max Kepler DH: Luis Arraez More 40-Man Options: Edouard Julien, Gilberto Celestino, Mark Contreras, Matt Wallner, Kyle Garlick, Injured: Royce Lewis. Upper-Level, Non-40-Man Roster: David Banuelos, Jair Camargo, Alex Isola, Chris Williams, Michael Helman. Austin Martin, Brooks Lee, SP: Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, Tyler Mahle, Bailey Ober RP: Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Caleb Thielbar, Griffin Jax, Jorge Alcala, Emilio Pagan, Jovani Moran, Trevor Megill. More 40-Man Options: Jordan Balazovic, Blayne Enlow, Brent Headrick, Ronny Henriquez, Cole Sands, Louie Varland, Josh Winder, Simeon Woods Richardson Injured: Chris Paddack, Matt Canterino Upper-Level, Non-40-Man Roster: Evan Sisk, Randy Dobnak,Austin Schulfer, Kody Funderburk, Steven Cruz, Cody Laweryson Roster Needs 1.) Shortstop - Obviously the big talker this week, as it has been the last month or more, is what will happen with Carlos Correa? While the Twins have made offers, Correa is going to have many offers. In my opinion, he’ll get 10 years from someone, and I would guess that he would get a number very close to the $325 million that Corey Seager got just a year ago. The Twins love Correa. Correa clearly enjoyed his time with the Twins and developed some very strong relationships in the Twins organization. It may simply come down to money, and the fact that teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, Phillies, Braves, and Cubs are other teams looking to sign a shortstop, it will be very hard for the Twins to compete with those teams. Could he be willing to get creative to stay with the Twins? So what is the fallback plan? The Twins were aggressive in bringing in Kyle Farmer. If he’s the Twins opening day shortstop, the Twins will be fine, but that is the proverbial floor that they have set. They clearly want Correa. If they don’t get him, I think they’ll continue their conversations with Scott Boras in hopes of signing Xander Bogaerts. You could argue that dollar-for-dollar, that would be a better investment. Bogaerts is only a year younger than Correa, has had a remarkable career in Boston already, and will likely make $100 million less than Correa. The Twins front office clearly has a strong relationship with the Boras agency, so while odds may be low, it’s OK for Twins fans to have some hope in bringing one of them in. 2.) A top starting pitcher - Forced to fill innings and starts in 2022, the Twins gave opportunities to several young starting pitchers. Joe Ryan was the Opening Day starter, and when Bailey Ober was healthy, he pitched well. With the emergence of Varland, Henriquez, Winder, and Woods Richardson, the need to sign veteran fifth starter options to eat innings should not be there. That is especially true when looking at the eight-figure contracts signed last week by Mike Clevinger and Matthew Boyd. Can the Twins count on their starters being healthy in 2023? While it would surely be nice to assume that Kenta Maeda will return from Tommy John and pitch like he did in 2020, that’s probably not fair. Tyler Mahle made just four starts before his shoulder issues continued, but if he’s healthy, he would likely be their top pitcher. Sonny Gray ended the season in the Injured List with a hamstring issue. Bailey Ober had two long stints on the IL with leg issues. If healthy, this rotation can be pretty solid. Maybe no number one starters, but potentially a couple of solid #2s and a couple more solid #3s. The youngsters can be the as-needed starters, working to improve their readiness in St. Paul. If the Twins can add a true #1 starter, that would be huge. The problem is Jacob de Grom inexplicably got five guaranteed seasons from the Rangers. Justin Verlander will either pitch for Houston again or in New York. The only other ace available in free agency is lefty Carlos Rodon, an injury-risk in his own right. Is that the move? Risks are very high with free-agent pitchers. Between one-third and one-half of the 30 teams in the league will be after the southpaw. How strong a starter could the Twins hope for in free agency? Is the trade route a possibility for the Twins? 3.) Backup catcher - I know, the front office and others have said that they would like to add a catcher to split time with Ryan Jeffers or even be a starter. I’m admittedly a big believer in Jeffers. I don’t see a big problem at all. For me, I much prefer they find a solid left-handed hitting catcher to start maybe 60 games while Jeffers gets the other 100 starts. Willson Contreras would be fun and provide strong offense, but I don’t think they need to spend four years and $80 million on a catcher. Christian Vasquez may get $10-12 million annually over a year or two.Both are right handed. Omar Narvaez makes a lot of sense. To a lesser degree, Tucker Barnhart might make sense. I would be fine with them. Honestly, I’d also be intrigued by the likes of Austin Hedges and Mike Zunino, or Roberto Perez or Kevin Plawecki. Really, once you get past Contreras, there aren’t really many catchers that can hit, so they should grab another strong defensive catcher that is well respected. As I mentioned, I’m a big believer in Jeffers, and that includes his bat. Yes, it would be good to see him hovering around .240 instead of .200, but he has the power to hit 20 or more homers if he gets 100 starts. How many catchers can do that? Other Things to Consider Where should the Twins payroll be? While there aren’t great or exact public records for MLB team’s books, if they are to be in the player preferred 48-52% of revenue, the Twins should probably be somewhere between $150 and $165 million in 2023. Will the Twins be able to trade veteran Max Kepler? Should they? Are there other veterans that could be traded? Maybe even Jorge Polanco? Will the team add some solid veteran relievers? Adding even just one more reliable arm for the late innings would help and provide depth for the unforeseen. Or, could they move some of their intriguing starting pitcher prospects to the bullpen to work in roles where they can pitch 2-4 innings at a time? The Twins tendered a 2023 contract to Emelio Pagan, but they will certainly try to trade him during the offseason. Can they get anything for him? Do the Twins need to add speed to their roster in the offseason to take advantage of some of the new rules coming in 2023? Will the Twins make a Rule 5 draft pick? Could they potentially lose players in the Rule 5 draft? They protected four players - and traded one of them - but there are players that the Twins could lose. To this point, the Twins have added a solid MLB shortstop (and a potentially very nice utility piece) in Kyle Farmer. They have a lot of work to do and a lot of difficult questions to answer. Shortstop will certainly be the focus, but will any of the Big 4 free agent shortstops look to sign this early in the offseason? The Twins should also be looking at high-level starting pitching, and they would be wise to add at least one more reliable reliever. Finally, they need to add a reliable catcher to team with Ryan Jeffers. Of course, the Winter Meetings are often more of a time for rumors and conversations to set things up for the next few weeks. The Twins did already make one move this offseason that we all hope will have a huge impact on the organization. In hiring head athletic trainer Nick Paparest, the hope is that the Twins will be able to avoid the massive amount of lost time due to injuries. If that can happen, it could play a huge role in the Twins success in 2023. Some of this may be answered over the coming days in San Diego, and talks will continue right through spring training. It should be a lot of fun. View full article
  20. The Winter Meetings are upon us. While lots of roster cleanup has happened since the World Series ended about a month ago, the offseason really begins with these meetings. To this point, a couple of the top free agent starting pitchers have signed huge deals while several veteran, fifth starter types have signed with new teams. One of the Big Four shortstops has signed. Aaron Judge may or may not show up in San Diego on Tuesday after watching Tom Brady and the Buccaneers get a final-minute win in Tampa. Will he sign? Will he just meet with people? Could he possibly get 10 years and $400 million? Is that really possible? Here are a few themes that I thought of on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings: The Twins Aren't (and Shoudn't) Sign Carlos Rodon The Twins clearly want to add a starting pitcher, a veteran who is as good or better than Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle. Carlos Rodon fits that category and the Twins have certainly shown interest in the former White Sox southpaw. So why won't he sign with the Twins? Why? Let me count the ways. First, Jacob deGrom inexplicably got a five-year deal with the Rangers for $185 million despite missing more than half of his starts the past two seasons. That said, if he's healthy, he is baseball's best pitcher. On Sunday, news broke that Justin Verlander was signing with the Mets for two years and $86 million. The Twins weren't going to be in on either of them. However, certainly in part due to those contracts and especially the length of deGrom's deal, Carlos Rodon is reported to be looking for six or more years and $30-35 million per season. He's right to ask for it, and he will likely get it. The fact that there are reportedly at least eight teams that have had conversations with Rodon's team (including the Twins), the number will jump up. So are Jose Quintana and Andrew Heaney in play for the Twins? Maybe. It was reported on Monday night that Heaney has several three year deals on the table, so now he's looking for four years. You hate to see it, but maybe @Matt Braun was correct. Andrew Heaney may just be the best the Twins can do, and I personally don't think that's a bad thing. We have written for months that the Twins should no longer be signing fifth starter types. And as we have seen this offseason, the money veteran fifth starters are getting is a bit silly. Mike Clevinger signed with the White Sox for $12 million guaranteed. Matthew Boyd somehow got $10 million to return to the Tigers. And over the weekend, former Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson got $10 million from the Orioles. With all that in mind, I'll still say that the Twins would be wise to keep focusing on pitcher development. Instead of signing those guys (like Archer, Bundy, Happ, Shoemaker and many more before that), they should give guys like Louie Varland, Josh Winder, Simeon Woods Richardson, Cole Sands, Jordan Balazovic and others. All-Rise... So, how are the Twins going to go about getting a high-quality, ace-like starting pitcher? Well, Twins fans won't want to hear it, but first thing on Monday morning, Dan Hayes posted an article indicating that Luis Arraez's name has been discussed in trade talks for pitching. Arraez is coming off of a(nother) breakout season. He was an All Star, won his first batting title, won a Silver Slugger and received MVP votes. But again, if we are talking about acquiring a pitcher who would jump right into the top spot in the Twins rotation, they're going to have to give up a painful amount. Also of note, this is approximately the third straight offseason where the Twins have been rumored to be willing to trade Arraez, and as you are fully aware, they are yet to do it. Catching Up... The Twins are reportedly looking for a catcher who can share time with Ryan Jeffers who is currently the lone catcher on the Twins 40-man roster. Two tidbits on that search from Day 1 of the Winter Meetings include: Ken Rosenthal reported that the Twins are one of six teams who that are "in on" Christian Vasquez. The long-time Red Sox backstop was traded to the Astros at the trade deadline and teamed with Martin Maldonado. There were rumors circulating that A's catcher Sean Murphy might be traded early in the Winter Meetings. It hasn't happened yet. Frankly, it sounds like there are so many teams in on Murphy that the cost probably doesn't make any sense for the Twins. Correa Stuff The A-talker of the week for Twins fans is Carlos Correa. Will the Twins be able to bring him back? This is going to be interesting. On Monday, the Phillies grabbed Trea Turner in a deal that will guarantee him $300 million over the next 11 seasons. Why is that noteworthy to Twins fans? Because most evaluators would put Turner and Correa very close to each other in terms of value so this is a good deal to kind of establish a market for Correa. Correa is a year younger than Turner, so is it possible that he could get a 12 year deal, maybe even 13 years? And how much beyond $300 million will Scott Boras help Correa attain. In his press conference on Monday, manager Rocco Baldelli said that he believes that the Twins are well positioned to bring back Correa. He noted that he had a dinner with Correa (and also Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Rodon, all Boras clients) that was very nice. data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAPABAP///wAAACH5BAEKAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAICRAEAOw== Darren Wolfson found out that the Twins are willing to offer 10-year deals and include multiple opt-outs. The Twins may have to get creative to make it work, but potentially adding the extra years also brings down the AAV (Average Annual Value). There is a lot of competition. The Cubs are certainly interested, and they reportedly had a meeting with Correa on Monday. There were also indications that the Cubs might try to sign two of the Big Four (3 remaining) shortstops. After losing Turner, the Dodgers likely will want a shortstop. Would the Dodgers bring in Correa after their players and fans, made him the lead target of their post-2017 World Series angst? The Cardinals are rumored to be pursuing Dansby Swanson. If he signed elsewhere, would Atlanta really be willing to go with Vaughn Grissom at shortstop? In reality, it seems to be that if the San Francisco Giants don't sign Aaron Judge, they'll throw all their eggs into the Correa basket. If Judge signs with the Yankees, I do believe that the Twins have at least a real opportunity to bring back Correa. To be honest, this is all on Correa's timeline. He's the lead player available at shortstop and he can play the proverbial field, maybe even encouraged to do so by Boras. Do the Twins need to establish a deadline for Correa before moving on to Bogaerts or another option? Probably not since Boras Agency represents both. And the Twins met with Carlos Correa according to a 2 am Jon Heyman tweet. Draft Lottery For the first time in baseball history, MLB will have a Draft Lottery and tonight at 7:30 on MLB Network, we will find out if the Twins will be able to move up in the draft. The NBA has done this for a long time. The 18 teams that did not get into the playoffs will all have a chance to move up to the #1 spot in the draft. However, the worse the team's record, the less likely they get the top pick. In an attempt to have teams not intentionally tank for the worst record, the bottom three teams will each have a 16.5% chance of getting the top pick. The Twins odds of jumping to the #1 spot is just 0.9% Yes, I'm saying there is a chance! The lottery will determine the top six picks of the 2023 draft. Can the Twins jump into the Top 6, or will they stay at the #13 pick? Keep up with Twins-related rumors at our Twins Rumors page here.
  21. Going into the offseason the Minnesota Twins have just one catcher on their 40-man roster. With little other help immediately seen throughout the system, it’s a position needing to be addressed this winter. The question for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine may be just how dire is the issue? Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports Last offseason the Twins traded Silver Slugger Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers. Injury had been his bugaboo in recent seasons, and he was ultimately shut down with Texas to undergo an arm procedure. In trading Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt to the New York Yankees, Minnesota opted to pair Ryan Jeffers with former standout Gary Sanchez. It did not go well. While a timeshare was probably somewhat expected, Jeffers ultimately could’ve been given the keys to the kingdom. Unfortunately, he dealt with injury and ineffectiveness, playing only 67 games and posting an 86 OPS+. Looking ahead to 2023, it’s basically Jeffers or bust until Minnesota’s front office decides otherwise. The 2018 2nd-round pick has to show he’s capable of that 119 OPS+ he posted across his first 26 games in the majors. It’s hard to make much of 2022 for Jeffers given how truncated the action was. He bottomed out with a .550 OPS through his first 39 games, but then on June 8 started a little turnaround. In his next 21 games, through July 14, Jeffers slashed .286/.342/.529 (.871) with nine extra-base hits, including four home runs. In a year in which his power had looked nonexistent, it finally arrived at that point. Then the injury happened. Returning to a fading team in late September, Jeffers followed up a successful rehab in St. Paul by playing in just seven more games. It wasn't enough to settle in, and nothing about his production provided answers for the year ahead. Gone are Sanchez and Sandy Leon, leaving only Jeffers to assume time. Another talent will be brought in to work alongside him, but the level of that player should say plenty as to where Minnesota’s front office believes their backstop situation is. It was this front office that took a risk on Jeffers in the draft. Despite some reports and evaluations by other organizations that he may never have the defensive chops behind the plate, Minnesota took him on as a bat-first prospect. We have now seen a strong defender emerge, and it’s largely been the bat that has lagged behind. That alone should give hope to an organization relying on analysis from when Jeffers was originally drafted. For this pitching staff to be successful, Jeffers is the type of catcher they’d prefer working with. More often than not Sanchez had them working against a stacked deck, and Leon was leaned on heavily down the stretch. The front office could opt for a veteran backup in the form of Omar Narvaez, or they could make a big splash and land a starting type akin to Sean Murphy or Danny Jansen. There are ways for the roster to work with either path, but plenty will be said about the current prognosis of Jeffers in relation to whatever option they choose. There was a time that Jeffers and Garver held down the position almost as well as peak Joe Mauer did. Minnesota hasn’t had that consistency since the future Hall of Famer moved to first base, however, and they’ll be looking for a much better outcome from behind the dish in 2023. View full article
  22. Here we are in the first days of December, and there are some fans who are already wondering if this has been a lost offseason for the Twins. Aside from the standard roster cleanup at the end of the season and the 40-man roster additions, the only moves made have been bringing back minor-league free agents Jair Camargo and Elliot Soto. It is also important to note that the annual Winter Meetings are set up for league meetings, rules meetings, minor-league meetings and more. It is also a place where people will bring their resumes and meet with teams, hoping to get jobs or internships. Those looking for jobs in baseball will be dressed in suits and ties. GMs and media are often seen in business casual, if not shorts and a beach button down shirt. If the season started today… I think that it is always important to know the current status. That way, we are able to look at where the roster stands, and see where there are weaknesses and strengths. This is all stuff that the front office does, though much more in-depth and thoroughly than any of us. But for us, it’s where we’re starting. If the season started today, what would the roster look like? C: Ryan Jeffers 1B: Alex Kirilloff 2B: Jorge Polanco 3B: Jose Miranda SS: Kyle Farmer LF: Trevor Larnach CF: Byron Buxton RF: Max Kepler DH: Luis Arraez More 40-Man Options: Edouard Julien, Gilberto Celestino, Mark Contreras, Matt Wallner, Kyle Garlick, Injured: Royce Lewis. Upper-Level, Non-40-Man Roster: David Banuelos, Jair Camargo, Alex Isola, Chris Williams, Michael Helman. Austin Martin, Brooks Lee, SP: Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, Tyler Mahle, Bailey Ober RP: Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Caleb Thielbar, Griffin Jax, Jorge Alcala, Emilio Pagan, Jovani Moran, Trevor Megill. More 40-Man Options: Jordan Balazovic, Blayne Enlow, Brent Headrick, Ronny Henriquez, Cole Sands, Louie Varland, Josh Winder, Simeon Woods Richardson Injured: Chris Paddack, Matt Canterino Upper-Level, Non-40-Man Roster: Evan Sisk, Randy Dobnak,Austin Schulfer, Kody Funderburk, Steven Cruz, Cody Laweryson Roster Needs 1.) Shortstop - Obviously the big talker this week, as it has been the last month or more, is what will happen with Carlos Correa? While the Twins have made offers, Correa is going to have many offers. In my opinion, he’ll get 10 years from someone, and I would guess that he would get a number very close to the $325 million that Corey Seager got just a year ago. The Twins love Correa. Correa clearly enjoyed his time with the Twins and developed some very strong relationships in the Twins organization. It may simply come down to money, and the fact that teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, Phillies, Braves, and Cubs are other teams looking to sign a shortstop, it will be very hard for the Twins to compete with those teams. Could he be willing to get creative to stay with the Twins? So what is the fallback plan? The Twins were aggressive in bringing in Kyle Farmer. If he’s the Twins opening day shortstop, the Twins will be fine, but that is the proverbial floor that they have set. They clearly want Correa. If they don’t get him, I think they’ll continue their conversations with Scott Boras in hopes of signing Xander Bogaerts. You could argue that dollar-for-dollar, that would be a better investment. Bogaerts is only a year younger than Correa, has had a remarkable career in Boston already, and will likely make $100 million less than Correa. The Twins front office clearly has a strong relationship with the Boras agency, so while odds may be low, it’s OK for Twins fans to have some hope in bringing one of them in. 2.) A top starting pitcher - Forced to fill innings and starts in 2022, the Twins gave opportunities to several young starting pitchers. Joe Ryan was the Opening Day starter, and when Bailey Ober was healthy, he pitched well. With the emergence of Varland, Henriquez, Winder, and Woods Richardson, the need to sign veteran fifth starter options to eat innings should not be there. That is especially true when looking at the eight-figure contracts signed last week by Mike Clevinger and Matthew Boyd. Can the Twins count on their starters being healthy in 2023? While it would surely be nice to assume that Kenta Maeda will return from Tommy John and pitch like he did in 2020, that’s probably not fair. Tyler Mahle made just four starts before his shoulder issues continued, but if he’s healthy, he would likely be their top pitcher. Sonny Gray ended the season in the Injured List with a hamstring issue. Bailey Ober had two long stints on the IL with leg issues. If healthy, this rotation can be pretty solid. Maybe no number one starters, but potentially a couple of solid #2s and a couple more solid #3s. The youngsters can be the as-needed starters, working to improve their readiness in St. Paul. If the Twins can add a true #1 starter, that would be huge. The problem is Jacob de Grom inexplicably got five guaranteed seasons from the Rangers. Justin Verlander will either pitch for Houston again or in New York. The only other ace available in free agency is lefty Carlos Rodon, an injury-risk in his own right. Is that the move? Risks are very high with free-agent pitchers. Between one-third and one-half of the 30 teams in the league will be after the southpaw. How strong a starter could the Twins hope for in free agency? Is the trade route a possibility for the Twins? 3.) Backup catcher - I know, the front office and others have said that they would like to add a catcher to split time with Ryan Jeffers or even be a starter. I’m admittedly a big believer in Jeffers. I don’t see a big problem at all. For me, I much prefer they find a solid left-handed hitting catcher to start maybe 60 games while Jeffers gets the other 100 starts. Willson Contreras would be fun and provide strong offense, but I don’t think they need to spend four years and $80 million on a catcher. Christian Vasquez may get $10-12 million annually over a year or two.Both are right handed. Omar Narvaez makes a lot of sense. To a lesser degree, Tucker Barnhart might make sense. I would be fine with them. Honestly, I’d also be intrigued by the likes of Austin Hedges and Mike Zunino, or Roberto Perez or Kevin Plawecki. Really, once you get past Contreras, there aren’t really many catchers that can hit, so they should grab another strong defensive catcher that is well respected. As I mentioned, I’m a big believer in Jeffers, and that includes his bat. Yes, it would be good to see him hovering around .240 instead of .200, but he has the power to hit 20 or more homers if he gets 100 starts. How many catchers can do that? Other Things to Consider Where should the Twins payroll be? While there aren’t great or exact public records for MLB team’s books, if they are to be in the player preferred 48-52% of revenue, the Twins should probably be somewhere between $150 and $165 million in 2023. Will the Twins be able to trade veteran Max Kepler? Should they? Are there other veterans that could be traded? Maybe even Jorge Polanco? Will the team add some solid veteran relievers? Adding even just one more reliable arm for the late innings would help and provide depth for the unforeseen. Or, could they move some of their intriguing starting pitcher prospects to the bullpen to work in roles where they can pitch 2-4 innings at a time? The Twins tendered a 2023 contract to Emelio Pagan, but they will certainly try to trade him during the offseason. Can they get anything for him? Do the Twins need to add speed to their roster in the offseason to take advantage of some of the new rules coming in 2023? Will the Twins make a Rule 5 draft pick? Could they potentially lose players in the Rule 5 draft? They protected four players - and traded one of them - but there are players that the Twins could lose. To this point, the Twins have added a solid MLB shortstop (and a potentially very nice utility piece) in Kyle Farmer. They have a lot of work to do and a lot of difficult questions to answer. Shortstop will certainly be the focus, but will any of the Big 4 free agent shortstops look to sign this early in the offseason? The Twins should also be looking at high-level starting pitching, and they would be wise to add at least one more reliable reliever. Finally, they need to add a reliable catcher to team with Ryan Jeffers. Of course, the Winter Meetings are often more of a time for rumors and conversations to set things up for the next few weeks. The Twins did already make one move this offseason that we all hope will have a huge impact on the organization. In hiring head athletic trainer Nick Paparest, the hope is that the Twins will be able to avoid the massive amount of lost time due to injuries. If that can happen, it could play a huge role in the Twins success in 2023. Some of this may be answered over the coming days in San Diego, and talks will continue right through spring training. It should be a lot of fun.
  23. Last offseason the Twins traded Silver Slugger Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers. Injury had been his bugaboo in recent seasons, and he was ultimately shut down with Texas to undergo an arm procedure. In trading Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt to the New York Yankees, Minnesota opted to pair Ryan Jeffers with former standout Gary Sanchez. It did not go well. While a timeshare was probably somewhat expected, Jeffers ultimately could’ve been given the keys to the kingdom. Unfortunately, he dealt with injury and ineffectiveness, playing only 67 games and posting an 86 OPS+. Looking ahead to 2023, it’s basically Jeffers or bust until Minnesota’s front office decides otherwise. The 2018 2nd-round pick has to show he’s capable of that 119 OPS+ he posted across his first 26 games in the majors. It’s hard to make much of 2022 for Jeffers given how truncated the action was. He bottomed out with a .550 OPS through his first 39 games, but then on June 8 started a little turnaround. In his next 21 games, through July 14, Jeffers slashed .286/.342/.529 (.871) with nine extra-base hits, including four home runs. In a year in which his power had looked nonexistent, it finally arrived at that point. Then the injury happened. Returning to a fading team in late September, Jeffers followed up a successful rehab in St. Paul by playing in just seven more games. It wasn't enough to settle in, and nothing about his production provided answers for the year ahead. Gone are Sanchez and Sandy Leon, leaving only Jeffers to assume time. Another talent will be brought in to work alongside him, but the level of that player should say plenty as to where Minnesota’s front office believes their backstop situation is. It was this front office that took a risk on Jeffers in the draft. Despite some reports and evaluations by other organizations that he may never have the defensive chops behind the plate, Minnesota took him on as a bat-first prospect. We have now seen a strong defender emerge, and it’s largely been the bat that has lagged behind. That alone should give hope to an organization relying on analysis from when Jeffers was originally drafted. For this pitching staff to be successful, Jeffers is the type of catcher they’d prefer working with. More often than not Sanchez had them working against a stacked deck, and Leon was leaned on heavily down the stretch. The front office could opt for a veteran backup in the form of Omar Narvaez, or they could make a big splash and land a starting type akin to Sean Murphy or Danny Jansen. There are ways for the roster to work with either path, but plenty will be said about the current prognosis of Jeffers in relation to whatever option they choose. There was a time that Jeffers and Garver held down the position almost as well as peak Joe Mauer did. Minnesota hasn’t had that consistency since the future Hall of Famer moved to first base, however, and they’ll be looking for a much better outcome from behind the dish in 2023.
  24. Ryan Jeffers hasn’t inspired confidence in being the catcher of the future for many reasons, but now a question has been raised that’s out of his control: Should the Twins be making an effort to line up his replacement this offseason? Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports The catcher position is incredibly demanding, which is why we commonly see either a gold glove caliber defender with no offense or a relatively great hitting catcher who struggles defensively. It’s hard to do both. Ryan Jeffers has leaned more towards the former so far in his career, as his bat hasn’t played for more than short flashes at a time. With changes to how the game of baseball is played, however, could Jeffers’ carrying tool become obsolete? Jeffers has flashed some thump in his bat so far throughout his career, though never consistently at the MLB level. He also hasn’t made enough contact or reached base at a high enough clip to be considered an offensive contributor as shown in his .210/.285/.390 line in 591 plate appearances thus far. Instead Jeffers makes his impact with his defense, though not in a traditional sense. Jeffers has only caught 24% of baserunners trying to steal in his career. Though not all blame can be assigned to the catcher in such a measure, it’s safe to say catching baserunners isn’t Jeffers’ specialty. Instead his defensive reputation comes from stealing strikes on borderline pitches, and we’ve seen plenty of examples of him doing so in his three years. Jeffers has been in the 60th percentile or better for framing in every year of his career so far. Stealing strikes is his #1 skill, and he does it well. Converting a first-pitch ball into a strike for example can lower an opposing hitters’ OPS from .916 in a 1-0 count to .827. Or from .842 to .382 going from a 1-1 count to 0-2. There’s no doubt that Jeffers' pitch framing has helped Twins pitchers when he’s been on the field. The issue however is that the robo-umpire idea doesn’t appear to be a question of if, but rather when. No longer will catchers be able to stage pitches to sway umpires, as they’ll be measured objectively. The timeline of when we’ll see the electronic strike zone debut is unclear, but for the current version of Ryan Jeffers, this is very bad news. It’s possible that Jeffers has more development to make. He has missed his fair share of time with injury. But for the Twins, who lack another catcher even within their top 30 prospects, this should create some worry for the future. We appear to be on the fence regarding whether Jeffers can be “the guy” behind the plate for future Twins teams, but taking away his biggest strength would answer the question for us. The Twins need a long-term backup plan. There are several routes the Twins can go. Signing free agent Willson Contreras is undoubtedly the most fun scenario. Going from Jeffers to the electric former Cubs backstop who seemingly does it all would no doubt be an upgrade. Contreras however will likely require a massive deal after hitting free agency at 30 following a season in which he posted an incredible 132 wRC+ at the plate. Such a deal wouldn’t be the Twins' style and they have needs elsewhere. The rest of free agency doesn’t inspire much confidence in the long term. The Twins could also make a concerted effort to address the position in the draft. The bright side of their disappointing season in 2022 is the higher draft pick they hold. They haven’t drafted a first-round catcher since Joe Mauer in 2001 and of course the talent has to be worth the pick. If a catcher isn’t available that’s worthy of a 1st round selection, consider for example that Mitch Garver was drafted in the 9th round because of defensive concerns. They could beat the rush and target bat first catchers now rather than waiting until receiving and framing are no longer considered skills. The Twins love their “market inefficiencies” and they can take advantage of one that won’t be around much longer during the 2023 draft. Independent of the upcoming strike zone changes, Jeffers had enough question marks. The Twins have been fortunate in recent history with catchers such as Garver breaking through after not carrying a high prospect pedigree. It’s time to shore up the future with a lacking pipeline of catchers. This is the offseason for the Twins to set themselves up for a possible future without Ryan Jeffers View full article
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