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  1. The Narrative: The former Twins front office leadership was slow to push pitchers up the ladder, especially in their first full professional season. The 2019 Case: In 2019, Twins right-handed pitcher Cole Sands made his professional debut. He had been the Twins fifth-round draft pick in 2018 out of Florida State. After being drafted, he was shut down. He began the 2019 season in Cedar Rapids. He went 2-1 with a 3.05 ERA. After eight starts and just 41 1/3 innings with the Kernels, he was promoted to Ft. Myers. With the Miracle, he made nine starts and went 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 52 innings. He ended the season with one start at Double-A Pensacola in which he gave up two runs in four innings. He threw a total of 97 1/3 innings in his first full season. I have seen it written or spoken about in a few places over the last couple of years that under the previous regime, the Twins would likely not have pushed a college pitcher like Sands quite as quickly. Is that true? Is that a fair critique? Obviously there is no perfect way to analyze this. Pitcher development (like hitter development) is very much dependent upon the individual. However, I wanted to go back several seasons and find out if the previous Twins regime had any (or many, or lots, or no) cases that fit the model that we saw in 2019 with Cole Sands. What are those qualifications to meet? So I went back through all of the Twins drafts from 2001 through 2019. I looked for these two things from each pitcher drafted out of college. If, in his first full professional season, the pitcher did one or both of them, I included him. Did the pitcher reach AA (or AAA)? Sands made one start at AA, or Did the pitcher pitch at three or more levels? Sands pitched at Low-A, High-A and AA. With that, let’s take a look at the Twins history this century. CURRENT REGIME (2017-2019) Cole Sands (5th round, 2019) - Pitched at three levels. Reached AA in 2020. PREVIOUS REGIME Tyler Jay (1st round, 2015) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2016.. Nick Burdi (supp 1st, 2014) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2015. Jake Reed (5th round, 2014) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2015. DJ Baxendale (10th round, 2012) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2013. Pat Dean (3rd round, 2010) - Pitched at three levels, Low-A, High-A and AA in 2011. Logan Darnell (6th round, 2010) - Pitched at three levels, Low-A, High-A and AA in 2011. Kyle Gibson (1st round, 2009) - Pitched at three levels, High-A, AA and AAA in 2010. Billy Bullock (2nd round, 2009) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2010. Carlos Gutierrez (supp 1st, 2008) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2009. Matt Garza (1st round, 2005) - Pitched at four levels, High-A, AA, AAA and MLB in 2006. Kevin Slowey (2nd round, 2005) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2006. Brian Duensing (3rd round, 2005) - Pitched at three levels, Low-A, High-A and AA in 2006. Glen Perkins (1st round, 2004) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2005. Scott Baker (2nd round, 2003) - Pitched at three levels, High-A, AA and AAA in 2004. Jesse Crain (2nd round, 2002) - Pitched at three levels, High-A, AA and AAA in 2003. Adam Johnson (1st round, 2000) - Pitched at three levels, AA, AAA and MLB. CONCLUSIONS While this doesn’t dispute the studies done five years or so ago stating that the Twins were among the slowest, if not the slowest, to promote pitchers to the big leagues, this does show that the previous Twins regime was not afraid of pushing college pitchers quickly through the lower levels of the minor leagues. In fact, it happened most years. This isn’t a scientific study. I have done nothing more than a quick search of Twins draft picks in Baseball-Reference, so it’s possible that I am missing something. Please feel free to let me know.
  2. Sometimes narratives, baseball or other, get into circulation, and once they do, it seems that they are hard to get rid of. I have probably (unfortunately) started some, and I am sure that I have passed along some without doing any research. Of course, I think we all agree that a little data to either support or disprove any narrative should help. Today I am going to address one of those narratives and let you decide.The Narrative: The former Twins front office leadership was slow to push pitchers up the ladder, especially in their first full professional season. The 2019 Case: In 2019, Twins right-handed pitcher Cole Sands made his professional debut. He had been the Twins fifth-round draft pick in 2018 out of Florida State. After being drafted, he was shut down. He began the 2019 season in Cedar Rapids. He went 2-1 with a 3.05 ERA. After eight starts and just 41 1/3 innings with the Kernels, he was promoted to Ft. Myers. With the Miracle, he made nine starts and went 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 52 innings. He ended the season with one start at Double-A Pensacola in which he gave up two runs in four innings. He threw a total of 97 1/3 innings in his first full season. I have seen it written or spoken about in a few places over the last couple of years that under the previous regime, the Twins would likely not have pushed a college pitcher like Sands quite as quickly. Is that true? Is that a fair critique? Obviously there is no perfect way to analyze this. Pitcher development (like hitter development) is very much dependent upon the individual. However, I wanted to go back several seasons and find out if the previous Twins regime had any (or many, or lots, or no) cases that fit the model that we saw in 2019 with Cole Sands. What are those qualifications to meet? So I went back through all of the Twins drafts from 2001 through 2019. I looked for these two things from each pitcher drafted out of college. If, in his first full professional season, the pitcher did one or both of them, I included him. Did the pitcher reach AA (or AAA)? Sands made one start at AA, orDid the pitcher pitch at three or more levels? Sands pitched at Low-A, High-A and AA.With that, let’s take a look at the Twins history this century. CURRENT REGIME (2017-2019) Cole Sands (5th round, 2019) - Pitched at three levels. Reached AA in 2020.PREVIOUS REGIME Tyler Jay (1st round, 2015) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2016..Nick Burdi (supp 1st, 2014) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2015.Jake Reed (5th round, 2014) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2015.DJ Baxendale (10th round, 2012) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2013.Pat Dean (3rd round, 2010) - Pitched at three levels, Low-A, High-A and AA in 2011.Logan Darnell (6th round, 2010) - Pitched at three levels, Low-A, High-A and AA in 2011.Kyle Gibson (1st round, 2009) - Pitched at three levels, High-A, AA and AAA in 2010.Billy Bullock (2nd round, 2009) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2010.Carlos Gutierrez (supp 1st, 2008) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2009.Matt Garza (1st round, 2005) - Pitched at four levels, High-A, AA, AAA and MLB in 2006.Kevin Slowey (2nd round, 2005) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2006.Brian Duensing (3rd round, 2005) - Pitched at three levels, Low-A, High-A and AA in 2006.Glen Perkins (1st round, 2004) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2005.Scott Baker (2nd round, 2003) - Pitched at three levels, High-A, AA and AAA in 2004.Jesse Crain (2nd round, 2002) - Pitched at three levels, High-A, AA and AAA in 2003.Adam Johnson (1st round, 2000) - Pitched at three levels, AA, AAA and MLB.CONCLUSIONSWhile this doesn’t dispute the studies done five years or so ago stating that the Twins were among the slowest, if not the slowest, to promote pitchers to the big leagues, this does show that the previous Twins regime was not afraid of pushing college pitchers quickly through the lower levels of the minor leagues. In fact, it happened most years. This isn’t a scientific study. I have done nothing more than a quick search of Twins draft picks in Baseball-Reference, so it’s possible that I am missing something. Please feel free to let me know. Click here to view the article
  3. Teams are always looking for the one pitcher who can be their rock. The pitcher who always ends a team's losing streak. The pitcher who will pitch late into a game. The pitcher who lets the bullpen take the night off. The pitcher who is in contention for the Cy Young Award. The Ace... Unfortunately, there aren't exactly a plethora of aces lying around for teams to scoop up. It's been many years since the Twins have been able to call someone their ace. Johan Santana comes to mind but he hasn't put on a Twins jersey in close to a decade. In fact since Santana left, only two pitchers have led the Twins in WAR, Scott Baker and Kyle Gibson. A spirited debate was circling Twitter over the weekend. Should Ervin Santana be considered an ace? He's off to a tremendous start but does he fit the criteria for being an ace.What Is An Ace? Sporting News compiled a few different theorieswhen it comes to identifying an ace. Theory one was the best starting pitcher on each team. Santana clearly fits into this category as he leads the Twins staff in virtually every statistic. This theory has some holes as there are clearly teams who don't have an ace pitcher and their best starter shouldn't be considered an ace. Theory two states that an ace should be among the top 30 starters in the league. Santana would fail into this category again as his fast start has him near the top of the league in multiple categories. However, 30 aces seems like a lot especially when combining both leagues to get to 60 pitchers. There aren't 60 aces across the baseball world. Theory three says an ace should be better than a number one starter and theory four states that an ace should be higher than a chosen statistical threshold. Santana could meet both of those criteria this year but he clearly doesn't have the history to fit into the mold of an ace pitcher. Santana's History Santana has one lone All-Star selection in his career. That same season he finished sixth in the Cy Young voting and it was the only year he has received a vote. He only has one season where he has finished in the top-10 in WAR for pitchers. There have been two seasons where he finished in the top-10 for ERA and three seasons where he was in the top-10 for WHIP. He's done some good things during his career but his resume doesn't exactly scream ace. This season he is on pace to finish the year near the top of the leader-board. Last week, I wrote about how it seems more likely for Santana to come back down to earth in the weeks ahead. His only hiccup has been against the Red Sox last Sunday. Based on his history, it seems like regression is on the horizon for Santana instead of the Twins planning a Cy Young press conference for the off-season. The Curious Case of Rick Porcello Last season, Rick Porcello came out of nowhere to win the AL Cy Young. He'd hardly shown up on any major leader-board through out his career. He'd never been an All-Star. In fact, he'd only posted a positive WAR in three of his first seven seasons. At the end of the season, he was awarded one of baseball's highest honors but there are very few people who would call Porcello an ace even with last year's hardware over his mantel. Porcello seems to have morphed back into his true self this season. His ERA is north of 4.00 and he leads all of baseball in losses and hits allowed. His WHIP has moved back over 1.33 which is much closer to his career mark than the 1.01 WHIP he compiled in 2016. Baseball is a weird game and pitchers can have great seasons but that shouldn't qualify them as an ace. Less Is More While the theories discussed above show some ways to select baseball's aces, there are still plenty of flaws. If I am creating a list of aces in baseball, the list isn't going to be very long. To me, an ace needs to be a player who has shown consistency for multiple seasons while being a top pitcher in all of baseball. Here are the pitchers I would consider aces from both leagues (in alphabetical order): Jake Arrieta, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, David Price, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander There are only ten players on my list of aces. Ervin Santana is nowhere near making the cut. He could end up having a Porcello-like season and be in contention for the Cy Young but that wouldn't change my mind about it. He's not an ace. Do you think Ervin Santana is an ace? Who would make your list of current aces in baseball? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  4. What Is An Ace? Sporting News compiled a few different theories when it comes to identifying an ace. Theory one was the best starting pitcher on each team. Santana clearly fits into this category as he leads the Twins staff in virtually every statistic. This theory has some holes as there are clearly teams who don't have an ace pitcher and their best starter shouldn't be considered an ace. Theory two states that an ace should be among the top 30 starters in the league. Santana would fail into this category again as his fast start has him near the top of the league in multiple categories. However, 30 aces seems like a lot especially when combining both leagues to get to 60 pitchers. There aren't 60 aces across the baseball world. Theory three says an ace should be better than a number one starter and theory four states that an ace should be higher than a chosen statistical threshold. Santana could meet both of those criteria this year but he clearly doesn't have the history to fit into the mold of an ace pitcher. Santana's History Santana has one lone All-Star selection in his career. That same season he finished sixth in the Cy Young voting and it was the only year he has received a vote. He only has one season where he has finished in the top-10 in WAR for pitchers. There have been two seasons where he finished in the top-10 for ERA and three seasons where he was in the top-10 for WHIP. He's done some good things during his career but his resume doesn't exactly scream ace. This season he is on pace to finish the year near the top of the leader-board. Last week, I wrote about how it seems more likely for Santana to come back down to earth in the weeks ahead. His only hiccup has been against the Red Sox last Sunday. Based on his history, it seems like regression is on the horizon for Santana instead of the Twins planning a Cy Young press conference for the off-season. The Curious Case of Rick Porcello Last season, Rick Porcello came out of nowhere to win the AL Cy Young. He'd hardly shown up on any major leader-board through out his career. He'd never been an All-Star. In fact, he'd only posted a positive WAR in three of his first seven seasons. At the end of the season, he was awarded one of baseball's highest honors but there are very few people who would call Porcello an ace even with last year's hardware over his mantel. Porcello seems to have morphed back into his true self this season. His ERA is north of 4.00 and he leads all of baseball in losses and hits allowed. His WHIP has moved back over 1.33 which is much closer to his career mark than the 1.01 WHIP he compiled in 2016. Baseball is a weird game and pitchers can have great seasons but that shouldn't qualify them as an ace. Less Is More While the theories discussed above show some ways to select baseball's aces, there are still plenty of flaws. If I am creating a list of aces in baseball, the list isn't going to be very long. To me, an ace needs to be a player who has shown consistency for multiple seasons while being a top pitcher in all of baseball. Here are the pitchers I would consider aces from both leagues (in alphabetical order): Jake Arrieta, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, David Price, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander There are only ten players on my list of aces. Ervin Santana is nowhere near making the cut. He could end up having a Porcello-like season and be in contention for the Cy Young but that wouldn't change my mind about it. He's not an ace. Do you think Ervin Santana is an ace? Who would make your list of current aces in baseball? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  5. I went to old reliable, Baseball-Reference, and used their draft page to do some digging. I looked at the 2003 through 2012 drafts, a ten year period, and broke out the data in several ways. >2 bWAR: It’s hard to get to the big leagues, so to be able to find players who get there and have some positive impact on a team is terrific. This isn’t a high threshold, but it gives a good look at the scouting to be able to find big leaguers. This includes some non-closing relievers who have been good for a couple of years. This includes Byron Buxton, the Twins top pick in 2012, and a guy who certainly should rack up bWAR in the next decade and be on much higher bWAR lists. >6 bWAR: Mackey mentioned Brian Duensing as a guy who sits on the borderline of impact type of player. He’s had a nice, solid, long-lasting MLB career as mostly a middle reliever. He has 6.4 bWAR accumulated to this point, so I thought I’d find out how many have hit that level. >10 bWAR: Now we’re getting to some guys who have had really solid careers. They’ve either been solid for several years or they have had a major impact pretty quickly. >20 bWAR: If you’re past 20 bWAR you’ve had a really good career. Sure, that’s two Mike Trout seasons… or it’s a nice, solid, steady career like Aaron Hill or Chase Headley. >8 bWAR but drafted AFTER the 5th round. The MLB draft is more than five rounds. It is now 40 (and used to be 50). In reality, if scouts find guys after the 5th round that get to AAA, that should give them bonus points. But a lot of diamonds in the rough can be found in these late rounds. To be honest we should probably count any and all post-5th round draft picks who make it to the big leagues as wins. Also, please note that I am including players even if they did not sign with the team at that time. For instance, the Angels drafted Matt Harvey in the third round out of high school. He went to North Carolina instead of signing and then the Mets made him a top pick three years later. In my mind, the Angels and their scouts get credit for that too. GREATER THAN TWO bWAR (First Five Rounds) 15 - Blue Jays, Diamondbacks 14 - Reds 13 - Red Sox, Padres, Nationals 12 - Braves 11 - Twins, Royals, Rockies, Orioles, Rays, Cardinals, A’s, Angels 10 - Pirates 9 - White Sox, Marlins, Mariners, Cleveland, Brewers, Astros 8 - Cubs, Dodgers 7 - Yankees, Tigers, Mets, Giants 4 - Phillies, Rangers So, the Twins are basically tied for 8th in MLB in number of players drafted who have achieved two bWAR. I’ll have some summary comments at the end. GREATER THAN 6 bWAR (First Five Rounds) 9 - Nationals, Red Sox, Reds 8 - A’s, Blue Jays, Braves, Diamondbacks 7 - Angels, Brewers 6 - Twins, Rays, Mariners, Orioles, Pirates, Royals 5 - Astros, Cardinals, Giants, Cleveland, Marlins, Padres, Rockies, Tigers, Yankees. 4 - Cubs, Dodgers 3 - Mets, Phillies, Rangers 2 - White Sox The Twins are tied with five other teams for tenth. As happened with the two bWAR data, that tie pushed right to 15, so they are just above the halfway point among the 30 MLB teams. The Twins that made the list of 6 bWAR: Scott Baker, Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins, Matt Garza, Brian Duensing, Ben Revere. GREATER THAN 10 bWAR (First Five Rounds) 6 - Nationals, Red Sox 5 - A’s, Brewers, Braves, Diamondbacks, Giants, Orioles 4 - Cubs, Marlins, Mariners, Padres, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Tigers 3 - Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Rays, Cleveland, Pirates, Yankees 2 - Twins, Dodgers, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, White Sox This is where the Twins can be faulted. They have not had many big impact draft picks from that decade (yet). The two Twins that made this list were Scott Baker (15.7) and Matt Garza (12.5). GREATER THAN 20 bWAR (First Five Rounds) Another group that I looked at was the players over 20 bWAR. As you can see above, the Twins did not have any. Most teams have just one. The Atlanta Braves have four, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Yunel Escobar and Andrelton Simmons. The Red Sox had three, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. The Nationals had Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. The Mets and Cardinals joined the Twins with zero, which may surprise many as the Cardinals are generally looked at as one of the top drafting teams in baseball. Their highest bWAR player for that time frame is Colby Rasmus at 18.7. GREATER THAN 8 bWAR AFTER THE FIFTH ROUND (players over 10 bWAR in parentheses) Angels: 7 (Chris Davis, Buster Posey, Kole Calhoun) Astros: 2 (Dallas Keuchel, JD Martinez) A’s: 1 (Mike Leake) Blue Jays: 2 (Kris Bryant) Braves: 4 (Craig Kimbrel, Anthony Rendon) Brewers: 3 (Lorenzo Cain, Michael Brantley, Jake Arrieta) Cardinals: 5 (Brendan Ryan, Ian Kennedy, Max Scherzer, Matt Carpenter) Cubs: 4 (Tim Lincecum, Josh Harrison) Rays: 5 (John Jaso, Desmond Jennings, Kevin Kiermeier) Diamondbacks: 3 (Paul Goldschmidt, Adam Eaton) Dodgers: 4 (Matt Kemp, David Price, Paul Goldschmidt) Giants: 2 (Doug Fister) Cleveland: 2 (Desmond Jennings, Tim Lincecum) Mariners: 1 (Doug Fister) Marlins: 2 Mets: 3 (Daniel Murphy, Jacob DeGrom) Nationals: 1 (Marco Estrada) Orioles: 3 (Wil Venable) Padres: 3 (Wil Venable, David Friese, Mat Latos) Phillies: 1 (Brad Ziegler) Pirates: 2 Rangers: 6 (Ian Kinsler, Derek Holland, Tanner Roark) Red Sox: 7 (Brandon Belt, Josh Reddick, Anthony Rizzo) Reds: 2 (Jake Arrieta, Justin Turner) Rockies: 3 (Dexter Fowler, Todd Frazier, Chris Sale) Royals: 2 (Jarrod Dyson, Greg Holland) Tigers: 3 (Matt Joyce, Alex Avila, DJ LeMahieu) White Sox: 0 Yankees: 8 (Tyler Clippard, Chris Davis, Doug Fister, Austin Jackson, Justin Turner, David Robertson) Twins: 4 (JD Martinez, George Springer, Brian Dozier) SUMMARY NOTES I won’t sit here and tell you that this is a perfect analysis of the draft or the drafting abilities of the Twins or any other clubs. To get a 40 bWAR player requires a lot of luck and timing and such.The Twins have a lot of very good scouts, guys who have found talent in the lower rounds. Here are some additional notes: Note all first-round picks are made the same. The year the Twins took Levi Michael in the first round, they had the 30th overall pick. Also of note, the Pirates took Gerrit Cole with the first overall pick. The Mariners then took Danny Hultzen with the second overall pick. Also of note, Keith Law ranked Michael in his top 15 players for the draft, so there is no magic formula to this. The Twins highest draft pick (other than Byron Buxton in 2012) was the 14th overall pick in 2008. For the most part, the Twins were in the playoffs during this run and making picks 20 or later in the first round. There is little certainty in top 5 picks many times, much less when you get into the 20s. The first six picks of the 2003 draft were: Delmon Young (2.5), Rickie Weeks (11.4), Kyle Sleeth (No MLB), Tim Stauffer (3.5), Chris Lubanski (No MLB), Ryan Harvey (no MLB). That year, the Twins picked Matt Moses with the 21st overall pick. The Twins did pretty well for themselves in 2004. Trevor Plouffe (8.1) and Glen Perkins (8.8) were the 20th and 22nd overall picks that year in the draft. The 23rd pick was Phil Hughes. In 2005, the Twins got Matt Garza (12.5) with the 25th overall pick, which was good for 10th (so far) in that draft’s first round. Chris Parmelee was the 20th overall pick in the 2006 draft. In the 2007 draft, Ben Revere’s 6.1 bWAR ranks 7th among the 30 first-round picks. He was taken with the 28th pick. Aaron Hicks was the 14th pick in the 2008 draft. His 1.9 bWAR to date ranks 14th of the 30 picks. Kyle Gibson missed at least one year (and probably closer to two years) of time due to Tommy John surgery. He has posted 5.0 bWAR so far in his career. That ranks ninth of the 30 first-round picks in 2009s draft. He was taken with the 22nd pick. The Twins top pick in 2010 also had Tommy John surgery. Alex Wimmers was the 21st overall pick for the Twins. He is right at 0 bWAR, but he made the big leagues, something eight players selected ahead of him can’t say yet. As we already mentioned, Levi Michael was the 30th pick in the 2011 draft. Byron Buxton was the #2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, following Carlos Correa. Buxton’s injury-plagued 2014 season likely slowed his path to the big leagues. He also has struggled early in his career. He’s accumulated 2.1 bWAR. He had a strong September, but defense is also where he will rack up a lot of WAR. Corey Seager and Addison Russell are the two high school picks from that season, along with Correa, who have more big league success so far than Buxton. I believe the odds of Buxton accumulating 20+ bWAR in his career are quite high. I also think there’s a high likelihood that Jose Berrios will improve dramatically over his -1.6 bWAR performance in 2016. Also, Mason Melotakis, JT Chargois and Taylor Rogers come from the 2012 draft and could all achieve at least 6 bWAR if things go well. I guess the information presented above shows that the Twins did a “Good” job of drafting for that decade of years. I guess I would say they’ve been pretty middle-of-the-pack, not great (for sure), but certainly not terrible either. I think they’ve done a good job of finding some guys that have the potential to be big leaguers. I would say that, for whatever reason, they haven’t had the luck in finding those big impact players that we’d all like to see. Perkins was a three-time All Star which I would say is pretty impactful, even if bWAR says it's "only" worth 8.8. Scott Baker was better than most people thought at the time. Buxton and Berrios certainly give us hope that they can be those types of players. The draft is just one way for teams to accumulate players and talent. The Twins consider themselves a mid-market team, however, and the draft becomes more important in that it is where you can find players at low salary and you can keep under control for six years. The Twins have the #1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. It’s a huge pick for the organization. There are a lot of very talented very young players who are just getting to the big leagues or just about to get to the big leagues. Having an elite talent who will be ready in three or four years will help keep that coming and help Derek Falvey toward that long-term, sustainable, championship-caliber organization that he wants to build.
  6. Last week, the Minnesota Twins announced two promotions in their Scouting Department. Long-time scouting director Deron Johnson was promoted to Senior Advisor of the Scouting Department. Sean Johnson, who had been West Coast Supervisor, is now taking over the reins as Director of Scouting. His job, according to the team’s press release, will be responsibility for “the strategic preparation of the Amateur Draft, and he will be charged with developing the 27-man amateur scouting staff.” The move created some discussion in our forums and even on the radio. I was listening to Phil Mackey and Judd Zulgad on 1500 ESPN early last week following the announcement, and Phil mentioned how few impact players the Twins had drafted between 2003 and 2012. Specifically, he looked at the first five rounds of those drafts to see how many players the Twins drafted that had some impact. He noted that he didn’t know how that compared to other organizations, so immediately, I had the thought that I was going to find out. It’s something I’ve been curious about, so why not find out what the data tells us.I went to old reliable, Baseball-Reference, and used their draft page to do some digging. I looked at the 2003 through 2012 drafts, a ten year period, and broke out the data in several ways. >2 bWAR: It’s hard to get to the big leagues, so to be able to find players who get there and have some positive impact on a team is terrific. This isn’t a high threshold, but it gives a good look at the scouting to be able to find big leaguers. This includes some non-closing relievers who have been good for a couple of years. This includes Byron Buxton, the Twins top pick in 2012, and a guy who certainly should rack up bWAR in the next decade and be on much higher bWAR lists.>6 bWAR: Mackey mentioned Brian Duensing as a guy who sits on the borderline of impact type of player. He’s had a nice, solid, long-lasting MLB career as mostly a middle reliever. He has 6.4 bWAR accumulated to this point, so I thought I’d find out how many have hit that level.>10 bWAR: Now we’re getting to some guys who have had really solid careers. They’ve either been solid for several years or they have had a major impact pretty quickly.>20 bWAR: If you’re past 20 bWAR you’ve had a really good career. Sure, that’s two Mike Trout seasons… or it’s a nice, solid, steady career like Aaron Hill or Chase Headley.>8 bWAR but drafted AFTER the 5th round. The MLB draft is more than five rounds. It is now 40 (and used to be 50). In reality, if scouts find guys after the 5th round that get to AAA, that should give them bonus points. But a lot of diamonds in the rough can be found in these late rounds. To be honest we should probably count any and all post-5th round draft picks who make it to the big leagues as wins.Also, please note that I am including players even if they did not sign with the team at that time. For instance, the Angels drafted Matt Harvey in the third round out of high school. He went to North Carolina instead of signing and then the Mets made him a top pick three years later. In my mind, the Angels and their scouts get credit for that too. GREATER THAN TWO bWAR (First Five Rounds) 15 - Blue Jays, Diamondbacks 14 - Reds 13 - Red Sox, Padres, Nationals 12 - Braves 11 - Twins, Royals, Rockies, Orioles, Rays, Cardinals, A’s, Angels 10 - Pirates 9 - White Sox, Marlins, Mariners, Cleveland, Brewers, Astros 8 - Cubs, Dodgers 7 - Yankees, Tigers, Mets, Giants 4 - Phillies, Rangers So, the Twins are basically tied for 8th in MLB in number of players drafted who have achieved two bWAR. I’ll have some summary comments at the end. GREATER THAN 6 bWAR (First Five Rounds) 9 - Nationals, Red Sox, Reds 8 - A’s, Blue Jays, Braves, Diamondbacks 7 - Angels, Brewers 6 - Twins, Rays, Mariners, Orioles, Pirates, Royals 5 - Astros, Cardinals, Giants, Cleveland, Marlins, Padres, Rockies, Tigers, Yankees. 4 - Cubs, Dodgers 3 - Mets, Phillies, Rangers 2 - White Sox The Twins are tied with five other teams for tenth. As happened with the two bWAR data, that tie pushed right to 15, so they are just above the halfway point among the 30 MLB teams. The Twins that made the list of 6 bWAR: Scott Baker, Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins, Matt Garza, Brian Duensing, Ben Revere. GREATER THAN 10 bWAR (First Five Rounds) 6 - Nationals, Red Sox 5 - A’s, Brewers, Braves, Diamondbacks, Giants, Orioles 4 - Cubs, Marlins, Mariners, Padres, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Tigers 3 - Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Rays, Cleveland, Pirates, Yankees 2 - Twins, Dodgers, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, White Sox This is where the Twins can be faulted. They have not had many big impact draft picks from that decade (yet). The two Twins that made this list were Scott Baker (15.7) and Matt Garza (12.5). GREATER THAN 20 bWAR (First Five Rounds) Another group that I looked at was the players over 20 bWAR. As you can see above, the Twins did not have any. Most teams have just one. The Atlanta Braves have four, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Yunel Escobar and Andrelton Simmons. The Red Sox had three, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. The Nationals had Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. The Mets and Cardinals joined the Twins with zero, which may surprise many as the Cardinals are generally looked at as one of the top drafting teams in baseball. Their highest bWAR player for that time frame is Colby Rasmus at 18.7. GREATER THAN 8 bWAR AFTER THE FIFTH ROUND (players over 10 bWAR in parentheses) Angels: 7 (Chris Davis, Buster Posey, Kole Calhoun) Astros: 2 (Dallas Keuchel, JD Martinez) A’s: 1 (Mike Leake) Blue Jays: 2 (Kris Bryant) Braves: 4 (Craig Kimbrel, Anthony Rendon) Brewers: 3 (Lorenzo Cain, Michael Brantley, Jake Arrieta) Cardinals: 5 (Brendan Ryan, Ian Kennedy, Max Scherzer, Matt Carpenter) Cubs: 4 (Tim Lincecum, Josh Harrison) Rays: 5 (John Jaso, Desmond Jennings, Kevin Kiermeier) Diamondbacks: 3 (Paul Goldschmidt, Adam Eaton) Dodgers: 4 (Matt Kemp, David Price, Paul Goldschmidt) Giants: 2 (Doug Fister) Cleveland: 2 (Desmond Jennings, Tim Lincecum) Mariners: 1 (Doug Fister) Marlins: 2 Mets: 3 (Daniel Murphy, Jacob DeGrom) Nationals: 1 (Marco Estrada) Orioles: 3 (Wil Venable) Padres: 3 (Wil Venable, David Friese, Mat Latos) Phillies: 1 (Brad Ziegler) Pirates: 2 Rangers: 6 (Ian Kinsler, Derek Holland, Tanner Roark) Red Sox: 7 (Brandon Belt, Josh Reddick, Anthony Rizzo) Reds: 2 (Jake Arrieta, Justin Turner) Rockies: 3 (Dexter Fowler, Todd Frazier, Chris Sale) Royals: 2 (Jarrod Dyson, Greg Holland) Tigers: 3 (Matt Joyce, Alex Avila, DJ LeMahieu) White Sox: 0 Yankees: 8 (Tyler Clippard, Chris Davis, Doug Fister, Austin Jackson, Justin Turner, David Robertson) Twins: 4 (JD Martinez, George Springer, Brian Dozier) SUMMARY NOTES I won’t sit here and tell you that this is a perfect analysis of the draft or the drafting abilities of the Twins or any other clubs. To get a 40 bWAR player requires a lot of luck and timing and such.The Twins have a lot of very good scouts, guys who have found talent in the lower rounds. Here are some additional notes: Note all first-round picks are made the same. The year the Twins took Levi Michael in the first round, they had the 30th overall pick. Also of note, the Pirates took Gerrit Cole with the first overall pick. The Mariners then took Danny Hultzen with the second overall pick. Also of note, Keith Law ranked Michael in his top 15 players for the draft, so there is no magic formula to this.The Twins highest draft pick (other than Byron Buxton in 2012) was the 14th overall pick in 2008. For the most part, the Twins were in the playoffs during this run and making picks 20 or later in the first round. There is little certainty in top 5 picks many times, much less when you get into the 20s.The first six picks of the 2003 draft were: Delmon Young (2.5), Rickie Weeks (11.4), Kyle Sleeth (No MLB), Tim Stauffer (3.5), Chris Lubanski (No MLB), Ryan Harvey (no MLB). That year, the Twins picked Matt Moses with the 21st overall pick.The Twins did pretty well for themselves in 2004. Trevor Plouffe (8.1) and Glen Perkins (8.8) were the 20th and 22nd overall picks that year in the draft. The 23rd pick was Phil Hughes.In 2005, the Twins got Matt Garza (12.5) with the 25th overall pick, which was good for 10th (so far) in that draft’s first round.Chris Parmelee was the 20th overall pick in the 2006 draft.In the 2007 draft, Ben Revere’s 6.1 bWAR ranks 7th among the 30 first-round picks. He was taken with the 28th pick.Aaron Hicks was the 14th pick in the 2008 draft. His 1.9 bWAR to date ranks 14th of the 30 picks.Kyle Gibson missed at least one year (and probably closer to two years) of time due to Tommy John surgery. He has posted 5.0 bWAR so far in his career. That ranks ninth of the 30 first-round picks in 2009s draft. He was taken with the 22nd pick.The Twins top pick in 2010 also had Tommy John surgery. Alex Wimmers was the 21st overall pick for the Twins. He is right at 0 bWAR, but he made the big leagues, something eight players selected ahead of him can’t say yet.As we already mentioned, Levi Michael was the 30th pick in the 2011 draft.Byron Buxton was the #2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, following Carlos Correa. Buxton’s injury-plagued 2014 season likely slowed his path to the big leagues. He also has struggled early in his career. He’s accumulated 2.1 bWAR. He had a strong September, but defense is also where he will rack up a lot of WAR. Corey Seager and Addison Russell are the two high school picks from that season, along with Correa, who have more big league success so far than Buxton. I believe the odds of Buxton accumulating 20+ bWAR in his career are quite high. I also think there’s a high likelihood that Jose Berrios will improve dramatically over his -1.6 bWAR performance in 2016. Also, Mason Melotakis, JT Chargois and Taylor Rogers come from the 2012 draft and could all achieve at least 6 bWAR if things go well.I guess the information presented above shows that the Twins did a “Good” job of drafting for that decade of years. I guess I would say they’ve been pretty middle-of-the-pack, not great (for sure), but certainly not terrible either. I think they’ve done a good job of finding some guys that have the potential to be big leaguers. I would say that, for whatever reason, they haven’t had the luck in finding those big impact players that we’d all like to see. Perkins was a three-time All Star which I would say is pretty impactful, even if bWAR says it's "only" worth 8.8. Scott Baker was better than most people thought at the time. Buxton and Berrios certainly give us hope that they can be those types of players. The draft is just one way for teams to accumulate players and talent. The Twins consider themselves a mid-market team, however, and the draft becomes more important in that it is where you can find players at low salary and you can keep under control for six years. The Twins have the #1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. It’s a huge pick for the organization. There are a lot of very talented very young players who are just getting to the big leagues or just about to get to the big leagues. Having an elite talent who will be ready in three or four years will help keep that coming and help Derek Falvey toward that long-term, sustainable, championship-caliber organization that he wants to build. Click here to view the article
  7. The Minnesota Twins' front office is going to be faced with making some difficult decisions this offseason-- decisions they are woefully ill-prepared to make. Many professional sports organizations change their on-field management at least as often as they change accounting firms. It's just part of the way they do business. When you lose more games than you win for a couple years in a row, you change managers/head coaches and even front office leadership. It just becomes second nature. Much the way swimming becomes second nature to anyone who has spent much time in the water.But the very idea of changing field management/coaching staff must, for the Twins ownership and front office, seem as incomprehensible as diving off a cliff into a river would be to someone who doesn't know how to swim. For those of you who don't know how that scene of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid turned out, both outlaws survived their jump and their trip down river just fine and lived happily ever after, at least until they decided to move to Bolivia. The most famous quote from that movie scene is, "The fall will probably kill you." But, for the Twins' purposes, I'd focus on Butch's earlier point. "We've got to, otherwise we're dead." I think the same is true of the Twins if they foolishly decide to keep the status quo regarding their field management. I know that changing managers and coaching staff just is not something the people who run the Twins are comfortable with.They know the guys they have. They may not be winning much, but they HAVE won in the past, so they MIGHT win again, no matter how hopelessly unlikely that may seem to be at the moment. If the people who run the Twins decide to (shudder) make changes, there is no guarantee that the new guys will be any better. After all, how many people in the Twins front office have actually gone swimming in the deep waters that go along with the process of interviewing candidates for a major league manager? Figuratively, they don't know how to swim! At some point, though, they're going to have to realize that NOT taking that leap means the organization is almost certain to continue their current death spiral. Once you consider that the worst thing that can happen when you take that big jump off a cliff is the same thing that's going to happen if you don't, it's really not that hard to just holler, "Ohhhhh (expletive)," and make the leap. Once you've taken the leap and decided you will not simply go on doing business the same way you have for the past three decades, you can get down to the business of figuring out who is best suited to turn the next group of raw-but-talented young ballplayers into a contending major league team. Maybe it's someone on the Twins' current big league bench, such as Paul Molitor or Tom Brunansky. Maybe it's one of the organization's excellent full-season minor league managers--all four having guided their respective team to a winning record in 2014, by the way. Maybe it's someone from outside the Twins organization altogether. But first things first. If they haven't already, the Twins' decision-makers need to conclude that there is literally nothing that can happen that would be any worse than continuing to fight it out with the status quo. To do so would send a terrible message to a fan base which simply will not tolerate another do-nothing offseason and continue to buy tickets for a 2015 season that does not come with the benefit of All-Star Game tickets. There is a lot of talent set to arrive at Target Field in the next couple years. The names, both familiar and unfamiliar to Twins fans, include Buxton, Sano, Meyer, Berrios, Polanco, Gordon, Burdi, Kepler, Harrison, Kanzler, Stewart, Thorpe, Gonsalves, Turner, Garver, Walker and many more, could well become cornerstones of the next great Minnesota Twins team. The class of Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Baker, et al, has been wasted. We could discuss "why" this class failed to bring a championship to Minnesota, but that's pointless. What matters now is making sure that the upcoming class is not similarly wasted and that process begins with asking ourselves who would be the best choices as manager and field coaches to get the most of their talent. I'm not sure who that person is, though I certainly have some favorites among the likely possibilities.What I think has become abundantly clear, however, is that manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson are not the right choices. The decision to dismiss them is not easy for a front office like that of the Twins. I respect that, actually. Letting go of loyal and, at times, effective employees should not be easy - certainly not as easy as it seems to be for many owners and general managers in professional sports. But sometimes it's absolutely necessary. Even the most devoted fans of Gardy and Andy in the front office must, by now, be having a hard time envisioning that duo effectively leading the upcoming group of 20-year-olds to championships. With fresh talent, fresh eyes and fresh approaches are necessary. It's possible (and perhaps even quite likely) that Gardenhire and Anderson could provide that fresh approach to another organization. I hope they can, as long as it's not in the AL Central, because I think they're good men who know something about baseball. But just as a young Tom Kelly was the perfect fit for a young group of Twins in the mid-to-late 1980s, it's time to find new management to work with the next wave of young Twins.There's no reason to wait another year, prolonging the inevitable.It's time for the Twins' front office and ownership to take the leap off that cliff and live to fight another day. Just don't move the team to Bolivia. That would not end well. Click here to view the article
  8. But the very idea of changing field management/coaching staff must, for the Twins ownership and front office, seem as incomprehensible as diving off a cliff into a river would be to someone who doesn't know how to swim. For those of you who don't know how that scene of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid turned out, both outlaws survived their jump and their trip down river just fine and lived happily ever after, at least until they decided to move to Bolivia. The most famous quote from that movie scene is, "The fall will probably kill you." But, for the Twins' purposes, I'd focus on Butch's earlier point. "We've got to, otherwise we're dead." I think the same is true of the Twins if they foolishly decide to keep the status quo regarding their field management. I know that changing managers and coaching staff just is not something the people who run the Twins are comfortable with.They know the guys they have. They may not be winning much, but they HAVE won in the past, so they MIGHT win again, no matter how hopelessly unlikely that may seem to be at the moment. If the people who run the Twins decide to (shudder) make changes, there is no guarantee that the new guys will be any better. After all, how many people in the Twins front office have actually gone swimming in the deep waters that go along with the process of interviewing candidates for a major league manager? Figuratively, they don't know how to swim! At some point, though, they're going to have to realize that NOT taking that leap means the organization is almost certain to continue their current death spiral. Once you consider that the worst thing that can happen when you take that big jump off a cliff is the same thing that's going to happen if you don't, it's really not that hard to just holler, "Ohhhhh (expletive)," and make the leap. Once you've taken the leap and decided you will not simply go on doing business the same way you have for the past three decades, you can get down to the business of figuring out who is best suited to turn the next group of raw-but-talented young ballplayers into a contending major league team. Maybe it's someone on the Twins' current big league bench, such as Paul Molitor or Tom Brunansky. Maybe it's one of the organization's excellent full-season minor league managers--all four having guided their respective team to a winning record in 2014, by the way. Maybe it's someone from outside the Twins organization altogether. But first things first. If they haven't already, the Twins' decision-makers need to conclude that there is literally nothing that can happen that would be any worse than continuing to fight it out with the status quo. To do so would send a terrible message to a fan base which simply will not tolerate another do-nothing offseason and continue to buy tickets for a 2015 season that does not come with the benefit of All-Star Game tickets. There is a lot of talent set to arrive at Target Field in the next couple years. The names, both familiar and unfamiliar to Twins fans, include Buxton, Sano, Meyer, Berrios, Polanco, Gordon, Burdi, Kepler, Harrison, Kanzler, Stewart, Thorpe, Gonsalves, Turner, Garver, Walker and many more, could well become cornerstones of the next great Minnesota Twins team. The class of Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Baker, et al, has been wasted. We could discuss "why" this class failed to bring a championship to Minnesota, but that's pointless. What matters now is making sure that the upcoming class is not similarly wasted and that process begins with asking ourselves who would be the best choices as manager and field coaches to get the most of their talent. I'm not sure who that person is, though I certainly have some favorites among the likely possibilities.What I think has become abundantly clear, however, is that manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson are not the right choices. The decision to dismiss them is not easy for a front office like that of the Twins. I respect that, actually. Letting go of loyal and, at times, effective employees should not be easy - certainly not as easy as it seems to be for many owners and general managers in professional sports. But sometimes it's absolutely necessary. Even the most devoted fans of Gardy and Andy in the front office must, by now, be having a hard time envisioning that duo effectively leading the upcoming group of 20-year-olds to championships. With fresh talent, fresh eyes and fresh approaches are necessary. It's possible (and perhaps even quite likely) that Gardenhire and Anderson could provide that fresh approach to another organization. I hope they can, as long as it's not in the AL Central, because I think they're good men who know something about baseball. But just as a young Tom Kelly was the perfect fit for a young group of Twins in the mid-to-late 1980s, it's time to find new management to work with the next wave of young Twins.There's no reason to wait another year, prolonging the inevitable.It's time for the Twins' front office and ownership to take the leap off that cliff and live to fight another day. Just don't move the team to Bolivia. That would not end well.
  9. I was looking at the pitching acquisitions that the Cubs have made, and when you look at the potential WAR that the new guys will bring, and the negative WAR that they will be ditching with their old crummy guys, they might be in line for 80 wins. I explain it all in depth in a blog post here: Cubs Could Contend in 2013 Based on WAR and Optimism « Kyle's Sports Thoughts What do you guys think? One big "if" is how our boy Scott Baker bounces back from TJ. And even if the Cubs arent competitive, they at least are improving more on last year's terribleness than the Twins. Minus the Edwin Jackson signing, I wish the Twins would have signed the same pitchers the Cubs did. Baker, Feldman and Villanueva are better than Pelfrey, Harden and Corriea for not a whole lot more money.
  10. I think it's safe to say the Twins will not pick up Scott Baker's $9.25 million option for next year, but I do think they could bring him back at a much lower salary if he looks healthy coming back from TJ surgery. I really think other teams will have tepid interest in him at best, so it may come down to him taking the Twins' offer or simply not signing a major league contract that has any type of guarantees with any team for 2013. What do you all think? Here's my analysis of the situation, featured at Rant Sports.com Link: http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2012/10/02/mlb-rumors-should-the-minnesota-twins-bring-back-scott-baker/
  11. Well the injury bug struck and he went hard. Bad news for the Twins and Scotty. Hopefully Marquis gets back soon and Hendriks looks good when he finally pitches. It would sure be nice to have Kyle Gibson right about now. Really tough for Baker though. Obviously Twins fan wish him a healthy recovery but he really got the tough end of this one. The Twins obviously won't be picking up an almost 10 million dollar option next year. I wouldn't mind seeing him back with the squad on a small incentive based contract next year though. Get well soon Scott!
  12. I just saw this article through Aaron Gleeman at Hardball Talk, Joe Christensen reporting that the Twins are monitoring Baker after some "red flags" during last Saturday's game against the Pirates. Go here for Parker's write up.
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