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  1. Although the Minnesota Twins had a lackluster showing in 2021 it doesn’t stop the from nearing a completion. As competing teams look towards the postseason, it’s first time to take a look at the individual standouts. Each year I have the privilege of voting through the IBWAA and sharing the selections creates transparency. This season we saw a return to normalcy following an abbreviated run during a global pandemic a year ago. The treat was a two-way player doing unprecedented things within the sport, and some utterly dominant stars. When handing out the hardware, here’s who I went with: American League MVP - Shohei Ohtani (Runner Up: Vladimir Guerrero Jr) In what otherwise would be considered an unmatchable season, the Blue Jays slugger gets trumped by the Angels star that brings something to the sport we will likely never see again. Shohei Ohtani has paced the sport in longballs while being in the middle of a Cy Young conversation. Add his blistering speed to the equation and you’ve got some sort of a robot. National League MVP - Bryce Harper (Runner Up: Fernando Tatis Jr.) Maybe the quietest of the star performances this season, Bryce Harper has been a catalyst for the Phillies. His 1.032 OPS leads the league and his 32 longballs have a chance to threaten his previous MVP season with a strong finish. Tatis Jr. looked like he may run away with this award in the early going, but Harper has been steady and gets the nod here. American League Cy Young - Gerrit Cole (Runner Up: Robbie Ray) The Yankees ace has had little trouble without the use of sticky substances and being good before seems to have continued with the new set of rules. He’s still dominant, striking everyone out, and keeping runs against to a minimum. Blue Jays free agent acquisition Robbie Ray has made plenty of noise and is a worthy choice, but it’s just not quite enough to unseat the man in pinstripes. National League Cy Young - Max Scherzer (Runner Up: Corbin Burnes) Being as dominant as Mad Max has been on two different teams this year is a feat in and of itself. Despite being dealt, the former Nationals ace has relocated and picked up right where he left off. Recently joining the 3,000 strikeout club, Scherzer has earned every bit of his fourth Cy Young. Burnes has been exceptional for the Brewers, and would be a fine choice as well, but I had to side with Scherzer on the coin flip. American League Rookie of the Year - Randy Arozarena (Runner Up: Adolis Garcia) After starring in the postseason last year for Tampa Bar, Arozarena continued to be an incredible asset on the American League’s best team. He’s got the ability to contribute in so many different categories and has been consistent in a lineup needing him to produce. Texas saw plenty of power production from Adolis Garcia, and he’ll be fun to watch as his game develops more in years to come. National League Rookie of the Year - Jonathan India (Runner Up: Patrick Wisdom) A former 5th overall pick, India debut and hasn’t disappointed. With nearly an .850 OPS his power has been on full display. He’s already got 20 longballs and has a shot to finish with 10 steals. At second base the production is a massive boost for Cincinnati, and he’s rounded into a cornerstone type player. The Cubs Wisdom has been a great story, and the home run production has been off the charts. He too has been very fun to watch. American League Manager of the Year - Kevin Cash (Runner Up: Dusty Baker) What more can you say about a man that continues to do more with less? Cash has been given teams requiring managerial talent and positioning. Players needing to develop and be utilized in the correct situations, the man voted as “best looking” continues to push all of the right buttons. What the Astros have returned to is impressive, but they’re still looking up at the Rays. National League Manager of the Year -Gabe Kapler (Runner Up: Dave Roberts) Cast off from the Phillies and coming off a near-.500 mark in his first season with the Giants, Kapler took a team with no considerable shot for the postseason and turned them into arguably the National League’s best team. Having added veteran talents at the deadline, he’s continued to massage egos, time, and talents in an effort for the winning to continue. Part of the new wave, he’s fended off the Dodgers and their loaded roster under Dave Roberts. American League Reliever of the Year - Liam Hendriks (Runner Up: Ryan Pressly) Signed to a big deal over the winter, Liam Hendriks has delivered for the only competitive team in the AL Central. Working as Tony La Russa’s closer, he’s been used traditionally and has held down the role even past the acquisition of Craig Kimbrel. Hendriks has been elite for some time now, but his 34 saves lead the league, and his 14.0 K/9 is a new career high. The Astros Ryan Pressly has pushed himself up into a similar realm. National League Reliever of the Year - Josh Hader (Runner Up: Kenley Jansen) Milwaukee has pitched their way to dominance this season and it’s been in both the rotation and bullpen. Hader has been as good as ever, and Devin Williams was in consideration here as well. The lanky fireballer has racked up 31 saves and complied a whopping 15.3 K/9. Los Angeles has gotten consistent run from Jansen, but it hasn’t quite been a career year. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  2. Box Score Bailey Ober: 5 ⅓ IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K (67.7% strikes) HR: Max Kepler (13), Brent Rooker (2) Bottom 3 in WPA: Miguel Sanó (-0.236), Jorge Alcala (-0.149), Danny Coulombe (-0.109) Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs) Early Offense Saturday night was characterized by a distinct lack of hitting ability, but Sunday quickly proved to be a different story. Max Kepler continued his hot streak by blasting a lead-off homer to kick off the scoring. In the time it took this author to inform his mom of what Kepler did, Brent Rooker, the breaker of no-hitters, absolutely launched a titanic bomb that landed somewhere in Canada. Coming into the game, Kepler had been slugging .597 since July 4th (date chosen for no particular reason). A streak of good health has been a blessing for the outfielder who has been inconsistent since his 2019 breakout. For Rooker, the opportunity is golden. The DH spot is wide open now that Nelson Cruz is on the Rays, and Rooker must impress in a speedy manner if he wishes to be a mainstay in 2022 and beyond. Blasting a ball like that off of a righty is an excellent start. A Familiar Face Returns Jake Cave made his first start for the Twins since May 12th. The added depth is much welcomed as the team has run through approximately 1053 different center fielders in 2021. Cave can provide relief for a struggling Gilberto Celestino. This is more of a result of improper seasoning than an indictment on Celestino’s upside, which simply needs more time to be seen. At any rate, it’s good to see Cave back off the IL. Ober The Hills And Far Away The oak-like rookie made another impressive start on Sunday. Ober punched out four while allowing a pair of earned runs in what is now his longest career start (5 ⅓ IP). Ober could have gone longer, but the team has been especially careful in limiting his innings in 2021 since he did not get to pitch in games in 2020. His xFIP of 4.19 on the year places him among names like Zack Greinke, Aaron Civale, and Casey Mize. Ober may only make a handful of starts down the stretch, though. Sunday’s affair brought him to 59 ⅓ innings pitched split between St. Paul and Minnesota in 2021. His previous high mark came in 2019 when Ober threw 78 ⅔ innings between three levels of the minors. It is unclear just how many more innings the team will allow him to throw-either in an effort to match his career high or lightly pass it-but it can be solidly predicted that the team will be conservative in his workload going forward. Enjoy watching him while you can! Where Did The Momentum Go? Despite getting off to a fast 2-0 start, the Twins let their lead slowly slip away. Max Stassi proved to be an especially pesky enemy as he tripled and homered to bring the game to a tie. With the game tied, the unrivaled Shohei Ohtani took one look at a hanging Danny Coulombe slider and bazooka’d it out of right field. After Rooker’s homerun, the Twins offense let Jamie Barria settle into a groove. The righty put the homers behind him, and cruised through seven innings of work with just four baserunners allowed after the homers. None of the two Twins hits after the 1st went for extra bases. The inability of the Twins to push more runs across after getting off to such a hot start has been an issue the entire season and, once again, put a dent in their chances of winning on Sunday. It was a close 3-2 game headed into the top of the 9th. The game was still well within grasp for the Twins even if they did not have the strongest part of the lineup set up for the bottom of the inning. But, things got messy. Jorge Alcala gave up a single, a double, and another single in succession, and the Angels notched two more runs. Los Angeles would have six runs on the board when it was all said and done. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Colomé 26 22 0 11 0 10 69 Alcala 24 0 0 0 10 24 58 Duffey 0 38 0 0 0 0 38 Thielbar 17 16 0 0 16 0 49 Coulombe 5 0 32 0 0 18 55 Rogers 0 0 0 18 0 0 18 Robles 7 0 0 0 0 0 7 Minaya 0 0 0 20 0 0 20 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. The Twins followed up losing a close game on Saturday by… losing a less close game on Sunday. This one played out in a different way, but the result stayed the same. Read about what happened on Sunday here. Box Score Bailey Ober: 5 ⅓ IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K (67.7% strikes) HR: Max Kepler (13), Brent Rooker (2) Bottom 3 in WPA: Miguel Sanó (-0.236), Jorge Alcala (-0.149), Danny Coulombe (-0.109) Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs) Early Offense Saturday night was characterized by a distinct lack of hitting ability, but Sunday quickly proved to be a different story. Max Kepler continued his hot streak by blasting a lead-off homer to kick off the scoring. In the time it took this author to inform his mom of what Kepler did, Brent Rooker, the breaker of no-hitters, absolutely launched a titanic bomb that landed somewhere in Canada. Coming into the game, Kepler had been slugging .597 since July 4th (date chosen for no particular reason). A streak of good health has been a blessing for the outfielder who has been inconsistent since his 2019 breakout. For Rooker, the opportunity is golden. The DH spot is wide open now that Nelson Cruz is on the Rays, and Rooker must impress in a speedy manner if he wishes to be a mainstay in 2022 and beyond. Blasting a ball like that off of a righty is an excellent start. A Familiar Face Returns Jake Cave made his first start for the Twins since May 12th. The added depth is much welcomed as the team has run through approximately 1053 different center fielders in 2021. Cave can provide relief for a struggling Gilberto Celestino. This is more of a result of improper seasoning than an indictment on Celestino’s upside, which simply needs more time to be seen. At any rate, it’s good to see Cave back off the IL. Ober The Hills And Far Away The oak-like rookie made another impressive start on Sunday. Ober punched out four while allowing a pair of earned runs in what is now his longest career start (5 ⅓ IP). Ober could have gone longer, but the team has been especially careful in limiting his innings in 2021 since he did not get to pitch in games in 2020. His xFIP of 4.19 on the year places him among names like Zack Greinke, Aaron Civale, and Casey Mize. Ober may only make a handful of starts down the stretch, though. Sunday’s affair brought him to 59 ⅓ innings pitched split between St. Paul and Minnesota in 2021. His previous high mark came in 2019 when Ober threw 78 ⅔ innings between three levels of the minors. It is unclear just how many more innings the team will allow him to throw-either in an effort to match his career high or lightly pass it-but it can be solidly predicted that the team will be conservative in his workload going forward. Enjoy watching him while you can! Where Did The Momentum Go? Despite getting off to a fast 2-0 start, the Twins let their lead slowly slip away. Max Stassi proved to be an especially pesky enemy as he tripled and homered to bring the game to a tie. With the game tied, the unrivaled Shohei Ohtani took one look at a hanging Danny Coulombe slider and bazooka’d it out of right field. After Rooker’s homerun, the Twins offense let Jamie Barria settle into a groove. The righty put the homers behind him, and cruised through seven innings of work with just four baserunners allowed after the homers. None of the two Twins hits after the 1st went for extra bases. The inability of the Twins to push more runs across after getting off to such a hot start has been an issue the entire season and, once again, put a dent in their chances of winning on Sunday. It was a close 3-2 game headed into the top of the 9th. The game was still well within grasp for the Twins even if they did not have the strongest part of the lineup set up for the bottom of the inning. But, things got messy. Jorge Alcala gave up a single, a double, and another single in succession, and the Angels notched two more runs. Los Angeles would have six runs on the board when it was all said and done. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Colomé 26 22 0 11 0 10 69 Alcala 24 0 0 0 10 24 58 Duffey 0 38 0 0 0 0 38 Thielbar 17 16 0 0 16 0 49 Coulombe 5 0 32 0 0 18 55 Rogers 0 0 0 18 0 0 18 Robles 7 0 0 0 0 0 7 Minaya 0 0 0 20 0 0 20 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  4. The Los Angeles Angels make their yearly visit to Target Field this weekend, meaning Twins fans will get to see the brilliant Shohei Ohtani. In the other clubhouse, Willians Astudillo returns from St. Paul to take Alex Kirilloff’s place on the roster. And that has some physicians worried. “Quite simply, if you’re in poor health or have underlying conditions, watching these games might be harmful,” said Dr. David Gorman, a heart specialist at Fairview Southdale. “The human body wasn’t meant to experience this much spectacle.” Ohtani, the American League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, also leads the majors with 34 home runs, many of which involve him sending baseballs to hell, where they belong. Astudillo, while not nearly as accomplished a player as Ohtani, plays every game like a bowling ball filled with kerosene, set on fire, and rolled into a Williams-Sonoma. The combination of that much skill and abandon may be too much for some people. “What if Ohtani hits one that lands at, like, the Pizza Luce on 4th Street,” said Gorman. “Then the next inning Astudillo tries to stretch a single to a double? So many people skipped their regular check-ups in the last year or so that we have to be concerned about how the body will react.” Gorman said the true concern comes on Sunday. “The Angels haven’t announced their starting pitcher yet,” said Gorman. “What if they pencil in Ohtani, and the Twins send Astudillo to the plate? What if Astudillo hits a comebacker and they’re racing to the bag? Is that too much joy? You have to ask yourself if the risk is worth it. The teams could do it, but no one is asking if they should do it.”
  5. “You have to ask yourself if the risk is worth it.” The Los Angeles Angels make their yearly visit to Target Field this weekend, meaning Twins fans will get to see the brilliant Shohei Ohtani. In the other clubhouse, Willians Astudillo returns from St. Paul to take Alex Kirilloff’s place on the roster. And that has some physicians worried. “Quite simply, if you’re in poor health or have underlying conditions, watching these games might be harmful,” said Dr. David Gorman, a heart specialist at Fairview Southdale. “The human body wasn’t meant to experience this much spectacle.” Ohtani, the American League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, also leads the majors with 34 home runs, many of which involve him sending baseballs to hell, where they belong. Astudillo, while not nearly as accomplished a player as Ohtani, plays every game like a bowling ball filled with kerosene, set on fire, and rolled into a Williams-Sonoma. The combination of that much skill and abandon may be too much for some people. “What if Ohtani hits one that lands at, like, the Pizza Luce on 4th Street,” said Gorman. “Then the next inning Astudillo tries to stretch a single to a double? So many people skipped their regular check-ups in the last year or so that we have to be concerned about how the body will react.” Gorman said the true concern comes on Sunday. “The Angels haven’t announced their starting pitcher yet,” said Gorman. “What if they pencil in Ohtani, and the Twins send Astudillo to the plate? What if Astudillo hits a comebacker and they’re racing to the bag? Is that too much joy? You have to ask yourself if the risk is worth it. The teams could do it, but no one is asking if they should do it.” View full article
  6. If you’ve followed my work here or on Twitter over the past couple of years, it’s become evident I’ve dove full steam into card collecting. While I’ve dabbled in basketball (hi, Anthony Edwards), and will grab my first hockey card soon (Kirill Kaprizov is in Upper Deck Series 2 out later this month), baseball is obviously the sweet spot. I’ve gone through a bit of a collecting lull in wanting to refocus my efforts and make sure I’m enjoying my collection for what it is. I’ve kicked around similar versions of this idea over the past couple of seasons and am now going to write it into existence. With the way cards have exploded, I want to notate a few players I think are worthy “investments” for the 2021 season. Here’s the deal, this isn’t a get rich quick type of situation, and I also shy away from the notion of prospecting. Bowman cards are often exorbitantly priced only to come cascading back to earth when prospects don’t pan out. No, my goal here is to identify a few undervalued players that will turn a nice ROI in the next 12 months. Before coming forward with the names let’s outline a couple of ground rules. No single card can cost more than $20. With that intention, it rules out grading any raw cards. Even at the lowest value submission level a card would be pushed beyond that threshold. The goal would be for nothing less than a 50% growth rate by March 2021. Alright, let’s get into it. 2018 Topps Jack Flaherty #93 PSA 9 - $12 Coming off his worst season in the majors, Flaherty is maybe an odd pitcher to target as the only non-hitter of this group. His 4.11 FIP suggests the 4.91 ERA maybe wasn’t that unfair, but I’m bullish on his 25-year-old season being his best yet. Coming off a 2019 that saw him finish 4th in the NL Cy Young voting, the 2020 3.42 xFIP tells a better story. He was bit harder by the longball than in any other season, and the strikeouts are still elite. I think the division is going to be awful, and the addition of Nolan Arenado raises the water level for St. Louis across the board. Another top five Cy Young finish wouldn’t shock me at all, and I think he’s a dark horse to win it. Pitchers aren’t great investments, but this isn’t a long hold and at $12 I want to capitalize on what I expect to be a good year. 2018 Topps Update Shohei Ohtani #US1 PSA 9 - $19.99 There’s clearly a theme here in that the value of 2018 Topps baseball product remains untapped. Yes, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto are the headliners right now, but there’s a reason the boxes are at astronomical prices. Shohei Ohtani won the 2018 Rookie of the Year and has since been seen as slipping. While there’s no denying his 2020 was poor, 2019 featured an .848 OPS and 18 longballs in a season where he was kept off the mound. He’s back to pitching, looked great in his Spring Training debut, and remains the only player in history capable of both throwing 100 mph on the bump and launching balls over the fence with 100 mph exit velocities. If he’s anything close to what he was in 2018 or 19 at the plate, and even a middle of the rotation starter, his cards should rebound nicely. 2018 Topps Rafael Devers #18 PSA 9 - $19.99 Another 2018 entrant includes one of the young stars in Boston. I don’t expect the Red Sox to be any good in 2021, but Devers still seems entirely too slept on. He’s a year removed from a .916 OPS as a 22-year-old and plays in a premium market. Mookie Betts is gone, Andrew Benintendi is gone, and Jackie Bradley Jr. is gone. Devers gives the BoSox a face-of-the-franchise type hope and a rebound at age-24 should surge his cards upwards. ZiPS projects him for 3.2 fWAR and 32 dingers this season. He whiffed well above career norms in 2020 and getting back to a stronger level of plate discipline should aid his offensive game nicely. 2015 Topps Kris Bryant #616 SGC 9.5 - $15 There’s a lot of belief here, but there’s also an opportunity that I saw an undervalued offering given the slab it resides in. PSA 9’s of this same card goes for between $25-30 right now and despite SGC being more well known for vintage offerings, the 9.5 is a superior grade. Bryant is in his final year with the Cubs, one Chicago angled for by manipulating his service time all those years ago. He recently turned 29 and is coming off an injury plagued 2020. Throw out what took place during the pandemic and the Vegas native owns a career .901 OPS and posted a .903 mark in 2019. He should surpass the career 200 home run mark (needing 28) this season, and he’s playing for his first big payday. Health, most notably the back, remains a key question for him but otherwise the talent remains through the roof. Honorable Mentions: I was intentional in targeting quick flips with these players, but I think the shortstop class for 2022 is an equally appealing proposition. Unfortunately, graded copies of rookie offerings for Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, and Javier Baez already fall beyond the rules for this exercise. I do also like Trea Turner quite a bit, and Gleyber Torres may be my favorite long term hold right now. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  7. While covering the Minnesota Twins this season, I’ve also made sure to include a brief foray into some additional was the game of baseball is enjoyed. Posted typically at Off the Baggy, or accessible in the Twins Daily blog section, a series on Topps baseball card offerings has been a long running topic. Gone are the years of the junk wax era in which cards became overproduced and less valuable than the cardstock they were printed on. We now are in a place where “The Hobby” as it’s affectionally known, is as much an investing market as it is a booming collectors haven.Twins Daily contributor Jamie Cameron sparked this discussion when he tweeted something that caught my eye last week. Baseball cards have expanded into a much larger industry than simply going into your local retail store and grabbing a wax pack. With someone genuinely curious and questions at hand, it seemed a great opportunity to dissect where the industry is as it stands today. Timing for this piece couldn’t be better either. Starting Wednesday and running through Sunday, The National (The National Sports Collectors Convention) is taking place just outside of Chicago, Illinois. A yearly event each summer (that swaps between Chicago, Atlantic City, and Cleveland), The National is the epicenter of the collecting universe and offers an endless supply of cardboard dreams. Setting the stage for Jamie’s questions, he denotes his background being born and raised in the United Kingdom. Having been in the Twin Cities for roughly 15 years now, baseball has always been a passion of his. He doesn’t have the childhood memories of card collecting however, and as stated earlier, the game has changed significantly since then. Here’s what he wanted to know. How did you get into collecting? As a kid or an adult? I found myself collecting cards as a kid, seeing it as an inexpensive way to connect with athletes I enjoyed. My parents would often be ok with a pack or two from the local retail store when we stopped in on occasion. By my teenage years I had a couple binders full of early late 90’s and early 2000’s sports cards that I no longer cared about. Eventually they were parted with at a garage sale I would imagine. Getting back into the hobby in late 2016, I found myself stumbling into what is known as a “break room” (where groups of people buy into a product and split cards). Having always enjoyed decorating and displaying memorabilia in my basement, cards represented an avenue to capture moments and collect objects of a bit smaller physical footprint. How do you purchase products? Packs from a store, direct from dealers, or something else? The two main avenues are your retail stores such as Target or Walmart, and hobby shops. Hobby shops are designated by the term LCS (local card store). They aren’t nearly as plentiful as they may have been years ago, but many larger cities have one. Whether specializing in cards, comics, or some other collectible, they get what is known as hobby products. These boxes and packs may have different offerings in them to incentivize consumer from buying there. Retail options include more cost-effective offerings. While hobby boxes at an LCS can run from $50 all the way into the $1,000’s, smaller blaster boxes, fat packs, hanger boxes, and single packs can all be had at a retail store for $20 or less. If there’s no LCS in sight retail becomes the lone option. It’s a great place to dip your feet in. Just be aware that the individually wrapped packs could be picked over like the best offerings in the produce aisle. What are the best brands? What determines that? There are really only three baseball card manufacturers, and only two of them are the major players. Topps is the lone company with an MLB license and that makes them the premium product. Panini is a football first company, and while they are licensed with the MLBPA, the lack of MLB license means there’s no logos or team names on any of their cards. Leaf is another offering while being unlicensed as well. Although Panini does make some very visually appealing cards, value is always at its highest with Topps. How much time and money do people put into collecting? As with any hobby this is going to have a ridiculously wide range. Collecting anything is obviously a personal adventure. Some people collect single players or teams, while others look at cards as an investment vehicle. Those investing typically trend towards prospects or vintage cards, and the time is a large component as you must study the market and make sure you’re targeting the players with the best present and future ROI. A player or team collector may simply want each card of whoever they’re after, and sites like eBay and Comc (Check Out My Cards) provide a very quick way to grab and go. From a monetary standpoint, you can land all over the board. Topps alone puts out something like 25 different products each year. You can find a new release calendar at a site like Cardboard Connection in order to keep track. The bulk of those products cost $200 or less, while a small minority can get over $1,000. Each product has significant “hits” or desirable cards that, on the secondary market, can fetch hundreds to tens of thousands. The level of buy in is again up to the collector. What’s your favorite card? Why? Too difficult to chose just one, so I’ll go with two. I collect Minnesota Twins cards and have smaller collections of both Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. There are some really nice cards in my Twins PC (personal collection, which you can view here), but it’s two Trout cards that stick out for me. The first is a 2018 Topps Heritage Relic Autograph /25 that I pulled from a blaster box. Purchasing a $20 retail offering from Target and hitting something like this is like winning the lottery. I was stunned and it’s a card I’ll almost certainly never sell. Having been back into collecting for roughly three years now, I have added some higher end cards of the players I really like. Mike Trout is trending towards the greatest player baseball has ever seen, and his rookie card market is reflective of that. A non-descript card few thought twice of seven or eight years ago, it’s now the must have subject of the modern era. PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator- a third party grading company) graded copies of the card in a Gem Mint 10 went for roughly $500 as recently as this winter. They are now worth near or over $1,000 and continue to rise. My wife surprised me with one for our five-year wedding anniversary in February. Download attachment: Capture.PNG What do you get from it? Overall, why is this a hobby for you? Personally, I find it as a connection to differing passions. I have always been artistically inclined, and love looking at the photography and designs these companies continue to put out while tying in a sport I enjoy. The thrill of pulling an autograph or hit, as well as the fun in buying the next cool card to hang onto is something I’ve gotten behind. I’m not interested in the investment side of the hobby or looking to make money, so grabbing what I like is much easier without worrying what the return or loss may be. I find myself continually going back to look through cards in my collection. Reminiscing on players or events that were depicted is fun, and not looking through them on a consistent basis lends to a thrill of excitement each time I peruse what I have. Displaying some of my collection has made for neat memorabilia showcases in my house, but a further connection to the game of baseball is really what it’s about for me. This is obviously far from all encompassing, and there’s certainly more nuanced questions about the hobby, and collecting in general, to be asked. Do you have a collection to show off? Do you have questions to ask? Anything else you’d like to know? Feel free to share in the comments below. Click here to view the article
  8. Twins Daily contributor Jamie Cameron sparked this discussion when he tweeted something that caught my eye last week. Baseball cards have expanded into a much larger industry than simply going into your local retail store and grabbing a wax pack. With someone genuinely curious and questions at hand, it seemed a great opportunity to dissect where the industry is as it stands today. Timing for this piece couldn’t be better either. Starting Wednesday and running through Sunday, The National (The National Sports Collectors Convention) is taking place just outside of Chicago, Illinois. A yearly event each summer (that swaps between Chicago, Atlantic City, and Cleveland), The National is the epicenter of the collecting universe and offers an endless supply of cardboard dreams. Setting the stage for Jamie’s questions, he denotes his background being born and raised in the United Kingdom. Having been in the Twin Cities for roughly 15 years now, baseball has always been a passion of his. He doesn’t have the childhood memories of card collecting however, and as stated earlier, the game has changed significantly since then. Here’s what he wanted to know. How did you get into collecting? As a kid or an adult? I found myself collecting cards as a kid, seeing it as an inexpensive way to connect with athletes I enjoyed. My parents would often be ok with a pack or two from the local retail store when we stopped in on occasion. By my teenage years I had a couple binders full of early late 90’s and early 2000’s sports cards that I no longer cared about. Eventually they were parted with at a garage sale I would imagine. Getting back into the hobby in late 2016, I found myself stumbling into what is known as a “break room” (where groups of people buy into a product and split cards). Having always enjoyed decorating and displaying memorabilia in my basement, cards represented an avenue to capture moments and collect objects of a bit smaller physical footprint. How do you purchase products? Packs from a store, direct from dealers, or something else? The two main avenues are your retail stores such as Target or Walmart, and hobby shops. Hobby shops are designated by the term LCS (local card store). They aren’t nearly as plentiful as they may have been years ago, but many larger cities have one. Whether specializing in cards, comics, or some other collectible, they get what is known as hobby products. These boxes and packs may have different offerings in them to incentivize consumer from buying there. Retail options include more cost-effective offerings. While hobby boxes at an LCS can run from $50 all the way into the $1,000’s, smaller blaster boxes, fat packs, hanger boxes, and single packs can all be had at a retail store for $20 or less. If there’s no LCS in sight retail becomes the lone option. It’s a great place to dip your feet in. Just be aware that the individually wrapped packs could be picked over like the best offerings in the produce aisle. What are the best brands? What determines that? There are really only three baseball card manufacturers, and only two of them are the major players. Topps is the lone company with an MLB license and that makes them the premium product. Panini is a football first company, and while they are licensed with the MLBPA, the lack of MLB license means there’s no logos or team names on any of their cards. Leaf is another offering while being unlicensed as well. Although Panini does make some very visually appealing cards, value is always at its highest with Topps. How much time and money do people put into collecting? As with any hobby this is going to have a ridiculously wide range. Collecting anything is obviously a personal adventure. Some people collect single players or teams, while others look at cards as an investment vehicle. Those investing typically trend towards prospects or vintage cards, and the time is a large component as you must study the market and make sure you’re targeting the players with the best present and future ROI. A player or team collector may simply want each card of whoever they’re after, and sites like eBay and Comc (Check Out My Cards) provide a very quick way to grab and go. From a monetary standpoint, you can land all over the board. Topps alone puts out something like 25 different products each year. You can find a new release calendar at a site like Cardboard Connection in order to keep track. The bulk of those products cost $200 or less, while a small minority can get over $1,000. Each product has significant “hits” or desirable cards that, on the secondary market, can fetch hundreds to tens of thousands. The level of buy in is again up to the collector. What’s your favorite card? Why? Too difficult to chose just one, so I’ll go with two. I collect Minnesota Twins cards and have smaller collections of both Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. There are some really nice cards in my Twins PC (personal collection, which you can view here), but it’s two Trout cards that stick out for me. The first is a 2018 Topps Heritage Relic Autograph /25 that I pulled from a blaster box. Purchasing a $20 retail offering from Target and hitting something like this is like winning the lottery. I was stunned and it’s a card I’ll almost certainly never sell. https://twitter.com/tlschwerz/status/971119224080003073 Having been back into collecting for roughly three years now, I have added some higher end cards of the players I really like. Mike Trout is trending towards the greatest player baseball has ever seen, and his rookie card market is reflective of that. A non-descript card few thought twice of seven or eight years ago, it’s now the must have subject of the modern era. PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator- a third party grading company) graded copies of the card in a Gem Mint 10 went for roughly $500 as recently as this winter. They are now worth near or over $1,000 and continue to rise. My wife surprised me with one for our five-year wedding anniversary in February. What do you get from it? Overall, why is this a hobby for you? Personally, I find it as a connection to differing passions. I have always been artistically inclined, and love looking at the photography and designs these companies continue to put out while tying in a sport I enjoy. The thrill of pulling an autograph or hit, as well as the fun in buying the next cool card to hang onto is something I’ve gotten behind. I’m not interested in the investment side of the hobby or looking to make money, so grabbing what I like is much easier without worrying what the return or loss may be. I find myself continually going back to look through cards in my collection. Reminiscing on players or events that were depicted is fun, and not looking through them on a consistent basis lends to a thrill of excitement each time I peruse what I have. Displaying some of my collection has made for neat memorabilia showcases in my house, but a further connection to the game of baseball is really what it’s about for me. This is obviously far from all encompassing, and there’s certainly more nuanced questions about the hobby, and collecting in general, to be asked. Do you have a collection to show off? Do you have questions to ask? Anything else you’d like to know? Feel free to share in the comments below.
  9. Houston Astros The Astros won the World Series two years ago and are coming off a franchise record 103 wins. Houston’s lineup and top starting pitchers are among the league’s best. This is just one of the many reasons the club will be at the top of the AL for the third consecutive year. It’s crazy to think how deep this lineup is with the likes of Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Jose Altuve. Gone from the rotation are Charlie Morton (free agent) and Lance McCullers Jr. (Tommy John surgery). Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are a strong one-two punch and the team added Wade Miley to be the club’s number three pitcher. While the club might not get to 100 wins, it’s Houston’s division to lose. Oakland Athletics The As won 97 games last season and no, that’s not a typo. Oakland rode a strong offense built around a lot of power to a surprising playoff berth. Matt Chapman, Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty are all capable of hitting 25+ home runs. Former top prospect Jurickson Profar is going to try and find himself by the Bay. Former Twin Robbie Grossman could also play a role in the outfield. Last season, Oakland’s biggest weakness was their rotation. The club is scheduled to start the year with Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, and Frankie Montas. That’s not exactly a murder’s row of a rotation. Can the bullpen bail them out for the second consecutive year? Oakland will take a step back this season but could contend for the second Wild Card spot. Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout just got paid and he is well worth the price of admission. Unfortunately for Angels fans, there isn’t much else to get excited about in LA. Shohei Ohtani certainly brought some excitement last season but he had Tommy John surgery so his two-way playing will be limited to DH duties. Albert Pujols isn’t getting any younger, so Justin Bour was brought in for first base. A few new acquisitions could help the club. Jonathan Lucroy could add something behind the plate, but he’s been trending in the wrong direction offensively. Cody Allen add some stability to the late-innings. Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill could surprise at the back-end of the rotation. New manager Brad Ausmus could guide LA to a wild card but don’t count on it. Seattle Mariners The list of players departed from Seattle’s roster could form the core of a strong roster. Robinson Cano, James Paxton, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, and Mike Zunino are all gone. Seattle is in rebuild mode and the team’s above them on this preview should be able to beat up on what’s left of the Mariners. Edwin Encarnacion joins the club, but it was only to help trade away players like Carlos Santana and Jean Segura. Jay Bruce, Mitch Haniger, and Dee Gordon are still in the in the lineup. Kyle Seager will start the year on the DL. Felix Hernandez is only 32, but he has a lot of miles on his arm and has struggled recently. Seattle won’t be focused on winning this year. Eyes are on the future. Texas Rangers There’s not much in Texas except a whole lot of rebuilding. Joey Gallo can clobber the ball. Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor form a decent middle infield. Their top prospects don’t figure to get much time in Arlington in 2019. This leaves players like Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Hunter Pence to fill-in until other younger players are ready to take over. Former Twin Lance Lynn is scheduled to be the number two starter. Let that sink in for a minute. The good news is there should be plenty of long balls for fans to catch if they sit through the Texas heat. Also, the club should end up with a top draft pick next summer. What do you think about the AL West? Can anyone catch Houston? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  10. Houston is coming off a 103-win season and the Astros have won the AL West in two consecutive seasons. Oakland and Seattle were in the playoff hunt last season. Los Angeles has the best player in the galaxy, while Texas seems destined for a second consecutive 90 loss campaign. Can anyone catch Houston? Or will the Astros be crowned kings of the Wild West?Houston Astros The Astros won the World Series two years ago and are coming off a franchise record 103 wins. Houston’s lineup and top starting pitchers are among the league’s best. This is just one of the many reasons the club will be at the top of the AL for the third consecutive year. It’s crazy to think how deep this lineup is with the likes of Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Jose Altuve. Gone from the rotation are Charlie Morton (free agent) and Lance McCullers Jr. (Tommy John surgery). Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are a strong one-two punch and the team added Wade Miley to be the club’s number three pitcher. While the club might not get to 100 wins, it’s Houston’s division to lose. Oakland Athletics The As won 97 games last season and no, that’s not a typo. Oakland rode a strong offense built around a lot of power to a surprising playoff berth. Matt Chapman, Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty are all capable of hitting 25+ home runs. Former top prospect Jurickson Profar is going to try and find himself by the Bay. Former Twin Robbie Grossman could also play a role in the outfield. Last season, Oakland’s biggest weakness was their rotation. The club is scheduled to start the year with Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, and Frankie Montas. That’s not exactly a murder’s row of a rotation. Can the bullpen bail them out for the second consecutive year? Oakland will take a step back this season but could contend for the second Wild Card spot. Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout just got paid and he is well worth the price of admission. Unfortunately for Angels fans, there isn’t much else to get excited about in LA. Shohei Ohtani certainly brought some excitement last season but he had Tommy John surgery so his two-way playing will be limited to DH duties. Albert Pujols isn’t getting any younger, so Justin Bour was brought in for first base. A few new acquisitions could help the club. Jonathan Lucroy could add something behind the plate, but he’s been trending in the wrong direction offensively. Cody Allen add some stability to the late-innings. Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill could surprise at the back-end of the rotation. New manager Brad Ausmus could guide LA to a wild card but don’t count on it. Seattle Mariners The list of players departed from Seattle’s roster could form the core of a strong roster. Robinson Cano, James Paxton, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, and Mike Zunino are all gone. Seattle is in rebuild mode and the team’s above them on this preview should be able to beat up on what’s left of the Mariners. Edwin Encarnacion joins the club, but it was only to help trade away players like Carlos Santana and Jean Segura. Jay Bruce, Mitch Haniger, and Dee Gordon are still in the in the lineup. Kyle Seager will start the year on the DL. Felix Hernandez is only 32, but he has a lot of miles on his arm and has struggled recently. Seattle won’t be focused on winning this year. Eyes are on the future. Texas Rangers There’s not much in Texas except a whole lot of rebuilding. Joey Gallo can clobber the ball. Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor form a decent middle infield. Their top prospects don’t figure to get much time in Arlington in 2019. This leaves players like Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Hunter Pence to fill-in until other younger players are ready to take over. Former Twin Lance Lynn is scheduled to be the number two starter. Let that sink in for a minute. The good news is there should be plenty of long balls for fans to catch if they sit through the Texas heat. Also, the club should end up with a top draft pick next summer. What do you think about the AL West? Can anyone catch Houston? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  11. Throwing Gas For Twins fans, it’s no secret that Romero’s fastball has a lot of life. Ohtani is more of a mystery as this will be only his sixth start at the big league level. When it comes to rookie pitchers, Romero and Ohtani are two of the hardest throwing pitchers in the league. https://twitter.com/Buster_ESPN/status/995646975415537664 Success at the big league level comes from mixing up pitches and both pitchers have tried to find a way to keep batters off-balance. Romero actually throws his sinker (39.7%) more often than his fastball (26.3%). Ohtani throws his fastball more frequently (45.6%) but his split finger and slider add a lot of movement for the batter to track. Ohtani has allowed a home run in four of his five starts. In his third start of the year, he was pulled from the game with a blister on his throwing hand. Since returning from the blister, he’s pitched into the sixth inning in both starts but he has allowed six earned runs on 12 hits. He also has a 13 to 7 strikeout to walk ratio during that stretch. (Stat)casting a Wide Net Romero and Ohtani have a limited amount of combined starts at the big league level but their Statcast data is starting to paint a picture. Romero has thrown 194 pitches with only 25 batted balls. Out of those balls, only one batter has barreled up a ball against him and he is averaging an 87.4 exit velocity with a 1.6 launch angle. Ohtani has a little bit larger sample size as he has thrown 445 pitches. Out of that total, there have been 63 batted balls and three balls have been barreled up. Ohtani has allowed some harder hit balls with an exit velocity of 87.7 and a launch angle of 17.8. Other Statcast numbers also show the similarities between these two pitchers. Romero’s expected batting average (.237 XBA) is only 14 points higher than Ohtani (.223). Also, Romero has only allowed two extra-base hits, both doubles, so his expect slugging percentage (.331 XSLG) is over 50 points lower than Ohtani (.384 XSLG). If both players stay healthy and continue to pitch well, there could be quite the race for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. What are you looking forward to seeing on Sunday afternoon? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Around Twins Daily Buxton’s Back: Was No Rehab a Mistake? Wander Javier’s Labral Tear This Dozier Recipe May Be a New One
  12. Fernando Romero and Shohei Ohtani have taken very different paths to the big leagues. Both players made their big league debuts during the age-23 season but Ohtani’s certainly came with a greater amount of hype. On Sunday, the two rookies will square off in Los Angeles with bragging rights on the line. That being said, a mid-May game is hardly something to prove which player will have a better career. Both of these budding stars have the potential to be great and they have shown some similarities at this early juncture in their careers.Throwing Gas For Twins fans, it’s no secret that Romero’s fastball has a lot of life. Ohtani is more of a mystery as this will be only his sixth start at the big league level. When it comes to rookie pitchers, Romero and Ohtani are two of the hardest throwing pitchers in the league. Success at the big league level comes from mixing up pitches and both pitchers have tried to find a way to keep batters off-balance. Romero actually throws his sinker (39.7%) more often than his fastball (26.3%). Ohtani throws his fastball more frequently (45.6%) but his split finger and slider add a lot of movement for the batter to track. Ohtani has allowed a home run in four of his five starts. In his third start of the year, he was pulled from the game with a blister on his throwing hand. Since returning from the blister, he’s pitched into the sixth inning in both starts but he has allowed six earned runs on 12 hits. He also has a 13 to 7 strikeout to walk ratio during that stretch. (Stat)casting a Wide Net Romero and Ohtani have a limited amount of combined starts at the big league level but their Statcast data is starting to paint a picture. Romero has thrown 194 pitches with only 25 batted balls. Out of those balls, only one batter has barreled up a ball against him and he is averaging an 87.4 exit velocity with a 1.6 launch angle. Ohtani has a little bit larger sample size as he has thrown 445 pitches. Out of that total, there have been 63 batted balls and three balls have been barreled up. Ohtani has allowed some harder hit balls with an exit velocity of 87.7 and a launch angle of 17.8. Other Statcast numbers also show the similarities between these two pitchers. Romero’s expected batting average (.237 XBA) is only 14 points higher than Ohtani (.223). Also, Romero has only allowed two extra-base hits, both doubles, so his expect slugging percentage (.331 XSLG) is over 50 points lower than Ohtani (.384 XSLG). If both players stay healthy and continue to pitch well, there could be quite the race for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. What are you looking forward to seeing on Sunday afternoon? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Around Twins Daily Buxton’s Back: Was No Rehab a Mistake? Wander Javier’s Labral Tear This Dozier Recipe May Be a New One Click here to view the article
  13. It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for Jacob Pearson, a native of West Monroe, Louisiana. He’s had a couple of life changes that are exciting. First, the 19-year-old learned that he was no longer a member of the Angels organization and would now be part of the Minnesota Twins organization. Then last weekend, he got engaged to his long-time girlfriend. Growing up in northeastern Louisiana, there really wasn’t a local major league team for him to follow. He was a fan of the team that people either love or hate. “When I was a kid, I grew up being a Yankees fan. I grew up watching Derek Jeter. Whenever the Yankees got Alex Rodriguez, I became a die-hard Yankees fan.” It didn’t take long for Pearson to become a star on the diamond. He hurt a shoulder labrum and had surgery, but he still played for the varsity his freshman year in high school. He was the team’s DH that season, and then he played in the outfield his final three seasons. It was after that freshman season that he first started hearing from colleges. “I had heard from Mississippi State my freshman year.” After his sophomore season, he was invited to participate in a Perfect Game event. “I went to Perfect Game just because I got an invite from them. We talked to a guy older than me, and he said you’ve got to go to that. So we went to it, and that’s when he found out we needed to go to stuff like that.” If you look at his high school stats from his final two seasons in high school, it’s easy to understand why college coaches were interested, and why pro scouts found their way to West Monroe. As a junior, he hit .479/.596/.873 (1.469) with ten doubles, three triples and four homers. Pearson noted, “We didn’t even think about major league teams until my junior year. I didn’t think that could be a reality until then. Before that, we were strictly talking to colleges.” As a senior, he hit .551/.620/1.134 (1.755) with ten doubles, six triples and ten home runs. He was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Louisiana. The draft was coming up and he was starting to hear from more and more teams. “I was hearing from about 15 teams that were really interested. We were thinking second to third round, so I’d say I went around where I was expecting to go.” Pearson went to the Angels in the third round, the 85th player taken in the draft. The Angels went above slot, giving Pearson a $1 million signing bonus, to keep him from his commitment to Louisiana State. While playing for LSU is a dream for so many from Louisiana and around the country, Pearson said that the decision wasn’t too hard. “It was tough at first, but just the idea of playing professional baseball overshadows it. I couldn’t pass it up. I was more than happy to be selected in the draft by the Angels.” The Twins were very interested in Pearson and contemplated drafting him with the first pick in the third round. Instead, they selected another top high school player from Louisiana, right-handed pitcher Blayne Enlow. “Yeah, we actually played together in a tournament showcase. We both committed to LSU together. We had known each other, and playing against each other in high school, we kind of grew together.” Pearson struggled some in his pro debut, but that means very little in the long term. Asked what he considers his biggest strength on the field at this time is, Pearson provided a thought-filled response. “I would say it’s my hit tool .My speed is a bit above average, but I would say it’s my hit, and my gears, my motor. My hitting started rough last professional season, but if you look at how it started and how it finished, it was a lot different. It was all good, and it gave me something to work on this offseason.” In his first 21 games, he hit .190/.247/.253 (.500). However, in his final 19 games, he hit .263/.356/.316 (.672). “Just seeing professional pitching from high school pitching, it’s a huge difference. So whenever you go into the offseason, you know what you can work on and what you need to work on. It gave me a list. I was rushing my rookie year, and I was trying to get hits and have a good average. But at the time, I wasn’t focused on the little things. This offseason I’m going to focus on the little things a little more, and I think it’s going to help me next year.” And then last week, he was suddenly no longer a member of the Angels organization. He was out for dinner with his brother-in-law when his agent called him. “‘You’ve just been traded to the Twins.’ My heart just kind of stopped. ‘Oh my gosh, are you kidding?’ “No, this is real. The Twins are going to call you any minute now, so just be ready to answer.’” Moments later, he received a call from the new Twins Minor League Director Jeremy Zoll. “He called and was very excited. He said he had talked to the amateur guys and they were really excited to have me. They had looked at me through my high school years, they just couldn’t make a deal before the draft. He said now they’ve got me, and they’re excited to get spring training started, and to have me in their organization.” One of the first people that Pearson reached out to was fellow LSU commit and now Twins teammate Blayne Enlow. “I texted him as soon as it happened, ‘Hey, I just got traded to the Twins.’ He was like, ‘There’s no way!’ So that was cool.“ That’s a lot of information to process in a short time frame. Pearson said it took him a day to have it all sink in. “Once I had time to process it, it was very exciting.” Pearson has already started researching the Twins organization as he prepares for his 2018 season. “I’m pretty familiar. I’m familiar enough with the big things, but not the details yet like I was with the Angels. We had classes on everything, and I’d done my research, and right now I’m in the process of doing my research on the Twins and everything they have.” It’s likely that before spring training starts in early March, he will have an opportunity to go to Ft. Myers. It’ll be good for him to meet more of the players in the Twins organization as well as the coaching staffs. It’ll be good for him to get acclimated into the system. Based on his interests outside of baseball, he will fit in well when he gets to Minnesota. “I like hunting and I like fishing, but fishing is during baseball season, so I can’t really do that much anymore. I like deer hunting.” Pearson continues, “I love muscle cars. I don’t get to go out and buy them all, but I like to look at other people’s cars. And right now, I’m working on a building, so I like being handsy and crafty.” Pearson is an outdoorsman, a do-it-yourselfer, a gamer, known for his work ethic. He’s got plenty of work and development ahead, but he’s certainly a prospect that Twins fans can get excited about. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Jacob Pearson will be one of over 165 Twins prospects profiled in the soon-to-be-released Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2018. Check back to Twins Daily in the next couple of weeks to see when it is available.
  14. When the Minnesota Twins found out that they were not going to get a meeting with Shohei Otani, they decided to trade some of their international bonus pool money to add talent to the organization. They traded $1 million to the Seattle Mariners for catcher David Banuelos. Moments later, it was announced that they had traded another $1 million to the Angels in exchange for outfielder Jacob Pearson, their third- round pick in 2017. Recently, Twins Daily was able to chat with the talented outfielder about a variety of topics including learning he had been traded.It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for Jacob Pearson, a native of West Monroe, Louisiana. He’s had a couple of life changes that are exciting. First, the 19-year-old learned that he was no longer a member of the Angels organization and would now be part of the Minnesota Twins organization. Then last weekend, he got engaged to his long-time girlfriend. Growing up in northeastern Louisiana, there really wasn’t a local major league team for him to follow. He was a fan of the team that people either love or hate. “When I was a kid, I grew up being a Yankees fan. I grew up watching Derek Jeter. Whenever the Yankees got Alex Rodriguez, I became a die-hard Yankees fan.” It didn’t take long for Pearson to become a star on the diamond. He hurt a shoulder labrum and had surgery, but he still played for the varsity his freshman year in high school. He was the team’s DH that season, and then he played in the outfield his final three seasons. It was after that freshman season that he first started hearing from colleges. “I had heard from Mississippi State my freshman year.” After his sophomore season, he was invited to participate in a Perfect Game event. “I went to Perfect Game just because I got an invite from them. We talked to a guy older than me, and he said you’ve got to go to that. So we went to it, and that’s when he found out we needed to go to stuff like that.” If you look at his high school stats from his final two seasons in high school, it’s easy to understand why college coaches were interested, and why pro scouts found their way to West Monroe. As a junior, he hit .479/.596/.873 (1.469) with ten doubles, three triples and four homers. Pearson noted, “We didn’t even think about major league teams until my junior year. I didn’t think that could be a reality until then. Before that, we were strictly talking to colleges.” As a senior, he hit .551/.620/1.134 (1.755) with ten doubles, six triples and ten home runs. He was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Louisiana. The draft was coming up and he was starting to hear from more and more teams. “I was hearing from about 15 teams that were really interested. We were thinking second to third round, so I’d say I went around where I was expecting to go.” Pearson went to the Angels in the third round, the 85th player taken in the draft. The Angels went above slot, giving Pearson a $1 million signing bonus, to keep him from his commitment to Louisiana State. While playing for LSU is a dream for so many from Louisiana and around the country, Pearson said that the decision wasn’t too hard. “It was tough at first, but just the idea of playing professional baseball overshadows it. I couldn’t pass it up. I was more than happy to be selected in the draft by the Angels.” The Twins were very interested in Pearson and contemplated drafting him with the first pick in the third round. Instead, they selected another top high school player from Louisiana, right-handed pitcher Blayne Enlow. “Yeah, we actually played together in a tournament showcase. We both committed to LSU together. We had known each other, and playing against each other in high school, we kind of grew together.” Pearson struggled some in his pro debut, but that means very little in the long term. Asked what he considers his biggest strength on the field at this time is, Pearson provided a thought-filled response. “I would say it’s my hit tool .My speed is a bit above average, but I would say it’s my hit, and my gears, my motor. My hitting started rough last professional season, but if you look at how it started and how it finished, it was a lot different. It was all good, and it gave me something to work on this offseason.” In his first 21 games, he hit .190/.247/.253 (.500). However, in his final 19 games, he hit .263/.356/.316 (.672). “Just seeing professional pitching from high school pitching, it’s a huge difference. So whenever you go into the offseason, you know what you can work on and what you need to work on. It gave me a list. I was rushing my rookie year, and I was trying to get hits and have a good average. But at the time, I wasn’t focused on the little things. This offseason I’m going to focus on the little things a little more, and I think it’s going to help me next year.” And then last week, he was suddenly no longer a member of the Angels organization. He was out for dinner with his brother-in-law when his agent called him. “‘You’ve just been traded to the Twins.’ My heart just kind of stopped. ‘Oh my gosh, are you kidding?’ “No, this is real. The Twins are going to call you any minute now, so just be ready to answer.’” Moments later, he received a call from the new Twins Minor League Director Jeremy Zoll. “He called and was very excited. He said he had talked to the amateur guys and they were really excited to have me. They had looked at me through my high school years, they just couldn’t make a deal before the draft. He said now they’ve got me, and they’re excited to get spring training started, and to have me in their organization.” One of the first people that Pearson reached out to was fellow LSU commit and now Twins teammate Blayne Enlow. “I texted him as soon as it happened, ‘Hey, I just got traded to the Twins.’ He was like, ‘There’s no way!’ So that was cool.“ That’s a lot of information to process in a short time frame. Pearson said it took him a day to have it all sink in. “Once I had time to process it, it was very exciting.” Pearson has already started researching the Twins organization as he prepares for his 2018 season. “I’m pretty familiar. I’m familiar enough with the big things, but not the details yet like I was with the Angels. We had classes on everything, and I’d done my research, and right now I’m in the process of doing my research on the Twins and everything they have.” It’s likely that before spring training starts in early March, he will have an opportunity to go to Ft. Myers. It’ll be good for him to meet more of the players in the Twins organization as well as the coaching staffs. It’ll be good for him to get acclimated into the system. Based on his interests outside of baseball, he will fit in well when he gets to Minnesota. “I like hunting and I like fishing, but fishing is during baseball season, so I can’t really do that much anymore. I like deer hunting.” Pearson continues, “I love muscle cars. I don’t get to go out and buy them all, but I like to look at other people’s cars. And right now, I’m working on a building, so I like being handsy and crafty.” Pearson is an outdoorsman, a do-it-yourselfer, a gamer, known for his work ethic. He’s got plenty of work and development ahead, but he’s certainly a prospect that Twins fans can get excited about. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Jacob Pearson will be one of over 165 Twins prospects profiled in the soon-to-be-released Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2018. Check back to Twins Daily in the next couple of weeks to see when it is available. Click here to view the article
  15. Marte Money Jelfry Marte had been signed by the Twins to a $3 million deal this summer. However, an issue found on his physical exam meant the deal was voided. With Marte’s money back in their international pool, Minnesota had $3.245 million to try and lure Ohtani to the Midwest. Last weekend, he informed the Twins that he wouldn’t be signing with them. This allowed the club to trade away some of their pool money to eager Ohtani suitors. Mariners Trade https://twitter.com/Feinsand/status/938591497712267264 Catcher David Banuelos, a 21-year old Ontario, CA native, was drafted this year by Seattle in the fifth round out of Long Beach State. He spent all of this season in the Northwest League (Short-A) where he hit .236/.331/.394 with four home runs and eight doubles in 36 games. He made 26 starts behind the plate with a .982 fielding percentage. He threw out 18 potential runners and allowed 30 stolen bases. With his college experience, he is considered a strong defender. He shows the ability to get on base and he has some power from the right-side of the plate. He could develop into a big league catcher in the years to come. Angels Trade https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/938592436816941056 Outfielder Jacob Pearson, a 19-year old, was drafted this year by the Angels in the third round. Los Angeles had to go overslot and offer him a $1 million to lure him away from his LSU commitment. He spent all of last season in the Arizona League (Rookie) where he hit .226/.302/.284 with seven doubles and a triple in 40 games. He played center field and left field during his professional debut but 31 of his 40 starts came in left. His defensive skills are a weak spot at this point in his career but he’s still a teenager. The Twins hope he can continue to develop the right kind of speed and power combination to make him a legitimate threat at the plate. So how did the Twins do? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  16. Minnesota missed out on the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes but there might be some good news on the horizon. There are multiple teams still in the race for Ohtani and they need international slot money to spend on the two-way Japanese star. On Wednesday night, the Twins struck two deals to send money to teams still in the race for Ohtani. What prospects did the Twins receive? How did Minnesota have this money? Who will get some of their international slot money?Marte Money Jelfry Marte had been signed by the Twins to a $3 million deal this summer. However, an issue found on his physical exam meant the deal was voided. With Marte’s money back in their international pool, Minnesota had $3.245 million to try and lure Ohtani to the Midwest. Last weekend, he informed the Twins that he wouldn’t be signing with them. This allowed the club to trade away some of their pool money to eager Ohtani suitors. Mariners Trade Catcher David Banuelos, a 21-year old Ontario, CA native, was drafted this year by Seattle in the fifth round out of Long Beach State. He spent all of this season in the Northwest League (Short-A) where he hit .236/.331/.394 with four home runs and eight doubles in 36 games. He made 26 starts behind the plate with a .982 fielding percentage. He threw out 18 potential runners and allowed 30 stolen bases. With his college experience, he is considered a strong defender. He shows the ability to get on base and he has some power from the right-side of the plate. He could develop into a big league catcher in the years to come. Angels Trade Outfielder Jacob Pearson, a 19-year old, was drafted this year by the Angels in the third round. Los Angeles had to go overslot and offer him a $1 million to lure him away from his LSU commitment. He spent all of last season in the Arizona League (Rookie) where he hit .226/.302/.284 with seven doubles and a triple in 40 games. He played center field and left field during his professional debut but 31 of his 40 starts came in left. His defensive skills are a weak spot at this point in his career but he’s still a teenager. The Twins hope he can continue to develop the right kind of speed and power combination to make him a legitimate threat at the plate. So how did the Twins do? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  17. When Derek Falvey and Thad Levine consummated trades with both the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels, they made much of absolutely nothing. Sending $1 million worth of International Bonus Pool space to both teams, the Twins got two legitimate prospects in return. Knowing that Bonus Pool is really not cash at all, makes the move even more shrewd. Going into the offseason, the Twins had the third largest International Bonus pool to offer Shohei Ohtani or any other international free agent they wanted to grab. Once Ohtani let them know they weren't going to make his final cut, the club has significantly more clarity as to what they should use that flexibility for. International Bonus Pools really aren't money in terms of actual cash, but instead a threshold of what you can offer to players. With no one making the Twins jump, Falvey and Levine preyed on two teams still in the running for the assumed Japanese superstar. Obviously there is only one Ohtani, so both the Mariners and Angels aren't going to end up with him. Each felt the additional spending flexibility would increase their chances however, and they parted with legitimate pieces to obtain that. The Angels gave up 2017 3rd round pick Jacob Pearson, while the Mariners parted with 5th round pick David Banuelos. For the Twins, two legitimate prospects looks a lot better than inanimate money destined for nowhere. While the Angels farm system is notably weak, Pearson was their 5th overall prospect. MLB Pipeline slots him in at 22 for Minnesota, and I'd suggested he'd be 15th on my list. Banuelos would be outside the top 15, but I suggested I'd have him 18th behind LaMonte Wade and Akil Baddoo. Both players also fill a significant need on the farm, with Pearson able to play CF and Banuelos being an legitimate catcher. Going forward, both players are going to take time to develop. Pearson is a high schooler from Louisiana that was headed to play on the same LSU team as (now teammate) Blayne Enlow. Banuelos is just 21 and also has less than a year of pro ball under his belt. The expectation from Pearson is that there should be some speed and a little pop in his bat, while Banuelos is seen as a strong receiver with very good pop times. Many of the Twins prospect outfield types are on the corners, and behind the dish, it's really just Ben Rortvedt. We won't know how the narrative of these two players works out for at least the next couple of years, but right now, the process was executed flawlessly. Minnesota tried their hand at landing Ohtani, and when they couldn't, they preyed on those teams still in the running, They now have eight players taken in the first five rounds of the 2017 MLB draft, and adding talent to an organization is always a good practice. The organization should have something like $1.2 million left in International Bonus spending space, and that should be enough to lure former signee Jelfry Marte if the club is still interested (per Darren Wolfson). There's no telling what Minnesota does with the rest of their allotment, and they may choose to do nothing at all. Right now though, we know that the move they made was an exceptional one. Oh, and too bad to Seattle or Los Angeles, whichever one of of you doesn't land Ohtani and dealt on false hope. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  18. Shohei Ohtani is close to picking his first big league team. Unfortunately for Twins fans, that team won’t be in Minnesota. Ohtani, the Japanese two-way player, informed the Twins on Sunday that they had been eliminated from contention. Besides the Twins, the list of rejected teams included the Yankees, Red Sox, Athletics, Brewers, Pirates, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and Mets.At one point during Sunday afternoon, MLB Insider Jon Heyman had reported that Ohtani was “telling teams he prefers a smaller market.” This sounded great to Twins fans with a smaller market in the Midwest calling Ohtani’s name. Not very long afterward, he brought Twins Territory back down to earth: Mike Beradino at the Pioneer Press reported that Ohtani and Nex Balelo, his agent, didn’t give any reason as to why the Twins had been eliminated. According to him, they told the Twins they were “very appreciative of the interest and the pitch.” Ohtani is meeting with teams in Los Angeles and his finalists include a lot of West Coast teams. This includes the Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels. Another team like the Chicago Cubs or Texas Rangers could sweep in and get him but he seems destined for the West Coast. During the 2017 campaign, Ohtani fought through a quadriceps and ankle injury. However in 2016, he slashed .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs. On the mound, he was even more impressive with a 1.86 ERA including 174 strikeouts in 140 innings. The Twins struck out on Ohtani so now maybe the focus can turn to signing a different frontline starter like Ohtani’s countryman Yu Darvish. Were you disappointed with the news? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  19. At one point during Sunday afternoon, MLB Insider Jon Heyman had reported that Ohtani was “telling teams he prefers a smaller market.” This sounded great to Twins fans with a smaller market in the Midwest calling Ohtani’s name. Not very long afterward, he brought Twins Territory back down to earth: https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/937463233023225856 Mike Beradino at the Pioneer Press reported that Ohtani and Nex Balelo, his agent, didn’t give any reason as to why the Twins had been eliminated. According to him, they told the Twins they were “very appreciative of the interest and the pitch.” Ohtani is meeting with teams in Los Angeles and his finalists include a lot of West Coast teams. This includes the Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels. Another team like the Chicago Cubs or Texas Rangers could sweep in and get him but he seems destined for the West Coast. During the 2017 campaign, Ohtani fought through a quadriceps and ankle injury. However in 2016, he slashed .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs. On the mound, he was even more impressive with a 1.86 ERA including 174 strikeouts in 140 innings. The Twins struck out on Ohtani so now maybe the focus can turn to signing a different frontline starter like Ohtani’s countryman Yu Darvish. Were you disappointed with the news? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  20. Dan and Panda are back with a bunch of baseball talk. Pretty sweet for December, yeah? We talk about the vacant managerial position at AAA, the Twins' hiring of Masa Abe, whether the Twins have a shot at Darvish or Ohtani (we know the answer to one at least), why some Twins fans suck, and whether or not we should let steroid users into the Hall of Fame. Check out this episode and all previous episodes on Spreaker, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and Pocket Casts! Don't forget to like share, and leave a comment! https://www.spreaker.com/show/twins-and-losses-supershow
  21. Flexibility By all accounts, Ohtani is adamant about carrying on his legacy as a two-way player in the United States. Given his position of leverage in negotiations, he can make that a hard-line demand if he wishes, and plenty of teams will be ready to meet it. Sure, he'd be able to bat during starts and maybe draw semi-regular pinch-hitting appearances with a National League club. But is he looking for something more? The ability to start at DH a few times between his turns on the mound? That would be an AL-only option. Would the Twins be amenable to such an arrangement? Thad Levine says so. "I think we'd let him do whatever he damn well pleases," the Minnesota GM half-joked recently. And why not? His team is almost uniquely positioned to accommodate Ohtani. The Twins used the DH role as a rotating post in 2017 and could do so again next year. One thing that would typically hold a team back from being open to such usage is risk factor -- it's hard to justify exposing a young pitcher to such added injury hazard, and deviation in standard routine, when you're committed for $20-30 million per year long-term. But given the low up-front financial commitment for Ohtani, clubs like the Twins figure to be more open-minded. Speaking of finances, here's another area where Minnesota gains a relative edge: Cash By recently voiding their $3 million offer to Dominican infielder Jelfry Marte over a vision issue, the Twins bolstered their international pool. As things stand, only the Rangers or Yankees would be able to offer more, and not by much. On one hand, this isn't such a big deal. Ohtani could sign with a team other than those three, and while his bonus would be smaller, it's a pittance relative to what he figures to earn down the line and through endorsements. Then again, nothing in this life is guaranteed. The 23-year-old made about $2 million in annual salary while in Japan, so he has yet to really hit the jackpot and now he'll have to wait a while under MLB's service clock rules. Minnesota's ability to offer almost $2 million more up-front than, say, Seattle (said to be making a full-court press for Ohtani) could hold some serious weight. Of course, this is all subject to change because teams can trade for more international bonus pool money. The Twins acquired $500K from Washington in the Brandon Kintzler trade – part of the reason for their favorable current position. They could try to get more. Or they could trade from their copious stock and add pieces from another club looking to go all-out for Ohtani. Another wrinkle. Contention It's safe to say Ohtani will prioritize a winning club that holds realistic short-term championship aspirations. The Twins, fresh off a postseason appearance with one of the youngest and most talented offensive cores in the league, stack up well in this regard – albeit not as well as other suitors like the Dodgers, Cubs or Yankees. But they do check the box and right now Minnesota is one of the most pitching-friendly destinations in the world. Connections Joe Schmit reported that the Twins have hired a new trainer with Japanese ties. Mike Berardino notes that the Twins have a "strong working relationship" with Nez Balelo, hired on as Ohtani's agent, and Minnesota has worked recently with Ohtani's team in Japan, selling Michael Tonkin's rights to the Fighters a few weeks back. Now, is any of this necessarily meaningful? No. But they are tidbits worth keeping in mind. One tie that would really serve to lure Ohtani is signing free agent starter Yu Darvish. Ohtani has a known affinity for the right-hander, and wore his No. 11 in NPB as an homage. And for what it's worth, Levine is quite familiar with Darvish, as he was assistant GM in Texas when the Rangers brought him over from Japan six years ago. Over the weekend he said he's been in "active" conversations with Darvish's agent and called the righty a priority. https://twitter.com/Jim_Duquette/status/934818685805584389 Signing both Darvish and Ohtani would be a splash of almost unthinkable magnitude, but it's not an impossible thought. And what a way it would be to set this rotation up for the next five years. A Distant Second? With all the above being considered, I think you could make a reasonable argument for the Twins landing second on Ohtani's list of preferences, or at least in the top five (especially if they could land Darvish). But the problem is that No. 1 on that list feels overwhelmingly likely, if not inevitable. Ohtani is destined to be a Yankee. John Harper of the New York Daily News wrote as much last week and it's hard to disagree with his conclusion. The Yankees can offer everything the Twins can and then some. They can pay him (slightly) more. They can give him DH at-bats between starts. They're a bona fide championship contender. They already have Masahiro Tanaka, another former NPB superstar, locked into their rotation long-term. And of course there is the huge market of NYC and all it entails. His earning potential outside of game checks is vastly higher there, so as is usually the case when the Yankees are involved, money will talk. It's a David versus Goliath scenario and the Twins have typically not fared well against the Yanks in such contests historically. But it's fun to dream on and, up until a deal somewhere is officially announced within the next month, we can do so without being utterly delusional. Regardless of where he ends up signing, the Ohtani derby will be like nothing else we've seen before in the major leagues, and his game on the field figures to follow suit.
  22. Last week's renewal of the Nippon Professional Baseball posting system made it all but official: Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani is coming to the major leagues. He's expected to be posted this weekend, opening a 21-day open negotiation window, and $20 million is all it will take to procure his rights from the Nippon Ham Fighters. Every team in baseball will rightfully want in on that action. Could the Minnesota Twins, unshy about their interest, somehow find a way to land the potentially game-changing phenom? For a number of reasons, they might actually be among his very most appealing options.Flexibility By all accounts, Ohtani is adamant about carrying on his legacy as a two-way player in the United States. Given his position of leverage in negotiations, he can make that a hard-line demand if he wishes, and plenty of teams will be ready to meet it. Sure, he'd be able to bat during starts and maybe draw semi-regular pinch-hitting appearances with a National League club. But is he looking for something more? The ability to start at DH a few times between his turns on the mound? That would be an AL-only option. Would the Twins be amenable to such an arrangement? Thad Levine says so. "I think we'd let him do whatever he damn well pleases," the Minnesota GM half-joked recently. And why not? His team is almost uniquely positioned to accommodate Ohtani. The Twins used the DH role as a rotating post in 2017 and could do so again next year. One thing that would typically hold a team back from being open to such usage is risk factor -- it's hard to justify exposing a young pitcher to such added injury hazard, and deviation in standard routine, when you're committed for $20-30 million per year long-term. But given the low up-front financial commitment for Ohtani, clubs like the Twins figure to be more open-minded. Speaking of finances, here's another area where Minnesota gains a relative edge: Cash By recently voiding their $3 million offer to Dominican infielder Jelfry Marte over a vision issue, the Twins bolstered their international pool. As things stand, only the Rangers or Yankees would be able to offer more, and not by much. On one hand, this isn't such a big deal. Ohtani could sign with a team other than those three, and while his bonus would be smaller, it's a pittance relative to what he figures to earn down the line and through endorsements. Then again, nothing in this life is guaranteed. The 23-year-old made about $2 million in annual salary while in Japan, so he has yet to really hit the jackpot and now he'll have to wait a while under MLB's service clock rules. Minnesota's ability to offer almost $2 million more up-front than, say, Seattle (said to be making a full-court press for Ohtani) could hold some serious weight. Of course, this is all subject to change because teams can trade for more international bonus pool money. The Twins acquired $500K from Washington in the Brandon Kintzler trade – part of the reason for their favorable current position. They could try to get more. Or they could trade from their copious stock and add pieces from another club looking to go all-out for Ohtani. Another wrinkle. Contention It's safe to say Ohtani will prioritize a winning club that holds realistic short-term championship aspirations. The Twins, fresh off a postseason appearance with one of the youngest and most talented offensive cores in the league, stack up well in this regard – albeit not as well as other suitors like the Dodgers, Cubs or Yankees. But they do check the box and right now Minnesota is one of the most pitching-friendly destinations in the world. Connections Joe Schmit reported that the Twins have hired a new trainer with Japanese ties. Mike Berardino notes that the Twins have a "strong working relationship" with Nez Balelo, hired on as Ohtani's agent, and Minnesota has worked recently with Ohtani's team in Japan, selling Michael Tonkin's rights to the Fighters a few weeks back. Now, is any of this necessarily meaningful? No. But they are tidbits worth keeping in mind. One tie that would really serve to lure Ohtani is signing free agent starter Yu Darvish. Ohtani has a known affinity for the right-hander, and wore his No. 11 in NPB as an homage. And for what it's worth, Levine is quite familiar with Darvish, as he was assistant GM in Texas when the Rangers brought him over from Japan six years ago. Over the weekend he said he's been in "active" conversations with Darvish's agent and called the righty a priority. Signing both Darvish and Ohtani would be a splash of almost unthinkable magnitude, but it's not an impossible thought. And what a way it would be to set this rotation up for the next five years. A Distant Second? With all the above being considered, I think you could make a reasonable argument for the Twins landing second on Ohtani's list of preferences, or at least in the top five (especially if they could land Darvish). But the problem is that No. 1 on that list feels overwhelmingly likely, if not inevitable. Ohtani is destined to be a Yankee. John Harper of the New York Daily News wrote as much last week and it's hard to disagree with his conclusion. The Yankees can offer everything the Twins can and then some. They can pay him (slightly) more. They can give him DH at-bats between starts. They're a bona fide championship contender. They already have Masahiro Tanaka, another former NPB superstar, locked into their rotation long-term. And of course there is the huge market of NYC and all it entails. His earning potential outside of game checks is vastly higher there, so as is usually the case when the Yankees are involved, money will talk. It's a David versus Goliath scenario and the Twins have typically not fared well against the Yanks in such contests historically. But it's fun to dream on and, up until a deal somewhere is officially announced within the next month, we can do so without being utterly delusional. Regardless of where he ends up signing, the Ohtani derby will be like nothing else we've seen before in the major leagues, and his game on the field figures to follow suit. Click here to view the article
  23. I really didn’t think I needed to write this article. I really didn’t think I’d let the awful commentary on social media get to me. I figured it would die down after a few days. I was wrong. Very wrong. For having signed two notable named Asian players, Twins Territory (and what I hope is a very vocal minority[see what I did there?]) sure is up-in-arms about potentially signing two more. With the news of the Twins actively pursuing both Yu Darvish (who comes with his own set of health concerns) and Shohei Ohtani (a young Japanese phenom who can pitch and hit), there seems to be a few comments on every article or Twitter comment thread about the fears of signing another Asian ballplayer. For being one of the largest continents on the planet (even encompassing parts of Russia), Asia is made up of 48 different countries. Some of the bigger countries of note are China, Russia, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and South Korea. Huh. There are a lot of countries in Asia where the people who reside there sure don’t look alike. In fact, they don’t even speak the same language or share a government. But for Twins fans, it’s been an almost daily occurrence where some Rube (see: casually racist social media user) has made a comment about not taking a chance on another Asian ballplayer since Tsuyoshi Nishioka and ByungHo Park didn’t pan out in the major leagues. Injuries aside, and the fact that they “look alike” (which they don’t at all, unless you just see a tan skinned person with black hair who comes from the same continent and assume they’re from the exact same place), the Twins have the potential to sign a possible once-in-a-lifetime player in Shohei Ohtani, and a 4-time All Star in Yu Darvish. Improvements to the one part of the team Twins fans have complained about improving for almost a decade: pitching. I jumped ahead though. Let’s go back to Nishioka and Park. Nishioka is a Japanese baseball player who plays in the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, based in Japan. Byung-Ho Park is a Korean baseball player who plays in the Korean Baseball Organization, based in Korea. While those two countries are relatively close to each other, they are not the same. Neither are the Caucasian, Latino, and African ballplayers that have come through the Twins’ organization over the years, in much larger quantities too. Some Twins fans are now basing their choice to not pursue Ohtani specifically, based on the fact Nishioka and Park didn’t work out. Seems like an incredibly small sample size to base your opinion on, and it also comes off as racist. I don’t see these same people crying wolf that the Twins shouldn’t have chased after Royce Lewis, Hunter Greene, or Brendan McKay based on the fact that former Caucasian and African-American players didn’t pan out. If it didn’t matter then, why should it matter where Ohtani comes from? The Twins have an opportunity to sign a superstar ballplayer to join an already impressive young core of talent from the across the planet. Take a look at the Twins’ 25-man roster this season and see what countries all of the players that helped contribute to a postseason berth for the first time since 2010 call home. After you’ve done that, find it in yourself to consciously stop using the “Nishioka and Park” argument against signing Ohtani. If you’re incapable of doing so because you can’t figure out how to say you don’t trust an unproven player with no MiLB or MLB experience (there, I figured it out for you!), then maybe you should keep your awful opinions to yourself. And no, we don’t all look alike. – Panda Pete (South Korean)
  24. The hot stove has remained tepid to this point, and while that has been cause for a bit of antsiness among fans and people who care about this news, it also allows us to do what teams are doing with these players — dig in a bit deeper. So today, we’re taking a look at the power rankings of the players who offer the best fits for the Twins as free agents this offseason with all avenues considered. 1. Shohei Ohtani – RHP/LHH – Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Because of the cost-to-potential ratio here, Ohtani is No. 1 on every team’s ranking by default. He may be a $200 million talent when all is considered, but will sign for less than $3 million while raking in endorsement money to make up some of the difference in the meantime. He didn’t pitch much last year due to ankle and thigh issues, but offers a blistering fastball in the upper 90s with a good split/slider combo. There’s no way to handicap the race at this point, but every team should throw a dart in his direction. For the Twins, he’d start out as the No. 3 but likely ascend to No. 1 in very little time. 2. Yu Darvish – RHP – Los Angeles Dodgers He’s the consensus best starter on the market, and might have more potential than one might think at age 31. He has a diverse repertoire with improving command, and a lot of his issues seem to center around whispers that he tips his pitches. He’s pitched far more like a really great No. 2 than someone who should be paid like a Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer, but as far as aces on this market, Darvish is atop the list. Prepare to approach $30 million per year, however. 3. Carlos Santana – 1B/DH – Cleveland Indians Santana is the safest impact bat in the market, and will command far less than guys like Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez because his skill set is predicated on his eye at the plate rather than sexier skills such as power. That eye at the plate is what keeps his value afloat even when he doesn’t have his power game working, as was true in 2015 when he hit just .231/.357/.395. Even still, his OPS+ was 102 and wRC+ 107. He’s considered a capable defender at first base, and can mix-and-match there with Joe Mauer as the latter enters the final year of his deal. Santana would be an ideal fit atop the Twins order — and any order, really — to move Brian Dozier down into a better spot for run production. This move would vault the Twins into the conversation of best AL offense behind the Houston Astros. 4. Jake Arrieta – SP – Chicago Cubs The luster is clearly fading on the 2015 NL Cy Young winner, but even at his low points — as a Cub, that is — he’s a very good and valuable starter. Two years ago he’d have been primed to earn $25 million-plus per year in a contract, and the fact is he probably hasn’t taken that much of a hit even with consecutive years of decline. He turns 32 in March, so there’s still a legit chance he’s got plenty of bullets left, and he’s only thrown 1,161 MLB innings. By comparison, Johnny Cueto — who is almost a month older than Arrieta — has thrown more than 600 more innings. If he signs for $20 million per year, that’s a solid deal. Truthfully, he’ll probably get more than that. 5. Logan Morrison – 1B – Tampa Bay Rays Morrison gets a boost because there’s no qualifying offer tied to him, and he was truly terrific this past season for the Rays. LoMo hit .245/.353/.516 with 38 homers, set a career-high with a 13.5 percent walk rate and successfully traded a few more strikeouts for a big jump in homers. The story is that he nuked his groundball/flyball ratio, scoring the dirt for the sky and never looking back. He may well sign for three years and $30 million and provide more value than Eric Hosmer over that duration. See players 6-12 on ZoneCoverage.com here!
  25. As the offseason continues, the Minnesota Twins will eventually make a free agent acquisition. While all of baseball appears at a standstill right now, dominoes will eventually begin to fall. Recently, Twins GM Thad Levine told MLB Network that the club is focused on both Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish. Although neither may happen, that suggests the club is in a good place. In 2017, the Twins turned heads making the postseason as an Wild Card team. While the turnaround wasn't unexpected, winning as often as they did probably was a bit much to ask. The reality however, is that Minnesota did accumulate those wins, and the ship was righted as the youth continued to blossom. Arguably the greatest problem for the franchise in recent history has been pitching, and that didn't necessarily leap forward. Coming in 19th across MLB in team ERA (and 19th among starters), pitching still left a lot to be desired. By FIP measures, Minnesota checked in at 25th, and that really highlights how pitching was addressed prior to 2017. The reality is that not much changed going into last year, but an improved defense and a much better defensive catcher made a significant impact. With the defense and catcher returning, it's now time to raise the water level on the mound as well. The current free agent class leaves plenty to be desired in terms of pitching, and there will never be a time that quality arms come cheap. That being said, Levine's comments suggest Minnesota is putting their best foot forward. There's no denying that both Ohtani and Darvish are the two best available pitchers on the open market. Rather than aiming at the middle ground the Twins have targeted the cream of the crop. For Darvish, money will factor in significantly more than it will for the capped out Ohtani. Regardless, knowing that Minnesota can't possibly aim any higher than they already are is a good thing. Regarding Ohtani first, Minnesota isn't going to have to shell out an extraordinary amount of dough. The spending is capped through the posting system, and for a guy turning down literal hundreds of millions a year from now to compete early, the fit in an organization seems to be much more enticing. Minnesota can offer him a young team on the rise, and a place that he could truly find himself as a superstar. Coming to Darvish, cash is absolutely going to be king. While he may not choose the most lucrative offer, getting the former Rangers ace for anything less than $100 million simply isn't going to happen. His stumble in the World Series doesn't deflate his market, and the fact that he's bounced back from Tommy John surgery so nicely calms most of the injury concerns. Darvish is a true ace, with strikeout ability, and that's something the Twins have needed since the years of Johan Santana. Levine having a leg up here, working with him in Texas, definitely can't hurt the situation. At the end of the day, the Twins may wind up being without either Darvish or Ohtani. Starting there though suggests a few things. First and foremost, they realize that starting pitching has to be a priority. The club has more than a few options to round out the rotation, but the reality is they are barren at the top. Ervin Santana isn't an ace, and is likely only going to decline. Jose Berrios could push for more, but that still leaves the club with just one shut down starter. Bringing in another arm one way or another is a good plan. Also, the Twins aren't shying away from the top of the market. Now it could be all talk. but there's no uncertainty when it comes to the payday Darvish is going to land. If Minnesota wasn't interested in playing at that level, having discussions at all would seem to be a waste of time. The fact that there's been engagement suggests that there's a level of commitment financially to tighten things up on the mound. Finally, starting at the top makes a level of settling a bit more manageable. If Minnesota can't land either Ohtani or Darvish, a step down to Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb is hardly a throwaway. While neither of those two guys are going to be an ace, they could slot in at Santana's level or higher, which helps the Twins as a whole. If the club started their search at the middle ground, adding a back end option as a fallback does little to actually fix anything. Right now, teams and players seem to be playing a game of chicken. There's likely big numbers being thrown around, and it's going to be interesting to see who bites first. Once moves are made however, the expectation should be that they come in relative bunches. Commend the Twins for doing more than their due diligence, and being aware of the focus they should have. Although Ohtani and Darvish may not end up in Twins Territory, it's hardly a bad thing that they're being heavily discussed at this point in time. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
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