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  1. In his fourth offseason at the head of the Minnesota Twins, there are two words Derek Falvey wishes he could take back, "Impact Pitching". It's all the casual Twins fan has been talking about this offseason, up until the Josh Donaldson signing, of course. The fact of the matter is that the Twins were agressive in pursuing their "Plan A" options for the offseason in free agents Ryu, Bumgarner, and Wheeler. It just didn't work out, mostly because of forces outside of their control. To me, the Josh Donaldson signing signaled that the front office is pushing their chips to the middle of the table in 2020. At 34 years old, Donaldson might only have two years of elite production left. Now might be the time to capitalize in making that final offseason move for "impact pitching" right?; not necessarily. The Twins made a pair of early offseason moves to their staff with Odorizzi accepting their Qualifying Offer, Pineda coming back on a two year deal, and a pair of New Years Eve signings in Rich Hill and Homer Bailey. There is no doubt the Opening Day pitching staff still has some question marks but on paper this is a fine starting 5. The question marks of course come from Pineda who is suspended for the first 39 games of 2020 and Rich Hill, who had "primary and revision" surgery and won't be back until "June or July". Per Fangraphs Team Depth Charts 2020 Projections, the Twins starting staff projects to have a total WAR of 11.6, ranked 21st in MLB. Now, like I mentioned, this is because of the starts that should be made by Pineda and Hill in April - June will have to be made up by the likes of Dobnak, Smeltzer, and Thorpe. Fangraphs projects that this trio will pitch 169 total innings - which may be too many for a team with deep playoff run aspirations. But if things shake out like the Twins hope, they will have a fine starting 5 for the second half of the year, not even factoring in a potential July 31st trade. But they have to get there first. That's the key. As of right now there are two options the Twins have to add to their existing rotation, trade or sign a remaining free agent. Sure, trading for a Robbie Ray, Matthew Boyd, or Jon Gray would be nice. However, it seems that with each day closer to Spring Training, that possibility dwindles. What if they went a different direction... What if they were able to sign a pitcher with starting experience who can bridge the gap in April and May to fill in until Pineda's return? What if once he is not needed in the rotation anymore he can be added to the bullpen to strengthen the back end of baseball games? What if he actually happens to be a very good reliever? Enter, Collin McHugh. Collin McHugh - The Starter In 2016 - 2017, McHugh started 45 games for the Astros. In 248 innings, McHugh posted a 4.14 ERA, 3.92 FIP, and a 8.7 k/9. He missed quite a bit of time in 2017 with right shoulder tendonitis. In 2018 he pitched only in the bullpen (more on that in a minute). In 2019, the Astros put McHugh in the rotation on Opening Day. On the surface his numbers are ugly as a starter. In 8 starts, he posted a 6.37 ERA in 41 innings with a 9.2 k/9 allowing an OPS of .808 (yikes). But let's break this down a bit and only focus on the first six starts he made in 2019, as that really is all the Twins would need out of him before Pineda is back on May 10th. McHugh only had one rough start. If you eliminate that outing, 5 of those 6 starts were very good. He threw 28.2 innings, struck out 36 batters, had three quality starts (one out away from 4), and allowed 8 runs - a 2.51 ERA. That tells a much different story. Collin McHugh - The Reliever As stated earlier, in 2018 McHugh became a full time reliever. He was outstanding posting a 1.99 ERA, 2.72 FIP, a 11.7 k/9 in 72.1 innings. He also pitched in 4 playoff games that year allowing zero runs in 4 innings. After he was done starting in 2019, he went back to the Astros bullpen posting a 2.67 ERA, a 10.7 k/9, in 27 appearances across 33.2 innings. Solid. Do I think the Twins still need an "impact" SP to propel them to postseason success? Sure. Do I think the July 2019 Twins rotation could be very solid? Of course. But, they have to get there. Collin McHugh would help the Twins do that and add depth to an already established bullpen core for the second half of the season. A very hybrid and cost effective approach to bolstering the Opening Day Twins rotation. They can always wait to make their "impact pitching" move until the July 31st deadline. Signing McHugh would allow them the flexibility to do that.
  2. A week ago Ervin Santana made is 2018 debut with the double-A Chattanooga Lookouts and threw 2 innings (45 pitches) giving up 4 hits, 0 walks, 2 earned runs, while striking out 1. He was pulled early as there was a concern about his velocity, which topped out at 90 mph while he usually sits around 94. Because of this concern he will move down and pitch today for single-A Fort Meyers Miracle, according to Brandon Warne. With this development it is fair to think that we won’t see Ervin on the Twins roster until the end of June at the earliest. Whenever he is ready to make his season debut for the Twins there will be a tough decision for Paul Molitor to make on what to do with his rotation, and that’s what I want to address in this piece assuming the current starting 5 stays healthy. Option #1: Demote Fernando Romero As much as Molitor and Twins fans would not like to see this, I think it is a very likely scenario. Because of options (or the lack thereof) and performance, Romero is the only realistic candidate from the starting rotation. I couldn’t find data on minor league options (does anyone have a resource for this?), but I would guess that Odorizzi, Lynn, and Gibson are out of minor league options while Berrios has been the Twins best pitcher. That leaves Romero as the odd man out. In this case, he would be the first pitcher called upon after an injury or for double headers. Option #2: DFA Grossman and move a starter to bullpen This would be another tough decision for Molitor. Mauer is set to return very soon and I would think that will result in the demotion of Gregorio Petit, which then leaves the Twins with Adrianza, LaMarre, Grossman, and Wilson as their 4 bench players. If Molitor decides to go this route, then we would probably see LaMarre or Grossman as the player to be demoted which would leave a thin bench but a stacked bullpen. Personally, I think Grossman has earned the demotion but I thought that out of spring training too. It’s not uncommon for a starting pitcher to get some time in the bullpen early in their career and with how electric Romero has been this year I think this would be a great option. With the way successful teams have been built the last few years it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Twins to stack their bullpen with another dominant pitcher. Only downside of this is that he most likely wouldn’t be available to start again this year as his arm wouldn’t be ready to throw that much. Option #3: DFA Grossman and utilize 6-man rotation See above on why Grossman is the position player getting demoted. To be honest, I think this option is highly unlikely but it is something to consider. Pitchers (and baseball players in general) are creatures of habit and by nature are not fans of a 6-man rotation. This option allow him to continue to face major league hitting and it allows the Twins some flexibility if they do have injuries. Again, I don’t see this happening but also wouldn’t mind if it did. Personally, I would like to see Romero stay in the majors with whatever roster moves it takes. Realistically, I think option 1 is what is going to happen. Which option do you think is the best? Is there another option I didn’t consider? Lets discuss!
  3. As we sit here the night before the first Pitchers and Catchers workout for the Minnesota Twins, the starting rotation is at best...uh, incomplete? Ervin Santana's surprising injury news last week left the Twins with basically only two "locks" to break camp at the end of March. Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson. As it stands, the last three spots will have to come from a combination of Adalberto Meija, Phil Hughes, Aaron Slegers, Dietrich Enns, Stephen Gonsalves, and Fernando Romero. The latter two have 4 combined starts in AAA. You may be asking yourself: What is a Dietrich Enns? (Twins received him in the Jaime Garcia trade last season). I thought Phil Hughes retired? (I wish). While the thought of a top prospect contributing at the Major League level right away is enticing, the Twins are probably best suited to let them develop. Adding 1 or better yet, TWO, starters no doubt helps this team try to get back to the postseason in 2018. Yu Darvish signing with the Cubs on Saturday left Twins fans shattered, as their #1 option went off the board. This leaves Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb as the top remaining free agents. While there are many blogs that have speculated on how those three would contribute to the team, I will be focusing on the Twins trade options. Chris Archer Age: 29 Contract status: Signed thru 2019. Team option in ‘20 & ‘21 (AAV $8.415mil) 162 gm Average: 3.63 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 204 IP, 9.7 K/9, 1.214 WHIP Immediately after the Darvish news broke over the weekend, Twins fans began clamoring on Twitter to trade for Chris Archer. It is without question Archer would improve this team but at what cost? Thad Levine stated earlier today that "The prospect of kind of weakening one part of your team to strengthen another is not appealing." He was of course speaking in reference to the Major League 25 man roster. As recently as two weeks ago, the Twins offered a trade for Chris Archer. The package was believed to include Max Kepler. With how favorable Archer’s contract is, the prospect of the Rays building a new stadium, and having several young prospects graduating through their system, they are not in any urgency to get rid of him. A package of Kepler, Nick Gordon (#8 prospect via Baseball America), and Gonsalves (#4 prospect) would most likely not be enough to lure him away. Look at as recently as last season’s Chris Sale trade. It took the Red Sox’s #1 prospect (and #1 prospect in all of baseball) Yoan Moncada, plus Michael Kopech (Boston’s #5 prospect) and two others. The bar has been set. If I were the Rays, my price for Archer starts at either Byron Buxton or Royce Lewis. Seeing as those may be untouchable for the Twins front office, a deal for Archer is unlikely...onto the next option. Jake Odorizzi Age: 27 Contract status: Arb eligible ‘18 & ‘19 162 gm Average: 3.83 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 188 IP, 8.2 K/9, 1.219 WHIP At 27 years old with two years to go before he is a free agent (2020 season), Odorizzi would be a clear upgrade to this rotation. Most likely slotting in right behind Santana & Berrios. Relying mostly on his low 90’s fastball (thrown 48% of the time) and his splitter (23%) to generate swings and misses, Odorizzi has had plenty of success getting American League hitters out. However, both the fastball and splitter have led to more fly balls due to the way Odorizzi mechanics work. His slight armside run and the way he releases the ball create more backspin than most pitchers. He allowed 30 home runs last year. For a right handed pitcher, he has had good success keeping left handed hitters at bay, something Twins pitchers (especially Jose Berrios) struggled with in 2017. Lefties hit just .210 off him with an OPS of .686. He was much improved over the second half of the year with an ERA of 3.47 (first half of 4.63), a K/9 of 8.3, and only 10 homers allowed (20 allowed in first half). That is encouraging to see. It remains to be seen what the market for Odorizzi will be. With only two years remaining of team control, he should fetch at least 2 solid MLB prospects. Cubs, Yankees, Brewers, and Twins have all been connected to Odorizzi in the last week. As a comparison, Gerrit Cole was traded for MLB ready Joe Musgrove and former first round pick Colin Moran plus two additional minor leaguers. Cole is at a higher level than Odorizzi and to some, gathered an underwhelming return. If that is the bar, maybe it wouldn’t take too much for the Twins to pry Odorizzi away? Collin McHugh Age: 30 Contract status: Arb in ‘18 & ‘19 162 gm Average: 3.70 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 195 innings, 8.4 K/9, 1.253 WHIP Like Odorizzi, McHugh would likely slot behind Big Erv and Berrios in the Twins rotation. A serviceable and reliable starting pitcher who threw healthy workloads for the Astros from 2014-16. Last year, he dealt with some arm issues that limited him to 63 innings. A “posterior impingement of his right elbow” led to shutting him down before the season even began. He rebounded for a solid campaign over 12 starts with a 3.55 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning. He only threw 6 innings out of the bullpen last year for the World Champion, Houston Astros. With the addition of Gerrit Cole, the Astros have a bit of a logjam in their rotation. McHugh might be the odd-man out. He has already been rumored in trade discussions, notably with the Orioles. McHugh throws a low 90’s fastball and relies heavily on his curveball (thrown 20% of the time) and in 2017 developed a slider which he used 17% of the time. His slider clocks in at at 83mph and was very successful in a short period of time. Opposing hitters only batted .138 off it, with one homer allowed. A kudos to Astros pitching coach, Brent Storm for the help with that one. What this new pitch means for 2018, only time will tell. It’s hard to see McHugh taking another step at the age of 30. At this point he is what he is. With the Astros seemingly OK entering 2018 with McHugh in their bullpen and an emergency option for the rotation, there isn’t a lot of urgency to move him. If the Twins were willing, I am sure a solid low level prospect (Lewis Thorpe?) combined with a mid-tier minor league player would be enough to get a deal completed. With the Twins internal options less than ideal, it seems the best option will be 1) Sign a free agent and 2) trade for one of these three pitchers. The best case scenario would be a combination of both. There is not doubt Odorizzi and McHugh plus Cobb/Lynn help this team immensely in 2018 and give them a great opportunity to close the gap with the Cleveland Indians in the AL central. There is the issue however that adding two new pitchers could have an effect on the 2019 season. The Twins will add Michael Pineda to the mix. Additionally, Gonsalves/Romero should be ready. Plus don’t forget about Trevor May. None of those are a given and “too many starting pitchers” is never a bad problem to have. But the focus right now is the present. Without a real “ace” the Twins will have to rely on several #2 and #3 starters to get the job done. Already possessing a top 10 offense, upgraded bullpen and above average defense, the Twins would be poised to make a run back to the playoffs. Not making an addition is inexcusable. I do think the Twins do something, but how far do they go? So let me hear you Twins fans: What are your opinions on trading for a starter?
  4. The Twins went into Spring Training with one of the more interesting positional battles on their hands as they had three back-of-the-rotation starters -- Ricky Nolasco, Tyler Duffey, and Tommy Milone -- one of the top pitching prospects with a shot of making the majors this season in Jose Berrios, and just two spots in the rotation. The cost savings of starting him in the minors made if fairly likely that Berrios wasn’t going to break camp with the team, but he made the decision an easy one (and removed any chance of filing a grievance over service time the way Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant did last year) by looking fairly pedestrian during his time in big league camp and getting sent down well before last cuts. On the other end of the spectrum, Milone looked strong in his spring outings, solidifying his spot early, and leaving Duffey and Nolasco in a race for the last spot. Nolasco got the nod for a litany of reasons, but it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that strictly on merit the spot could easily have easily gone to Duffey. Fast forward a month from Berrios’ demotion and two weeks from the end of spring training: How do the Twins’ decisions look? It would be an understatement to say simply that Nolasco has been better than expected. Outside of one bad inning against the Angels, which the Twins managed to work around, Nolasco has given up just two runs in his 20.1 innings of work. His groundball rate is over 50 percent, which would be a career best by a substantial margin if he could keep it up, and he’s dropped his walk rate by nearly a full walk per nine. It’s a bit worrisome that his strikeout rate is well down from his career average -- which wasn’t particularly high to begin with -- but if that’s the tradeoff for his career best soft-contact rate and the improvements in his walk and home run rates, the Twins will take it. He’s not yet to the point of being obvious trade bait, but the Twins don’t need him to be. By the time the team needs his roster spot more than they need his production, a destination may reveal itself. The terrible weather in upstate New York has jumbled the Rochester Red Wings’ schedule, but both Duffey and Berrios have gotten in three starts, though both were cut short in their first two outings. Duffey has been largely the same pitcher for the Red Wings so far that he was for the Twins last year: allowing more baserunners than one might like, but preventing them from scoring. By results, he still seems like a pitcher the Twins have tentatively penciled into their long term plan and are glad to have ready in case of injury, but he’s not forcing their hand yet. Berrios, on the other hand, is getting sharp. He’s racked up 20 strikeouts in his 17 innings so far, allowed less than a baserunner per inning, and hasn’t allowed more than a run in any of his three starts. The Super Two deadline likely having already passed, Berrios could be called up at any point without the Twins risking an extra year of arbitration, especially since it will be another week or so until he’s ready to start again following his seven-inning lockdown of the Pawsox on Thursday. The Twins weren’t just playing a service time game with Berrios, however, these starts were important for him to show that he was ready. He’ll need to look good again in his next outing, but assuming he does, he’s making a compelling case that he’s ready to help the major league team crawl back into contention. The question is: Is there a spot for him in the rotation? Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes aren’t going anywhere, which leaves just two theoretical spots, Kyle Gibson’s and Milone’s. Neither pitcher is sporting a positive fWAR so far this season, but it’s something of a blunt tool without a bit more data behind it. Gibson’s numbers don’t look great through three starts, but the Twins believe in him with good reason and while his first start was indeed a bomb, but the subsequent two have been much better. His spot’s safe unless he hits the All-Star break with about an 8.90 ERA and a WHIP that looks like a respectable high school GPA. So the timing of Berrios’ appearance in the majors likely depends on Milone. Though he earned his spot in camp before Nolasco did, Milone seems as though he may be pulled back into the fray if he can’t right his ship in the next few starts. The optics are admittedly bad: He’s made it out of the fifth inning just once, he has allowed four runs in each of his starts, and he has given up 17 hits in just 15.1 innings pitched despite a BABIP almost precisely at his career average. His lines would look a bit better if he had been pulled after six innings in his start against the Angels instead of allowed to face Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun, who took him deep, but the core issues would still be there: He’s giving up way too much contact and when 35 percent of it is classified as hard contact, it’s not hard to see why he keeps ending up in trouble. Working against Milone is the fact that, even at his best, he’s something of a marginal starter. His lowest ERA in a season is 3.74, he doesn’t strike out a lot of hitters or generate a ton of groundballs; he gets by with timely outs and the occasional double play. He’s a survivor, an innings eater in the best of cases. It’s a profile the Twins have seen before in any number of other back-end-of-the-rotation guys, but their aspirations are higher this year than they’ve been in the recent past, making simply surviving a less desirable outcome, particularly when instead of eating innings, Milone is making extra work for the bullpen. Nick Nelson caught a quirk from Milone this year that’s worth mentioning: http://i.imgur.com/ZShbmL3.png His velocity isn’t changing much the second or third time he’s seeing hitters and his release point is dropping fractionally, but not enough to explain a 900 point increase in opponents’ OPS. Absent those things, which would point to either fatigue or injury, the easiest explanation is that hitters are simply getting a good sense of how his pitches look and/or how he wants to sequence them (Alternatively, Milone could be tipping his pitches, but there aren’t any other symptoms of that). If they know what to expect, they can prepare and punish even decently executed offerings. If it is the case that Milone is simply predictable, it’s liable to get worse before it gets better as advance scouts figure out how best to prepare their players for his patterns. If the Twins didn’t have Berrios in the minors and it was just Duffey that presented a serious threat to Milone’s spot, his leash would probably be longer than it is, but with the pitching staff needing a jumpstart and Berrios seemingly ready to provide it, Milone’s general malaise surely hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s good news for Berrios that it’s Milone who is struggling rather than Nolasco, as there are simply fewer ties that bind Milone to the majors. The Twins may not be looking for a reason to change Milone’s usage, but given how his season has gone, they’re also not keen to keep the status quo in place. All things considered, the date to circle is May 23. A month away, it gives the Twins a chance to see if there’s something fixable with Milone, be sure that Berrios is ready, and utilize off days for Rochester to line up the rotation they way they want to slot Berrios in with the big club when necessary. The 23rd is also the first time -- assuming the Twins’ rotation doesn’t change -- Milone will face a team for the second time this year. If the Royals show preternatural familiarity with Milone and beat him up, it may force the front office to make a change whether they had planned on it or not.
  5. Last year, Ricky Nolasco signed what is easily the largest free agent contract ever for the Twins. While not every Twins fan was happy, the consensus was that the Twins had opened their wallets wide to get a guy who would guarantee them innings and competitive starts. In other words, while Nolasco's ceiling wasn't thought to be that of an ace, his floor was thought to be competence or better.For one season, at least, the Twins were totally wrong. They didn't get middle-of-the-rotation production from him. They didn't get bottom-of-the-rotation production. Mostly, the team got very poor performance for what is agreed to be a lot of money. What went wrong? There are some numbers and circumstances that tell the tale. First of all, Nolasco has always given up a lot of hits and hasn't been very good at stranding runners. The naysayers of the contract pointed that out from the beginning. Secondly, Nolasco had spent all his career in the National League, where, without a DH, it is thought to be easier for pitchers to put up good numbers. The last two factors--health and luck-- may or may not be supported by numbers. Nolasco pitched with forearm tightness from spring training until he was disabled in early July. He pitched to an awful 5.90 ERA prior to going on the DL, and post All-Star game yielded a more representative 4.39 ERA. Finally, Nolasco posted a 4.30 FIP, indicating that he suffered from bad luck and bad defense. In watching most of his starts, I would submit that he didn't get much help from his defence and that he suffered from a bunch of bloop hits and some bad hops. I also saw a lot of hard-hit balls with quite a few reaching the seats. What does the future hold? First of all, while the first year was a disaster, Nolasco's body of work suggests he'll bounce back. He's been pretty dependable and reliable for a long time. No, he won't be traded in a salary dump and I sincerely doubt that he'll be exchanged for another "bad" contract. He'll get a chance to come back for the Twins. Secondly, I don't see him in the top of Twins rotation next year or for the duration of his contract. The Twins signed him 10 days short of his 31st birthday, and it is doubtful he'll ever perform better than he has in his better years ('10, '12 and '13) and not close to his best year in '08. In looking at Ricky's season, I would classify eight starts as "good" or better, six as "meh" to average, and the remainder (13) qualify as poor. Certainly not good enough, but there were some decent outings. How much was health related? An open question. I think Nolasco has learned a bit about what he has to do to succeed and might minimize those poor starts. He showed a pretty good breaking ball to go with an OK fastball but he needs to mix his pitches effectively. Finally, the Twins need to improve their defense. Better defensive outfielders would likely disproportionately benefit this veteran hurler. Better defense, better luck and better health will most likely lead to better results. I doubt he will ever be regarded as a good signing, but I also doubt he'll be viewed as a total failure going forward. The Twins should have gotten better production for over $12M per year, I think they'll get closer to it for the rest of his contract. But much like Joe Mauer, people will expect more than he'll produce. Click here to view the article
  6. For one season, at least, the Twins were totally wrong. They didn't get middle-of-the-rotation production from him. They didn't get bottom-of-the-rotation production. Mostly, the team got very poor performance for what is agreed to be a lot of money. What went wrong? There are some numbers and circumstances that tell the tale. First of all, Nolasco has always given up a lot of hits and hasn't been very good at stranding runners. The naysayers of the contract pointed that out from the beginning. Secondly, Nolasco had spent all his career in the National League, where, without a DH, it is thought to be easier for pitchers to put up good numbers. The last two factors--health and luck-- may or may not be supported by numbers. Nolasco pitched with forearm tightness from spring training until he was disabled in early July. He pitched to an awful 5.90 ERA prior to going on the DL, and post All-Star game yielded a more representative 4.39 ERA. Finally, Nolasco posted a 4.30 FIP, indicating that he suffered from bad luck and bad defense. In watching most of his starts, I would submit that he didn't get much help from his defence and that he suffered from a bunch of bloop hits and some bad hops. I also saw a lot of hard-hit balls with quite a few reaching the seats. What does the future hold? First of all, while the first year was a disaster, Nolasco's body of work suggests he'll bounce back. He's been pretty dependable and reliable for a long time. No, he won't be traded in a salary dump and I sincerely doubt that he'll be exchanged for another "bad" contract. He'll get a chance to come back for the Twins. Secondly, I don't see him in the top of Twins rotation next year or for the duration of his contract. The Twins signed him 10 days short of his 31st birthday, and it is doubtful he'll ever perform better than he has in his better years ('10, '12 and '13) and not close to his best year in '08. In looking at Ricky's season, I would classify eight starts as "good" or better, six as "meh" to average, and the remainder (13) qualify as poor. Certainly not good enough, but there were some decent outings. How much was health related? An open question. I think Nolasco has learned a bit about what he has to do to succeed and might minimize those poor starts. He showed a pretty good breaking ball to go with an OK fastball but he needs to mix his pitches effectively. Finally, the Twins need to improve their defense. Better defensive outfielders would likely disproportionately benefit this veteran hurler. Better defense, better luck and better health will most likely lead to better results. I doubt he will ever be regarded as a good signing, but I also doubt he'll be viewed as a total failure going forward. The Twins should have gotten better production for over $12M per year, I think they'll get closer to it for the rest of his contract. But much like Joe Mauer, people will expect more than he'll produce.
  7. Ricky Nolasco signed easily the largest free agent contract for the Twins last year. While not every Twins fan was happy, the consensus was that the Twins had opened their wallets wide to get a guy that would guarantee them innings and competitive starts. In other words, while Nolasco's ceiling wasn't thought to be that high, his floor was thought to be competence or better than that. For one season, at least, the Twins were totally wrong. They didn't get middle-of-the-rotation production from him. They didn't get bottom of the rotation production. Mostly, the team got very poor performance for what is agreed to be a lot of money. What went wrong? There are some things numbers that tell the tale. First of all, Nolasco has always given up a lot of hits and hasn't been very good at stranding runners. The naysayers of the contract pointed that out from the beginning. Secondly, Nolasco had spent all his career in the National League, without a DH, thought to be easier for pitchers to put up good numbers. The last two factors may or may not be supported by numbers--Nolasco pitched with forearm tightness from spring training until he was disabled in early July. He pitched to an awful 5.90 ERA prior to going on the DL, post All-Star game yielded a more representative 4.39 ERA. Finally, Nolasco posted a 4.30 FIP, indicating that he suffered from bad luck and bad defense. In watching most of his starts, I would submit that Nolasco didn't get much help behind him and that he suffered from a bunch of bloop hits and some bad hops. I also saw a lot of hard-hit balls with quite a few reaching the seats. What does the future hold? First of all, while the first year was a disaster, Nolasco's body of work suggests he'll bounce back. He's been pretty dependable and reliable for a long time. No, he won't be traded in a salary dump and I sincerely doubt that he'll be exchanged for another "bad" contract. He'll get a chance to come back for the Twins. Secondly, I don't see him in the top of Twins rotation next year or for the duration of his contract. The Twins signed him 10 days short of his 31st birthday, it is doubtful he'll every perform better than he has in his better years ('10, '12 and '13) and not close to his best year in '08. In looking at Ricky's season, I would classify eight starts as "good" or better, six as "meh" to average, and the remainder (13) to qualify as poor. Certainly not good enough, but there were some decent outings. How much was health related? An open question. I think Nolasco has learned a bit about what he has to do to succeed and might minimize those poor starts. He showed a pretty good breaking ball, to go with an okay fastball but he needs to mix his pitches effectively. Finally, the Twins need to improve their defense. Better defensive outfielders would probably disproportionately benefit the veteran hurler. Better defense, better luck and better health will most likely lead to better results. I doubt he ever is regarded as a good signing, but I also doubt he'll be viewed as a total failure going forward. The Twins should have expected better for over $12M per year, I think they'll get closer to it for the rest of his contract. But much like Joe Mauer, people will expect more than he'll produce.
  8. With 70% of the season in the books, I thought I would take a look at what has happened compared to my expectations. I thought the Twins would improve slightly, but because of starting pitcher issues, they wouldn't contend. So far, in this very general prediction, I am right. The Twins look like they will win a few more games, finishing somewhere in the high 60s to low 70s and their starting pitching has been a bigger mess than I would have predicted. More specifically, I said that the overall success of the season would be determined by the number of players who established themselves. In that category of players were non-rookie, first year starters--Florimon, Dozier, Plouffe, and Parmelee. In addition, Aaron Hicks was the Opening Day CF, making his debut on that night. So far, the results in this category have been distressing. Only Dozier has made a case to be a solution, with Florimon probably exceeding expectations but still a poor offensive option. Plouffe had a decent first half, but since an injury he's been dreadful. Parmelee never really got going and Hicks spent about a minute above the Mendoza line and is now assigned to Rochester. As far as development of pitchers, we can start with the failures--Worley and Diamond--both sent to AAA on merit. The hope is that perhaps neither were fully recovered from off-season surgeries and that they will compete for spots in 2014. Correia and Pelfry, on balance, have been close to what would be expected (which isn't much). The guy who has stepped forward is Deduno, who has seemingly put his own spin on "pitch to contact" and has done well in his dozen or so starts. The bullpen has been a team saver. IMHO, it has kept the Twins from becoming the Central Division version of the Astros. From middle guys to the closer, all have performed at least decently on balance. There is an excess there, particularly if the Twins come up with enough starting pitching next year to average 6 innings instead of this season's norm of barely 5. The defense, on balance, has improved. Up the middle, with an improved Mauer behind the plate, Florimon and Dozier in the middle infield and mostly Hicks in center, they are much better than 2012. The outfield corners not so much. First and third are status quo. I haven't mentioned a couple of rookies. Gibson has not been good at all, but he looks like he has enough stuff to be a decent starter. Caleb Thielbar has been a real revelation as a member of the bullpen. Chris Colabello and Oswaldo Arcia have hit some long balls. Arcia has reinforced the opinion that he will be a cornerstone for the club in the years ahead. In summary, this is a team in transition. The next wave is getting closer and we've seen a couple of players who will be part of that wave. It is disappointing that some medium talents haven't stepped up, but not really that surprising. Because of this, the prospects for next year look more bleak than I would have predicted at the start of the year.
  9. Diamond started the season on the DL, but was expected to be the Twins best starter. He has had some good appearances, but his overall numbers are the worst of the current starting rotation in the month of June. Is it possible that the Twins could send him down to Rochester and promote either Albers or Gibson?
  10. I am not terribly optimistic about the Twins' chances. Here are five predictions for 2013. Discuss. 1) The Twins will use more than 10 starting pitchers. 2) Aaron Hicks will be optioned to Rochester at some point this year. 3) At least two players that go north will be traded by the July 31 trade deadline. 4) Pedro Florimon will not start 100 games at SS for the 2013 Twins. 5) Brian Dozier will establish himself as a major league regular at second base.
  11. The club has not looked very encouraging in spring training. Specifically, the starting rotation has been poor and the last spots in the bullpen look like they will be won by default. I am not optimistic about a contender coming out of what the Twins have, at least not in 2013. Let's remember a few things: 1) It is spring training. Guys with their spots assured are not so concerned about results as they may be about working on a third pitch, or hitting the ball the other way etc. 2) The Twins are starting the season with five guys who haven't been big league starters for a full year. This year is about three or four or all five establishing themselves as major league regulars. Perhaps the Twins can get lucky and all five will establish themselves, more likely one or two fail. IMHO, if three players seize their position, it will be a success. 3) The Twins carried exactly one starter from 2012 into 2013. My criteria for success in the starting pitching department is establishing two more, bringing the total of starters pencilled in for 2014 to 3. 4) I expect good up-the-middle defense for the 2013 Twins. Hicks has the tools to be outstanding, Florimon and Dozier have shown good range with a few fine plays in ST, and a healthy Mauer could reclaim his Gold Glove. The corners--not so much--but if the guys catch the ball and throw combined with good middle of the diamond "D", that will be an improvement. 5) The final criteria for success should be improvement in the win column. I think the team needs to win in the 72-78 range to be considered successful in that area.
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