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  1. There was a flurry of roster activity Tuesday afternoon. The Twins announced that Miguel Sano would be placed on the 10-day disabled list retroactive as of April 28. To take his spot on the roster, Gregorio Petit was promoted from Rochester, but to make room for him on the 40-man roster, Dietrich Enns was designated for assignment. Also, Tyler Kinley has been returned to the Marlins. Whew.Sano experienced tightness in his left hamstring during Friday's game and sat out the last three contests. Eduardo Escobar is expected to shift over to third base while Ehrie Adrianza takes over at shortstop. Sano's absence in the lineup has created a huge void. With Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco also inactive and Brian Dozier slumping, the Twins are severely lacking offensive punch against left-handers outside of the surging Escobar. The Blue Jays are scheduled to start right-handers the next two nights and they only feature one southpaw in their bullpen, so that flaw may not be exposed in the short term. Petit has hit .293/.323/.362 as the everyday shortstop for Rochester so far this season. He has 171 MLB games under his belt, previously playing for Oakland, Houston, the Yankees and Angels. He has a .643 OPS against major league pitching over his career. Enns, who was also in Rochester, has a 4.50 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 20 innings so far this season. That's come with a rather underwhelming 11 strikeouts and 11 walks. The soon to be 27-year-old was acquired from the Yankees last July. His left-handedness and ability to throw multiple innings could make him interesting for teams combing the waiver wire. Kinley gave up nine earned runs while recording 10 outs for the Twins. He was removed from the 25-man roster, giving the Miami Marlins the opportunity to bring him back, though it's a little surprising the Twins couldn't work out a trade to keep Kinley in the org. Click here to view the article
  2. Sano experienced tightness in his left hamstring during Friday's game and sat out the last three contests. Eduardo Escobar is expected to shift over to third base while Ehrie Adrianza takes over at shortstop. Sano's absence in the lineup has created a huge void. With Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco also inactive and Brian Dozier slumping, the Twins are severely lacking offensive punch against left-handers outside of the surging Escobar. The Blue Jays are scheduled to start right-handers the next two nights and they only feature one southpaw in their bullpen, so that flaw may not be exposed in the short term. Petit has hit .293/.323/.362 as the everyday shortstop for Rochester so far this season. He has 171 MLB games under his belt, previously playing for Oakland, Houston, the Yankees and Angels. He has a .643 OPS against major league pitching over his career. Enns, who was also in Rochester, has a 4.50 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 20 innings so far this season. That's come with a rather underwhelming 11 strikeouts and 11 walks. The soon to be 27-year-old was acquired from the Yankees last July. His left-handedness and ability to throw multiple innings could make him interesting for teams combing the waiver wire. Kinley gave up nine earned runs while recording 10 outs for the Twins. He was removed from the 25-man roster, giving the Miami Marlins the opportunity to bring him back, though it's a little surprising the Twins couldn't work out a trade to keep Kinley in the org.
  3. There were some eyebrows raised last December when the Twins left Nick Burdi and Luke Bard exposed to the Rule 5 Draft so they could select Marlins prospect Tyler Kinley. At the time, Kinley was a relatively no-name relief prospect who had only accumulated 9 2/3 career innings at Triple-A. What was interesting about Kinley to the Twins was his out of this world stuff. He has a fastball that can reach triple digits, and a slider that sits in the upper 80s with an above average amount of spin (averaging 2479 RPM this year).However, the problem with Kinley has always been his inability to control his pitches. Over his five-year minor league career, Kinley had averaged 3.5 BB/9. It is quite apparent, early on, that Tyler Kinley is not a major league-ready pitcher, and that Paul Molitor has zero trust to use him in a game unless it is already out of reach. His control has been awful, having thrown just 59.8% of his pitches for strikes. In an era where most major league hitters are seeing pitchers with an upper 90s fastball paired with a wicked breaking pitch on a nightly basis, Tyler Kinley’s stuff isn’t exactly blowing them away. In fact, opposing hitters are hitting .474 off him with a double and two home runs. Kinley does have a 10.80 K/9 rate, but that is a little misleading with all the batters he has faced. In total his strikeout rate sits at just 17.4%, which is well below the league average, especially for a reliever. So, what is keeping the Twins from cutting ties with Tyler Kinley? The biggest hang-up is that since Kinley was a Rule 5 draft pick, the Twins would have to either DFA him or offer him back to the Marlins if they don’t want to keep him on their 25-man roster. So, if the organization still has faith that Kinley can one day be a presence in the Twins bullpen they are hesitant to get rid of him. While that reasoning makes sense, there are plenty of other reasons why getting rid of Tyler Kinley now makes sense too. With the Twins in the hunt for another playoff berth in 2018, every roster spot is valuable, and to waste one on a pitcher who has zero impact on meaningful games only hurts their chances. His roster spot could easily be taken by other relievers like Alan Busenitz (who was sent back down to Rochester and replaced by Tyler Duffey on Tuesday), John Curtiss, Jake Reed or D.J. Baxendale. Both Reed and Baxendale would need to be added to the Twins 40-man roster, which isn’t an issue since they can just replace Kinley’s spot. Another reason why it would make sense to move on from Tyler Kinley is his age. At 27, his potential upside for the Twins is limited, even if he does figure out his control issues. Relief pitchers have a very sharp aging curve that starts to show real decline from the age of 25. Here is a comparison what starting pitcher aging curves look like compared to relief pitcher aging curves. Download attachment: Starting Pitcher Aging Curve.PNG Download attachment: Relief Pitcher Aging Curve.PNG Aging Curves courtesy of FanGraphs. As you can see from these graphs the aging process for relief pitchers is a lot more drastic than it is for starting pitchers. Stats like BB/9, BABIP, HR/9 and FIP all see sharp increases around the age of 27 for relievers, while stats like K/9, velocity and swinging strikes all see declines at that same age. With Kinley already at that 27-year-old threshold it might be too late for the Twins to sit around and hope he becomes something that he has never even been as a minor leaguer. At the end of the day, running a baseball team is just like running a business. Sometimes you make good investments and sometimes you make bad investments, and what separates good businesses from bad businesses is the good businesses understand when it is time to get out from under on a bad investment. That is exactly what the Twins need to do with Kinley. SEE ALSO Is it Time for a Roster Reshuffle? Click here to view the article
  4. However, the problem with Kinley has always been his inability to control his pitches. Over his five-year minor league career, Kinley had averaged 3.5 BB/9. It is quite apparent, early on, that Tyler Kinley is not a major league-ready pitcher, and that Paul Molitor has zero trust to use him in a game unless it is already out of reach. His control has been awful, having thrown just 59.8% of his pitches for strikes. In an era where most major league hitters are seeing pitchers with an upper 90s fastball paired with a wicked breaking pitch on a nightly basis, Tyler Kinley’s stuff isn’t exactly blowing them away. In fact, opposing hitters are hitting .474 off him with a double and two home runs. Kinley does have a 10.80 K/9 rate, but that is a little misleading with all the batters he has faced. In total his strikeout rate sits at just 17.4%, which is well below the league average, especially for a reliever. So, what is keeping the Twins from cutting ties with Tyler Kinley? The biggest hang-up is that since Kinley was a Rule 5 draft pick, the Twins would have to either DFA him or offer him back to the Marlins if they don’t want to keep him on their 25-man roster. So, if the organization still has faith that Kinley can one day be a presence in the Twins bullpen they are hesitant to get rid of him. While that reasoning makes sense, there are plenty of other reasons why getting rid of Tyler Kinley now makes sense too. With the Twins in the hunt for another playoff berth in 2018, every roster spot is valuable, and to waste one on a pitcher who has zero impact on meaningful games only hurts their chances. His roster spot could easily be taken by other relievers like Alan Busenitz (who was sent back down to Rochester and replaced by Tyler Duffey on Tuesday), John Curtiss, Jake Reed or D.J. Baxendale. Both Reed and Baxendale would need to be added to the Twins 40-man roster, which isn’t an issue since they can just replace Kinley’s spot. Another reason why it would make sense to move on from Tyler Kinley is his age. At 27, his potential upside for the Twins is limited, even if he does figure out his control issues. Relief pitchers have a very sharp aging curve that starts to show real decline from the age of 25. Here is a comparison what starting pitcher aging curves look like compared to relief pitcher aging curves. Aging Curves courtesy of FanGraphs. As you can see from these graphs the aging process for relief pitchers is a lot more drastic than it is for starting pitchers. Stats like BB/9, BABIP, HR/9 and FIP all see sharp increases around the age of 27 for relievers, while stats like K/9, velocity and swinging strikes all see declines at that same age. With Kinley already at that 27-year-old threshold it might be too late for the Twins to sit around and hope he becomes something that he has never even been as a minor leaguer. At the end of the day, running a baseball team is just like running a business. Sometimes you make good investments and sometimes you make bad investments, and what separates good businesses from bad businesses is the good businesses understand when it is time to get out from under on a bad investment. That is exactly what the Twins need to do with Kinley. SEE ALSO Is it Time for a Roster Reshuffle?
  5. After a drubbing to the New York Yankees in their first matchup since the Wild Card loss last season, the Minnesota Twins had some questions to be answered. Jake Odorizzi struggled, and the bullpen provided little in the form of relief. With position player Ryan LaMarre finishing out the game, Paul Molitor needed some reinforcements, but the question now is; where do they come from? Leaving spring training, the Twins found themselves needing to juggle a bullpen to include Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley. He looked promising with velocity out the wazoo, but in what we've seen thus far, little else has come with it. By including Kinley and Gabriel Moya (thanks to a timely Phil Hughes injury) on the 25 man roster, relief staple Tyler Duffey found himself making the trip to upstate New York. Since then, Alan Busenitz has also appeared out of the pen with the big club. After the 13-run loss, and fourth straight defeat, the Twins optioned Busenitz back to the farm. He'd posted a 6.75 ERA across four innings of work, and while the seven strikeouts are nice, the eight hits are far too many. Moya had been jettisoned previously, as he owned a 10.80 ERA across just 5.0 IP. Giving up three longballs in his brief work thus far, a tweak has to be made as he's now allowed five in just 11.1 IP at the major league level. Kinley is still being held onto after being invested in as a Rule 5 player, but the 24.30 ERA across 3.1 IP simply is unacceptable. To a certain extent, the problem for Minnesota lies in what moves they've already made. Getting Duffey back to the big league level is a good move. He's posted a 0.00 ERA across 11 IP at Triple-A, and owns a 14/1 K/BB. Behind him though, the options for Molitor and the front office are a lot of the names we've already seen. Busenitz and Moya both look like capable big league relievers to me, but neither has shown they are there right now. John Curtiss could be the next man up from Rochester, but he too would need to get off on the right foot. Outside of those names, there isn't another relief arm on the 40 man roster. At Triple-A Rochester, Jake Reed (who's currently on the DL), D.J. Baxendale, and Mason Melotakis are all names of intrigue. Of them, Reed probably has the most upside. None of those three are any sort of a sure thing however, and dipping down a level lower would be asking someone to make a big jump for the Twins. There is the option to ask a starter like Fernando Romero to work out of the pen, but unless he's used semi-regularly, that could be at a detriment to his development. What this all boils down to is Paul Molitor needing more from the guys currently expected to bolster his pitching staff. Both Odorizzi and Lance Lynn need to be better out of the rotation. When entering from relief, it's been Addison Reed, Ryan Pressly, or bust. Trevor Hildenberger has to return to 2017 form, and Taylor Rogers desperately needs to string together a few strong outings. There isn't a golden ticket waiting to happen, and the cream really needs to rise to the top. It's absolutely fair to note that the Twins have pitching depth, and it's also fair to suggest that there's a relative quality about it. That being said, the early season returns have been underwhelming, and the group as a whole must do some soul-searching to find out what more each individual can offer. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  6. Jake Odorizzi’s night changed in a hurry, Corey Kluber was doing his thing and a Puerto Rican native had a special moment … but, sadly, it wasn’t one of our guys. The Twins dropped the opening game of the Puerto Rico Series, but tomorrow is La MaKina night!Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)Download attachment: Snapshot417.png Download attachment: WinEx417.png Odorizzi was really good … until he wasn’t. He held Cleveland scoreless through 4 2/3 innings and had six strikeouts, then he gave up a double and a home run before recording the final out of the fifth. He came back out for the sixth and served up homers to the first two batters he faced. It went from pitcher’s duel to slugfest in the blink of an eye. The first of those home runs was hit by Puerto Rico product Francisco Lindor. It was a pretty cool moment, I guess. If you’re into that sorta thing. I dunno, probably would’ve been a lot cooler if it had been Eddie Rosario. Unfortunately, the Twins had to face Corey Kluber, the best pitcher in baseball, tonight. Over his last 26 starts entering this game, Kluber had a 1.62 ERA and 0.74 WHIP over 189 1/3 innings while holding opponents to a .171/.209/.277 line. His 2.10 FIP over that span is the best in baseball by a wide margin. KluBot was excellent yet again, holding the Twins to one run over 6 2/3 innings. Brian Dozier knocked him out of the game with an RBI double. It didn’t get any easier for the Twins from there, as Andrew Miller entered the game and was followed by Cody Allen. Max Kepler had a double, a walk and scored the Twins’ only run. Joe Mauer drew a pair of walks. Tyler Kinley threw a scoreless ninth inning. Byron Buxton was out due to migraines. Max slid over to center and Robbie Grossman played right. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and looked out of place in the outfield, though it’s not like he badly misplayed anything. Grossman is 2-for-18 with no walks to start the season. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:Download attachment: Bullpen417.png Next Three Games Weds vs. CLE, 6:10 pm CT (Puerto Rico Series) Fri at TB, 6:10 pm CT Sat at TB, 5:10 pm CT Last Three Games MIN 4, CHW 0: Mauer Reaches 2,000 Hits, Leads Twins to Victory MIN 9, HOU 8: Max to the Rescue! MIN 4, HOU 1: Odorizzi, Twins Battle Their Way to Victory More From Twins Daily Twins Minor League Report (4/17): Wiel Walks it Off to Back Littell Twins vs. Indians Series Preview Puerto Rico Series Comes With Added Importance Click here to view the article
  7. Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs) Odorizzi was really good … until he wasn’t. He held Cleveland scoreless through 4 2/3 innings and had six strikeouts, then he gave up a double and a home run before recording the final out of the fifth. He came back out for the sixth and served up homers to the first two batters he faced. It went from pitcher’s duel to slugfest in the blink of an eye. The first of those home runs was hit by Puerto Rico product Francisco Lindor. It was a pretty cool moment, I guess. If you’re into that sorta thing. https://twitter.com/MLB/status/986408243693015040 I dunno, probably would’ve been a lot cooler if it had been Eddie Rosario. Unfortunately, the Twins had to face Corey Kluber, the best pitcher in baseball, tonight. Over his last 26 starts entering this game, Kluber had a 1.62 ERA and 0.74 WHIP over 189 1/3 innings while holding opponents to a .171/.209/.277 line. His 2.10 FIP over that span is the best in baseball by a wide margin. KluBot was excellent yet again, holding the Twins to one run over 6 2/3 innings. Brian Dozier knocked him out of the game with an RBI double. It didn’t get any easier for the Twins from there, as Andrew Miller entered the game and was followed by Cody Allen. Max Kepler had a double, a walk and scored the Twins’ only run. Joe Mauer drew a pair of walks. Tyler Kinley threw a scoreless ninth inning. Byron Buxton was out due to migraines. Max slid over to center and Robbie Grossman played right. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and looked out of place in the outfield, though it’s not like he badly misplayed anything. Grossman is 2-for-18 with no walks to start the season. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Weds vs. CLE, 6:10 pm CT (Puerto Rico Series) Fri at TB, 6:10 pm CT Sat at TB, 5:10 pm CT Last Three Games MIN 4, CHW 0: Mauer Reaches 2,000 Hits, Leads Twins to Victory MIN 9, HOU 8: Max to the Rescue! MIN 4, HOU 1: Odorizzi, Twins Battle Their Way to Victory More From Twins Daily Twins Minor League Report (4/17): Wiel Walks it Off to Back Littell Twins vs. Indians Series Preview Puerto Rico Series Comes With Added Importance
  8. Thus far in 2018, the Minnesota Twins have played seven baseball games. They've had to deal with frigid temperatures, some snow, and even a postponement in the early going. What they have yet to need due to the circumstances, is a fifth starter. That leash could soon be coming to an end however, and Rule 5 draft pick Tyler Kinley could be caught up in the heart of the shuffle. Through the seven games, Minnesota has won three times by at least four runs, and they were beaten recently by the Seattle Mariners to the tune of a seven run deficit. Despite what would seem like a few opportunities, Paul Molitor has only inserted Minnesota's Rule 5 pick into one game. Kinley got an inning of mop-up work during the blowout loss to the Mariners. He threw 22 pitches over one inning and gave up a hit, run, and walk while tallying two strikeouts. During his inning of work, it was ever apparent as to why the Twins both wanted to grab the former Miami Marlins prospect, and why they were able to. He topped out at 96 mph, reaching that velocity on nine of his 22 pitches. There was also three sweeping sliders at 88 mph that were offered to Mariners hitters. Just 50% of his pitches were in the strike zone however, and there were more than a couple that appeared simply non-competitive. Velocity and lack of command isn't a new blueprint, and it's one that many Rule 5 draftees possess. In being held back until this moment however, it seems widely apparent that manager Paul Molitor doesn't see the training wheels coming off any time soon. This is where things begin to get a bit hairy for both the Twins and Kinley. With Ervin Santana still on the shelf (and frankly not looking like he'll be back before June), Phil Hughes is looking like the most likely candidate to be inserted into the Minnesota rotation. He could be needed as soon as Friday, and the expected move would be that reliever Gabriel Moya would be sent to the minors. In 2.1 IP thus far, Moya has allowed 2 ER on 1 HR and 2 H. It's a small sample size, and the numbers don't suggest much. While he has dominated in the minors, and looks the part of a big league reliever, he has the unfortunate burden of carrying options. What this does for Minnesota though, could be described as suboptimal. In sending out Moya, Minnesota decreases their relief arms by two. Molitor already isn't using Kinley (for fair reasons), and Moya is no longer at his disposal. Coupled with the fact that Trevor Hildenberger simply has not looked right since spring training commenced and Zach Duke has been effectively (but equally ineffective) wild out of the gate with his new team, the Twins relief corps finds themselves immediately stretched. There's little denying that Alan Busenitz couldn't be helping the big league club, but right now there's just no avenue to make it happen. While sorting this all out, Derek Falvey is also faced with a reality that could end up being somewhat of an "egg on face" situation. Sure, Kinley's velocity was intriguing enough to take a flier on, but he really didn't make sense for the Twins given the other options. During the roster shuffle surrounding the Rule 5 draft and beyond, Minnesota lost Luke Bard, Nick Burdi, and J.T. Chargois. Burdi wasn't going to factor into the plans this year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but both of the other two are on big league rosters and showing nicely. As a Rule 5 pick, Bard has the same stipulations as Kinley does. During spring training with the Los Angeles Angels, Bard never appeared in jeopardy of missing out on the 25 man roster however. He's backed up the vote of confidence by turning in a 1.42 ERA across his first 6.1 IP this season. The eight strikeouts have equated to an 11.4 K/9, though he does have an ugly five walks in that same span as well. Chargois was a waiver claim by the Dodgers, and despite that suggesting he nearly passed through unclaimed, one of the best teams in baseball saw and avenue to improve their pen. He's rewarded them with 3.1 scoreless IP giving up just 2 H, striking out three, and working around 95 mph with his fastball. Now is too late to boo-hoo over the loss of players that could have been capable of providing value in the Twins pen. What's going to be tough to stomach however is if Minnesota is forced to give up on Kinley after a matter of weeks, or even a month, and watch their alternative options thrive. At some point soon though, Paul Molitor and the Twins brain trust is going to face a crossroads that determines how they move forward. A team with Postseason aspirations can't have unusable assets out in the pen, and with guys scuffling out of the gate, there has to be more trustworthy options available sooner rather than later. We shouldn't have to wait much longer to see how this situation plays itself out, and hopefully, the sting won't be too bad when all is said and done. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  9. Baseball is back. The Minnesota Twins have launched into the new season with an impressive showing of power, both from their bats and arms. Here's a rundown of everything that's happened so far and a look ahead to what's next. Weekly Snapshot: Thursday, 3/29 through Sunday, 4/8 *** Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 4-3) Run Differential Last Week: +8 (Overall: +8) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (1.0 GA) Just to lay some groundwork, this is the first installment of a new series that will be running all season here at Twins Daily. Each Monday morning you'll find a new "Week in Review" column, covering the best and worst of the past seven days (in this case the past 11), as well as a key storyline worth tracking, and a rundown of the most noteworthy developments in the minor leagues. Additionally, we'll take a look ahead at what's on tap for the coming week. The idea here is to present sort of a micro/macro-hybrid analysis throughout the season, by zooming in on takeaways from each ~1/24th chunk of the schedule and tying them to the bigger picture that is the 2018 campaign. If there's anything else you'd like to see in this weekly space, please don't hesitate to let me know in the comments! HIGHLIGHTS "Bombs and Bullpen" was the title of Tom Froemming's recap from the home opener on Thursday, and it pretty well summarizes up the first week-plus of Twins games – mostly in good ways. A young lineup vaunted for its balance and pop has displayed both in spades. Picking up where they left off in 2017, the Twins have impressively tallied 12 home runs through seven games, and rank 7th among MLB teams in OPS. Minnesota has received production throughout the order. Some hitters have looked better than others, but no one has been totally discouraging. Among the standout performers: Brian Dozier is off to a rousing start, with four homers through his first seven games. The second baseman has been a notoriously slow starter, leading us all to wonder what would happen if he put it together from start to finish here in his walk year. So far, so good.After missing the final stretch of 2017, Miguel Sano has quickly made his presence felt back in the lineup. Despite striking out in nearly half his plate appearances, he's rocking a team-leading 1.147 OPS with four homers and eight RBI.Dozier and Sano are the biggest home run threats in an offense full with them, but amidst all the deep drives, it is the disciplined approaches and scrappy ABs that have stood out most. Max Kepler has struck out only once in 27 plate appearances, with five walks. He's looked much more comfortable against left-handed pitching, which was his pivotal priority this season. Joe Mauer continues to resemble his old self at the plate; he has a .462 OBP and 2-to-4 K/BB ratio thus far. Thrust into starting duty, Eduardo Escobar has come charging out of the gates with a 1.131 OPS, and his nine-pitch battle that resulted in an RBI single during a rally on Saturday stands out as one of the club's best at-bats through a week-plus.In every game thus far, the offense has either given the pitching staff a cozy lead to cruise on, or mounted a comeback of sorts when put in a hole. That's exactly what we're hoping to see on a consistent basis. The rotation started off brilliantly, with 21 consecutive shutout innings (driven by some serious batted ball luck). Twins starters have since looked more human, but still good enough to inspire confidence. And the bullpen was looking stellar up until its first meltdown on Saturday. Paul Molitor has leaned heavily on his newly acquired free agent right-handers Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed who've combined for seven appearances already. Rodney's been effective, outside of the walk-off homer surrendered to Adam Jones on Opening Day. Reed has certainly been living up this bullpen ace billing, with just one hit allowed through his first 5 1/3 innings of work. Taylor Rogers has turned in three scoreless appearances. Ryan Pressly and Gabriel Moya look like the kinds of reliable arms you love to have available for middle-inning roles. In total, Twins relievers have struck out 27 in 24 2/3 innings, upping the intimidation factor after ranking 29th in K rate last year. The depth and quality of both the lineup and pitching staff have mostly been substantiated early on. LOWLIGHTS I say "mostly" because neither group has been without its warts. Not everyone has looked great at the plate. Jason Castro (.461 OPS) and Byron Buxton (.407 OPS) have been among the laggards, but their defensive impacts help make up for it. Logan Morrison is batting .053, but hasn't looked lost or hopeless at the plate. You can't expect everyone to be clicking simultaneously out of the gates. I don't see serious cause for concern with any hitters. There are, however, some noteworthy early issues in the bullpen. Trevor Hildenberger didn't look quite right all spring and that's carried over to the regular season. He has struck out only one of the 17 batters he's faced, and the command has been plainly amiss. He left to two hangers out over the plate on Saturday and they were hammered for a three-run double and two-run homer, turning a surmountable deficit into a blowout. Three of the runs that came across on Hildenberger's watch were charged to Zach Duke, who had loaded the bases. Duke has had a rough go of it as well, although his 16.88 ERA overstates things. He still seems to be finding his control, but shows some truly nasty stuff and has struck out 41% of the batters he's faced so it's not all bad. Duke's safe for now. Hildenberger might be on shakier ground, given that he's got options while the Twins have Alan Busenitz and Tyler Duffey ready in Triple-A. Molitor can ill afford to have any untrusted commodities in the bullpen, given that he's already working around a Rule 5 albatross. Which brings us to this week's... TRENDING STORYLINE Through seven games, it has become crystal clear that Molitor isn't ready to use Tyler Kinley in remotely competitive situations. The manager had chances to deploy Kinley with three- or four-run leads, but ultimately used him only once, with the Twins trailing by seven. During his one inning of work, Kinley showed both why the team would strain to keep him on the roster, and why Molitor has been reluctant to use him in any kind of leverage spot. The fastball and slider were legit, causing looks of bewilderment on the faces of batters. But they were also erratic; in his lone appearance, Kinley issued a walk, and allowed a run to score on a very wild pitch. It's been easy enough for Molitor to work around Kinley's presence up to this point, thanks to all open days and the four-man rotation. But soon enough, the Twins will need to make a decision. The fifth-starter ultimatum was pushed back by Sunday's freezeout, but Minnesota now faces a slate of games on seven straight days at Target Field. Further cancellations are of course very possible, but if all games are played the Twins will need another starter on Friday night against the White Sox. Soon enough, a reliever is gonna need to go in order to make room for Phil Hughes or whoever gets that nod. Kinley's the only one who makes sense, right? The Twins just can't realistically hope to hide him all year as they have so far. But then again, they've become quite invested in the big righty at this point. (Can't help but notice that JT Chargois and Luke Bard, both lost so the Twins could protect Kinley, have been pitching well for the Dodgers and Angels so far.) We'll see. DOWN ON THE FARM Action in the minors has been limited at the opening of the season due to weather. But here are a few noteworthy tidbits. Nick Gordon, who might've been unpleasantly surprised to find himself assigned to Chattanooga after spending the entire 2017 season there, made a statement right off the bat with a four-hit night in the Double-A opener. He played shortstop.Zack Littell, who also has a pretty good case for deserving to be one level higher, struck out seven over 4 1/3 innings of two-run ball in the Lookouts opener.Count Stephen Gonsalves in the same category as the two above; he entered the season with a 2.17 ERA in 28 starts at Double-A. He turned in a very clean first start on Saturday, tossing 5 1/3 hitless innings with three strikeouts and three walks. The lefty has now allowed 110 hits in 167 innings at Chattanooga. What is he still doing there?Tyler Jay relieved Gonsalves in that game and recorded five outs (two on strikeouts) with one hit allowed.LOOKING AHEADCold weather and snow in the forecast could throw this week's plan into turmoil, but here's how things are currently slated to lay out: MONDAY, 4/9: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Justin Verlander v. RHP Lance Lynn TUESDAY, 4/10: ASTROS @ TWINS – LHP Dallas Keuchel v. RHP Jake Odorizzi WEDNESDAY, 4/11: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Lance McCullers v. RHP Kyle Gibson THURSDAY, 4/12: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Lucas Giolito v. RHP Jose Berrios FRIDAY, 4/13: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Reynaldo Lopez v. Undecided SATURDAY, 4/14: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Miguel Gonzalez v. RHP Lance Lynn SUNDAY, 4/15: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Carson Fulmer v. RHP Jake Odorizzi Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps Game 1 | BAL 3, MIN 2: Opening D'OhGame 2 | MIN 6, BAL 2: Good Gibby Rides Again!Game 3 | MIN 7, BAL 0: Berri0sGame 4 | PIT 5, MIN 4: Lynn Surrenders Grand Slam in Twins DebutGame 5 | MIN 7, PIT 3: Rosario Sparks Comeback, Inspires Some Head-ScratchingGame 6 | MIN 4, SEA 2: Bombs and BullpenGame 7 | SEA 11, MIN 4: That Escalated QuicklyMore on Twins Daily Dozier, Mauer Approaching Milestones by Cody ChristieJason Castro and a Cup of Coffee by Jamie CameronProven Leadership Will Set Tone for 2018 Red Wings by Ted SchwerzlerTalented Lookouts Eye Repeat in Southern League by Seth StohsBlackmon's Deal with Rockies Sets Precedent for Dozier by Nick Nelson Click here to view the article
  10. Weekly Snapshot: Thursday, 3/29 through Sunday, 4/8 *** Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 4-3) Run Differential Last Week: +8 (Overall: +8) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (1.0 GA) Just to lay some groundwork, this is the first installment of a new series that will be running all season here at Twins Daily. Each Monday morning you'll find a new "Week in Review" column, covering the best and worst of the past seven days (in this case the past 11), as well as a key storyline worth tracking, and a rundown of the most noteworthy developments in the minor leagues. Additionally, we'll take a look ahead at what's on tap for the coming week. The idea here is to present sort of a micro/macro-hybrid analysis throughout the season, by zooming in on takeaways from each ~1/24th chunk of the schedule and tying them to the bigger picture that is the 2018 campaign. If there's anything else you'd like to see in this weekly space, please don't hesitate to let me know in the comments! HIGHLIGHTS "Bombs and Bullpen" was the title of Tom Froemming's recap from the home opener on Thursday, and it pretty well summarizes up the first week-plus of Twins games – mostly in good ways. A young lineup vaunted for its balance and pop has displayed both in spades. Picking up where they left off in 2017, the Twins have impressively tallied 12 home runs through seven games, and rank 7th among MLB teams in OPS. Minnesota has received production throughout the order. Some hitters have looked better than others, but no one has been totally discouraging. Among the standout performers: Brian Dozier is off to a rousing start, with four homers through his first seven games. The second baseman has been a notoriously slow starter, leading us all to wonder what would happen if he put it together from start to finish here in his walk year. So far, so good. After missing the final stretch of 2017, Miguel Sano has quickly made his presence felt back in the lineup. Despite striking out in nearly half his plate appearances, he's rocking a team-leading 1.147 OPS with four homers and eight RBI. Dozier and Sano are the biggest home run threats in an offense full with them, but amidst all the deep drives, it is the disciplined approaches and scrappy ABs that have stood out most. Max Kepler has struck out only once in 27 plate appearances, with five walks. He's looked much more comfortable against left-handed pitching, which was his pivotal priority this season. Joe Mauer continues to resemble his old self at the plate; he has a .462 OBP and 2-to-4 K/BB ratio thus far. Thrust into starting duty, Eduardo Escobar has come charging out of the gates with a 1.131 OPS, and his nine-pitch battle that resulted in an RBI single during a rally on Saturday stands out as one of the club's best at-bats through a week-plus. In every game thus far, the offense has either given the pitching staff a cozy lead to cruise on, or mounted a comeback of sorts when put in a hole. That's exactly what we're hoping to see on a consistent basis. The rotation started off brilliantly, with 21 consecutive shutout innings (driven by some serious batted ball luck). Twins starters have since looked more human, but still good enough to inspire confidence. And the bullpen was looking stellar up until its first meltdown on Saturday. Paul Molitor has leaned heavily on his newly acquired free agent right-handers Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed who've combined for seven appearances already. Rodney's been effective, outside of the walk-off homer surrendered to Adam Jones on Opening Day. Reed has certainly been living up this bullpen ace billing, with just one hit allowed through his first 5 1/3 innings of work. Taylor Rogers has turned in three scoreless appearances. Ryan Pressly and Gabriel Moya look like the kinds of reliable arms you love to have available for middle-inning roles. In total, Twins relievers have struck out 27 in 24 2/3 innings, upping the intimidation factor after ranking 29th in K rate last year. The depth and quality of both the lineup and pitching staff have mostly been substantiated early on. LOWLIGHTS I say "mostly" because neither group has been without its warts. Not everyone has looked great at the plate. Jason Castro (.461 OPS) and Byron Buxton (.407 OPS) have been among the laggards, but their defensive impacts help make up for it. Logan Morrison is batting .053, but hasn't looked lost or hopeless at the plate. You can't expect everyone to be clicking simultaneously out of the gates. I don't see serious cause for concern with any hitters. There are, however, some noteworthy early issues in the bullpen. Trevor Hildenberger didn't look quite right all spring and that's carried over to the regular season. He has struck out only one of the 17 batters he's faced, and the command has been plainly amiss. He left to two hangers out over the plate on Saturday and they were hammered for a three-run double and two-run homer, turning a surmountable deficit into a blowout. Three of the runs that came across on Hildenberger's watch were charged to Zach Duke, who had loaded the bases. Duke has had a rough go of it as well, although his 16.88 ERA overstates things. He still seems to be finding his control, but shows some truly nasty stuff and has struck out 41% of the batters he's faced so it's not all bad. Duke's safe for now. Hildenberger might be on shakier ground, given that he's got options while the Twins have Alan Busenitz and Tyler Duffey ready in Triple-A. Molitor can ill afford to have any untrusted commodities in the bullpen, given that he's already working around a Rule 5 albatross. Which brings us to this week's... TRENDING STORYLINE Through seven games, it has become crystal clear that Molitor isn't ready to use Tyler Kinley in remotely competitive situations. The manager had chances to deploy Kinley with three- or four-run leads, but ultimately used him only once, with the Twins trailing by seven. During his one inning of work, Kinley showed both why the team would strain to keep him on the roster, and why Molitor has been reluctant to use him in any kind of leverage spot. The fastball and slider were legit, causing looks of bewilderment on the faces of batters. But they were also erratic; in his lone appearance, Kinley issued a walk, and allowed a run to score on a very wild pitch. It's been easy enough for Molitor to work around Kinley's presence up to this point, thanks to all open days and the four-man rotation. But soon enough, the Twins will need to make a decision. The fifth-starter ultimatum was pushed back by Sunday's freezeout, but Minnesota now faces a slate of games on seven straight days at Target Field. Further cancellations are of course very possible, but if all games are played the Twins will need another starter on Friday night against the White Sox. Soon enough, a reliever is gonna need to go in order to make room for Phil Hughes or whoever gets that nod. Kinley's the only one who makes sense, right? The Twins just can't realistically hope to hide him all year as they have so far. But then again, they've become quite invested in the big righty at this point. (Can't help but notice that JT Chargois and Luke Bard, both lost so the Twins could protect Kinley, have been pitching well for the Dodgers and Angels so far.) We'll see. DOWN ON THE FARM Action in the minors has been limited at the opening of the season due to weather. But here are a few noteworthy tidbits. Nick Gordon, who might've been unpleasantly surprised to find himself assigned to Chattanooga after spending the entire 2017 season there, made a statement right off the bat with a four-hit night in the Double-A opener. He played shortstop. Zack Littell, who also has a pretty good case for deserving to be one level higher, struck out seven over 4 1/3 innings of two-run ball in the Lookouts opener. Count Stephen Gonsalves in the same category as the two above; he entered the season with a 2.17 ERA in 28 starts at Double-A. He turned in a very clean first start on Saturday, tossing 5 1/3 hitless innings with three strikeouts and three walks. The lefty has now allowed 110 hits in 167 innings at Chattanooga. What is he still doing there? Tyler Jay relieved Gonsalves in that game and recorded five outs (two on strikeouts) with one hit allowed. LOOKING AHEAD Cold weather and snow in the forecast could throw this week's plan into turmoil, but here's how things are currently slated to lay out: MONDAY, 4/9: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Justin Verlander v. RHP Lance Lynn TUESDAY, 4/10: ASTROS @ TWINS – LHP Dallas Keuchel v. RHP Jake Odorizzi WEDNESDAY, 4/11: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Lance McCullers v. RHP Kyle Gibson THURSDAY, 4/12: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Lucas Giolito v. RHP Jose Berrios FRIDAY, 4/13: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Reynaldo Lopez v. Undecided SATURDAY, 4/14: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Miguel Gonzalez v. RHP Lance Lynn SUNDAY, 4/15: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Carson Fulmer v. RHP Jake Odorizzi Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps Game 1 | BAL 3, MIN 2: Opening D'Oh Game 2 | MIN 6, BAL 2: Good Gibby Rides Again! Game 3 | MIN 7, BAL 0: Berri0s Game 4 | PIT 5, MIN 4: Lynn Surrenders Grand Slam in Twins Debut Game 5 | MIN 7, PIT 3: Rosario Sparks Comeback, Inspires Some Head-Scratching Game 6 | MIN 4, SEA 2: Bombs and Bullpen Game 7 | SEA 11, MIN 4: That Escalated Quickly More on Twins Daily Dozier, Mauer Approaching Milestones by Cody Christie Jason Castro and a Cup of Coffee by Jamie Cameron Proven Leadership Will Set Tone for 2018 Red Wings by Ted Schwerzler Talented Lookouts Eye Repeat in Southern League by Seth Stohs Blackmon's Deal with Rockies Sets Precedent for Dozier by Nick Nelson
  11. The Twins pitching staff entered today with the lowest batting average on balls in play in all of baseball at .200. They were not as fortunate this afternoon, as the Mariners scored 11 runs on 12 hits. After falling behind 5-0 early, the Twins managed to pull within two runs of Seattle, but a huge five-run eighth by the M’s ended any hope of a comeback.Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs) Download attachment: Snap47Fix.png Download attachment: WinEx47.png Woah, Berrios gave up five runs in 4.2 innings today? Terrible start, huh? Not exactly. Through the first three innings, it was actually looking like Berrios was on his way to another tremendous outing. With one out in the fourth, Jean Segura singled on what was basically a swinging bunt and advanced to second on a throwing error by Miguel Sano. Robinson Cano drove in Segura on a single. Berrios got the next batter to pop out, but fell behind Kyle Seager. Jose made his only big mistake of the game, letting a 93 mph fastball get a bit too much of the plate, and Seager did not miss. He blasted a homer to put the Mariners up 3-0. The next inning, Ichiro got a solid single and catcher Mike Marjama doubled. They both came in to score on a ball Dee Gordon hit 62.5 mph that trickled passed a drawn in infield. The hit probability was just 11 percent, but it put the M’s up 5-0. At the end of the day, Berrios had seven strikeouts and zero walks. Things are typically going to work out very well when that happens. Oh, and he made this gorgeous play on an Ichiro bunt: Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Download attachment: Bullpen47.png Next Three Games Sun vs. SEA 1:10 pm CT Mon vs. HOU 7:10 pm CT Tue vs. HOU 7:10 pm CT Last Three Games MIN 4, SEA 2: Bombs and Bullpen MIN 7, PIT 3: Rosario Sparks Comeback, Inspires Some Head-Scratching PIT 5, MIN 4: Lynn Surrenders Grand Slam in Twins Debut More From Twins Daily Twins vs Mariners Series Preview Jason Castro and a Cup of Coffee Blackmon's Deal With Rockies Sets Precedent For Dozier Click here to view the article
  12. Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs) Woah, Berrios gave up five runs in 4.2 innings today? Terrible start, huh? Not exactly. Through the first three innings, it was actually looking like Berrios was on his way to another tremendous outing. With one out in the fourth, Jean Segura singled on what was basically a swinging bunt and advanced to second on a throwing error by Miguel Sano. Robinson Cano drove in Segura on a single. Berrios got the next batter to pop out, but fell behind Kyle Seager. Jose made his only big mistake of the game, letting a 93 mph fastball get a bit too much of the plate, and Seager did not miss. He blasted a homer to put the Mariners up 3-0. The next inning, Ichiro got a solid single and catcher Mike Marjama doubled. They both came in to score on a ball Dee Gordon hit 62.5 mph that trickled passed a drawn in infield. The hit probability was just 11 percent, but it put the M’s up 5-0. At the end of the day, Berrios had seven strikeouts and zero walks. Things are typically going to work out very well when that happens. Oh, and he made this gorgeous play on an Ichiro bunt: https://twitter.com/TwinsHighlights/status/982694773554339841 It was the coldest game in Target Field history, and both Berrios and Gabriel Moya wore short sleeves. I think that means they’re “one of us” now, at least in an honorary sense. Let’s talk about Logan Morrison. In the first inning, he came up with runners on second and third and flew out to end the threat. Up with a runner on first in the fourth inning, LoMo got a 2-0 sinker right over the heart of the plate and turned it into a harmless pop out. In the sixth inning, the Twins finally got some offense going. Back-to-back doubles form Joe Mauer and Sano were followed by an Eddie Rosario single to bring the score to 5-2. Then Morrison struck out on three pitches. It was against a lefty, but still. In the seventh inning, the Twins loaded the bases with one out. Rosario struck out, then Morrison had an eight-pitch battle that ended in a pop out in foul territory. That’s seven men left on base by LoMo on the afternoon. Ugh. He’s 1-for-19 to start the season. The bullpen started out great, with Moya and Ryan Pressly combining for 2.1 scoreless innings. Zach Duke loaded the bases before recording the first out of the eighth inning. He was lifted for Trevor Hildenberger, who promptly gave up a bases-clearing double and a two-run homer. With the score at 10-3, it was (finally) the perfect opportunity for Tyler Kinley to make his major league debut. He struck out two batters and topped out at 96.9 mph. He also gave up a run, walked a guy, threw a wild pitch and failed to cover on a ground ball to first base, though Mauer was able to bail him out. Sano had an RBI double and three walks. Mauer and Rosario had two hits each and Ryan LaMarre got a pinch-hit single to start the year 4-for-6. Postgame With Molitor https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/982744382716588032 Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Sun vs. SEA 1:10 pm CT Mon vs. HOU 7:10 pm CT Tue vs. HOU 7:10 pm CT Last Three Games MIN 4, SEA 2: Bombs and Bullpen MIN 7, PIT 3: Rosario Sparks Comeback, Inspires Some Head-Scratching PIT 5, MIN 4: Lynn Surrenders Grand Slam in Twins Debut More From Twins Daily Twins vs Mariners Series Preview Jason Castro and a Cup of Coffee Blackmon's Deal With Rockies Sets Precedent For Dozier
  13. My experiences at those small stadiums, and later seeing those same guys play in the major leagues, sparked an immense interest for me in the prospects of my favorite game. When I got older, it was watching a kid younger than me being interviewed on ESPN after being drafted by the Minnesota Twins that sunk that hook in further and got me started blogging on the topic. Trevor Plouffe was his name, and since then I have always wished I had the level of skill required to get to where he was going. Instead, I settled for being a mediocre town ball player (but that was a lot of fun, too). As a big fan of the minors, top prospects lists have always been must-read material for me during the major league offseason. There are incredibly detailed lists everywhere, including some of the best you will find right here on this site. But because there are so many such lists, I like to take a different approach with my own and look at the prospects you might see make their major league debut with the Twins during the upcoming season. Some of them are “top” prospects, but they’re not the only ones who can make an impact in the majors in the year ahead. Players who made their MLB debut for the Minnesota Twins in 2017 included pitchers Justin Haley, Randy Rosario, Alan Busenitz, Aaron Slegers, Jason Wheeler, Trevor Hildenberger, Felix Jorge, John Curtiss, Nik Turley, Dietrich Enns and Gabriel Moya. On the position player front they were joined by Mitch Garver, Niko Goodrum and Zack Granite. If you think that list of players seems long (especially on pitchers), you would be right. The Twins set a club record for the number of different pitchers they used in an MLB season during the 2017 campaign, and they relied on their farm system heavily in that regard. Of that list Haley, Granite, Rosario, Hildenberger and Goodrum were players I profiled in this column before the 2017 season started. It was a bit of an off-year for me considering how long the actual list was and I only pegged those five (missing on the other nine), but in the prior year I did hit on every player that made his MLB debut with the Twins. From that extended list of the 2017 season Garver, Hildenberger, and Moya are (currently) the locks for the 2018 Opening Day roster, with Granite having been optioned in the final round of cuts in favor of #SireOfFortMyers Ryan LaMarre. Haley, Rosario, Wheeler, Turley and Goodrum are no longer with the organization while Busenitz, Slegers, Jorge, Curtiss and Enns provide a solid list of pitching depth now with major league experience ticketed for AAA. The Minnesota Twins already have a strong young core of players in the majors, but as we saw last year a lot can happen during a 162-game season. So, who are the potential Next Minnesota Twins in 2018? Tyler Kinley (27 years old) – RHP The almost yearly Rule 5 draft pick, Kinley comes to Minnesota out of the Miami Marlins system. Many were perplexed that Kinley was selected when the Twins had already left several in-house prospects with similar profiles unprotected for the same draft. Since then you may have heard a lot about what went into that process from the front office. There’s not much to really argue with, given the moves they’ve made and even if he’s the name you don’t know. Kinley can hit triple-digits with his fastball, and throws a slider in the 90’s. That kind of stuff is hard to find and it impressed Twins scouts enough to select him during the Dominican Winter League season where he posted a 0.47 ERA and allowed just 5 hits in 19 innings. He also struck out 32, a rate of 15.2 K/9IP that many players would be envious of. That followed his MiLB season across the A+/AA levels where he struck out 12.2 per nine. As you’ll often hear about with prospects of his ilk, the high K-rate does come with a high walk rate. This spring in 11IP he has struck out 12, but also issued seven free passes. The hope is that he could be hidden at the back of the bullpen so as to not overexpose this flaw, and as the season goes on for him to earn more trust with coaches. There’s also the possibility the Twins like him enough that they complete a trade with the Marlins to keep his rights and send him to the minors when any such roster move needs to be made. LaMonte Wade (24) – OF (TD’s #14 Twins Prospect) I have to admit, I love prospects like LaMonte Wade. He wasn’t drafted with much fanfare (9th round in 2015) and never gets talked about as having a standout tool, but just keeps getting the job done while moving up the ladder. He does however happen to have one tool that isn’t part of the shed even though it’s the one that led the Moneyball revolution: plate discipline. All Wade has ever done since he’s had a bat in his hand is get on base—not even his Dad could get him out throwing pitches to him in the back yard at five years old. Okay, that last part is made up but the first part is true and has been on display this spring as he led the Twins by drawing eight free passes. Since being drafted Wade owns a career .404 on-base percentage in the minors, and he’s drawn more walks than he has struck out in each of his three professional seasons. It’s also an impressive rate at which he’s been able to coax these walks, sitting at 14.67% for his career. That’s elite territory and in a #FunWithNumbers comparison to Joe Mauer’s minor league career, you would think Mauer was a free-swinger. For this year Wade reminds me a lot of what Zack Granite was looking at heading into last season. With Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler’s “nothing falls but raindrops” outfield there’s not much room for him to crack the roster on his own. He also hits left-handed so platooning with Kepler wouldn’t be ideal despite his lack of platoon splits. But injuries and other things happen, and Wade will be on the MLB doorstep at AAA. I think the ceiling here is a Denard Span-type hitter built through a strong on-base percentage, but as a corner outfielder instead of in center. That’s an intriguing fourth outfielder option to have in the Twins' back pocket at a minimum. Stephen Gonsalves (23) – LHP (TD’s #4 Twins Prospect) Gonsalves has been fantastic at every level he has pitched since being signed for above slot in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. He doesn’t get as much press nationally because that success has been built around his secondary skills rather than his pure stuff, but discounting what he does bring has been a fool’s errand for MiLB hitters since turning pro. He’ll sit in the low-90’s with his fastball and his best pitch is his changeup, but he also throws a curveball, slider, and tinkers with a cutter to complete his repertoire. In 2017 he lowered his walk rate to a career best 2.5/9IP and gets above average marks from scouts for his control. He finished last year with four starts at AAA, three very good and one clunker that hampered his small-sample-size stats there. He should be a big part of a stacked Rochester rotation to start the season. He’s probably not first in line for a call-up when a long-term need arises, but spot start duty is not out of the question as he was added to the 40-man roster this offseason. Barring any flare-ups with shoulder issues that have been intermittent in his minor league career, I fully expect Gonsalves to pitch with Minnesota during the 2018 season. He should slot in the middle of the Twins rotation in the near future. Fernando Romero (23) – RHP (TD’s #2 Twins Prospect) If you’re looking for that potential “ace” in the Twins system, your best bet may be Romero. If you’ve also paid attention this spring you probably saw plenty of that potential, as he was arguably the best Twins pitcher before being reassigned in the first round of cuts. In eight innings across four appearances, Romero did not allow a hit, walked only one, and struck out eight. That performance came on the heels of a 2017 season spent entirely at AA where he posted a 3.53 ERA and struck out 120 over 125 innings. Late in the year he was shut down as he neared an innings limit and showed signs of wearing down, but that’s not atypical for a pitcher who has missed nearly two full seasons of action due to injury (Tommy John surgery in 2014, knee surgery in 2015). It’s this fact that makes me a bit more lukewarm on his potential with the Twins this season than most, despite his enticing stuff that includes a mid-to-high 90’s fastball. If I was making a prediction, I’d say he doesn’t start a game for them. He’s barely thrown even 300 innings in his MiLB career and his 125 from a season ago is where a starting prospect signed at his age should hope to be at already before reaching AA. What I do see happening is a return to AA to start the year due to the depth in front of him, a midseason or earlier bump to AAA, and provided he continues performing, a bump to the Minnesota bullpen as he nears an innings limit in what hopefully is a playoff push. The St. Louis Cardinals are known to have had some good success with this approach and Romero is a prime prospect for the Twins new regime to adopt this type of plan for during the 2018 season. Nick Gordon (22) – IF (TD’s #3 Twins Prospect) With Gordon, along with the next player in this list, I am a lot more bullish than a lot of people. That’s not just because he’s the first of two consecutive first-round picks on this list. I wrote the draft profile for him on our favorite website since I began helping with our unparalleled MiLB reports (follow all our writers!!!). While it’s well known how he struggled in the second half of last season at AA, batting just .221/.304/.305 after appearing in the Future’s Game midsummer, it amazes me how quickly his first half seems to have been thrown away. That’s when he hit .315/.376/.504 and was the unquestioned MVP of his team, and perhaps the Southern League. Even with that swoon he ended the year top 5 in the circuit in runs scored (3rd – 80), hits (3rd – 140), doubles (tied for 5th – 29), and triples (tied for1st – 9). In big league camp for most of Spring Training, Gordon was also a standout performer among their prospects as he hit .417/.440/.625 with a double and two triples in 24 at-bats. While questions remain about his long-term ability to play shortstop in the majors, I often find myself laughing at any takes that say he can’t or won’t play there for the Twins. That’s not because I think they’re incredibly right or wrong, but because this is the Minnesota Twins we’re talking about. In the past 13 seasons, 11 different players have opened the season at the position, and off the top of my head I’d argue Jorge Polanco’s 2017 may have been the best of those. There is an incredibly low bar here for a player to clear, both offensively and defensively. But don’t take that as a knock on Gordon's skills, either. I think he will hit wherever he plays, with slugging numbers that sneak up on you as he racks up doubles and triples in place of home runs with his also sneaky speed. At just 22 years old he’s also going to keep getting stronger. As for that defense that gets questioned, if you want a comparison I think your best fit is the player you hoped would be the starter on opening day before his unfortunate suspension. Gordon won’t be any different than Polanco has been, and that’s decidedly average or slightly worse, with the remaining potential for more than that in the future. With no other infielders on the 40-man roster besides those on the Opening Day roster, Gordon is suddenly very high on the organization’s depth chart. With another strong start to a season at AAA, he will likely get the call when the need arises. Tyler Jay (23) – LHP (TD’s #19 Twins Prospect) The second of those 1st round draft picks I wrote the draft preview for was the left-handed relief pitcher they selected in 2015, Tyler Jay. If you peruse that link, you likely know by now that the ship has sailed on Jay’s potential as a starting pitcher, but that shouldn’t discourage you about what potential remains. I think the comparison I made to Glen Perkins is still very much valid, though perhaps that is now the ceiling instead of the floor as a prospect. Transferred to a bullpen role for good before the start of last year, Jay had his season derailed in spring training by an injury that many initially thought would lead to thoracic outlet surgery (the same procedure Phil Hughes has yet to overcome). He appeared in two games in May with Chattanooga, then not again until August on a rehab tour at the CenturyLink Sports Complex with the MiLB season nearly over. With no surgery determined to be needed, Jay made up as much time as he could in the Arizona Fall League. Though that time was a mixed bag of results, it did provide some confidence on his health heading into the 2018 season. Jay is likely back with Chattanooga for the start of the MiLB season, but the plan for 2018 isn’t much different than it was a year ago. If he’s performing he should be a quick mover, with the Twins bullpen very much in sight before September. Zack Littell (22) – RHP (TD’s #11 Twins Prospect) Littell was plucked from the Yankees with the surprising double-deal of Jaime Garcia at the trade deadline last year and this could prove to be a shrewd move by the new front office. Not highly regarded, Littell put himself on the prospect radar with a 2017 performance that earned him the Fan’s Choice MiLBY award for Top Starting Pitcher. That was due to his nearly unblemished 19-1 record and 2.12 ERA on the season. Like Gonsalves, Littell gets by more on his pitchability than his pure stuff which limits his upside to a mid-rotation starter at this point, but over the past two seasons he has maintained a sub 3.00 ERA at each stop on his journey and his consistency start-to-start stands out. As one of the youngest starters in AA last season, his performance becomes even more impressive. Due to the depth in front of him he’s likely to spend at least a half-season back at AA but he could be one of the first moves up when that depth is put to work. Brent Rooker (23) – OF/1B (TD’s #7 Twins Prospect) Although he’s only been in the organization for less than a season’s worth of baseball, Brent Rooker is the prospect I’m most interested to follow this season. After winning the Triple Crown in the SEC with the Mississippi State Bulldogs and being drafted by the Twins with the 35th overall pick, Rooker got his pro career started with a bang—18 of them to be exact. Those 18 home runs in 62 games after being drafted was the most by a Twins prospect in his draft year since 1990 and it’s hard to ignore his approach, preparation and dedication to the art of hitting. Though his defensive position is undefined at this point he will get plenty of opportunity in the outfield, at first base, and as a designated hitter. As he puts it himself in a great Q & A courtesy of MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, “I'll play left field, first base, right field, I'll DH. Whatever gets me in the lineup and allows my bat to contribute as quickly as possible.” You also have to love the confidence. I think Rooker is going to mash for the Twins for a long time. In terms of this article it’s just a matter of how quickly his bat can get him there. With his experience in the SEC and the advanced plan and preparation he brings to the plate every at-bat, I think that could be late in 2018. That becomes even more likely if he starts the year with the Chattanooga Lookouts. Other Names To Keep An Eye On: Lewis Thorpe (22) – LHP (TD’s #12 Twins Prospect): Thorpe has missed a full two seasons of action, but returned in 2017 to log 77 innings with Fort Myers and also made one start with Chattanooga. Added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, Thorpe should start back in AA. If he looks anything like when I interviewed him with Cedar Rapids, he could be knocking on the MLB door late in the year. Jake Reed (25) – RHP: Reed has made good impressions in spring training for a few years now, but his 2017 season was delayed by a shoulder injury that hampered his MLB debut plans. He allowed one run (on a HR) in six innings with four walks and eight K’s this spring in MLB camp. He’ll be a big part of Rochester’s bullpen to start the 2018 season, a phone call away. Mason Melotakis (26) – LHP: A left-handed bullpen arm who will be in AAA to begin the year. Melotakis was a 40-man roster add last year, but as reports of diminished velocity surfaced he was removed during the season and cleared waivers. Whether or not he can throw a mid-90’s fastball anymore won’t be a problem if he can continue to post numbers like he has at AA. Kohl Stewart (23) – RHP: A lot has been made of Stewart’s lack of strikeouts since being drafted with the 4th overall pick in the 2013 draft. When you read scouting reports on him though, there’s still a lot to like. My favorite is the idea he doesn’t get hit hard, as evidenced by the fact he’s only allowed 17 home runs in 462 career innings (a rate of 0.33/9IP). If he finds a way to pile up some more K’s, Stewart could put himself back on the map as a prospect as he’s still just 23 years old. He should be in the Chattanooga rotation again to start his 2018 campaign looking to do just that. Jake Cave (25) – OF: Acquired from the Yankees on March 17th, Cave is another option to serve as a fourth outfielder with the Twins during the season. He had a breakout year of sorts during 2017, batting .305/.351/.542 with 20 home runs at the AA and AAA levels. Unlike LaMonte Wade above, Cave is on the 40-man roster so it could be easier to add him to the MLB roster if a need arises. Nick Anderson (27) – RHP: The Twins signed Anderson before the 2015 season after he had spent a few years in the independent leagues. Since then, he may be the most impressive reliever the Twins have had in the system as far as results go. In 2017 with Fort Myers and Chattanooga he posted a 1.00 ERA in 54 innings while notching 11 saves. He may not be considered a prospect due to his age (turns 28 in July) but numbers force the promotion issue sometimes, and that’s what Anderson has produced. He’s also #OneOfUs, as he went to high school in Brainerd, MN. Minor League Depth: Willians Astudillo (26) – C, Zack Jones (27) – RHP, Andrew Vasquez (24) – LHP, D.J. Baxendale (27) – RHP, Ryan Eades (26) – RHP These are the guys I think have the best chance to make their MLB debut in 2018, but as evidenced by last season’s roster turnover there're likely a few I’ve missed. If you think I overlooked anyone, state your case in the comments! Hopefully when anybody does make their debut, they can emulate the results of Trevor Hildenberger last year!
  14. The first time I remember watching minor league baseball was when I was 11 years old on vacation to visit family living in Appleton, Wisconsin. At the time, the city was home to a Midwest League affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, the Appleton Foxes. That season, they had a player who went on to become one of the greatest and most hated baseball players the game has ever seen—a wiry shortstop by the name of Alex Rodriguez who would make his major league debut at just 18 years old later that same year.My experiences at those small stadiums, and later seeing those same guys play in the major leagues, sparked an immense interest for me in the prospects of my favorite game. When I got older, it was watching a kid younger than me being interviewed on ESPN after being drafted by the Minnesota Twins that sunk that hook in further and got me started blogging on the topic. Trevor Plouffe was his name, and since then I have always wished I had the level of skill required to get to where he was going. Instead, I settled for being a mediocre town ball player (but that was a lot of fun, too). As a big fan of the minors, top prospects lists have always been must-read material for me during the major league offseason. There are incredibly detailed lists everywhere, including some of the best you will find right here on this site. But because there are so many such lists, I like to take a different approach with my own and look at the prospects you might see make their major league debut with the Twins during the upcoming season. Some of them are “top” prospects, but they’re not the only ones who can make an impact in the majors in the year ahead. Players who made their MLB debut for the Minnesota Twins in 2017 included pitchers Justin Haley, Randy Rosario, Alan Busenitz, Aaron Slegers, Jason Wheeler, Trevor Hildenberger, Felix Jorge, John Curtiss, Nik Turley, Dietrich Enns and Gabriel Moya. On the position player front they were joined by Mitch Garver, Niko Goodrum and Zack Granite. If you think that list of players seems long (especially on pitchers), you would be right. The Twins set a club record for the number of different pitchers they used in an MLB season during the 2017 campaign, and they relied on their farm system heavily in that regard. Of that list Haley, Granite, Rosario, Hildenberger and Goodrum were players I profiled in this column before the 2017 season started. It was a bit of an off-year for me considering how long the actual list was and I only pegged those five (missing on the other nine), but in the prior year I did hit on every player that made his MLB debut with the Twins. From that extended list of the 2017 season Garver, Hildenberger, and Moya are (currently) the locks for the 2018 Opening Day roster, with Granite having been optioned in the final round of cuts in favor of #SireOfFortMyers Ryan LaMarre. Haley, Rosario, Wheeler, Turley and Goodrum are no longer with the organization while Busenitz, Slegers, Jorge, Curtiss and Enns provide a solid list of pitching depth now with major league experience ticketed for AAA. The Minnesota Twins already have a strong young core of players in the majors, but as we saw last year a lot can happen during a 162-game season. So, who are the potential Next Minnesota Twins in 2018? Tyler Kinley (27 years old) – RHP The almost yearly Rule 5 draft pick, Kinley comes to Minnesota out of the Miami Marlins system. Many were perplexed that Kinley was selected when the Twins had already left several in-house prospects with similar profiles unprotected for the same draft. Since then you may have heard a lot about what went into that process from the front office. There’s not much to really argue with, given the moves they’ve made and even if he’s the name you don’t know. Kinley can hit triple-digits with his fastball, and throws a slider in the 90’s. That kind of stuff is hard to find and it impressed Twins scouts enough to select him during the Dominican Winter League season where he posted a 0.47 ERA and allowed just 5 hits in 19 innings. He also struck out 32, a rate of 15.2 K/9IP that many players would be envious of. That followed his MiLB season across the A+/AA levels where he struck out 12.2 per nine. As you’ll often hear about with prospects of his ilk, the high K-rate does come with a high walk rate. This spring in 11IP he has struck out 12, but also issued seven free passes. The hope is that he could be hidden at the back of the bullpen so as to not overexpose this flaw, and as the season goes on for him to earn more trust with coaches. There’s also the possibility the Twins like him enough that they complete a trade with the Marlins to keep his rights and send him to the minors when any such roster move needs to be made. LaMonte Wade (24) – OF (TD’s #14 Twins Prospect) I have to admit, I love prospects like LaMonte Wade. He wasn’t drafted with much fanfare (9th round in 2015) and never gets talked about as having a standout tool, but just keeps getting the job done while moving up the ladder. He does however happen to have one tool that isn’t part of the shed even though it’s the one that led the Moneyball revolution: plate discipline. All Wade has ever done since he’s had a bat in his hand is get on base—not even his Dad could get him out throwing pitches to him in the back yard at five years old. Okay, that last part is made up but the first part is true and has been on display this spring as he led the Twins by drawing eight free passes. Since being drafted Wade owns a career .404 on-base percentage in the minors, and he’s drawn more walks than he has struck out in each of his three professional seasons. It’s also an impressive rate at which he’s been able to coax these walks, sitting at 14.67% for his career. That’s elite territory and in a #FunWithNumbers comparison to Joe Mauer’s minor league career, you would think Mauer was a free-swinger. For this year Wade reminds me a lot of what Zack Granite was looking at heading into last season. With Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler’s “nothing falls but raindrops” outfield there’s not much room for him to crack the roster on his own. He also hits left-handed so platooning with Kepler wouldn’t be ideal despite his lack of platoon splits. But injuries and other things happen, and Wade will be on the MLB doorstep at AAA. I think the ceiling here is a Denard Span-type hitter built through a strong on-base percentage, but as a corner outfielder instead of in center. That’s an intriguing fourth outfielder option to have in the Twins' back pocket at a minimum. Stephen Gonsalves (23) – LHP (TD’s #4 Twins Prospect) Gonsalves has been fantastic at every level he has pitched since being signed for above slot in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. He doesn’t get as much press nationally because that success has been built around his secondary skills rather than his pure stuff, but discounting what he does bring has been a fool’s errand for MiLB hitters since turning pro. He’ll sit in the low-90’s with his fastball and his best pitch is his changeup, but he also throws a curveball, slider, and tinkers with a cutter to complete his repertoire. In 2017 he lowered his walk rate to a career best 2.5/9IP and gets above average marks from scouts for his control. He finished last year with four starts at AAA, three very good and one clunker that hampered his small-sample-size stats there. He should be a big part of a stacked Rochester rotation to start the season. He’s probably not first in line for a call-up when a long-term need arises, but spot start duty is not out of the question as he was added to the 40-man roster this offseason. Barring any flare-ups with shoulder issues that have been intermittent in his minor league career, I fully expect Gonsalves to pitch with Minnesota during the 2018 season. He should slot in the middle of the Twins rotation in the near future. Fernando Romero (23) – RHP (TD’s #2 Twins Prospect) If you’re looking for that potential “ace” in the Twins system, your best bet may be Romero. If you’ve also paid attention this spring you probably saw plenty of that potential, as he was arguably the best Twins pitcher before being reassigned in the first round of cuts. In eight innings across four appearances, Romero did not allow a hit, walked only one, and struck out eight. That performance came on the heels of a 2017 season spent entirely at AA where he posted a 3.53 ERA and struck out 120 over 125 innings. Late in the year he was shut down as he neared an innings limit and showed signs of wearing down, but that’s not atypical for a pitcher who has missed nearly two full seasons of action due to injury (Tommy John surgery in 2014, knee surgery in 2015). It’s this fact that makes me a bit more lukewarm on his potential with the Twins this season than most, despite his enticing stuff that includes a mid-to-high 90’s fastball. If I was making a prediction, I’d say he doesn’t start a game for them. He’s barely thrown even 300 innings in his MiLB career and his 125 from a season ago is where a starting prospect signed at his age should hope to be at already before reaching AA. What I do see happening is a return to AA to start the year due to the depth in front of him, a midseason or earlier bump to AAA, and provided he continues performing, a bump to the Minnesota bullpen as he nears an innings limit in what hopefully is a playoff push. The St. Louis Cardinals are known to have had some good success with this approach and Romero is a prime prospect for the Twins new regime to adopt this type of plan for during the 2018 season. Nick Gordon (22) – IF (TD’s #3 Twins Prospect) With Gordon, along with the next player in this list, I am a lot more bullish than a lot of people. That’s not just because he’s the first of two consecutive first-round picks on this list. I wrote the draft profile for him on our favorite website since I began helping with our unparalleled MiLB reports (follow all our writers!!!). While it’s well known how he struggled in the second half of last season at AA, batting just .221/.304/.305 after appearing in the Future’s Game midsummer, it amazes me how quickly his first half seems to have been thrown away. That’s when he hit .315/.376/.504 and was the unquestioned MVP of his team, and perhaps the Southern League. Even with that swoon he ended the year top 5 in the circuit in runs scored (3rd – 80), hits (3rd – 140), doubles (tied for 5th – 29), and triples (tied for1st – 9). In big league camp for most of Spring Training, Gordon was also a standout performer among their prospects as he hit .417/.440/.625 with a double and two triples in 24 at-bats. While questions remain about his long-term ability to play shortstop in the majors, I often find myself laughing at any takes that say he can’t or won’t play there for the Twins. That’s not because I think they’re incredibly right or wrong, but because this is the Minnesota Twins we’re talking about. In the past 13 seasons, 11 different players have opened the season at the position, and off the top of my head I’d argue Jorge Polanco’s 2017 may have been the best of those. There is an incredibly low bar here for a player to clear, both offensively and defensively. But don’t take that as a knock on Gordon's skills, either. I think he will hit wherever he plays, with slugging numbers that sneak up on you as he racks up doubles and triples in place of home runs with his also sneaky speed. At just 22 years old he’s also going to keep getting stronger. As for that defense that gets questioned, if you want a comparison I think your best fit is the player you hoped would be the starter on opening day before his unfortunate suspension. Gordon won’t be any different than Polanco has been, and that’s decidedly average or slightly worse, with the remaining potential for more than that in the future. With no other infielders on the 40-man roster besides those on the Opening Day roster, Gordon is suddenly very high on the organization’s depth chart. With another strong start to a season at AAA, he will likely get the call when the need arises. Tyler Jay (23) – LHP (TD’s #19 Twins Prospect) The second of those 1st round draft picks I wrote the draft preview for was the left-handed relief pitcher they selected in 2015, Tyler Jay. If you peruse that link, you likely know by now that the ship has sailed on Jay’s potential as a starting pitcher, but that shouldn’t discourage you about what potential remains. I think the comparison I made to Glen Perkins is still very much valid, though perhaps that is now the ceiling instead of the floor as a prospect. Transferred to a bullpen role for good before the start of last year, Jay had his season derailed in spring training by an injury that many initially thought would lead to thoracic outlet surgery (the same procedure Phil Hughes has yet to overcome). He appeared in two games in May with Chattanooga, then not again until August on a rehab tour at the CenturyLink Sports Complex with the MiLB season nearly over. With no surgery determined to be needed, Jay made up as much time as he could in the Arizona Fall League. Though that time was a mixed bag of results, it did provide some confidence on his health heading into the 2018 season. Jay is likely back with Chattanooga for the start of the MiLB season, but the plan for 2018 isn’t much different than it was a year ago. If he’s performing he should be a quick mover, with the Twins bullpen very much in sight before September. Zack Littell (22) – RHP (TD’s #11 Twins Prospect) Littell was plucked from the Yankees with the surprising double-deal of Jaime Garcia at the trade deadline last year and this could prove to be a shrewd move by the new front office. Not highly regarded, Littell put himself on the prospect radar with a 2017 performance that earned him the Fan’s Choice MiLBY award for Top Starting Pitcher. That was due to his nearly unblemished 19-1 record and 2.12 ERA on the season. Like Gonsalves, Littell gets by more on his pitchability than his pure stuff which limits his upside to a mid-rotation starter at this point, but over the past two seasons he has maintained a sub 3.00 ERA at each stop on his journey and his consistency start-to-start stands out. As one of the youngest starters in AA last season, his performance becomes even more impressive. Due to the depth in front of him he’s likely to spend at least a half-season back at AA but he could be one of the first moves up when that depth is put to work. Brent Rooker (23) – OF/1B (TD’s #7 Twins Prospect) Although he’s only been in the organization for less than a season’s worth of baseball, Brent Rooker is the prospect I’m most interested to follow this season. After winning the Triple Crown in the SEC with the Mississippi State Bulldogs and being drafted by the Twins with the 35th overall pick, Rooker got his pro career started with a bang—18 of them to be exact. Those 18 home runs in 62 games after being drafted was the most by a Twins prospect in his draft year since 1990 and it’s hard to ignore his approach, preparation and dedication to the art of hitting. Though his defensive position is undefined at this point he will get plenty of opportunity in the outfield, at first base, and as a designated hitter. As he puts it himself in a great Q & A courtesy of MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, “I'll play left field, first base, right field, I'll DH. Whatever gets me in the lineup and allows my bat to contribute as quickly as possible.” You also have to love the confidence. I think Rooker is going to mash for the Twins for a long time. In terms of this article it’s just a matter of how quickly his bat can get him there. With his experience in the SEC and the advanced plan and preparation he brings to the plate every at-bat, I think that could be late in 2018. That becomes even more likely if he starts the year with the Chattanooga Lookouts. Other Names To Keep An Eye On: Lewis Thorpe (22) – LHP (TD’s #12 Twins Prospect): Thorpe has missed a full two seasons of action, but returned in 2017 to log 77 innings with Fort Myers and also made one start with Chattanooga. Added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, Thorpe should start back in AA. If he looks anything like when I interviewed him with Cedar Rapids, he could be knocking on the MLB door late in the year. Jake Reed (25) – RHP: Reed has made good impressions in spring training for a few years now, but his 2017 season was delayed by a shoulder injury that hampered his MLB debut plans. He allowed one run (on a HR) in six innings with four walks and eight K’s this spring in MLB camp. He’ll be a big part of Rochester’s bullpen to start the 2018 season, a phone call away. Mason Melotakis (26) – LHP: A left-handed bullpen arm who will be in AAA to begin the year. Melotakis was a 40-man roster add last year, but as reports of diminished velocity surfaced he was removed during the season and cleared waivers. Whether or not he can throw a mid-90’s fastball anymore won’t be a problem if he can continue to post numbers like he has at AA. Kohl Stewart (23) – RHP: A lot has been made of Stewart’s lack of strikeouts since being drafted with the 4th overall pick in the 2013 draft. When you read scouting reports on him though, there’s still a lot to like. My favorite is the idea he doesn’t get hit hard, as evidenced by the fact he’s only allowed 17 home runs in 462 career innings (a rate of 0.33/9IP). If he finds a way to pile up some more K’s, Stewart could put himself back on the map as a prospect as he’s still just 23 years old. He should be in the Chattanooga rotation again to start his 2018 campaign looking to do just that. Jake Cave (25) – OF: Acquired from the Yankees on March 17th, Cave is another option to serve as a fourth outfielder with the Twins during the season. He had a breakout year of sorts during 2017, batting .305/.351/.542 with 20 home runs at the AA and AAA levels. Unlike LaMonte Wade above, Cave is on the 40-man roster so it could be easier to add him to the MLB roster if a need arises. Nick Anderson (27) – RHP: The Twins signed Anderson before the 2015 season after he had spent a few years in the independent leagues. Since then, he may be the most impressive reliever the Twins have had in the system as far as results go. In 2017 with Fort Myers and Chattanooga he posted a 1.00 ERA in 54 innings while notching 11 saves. He may not be considered a prospect due to his age (turns 28 in July) but numbers force the promotion issue sometimes, and that’s what Anderson has produced. He’s also #OneOfUs, as he went to high school in Brainerd, MN. Minor League Depth: Willians Astudillo (26) – C, Zack Jones (27) – RHP, Andrew Vasquez (24) – LHP, D.J. Baxendale (27) – RHP, Ryan Eades (26) – RHP These are the guys I think have the best chance to make their MLB debut in 2018, but as evidenced by last season’s roster turnover there're likely a few I’ve missed. If you think I overlooked anyone, state your case in the comments! Hopefully when anybody does make their debut, they can emulate the results of Trevor Hildenberger last year! Click here to view the article
  15. Projected Relievers: Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Ryan Pressly, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Gabriel Moya, Tyler Kinley Depth: Tyler Duffey, Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Jake Reed, Zack Jones Prospects: Tyler Jay, Dietrich Enns, Mason Melotakis, Tyler Watson, Tom Hackimer THE GOOD Brandon Kintzler and Matt Belisle, who respectably held down closing duties for the 2017 team (albeit in unimposing fashion), are out. Replacing them are righties Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed, who better fit the traditional mold of dominant late-inning arms. Minnesota has also substantially upgraded its left-handed relief foundation from a year ago, replacing Craig Breslow and Buddy Boshers with the vastly higher upside of Zach Duke and Gabriel Moya, while retaining steady specialist Taylor Rogers. Though it lacks a true long reliever, the Twins bullpen is well constructed, giving Paul Molitor a diverse set of potent options leading up to one of the game's most experienced closers. The quality of this group is such that Tyler Duffey (3.72 FIP in 2017) and Alan Busenitz (1.99 ERA in 28 appearances) were sent down to open the season, and few could quibble with the decisions. Possessing power relievers who can come in and strike people out is critical in today's MLB. Last year's top five finishers in bullpen K/9 were the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, Indians and Cubs. They were also five of the last teams standing. Minnesota, at 7.7 K/9, ranked 29th out of 30. The eight relievers slated to comprise this year's bullpen combined to average about a strikeout per inning in 2017. That calculation doesn't include Tyler Kinley, who of course didn't pitch in the majors but did average 12.2 K/9 in Single-A and Double-A, and barely accounts for Moya, who has averaged 11.5 K/9 in the minors. This is suddenly a bullpen filled with strikeout pitchers — a remarkable bit of roster wizardly, progressively carried out by the new front office. The first guys in line as call-ups or replacements? Duffey, who struck out 67 over 71 frames in his first season as a reliever. Busenitz, who brings upper-90s heat and has averaged 9.2 K/9 in Triple-A. And finally: John Curtiss, an unheralded prospect who warrants intrigue specifically because of his tremendous ability to miss bats in the Twins system, where he's struck out 245 over 195 frames (including 33 K over 24 IP at Triple-A). So, to summarize all that: Minnesota now has the indisputable makings of a power pen, even if things go amiss with the first wave. That's a status they really haven't been able to claim since 2006, when a unit led by Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, Juan Rincon and Pat Neshek led the AL in bullpen K/9. That team also won 96 games – most in the franchise's modern history. Coincidence? THE BAD While they've equipped themselves with a bunch of capable new arms, the Twins have also let several promising ones get away. Luke Bard was snagged by the Angels in the Rule 5 draft and it appears he'll stick on their 25-man roster. If his massive improvements in Double-A and Triple-A last year prove legit, he could potentially be closing games for the Halos by midseason. Nick Burdi was also fished away in the Rule 5, by Pittsburgh, and he'll be stashed on the 60-day DL until completing Tommy John recovery. In late February, the Twins lost J.T. Chargois when we was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers. He is in line to make their team. Bard, Burdi and Chargois were all highly drafted stud relievers out of college with premium gas, and despite injury setbacks, each was on track to make an impact in the majors. Now, they're gone, lost to other organizations in exchange for nothing, because the Twins didn't deem them worth protecting. To be sure, these were measured, rational risks. Given the checkered health histories at play here, a reluctance to plan around these volatile fireballers is quite understandable. But elevating other pitchers as priorities – most notably, the Rule 5 pick Kinley, a relatively unaccomplished minor-leaguer who has occupied a 40-man spot since December – does have a cost. We'll have to wait and see whether the Twins made the right calls with all this shuffling, but there's a reasonable case to be made for every pitcher on the roster deserving his spot. And when it comes to evaluating hurlers, Derek Falvey and his crew have earned some trust. THE BOTTOM LINE The 2018 Twins bullpen will have a very different look, both because it features more new arrivals than incumbents and because it might be the most K-heavy unit Minnesota has assembled in over a decade. The front office chose to wager on its free agents and its Rule 5 selection rather than some homegrown arms that many of us expected to play a role at the big-league level. I'll be curious to see if their altogether logical gambles pan out. If so, the Twins will have shored up one of their most persistent disadvantages from years past. ~~~ Catch up on the rest of the series: Twins Daily Position Analysis: Catcher Twins Daily Position Analysis: First Base Twins Daily Position Analysis: Second Base Twins Daily Position Analysis: Third Base Twins Daily Position Analysis: Shortstop Twins Daily Position Analysis: Left Field Twins Daily Position Analysis: Center Field Twins Daily Position Analysis: Right Field Twins Daily Position Analysis: Designated Hitter Twins Daily Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher
  16. We wrap up our position-by-position breakdown of Minnesota's organizational depth today with an examination of relief pitching. I'm excited to dig in here because this reinvented bullpen is a fascinating unit for the Twins, characterized by high-profile additions, unpredictable youth, and bold gambles.Projected Relievers: Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Ryan Pressly, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Gabriel Moya, Tyler Kinley Depth: Tyler Duffey, Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Jake Reed, Zack Jones Prospects: Tyler Jay, Dietrich Enns, Mason Melotakis, Tyler Watson, Tom Hackimer THE GOOD Brandon Kintzler and Matt Belisle, who respectably held down closing duties for the 2017 team (albeit in unimposing fashion), are out. Replacing them are righties Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed, who better fit the traditional mold of dominant late-inning arms. Minnesota has also substantially upgraded its left-handed relief foundation from a year ago, replacing Craig Breslow and Buddy Boshers with the vastly higher upside of Zach Duke and Gabriel Moya, while retaining steady specialist Taylor Rogers. Though it lacks a true long reliever, the Twins bullpen is well constructed, giving Paul Molitor a diverse set of potent options leading up to one of the game's most experienced closers. The quality of this group is such that Tyler Duffey (3.72 FIP in 2017) and Alan Busenitz (1.99 ERA in 28 appearances) were sent down to open the season, and few could quibble with the decisions. Possessing power relievers who can come in and strike people out is critical in today's MLB. Last year's top five finishers in bullpen K/9 were the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, Indians and Cubs. They were also five of the last teams standing. Minnesota, at 7.7 K/9, ranked 29th out of 30. The eight relievers slated to comprise this year's bullpen combined to average about a strikeout per inning in 2017. That calculation doesn't include Tyler Kinley, who of course didn't pitch in the majors but did average 12.2 K/9 in Single-A and Double-A, and barely accounts for Moya, who has averaged 11.5 K/9 in the minors. This is suddenly a bullpen filled with strikeout pitchers — a remarkable bit of roster wizardly, progressively carried out by the new front office. The first guys in line as call-ups or replacements? Duffey, who struck out 67 over 71 frames in his first season as a reliever. Busenitz, who brings upper-90s heat and has averaged 9.2 K/9 in Triple-A. And finally: John Curtiss, an unheralded prospect who warrants intrigue specifically because of his tremendous ability to miss bats in the Twins system, where he's struck out 245 over 195 frames (including 33 K over 24 IP at Triple-A). So, to summarize all that: Minnesota now has the indisputable makings of a power pen, even if things go amiss with the first wave. That's a status they really haven't been able to claim since 2006, when a unit led by Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, Juan Rincon and Pat Neshek led the AL in bullpen K/9. That team also won 96 games – most in the franchise's modern history. Coincidence? THE BAD While they've equipped themselves with a bunch of capable new arms, the Twins have also let several promising ones get away. Luke Bard was snagged by the Angels in the Rule 5 draft and it appears he'll stick on their 25-man roster. If his massive improvements in Double-A and Triple-A last year prove legit, he could potentially be closing games for the Halos by midseason. Nick Burdi was also fished away in the Rule 5, by Pittsburgh, and he'll be stashed on the 60-day DL until completing Tommy John recovery. In late February, the Twins lost J.T. Chargois when we was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers. He is in line to make their team. Bard, Burdi and Chargois were all highly drafted stud relievers out of college with premium gas, and despite injury setbacks, each was on track to make an impact in the majors. Now, they're gone, lost to other organizations in exchange for nothing, because the Twins didn't deem them worth protecting. To be sure, these were measured, rational risks. Given the checkered health histories at play here, a reluctance to plan around these volatile fireballers is quite understandable. But elevating other pitchers as priorities – most notably, the Rule 5 pick Kinley, a relatively unaccomplished minor-leaguer who has occupied a 40-man spot since December – does have a cost. We'll have to wait and see whether the Twins made the right calls with all this shuffling, but there's a reasonable case to be made for every pitcher on the roster deserving his spot. And when it comes to evaluating hurlers, Derek Falvey and his crew have earned some trust. THE BOTTOM LINE The 2018 Twins bullpen will have a very different look, both because it features more new arrivals than incumbents and because it might be the most K-heavy unit Minnesota has assembled in over a decade. The front office chose to wager on its free agents and its Rule 5 selection rather than some homegrown arms that many of us expected to play a role at the big-league level. I'll be curious to see if their altogether logical gambles pan out. If so, the Twins will have shored up one of their most persistent disadvantages from years past. ~~~ Catch up on the rest of the series: Twins Daily Position Analysis: Catcher Twins Daily Position Analysis: First Base Twins Daily Position Analysis: Second Base Twins Daily Position Analysis: Third Base Twins Daily Position Analysis: Shortstop Twins Daily Position Analysis: Left Field Twins Daily Position Analysis: Center Field Twins Daily Position Analysis: Right Field Twins Daily Position Analysis: Designated Hitter Twins Daily Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher Click here to view the article
  17. The first moves of the day finalized the final battle for position players. https://twitter.com/morsecode/status/978773643906945027 With Granite heading to Rochester, it meant Ryan LaMarre would be joining the Twins outfield for the season’s beginning. LaMarre was crowned the 2018 Sire of Fort Myers. Earlier this week, Seth speculated that LaMarre could break camp with the club. Kennys Vargas also saw his crazy week continue. It looked like he might be heading to the National League with the Reds but they figured out they don’t need a DH. Over the weekend, the Twins claimed him back from Cincinnati. Today, they were able to pass him through waivers and outright him to Triple-A Rochester. This move leaves the Twins with one open spot on the 40-man roster. Phil Hughes also provided an interesting situation for the club. Hughes looked like an option for a long-relief role. During his last spring start, Hughes was pulled with a mild oblique strain. This means he will start the year on the DL. This seemed like a convenient solution to the Twins roster crunch. https://twitter.com/NickNelsonMN/status/978717018982666241 With all of the moves above, here’s how the Twins 25-man roster will look on Opening Day. C: Jason Castro, Mitch Garver 1B: Joe Mauer, Logan Morrison 2B: Brian Dozier SS: Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza 3B: Miguel Sano OF: Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Ryan LaMarre, Robbie Grossman SP: Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Lance Lynn RP: Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Ryan Pressly, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Gabriel Moya, Tyler Kinley DL: Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes With a four man starting rotation, the Twins won’t need a fifth starter until April 11th. Last week, I thought that spot start might be filled by Hughes. His injury puts that start into question. Tyler Kinley’s impressive winter in the Dominican and his electric fastball made it easier to keep him around. How do you feel about the final 25-man roster? Obviously, there will be plenty of other players who impact the roster this season. Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  18. Opening Day is less than 48 hours away and Minnesota made their final roster moves of the spring on Tuesday. There were multiple questions still to be answered at the back of the 25-man roster with a couple of surprises mixed in. Either way, the Twins will head to Baltimore on Tuesday night with multiple new faces joining the squad.The first moves of the day finalized the final battle for position players. With Granite heading to Rochester, it meant Ryan LaMarre would be joining the Twins outfield for the season’s beginning. LaMarre was crowned the 2018 Sire of Fort Myers. Earlier this week, Seth speculated that LaMarre could break camp with the club. Kennys Vargas also saw his crazy week continue. It looked like he might be heading to the National League with the Reds but they figured out they don’t need a DH. Over the weekend, the Twins claimed him back from Cincinnati. Today, they were able to pass him through waivers and outright him to Triple-A Rochester. This move leaves the Twins with one open spot on the 40-man roster. Phil Hughes also provided an interesting situation for the club. Hughes looked like an option for a long-relief role. During his last spring start, Hughes was pulled with a mild oblique strain. This means he will start the year on the DL. This seemed like a convenient solution to the Twins roster crunch. With all of the moves above, here’s how the Twins 25-man roster will look on Opening Day. C: Jason Castro, Mitch Garver 1B: Joe Mauer, Logan Morrison 2B: Brian Dozier SS: Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza 3B: Miguel Sano OF: Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Ryan LaMarre, Robbie Grossman SP: Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Lance Lynn RP: Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Ryan Pressly, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Gabriel Moya, Tyler Kinley DL: Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes With a four man starting rotation, the Twins won’t need a fifth starter until April 11th. Last week, I thought that spot start might be filled by Hughes. His injury puts that start into question. Tyler Kinley’s impressive winter in the Dominican and his electric fastball made it easier to keep him around. How do you feel about the final 25-man roster? Obviously, there will be plenty of other players who impact the roster this season. Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  19. Duffey has logged 262.0 innings for the Twins over the past three seasons, making 36 starts over the 2015-16 seasons before shifting to the bullpen for 56 appearances last season. He was being stretched out this spring, having pitched 12.2 innings over five official appearances. Alan Busenitz was a pleasant surprise last season, pitching to a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over 28 games with the Twins. He had a 7.27 ERA in nine games this spring, but also struck out 11 batters over 8.2 innings. These moves seem to indicate that there is a very high likelihood that both Phil Hughes and Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley will make the Opening Day roster. Hughes is coming off his second thoracic outlet syndrome procedure, but he's owed $13.2 million this season and can refuse a minor league assignment. Kinley has only made eight appearances in Triple-A, but if he doesn't break camp with the Twins he would be offered back to the Miami Marlins. For more on Kinley's chase to make the roster, check this article from Cody: Clock's Ticking: The Tyler Kinley Decision.
  20. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reported this morning that Tyler Duffey and Alan Busenitz have been optioned to Triple-A Rochester, providing some clarity on who may fill out the Opening Day pitching staff. These cuts leave just 13 active pitchers remaining in Twins camp.Duffey has logged 262.0 innings for the Twins over the past three seasons, making 36 starts over the 2015-16 seasons before shifting to the bullpen for 56 appearances last season. He was being stretched out this spring, having pitched 12.2 innings over five official appearances. Alan Busenitz was a pleasant surprise last season, pitching to a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over 28 games with the Twins. He had a 7.27 ERA in nine games this spring, but also struck out 11 batters over 8.2 innings. These moves seem to indicate that there is a very high likelihood that both Phil Hughes and Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley will make the Opening Day roster. Hughes is coming off his second thoracic outlet syndrome procedure, but he's owed $13.2 million this season and can refuse a minor league assignment. Kinley has only made eight appearances in Triple-A, but if he doesn't break camp with the Twins he would be offered back to the Miami Marlins. For more on Kinley's chase to make the roster, check this article from Cody: Clock's Ticking: The Tyler Kinley Decision. Click here to view the article
  21. Miami left Kinley unprotected this offseason following an up and down minor league season. He posted a 1.98 ERA at High-A but struggled to a 5.19 ERA after being bumped up to Double-A. There were some control issues as he averaged 3.7 walks per nine innings but his 12.7 strikeouts per nine was tough to ignore. Over the winter, Kinley pitched in the Dominican Winter League. In 14 appearances, he posted a 0.47 ERA with a 0.84 WHIP and a 32 to 11 strikeout to walk ratio. During one stretch, he had an 18-inning scoreless streak. It’s hard not to be impressed with those numbers even if it is a limited sample size. Kinley knows his time with Minnesota could be fleeting. “I really try not to think about it. I try to just think about preparing myself the best I can and trying to go out and execute the plan,” he told the Associated Press. “Just to establish myself as a reliable bullpen arm, not only to the coaching staff and front office’s eyes, but to the players as well.” Twins bullpen coach Eddie Guardado likens Kinley to a former Rule 5 pick. “Johan [santana] was willing to work and get better. Kinley reminds me of that. I’m not saying starting-wise, but he wants to learn, works hard, [a] very good person.” Control issues have continued to follow Kinley this spring. In the 10 innings pitched, he has six walks and a hit-by-pitch. According to the Star Tribune, Kinley’s fastball was clocked at 99 miles per hour earlier in the spring. Pair that with his 91 mile per hour slider and he could provide a power arm the Twins need in the bullpen. Minnesota’s addition of Lance Lynn added another wrinkle to fitting Kinley on the roster. The Twins were expected to start the season with a four-man rotation because of additional off-days worked into the schedule. This could allow for an eight man bullpen. Phil Hughes might be pushed to the bullpen to make way for Lynn in the rotation. As far as starters go, the Twins are looking at Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Jose Berrios and Lance Lynn. Hughes could serve as a fifth starter or a long-man out of the bullpen. Some of the locks in the bullpen are Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Tayler Rogers, Zach Duke and Ryan Pressly. Trevor Hildenberger has struggled this spring so he could be sent down to start the year. He was critical to the Twins in the second half of last season so this might be enough to keep him on the roster. Players like Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Tyler Duffey and Gabriel Moya all have at least one option remaining. Things might have been made clear on Thursday with multiple bullpen pieces being optioned to Rochester. This could make Kinley the last player to fit into the bullpen. For the Twins and Kinley, the clock is ticking. One way or another a decision needs to be made. Do you think Kinley stays with the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  22. In case you missed it, here’s my introductory post regarding the title of Sire of Fort Myers. Basically, the goal is to crown the player who had the most impressive spring. The caveat being that player has to either have never played in the major leagues or not be on the 40-man roster. This is not about identifying the player most likely to break camp with the team, or the player who has the highest upside. It’s all about performance. The mantra this time of year is “spring training stats don’t matter.” That’s definitely in the case of established major leaguers, but there are some players who have something to gain from a strong spring. Earlier this week, the Twins added another candidate for the crown into the fold. New Twin Jake Cave qualifies, since he has yet to appear in the majors. Cave was acquired from the Yankees in exchange for 19-year-old pitcher Luis Gil. Cave went 0-for-3 in his spring debut with the Twins and was hitting just .158/.304/.211 with the Yankees. So while he’s a technically a candidate, he’s not a contender at this time. Who is? Well, here’s what I figure are the top five frontrunners for Sire of Fort Myers. Ryan LaMarre This guy has been incredible. LaMarre is hitting .500 with a slugging percentage of .857. He’s leading the team in hits, total bases, RBIs and runs scored. Among all hitters with at least 30 plate appearances this spring, LaMarre’s 1.357 OPS ranks 11th. Back in 2014, LaMarre successfully recovered from the same surgery that Miguel Sano is recovering from this spring. Fernando Romero Wow. Romero has logged eight no-hit innings in big league camp with eight strikeouts against just one walk. He was optioned to minor league camp, so it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll appear in another office spring game, but he still has to be considered among the favorites. How does Romero fit into the big picture? Cody did an excellent job of addressing that question earlier this week. LaMonte Wade Wade is getting plenty of looks down in Fort Myers, despite the fact that the Twins have no lack of outfield options in camp. The only non-roster player with more plate appearances than Wade are former major leaguers Chris Heisey and Gregorio Petit. Wade is hitting an impressive .304/.469/.391 and has a team-high eight walks. Nick Gordon Another key contributor to last year’s Chattanooga Lookouts club, Gordon has also been making the most of his opportunities. He’s hitting .409/.435/.636 and is tied for fourth on the team in total bases. He’s been making hard contact all spring and has flashed his speed on the basepaths, hitting a pair of triples. Tyler Kinley Kinley is getting a lot of work this spring, which is no surprise given the fact he was a Rule 5 pick. Only six pitchers have topped his eight innings pitched, and he’s second on the team with nine strikeouts. His near triple-digit fastball and 90 mph slider have turned heads, but he has also walked five batters and given up seven hits in eight innings pitched. Just Missed Erick Aybar is hitting .296/.321/.407 and looks like he has plenty left in the tank. He figures to get a lot of playing time in the final week of spring. Brock Stassi has had a strong showing, hitting .429/.500/.476. Bobby Wilson, favorite to fill the third catcher spot, hit a home run off Masahiro Tanaka. Zack Littell looked great, but with just five innings pitched he’s on the outside looking in. Jake Reed has a 1.50 ERA and eight strikeouts over six innings, but he also has a 1.82 WHIP. Here’s a package of highlights from the past couple weeks of spring training action, featuring a couple of these Sire of Fort Myers candidates. Someone who hasn’t been mentioned yet is catcher Willians Astudillo. He has just a .330 OPS in 16 plate appearances, but you gotta see the no-look pickoff, which is featured at about the 15-second mark. https://twitter.com/TwinsHighlights/status/975202453590331392?s=20
  23. The Twins will play their final game in Fort Myers a week from today. Can you believe it? The regular season is right around the corner, which also means we’re heading into the final leg of competition for Sire of Fort Myers.In case you missed it, here’s my introductory post regarding the title of Sire of Fort Myers. Basically, the goal is to crown the player who had the most impressive spring. The caveat being that player has to either have never played in the major leagues or not be on the 40-man roster. This is not about identifying the player most likely to break camp with the team, or the player who has the highest upside. It’s all about performance. The mantra this time of year is “spring training stats don’t matter.” That’s definitely in the case of established major leaguers, but there are some players who have something to gain from a strong spring. Earlier this week, the Twins added another candidate for the crown into the fold. New Twin Jake Cave qualifies, since he has yet to appear in the majors. Cave was acquired from the Yankees in exchange for 19-year-old pitcher Luis Gil. Cave went 0-for-3 in his spring debut with the Twins and was hitting just .158/.304/.211 with the Yankees. So while he’s a technically a candidate, he’s not a contender at this time. Who is? Well, here’s what I figure are the top five frontrunners for Sire of Fort Myers. Ryan LaMarre This guy has been incredible. LaMarre is hitting .500 with a slugging percentage of .857. He’s leading the team in hits, total bases, RBIs and runs scored. Among all hitters with at least 30 plate appearances this spring, LaMarre’s 1.357 OPS ranks 11th. Back in 2014, LaMarre successfully recovered from the same surgery that Miguel Sano is recovering from this spring. Fernando Romero Wow. Romero has logged eight no-hit innings in big league camp with eight strikeouts against just one walk. He was optioned to minor league camp, so it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll appear in another office spring game, but he still has to be considered among the favorites. How does Romero fit into the big picture? Cody did an excellent job of addressing that question earlier this week. LaMonte Wade Wade is getting plenty of looks down in Fort Myers, despite the fact that the Twins have no lack of outfield options in camp. The only non-roster player with more plate appearances than Wade are former major leaguers Chris Heisey and Gregorio Petit. Wade is hitting an impressive .304/.469/.391 and has a team-high eight walks. Nick Gordon Another key contributor to last year’s Chattanooga Lookouts club, Gordon has also been making the most of his opportunities. He’s hitting .409/.435/.636 and is tied for fourth on the team in total bases. He’s been making hard contact all spring and has flashed his speed on the basepaths, hitting a pair of triples. Tyler Kinley Kinley is getting a lot of work this spring, which is no surprise given the fact he was a Rule 5 pick. Only six pitchers have topped his eight innings pitched, and he’s second on the team with nine strikeouts. His near triple-digit fastball and 90 mph slider have turned heads, but he has also walked five batters and given up seven hits in eight innings pitched. Just Missed Erick Aybar is hitting .296/.321/.407 and looks like he has plenty left in the tank. He figures to get a lot of playing time in the final week of spring. Brock Stassi has had a strong showing, hitting .429/.500/.476. Bobby Wilson, favorite to fill the third catcher spot, hit a home run off Masahiro Tanaka. Zack Littell looked great, but with just five innings pitched he’s on the outside looking in. Jake Reed has a 1.50 ERA and eight strikeouts over six innings, but he also has a 1.82 WHIP. Here’s a package of highlights from the past couple weeks of spring training action, featuring a couple of these Sire of Fort Myers candidates. Someone who hasn’t been mentioned yet is catcher Willians Astudillo. He has just a .330 OPS in 16 plate appearances, but you gotta see the no-look pickoff, which is featured at about the 15-second mark. Click here to view the article
  24. The first four slots in the Minnesota rotation are set with Jose Berrios, Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson. The fifth spot is almost certain to go to Phil Hughes, who figures to function as sort of a starter/long reliever hybrid in the early going. With five off days in the first three weeks, the team's schedule is such that they can get through April while only needing a fifth starter two or three times. And by the time they'll require one on a more regular basis, Ervin Santana should be close to returning if not back already. That means barring injury, someone from the Opening Day staff will be bumped by Santana in late April or early May. So the competition doesn't end once camp breaks. Whoever wins that final bullpen job will need to prove his worth throughout the early part of the schedule. As things stand, there are four relievers remaining in camp to vie for that last relief gig. One could argue it's really a two-man race. Let's first take a look at the two longshots: Alan Busenitz, RHP Busenitz has a couple of very attractive numbers working in his favor: 1.99, and 95.7. The first is his ERA in 28 appearances during a sparking 2017 debut with the Twins. The second is his average fastball speed during that stint. Of the 462 pitchers to throw at least 30 innings in the majors, only 54 threw harder, placing Busenitz near the 10th percentile. But here's the problem with the 1.99 ERA: it came attached to a 4.20 FIP and 4.80 xFIP, owing to the fact that Busenitz benefitted from a .212 BABIP and 86.6% strand rate. Minnesota's analytically minded front office surely recognizes the suspect sustainability of those numbers. And as for the 95-MPH heater, it was really the sole pitch he used effectively. His other offering is a curveball and it was nothing special, helping explain why the righty produced just 6.5 K/9 and a 7.2% swinging strike rate, which nestled between relative soft-tossers Hector Santiago (7.4%) and Phil Hughes (7.2%). As a fly ball pitcher who allows quite a bit of contact, Busenitz walks a dangerous line. Only one qualified MLB reliever finished with a FB rate above 45% and a K-rate below 20% last year – Seattle's Nick Vincent, and he succeeded with a very different formula, drawing weak contact with a high-80s cutter. So there's reason for concern around Busenitz's long-term outlook unless he can crank up the K's or cut down the flies. But in the short-term, the biggest thing working against him is that – since he has multiple options remaining – the Twins have nothing to lose by sending him down to Rochester to work on those things. Gabriel Moya, LHP On the other end of the whiff spectrum lies Moya, whose 12.4% swinging strike rate during a very brief stint in Minnesota last year tied Pressly for best on the staff. Moya has also had an extremely impressive spring up to this point, allowing just one run (a solo homer in his first appearance) on three hits in six innings of work. Something that could work in Moya's favor is the Twins going with five right-handers in the rotation. Theoretically this might increase Paul Molitor's desire to have a third southpaw in the bullpen, but Moya – who relies heavily on an excellent changeup – has never had big platoon splits, and in fact last year he was much better against righties. Like Busenitz, he has options remaining so there's no harm in sending him to Triple-A to start the season. But I am confident Moya will be a solid weapon at some point. And now, the two leading contenders: Tyler Duffey, RHP On Wednesday, Duffey made his first start in almost exactly one calendar year, allowing two runs (one earned) over three innings with two strikeouts and two walks. Molitor indicated afterward that the team plans to have him make another start in five days, on March 19th. The right-hander has basically no shot at a rotation spot, so why is he getting starts? The answer is easy enough to see. "I've been told I've been just lengthened out," Duffey said. "That's just to make sure I'm ready for that long role and maybe if something happens like a rainout or whatever and they need a guy." In this capacity, Duffey looks like a very obvious fit. One thing lacking in the current bullpen makeup is a pitcher with such a profile. In 2017 he got six or more outs in 15 of his 56 relief appearances. He even completed three full innings a couple of times. "We know he can be that guy, he did it last year quite a bit," Molitor said of Duffey's capability to fill the long relief role. The manager didn't have an especially positive review of the 27-year-old's performance against a tough Boston lineup – "Overall you have to say that he battled really well, I don't think he had his best stuff" – and Duffey has generally been unspectacular on the mound this spring, but that seems almost immaterial. They need him. Or do they? Tyler Kinley, RHP Ah, the Rule 5 pick. Always fun for a skipper to deal with in spring camp. Kinley has certainly caught some eyeballs with his big velocity, including a heater that reaches 99 and a slider that can touch 90. His Grapefruit numbers have been about what you'd expect based on his track record; six innings, six strikeouts, five walks. It's becoming a little easier to understand what the Twins saw in Kinley – and Molitor had high praise for the 27-year-old earlier this month – but how does he fit? Another one-inning guy in a unit full of them? Isn't his signature short-burst velo a bit redundant with Pressly? Can a team with hopes of contending really dedicate a roster spot to such an unproven commodity? One would surmise no. But of course, if the Twins don't carry Kinley on the active roster or trade for him, they'll have to ship him back to Miami. That wouldn't be the biggest deal but Molitor is well aware of what Minnesota's front office has invested in the righty. Not financially, mind you, but with Kinley occupying a 40-man slot they've had to let some other promising players slip away – most recently J.T. Chargois, who is having a strong spring with the Dodgers. As such, the Twins owe it to themselves to get a good long look at Kinley. Could that mean bringing him north, even if it means sending Duffey down (he does have an option) and forgoing a traditional mop-up option? It's not unthinkable. Hughes can ostensibly handle that long relief role between his sporadic starts in April. I don't think Molitor's going to go with a guy he flat-out can't rely on in a key spot, but if Kinley is able to convince the manager he's worth counting on? Like I said, not unthinkable. But also not at all likely. If the team is sold on Kinley I suspect they'll try to work out a trade with Miami that would allow them to send him to Triple-A. Duffey is in the driver's seat until further notice. His flexible arm is just too useful to be sent away. Sorry to put the kibosh on whatever minimal suspense existed around the lone "position battle" in camp. But if you're into such things, the good news is that Duffey will essentially be locked in a battle with Hughes to maintain that long relief role upon Santana's return.
  25. FT. MYERS – There's been no shortage of intrigue at Twins camp, and even a little drama. But if you like to follow position battles during spring training, you've probably found yourself a little disappointed. Surprises are always possible, but realistically, there is only one spot on the 25-man roster up for grabs. On Wednesday, a prime contender took the hill looking to build his case.The first four slots in the Minnesota rotation are set with Jose Berrios, Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson. The fifth spot is almost certain to go to Phil Hughes, who figures to function as sort of a starter/long reliever hybrid in the early going. With five off days in the first three weeks, the team's schedule is such that they can get through April while only needing a fifth starter two or three times. And by the time they'll require one on a more regular basis, Ervin Santana should be close to returning if not back already. That means barring injury, someone from the Opening Day staff will be bumped by Santana in late April or early May. So the competition doesn't end once camp breaks. Whoever wins that final bullpen job will need to prove his worth throughout the early part of the schedule. As things stand, there are four relievers remaining in camp to vie for that last relief gig. One could argue it's really a two-man race. Let's first take a look at the two longshots: Alan Busenitz, RHP Busenitz has a couple of very attractive numbers working in his favor: 1.99, and 95.7. The first is his ERA in 28 appearances during a sparking 2017 debut with the Twins. The second is his average fastball speed during that stint. Of the 462 pitchers to throw at least 30 innings in the majors, only 54 threw harder, placing Busenitz near the 10th percentile. But here's the problem with the 1.99 ERA: it came attached to a 4.20 FIP and 4.80 xFIP, owing to the fact that Busenitz benefitted from a .212 BABIP and 86.6% strand rate. Minnesota's analytically minded front office surely recognizes the suspect sustainability of those numbers. And as for the 95-MPH heater, it was really the sole pitch he used effectively. His other offering is a curveball and it was nothing special, helping explain why the righty produced just 6.5 K/9 and a 7.2% swinging strike rate, which nestled between relative soft-tossers Hector Santiago (7.4%) and Phil Hughes (7.2%). As a fly ball pitcher who allows quite a bit of contact, Busenitz walks a dangerous line. Only one qualified MLB reliever finished with a FB rate above 45% and a K-rate below 20% last year – Seattle's Nick Vincent, and he succeeded with a very different formula, drawing weak contact with a high-80s cutter. So there's reason for concern around Busenitz's long-term outlook unless he can crank up the K's or cut down the flies. But in the short-term, the biggest thing working against him is that – since he has multiple options remaining – the Twins have nothing to lose by sending him down to Rochester to work on those things. Gabriel Moya, LHP On the other end of the whiff spectrum lies Moya, whose 12.4% swinging strike rate during a very brief stint in Minnesota last year tied Pressly for best on the staff. Moya has also had an extremely impressive spring up to this point, allowing just one run (a solo homer in his first appearance) on three hits in six innings of work. Something that could work in Moya's favor is the Twins going with five right-handers in the rotation. Theoretically this might increase Paul Molitor's desire to have a third southpaw in the bullpen, but Moya – who relies heavily on an excellent changeup – has never had big platoon splits, and in fact last year he was much better against righties. Like Busenitz, he has options remaining so there's no harm in sending him to Triple-A to start the season. But I am confident Moya will be a solid weapon at some point. And now, the two leading contenders: Tyler Duffey, RHP On Wednesday, Duffey made his first start in almost exactly one calendar year, allowing two runs (one earned) over three innings with two strikeouts and two walks. Molitor indicated afterward that the team plans to have him make another start in five days, on March 19th. The right-hander has basically no shot at a rotation spot, so why is he getting starts? The answer is easy enough to see. "I've been told I've been just lengthened out," Duffey said. "That's just to make sure I'm ready for that long role and maybe if something happens like a rainout or whatever and they need a guy." In this capacity, Duffey looks like a very obvious fit. One thing lacking in the current bullpen makeup is a pitcher with such a profile. In 2017 he got six or more outs in 15 of his 56 relief appearances. He even completed three full innings a couple of times. "We know he can be that guy, he did it last year quite a bit," Molitor said of Duffey's capability to fill the long relief role. The manager didn't have an especially positive review of the 27-year-old's performance against a tough Boston lineup – "Overall you have to say that he battled really well, I don't think he had his best stuff" – and Duffey has generally been unspectacular on the mound this spring, but that seems almost immaterial. They need him. Or do they? Tyler Kinley, RHP Ah, the Rule 5 pick. Always fun for a skipper to deal with in spring camp. Kinley has certainly caught some eyeballs with his big velocity, including a heater that reaches 99 and a slider that can touch 90. His Grapefruit numbers have been about what you'd expect based on his track record; six innings, six strikeouts, five walks. It's becoming a little easier to understand what the Twins saw in Kinley – and Molitor had high praise for the 27-year-old earlier this month – but how does he fit? Another one-inning guy in a unit full of them? Isn't his signature short-burst velo a bit redundant with Pressly? Can a team with hopes of contending really dedicate a roster spot to such an unproven commodity? One would surmise no. But of course, if the Twins don't carry Kinley on the active roster or trade for him, they'll have to ship him back to Miami. That wouldn't be the biggest deal but Molitor is well aware of what Minnesota's front office has invested in the righty. Not financially, mind you, but with Kinley occupying a 40-man slot they've had to let some other promising players slip away – most recently J.T. Chargois, who is having a strong spring with the Dodgers. As such, the Twins owe it to themselves to get a good long look at Kinley. Could that mean bringing him north, even if it means sending Duffey down (he does have an option) and forgoing a traditional mop-up option? It's not unthinkable. Hughes can ostensibly handle that long relief role between his sporadic starts in April. I don't think Molitor's going to go with a guy he flat-out can't rely on in a key spot, but if Kinley is able to convince the manager he's worth counting on? Like I said, not unthinkable. But also not at all likely. If the team is sold on Kinley I suspect they'll try to work out a trade with Miami that would allow them to send him to Triple-A. Duffey is in the driver's seat until further notice. His flexible arm is just too useful to be sent away. Sorry to put the kibosh on whatever minimal suspense existed around the lone "position battle" in camp. But if you're into such things, the good news is that Duffey will essentially be locked in a battle with Hughes to maintain that long relief role upon Santana's return. Click here to view the article
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