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  1. Realistically the Minnesota Twins have enough starters to fill out their starting rotation in 2023. That’s something they haven’t been able to say in recent seasons. While they could use another top-tier arm, the reality is they may need to count on depth much more than you’d like behind the top five. Image courtesy of © Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports Rocco Baldelli has to be feeling good about having some starting pitchers put down in ink. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine haven’t stocked the Minnesota rotation with a high-level of talent in recent years, largely opting for upside plays. Now the Twins have at least a few arms that should be seen as high-level talent, but to what extent can any of the arms Minnesota employs be counted on? Sonny Gray It’s become a trend for starting pitchers to contribute less innings in recent seasons. Bullpens have emerged as a force late in games, and that’s going to limit the length for any starting arm. That said, Gray threw just 119 2/3 innings during his first year with the Twins, his lowest total of his career. He dealt with hamstring problems throughout the year, and while he did look like a staff ace at times, he was also unavailable in key moments. Tyler Mahle Acquired at the trade deadline from the Cincinnati Reds, Mahle has the makings of a true ace. His underlying metrics are eye-popping, and seeing him take a step forward is hardly a lofty expectation. He did deal with shoulder issues earlier in the summer however, and they then popped up again with Minnesota. The Twins got just 16 1/3 innings from their newly acquired talent, and he couldn’t make it through more than two innings in his final outing of the season. He’d been relatively healthy prior to 2022, but shoulder issues are never good for a pitcher. Kenta Maeda The Twins got a near-Cy Young winner in 2020 when Maeda posted a 2.70 ERA during the truncated season. He then threw just over 100 innings in 2021 and posted a 4.66 ERA. Having undergone Tommy John surgery and not making it back for 2022, it will have been nearly two years since Maeda last pitched in a big league game. Sure, there’s lots to like here and the track record on UCL surgeries isn’t what it once was, but Maeda will be 35 next season and the question marks couldn’t be larger. Joe Ryan You can certainly make the argument that there’s questions as to whether Ryan can handle good lineups as he struggled against stiff competition for most of 2022. What is much more certain is that the former Tampa Bay Rays prospect appears to be a pillar of health. He has remained a constant on the field since becoming a big leaguer, and while he’s probably more a number three starter than anything else, you can count on him to take the ball every fifth day. Bailey Ober Minnesota came up with some found money in developing Ober as a strong starter despite being a 12th round draft pick. He’s never pitched more than 92 1/3 innings during any pro season however, and has consistently been able to give much less. Injuries have been a consistent theme during the course of his career, and while effective, he’s largely been unavailable. Josh Winder Similar to Ober, Winder has only sparingly shown an ability to be available. He threw 125 2/3 innings during his first full professional season in 2019, and then failed to top 90 innings in either of the two seasons since. Winder is a good depth arm that can back up the end of a good rotation, but he’s certainly a question mark to remain healthy. Chris Paddack Acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Taylor Rogers trade, it was Paddack that drew Minnesota’s attention more than Emilio Pagan. Unfortunately he was available for a depressed price because of his injury concern. He’s now undergone a second Tommy John surgery, and won’t be back until mid-summer at the earliest. He looked sharp in his limited exposure for Minnesota, but counting on him in any real capacity is tough. Beyond those names there’s the group including Simeon Woods Richardson and Louie Varland. The Twins hope to have some of their pipeline produce in 2023 and beyond. Maybe Jordan Balazovic can find whatever he lost a season ago, and maybe there’s another guy or two that pop up to become relevant. The reality is, while Minnesota needs a top-tier arm to start a playoff game, they probably need one simply because of the uncertainty that surrounds who will be available, and for how long, in 2023. View full article
  2. Rocco Baldelli has to be feeling good about having some starting pitchers put down in ink. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine haven’t stocked the Minnesota rotation with a high-level of talent in recent years, largely opting for upside plays. Now the Twins have at least a few arms that should be seen as high-level talent, but to what extent can any of the arms Minnesota employs be counted on? Sonny Gray It’s become a trend for starting pitchers to contribute less innings in recent seasons. Bullpens have emerged as a force late in games, and that’s going to limit the length for any starting arm. That said, Gray threw just 119 2/3 innings during his first year with the Twins, his lowest total of his career. He dealt with hamstring problems throughout the year, and while he did look like a staff ace at times, he was also unavailable in key moments. Tyler Mahle Acquired at the trade deadline from the Cincinnati Reds, Mahle has the makings of a true ace. His underlying metrics are eye-popping, and seeing him take a step forward is hardly a lofty expectation. He did deal with shoulder issues earlier in the summer however, and they then popped up again with Minnesota. The Twins got just 16 1/3 innings from their newly acquired talent, and he couldn’t make it through more than two innings in his final outing of the season. He’d been relatively healthy prior to 2022, but shoulder issues are never good for a pitcher. Kenta Maeda The Twins got a near-Cy Young winner in 2020 when Maeda posted a 2.70 ERA during the truncated season. He then threw just over 100 innings in 2021 and posted a 4.66 ERA. Having undergone Tommy John surgery and not making it back for 2022, it will have been nearly two years since Maeda last pitched in a big league game. Sure, there’s lots to like here and the track record on UCL surgeries isn’t what it once was, but Maeda will be 35 next season and the question marks couldn’t be larger. Joe Ryan You can certainly make the argument that there’s questions as to whether Ryan can handle good lineups as he struggled against stiff competition for most of 2022. What is much more certain is that the former Tampa Bay Rays prospect appears to be a pillar of health. He has remained a constant on the field since becoming a big leaguer, and while he’s probably more a number three starter than anything else, you can count on him to take the ball every fifth day. Bailey Ober Minnesota came up with some found money in developing Ober as a strong starter despite being a 12th round draft pick. He’s never pitched more than 92 1/3 innings during any pro season however, and has consistently been able to give much less. Injuries have been a consistent theme during the course of his career, and while effective, he’s largely been unavailable. Josh Winder Similar to Ober, Winder has only sparingly shown an ability to be available. He threw 125 2/3 innings during his first full professional season in 2019, and then failed to top 90 innings in either of the two seasons since. Winder is a good depth arm that can back up the end of a good rotation, but he’s certainly a question mark to remain healthy. Chris Paddack Acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Taylor Rogers trade, it was Paddack that drew Minnesota’s attention more than Emilio Pagan. Unfortunately he was available for a depressed price because of his injury concern. He’s now undergone a second Tommy John surgery, and won’t be back until mid-summer at the earliest. He looked sharp in his limited exposure for Minnesota, but counting on him in any real capacity is tough. Beyond those names there’s the group including Simeon Woods Richardson and Louie Varland. The Twins hope to have some of their pipeline produce in 2023 and beyond. Maybe Jordan Balazovic can find whatever he lost a season ago, and maybe there’s another guy or two that pop up to become relevant. The reality is, while Minnesota needs a top-tier arm to start a playoff game, they probably need one simply because of the uncertainty that surrounds who will be available, and for how long, in 2023.
  3. Friday was the next key moment of the offseason as Major League teams needed to make decisions on their arbitration eligible candidates. Minnesota had already handled some of these situations, but the front office handed out contracts to seven players prior to the 7pm deadline. Image courtesy of Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports Although the morning on Friday was spent unveiling the Minnesota Twins new uniforms, the evening was about exactly who would be playing in them. With a full 40-man roster, the Twins had seven arbitration-eligible candidates left to make decisions on. Earlier in the afternoon, they avoided a decision (or, very clearly made their decision) on third baseman Gio Urshela when they sent him to the Los Angeles Angels for Single-A right-handed pitcher Alejandro Hidalgo. Urshela was set to make nearly $10 million this year, and with Jose Miranda looking like the Opening Day third basemen, there simply was not enough playing time to be had for that kind of investment. Before Friday’s deadline, Danny Coulombe, Jake Cave, and Cody Stashak were all dealt with. Each was arbitration-eligible, currently have been left out of the Twins plans in 2023. Emilio Pagan’s outcome was left until the last minute, and although there was talk of a team-friendly extension, nothing ultimately came to fruition. That left Tyler Mahle, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Lopez, Luis Arraez, Jorge Alcala, and Chris Paddack, and Emilio Pagan as the only players yet outstanding. Earlier this week Nick Nelson went through the looming decisions for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, ranking them in order. Urshela checked in at the top and ultimately was the choice for someone else. Of those remaining, only Paddack found himself with a bit of hand-wringing. As Nick pointed out, it’s a wait-and-see scenario for the former San Diego Padres starter. When dealing Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to the Padres prior to Opening Day, Pagan was likely seen as more of a throw-in for the bullpen. Paddack, and his additional year of control, was the prize. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, a second one at that, it remains to be seen what type of pitcher returns, and when. MLB Trade Rumors has Paddack projected at just under a $2.5 million deal for 2023, hardly a substantial amount of a good starter. The problem is that Minnesota will have a dead spot on their 40-man roster until spring training. They can and will place Paddack on the 60-day injured list at that point, but are limited in their construction by one roster spot until then. Coming over from the Reds, Mahle was the Twins prize at the trade deadline and should be expected to be relied upon heavily in the rotation this season. New head trainer Nick Paparesta will look to get and keep him healthy, but Mahle has the makings of a breakout ace if he can get there. Like Mahle, Lopez was acquired at the deadline and left a Baltimore team that he represented as an All-Star closer during the Midsummer Classic. Since returning to professional baseball, Thielbar has been among the most overlooked yet dominant lefties in the game. He’s not exciting, but it doesn’t matter when he’s getting the job done. Rocco Baldelli will hope to have Alcala be the arm he was undoubtedly counting on in the bullpen last season, but a full year off makes that a game of wait-and-see. There was certainly questions as to whether Pagan would be retained after a tumultuous start to his Minnesota tenure. After working with Twins coaching a bit more as the season went on, Pagan was able to find success to the tune of a 2.16 ERA in his final 16 2/3 innings. The Twins front office did work to hammer out a multi-year deal but ultimately just agreed on avoiding a non-tender. The stuff has always profiled well as evidenced by a strong K/9. Presumably, the sides will stick it out for a few months into 2023 to see if there's a turnaround. Rounding out the group was the easiest one of the bunch to call. Arraez is fresh off his first batting title, won a Silver Slugger award, was named an All-Star, and has his sights set on a Gold Glove next. As a reminder, the arbitration deadline is one in which Minnesota had to decide if they would tender a player a contract or not. The sides will then exchange numbers. If the number is agreed to, that will be reported and updated below. If the sides remain apart on their valuations, a hearing could take place at a later date. View full article
  4. Although the morning on Friday was spent unveiling the Minnesota Twins new uniforms, the evening was about exactly who would be playing in them. With a full 40-man roster, the Twins had seven arbitration-eligible candidates left to make decisions on. Earlier in the afternoon, they avoided a decision (or, very clearly made their decision) on third baseman Gio Urshela when they sent him to the Los Angeles Angels for Single-A right-handed pitcher Alejandro Hidalgo. Urshela was set to make nearly $10 million this year, and with Jose Miranda looking like the Opening Day third basemen, there simply was not enough playing time to be had for that kind of investment. Before Friday’s deadline, Danny Coulombe, Jake Cave, and Cody Stashak were all dealt with. Each was arbitration-eligible, currently have been left out of the Twins plans in 2023. Emilio Pagan’s outcome was left until the last minute, and although there was talk of a team-friendly extension, nothing ultimately came to fruition. That left Tyler Mahle, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Lopez, Luis Arraez, Jorge Alcala, and Chris Paddack, and Emilio Pagan as the only players yet outstanding. Earlier this week Nick Nelson went through the looming decisions for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, ranking them in order. Urshela checked in at the top and ultimately was the choice for someone else. Of those remaining, only Paddack found himself with a bit of hand-wringing. As Nick pointed out, it’s a wait-and-see scenario for the former San Diego Padres starter. When dealing Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to the Padres prior to Opening Day, Pagan was likely seen as more of a throw-in for the bullpen. Paddack, and his additional year of control, was the prize. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, a second one at that, it remains to be seen what type of pitcher returns, and when. MLB Trade Rumors has Paddack projected at just under a $2.5 million deal for 2023, hardly a substantial amount of a good starter. The problem is that Minnesota will have a dead spot on their 40-man roster until spring training. They can and will place Paddack on the 60-day injured list at that point, but are limited in their construction by one roster spot until then. Coming over from the Reds, Mahle was the Twins prize at the trade deadline and should be expected to be relied upon heavily in the rotation this season. New head trainer Nick Paparesta will look to get and keep him healthy, but Mahle has the makings of a breakout ace if he can get there. Like Mahle, Lopez was acquired at the deadline and left a Baltimore team that he represented as an All-Star closer during the Midsummer Classic. Since returning to professional baseball, Thielbar has been among the most overlooked yet dominant lefties in the game. He’s not exciting, but it doesn’t matter when he’s getting the job done. Rocco Baldelli will hope to have Alcala be the arm he was undoubtedly counting on in the bullpen last season, but a full year off makes that a game of wait-and-see. There was certainly questions as to whether Pagan would be retained after a tumultuous start to his Minnesota tenure. After working with Twins coaching a bit more as the season went on, Pagan was able to find success to the tune of a 2.16 ERA in his final 16 2/3 innings. The Twins front office did work to hammer out a multi-year deal but ultimately just agreed on avoiding a non-tender. The stuff has always profiled well as evidenced by a strong K/9. Presumably, the sides will stick it out for a few months into 2023 to see if there's a turnaround. Rounding out the group was the easiest one of the bunch to call. Arraez is fresh off his first batting title, won a Silver Slugger award, was named an All-Star, and has his sights set on a Gold Glove next. As a reminder, the arbitration deadline is one in which Minnesota had to decide if they would tender a player a contract or not. The sides will then exchange numbers. If the number is agreed to, that will be reported and updated below. If the sides remain apart on their valuations, a hearing could take place at a later date.
  5. As crazy as the season was, the off-season seems even crazier and filled with more drama. While fans want the front office to land Carlos (Correa), bringing in the other Carlos (Rodón) would make the most sense for the club and could solidify the Twins starting rotation. Image courtesy of Stan Szeto, USA Today The jury is still out on the starting rotation for the Twins, but it looks like Sonny Gray is the anchor, with Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, Bailey Ober, and Tyler Mahle penciled into spots with question marks. If the team experiences anything like they did last season, injuries always loom heavily with this club. Taking on one more starter would benefit the club immensely, especially with uncertainty about Kenta Maeda's health and how he might pitch following surgery. Even with Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan at the top of the rotation, Carlos Rodon would easily be the team's ace, something that the Twins have not had of late. Jose Berrios was the closest the Twins have come to an ace in a long time, and the fans and club need more at the top of their rotation if they want to compete. With the Giants in 2022, Rodón had a 2.88 ERA and led the majors with a 2.25 FIP. He finished second in the National League with 237 strikeouts and hit double-digits 11 times, a franchise record. Rodón made a career-high 31 starts, putting aside (at least for now) the concerns about his shoulder that limited his market a year ago. 2022 was his best season since entering the majors. At 29 years old, his market this offseason should include a lot of teams. Watching pitchers like Jacob de Grom, Justin Verlander, and C.C. Sabathia, Rodón has the potential to continue for several seasons, provided he can stay healthy. His contract last offseason was a two-year $44 million deal with the Giants, but it included an opt-out clause that he took advantage of after the season. Since 2015, he has outperformed his contract and is worth more than what he made. The team that signs him this offseason will give up a draft pick as San Francisco made him a qualifying offer, which he declined. However, that should not stop him from getting at least four years with an average annual value of over $25 million. He pitched for a long time with the White Sox and knows the AL Central Division. However, it can be assumed that Rodon will be courted by nearly every team that intends to contend for a playoff spot in 2023 and beyond. As the non-tender deadline creeps up, additional players will become available. Several pitchers could potentially fill the Twins need, but Rodón would be a good fit in the league, division, and clubhouse. View full article
  6. The jury is still out on the starting rotation for the Twins, but it looks like Sonny Gray is the anchor, with Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, Bailey Ober, and Tyler Mahle penciled into spots with question marks. If the team experiences anything like they did last season, injuries always loom heavily with this club. Taking on one more starter would benefit the club immensely, especially with uncertainty about Kenta Maeda's health and how he might pitch following surgery. Even with Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan at the top of the rotation, Carlos Rodon would easily be the team's ace, something that the Twins have not had of late. Jose Berrios was the closest the Twins have come to an ace in a long time, and the fans and club need more at the top of their rotation if they want to compete. With the Giants in 2022, Rodón had a 2.88 ERA and led the majors with a 2.25 FIP. He finished second in the National League with 237 strikeouts and hit double-digits 11 times, a franchise record. Rodón made a career-high 31 starts, putting aside (at least for now) the concerns about his shoulder that limited his market a year ago. 2022 was his best season since entering the majors. At 29 years old, his market this offseason should include a lot of teams. Watching pitchers like Jacob de Grom, Justin Verlander, and C.C. Sabathia, Rodón has the potential to continue for several seasons, provided he can stay healthy. His contract last offseason was a two-year $44 million deal with the Giants, but it included an opt-out clause that he took advantage of after the season. Since 2015, he has outperformed his contract and is worth more than what he made. The team that signs him this offseason will give up a draft pick as San Francisco made him a qualifying offer, which he declined. However, that should not stop him from getting at least four years with an average annual value of over $25 million. He pitched for a long time with the White Sox and knows the AL Central Division. However, it can be assumed that Rodon will be courted by nearly every team that intends to contend for a playoff spot in 2023 and beyond. As the non-tender deadline creeps up, additional players will become available. Several pitchers could potentially fill the Twins need, but Rodón would be a good fit in the league, division, and clubhouse.
  7. MLBTR released their arbitration estimations for the 2023 season,which are normally very accurate. Which Twins are extension candidates? Which are locks to be tendered a contract? Should any be welcomed to test their luck on free agency? View full video
  8. MLBTR released their arbitration estimations for the 2023 season,which are normally very accurate. Which Twins are extension candidates? Which are locks to be tendered a contract? Should any be welcomed to test their luck on free agency?
  9. The Twins already have rotation depth going into 2023, at least in terms of pure quantity. They don't need more bottom-of-rotation starters like Dylan Bundy or Chris Archer. What they need to do is acquire someone at or above what I call the 'Sonny Gray Threshold.' It'll be our guiding barometer as we assess the team's rotation strategy this offseason. Image courtesy of Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports I am of the opinion that it's a failure if the Twins go into 2023 with Sonny Gray as their standalone No. 1 starter. This might've been the underlying rationale behind adding Tyler Mahle at the deadline, but unfortunately, Mahle should be viewed as no more than a question mark and hopeful contributor for next year. You simply can't plan around a guy who threw 16 innings after being acquired, and finished on the injured list with an unresolved shoulder issue. Kenta Maeda, much like Mahle, is a pitcher who's shown top-of-rotation ability but can't be firmly depended upon for a whole lot. At age 35, with only 173 total innings under his belt over the past three seasons, the Twins may be best off placing him in a long relief or swingman role, as he often filled in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Gray himself was limited to just 120 innings in 2022, with multiple hamstring injuries disrupting a full season even by his modest standards for what one looks like. With all this instability near the top of the rotation, the Twins really need to add a proven, durable, high-caliber starter who would be a credible option to start a postseason game. They need near, or ideally above, the level of Gray. In the newest chapter of the Offseason Handbook, Reinforcing the Rotation, I took a look eight high-end free agents and 10 potential trade targets who arguably land at or above the Sonny Gray Threshold. I also broke down the internal pitching pipeline with a look at which prospects might be able to help, and when. It's all now available to download for Caretakers, who can also access our previously released Handbook installments covering the payroll and the future of shortstop. If you're not a Caretaker already, you can sign up here for as little as $6/month and get plenty of other perks including free entry to the Winter Meltdown (details coming soon!). Of course, there will also be plenty of free content available to everyone on the site this week a we take a collective deep dive into the Twins' starting pitching needs and options. Stay tuned and let's see if we can surpass the Sonny Gray Threshold. View full article
  10. I am of the opinion that it's a failure if the Twins go into 2023 with Sonny Gray as their standalone No. 1 starter. This might've been the underlying rationale behind adding Tyler Mahle at the deadline, but unfortunately, Mahle should be viewed as no more than a question mark and hopeful contributor for next year. You simply can't plan around a guy who threw 16 innings after being acquired, and finished on the injured list with an unresolved shoulder issue. Kenta Maeda, much like Mahle, is a pitcher who's shown top-of-rotation ability but can't be firmly depended upon for a whole lot. At age 35, with only 173 total innings under his belt over the past three seasons, the Twins may be best off placing him in a long relief or swingman role, as he often filled in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Gray himself was limited to just 120 innings in 2022, with multiple hamstring injuries disrupting a full season even by his modest standards for what one looks like. With all this instability near the top of the rotation, the Twins really need to add a proven, durable, high-caliber starter who would be a credible option to start a postseason game. They need near, or ideally above, the level of Gray. In the newest chapter of the Offseason Handbook, Reinforcing the Rotation, I took a look eight high-end free agents and 10 potential trade targets who arguably land at or above the Sonny Gray Threshold. I also broke down the internal pitching pipeline with a look at which prospects might be able to help, and when. It's all now available to download for Caretakers, who can also access our previously released Handbook installments covering the payroll and the future of shortstop. If you're not a Caretaker already, you can sign up here for as little as $6/month and get plenty of other perks including free entry to the Winter Meltdown (details coming soon!). Of course, there will also be plenty of free content available to everyone on the site this week a we take a collective deep dive into the Twins' starting pitching needs and options. Stay tuned and let's see if we can surpass the Sonny Gray Threshold.
  11. Minnesota’s front office has focused on payroll flexibility, which means the team’s books are relatively clear for years into the future. Even with this flexibility, the 2023 season is shaping to be a make-it-or-break-it for the Twins. Image courtesy of Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have stressed the importance of keeping the Twins’ winning window open as long as possible. To do this, the club has restrained from giving out long-term contracts, which gives the team payroll flexibility for multiple years. Minnesota has traded for multiple players to supplement the roster, and many contracts are up at the end of 2023. That makes next year a make-it-or-break-it season. Possible Free Agent Pitchers Following 2023 Sonny Gray: It will be a no-brainer for the Twins to pick up Gray’s $12 million team option for 2023, but that means he is heading to free agency after next season. Minnesota surrendered their 2021 first-round pick to acquire Gray for multiple seasons. He performed well in his first season with the Twins as he posted a 3.08 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP in 24 starts. Injuries impacted multiple Twins starters, and Gray pitched under 120 innings for the first time since 2016 due to multiple IL stints. Kenta Maeda: Maeda signed a unique contract when he came from Japan. The Dodgers saw some abnormalities in his physical, so he signed a very incentive-laden contract. He pitched over 760 big-league innings before needing Tommy John surgery. Some thought he could pitch out of the bullpen in 2022, but Minnesota fell out of the race, and there wasn’t a reason to rush him back. Now, Maeda will spend the winter preparing to rejoin the Twins’ rotation in the final year of his contract. Tyler Mahle: Fans were excited when the Twins made an aggressive trade deadline acquisition of Mahle. His Twins tenure started poorly as he dealt with shoulder issues that ended his season early. Minnesota hopes rest and recovery this offseason will help Mahle to return to his previous performance level. If Mahle can’t return to health, it will be a tough pill to swallow for the current front office. This regime has a history of acquiring potentially injured pitchers, and Mahle is another name on that list. Possible Free Agent Position Players Following 2023 Max Kepler: Kepler’s future with the Twins is up in the air, with one guaranteed year remaining on his contract. Outside of 2019, his offensive numbers have been below average, but he continues to be one of baseball’s best defenders in right field. He has a team option for $10 million for the 2024 season, and FanGraphs pegs his average value at over $16.1 million for 2022. The Twins also have three young outfielders that need time in corner outfield positions, so this might make Kepler more expendable over the next two seasons. Gio Urshela: Urshela was one of Minnesota’s best performers throughout the 2022 season. He posted a 121 OPS+ and ranked fourth on the team in WAR. Many will compare him to Josh Donaldson, and Urshela ranked better than Donaldson in many offensive categories. Urshela’s big-league development hasn’t followed a linear path, but he has carved out a niche as an above-average regular over the last four seasons. He will be 31 years old for all of next season, and the Twins will have younger options to plug in at third base in the years ahead. Minnesota has some decisions to make, with many vital players heading toward free agency. Will the club try to sign any of the above names to extensions? Will some be made qualifying offers? If Minnesota stumbles, can they be traded before next year’s deadline? All signs point to the 2023 season being a critical year for the office as they need the club to take a step in the right direction. View full article
  12. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have stressed the importance of keeping the Twins’ winning window open as long as possible. To do this, the club has restrained from giving out long-term contracts, which gives the team payroll flexibility for multiple years. Minnesota has traded for multiple players to supplement the roster, and many contracts are up at the end of 2023. That makes next year a make-it-or-break-it season. Possible Free Agent Pitchers Following 2023 Sonny Gray: It will be a no-brainer for the Twins to pick up Gray’s $12 million team option for 2023, but that means he is heading to free agency after next season. Minnesota surrendered their 2021 first-round pick to acquire Gray for multiple seasons. He performed well in his first season with the Twins as he posted a 3.08 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP in 24 starts. Injuries impacted multiple Twins starters, and Gray pitched under 120 innings for the first time since 2016 due to multiple IL stints. Kenta Maeda: Maeda signed a unique contract when he came from Japan. The Dodgers saw some abnormalities in his physical, so he signed a very incentive-laden contract. He pitched over 760 big-league innings before needing Tommy John surgery. Some thought he could pitch out of the bullpen in 2022, but Minnesota fell out of the race, and there wasn’t a reason to rush him back. Now, Maeda will spend the winter preparing to rejoin the Twins’ rotation in the final year of his contract. Tyler Mahle: Fans were excited when the Twins made an aggressive trade deadline acquisition of Mahle. His Twins tenure started poorly as he dealt with shoulder issues that ended his season early. Minnesota hopes rest and recovery this offseason will help Mahle to return to his previous performance level. If Mahle can’t return to health, it will be a tough pill to swallow for the current front office. This regime has a history of acquiring potentially injured pitchers, and Mahle is another name on that list. Possible Free Agent Position Players Following 2023 Max Kepler: Kepler’s future with the Twins is up in the air, with one guaranteed year remaining on his contract. Outside of 2019, his offensive numbers have been below average, but he continues to be one of baseball’s best defenders in right field. He has a team option for $10 million for the 2024 season, and FanGraphs pegs his average value at over $16.1 million for 2022. The Twins also have three young outfielders that need time in corner outfield positions, so this might make Kepler more expendable over the next two seasons. Gio Urshela: Urshela was one of Minnesota’s best performers throughout the 2022 season. He posted a 121 OPS+ and ranked fourth on the team in WAR. Many will compare him to Josh Donaldson, and Urshela ranked better than Donaldson in many offensive categories. Urshela’s big-league development hasn’t followed a linear path, but he has carved out a niche as an above-average regular over the last four seasons. He will be 31 years old for all of next season, and the Twins will have younger options to plug in at third base in the years ahead. Minnesota has some decisions to make, with many vital players heading toward free agency. Will the club try to sign any of the above names to extensions? Will some be made qualifying offers? If Minnesota stumbles, can they be traded before next year’s deadline? All signs point to the 2023 season being a critical year for the office as they need the club to take a step in the right direction.
  13. It's no secret: The top imperative for 2023 is a healthier season that enables the Twins to keep their best players on the field more often. Unfortunately, several of this year's injury concerns will spill over into the next thanks to a series of ambiguous, challenging situations afflicting key fixtures in the team's planning. Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today Usually, the end of a season like this one – promising but sabotaged to the core by an outrageous abundance of injuries – brings sweet relief. The offseason, theoretically, provides an opportunity for banged-up players to get right and return in the spring at 100% physically. In the cases of many Twins, it's difficult to envision things going so smoothly. Here's a look at seven players – all varying levels of vital to the 2023 outlook – who will have their unusual injury concerns and uncertainties ripple forward into next year. Tyler Mahle, SP No one could seem to figure out what was wrong with Mahle's shoulder this year. Not the Reds, not the Twins, not the pitcher himself ... certainly not any outside observer. His issue was described in different ways at different points – strain, soreness, fatigue, inflammation – but throughout out it all, repeated exams showed no structural damage. So, we don't know what's going on. What we do know is that Mahle's final two attempts to pitch this season saw him induce three swinging strikes on 74 pitches while flashing significantly reduced velocity, getting removed after two innings in each. Now he's got an offseason to rest up and get right. But, what does "getting right" mean when no one could pinpoint what was wrong to begin with? This is one scenario where I feel like the Twins front office and medical staff are getting a bit of an unfair shake. They gambled on Mahle because his scans were clean and he was pitching well at the time. He kept pitching well for a bit. Then the shoulder troubles resurfaced, yet the scans remained clean. Pointing fingers at team doctors is easy but misguided. It's not like they aren't consulting outside specialists at the top of their field. The reality is that for all of our advances, sports medicine remains an inexact and often mysterious science. Mahle is a good example. He's hardly the only one. Byron Buxton, CF I'm not going to act like this is anything new. Buxton, obviously, has to be viewed as an availability question mark heading into every season. But at least last year he didn't carry any blatant health burdens directly into the offseason. In 2021, Buxton played through the end of the schedule and flat-out mashed down the stretch, posting a 1.001 OPS with nine homers after September 1st. His broken hand had healed, and he was seemingly past the hip strain that earlier cost him six weeks. This year, that same hip forced him back to the injured list. That's in addition to a persistent right knee tendinitis, with both trending toward the dreaded "chronic" category of classification. These dark clouds will hover over Buxton, recipient of a new $100 million contract, for the foreseeable future. Outside of an ostensibly minor procedure conducted last week to clean up scar tissue and frayed ligaments in his knee, there's nothing but hope to guide us toward a significantly better outcome for Buxton next year. "What ends up typically happening is the scar tissue and otherwise creates more of that inflammation when you pound on it. So, now let's clear out some of that and hopefully that'll alleviate some of that stress going forward," said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey. Hopefully. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Perhaps the most perplexing and inscrutable health situation among many faced by the Twins franchise. In August of 2021, Kirilloff underwent season-ending surgery to address a torn wrist ligament, with the hope that creating more spacing would alleviate the pain experienced while engaging his elite swing. It didn't work. Or at least not for long. Kiriloff battled more pain in spring training and the early season, took a short break, went to Triple-A, dominated for a month, returned to the majors, and then it all came roaring back. The pain, the warped swing mechanics, the endless ground balls. Cortisone injections offered only brief respite from his performance-draining affliction. Thus, Kirilloff and the Twins turned to a last-ditch option: a more invasive surgery that involves "breaking the ulna and shortening it before the insertion of a metal plate and screws," another effort to create space in his wrist. "I really hope it doesn’t get to that," the 24-year-old had lamented earlier in the season. While relatively common for the general population, this procedure is rare for professional athletes and there aren't many past examples to reference. In a recent update to the media, Falvey mentioned that Kirilloff "hasn't ramped up his hitting progression yet," adding that there have been no setbacks or delays but "we just don't want him to hit yet." Kirilloff had undergone the surgery six weeks prior, for whatever that's worth. I want so badly to feel optimistic about Kirilloff because his talent level and upside can be game-changing for this franchise – if only he could tap them for a prolonged period on the field. But it's getting really difficult to find that optimism, and his wayward status creates all sorts of planning headaches for the front office. Royce Lewis, SS Speaking of planning headaches, we have the shortstop position. Lewis showed the makings of a long-term fixture during his brief audition this year, but unfortunately that concluded in late May when he re-tore the very same knee ligament he'd just spent a year rehabbing from reconstructive surgery. In somewhat positive news, he only partially tore the ACL this time, and surgeons put a novel twist on his second knee operation; mentions of a "brace" being involved in this variation led Lucas Seehafer to conclude they employed a technique called lateral tenodesis. While promising in its potential to prevent another injury, Lucas framed this technique as somewhat experimental, adding that "the long-term outcomes for this procedure in the athletic population, and specifically the MLB population, [are] unknown." Even if he's able to come back with a structurally sound, twice-repaired knee ligament, it remains to be seen whether Lewis will be able to maintain the full speed, quickness, and lateral agility that were on display even after his first surgery. Like Kirilloff, Lewis brings much to the table as a building block for this franchise, which makes his uncertainty all the more unfortunate, surfarcing some difficult short-term decisions for the front office with regards to the future at shortstop. Chris Paddack, SP The Twins knew they were taking on risk when they acquired Paddack as the centerpiece of the Taylor Rogers trade, but even in that context, they've pretty much stumbled into a worst-case scenario. Paddack made it through five starts before the partial tear in his UCL, already once repaired via Tommy John surgery, gave way and necessitated to a second TJ procedure. The history of pitchers who have undergone this ligament replacement surgery twice is not the most encouraging. Mike Clevinger, one of the most accomplished pitchers to undergo a Tommy John revision surgery (in November 2020), returned to action this year and while he's managed to throw more than 100 innings, Clevinger is nowhere near his pre-surgery form. There are complicated realities at play with getting this repair a second time that have diminished the rate of success. "On average, the typical TJ revision isn’t as successful as the typical primary TJ,” said Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, an orthopedic surgeon and professor, in a story for the San Diego Union-Tribune. "The first time you drill a hole in the bone it is fresh and clean, but if it happens again you already have a hole there and that hole is filled with scar tissue. … Scar tissue isn’t as healthy as original tissue. It doesn’t have the same blood supply; (it is) not as durable.” Paddack has already acknowledged that he's realistically targeting an August return next year, setting expectations for a 14-month recovery time and reducing the likelihood he'll be able to make a significant impact in 2023. We probably should collectively drop the notion of Paddack pitching in the Twins rotation again before his team control expires after 2024. Kenta Maeda, SP Relatively speaking, Maeda's outlook is less complicated than Paddack's since he's coming off his first Tommy John surgery. However, the veteran righty still hasn't taken the mound 13 months after his own procedure "with a twist" – an internal brace designed to shorten the recovery timetable from the typical 12-16 months down to 9-12. Alas, he'll be nearly 18 months removed by the time he hits the mound again next spring in Ft. Myers. That Maeda didn't make it back this year isn't a big deal – the timing of his surgery late last year was always going to make it tough, and the Twins being out of contention in September rendered it a moot point. The bigger concern here is that he'll be a 35-year-old coming back from significant elbow surgery and a very long layoff, with 173 total innings pitched over the past three seasons. It's hard to foresee him successfully taking on a full starter's workload in his final year under contract, so I'll be curious to see how he fits into the 2022 plan. Josh Winder, SP Winder was limited to 72 innings last year, and will finish near the same total this year, because of recurring "shoulder impingement" issues that he and the club appear unable to fully diagnose or solve. “He’s felt good for periods of time. He’s thrown the ball well for periods of time. There’s no singular reason why we’re looking at this and thinking, ‘Well, this is why this is happening,’ to be honest,” manager Rocco Baldelli said in late July, shortly after Winder had been placed on IL for a second time with what was by then being termed impingement syndrome. “It’s just soreness that keeps creeping back in there.” Winder wouldn't make it back to the big-league mound for another seven weeks after that, and while he was able to return for four starts in September, he wasn't very effective, posting a 5.59 ERA in 19 ⅓ innings. Much like with Mahle, it's difficult to feel confident in an injury clearing up when nobody can get to the bottom of it. Winder, for his part, has suggested he "might just be at a predisposition for this type of injury." Which makes him pretty challenging to plan around, and that's a big hit because he showed the makings of a signature product of this front office's pitching pipeline. The Twins liked him so much they went out of their way to keep him on the Opening Day pitching staff this year. They were envisioning him as an integral part of their rotation mix this year. I don't see how they can keep doing so going forward. An Uncertain Future In the recent media scrum where he updated a litany of injury situations, Falvey remarked on the avalanche of IL stints that buried the team this year, reasoning that – to some extent – you're at the mercy of fate. Like all things in baseball, injuries ebb and flow. "I'm hopeful, for a lot of reasons that this is our spike-up year and that there's some regression built in going forward," Falvey said. A reasonable mindset, from a basic analytical standpoint. And yet, as these seven examples show, many of the dismal developments in the spike-up year that was 2022 could prove thorny going forward. View full article
  14. Usually, the end of a season like this one – promising but sabotaged to the core by an outrageous abundance of injuries – brings sweet relief. The offseason, theoretically, provides an opportunity for banged-up players to get right and return in the spring at 100% physically. In the cases of many Twins, it's difficult to envision things going so smoothly. Here's a look at seven players – all varying levels of vital to the 2023 outlook – who will have their unusual injury concerns and uncertainties ripple forward into next year. Tyler Mahle, SP No one could seem to figure out what was wrong with Mahle's shoulder this year. Not the Reds, not the Twins, not the pitcher himself ... certainly not any outside observer. His issue was described in different ways at different points – strain, soreness, fatigue, inflammation – but throughout out it all, repeated exams showed no structural damage. So, we don't know what's going on. What we do know is that Mahle's final two attempts to pitch this season saw him induce three swinging strikes on 74 pitches while flashing significantly reduced velocity, getting removed after two innings in each. Now he's got an offseason to rest up and get right. But, what does "getting right" mean when no one could pinpoint what was wrong to begin with? This is one scenario where I feel like the Twins front office and medical staff are getting a bit of an unfair shake. They gambled on Mahle because his scans were clean and he was pitching well at the time. He kept pitching well for a bit. Then the shoulder troubles resurfaced, yet the scans remained clean. Pointing fingers at team doctors is easy but misguided. It's not like they aren't consulting outside specialists at the top of their field. The reality is that for all of our advances, sports medicine remains an inexact and often mysterious science. Mahle is a good example. He's hardly the only one. Byron Buxton, CF I'm not going to act like this is anything new. Buxton, obviously, has to be viewed as an availability question mark heading into every season. But at least last year he didn't carry any blatant health burdens directly into the offseason. In 2021, Buxton played through the end of the schedule and flat-out mashed down the stretch, posting a 1.001 OPS with nine homers after September 1st. His broken hand had healed, and he was seemingly past the hip strain that earlier cost him six weeks. This year, that same hip forced him back to the injured list. That's in addition to a persistent right knee tendinitis, with both trending toward the dreaded "chronic" category of classification. These dark clouds will hover over Buxton, recipient of a new $100 million contract, for the foreseeable future. Outside of an ostensibly minor procedure conducted last week to clean up scar tissue and frayed ligaments in his knee, there's nothing but hope to guide us toward a significantly better outcome for Buxton next year. "What ends up typically happening is the scar tissue and otherwise creates more of that inflammation when you pound on it. So, now let's clear out some of that and hopefully that'll alleviate some of that stress going forward," said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey. Hopefully. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Perhaps the most perplexing and inscrutable health situation among many faced by the Twins franchise. In August of 2021, Kirilloff underwent season-ending surgery to address a torn wrist ligament, with the hope that creating more spacing would alleviate the pain experienced while engaging his elite swing. It didn't work. Or at least not for long. Kiriloff battled more pain in spring training and the early season, took a short break, went to Triple-A, dominated for a month, returned to the majors, and then it all came roaring back. The pain, the warped swing mechanics, the endless ground balls. Cortisone injections offered only brief respite from his performance-draining affliction. Thus, Kirilloff and the Twins turned to a last-ditch option: a more invasive surgery that involves "breaking the ulna and shortening it before the insertion of a metal plate and screws," another effort to create space in his wrist. "I really hope it doesn’t get to that," the 24-year-old had lamented earlier in the season. While relatively common for the general population, this procedure is rare for professional athletes and there aren't many past examples to reference. In a recent update to the media, Falvey mentioned that Kirilloff "hasn't ramped up his hitting progression yet," adding that there have been no setbacks or delays but "we just don't want him to hit yet." Kirilloff had undergone the surgery six weeks prior, for whatever that's worth. I want so badly to feel optimistic about Kirilloff because his talent level and upside can be game-changing for this franchise – if only he could tap them for a prolonged period on the field. But it's getting really difficult to find that optimism, and his wayward status creates all sorts of planning headaches for the front office. Royce Lewis, SS Speaking of planning headaches, we have the shortstop position. Lewis showed the makings of a long-term fixture during his brief audition this year, but unfortunately that concluded in late May when he re-tore the very same knee ligament he'd just spent a year rehabbing from reconstructive surgery. In somewhat positive news, he only partially tore the ACL this time, and surgeons put a novel twist on his second knee operation; mentions of a "brace" being involved in this variation led Lucas Seehafer to conclude they employed a technique called lateral tenodesis. While promising in its potential to prevent another injury, Lucas framed this technique as somewhat experimental, adding that "the long-term outcomes for this procedure in the athletic population, and specifically the MLB population, [are] unknown." Even if he's able to come back with a structurally sound, twice-repaired knee ligament, it remains to be seen whether Lewis will be able to maintain the full speed, quickness, and lateral agility that were on display even after his first surgery. Like Kirilloff, Lewis brings much to the table as a building block for this franchise, which makes his uncertainty all the more unfortunate, surfarcing some difficult short-term decisions for the front office with regards to the future at shortstop. Chris Paddack, SP The Twins knew they were taking on risk when they acquired Paddack as the centerpiece of the Taylor Rogers trade, but even in that context, they've pretty much stumbled into a worst-case scenario. Paddack made it through five starts before the partial tear in his UCL, already once repaired via Tommy John surgery, gave way and necessitated to a second TJ procedure. The history of pitchers who have undergone this ligament replacement surgery twice is not the most encouraging. Mike Clevinger, one of the most accomplished pitchers to undergo a Tommy John revision surgery (in November 2020), returned to action this year and while he's managed to throw more than 100 innings, Clevinger is nowhere near his pre-surgery form. There are complicated realities at play with getting this repair a second time that have diminished the rate of success. "On average, the typical TJ revision isn’t as successful as the typical primary TJ,” said Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, an orthopedic surgeon and professor, in a story for the San Diego Union-Tribune. "The first time you drill a hole in the bone it is fresh and clean, but if it happens again you already have a hole there and that hole is filled with scar tissue. … Scar tissue isn’t as healthy as original tissue. It doesn’t have the same blood supply; (it is) not as durable.” Paddack has already acknowledged that he's realistically targeting an August return next year, setting expectations for a 14-month recovery time and reducing the likelihood he'll be able to make a significant impact in 2023. We probably should collectively drop the notion of Paddack pitching in the Twins rotation again before his team control expires after 2024. Kenta Maeda, SP Relatively speaking, Maeda's outlook is less complicated than Paddack's since he's coming off his first Tommy John surgery. However, the veteran righty still hasn't taken the mound 13 months after his own procedure "with a twist" – an internal brace designed to shorten the recovery timetable from the typical 12-16 months down to 9-12. Alas, he'll be nearly 18 months removed by the time he hits the mound again next spring in Ft. Myers. That Maeda didn't make it back this year isn't a big deal – the timing of his surgery late last year was always going to make it tough, and the Twins being out of contention in September rendered it a moot point. The bigger concern here is that he'll be a 35-year-old coming back from significant elbow surgery and a very long layoff, with 173 total innings pitched over the past three seasons. It's hard to foresee him successfully taking on a full starter's workload in his final year under contract, so I'll be curious to see how he fits into the 2022 plan. Josh Winder, SP Winder was limited to 72 innings last year, and will finish near the same total this year, because of recurring "shoulder impingement" issues that he and the club appear unable to fully diagnose or solve. “He’s felt good for periods of time. He’s thrown the ball well for periods of time. There’s no singular reason why we’re looking at this and thinking, ‘Well, this is why this is happening,’ to be honest,” manager Rocco Baldelli said in late July, shortly after Winder had been placed on IL for a second time with what was by then being termed impingement syndrome. “It’s just soreness that keeps creeping back in there.” Winder wouldn't make it back to the big-league mound for another seven weeks after that, and while he was able to return for four starts in September, he wasn't very effective, posting a 5.59 ERA in 19 ⅓ innings. Much like with Mahle, it's difficult to feel confident in an injury clearing up when nobody can get to the bottom of it. Winder, for his part, has suggested he "might just be at a predisposition for this type of injury." Which makes him pretty challenging to plan around, and that's a big hit because he showed the makings of a signature product of this front office's pitching pipeline. The Twins liked him so much they went out of their way to keep him on the Opening Day pitching staff this year. They were envisioning him as an integral part of their rotation mix this year. I don't see how they can keep doing so going forward. An Uncertain Future In the recent media scrum where he updated a litany of injury situations, Falvey remarked on the avalanche of IL stints that buried the team this year, reasoning that – to some extent – you're at the mercy of fate. Like all things in baseball, injuries ebb and flow. "I'm hopeful, for a lot of reasons that this is our spike-up year and that there's some regression built in going forward," Falvey said. A reasonable mindset, from a basic analytical standpoint. And yet, as these seven examples show, many of the dismal developments in the spike-up year that was 2022 could prove thorny going forward.
  15. Bailey Ober has missed plenty of time due to injury in his professional career, including the majority of 2022. He’s finally made it back just a bit too late. He’ll finish the year in the Twins rotation, but perhaps we could ask, should he stay there long term? Image courtesy of Nick Wosika, USA TODAY Sports The Twins have a lot of returning starting pitching going into 2023, though none of their arms carry too much confidence to be leaned on. Keep your fingers crossed that they bring in a new name that isn’t another Bundy or Archer type, but doing so will push some arms out of the Opening Day rotation. Bailey Ober may be the top candidate to be bumped from a starting role. Injury Concerns Bailey Ober has missed tremendous time in his career due to injury. In 2021, he blew his previous career high in Innings Pitched out of the water with 108. After looking like he had built a foundation to push off of, he followed it up with just 60 innings to date so far in 2022. The fallout from his lost season is that even if healthy in 2023, the Twins will have to handle him with kid gloves yet again. A jump in innings from 60ish to the mid-100s seems like a bit of a stretch. Also worth considering is that the likelihood that he’ll get healthier with age after having such a colorful injury history is incredibly low. Moving into a bullpen role where inning count won’t be an issue may be advantageous. Maximizing Pitch Mix Ober has a pitch mix that’s begging to be simplified, particularly in regard to his changeup. Each of his pitches gets a modest amount of whiffs, but the changeup is the one that has been crushed so far this season. The pitch has allowed a .391 BA and .522 SLG with expected numbers backing up these results. A move to the bullpen could mean he drops this pitch altogether. Plenty of pitchers go this route, and in Ober’s case with two definitive breaking balls, his splits in short stints against lefties shouldn’t be a disaster. His fastball may also play up higher, as we often already see awkward swings due to his size and extension on the pitch. Adding any more velocity in a transition could turn it into a legitimate weapon. The Clock is Ticking It may be a surprise to some, but Ober is already 27 years old. Look no further than top prospect Matt Canterino for an example of how time can catch up. The Twins toyed with Canterino as a starting pitcher through recurring injuries until his elbow finally fully gave way. He’ll now miss much of the 2023 season and will return at nearly 26 years of age having never established an innings floor or reached the majors. Ober is a less extreme example. He’s surpassed 100 innings in a season and made the majors, but it still seems like expecting a full starter's workload could become a futile effort very soon. He could similarly pull up with a significant injury one of these days if he continues to be pushed. A move to the bullpen doesn’t negate that chance, but it may pay off to change up what hasn’t worked to this point in his career while still providing value to the Twins. It also may take until 2024 if everything goes well for him to build up to even 150ish innings to be a starting pitcher, at which point he’ll be 29 years old. If he keeps losing seasons to injury as he nears his 30s, time is bound to eventually run out. Should the Twins actively look to move Ober to the bullpen next season? Not necessarily. He’s been relatively effective as a #3 or #4 starter and even that caliber of pitcher has been hard for the Twins to develop. That being said, in theory, the Twins have a returning staff of Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, and eventually Chris Paddack with several younger pitchers from AAA in the mix. If the Twins can bring in another quality starting pitcher, somebody is going to lose out. There’s a case to be made that Ober is the prime option. Would you agree with a move to the bullpen for Ober? Has he shown enough to get one last shot in the rotation? View full article
  16. Coming into the 2022 Major League Baseball season the Minnesota Twins were largely projected as a runner-up to the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central Division. Now with the regular season coming to a close and it not playing out that way, how would you define the year as a whole? Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports After limping through the last impactful series of the season against the Cleveland Guardians over the weekend, Minnesota’s postseason hopes were all but cooked. Having led the division for a vast majority of the season, injuries mounted and ultimately ruined any potential to hang on. That’s not to say injuries were the defining factor in falling short, Minnesota contributed to that plenty on their own as well. Relatively early on in the year, it was apparent that the AL Central was going to fade behind the competition. Chicago’s ineptitude was injury-related as well, but they were also horribly managed by Tony La Russa, and consistently played bad baseball defensively. Cleveland has a great manager in Terry Francona, and as expected, their pitching kept them in it while young players got their feet wet. Minnesota’s place in all of that got shuffled early after a strong May, but it shouldn’t be lost that no one seemed to want to win this division down the stretch. Therein lies the definition of the 2022 Minnesota Twins season: A failure to capitalize. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine didn’t throw all of Jim Pohlad’s resources at the 2022 season to suggest it was World Series or bust. Nothing about a bullpen addition of only Joe Smith said, “We’re all in.” However, what was done should’ve been enough and at every juncture, the Twins came up short. When the trade deadline came around and there was an opportunity to improve a winning ball club, the front office added a top-level starter in Tyler Mahle. They addressed the bullpen by bringing in Michael Fulmer and Jorge Lopez. Then, as it had all season long, it quickly was wiped out on and off the field. Every team has injuries, but very few had as many and those as impactful as the Twins. Byron Buxton played hurt from the jump. Pitching was constantly in flux. Alex Kirilloff never got better. They won through them, for a time. When Minnesota would create their own fortunes, generating base runners and putting guys in scoring position, they consistently failed to capitalize. Baserunning was bad, defense equally so. All season long the Twins found themselves with the opportunity to control their own destiny, run away and hide with the division, and create noise. Instead, they responded with more trips to the injured list, poor situational hitting, and an overall lack of execution. If we were to reflect on the season as a whole, taking a bit of a step back from the emotions down the stretch, maybe we should've seen this coming. After all, a .500 record was largely what was projected from the get-go. For a good portion of the season, all this team amounted to a .500 ballclub. Ultimately though, after creating their own good fortune, a wilting happened and nothing was done to substantiate it. There’s certainly a handful of different ways to get where Minnesota finished, but as The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman put it, the Twins took the least enjoyable way to get there. Good teams capitalize on their opportunities, and although this one was masked as a good team for a while, they simply never capitalized on what was in front of them. View full article
  17. The Twins have a lot of returning starting pitching going into 2023, though none of their arms carry too much confidence to be leaned on. Keep your fingers crossed that they bring in a new name that isn’t another Bundy or Archer type, but doing so will push some arms out of the Opening Day rotation. Bailey Ober may be the top candidate to be bumped from a starting role. Injury Concerns Bailey Ober has missed tremendous time in his career due to injury. In 2021, he blew his previous career high in Innings Pitched out of the water with 108. After looking like he had built a foundation to push off of, he followed it up with just 60 innings to date so far in 2022. The fallout from his lost season is that even if healthy in 2023, the Twins will have to handle him with kid gloves yet again. A jump in innings from 60ish to the mid-100s seems like a bit of a stretch. Also worth considering is that the likelihood that he’ll get healthier with age after having such a colorful injury history is incredibly low. Moving into a bullpen role where inning count won’t be an issue may be advantageous. Maximizing Pitch Mix Ober has a pitch mix that’s begging to be simplified, particularly in regard to his changeup. Each of his pitches gets a modest amount of whiffs, but the changeup is the one that has been crushed so far this season. The pitch has allowed a .391 BA and .522 SLG with expected numbers backing up these results. A move to the bullpen could mean he drops this pitch altogether. Plenty of pitchers go this route, and in Ober’s case with two definitive breaking balls, his splits in short stints against lefties shouldn’t be a disaster. His fastball may also play up higher, as we often already see awkward swings due to his size and extension on the pitch. Adding any more velocity in a transition could turn it into a legitimate weapon. The Clock is Ticking It may be a surprise to some, but Ober is already 27 years old. Look no further than top prospect Matt Canterino for an example of how time can catch up. The Twins toyed with Canterino as a starting pitcher through recurring injuries until his elbow finally fully gave way. He’ll now miss much of the 2023 season and will return at nearly 26 years of age having never established an innings floor or reached the majors. Ober is a less extreme example. He’s surpassed 100 innings in a season and made the majors, but it still seems like expecting a full starter's workload could become a futile effort very soon. He could similarly pull up with a significant injury one of these days if he continues to be pushed. A move to the bullpen doesn’t negate that chance, but it may pay off to change up what hasn’t worked to this point in his career while still providing value to the Twins. It also may take until 2024 if everything goes well for him to build up to even 150ish innings to be a starting pitcher, at which point he’ll be 29 years old. If he keeps losing seasons to injury as he nears his 30s, time is bound to eventually run out. Should the Twins actively look to move Ober to the bullpen next season? Not necessarily. He’s been relatively effective as a #3 or #4 starter and even that caliber of pitcher has been hard for the Twins to develop. That being said, in theory, the Twins have a returning staff of Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, and eventually Chris Paddack with several younger pitchers from AAA in the mix. If the Twins can bring in another quality starting pitcher, somebody is going to lose out. There’s a case to be made that Ober is the prime option. Would you agree with a move to the bullpen for Ober? Has he shown enough to get one last shot in the rotation?
  18. With an upgrade atop the rotation shaping up as a clear need at the trade deadline, the division leaders targeted and acquired a frontline starter. They gave up a hefty prospect package to gain extended control, but now this big trade is in danger of blowing up completely after underwhelming performance gave way to a mysterious shoulder injury. Oh, did you think I was referencing Tyler Mahle? No, I'm talking about Frankie Montas. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker and Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today Frankie Montas was one of the hottest names on the market at the trade deadline, and was known to be pursued by Minnesota last offseason. The Yankees acquired him alongside reliever Lou Trivino in exchange for four prospects on August 1st. The results have not been as hoped. Montas posted a 6.35 ERA in eight turns, including just one quality start, before undergoing an MRI on his shoulder this week. He landed on the injured list and there's a pretty good chance he won't pitch again for the Yankees in 2022. Barring further clarity around what's affecting him, Montas figures to be a bit of a question mark heading into next season, too. The Twins can obviously relate. They've gone through a similar ordeal with their own prized deadline pickup. Like Montas, Tyler Mahle had some known shoulder issues when he was acquired. Like Montas, those issues have now grown more problematic, even though – in both cases – MRI results revealed no structural damage, before or after the trades. This is what differentiates the Mahle outcome from, say, the Chris Paddack move, where the Twins accepted a rather extreme level of risk in the name of acquiring extended control of a good starter. That was a measured risk on its own, but it shouldn't be grouped with the one they took on Mahle, who (like Montas) was more typical of a deadline gambit. It's the nature of the beast: as a leveraged buyer in a seller's market, under big pressure to improve, you're going to have to take risks – like ponying up big prospect capital for a talented arm with ambiguous health concerns, or buying high on a breakout All-Star reliever who lacks a convincing track record. Those who constantly advocate for these types of assertive showings from the front office now sound rather toothless when criticizing them in hindsight. While we can all see the overall results have been unsatisfactory – albeit hardly disastrous for a reigning last-place team – this front office was audacious in shaking things up. Isn't that what we want? The big deadline moves. Locking down Byron Buxton with a creative extension. Trading their highest-upside pitching prospect for Sonny Gray. Unloading Josh Donaldson's contract. Signing Carlos Correa to a historic deal (albeit at the expense of investment in pitching). And going back a bit further, let's not forget about trading José Berríos to Toronto at the 2021 deadline, thus letting the Blue Jays sign him to a massive extension while flipping him into one of their breakthrough pitching prospects. That one looks pretty good now. Others don't. And it's beyond valid to criticize the front office for these many moves that haven't panned out, especially those like the Paddack trade, which carried huge red flags from the start. (Although, if we're being honest, they were kinda right about Taylor Rogers, just as they were Berríos?) There's a big gap between "merits criticism" and "needs replacement." I'm not close to the latter point with Derek Falvey or Thad Levine, although changes at various levels of the organization are well warranted. In terms of leadership vision, we've experienced the opposite approach – one characterized by risk aversion and playing it safe. I dare say that's what sunk them last year when their biggest additions were Alex Colomé and JA Happ. As the saying goes, scared money don't make money. Sometimes those bold gambles don't turn out as hoped, and you've got to live with the consequences. It happens even to the Yankees. That won't stop them from staying aggressive and shooting their shots in the future. It shouldn't stop the Twins either, albeit at a different scale given their resources. View full article
  19. After limping through the last impactful series of the season against the Cleveland Guardians over the weekend, Minnesota’s postseason hopes were all but cooked. Having led the division for a vast majority of the season, injuries mounted and ultimately ruined any potential to hang on. That’s not to say injuries were the defining factor in falling short, Minnesota contributed to that plenty on their own as well. Relatively early on in the year, it was apparent that the AL Central was going to fade behind the competition. Chicago’s ineptitude was injury-related as well, but they were also horribly managed by Tony La Russa, and consistently played bad baseball defensively. Cleveland has a great manager in Terry Francona, and as expected, their pitching kept them in it while young players got their feet wet. Minnesota’s place in all of that got shuffled early after a strong May, but it shouldn’t be lost that no one seemed to want to win this division down the stretch. Therein lies the definition of the 2022 Minnesota Twins season: A failure to capitalize. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine didn’t throw all of Jim Pohlad’s resources at the 2022 season to suggest it was World Series or bust. Nothing about a bullpen addition of only Joe Smith said, “We’re all in.” However, what was done should’ve been enough and at every juncture, the Twins came up short. When the trade deadline came around and there was an opportunity to improve a winning ball club, the front office added a top-level starter in Tyler Mahle. They addressed the bullpen by bringing in Michael Fulmer and Jorge Lopez. Then, as it had all season long, it quickly was wiped out on and off the field. Every team has injuries, but very few had as many and those as impactful as the Twins. Byron Buxton played hurt from the jump. Pitching was constantly in flux. Alex Kirilloff never got better. They won through them, for a time. When Minnesota would create their own fortunes, generating base runners and putting guys in scoring position, they consistently failed to capitalize. Baserunning was bad, defense equally so. All season long the Twins found themselves with the opportunity to control their own destiny, run away and hide with the division, and create noise. Instead, they responded with more trips to the injured list, poor situational hitting, and an overall lack of execution. If we were to reflect on the season as a whole, taking a bit of a step back from the emotions down the stretch, maybe we should've seen this coming. After all, a .500 record was largely what was projected from the get-go. For a good portion of the season, all this team amounted to a .500 ballclub. Ultimately though, after creating their own good fortune, a wilting happened and nothing was done to substantiate it. There’s certainly a handful of different ways to get where Minnesota finished, but as The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman put it, the Twins took the least enjoyable way to get there. Good teams capitalize on their opportunities, and although this one was masked as a good team for a while, they simply never capitalized on what was in front of them.
  20. Frankie Montas was one of the hottest names on the market at the trade deadline, and was known to be pursued by Minnesota last offseason. The Yankees acquired him alongside reliever Lou Trivino in exchange for four prospects on August 1st. The results have not been as hoped. Montas posted a 6.35 ERA in eight turns, including just one quality start, before undergoing an MRI on his shoulder this week. He landed on the injured list and there's a pretty good chance he won't pitch again for the Yankees in 2022. Barring further clarity around what's affecting him, Montas figures to be a bit of a question mark heading into next season, too. The Twins can obviously relate. They've gone through a similar ordeal with their own prized deadline pickup. Like Montas, Tyler Mahle had some known shoulder issues when he was acquired. Like Montas, those issues have now grown more problematic, even though – in both cases – MRI results revealed no structural damage, before or after the trades. This is what differentiates the Mahle outcome from, say, the Chris Paddack move, where the Twins accepted a rather extreme level of risk in the name of acquiring extended control of a good starter. That was a measured risk on its own, but it shouldn't be grouped with the one they took on Mahle, who (like Montas) was more typical of a deadline gambit. It's the nature of the beast: as a leveraged buyer in a seller's market, under big pressure to improve, you're going to have to take risks – like ponying up big prospect capital for a talented arm with ambiguous health concerns, or buying high on a breakout All-Star reliever who lacks a convincing track record. Those who constantly advocate for these types of assertive showings from the front office now sound rather toothless when criticizing them in hindsight. While we can all see the overall results have been unsatisfactory – albeit hardly disastrous for a reigning last-place team – this front office was audacious in shaking things up. Isn't that what we want? The big deadline moves. Locking down Byron Buxton with a creative extension. Trading their highest-upside pitching prospect for Sonny Gray. Unloading Josh Donaldson's contract. Signing Carlos Correa to a historic deal (albeit at the expense of investment in pitching). And going back a bit further, let's not forget about trading José Berríos to Toronto at the 2021 deadline, thus letting the Blue Jays sign him to a massive extension while flipping him into one of their breakthrough pitching prospects. That one looks pretty good now. Others don't. And it's beyond valid to criticize the front office for these many moves that haven't panned out, especially those like the Paddack trade, which carried huge red flags from the start. (Although, if we're being honest, they were kinda right about Taylor Rogers, just as they were Berríos?) There's a big gap between "merits criticism" and "needs replacement." I'm not close to the latter point with Derek Falvey or Thad Levine, although changes at various levels of the organization are well warranted. In terms of leadership vision, we've experienced the opposite approach – one characterized by risk aversion and playing it safe. I dare say that's what sunk them last year when their biggest additions were Alex Colomé and JA Happ. As the saying goes, scared money don't make money. Sometimes those bold gambles don't turn out as hoped, and you've got to live with the consequences. It happens even to the Yankees. That won't stop them from staying aggressive and shooting their shots in the future. It shouldn't stop the Twins either, albeit at a different scale given their resources.
  21. Minnesota's strong start to the season changed expectations for the 2022 campaign. However, the club might have just taken the long route to return to being a .500 team. Image courtesy of Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports Baseball's grueling 162-game season is something that sets it apart from the other major sports leagues. A team can play well for a short period, but flaws become evident as a team deals with the up-and-down nature of a long season. Minnesota's flaws showed themselves in the season's second half, but the team might end up where they were supposed to be from the beginning. Entering the 2022 season, many projection systems had the Twins pegged to finish around the .500 mark. FanGraphs projected the Twins to finish 82-80, which translated to a second-place finish in the AL Central behind the White Sox. After finishing in last place in 2021, this was quite the jump for a team that didn't make significant upgrades in the offseason. Carlos Correa's signing changed the vibe surrounding the team, but one player can't push a team to playoff contention. The Twins early season success changed many fans' expectations for where the team was heading in 2022. Minnesota finished the season's first two months with a 30-21 record (.588 W-L%) as they looked like one of baseball's best teams. Byron Buxton was off to an MVP start, and Luis Arraez seemed to be able to put any ball in play. All the right buttons were being pushed, and it looked like the Twins could walk to the AL Central title. June and July didn't go as smoothly for the Twins as the team posted a sub .500 record in both months. Minnesota's bullpen issues became apparent, and injuries started to mount with all parts of the roster. With the trade deadline approaching, the front office had a clear shopping list, with the team needing multiple relievers and a frontline starting pitcher. Luckily, the team could cross all these needs off their list, but not all the moves have panned out as planned. Tyler Mahle was the team's biggest tradeline acquisition, and a shoulder injury has limited him to four starts with the Twins. Since being acquired, he has spent more time on the injured list than on the active roster. Jorge Lopez was the best reliever acquired at the deadline as the tea immediately gave him the closer role. In his Twins tenure, he has posted a negative WPA, and Minnesota has moved him to a lower-leverage role. Michael Fulmer has performed the best out of trade deadline acquisitions with a 3.24 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. Minnesota's front office used prospect capital to keep the team in the AL Central race, and mounting injuries have hindered that progress. Every team deals with injuries, but few teams have faced the number of injuries the Twins have accrued in 2022. Minnesota has put more players on the injured list than any other American League team. In fact, the Twins can create a competitive roster with the players currently on the injured list. When Minnesota was playing well, the team could hide injuries with solid performances from other players. Now, injuries will be the team's theme for the 2022 season, and those concerns will follow the club throughout the offseason. There have been exciting moments for the 2022 Twins with early surprises and some strong performances. However, this team looks more likely to finish the season around .500 with double-digit players on the injured list. In the offseason, there will be time to reevaluate the club's future direction, but for now, the team has taken the long road back to mediocrity. Do you think the Twins will finish the season with a .500 record? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  22. As we pick up the pieces on this 2022 Twins season, which looked so promising for so long, there will be plenty of hindsight analysis, parsing of blame. But it's all overshadowed by the ugly elephant in the room: a catastrophic, unrelenting onslaught of injuries. The reality is that, while this doesn't absolve the coaching staff or front office of any culpability, there was no preparing for this. No team could have survived the almost incomprehensible level of soul-crushing attrition the Twins faced this year. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker, USA Today Sports The purpose of this article is try and lay out, in no uncertain terms, the insurmountable magnitude of injuries and medical odysseys to which this year's Twins roster has been subjected. There are worthwhile conversations to be had about the way this team is managing players physically, evaluating new acquisitions, and handling rehab plans. But let's take a step back. When you acknowledge that, to a large degree, injury rates and recoveries are driven by luck and uncontrollable forces, I don't see much of a case for holding the manager or even the front office primarily accountable for what's gone down this season. There's no planning for, or adapting, to the way injuries have impacted this roster. There's no managing a bunch of backups and fourth-string options to sustained contention. I recognize this is very unsatisfying for those who demand accountability and want to see heads roll in the wake of such a disappointing turn of events. But when you remove emotion and try to see the situation objectively, I'm not sure how much more you could expect from the execs and decision makers dealt an unwinnable hand. Could they have done certain things better? Of course. Was it going to turn the unstoppable tide that has plunged this ship asunder? No. This side-by-side comparison of the injured lists for Cleveland and Minnesota, here in the heart of the stretch run, kind of says it all. Sixteen Twins players on IL, including several vital cornerstones, compared to three Guardians. How do you realistically overcome that? Let's review all these injuries that have torpedoed a promising season, and the context behind them. I've tried to order them from most devastating to least. Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. When people talk about the 2022 season and what's gone wrong, I feel like this calamity gets glossed over way too much. To me, it is the '1A' headline for all the team's unmet potential. This horrible twist of fate is what I would categorize as unthinkably disastrous. Lewis and Kirilloff are two of the most important assets for this franchise. (I ranked them #3 and #4 during the offseason, behind Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco – also both currently on IL.) They are at the ages and junctures of development where you'd expect them to start making a real impact the major-league level, and both showed that ability in brief flashes this year. However, both of their seasons were ended in premature fashion. And in BOTH cases, major surgery was required to address the SAME injury that knocked them out for the previous season. (Did I mention this is essentially the third straight lost season for both?) Kirilloff's wrist surgery from last year didn't take, so now he's undergone a more invasive, last-ditch operation to try and alleviate the debilitating issue. Lewis, during his first game back in what appeared to be a permanent call-up, tore the very same ACL he had reconstructive surgery on last year. You can't make this stuff up. And what's most crushing about it all is that both of these absolutely critical players will inevitably be shrouded in doubt going forward. Can Lewis rebound from a second straight surgery on the same knee, especially when his game is founded on agility and foot speed? Will this somewhat experimental surgery for Kirilloff correct a problem that's been plaguing him for years now, sapping his most elite skill? Realistically, it's hard to feel much assurance on either front, and for that reason it's hard to feel optimistic about the Twins' immediate future. It really can't be overstated how disruptive these unforeseeable developments are for a front office trying to build a championship. Tyler Mahle and Chris Paddack. We all understand that Mahle and Paddack came with known injury risk to varying degrees. At the same time, so do a lot of trades. You've got to believe a club carefully reviews medicals and gains a level of comfort before pulling the trigger on significant deals like these ones. Yeah, it's easy to scream "incompetence" in hindsight. Too easy. There are a lot of top-of-field experts involved in these decisions. Maybe, taking each player on his own, it shouldn't be all that surprising that Mahle or Paddack succumbed to (likely) season-ending arm injuries. But for both to do so? And not only that, but for it happen SO quickly in both cases? Paddack made it to his fifth start before his partially torn UCL gave way, requiring elbow surgery. Mahle lasted only three before his velocity nosedived and a mysterious shoulder injury threatened to end his campaign. A combination of worst-case injury scenarios. Of course. And it really hurts, because the talent evaluation in both cases was sound. I genuinely believe that if healthy these would be the Twins' two best starters. Alas, much like Lewis and Kirilloff, their uncertain futures complicate the front office's planning going forward. Paddack will be coming back from a second Tommy John surgery. Who knows what's going on with Mahle but it seems impossible we'll go into the offseason feeling confident about his shoulder, with one year of team control left. Byron Buxton. Look, we know injuries for Buxton have to be expected and accounted for. They're baked into his legacy, and his new contract. Still, this year the gravity of his durability issues came into sharper focus than ever, primarily because it constitutes a "healthy" season for Buxton. He's already made the second-most plate appearances of his career. He avoided the injured list until August. He still might get to 100 games! And yet, that old injury phantom has conspicuously followed Buxton all year, ever since he came up slamming his hand into the dirt at Fenway one week in. Despite his mightiest efforts, he couldn't outrun his eternal tormentor, and now this season is wrapping up like so many before it: Buxton on the sidelines, watching his team fall short. I guess the point of this blurb is not so much about the micro misfortune of injuries sabotaging another year for Buxton, but more an observation about his appropriateness as face of the franchise: The Twins to lost their way into drafting one of the most talented, electric, special players in modern baseball history who also happens to be the (?) single-most injury prone at that level. Ryan Jeffers and Trevor Larnach. I group these two together because while neither injury was totally unforeseeable – catchers get hurt a lot by nature, and Larnach was also sidelined for much of last year – they definitely qualify as bad luck, and both absences led to huge drop-offs in terms of backup plans. Jeffers was having a reasonably solid season before suffering a thumb fracture in mid-July, which may cost him his entire second half. Larnach developed a sports hernia requiring surgery in mid-June, and still hasn't made it back yet. In both cases, the path to returning has arduously dragged well beyond original estimates, and continues to do so – another unfortunate commonality. With Jeffers sidelined, the Twins were left at catcher with the husk of Gary Sánchez and trade acquisition Sandy León, who'd been toiling in the minors for Cleveland. It's been ugly, much like the outfield in the absence of Larnach, Kirilloff and Buxton. Bailey Ober and Josh Winder. Winder is no longer on the injured list, but I view him much as the same as Ober: a homegrown talent, 25 years old and coming off a great season, clearly a core part of the Twins pitching plans. Granted, they both had their own warning labels coming into this season, but no clear red flags. As it turns out, both will end up maxing out around 50 innings pitched in the majors – big setback seasons for developing pitchers who will now be challenged to rebuild their workloads once again. In each case, the injury seems not well understood. Ober went down with a groin injury first framed as minor that never seemed to heal. Winder's had recurring bouts with an impinged, but structurally sound, shoulder dating back to last year. On their own, these are losses you could withstand, which is why they're relatively low on this list. But combined with all of the above? Getting almost nothing from Ober, or Winder, or Paddack, or their marquee deadline acquisition Mahle? How do you cobble together a decent rotation through all of that? The only Twins starting pitchers that have truly managed to stay healthy are the guys they signed cheaply to fill the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Jorgé Alcala and Matt Canterino. These two are lumped as high-upside relievers who could have had transformative impacts on the Twins bullpen, but instead fell victim to essentially worst-case scenarios with their elbows. Alcala missed all of this season; Canterino never made it to the majors and will likely miss all of the next one. Maybe these blows would've been easier to sustain if some of the relief contingency plans held up. However... Danny Coulombe, Cody Stashak, and Jhon Romero. None of these three were projected to be pivotal late-inning weapons, but they were all viewed as important parts of the depth mix. Coulombe and Romero were on the Opening Day roster, and Stashak a late cut. All suffered season-ending injuries early on. Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak. I have these two at the bottom because, unlike everyone above, no one realistically expected much out of them this year. But it would have been nice to get something, *anything* from either. Both have been derailed so much for both that it's easy to forget that, coming out of the 2020 season, we were envisioning each as key long-term pieces for the pitching staff. You can look back now and say, "Well the front office shouldn't have been planning around these guys." Or they shouldn't have traded for Paddack or Mahle and the associated risk. Or they shouldn't have committed to Buxton as a centerpiece, or they should have better medical personnel and training philosophies, and so on. There may be truth to these things. But you bet on players you like, and you accept a certain amount of risk. Otherwise, you end up where the previous front office was for so long, treading water in a pointless middle ground. At the end of the day, injuries happen. They're never as predictable or controllable or correctable as people want to believe. Sadly, this scourge has been especially prevalent for the Twins and, more sadly, a lot of these health woes are going to carry forward in terms of their implications. I firmly believe the front office built a team capable of winning the division this year, and Rocco Baldelli was the guy to lead that group. For a while, it was all coming together as planned. Unfortunately, the current team barely resembles what was built. View full article
  23. Baseball's grueling 162-game season is something that sets it apart from the other major sports leagues. A team can play well for a short period, but flaws become evident as a team deals with the up-and-down nature of a long season. Minnesota's flaws showed themselves in the season's second half, but the team might end up where they were supposed to be from the beginning. Entering the 2022 season, many projection systems had the Twins pegged to finish around the .500 mark. FanGraphs projected the Twins to finish 82-80, which translated to a second-place finish in the AL Central behind the White Sox. After finishing in last place in 2021, this was quite the jump for a team that didn't make significant upgrades in the offseason. Carlos Correa's signing changed the vibe surrounding the team, but one player can't push a team to playoff contention. The Twins early season success changed many fans' expectations for where the team was heading in 2022. Minnesota finished the season's first two months with a 30-21 record (.588 W-L%) as they looked like one of baseball's best teams. Byron Buxton was off to an MVP start, and Luis Arraez seemed to be able to put any ball in play. All the right buttons were being pushed, and it looked like the Twins could walk to the AL Central title. June and July didn't go as smoothly for the Twins as the team posted a sub .500 record in both months. Minnesota's bullpen issues became apparent, and injuries started to mount with all parts of the roster. With the trade deadline approaching, the front office had a clear shopping list, with the team needing multiple relievers and a frontline starting pitcher. Luckily, the team could cross all these needs off their list, but not all the moves have panned out as planned. Tyler Mahle was the team's biggest tradeline acquisition, and a shoulder injury has limited him to four starts with the Twins. Since being acquired, he has spent more time on the injured list than on the active roster. Jorge Lopez was the best reliever acquired at the deadline as the tea immediately gave him the closer role. In his Twins tenure, he has posted a negative WPA, and Minnesota has moved him to a lower-leverage role. Michael Fulmer has performed the best out of trade deadline acquisitions with a 3.24 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. Minnesota's front office used prospect capital to keep the team in the AL Central race, and mounting injuries have hindered that progress. Every team deals with injuries, but few teams have faced the number of injuries the Twins have accrued in 2022. Minnesota has put more players on the injured list than any other American League team. In fact, the Twins can create a competitive roster with the players currently on the injured list. When Minnesota was playing well, the team could hide injuries with solid performances from other players. Now, injuries will be the team's theme for the 2022 season, and those concerns will follow the club throughout the offseason. There have been exciting moments for the 2022 Twins with early surprises and some strong performances. However, this team looks more likely to finish the season around .500 with double-digit players on the injured list. In the offseason, there will be time to reevaluate the club's future direction, but for now, the team has taken the long road back to mediocrity. Do you think the Twins will finish the season with a .500 record? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  24. The purpose of this article is try and lay out, in no uncertain terms, the insurmountable magnitude of injuries and medical odysseys to which this year's Twins roster has been subjected. There are worthwhile conversations to be had about the way this team is managing players physically, evaluating new acquisitions, and handling rehab plans. But let's take a step back. When you acknowledge that, to a large degree, injury rates and recoveries are driven by luck and uncontrollable forces, I don't see much of a case for holding the manager or even the front office primarily accountable for what's gone down this season. There's no planning for, or adapting, to the way injuries have impacted this roster. There's no managing a bunch of backups and fourth-string options to sustained contention. I recognize this is very unsatisfying for those who demand accountability and want to see heads roll in the wake of such a disappointing turn of events. But when you remove emotion and try to see the situation objectively, I'm not sure how much more you could expect from the execs and decision makers dealt an unwinnable hand. Could they have done certain things better? Of course. Was it going to turn the unstoppable tide that has plunged this ship asunder? No. This side-by-side comparison of the injured lists for Cleveland and Minnesota, here in the heart of the stretch run, kind of says it all. Sixteen Twins players on IL, including several vital cornerstones, compared to three Guardians. How do you realistically overcome that? Let's review all these injuries that have torpedoed a promising season, and the context behind them. I've tried to order them from most devastating to least. Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. When people talk about the 2022 season and what's gone wrong, I feel like this calamity gets glossed over way too much. To me, it is the '1A' headline for all the team's unmet potential. This horrible twist of fate is what I would categorize as unthinkably disastrous. Lewis and Kirilloff are two of the most important assets for this franchise. (I ranked them #3 and #4 during the offseason, behind Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco – also both currently on IL.) They are at the ages and junctures of development where you'd expect them to start making a real impact the major-league level, and both showed that ability in brief flashes this year. However, both of their seasons were ended in premature fashion. And in BOTH cases, major surgery was required to address the SAME injury that knocked them out for the previous season. (Did I mention this is essentially the third straight lost season for both?) Kirilloff's wrist surgery from last year didn't take, so now he's undergone a more invasive, last-ditch operation to try and alleviate the debilitating issue. Lewis, during his first game back in what appeared to be a permanent call-up, tore the very same ACL he had reconstructive surgery on last year. You can't make this stuff up. And what's most crushing about it all is that both of these absolutely critical players will inevitably be shrouded in doubt going forward. Can Lewis rebound from a second straight surgery on the same knee, especially when his game is founded on agility and foot speed? Will this somewhat experimental surgery for Kirilloff correct a problem that's been plaguing him for years now, sapping his most elite skill? Realistically, it's hard to feel much assurance on either front, and for that reason it's hard to feel optimistic about the Twins' immediate future. It really can't be overstated how disruptive these unforeseeable developments are for a front office trying to build a championship. Tyler Mahle and Chris Paddack. We all understand that Mahle and Paddack came with known injury risk to varying degrees. At the same time, so do a lot of trades. You've got to believe a club carefully reviews medicals and gains a level of comfort before pulling the trigger on significant deals like these ones. Yeah, it's easy to scream "incompetence" in hindsight. Too easy. There are a lot of top-of-field experts involved in these decisions. Maybe, taking each player on his own, it shouldn't be all that surprising that Mahle or Paddack succumbed to (likely) season-ending arm injuries. But for both to do so? And not only that, but for it happen SO quickly in both cases? Paddack made it to his fifth start before his partially torn UCL gave way, requiring elbow surgery. Mahle lasted only three before his velocity nosedived and a mysterious shoulder injury threatened to end his campaign. A combination of worst-case injury scenarios. Of course. And it really hurts, because the talent evaluation in both cases was sound. I genuinely believe that if healthy these would be the Twins' two best starters. Alas, much like Lewis and Kirilloff, their uncertain futures complicate the front office's planning going forward. Paddack will be coming back from a second Tommy John surgery. Who knows what's going on with Mahle but it seems impossible we'll go into the offseason feeling confident about his shoulder, with one year of team control left. Byron Buxton. Look, we know injuries for Buxton have to be expected and accounted for. They're baked into his legacy, and his new contract. Still, this year the gravity of his durability issues came into sharper focus than ever, primarily because it constitutes a "healthy" season for Buxton. He's already made the second-most plate appearances of his career. He avoided the injured list until August. He still might get to 100 games! And yet, that old injury phantom has conspicuously followed Buxton all year, ever since he came up slamming his hand into the dirt at Fenway one week in. Despite his mightiest efforts, he couldn't outrun his eternal tormentor, and now this season is wrapping up like so many before it: Buxton on the sidelines, watching his team fall short. I guess the point of this blurb is not so much about the micro misfortune of injuries sabotaging another year for Buxton, but more an observation about his appropriateness as face of the franchise: The Twins to lost their way into drafting one of the most talented, electric, special players in modern baseball history who also happens to be the (?) single-most injury prone at that level. Ryan Jeffers and Trevor Larnach. I group these two together because while neither injury was totally unforeseeable – catchers get hurt a lot by nature, and Larnach was also sidelined for much of last year – they definitely qualify as bad luck, and both absences led to huge drop-offs in terms of backup plans. Jeffers was having a reasonably solid season before suffering a thumb fracture in mid-July, which may cost him his entire second half. Larnach developed a sports hernia requiring surgery in mid-June, and still hasn't made it back yet. In both cases, the path to returning has arduously dragged well beyond original estimates, and continues to do so – another unfortunate commonality. With Jeffers sidelined, the Twins were left at catcher with the husk of Gary Sánchez and trade acquisition Sandy León, who'd been toiling in the minors for Cleveland. It's been ugly, much like the outfield in the absence of Larnach, Kirilloff and Buxton. Bailey Ober and Josh Winder. Winder is no longer on the injured list, but I view him much as the same as Ober: a homegrown talent, 25 years old and coming off a great season, clearly a core part of the Twins pitching plans. Granted, they both had their own warning labels coming into this season, but no clear red flags. As it turns out, both will end up maxing out around 50 innings pitched in the majors – big setback seasons for developing pitchers who will now be challenged to rebuild their workloads once again. In each case, the injury seems not well understood. Ober went down with a groin injury first framed as minor that never seemed to heal. Winder's had recurring bouts with an impinged, but structurally sound, shoulder dating back to last year. On their own, these are losses you could withstand, which is why they're relatively low on this list. But combined with all of the above? Getting almost nothing from Ober, or Winder, or Paddack, or their marquee deadline acquisition Mahle? How do you cobble together a decent rotation through all of that? The only Twins starting pitchers that have truly managed to stay healthy are the guys they signed cheaply to fill the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Jorgé Alcala and Matt Canterino. These two are lumped as high-upside relievers who could have had transformative impacts on the Twins bullpen, but instead fell victim to essentially worst-case scenarios with their elbows. Alcala missed all of this season; Canterino never made it to the majors and will likely miss all of the next one. Maybe these blows would've been easier to sustain if some of the relief contingency plans held up. However... Danny Coulombe, Cody Stashak, and Jhon Romero. None of these three were projected to be pivotal late-inning weapons, but they were all viewed as important parts of the depth mix. Coulombe and Romero were on the Opening Day roster, and Stashak a late cut. All suffered season-ending injuries early on. Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak. I have these two at the bottom because, unlike everyone above, no one realistically expected much out of them this year. But it would have been nice to get something, *anything* from either. Both have been derailed so much for both that it's easy to forget that, coming out of the 2020 season, we were envisioning each as key long-term pieces for the pitching staff. You can look back now and say, "Well the front office shouldn't have been planning around these guys." Or they shouldn't have traded for Paddack or Mahle and the associated risk. Or they shouldn't have committed to Buxton as a centerpiece, or they should have better medical personnel and training philosophies, and so on. There may be truth to these things. But you bet on players you like, and you accept a certain amount of risk. Otherwise, you end up where the previous front office was for so long, treading water in a pointless middle ground. At the end of the day, injuries happen. They're never as predictable or controllable or correctable as people want to believe. Sadly, this scourge has been especially prevalent for the Twins and, more sadly, a lot of these health woes are going to carry forward in terms of their implications. I firmly believe the front office built a team capable of winning the division this year, and Rocco Baldelli was the guy to lead that group. For a while, it was all coming together as planned. Unfortunately, the current team barely resembles what was built.
  25. Few MLB teams have been bitten by the injury bug like the Twins this season. Could Minnesota win the AL Central with the players currently on the injured list? Image courtesy of Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports Minnesota's injury list has continued to fill up with players up and down the roster. No AL team has put more players on the injured list than the Twins, making it tough to evaluate the team's overall talent value. Looking back on the 2022 season, it will be easy to point to all the team's injuries as one of the reasons for its downfall. That being said, the AL Central is still up for grabs, so could the Twins' injured players win the division? Catcher: Ryan Jeffers Jeffers was supposed to take over the full-time catching duties this season after the team traded Mitch Garver. Before fracturing his thumb, he saw his OPS+ rise eight points compared to 2021. He also does a great job behind the plate as his framing ranks in the 65th percentile. 1B: Miguel Sano There's no question that Sano struggled during the 2022 season, but this is a player that averaged a 122 OPS+ over the last three seasons. He's been streaky throughout his career, which doesn't help how fans view him. His Twins tenure is likely done, but he was a solid contributor during that time. 2B: Jorge Polanco Polanco had avoided the injured list for much of his career until the 2022 season. He's played through injuries in the past and been relatively productive. This season the injuries were clearly bothering him at the plate, and his defensive numbers took a significant drop. Even with injuries, his WAR ranks in the team's top 5. 3B: No Current Injury <Knock on Wood> Minnesota doesn't have a current injured third baseman, but this position can be filled with an infielder from St. Paul. Andrew Bechtold seems like a possible fit since he can be a replacement-level player and has played third base during the 2022 season. SS: Royce Lewis It's hard not to think about what Lewis might have meant to the 2022 Twins if he had stayed healthy. His first taste of the big leagues was spectacular as he went 12-for-40 (.300) with four doubles and two home runs. Lewis looked like a star, and the Twins could desperately use a right-handed power bat for the stretch run. OF: Byron Buxton, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach Minnesota expected all three players to fit into the middle of the lineup this season. Buxton avoided the injured list for much of the season, but now he hasn't been available for the team's stretch run. Kirilloff put together some eye-popping numbers at Triple-A as he returned from injury. Unfortunately, something was still wrong with his wrist, and he underwent a unique surgery to alleviate some of the pain. Larnach had a 105 OPS+ in 2022, and the team has been forced to use replacement-level players to fill in for his production. Rotation: Tyler Mahle, Chris Paddack, Kenta Maeda, Bailey Ober, Randy Dobnak The top three pitchers in the injured rotation have been acquired by the current front office in trades. Now it seems unlikely that any of the three will be available for Minnesota's stretch run. Ober and Dobnak have started their rehab assignments, but it's questionable how much they will be able to provide the club for the season's remainder. Josh Winder is also another name to consider as he is no longer rehabbing but he is getting back to strength in the Saints rotation. Adding him to this rotation allows Dobnak to be a long-man out of the bullpen. Bullpen: Jorge Alcala, Danny Coulombe, Jhon Romero, Cole Sands, Cody Stashak Minnesota's bullpen has been a mess, so it's intriguing to consider what these missing players may have been able to provide the team. Alcala has the make-up to be an elite reliever and had the potential to take over a late-inning role in 2022. Stashak and Sands can fit into this team's imaginary set-up roles. Not much was expected from Coulombe and Romero, but relievers can surprise in small sample sizes. Cleveland and Chicago have flaws, and the Twins roster above might be good enough to compete in the AL Central. Do you think they'd have enough pieces to compete in the division? Is the Twins injured roster better than their current roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
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