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  1. What if I told you one of the 2021 Twins’ best relievers ERA-wise was only given four opportunities to strut his stuff? That’s right, here’s the case for Willians Astudillo as a full-time relief pitcher. Okay, let me start by saying this is an absolutely terrible idea. If you want a serious look at bullpen options for 2022, check out Jamie Cameron’s article from Friday on that very topic. Astudillo will never be seriously considered as a pitcher, partially because selling such a decision to the fanbase unironically would be impossible, but what if he was? What if he got a full sixty innings of relief work? As a primer, let’s look at Astudillo’s pitching numbers from 2021. He was given four opportunities to toe the rubber, all as a mop-up dude in blowout losses. In those four games, he pitched four full innings and allowed only one (rather infamous) run. That’s an ERA of 2.25, which is better than every actual reliever the Twins put out there this year except for four innings of Devin Smeltzer and 12 innings of Nick Vincent. Also, with only one hit allowed all year, Astudillo’s WHIP of .750 was second on the club, trailing only Smeltzer. On the other hand, having walked two and struck out exactly zero (0) hitters, Astudillo’s strikeouts per walk rate is in the mud (at 0.00), but, as Twins fans, we like to pretend that Wes Johnson can fix everything, so let’s assume he gets at least a strikeout every two innings out of Astudillo. Now, obviously, La Tortuga’s four innings pitched is a ridiculously small sample size, but if that’s the type of thing that bothers you, this may not be the article for you, because this entire flimsy argument is based on that small sample size. And, even with that said, we’ve seen position players be immediately terrible on the mound before, and the fact that Astudillo gave the Twins even just four innings of competence means something. With his stats settled (just don’t look at his FIP), let’s examine Astudillo’s stuff. According to FanGraphs, Willians has a fastball that sits in the low-80s, a seldom-used changeup in the low 60s and a heavily-used eephus that comes in at a bizarrely slow 45 miles per hour. Now he’s certainly not blowing up the radar gun, but he can throw each of these pitches for strikes (a remarkable skill) and pitchers have gotten Major League hitters out before with little velocity. Heck, Jamie Moyer’s fastball was tipping the scales at 78 mph when he was pitching real innings in the majors as a 49-year-old. The key is the difference in velocity between your fastest and slowest pitch. In Moyer’s autobiography, Just Tell Me I Can’t, he repeatedly mentioned that he aimed for a 10 mph difference between his fastball and changeup velocity. Well, check out Astudillo; he’s got a 35+ mph difference between his fastest and slowest pitch. This overlay shows you exactly what that looks like: I mean, these pitches cross the plate in completely different time zones. And, it’s not as if those are the only two pitches he throws. If that were the case, hitters could either sit on one or the other and smack the baseball into next week. But Astudillo can get the ball across the plate at virtually any velocity between 45mph and 85 mph, so hitters never really know when the pitch is going to cross. With this bizarre pitch arsenal, there is reason to believe that Astudillo would be unpredictable enough on the mound to have real success. Just check out this highlight tape: It’s clear that big league hitters just simply don’t know what to do with 45 mph over the middle, and then after seeing it a few times, Astudillo shows them the same delivery but fires it in at 72, which is suddenly way too fast to adjust to. Now, obviously, professional hitters would be able to adjust to Astudillo’s antics if he actually became a full-time reliever. The eephus surely wouldn’t be as effective the 100th time Astudillo threw it and his fastball might start to look like batting practice fodder more than anything else. But, given that Astudillo is the only guy in the league that pitches like he does, I’m just not sure hitters would be spending time preparing for the one at-bat a series they might get off him. And, even if they did, it might not matter. When you spend all your career preparing for—and all day hitting off of—high velocity, high spin rate guys, adjusting to hitting off Astudillo likely feels like playing a completely different sport. And that might be just enough to make him viable as a full-time reliever. Again, Falvey and Levine certainly won’t be able to trot out an Opening Day roster that has Astudillo as a pitcher, because, you know, we want the team to be good. However, if the team is going to be bad again—if we make it to July and Minnesota baseball is just as depressing as it was this year—I’d love to see him coming out of the bullpen on a regular basis. I only kind of believe he could do it, but if the Twins are going to be bad, I’d rather they be fun to watch. What do you think? Could La Tortuga actually do it? Let us know in the comments! View full article
  2. Okay, let me start by saying this is an absolutely terrible idea. If you want a serious look at bullpen options for 2022, check out Jamie Cameron’s article from Friday on that very topic. Astudillo will never be seriously considered as a pitcher, partially because selling such a decision to the fanbase unironically would be impossible, but what if he was? What if he got a full sixty innings of relief work? As a primer, let’s look at Astudillo’s pitching numbers from 2021. He was given four opportunities to toe the rubber, all as a mop-up dude in blowout losses. In those four games, he pitched four full innings and allowed only one (rather infamous) run. That’s an ERA of 2.25, which is better than every actual reliever the Twins put out there this year except for four innings of Devin Smeltzer and 12 innings of Nick Vincent. Also, with only one hit allowed all year, Astudillo’s WHIP of .750 was second on the club, trailing only Smeltzer. On the other hand, having walked two and struck out exactly zero (0) hitters, Astudillo’s strikeouts per walk rate is in the mud (at 0.00), but, as Twins fans, we like to pretend that Wes Johnson can fix everything, so let’s assume he gets at least a strikeout every two innings out of Astudillo. Now, obviously, La Tortuga’s four innings pitched is a ridiculously small sample size, but if that’s the type of thing that bothers you, this may not be the article for you, because this entire flimsy argument is based on that small sample size. And, even with that said, we’ve seen position players be immediately terrible on the mound before, and the fact that Astudillo gave the Twins even just four innings of competence means something. With his stats settled (just don’t look at his FIP), let’s examine Astudillo’s stuff. According to FanGraphs, Willians has a fastball that sits in the low-80s, a seldom-used changeup in the low 60s and a heavily-used eephus that comes in at a bizarrely slow 45 miles per hour. Now he’s certainly not blowing up the radar gun, but he can throw each of these pitches for strikes (a remarkable skill) and pitchers have gotten Major League hitters out before with little velocity. Heck, Jamie Moyer’s fastball was tipping the scales at 78 mph when he was pitching real innings in the majors as a 49-year-old. The key is the difference in velocity between your fastest and slowest pitch. In Moyer’s autobiography, Just Tell Me I Can’t, he repeatedly mentioned that he aimed for a 10 mph difference between his fastball and changeup velocity. Well, check out Astudillo; he’s got a 35+ mph difference between his fastest and slowest pitch. This overlay shows you exactly what that looks like: I mean, these pitches cross the plate in completely different time zones. And, it’s not as if those are the only two pitches he throws. If that were the case, hitters could either sit on one or the other and smack the baseball into next week. But Astudillo can get the ball across the plate at virtually any velocity between 45mph and 85 mph, so hitters never really know when the pitch is going to cross. With this bizarre pitch arsenal, there is reason to believe that Astudillo would be unpredictable enough on the mound to have real success. Just check out this highlight tape: It’s clear that big league hitters just simply don’t know what to do with 45 mph over the middle, and then after seeing it a few times, Astudillo shows them the same delivery but fires it in at 72, which is suddenly way too fast to adjust to. Now, obviously, professional hitters would be able to adjust to Astudillo’s antics if he actually became a full-time reliever. The eephus surely wouldn’t be as effective the 100th time Astudillo threw it and his fastball might start to look like batting practice fodder more than anything else. But, given that Astudillo is the only guy in the league that pitches like he does, I’m just not sure hitters would be spending time preparing for the one at-bat a series they might get off him. And, even if they did, it might not matter. When you spend all your career preparing for—and all day hitting off of—high velocity, high spin rate guys, adjusting to hitting off Astudillo likely feels like playing a completely different sport. And that might be just enough to make him viable as a full-time reliever. Again, Falvey and Levine certainly won’t be able to trot out an Opening Day roster that has Astudillo as a pitcher, because, you know, we want the team to be good. However, if the team is going to be bad again—if we make it to July and Minnesota baseball is just as depressing as it was this year—I’d love to see him coming out of the bullpen on a regular basis. I only kind of believe he could do it, but if the Twins are going to be bad, I’d rather they be fun to watch. What do you think? Could La Tortuga actually do it? Let us know in the comments!
  3. Today Major League Baseball Trade Rumors put out their numbers for projected arbitration salaries. While they aren’t going to be spot on, the website is often seen as the gold standard in this space. Minnesota has some big names to decide on. The most notable eligible player here is also the one guy deserving of a long term extension. Byron Buxton will at worst be tendered a new deal, and his projected $7.3 million would be a steal. So too would a new long-term extension with Minnesota for anything less than $200 million. The only question here is whether a contract is agreed to with the Twins, and if they’ll wind up paying him for the duration of 2022. Taylor Rogers gets the second biggest number on Minnesota’s bill after being named a first-time All-Star in 2021. His $6.7 million seems like a steal in terms of value and talent but coming off an injury that shut down his season, it’s worth wondering if the Twins front office will feel the same way. Rogers should be back if there’s belief he’ll be healthy. Trading him with injury uncertainty could be a tough path. Ultimately, I think he returns. Both Tyler Duffey and Mitch Garver should be seen as favorable options to be back with the Twins. The former is a reliever with a high ceiling that lost his way at times during 2021. He could be dealt if Minnesota finds a willing partner, but the fit at the back end of the bullpen still remains great. Garver is arguably one of the best catchers in baseball, and although he could be coveted by the opposition in any deals Derek Falvey may try to swing, Minnesota will tender him a deal regardless. It’s still surprising to me that J.A. Happ netted the Twins anything, and John Gant is certainly a few rungs up on that ladder. He wasn’t amazing by any means, but there’s plenty of usable ability there. The question for the Twins is what they see his path going forward being. If he’s a starter then the $3.7 million doesn’t seem egregious at all. If he’s a reliever, that’s a middle-relief arm that doesn’t possess a ton of upside. I’d lean towards keeping him, but also wouldn’t be shocked if the front office feels otherwise. Minnesota will have easy decisions on Luis Arraez and Caleb Thielbar. At $2 million and under, both players provide well above that from a value perspective. The Twins may dangle Arraez this offseason on the trade market, but he’s also a strong candidate to remain an integral super-utility piece. Thielbar has made himself into a full-time big leaguer, and now he’ll get a payday for it. (An aside, both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs have Luis Aaraez pre-arb until 2023, so he shouldn't need more than the MLB minimum.) The trio of lower options include Juan Minaya, Danny Coulombe, and Rob Refsnyder. The first was arguably the Twins best reliever down the stretch and has pitched his way into the 2022 bullpen. Coulombe isn’t anything to get excited about, but he’s a fine option to round out a group that will need some cheaper arms as well. Refsnyder is an interesting case as he turned into a pumpkin following his return from the Injured List. Maybe Minnesota keeps him around as a depth outfielder, but Buxton or not, he can’t be the fourth option on this Major League roster. That leaves just two guys who I see as obvious DFA candidates. It makes no sense for Minnesota to retain the services of either Jake Cave or Willians Astudillo for more than $1 million each. To be frank, neither player fits the roster nor is worthy of a spot at the Major League minimum, but with arbitration eligibility, a non-tender is the way these have to go. Cave is no longer productive at the plate, at the novelty of Astudillo wore off a long time ago. If this comes to fruition as outlined Minnesota would retain 10 of their 12 arbitration eligible players for a total of $60.4 million. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  4. Plenty has gone wrong for the Twins during the 2021 season, and these players have been adding to the trouble. Which Twins have been the least valuable so far in 2021? WAR According to FanGraphs, the Twins have four players that have accumulated a negative WAR total in 2021. Gilberto Celestino ranks lowest with a -0.7 WAR, but that was expected for a player forced into the big leagues before he had significant time in the high minors. Brent Rooker is just slightly negative at -0.1 WAR, with most of his negative value coming on the defensive side of the ball. The other two players with negative WAR are polarizing for Twins fans. Willians Astudillo and Andrelton Simmons are tied with -0.5 WAR, but their path to those totals is entirely different. Simmons posts strong defensive numbers, and his offense has been atrocious. His -23.0 OFF ranking is the lowest on the team, and it’s more than double the next closest player. Astudillo doesn’t have a perfect defensive home, and his offensive skills are limited. He even has a negative WAR as a relief pitcher. On the mound, Matt Shoemaker accumulated a negative WAR in his time as a starter (-0.2 WAR) and as a reliever (-0.5 WAR). Griffin Jax, Beau Burrows, and Andrew Albers are all tied with a -0.3 WAR among players classified as starters. Minnesota’s bullpen has been a mess as 12 players have a negative WAR total. Randy Dobnak, Brandon Waddell, Hansel Robles, and Edgar Garcia all have a -0.3 WAR as relievers. WPA Four Twins players have accumulated a Win Probability Added of more than -0.75. Andrelton Simmons has been worth -3.03 WPA, which is the team’s lowest total. Trevor Larnach ranks the second lowest (-1.78 WPA), with all his negative value coming on the defensive side. Miguel Sano (-1.44), Willians Astudillo (-1.48), and Ryan Jeffers (-1.59) round out the bottom five when it comes to WPA among position players. Among pitchers, J.A. Happ was worth -1.87 WPA during his Twins tenure, and the Twins were still able to get something for him at the trade deadline. Randy Dobnak is in the middle of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season. His -1.42 WPA is the second-worst and ranks just below Griffin Jax (-1.23 WPA) and Alex Colome (-1.26 WPA). Surprisingly, Matt Shoemaker only has the tenth worst WPA among Twins pitchers. Ranking the Top-5 Least Valuable Twins 5. Willians Astudillo: He can certainly be entertaining, and his relief appearances have added some fun to a disappointing season. Overall, his lack of defensive home and low offensive ceiling put him on this list. 4. J.A. Happ: In 19 starts for the Twins, he accumulated a 6.20 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings. Minnesota’s lack of pitching depth meant they had to keep trotting him out there. 3. Alex Colome: Colome would have topped this list in the early part of the season. However, he has been better lately (Editor's Note: For instance, he has recorded saves in four straight games), but it doesn’t take away from his disastrous start to the season. 2. Matt Shoemaker: Shoemaker didn’t cut it as a starter or a reliever. He claimed the Twins tried to make some adjustments during spring training that hurt his performance. 1. Andrelton Simmons: He ranks among baseball’s best defensive shortstops, which shows how inept his offense has been this year. His 57 OPS+ is 18 points lower than his previous career low. How would you rank these players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  5. WAR According to FanGraphs, the Twins have four players that have accumulated a negative WAR total in 2021. Gilberto Celestino ranks lowest with a -0.7 WAR, but that was expected for a player forced into the big leagues before he had significant time in the high minors. Brent Rooker is just slightly negative at -0.1 WAR, with most of his negative value coming on the defensive side of the ball. The other two players with negative WAR are polarizing for Twins fans. Willians Astudillo and Andrelton Simmons are tied with -0.5 WAR, but their path to those totals is entirely different. Simmons posts strong defensive numbers, and his offense has been atrocious. His -23.0 OFF ranking is the lowest on the team, and it’s more than double the next closest player. Astudillo doesn’t have a perfect defensive home, and his offensive skills are limited. He even has a negative WAR as a relief pitcher. On the mound, Matt Shoemaker accumulated a negative WAR in his time as a starter (-0.2 WAR) and as a reliever (-0.5 WAR). Griffin Jax, Beau Burrows, and Andrew Albers are all tied with a -0.3 WAR among players classified as starters. Minnesota’s bullpen has been a mess as 12 players have a negative WAR total. Randy Dobnak, Brandon Waddell, Hansel Robles, and Edgar Garcia all have a -0.3 WAR as relievers. WPA Four Twins players have accumulated a Win Probability Added of more than -0.75. Andrelton Simmons has been worth -3.03 WPA, which is the team’s lowest total. Trevor Larnach ranks the second lowest (-1.78 WPA), with all his negative value coming on the defensive side. Miguel Sano (-1.44), Willians Astudillo (-1.48), and Ryan Jeffers (-1.59) round out the bottom five when it comes to WPA among position players. Among pitchers, J.A. Happ was worth -1.87 WPA during his Twins tenure, and the Twins were still able to get something for him at the trade deadline. Randy Dobnak is in the middle of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season. His -1.42 WPA is the second-worst and ranks just below Griffin Jax (-1.23 WPA) and Alex Colome (-1.26 WPA). Surprisingly, Matt Shoemaker only has the tenth worst WPA among Twins pitchers. Ranking the Top-5 Least Valuable Twins 5. Willians Astudillo: He can certainly be entertaining, and his relief appearances have added some fun to a disappointing season. Overall, his lack of defensive home and low offensive ceiling put him on this list. 4. J.A. Happ: In 19 starts for the Twins, he accumulated a 6.20 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings. Minnesota’s lack of pitching depth meant they had to keep trotting him out there. 3. Alex Colome: Colome would have topped this list in the early part of the season. However, he has been better lately (Editor's Note: For instance, he has recorded saves in four straight games), but it doesn’t take away from his disastrous start to the season. 2. Matt Shoemaker: Shoemaker didn’t cut it as a starter or a reliever. He claimed the Twins tried to make some adjustments during spring training that hurt his performance. 1. Andrelton Simmons: He ranks among baseball’s best defensive shortstops, which shows how inept his offense has been this year. His 57 OPS+ is 18 points lower than his previous career low. How would you rank these players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. Willians Astudillo hit a home run off the top of a billboard on the Green Monster and pitched tonight, so you can guess how things went for the Minnesota Twins. Also included in tonight's recap is discussion on all four minor league starting pitchers -- Randy Dobnak, Jordan Balazovic, Sawyer Gipson-Long and Sean Mooney -- as well as the blistering hot Michael Helman, who hit his sixth homer in his last 10 games for Cedar Rapids.
  7. Willians Astudillo hit a home run off the top of a billboard on the Green Monster and pitched tonight, so you can guess how things went for the Minnesota Twins. Also included in tonight's recap is discussion on all four minor league starting pitchers -- Randy Dobnak, Jordan Balazovic, Sawyer Gipson-Long and Sean Mooney -- as well as the blistering hot Michael Helman, who hit his sixth homer in his last 10 games for Cedar Rapids. View full video
  8. The Twins beat the White Sox 4-3 on Tuesday. Griffin Jax struck out ten in six brilliant innings. Willians Astudillo had a go-ahead two-run home run to cap the victory. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Jax 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10 K Homeruns: Astudillo (6) Top 3 WPA: Astudillo .283, Colome .169, Duffey .124 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) There was positive injury news for the Twins on Tuesday. Josh Donaldson returned to the lineup in the DH rule after hamstring tightness. Here’s how the Twins lined up against the White Sox. Additionally, there was a Byron Buxton sighting on the field during batting practice. The imminent return of Buxton will be a huge boon to a team looking to build on second-half of the season success stories. It was Griffin Jax who was the story for the Twins on Tuesday. The rookie set a career-high with ten strikeouts in six innings of work, including 14 swings and misses, both career highs. It was the Twins who jumped out to an early lead. Dallas Keuchel walk-loaded the bases in the first inning. A Luis Arraez single and Miguel Sano groundout gave the Twins a 2-0 lead after an inning. Arraez single raised his season average to .320. Combined with a wOBA of .344 and wRC+ of 119, the diminutive hitter has established himself as a premier contact hitter since his return from injury issues earlier in the season. The Twins lead quickly evaporated in the third inning. Griffin Jax made two mistakes in his six excellent innings, both were quickly dispatched for home runs by Adam Engel and Jose Abreu, giving the White Sox a 3-2 lead. Dallas Keuchel held the Twins in check after his early control issues, until the sixth inning. Keuchel made Willians Astudillo ‘bend the knee’, but not before La Tortuga deposited an inside pitch into the left-field bleachers, to restore the Twins lead at 4-3. The Twins bullpen continued its improved form, with scoreless innings from Jon Gant, Tyler Duffey, and Alexander Colome. The real story of the night, however, was Jax. Between Jax and Bailey Ober, the Twins have two effective starting pitchers who will battle for spots at the back of the 2022 starting rotation. Now that the Twins have given up the ghost of a playoff appearance in 2021, it’s time to look for reasons for optimism for 2022. One doesn’t have to look far. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Barnes 0 0 0 68 0 68 Duffey 20 0 15 0 15 50 Gant 17 13 0 0 11 41 Colomé 17 0 18 0 10 35 Garcia 0 0 0 32 0 32 Minaya 17 0 12 0 0 29 Coulombe 14 0 7 0 0 21 Thielbar 0 20 0 0 0 20 Vincent 0 0 0 0 0 0 Postgame Interviews Next Up The Twins send Bailey Ober to the mound to face Lance Lynn on Wednesday. First pitch is at 12:10 CST. View full article
  9. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Jax 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10 K Homeruns: Astudillo (6) Top 3 WPA: Astudillo .283, Colome .169, Duffey .124 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) There was positive injury news for the Twins on Tuesday. Josh Donaldson returned to the lineup in the DH rule after hamstring tightness. Here’s how the Twins lined up against the White Sox. Additionally, there was a Byron Buxton sighting on the field during batting practice. The imminent return of Buxton will be a huge boon to a team looking to build on second-half of the season success stories. It was Griffin Jax who was the story for the Twins on Tuesday. The rookie set a career-high with ten strikeouts in six innings of work, including 14 swings and misses, both career highs. It was the Twins who jumped out to an early lead. Dallas Keuchel walk-loaded the bases in the first inning. A Luis Arraez single and Miguel Sano groundout gave the Twins a 2-0 lead after an inning. Arraez single raised his season average to .320. Combined with a wOBA of .344 and wRC+ of 119, the diminutive hitter has established himself as a premier contact hitter since his return from injury issues earlier in the season. The Twins lead quickly evaporated in the third inning. Griffin Jax made two mistakes in his six excellent innings, both were quickly dispatched for home runs by Adam Engel and Jose Abreu, giving the White Sox a 3-2 lead. Dallas Keuchel held the Twins in check after his early control issues, until the sixth inning. Keuchel made Willians Astudillo ‘bend the knee’, but not before La Tortuga deposited an inside pitch into the left-field bleachers, to restore the Twins lead at 4-3. The Twins bullpen continued its improved form, with scoreless innings from Jon Gant, Tyler Duffey, and Alexander Colome. The real story of the night, however, was Jax. Between Jax and Bailey Ober, the Twins have two effective starting pitchers who will battle for spots at the back of the 2022 starting rotation. Now that the Twins have given up the ghost of a playoff appearance in 2021, it’s time to look for reasons for optimism for 2022. One doesn’t have to look far. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Barnes 0 0 0 68 0 68 Duffey 20 0 15 0 15 50 Gant 17 13 0 0 11 41 Colomé 17 0 18 0 10 35 Garcia 0 0 0 32 0 32 Minaya 17 0 12 0 0 29 Coulombe 14 0 7 0 0 21 Thielbar 0 20 0 0 0 20 Vincent 0 0 0 0 0 0 Postgame Interviews Next Up The Twins send Bailey Ober to the mound to face Lance Lynn on Wednesday. First pitch is at 12:10 CST.
  10. The Los Angeles Angels make their yearly visit to Target Field this weekend, meaning Twins fans will get to see the brilliant Shohei Ohtani. In the other clubhouse, Willians Astudillo returns from St. Paul to take Alex Kirilloff’s place on the roster. And that has some physicians worried. “Quite simply, if you’re in poor health or have underlying conditions, watching these games might be harmful,” said Dr. David Gorman, a heart specialist at Fairview Southdale. “The human body wasn’t meant to experience this much spectacle.” Ohtani, the American League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, also leads the majors with 34 home runs, many of which involve him sending baseballs to hell, where they belong. Astudillo, while not nearly as accomplished a player as Ohtani, plays every game like a bowling ball filled with kerosene, set on fire, and rolled into a Williams-Sonoma. The combination of that much skill and abandon may be too much for some people. “What if Ohtani hits one that lands at, like, the Pizza Luce on 4th Street,” said Gorman. “Then the next inning Astudillo tries to stretch a single to a double? So many people skipped their regular check-ups in the last year or so that we have to be concerned about how the body will react.” Gorman said the true concern comes on Sunday. “The Angels haven’t announced their starting pitcher yet,” said Gorman. “What if they pencil in Ohtani, and the Twins send Astudillo to the plate? What if Astudillo hits a comebacker and they’re racing to the bag? Is that too much joy? You have to ask yourself if the risk is worth it. The teams could do it, but no one is asking if they should do it.”
  11. “You have to ask yourself if the risk is worth it.” The Los Angeles Angels make their yearly visit to Target Field this weekend, meaning Twins fans will get to see the brilliant Shohei Ohtani. In the other clubhouse, Willians Astudillo returns from St. Paul to take Alex Kirilloff’s place on the roster. And that has some physicians worried. “Quite simply, if you’re in poor health or have underlying conditions, watching these games might be harmful,” said Dr. David Gorman, a heart specialist at Fairview Southdale. “The human body wasn’t meant to experience this much spectacle.” Ohtani, the American League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, also leads the majors with 34 home runs, many of which involve him sending baseballs to hell, where they belong. Astudillo, while not nearly as accomplished a player as Ohtani, plays every game like a bowling ball filled with kerosene, set on fire, and rolled into a Williams-Sonoma. The combination of that much skill and abandon may be too much for some people. “What if Ohtani hits one that lands at, like, the Pizza Luce on 4th Street,” said Gorman. “Then the next inning Astudillo tries to stretch a single to a double? So many people skipped their regular check-ups in the last year or so that we have to be concerned about how the body will react.” Gorman said the true concern comes on Sunday. “The Angels haven’t announced their starting pitcher yet,” said Gorman. “What if they pencil in Ohtani, and the Twins send Astudillo to the plate? What if Astudillo hits a comebacker and they’re racing to the bag? Is that too much joy? You have to ask yourself if the risk is worth it. The teams could do it, but no one is asking if they should do it.” View full article
  12. I might love the Twins, and defend them even during some of the darkest times, but that also means being honest even when it hurts. That kind of tough love was exactly what came to mind when Tyler Duffey used his relief appearance in a close contest to 'send a message' by throwing behind Yermin Mercedes on only the fourth pitch of his appearance. Everyone seemed to know it was coming. Tony La Russa, fresh from using his media time all but telling the Twins they *should* bean Mercedes, had a conversation with the umpiring crew before the incident, likely warning them what was to come. Rookie Twins pitcher Bailey Ober was making his debut that evening, and wasn't going to spoil his first start in the majors by getting involved. But now, with Ober done for the night, Duffey in, and Mercedes up to the plate with 1 out, the ingredients were there. And then, it happened. This, in a not-so-polite word, was chicken****. For a long time, when other teams or crusty veterans have crowed about 'playing the white right way' or unwritten rules, I've been able to take solace in the fact that the Twins haven't engaged in similar grandstanding since the Falvine era started, and that the roster was young, diverse, and helping usher in a new era of enjoying baseball and reveling in the emotion. There have been a few speed bumps along the way. Sure, the broadcasters aren't in the clubhouse, but you were sure to hear a lot about what wasn't okay when Bert Blyleven or Jack Morris were in the analyst seat, and Dan Gladden has used his presence on the radio to show his age from time to time. In terms of the actual team, Paul Molitor was never likely to put on a "Let the Kids Play" hoodie, and Brian Dozier got in on the action once with a take so cold that it's a strong candidate to host the next Winter Olympics. But overall, in this most recent era, Rocco's clubhouse has been loose and positive, with none of the toxic tantrums that still plague the sport decades after it should have gone out of style. Intentional HBP's felt alien. You could feel good about cheering on this team if you cared about that sort of thing. Well, Tyler Duffey put a 93 MPH fastball-shaped dent in that argument with his retaliation, and nobody comes out of this looking good except for the White Sox players more or less in open revolt over their own manager's caveman philosophies. Willians Astudillo's fuming on the mound after the initial home run (Willians! One of the most enjoyable players to spectate in baseball! Chirping about unwritten rules! What is the world coming to?!), Duffey's willingness to jeopardize a close game (and definitely get ejected) when the bullpen desperately needs to turn things around... and I understand that Rocco Baldelli's job is to have his players' backs, but to use the rain and say "our plan was to pitch him inside" as an excuse and feign innocence over any malicious intent feels awful to hear coming out of his mouth. I mean, just say that Duffey got distracted because he thought he saw a raccoon behind home plate. Or maybe it was a rat, he couldn't be sure. None of this had to happen. Nobody would have thought of the Twins as pushovers or weak had they not decided to exact vengeance. Tony La Russa saw the opportunity to seize all the negative attention from Mercedes's dinger and did so with both hands. Why Rocco, Duffey, Astudillo, or anyone else involved didn't allow him to enjoy that time to himself is baffling to me- Especially when every Twin Cities sportswriter with a hot take to conjure up and column inches to fill needs a reason to complain about the team that doesn't feel like a retread. Well, you gave it to them in spades. And that's on you. It's not enough to play better, Twins. Please *be* better.
  13. How Did We Get Here? On Monday night, the Twins were getting blown out by the White Sox in the ninth inning. So instead of wasting another bullpen arm, Rocco Baldelli turned to Willians Astudillo to finish out the game. This is the third time La Tortuga has been used as a pitcher and his second time so far in 2021. Fans that had stuck around until the end gave Astudillo a cheer as he headed to the bump. Yermin Mercedes was one of the players to step in against Astudillo and this is where the unwritten rules come into play. After working the count to 3-0, Mercedes clocked a 47.1 mph pitch for a home run. The unwritten rule that seemed to be broken was the fact that Mercedes swung at a 3-0 pitch when his team was up by 11 runs. Chicago’s manager Tony La Russa, a Hall of Famer with an old school mentality, was not too happy about Mercedes swinging away. The take sign had been put on by the third base coach and Mercedes decided to ignore it. La Russa told the press it was a “big mistake,” and he even took some steps out of the dugout so he could yell at his batter to take the pitch. La Russa went as far as to say that he or his third base coach will run out in front of the pitcher to stop this type of thing from happening again. On Tuesday, things went a step further. In the seventh inning, Tyler Duffey threw behind Mercedes in the seventh inning and he was promptly thrown out of the game. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli quickly came to the defense of his player and he was ejected along with Duffey. And so, the saga continued… What About the Unwritten Rules? An old school mentality would say the Twins upheld the unwritten rules by throwing near the offending player in the next game. Duffey didn’t throw near his head or with an intent to injury Mercedes. Minnesota was trailing by two at the time and came back to win, so maybe the baseball gods were rewarding the team for upholding the unwritten rules. That being said, it seemed like a foolish thing for the Twins to lose one of their best relievers in a close game, especially with how poorly the team had been playing. After the game, former Twin Lance Lynn had some interesting things to say about the baseball’s unwritten rules. "The more I play this game, the more those rules have gone away, and I understand it,” Lynn said. “The way I see it is, for position players on the mound, there are no rules. Let's get the damn game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happens, then put a pitcher out there. Can't get mad when there's a position player on the field and a guy takes a swing." Lynn went on to say, “You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, it seems like. But I think everybody should just play the game as hard as they can and do all that, and don't worry about anything else." This seems like a mentality that both sides can agree with moving forward. Play the game hard and hopefully some of those unwritten rules will continue to go to the wayside. What are your thoughts on the unwritten rules? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. The Twins have been wrapped up in a mess of a situation during their series with the White Sox and everything ties back to baseball’s unwritten rules. Unfortunately, these unwritten rules are hurting the game and multiple parties looked foolish at the end of the day. How Did We Get Here? On Monday night, the Twins were getting blown out by the White Sox in the ninth inning. So instead of wasting another bullpen arm, Rocco Baldelli turned to Willians Astudillo to finish out the game. This is the third time La Tortuga has been used as a pitcher and his second time so far in 2021. Fans that had stuck around until the end gave Astudillo a cheer as he headed to the bump. Yermin Mercedes was one of the players to step in against Astudillo and this is where the unwritten rules come into play. After working the count to 3-0, Mercedes clocked a 47.1 mph pitch for a home run. The unwritten rule that seemed to be broken was the fact that Mercedes swung at a 3-0 pitch when his team was up by 11 runs. Chicago’s manager Tony La Russa, a Hall of Famer with an old school mentality, was not too happy about Mercedes swinging away. The take sign had been put on by the third base coach and Mercedes decided to ignore it. La Russa told the press it was a “big mistake,” and he even took some steps out of the dugout so he could yell at his batter to take the pitch. La Russa went as far as to say that he or his third base coach will run out in front of the pitcher to stop this type of thing from happening again. On Tuesday, things went a step further. In the seventh inning, Tyler Duffey threw behind Mercedes in the seventh inning and he was promptly thrown out of the game. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli quickly came to the defense of his player and he was ejected along with Duffey. And so, the saga continued… What About the Unwritten Rules? An old school mentality would say the Twins upheld the unwritten rules by throwing near the offending player in the next game. Duffey didn’t throw near his head or with an intent to injury Mercedes. Minnesota was trailing by two at the time and came back to win, so maybe the baseball gods were rewarding the team for upholding the unwritten rules. That being said, it seemed like a foolish thing for the Twins to lose one of their best relievers in a close game, especially with how poorly the team had been playing. After the game, former Twin Lance Lynn had some interesting things to say about the baseball’s unwritten rules. "The more I play this game, the more those rules have gone away, and I understand it,” Lynn said. “The way I see it is, for position players on the mound, there are no rules. Let's get the damn game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happens, then put a pitcher out there. Can't get mad when there's a position player on the field and a guy takes a swing." Lynn went on to say, “You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, it seems like. But I think everybody should just play the game as hard as they can and do all that, and don't worry about anything else." This seems like a mentality that both sides can agree with moving forward. Play the game hard and hopefully some of those unwritten rules will continue to go to the wayside. What are your thoughts on the unwritten rules? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  15. Luck is part of baseball, even if it is hard to define. A player can smash a line drive that just hooks foul. Another player might get a pitch right down the middle and miss it. So, have the Twins been unlucky in 2021? Pythagorean Winning Percentage One aspect that shows how the Twins have been unlucky is their Pythagorean winning percentage. For those unfamiliar, Pythagorean winning percentage is an estimate of a team’s winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed. For example, the Twins scored 269 runs in 2020 and allowed 215 runs, which results in a Pythagorean W-L record of 36-24. That also turned out to be the club’s overall record for the year. There are flaws with Pythagorean W-L record, especially if teams score a lot of runs in their wins and lose a lot of close games. Entering play on Monday, the Twins had scored 175 runs and allowed 195 runs. Based on those totals, their projected Pythagorean W-L record is 17-21 which is a four-win improvement compared to the team’s actual record. This points to the team being a little bit unlucky. RISP Minnesota’s struggles with runners in scoring position have been well documented this year, but how much of this can be tied to bad luck in clutch situations? Only one AL team, Tampa Bay (3.81 runners/game), has left more runners in scoring position per game than the Twins (3.76 runners/game). Obviously, some injuries have impacted the line-up (see below), but it’s hard for a team to recover if runs aren’t being scored because players are being left in scoring position. What’s most disturbing is the drop Minnesota took from 2020 to 2021. Last year, the Twins ranked as the best in all of baseball by averaging 2.60 runners left on per game. The closest team to the Twins last season was Pittsburgh and they finished 20 points behind Minnesota by season’s end. There can be some expected regression, but this is a big drop for a team from one season to the next. BABIP BAbip is another statistic that can point to luck impacting batters and pitchers. For those unfamiliar, BAbip measures how frequently non-home run batted balls fall for hits. League average is around .300 in a typical year. So far in 2021, Twins hitters have posted a .287 BAbip, which ranks 16th in all of baseball. Only eight clubs have posted a BAbip above .300 for the year as offense has been down for most of the league. On the pitching side, Minnesota’s hurlers have also posted a BAbip in the middle of the pack. For the year, the Twins rank 15th with a .286 BAbip. In all of baseball, seven teams have a BAbip total above .300. Two teams in the AL Central, Kansas City (2nd) and Detroit (11th), rank higher than the Twins in pitching BAbip. Sometimes bloop hits fall in, sometimes a dribbler gets by a fielder, and other times a fielder is positioned perfectly to make a catch on a hard hit ball. All those things can impact a team’s BAbip and a little luck ties into all of it. Injuries Injuries have been up across baseball and the Twins have seen some key players missing time. Byron Buxton was playing at an MVP level before his recent hip injury put him on the shelf. Alex Kirilloff was hitting the ball with authority to all parts of the field before suffering a wrist injury from sliding into second base. Both players were playing at a high level and taking them out of the middle of the line-up has certain had an effect. Over the weekend, there was even more injury news. Max Kepler (hamstring), Kenta Maeda (groin), and Willians Astudillo (hand) all left Sunday’s game with different ailments. This is on top of Jake Cave already being on the IL and Kyle Garlick playing through a groin injury. The injuries continue to mount, and health looks like it might impact the team throughout the 2021 campaign. Having a little more luck on the team’s side might get those players back and preforming at their highest level. Do you think the Twins have been unlucky this year? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  16. Pythagorean Winning Percentage One aspect that shows how the Twins have been unlucky is their Pythagorean winning percentage. For those unfamiliar, Pythagorean winning percentage is an estimate of a team’s winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed. For example, the Twins scored 269 runs in 2020 and allowed 215 runs, which results in a Pythagorean W-L record of 36-24. That also turned out to be the club’s overall record for the year. There are flaws with Pythagorean W-L record, especially if teams score a lot of runs in their wins and lose a lot of close games. Entering play on Monday, the Twins had scored 175 runs and allowed 195 runs. Based on those totals, their projected Pythagorean W-L record is 17-21 which is a four-win improvement compared to the team’s actual record. This points to the team being a little bit unlucky. RISP Minnesota’s struggles with runners in scoring position have been well documented this year, but how much of this can be tied to bad luck in clutch situations? Only one AL team, Tampa Bay (3.81 runners/game), has left more runners in scoring position per game than the Twins (3.76 runners/game). Obviously, some injuries have impacted the line-up (see below), but it’s hard for a team to recover if runs aren’t being scored because players are being left in scoring position. What’s most disturbing is the drop Minnesota took from 2020 to 2021. Last year, the Twins ranked as the best in all of baseball by averaging 2.60 runners left on per game. The closest team to the Twins last season was Pittsburgh and they finished 20 points behind Minnesota by season’s end. There can be some expected regression, but this is a big drop for a team from one season to the next. BABIP BAbip is another statistic that can point to luck impacting batters and pitchers. For those unfamiliar, BAbip measures how frequently non-home run batted balls fall for hits. League average is around .300 in a typical year. So far in 2021, Twins hitters have posted a .287 BAbip, which ranks 16th in all of baseball. Only eight clubs have posted a BAbip above .300 for the year as offense has been down for most of the league. On the pitching side, Minnesota’s hurlers have also posted a BAbip in the middle of the pack. For the year, the Twins rank 15th with a .286 BAbip. In all of baseball, seven teams have a BAbip total above .300. Two teams in the AL Central, Kansas City (2nd) and Detroit (11th), rank higher than the Twins in pitching BAbip. Sometimes bloop hits fall in, sometimes a dribbler gets by a fielder, and other times a fielder is positioned perfectly to make a catch on a hard hit ball. All those things can impact a team’s BAbip and a little luck ties into all of it. Injuries Injuries have been up across baseball and the Twins have seen some key players missing time. Byron Buxton was playing at an MVP level before his recent hip injury put him on the shelf. Alex Kirilloff was hitting the ball with authority to all parts of the field before suffering a wrist injury from sliding into second base. Both players were playing at a high level and taking them out of the middle of the line-up has certain had an effect. Over the weekend, there was even more injury news. Max Kepler (hamstring), Kenta Maeda (groin), and Willians Astudillo (hand) all left Sunday’s game with different ailments. This is on top of Jake Cave already being on the IL and Kyle Garlick playing through a groin injury. The injuries continue to mount, and health looks like it might impact the team throughout the 2021 campaign. Having a little more luck on the team’s side might get those players back and preforming at their highest level. Do you think the Twins have been unlucky this year? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. Catchers (3): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers, Willians Astudillo Odd Man Out: None Garver and Jeffers have been locks to make the Opening Day roster since the 2020 season ended. Barring injury, Minnesota will rotate these two players throughout much of the season. Willians Astudillo hasn’t been on any previous version of the projected Opening Day roster, but the Twins have been hinting at him making the team. This includes signing Roberto Pena, a veteran catcher, to be a second catcher at Triple-A. Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons Odd Man Out: None Like the catching group, the infielders have been virtually set since the Twins signed Andrelton Simmons. Polanco, Arraez, and even Sano can be used at multiple defensive positions, so it’s going to be interesting to see how creative Baldelli will be with his line-up construction. Astudillo can also fit into this group as he has shown plenty of defensive versatility throughout his Twins tenure. Outfield (4): Jake Cave, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Brent Rooker Odd Men Out: Kyle Garlick, Alex Kirilloff The biggest Twins news of the week was that Alex Kirilloff was sent to the alternate site after he had a rough spring at the plate. This leaves the Twins with one decision to make as far as the last outfielder to make the club. In recent spring line-ups, Baldelli has been using the trio of Buxton, Kepler, and Rooker as his starting outfield. This leaves Cave as the fourth outfielder and Garlick on the outside looking in. Garlick has been impressive this spring, but he has an option left and the Twins can use him as depth at Triple-A. Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz Boomstick will be bashing homers into his 40s and Twins fans are along for the ride. Rotation (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker Odd Man Out: Randy Dobnak Dobnak isn’t going to be in the rotation to start the season, but that might not last for long. With his new and improved slider, Dobnak might be on track to be one of the AL’s biggest sleepers this season. Berrios may have made some adjustments to his fastball and that can be a scary proposition for hitters in the AL Central. Kenta Maeda will start on Opening Day in Milwaukee as he looks to build off his runner-up finish for the AL Cy Young. Bullpen (8): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Alex Colome, Jorge Alcala, Hansel Robles, Caleb Thielbar, Randy Dobnak, Derek Law Odd Men Out: Shaun Anderson, Cody Stashak, Devin Smeltzer Anderson seemed like the type of player that might be able to fill the Matt Wisler type role on the club, but he was optioned to the minor league side. Smeltzer can fill multiple roles at Triple-A before being needed at the big-league level. Stashak and Law were vying for the last spot and Law’s strikeout filled spring put him over the top. Minnesota will also have the opportunity to use 14 pitchers at different times during the season, so some of the players at the bullpen’s back end will be shuffled back and forth between CHS Field and Target Field. Who do you think makes the Opening Day roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. With spring training officially underway and a new season rapidly approaching, it's time to kick off my annual position-by-position analysis of the Minnesota Twins roster. Today, we break down the team's very strong outlook behind the plate.Projected Starter: Mitch Garver Likely Backup: Ryan Jeffers Depth: Willians Astudillo, Tomás Telis Prospects: Ben Rortvedt THE GOOD Few teams have a starting catcher as good as Mitch Garver. No teams have a backup catcher as good as Ryan Jeffers – to the extent you'd call him a "backup" given this appears to be a straight 50/50 timeshare. The Twins are in a pretty optimal situation with two starting-caliber catchers on hand. Although questions marks surround both Garver and Jeffers to some extent, each backstop has proven his mettle in the majors after stepping in with big expectations and big pressure. In 2019, after coming up short in their offseason pursuits of free agents Yasmani Grandal and Robinson Chirinos, the Twins turned to Garver as the primary partner for veteran Jason Castro. Garver's future behind the plate was somewhat in doubt after another concussion ended his 2018 campaign, while Castro was trying to come back from knee surgery. It was a bit of a precarious situation. It worked out nicely, in part because Castro rebounded with a .767 OPS, but mainly because Garver broke through with a spectacular season that earned him Silver Slugger honors and catapulted him immediately into the upper echelon of major-league catchers. He slashed .273/.365/.630 with 31 home runs and a .404 wOBA in 391 plate appearance, producing 3.9 fWAR in just 93 games. Garver's offensive explosion was accompanied by clear improvements on the defensive end, as he graded out very well by pitch-framing metrics and earned more confidence from Twins pitchers. While the luster wore off from his breakout during in injury-marred and abbreviated 2020 campaign, Garver is a prime rebound candidate and remains a high-quality starting option. For a deeper dive into position's long-term outlook, check out Cody Christie's future position analysis at catcher. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  19. Projected Starter: Mitch Garver Likely Backup: Ryan Jeffers Depth: Willians Astudillo, Tomás Telis Prospects: Ben Rortvedt THE GOOD Few teams have a starting catcher as good as Mitch Garver. No teams have a backup catcher as good as Ryan Jeffers – to the extent you'd call him a "backup" given this appears to be a straight 50/50 timeshare. The Twins are in a pretty optimal situation with two starting-caliber catchers on hand. Although questions marks surround both Garver and Jeffers to some extent, each backstop has proven his mettle in the majors after stepping in with big expectations and big pressure. In 2019, after coming up short in their offseason pursuits of free agents Yasmani Grandal and Robinson Chirinos, the Twins turned to Garver as the primary partner for veteran Jason Castro. Garver's future behind the plate was somewhat in doubt after another concussion ended his 2018 campaign, while Castro was trying to come back from knee surgery. It was a bit of a precarious situation. It worked out nicely, in part because Castro rebounded with a .767 OPS, but mainly because Garver broke through with a spectacular season that earned him Silver Slugger honors and catapulted him immediately into the upper echelon of major-league catchers. He slashed .273/.365/.630 with 31 home runs and a .404 wOBA in 391 plate appearance, producing 3.9 fWAR in just 93 games. Garver's offensive explosion was accompanied by clear improvements on the defensive end, as he graded out very well by pitch-framing metrics and earned more confidence from Twins pitchers. While the luster wore off from his breakout during in injury-marred and abbreviated 2020 campaign, Garver is a prime rebound candidate and remains a high-quality starting option. The uncertainties attached to Garver are much easier to stomach given last year's emergence of Jeffers, who answered the call for Minnesota's beleaguered catching corps. Showing up as a 23-year-old rookie, he showed astonishing poise and preparedness, slashing .273/.355/.436 while grading out well defensively. Jeffers received Twins Daily's nod for Rookie of the Year, and made such an impression that his spot on the 2021 Opening Day roster was at no point in doubt. He might not offer the upside to match what Garver showed in 2019, but Jeffers has instantly established himself as a high-floor timeshare partner, balancing out Garver's risk factor while enabling Rocco Baldelli to take it easy on both of them. The manager can rotate his top two catchers steadily to regulate their workloads, without ever sacrificing high-end offense or defense. How many other teams can say that? THE BAD While the Twins have an admirable 1-2 punch atop the depth chart at catcher, neither player is necessarily a slam dunk. Garver's immense struggles in 2020, when his OPS plummeted by nearly 500 points and he struck out in 46% of his plate appearances, can't be completely ignored, mitigating circumstances aside. He won't be that bad again, and got off on the right foot this year with a ringing single in his first spring training AB, but Garver will not escape the shadow of his 2020 season until he goes out on the field in real games and firmly proves it a fluke. As for Jeffers, his successful first stint in the majors carried no specific indicators of unsustainability, but all standard caveats apply. It was a 26-game sample for a 23-year-old who'd previously played only 24 games above Single-A. He needs to substantiate that performance while holding up to the rigors of a full MLB season as catcher – no small task. In terms of depth behind these two, the Twins aren't in bad shape with Tomás Telis, Ben Rortvedt and Willians Astudillo (who may round out the Opening Day roster as a third catcher). Needless to say, they'd see a huge drop-off in the quality of their catching rotation if either Garver or Jeffers goes down. THE BOTTOM LINE Minnesota's catching situation is the envy of much of the league. You'd be hard-pressed to find another club that would be in as comfortable shape as the Twins if their 1A option became unavailable. In fact, as spring training gets underway, it's not entirely clear Garver should be the 1A, given that Jeffers earned enough trust last season to start both playoff games. Regardless of how you want to stack them, these two provide Minnesota with a decisive competitive advantage behind the plate compared to nearly all rivals. For a deeper dive into position's long-term outlook, check out Cody Christie's future position analysis at catcher. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. "Our beautiful baby boy!" I cried, as Willians Astudillo hustled into second with a double during some random early-summer evening in 2019. My wife (fiancée at the time) looked at me with an expression combining befuddlement and a touch of embarrassment. It was hardly the first time she'd overheard such an outburst from me during a Twins game around this time, but that didn't make it seem any less strange to her. And I mean, it WAS strange. It's an odd type of behavior from an adult person who generally watches baseball with a detached analytical enjoyment. Not to say I don't get excited or emotional – I definitely do – but yeah, I wouldn't say it's normal for me to stan a player so irrationally and exuberantly that I resort to infant-speak and swoon at his most pedestrian of achievements on the field. Willians just has that effect. Or at least, he did. Over the course of that 2019 season, Astudillo's magical mystique began to fade. Now, I find myself wondering if it still exists. While the light has dimmed, I do think there's still a spark, and it intrigues me given his functional fit within this season's reshaped roster. THE LEGEND OF TORTUGA First, since he's been out of sight for so long, let us remind ourselves of why Astudillo became such a magnetic attraction to begin with. He arrived as a relative unknown in 2018 – a 26-year-old minor-league journeyman called up for a late-season look after catching some eyes in Rochester. In 29 games as a rookie in Minnesota, Astudillo did it all. He raked to the tune of .355/.371/.516, striking out only three times in 97 trips to the plate. He appeared at six different positions, including pitcher. He was a beaming ray of light for Twins fans in the waning weeks of a disappointing season. It wasn't just Astudillo's performance that earned him affinity. It was his VIBE. The man was utterly unique, like nothing any of us had seen before. Every single thing about him screamed "sandlot baseball." He swung at everything and made contact with everything. In spring training he executed a from behind the plate. He earned himself a label as "one of baseball's most entertaining players" from Sports Illustrated's Emma Baccellieri following his majestic celebration of a home run in the Venezuelan Winter League.Astudillo became a living meme, and an oddly inspirational figure, openly challenging the prototype for a major-league body. Ever the smiling jokester, Willians exuded joy and youthful enthusiasm in an infectious way that had plenty of us developing weird pet names and anticipating his at-bats. The guy was just so damn easy to root for. TURTLE ON ITS BACK Enthralled as we may have been by La Tortuga, most of us weren't blind to the realities of his ceiling and sustainability. He came to the Twins as an unheralded 26-year-old with no MLB experience. Coming off a season where he batted .342 for Arizona's Triple-A affiliate, Astudillo generated little demand on the market and signed a minor-league contract. As good as he looked during his rookie stint in 2018, it was in a sample of less than 100 plate appearances. Still, there was a palpable buzz surrounding Astudillo in spring of 2019. He was viewed as a major wild-card in Minnesota's plans, with the potential to contribute in significant ways if he could keep raking as a versatile defender and occasional backstop. Unfortunately, the ensuing season served as a harsh reality check. Pitchers quickly began to take advantage of his swing-at-everything approach, rarely giving him anything decent to hit. Astudillo's production sagged, and he saw a 200-point drop in OPS. Over 204 plate appearances, he slashed .268/.299/.379, while his defensive shortcomings became more evident and impactful, especially behind the plate. FanGraphs pegged him as a sub-replacement level player (-0.2 WAR). La Tortuga's luster wore off in a hurry, and as a result, he came into 2020 as more of an afterthought. The 28-year-old spent most of his summer at the alternate site, making just 16 regular-season PAs for the Twins. His only postseason appearance came when he entered as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of Game 1, representing the tying run with two on and one out, and instantly hit into a game-ending double play. Thus we arrive at the present situation. Entering 2021, Astudillo is even more of an afterthought; in fact, some believe he might be in danger of losing his 40-man roster spot as the club faces crunches with late additions. Not me. I actually see Astudillo having a uniquely useful fit as the 26th man on this year's Twins team, perhaps giving him one more chance to recapture the magic. ASTUDILLO'S 2021 OUTLOOK There's no way Willians will be lined up for any kind of substantial role on the 2021 Twins, at least not out of the gate. But keep in mind that despite his recent struggles, he's still a likable clubhouse presence with a .294/.319/.428 slash line in 317 MLB plate appearances and, most importantly, the ability to provide depth at some key spots. Consider the three defensive positions where Astudillo has played more than 100 innings in the majors: Catcher. As third catcher behind Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers, Astudillo would make it a lot more easy to occasionally play the non-starter at DH (or first base or left field, in Garver's case), or to use them as pinch-hitters. Third base. Josh Donaldson is obviously the biggest injury concern on the roster. While Luis Arráez is now penciled as his top backup, the Twins currently have no other bench players who can fill in there, and Arráez is likely to be occupied by other assignments frequently. Also, it's very possible Astudillo is a better defender than Arráez at third. First base. This is a position where the Twins have sacrificed depth by switching to Arráez in the utility role. Marwin González played more than 200 innings at first in his two years with the Twins, and Ehire Adrianza played there a bunch in 2019. I doubt we'll ever see Arráez play at first base in a major-league game. Astudillo can handle it fine. Arráez and Astudillo actually make for a pretty functional backup infielder combo, giving the Twins coverage all around the diamond while also providing Baldelli with contact hitters from both sides of the plate, to be plugged into the lineup or pinch-hit. I'm not saying Astudillo is a high-quality defender at any of the positions he plays, but he's competent enough at all of them. And while his bat hurtled back to Earth in 2019, the .678 OPS he posted was fine for a versatile, sparsely-used bench guy. He can be that. Unlike Travis Blankenhorn or Nick Gordon, there's no need to feed Astudillo regular ABs for the sake of his development. And, I'm still not quite willing to give up on him as an offensive difference-maker. He just wrapped up an absolutely dominant showing in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he batted .379 and led all hitters in total bases. Maybe it's just the flickering embers of faith and affinity still burning within me, but I've reached the conclusion that... yeah, I am still kind of excited about Astudillo. And now that the hype and oversized expectations have died down a bit, I think he's got a real chance to impress people as a useful piece on this 2021 Twins team. Now almost 30, it's been a long journey for Astudillo. But if you're counting him out at this point, you clearly never read the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. In this introspective journey, a mid-30s Twins fan confronts his complicated feelings about the enigmatic player known as La Tortuga."Our beautiful baby boy!" I cried, as Willians Astudillo hustled into second with a double during some random early-summer evening in 2019. My wife (fiancée at the time) looked at me with an expression combining befuddlement and a touch of embarrassment. It was hardly the first time she'd overheard such an outburst from me during a Twins game around this time, but that didn't make it seem any less strange to her. And I mean, it WAS strange. It's an odd type of behavior from an adult person who generally watches baseball with a detached analytical enjoyment. Not to say I don't get excited or emotional – I definitely do – but yeah, I wouldn't say it's normal for me to stan a player so irrationally and exuberantly that I resort to infant-speak and swoon at his most pedestrian of achievements on the field. Willians just has that effect. Or at least, he did. Over the course of that 2019 season, Astudillo's magical mystique began to fade. Now, I find myself wondering if it still exists. While the light has dimmed, I do think there's still a spark, and it intrigues me given his functional fit within this season's reshaped roster. THE LEGEND OF TORTUGA First, since he's been out of sight for so long, let us remind ourselves of why Astudillo became such a magnetic attraction to begin with. He arrived as a relative unknown in 2018 – a 26-year-old minor-league journeyman called up for a late-season look after catching some eyes in Rochester. In 29 games as a rookie in Minnesota, Astudillo did it all. He raked to the tune of .355/.371/.516, striking out only three times in 97 trips to the plate. He appeared at six different positions, including pitcher. He was a beaming ray of light for Twins fans in the waning weeks of a disappointing season. It wasn't just Astudillo's performance that earned him affinity. It was his VIBE. The man was utterly unique, like nothing any of us had seen before. Every single thing about him screamed "sandlot baseball." He swung at everything and made contact with everything. In spring training he executed a from behind the plate. He earned himself a label as "one of baseball's most entertaining players" from Sports Illustrated's Emma Baccellieri following his majestic celebration of a home run in the Venezuelan Winter League. Astudillo became a living meme, and an oddly inspirational figure, openly challenging the prototype for a major-league body. Maybe it's just the flickering embers of faith and affinity still burning within me, but I've reached the conclusion that... yeah, I am still kind of excited about Astudillo. And now that the hype and oversized expectations have died down a bit, I think he's got a real chance to impress people as a useful piece on this 2021 Twins team. Now almost 30, it's been a long journey for Astudillo. But if you're counting him out at this point, you clearly never read the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  22. Hi! I’m Twins catcher Willians Astudillo. Growing up in Venezuela, I didn’t have to deal with the harsh winter months that Minnesotans do. Still, the time I’ve spent in America has given me ample experience. As this cold snap enters a second week, I’d like to share some of things I’ve discovered that help me handle whatever situations may arise. Hope they help you too! Furnace on the fritz. A homeowner’s worst nightmare: Temps plummet, and instead of warm air pumping into your house, an ungodly noise rises from the basement. Waiting for a repair person can be a headache, and the cost can be prohibitive. My advice? Swing at the first pitch. Icy roads. Treacherous travel conditions are a constant threat for Minnesota drivers. Even a little bit of snow or wind can turn the highways into a hockey rink. Staying home is always the best option, but that’s not always possible. My advice? The pitcher is probably going to try and get ahead in the count and start with a strike. Swing at the first pitch. Exposed skin. When the wind chills get well below zero, any piece of skin you leave uncovered outdoors is in danger of frostbite. If you’ve got to be outside for an extended period of time, you need to take every precaution. My advice? Get on top of that first pitch. Outdoor recreation. Minnesota takes pride in getting out and enjoying the winter weather. Sledding, biking, snowmobiling, skating, skiing, heck, even just building a bonfire in your backyard for some smores and hot cocoa. It you’re not from here, it takes some getting used to, but I’ve found ways to adapt. My advice? Keep the pressure on. Swing at the first pitch. Your pets. Your dog needs to get out and do their business. Your cat is the king of your unheated garage. You need to keep an eye out for their safety. My advice? They might think you’re finally going to take a pitch. Wrong again. Swing at the first pitch. Have a great weekend!
  23. Catchers (2): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers In the initial roster projection, Willians Astudillo was included as a third catcher and bench option for Rocco Baldelli. Things have shifted with other parts of the roster and this made Astudillo the first player dropped from the 26-man roster. Garver and Jeffers will rotate catcher duties and Astudillo can rake in St. Paul until he is needed at the big-league level. Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons Little has changed here with all infield positions solidified and Luis Arraez set to shift into a super-utility role. How will Jorge Polanco adjust to second base? Can Josh Donaldson stay healthy? Will Andrelton Simmons help the Twins to have their best defensive team ever? There are still plenty of questions to be answered, but this group looks solid to start on Opening Day. Outfield (4): Jake Cave, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Brent Rooker There’s some talk that the Twins could ignore some of the service time rules and allow Alex Kirilloff to be with the team from season’s start. That is certainly a possibility, but it seems more likely for him to start the year at Triple-A with Jake Cave and Brent Rooker getting outfield at-bats. Byron Buxton bulked up again this winter and Max Kepler might have something to prove in 2021. Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz Cruz is over 40-years old this season and few players have found success after crossing this plateau. Can Cruz join this elite list of players that all made the Hall of Fame? Rotation (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker The biggest change since the first roster projection is Minnesota signed Matt Shoemaker to fill out the fifth spot in the rotation. This pushed Randy Dobnak out of a rotation spot for the time being. After pitchers threw limited innings last year, some teams are considering a six-man rotation to help ease workloads. Dobnak can easily be a fill-in starter or a long reliever to eat innings if another starter has a short outing. Bullpen (9): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Alex Colome, Jorge Alcala, Hansel Robles, Caleb Thielbar, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak, Shaun Anderson The first seven bullpen spots are relatively set-in stone barring any injuries. This leaves at least one spot available as the team needs to decide if they are going with a 13- or 14-man pitching staff. Last year, teams were limited to 13-pitchers when there were 26-man rosters. That rule has been dropped for 2021, so Minnesota can start the year with a nine-man bullpen to help starters ease back into the workload associated with a full 162-game season. Dobnak moves from the rotation to the bullpen as a long-reliever and Shaun Anderson gets the bump up to the final bullpen spot. Who do you think makes the Opening Day roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  24. A season ago Baldelli was named American League Manager of the Year. It was warranted. The former star player guided the Twins to a record setting home run total and one of the most successful seasons in Twins history. Often times the award is handed to a guy leading a surprising organization to new heights. In 2020 expectations were lifted, but Baldelli created plenty of confusion. The vaunted lineup on paper failed to perform plenty of nights and drawing the infield in during early stretches of games became commonplace. In the biggest game of the season however, four decisions struck me as poor. Kenta Maeda is lifted after 5 innings and 91 pitches Minnesota had a 1-0 lead at the time, but the only thing going for the Twins in this contest was Maeda. Despite forcing Zack Greinke to work in the 1st inning, no runs were scored with the bases loaded and just one out. The Astros starter then settled in, and Framber Valdez dominated after a shaky first inning of relief. It seemed questionable to assume that one run would be enough to win this one and hoping the bullpen could lock things down for nearly half the game was a big ask. After getting both Matt Wisler and Trevor May warm previously, it’d have been nice to see Maeda return for the 6th and at least go one batter at a time. He could’ve been lifted at any point then. Instead the horses of the pen have no all been used while Houston didn’t trot out a single reliever. Mitch Garver pinch hits for Ryan Jeffers to start the 7th inning It was maybe an aggressive move to start rookie Ryan Jeffers in game one despite just 26 games of action. His .791 OPS and they way he worked behind the plate had earned it, however. Combine that with Garver slumping massively since his IL return and there was nothing about the decision that needed defending. In response to a lefty being on the mound though, Baldelli became convinced that 2019 Garver was who he was calling off the bench. Instead four straight curveballs, each one looked at, was all it too to get Minnesota’s pinch hitter. Letting Jeffers hit in that spot was the right move. You started him because of what he’d shown thus far, and he put up exit velocities of 105 and 109 mph earlier in this one. It was a second guessing that was unfounded and made no sense. From here, we get two more problems. Alex Avila replaces Mitch Garver defensively in the 8th inning Immediately following a poor at bat, Garver is lifted prior to taking the field. Despite being arguably a better receiver than Avila, Baldelli decided the veteran backstop was the play. Of course, there was still another catcher on the roster thanks to the Twins rostering four in this series, but it never was going to make sense for the position to become a revolving door. Garver could’ve caught the 8th inning and been more likely to steal strikes. Avila remains on the bench and represents your last true catcher behind the plate. Willians Astudillo pinch hits for Alex Avila in the 9th inning Now we get to the third cascading effect of the original choice to lift Jeffers. Trailing by three runs in a momentum setting first game, the Twins responded with Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco singling to right field. The batter would represent the tying run with a single out and runners on first and second. The right-handed bats left were Ehire Adrianza and Astudillo. Neither ideal, and the latter had just 16 big league at bats this season. On the very first pitch Astudillo lunged at a bender and hit a routine ground ball to third for the double play. The entirety of this move was necessitated because of Rocco’s initial mistake to lift Jeffers. It was in this at bat though that highlighting Astudillo’s negative impact is so simple. He’s not Luis Arraez, and his ability to make contact is quite literally a negative. His chase rate is not good, and neither is the hard-hit percentage. By putting the ball in play, which is his sole intention, you’re more likely to experience a negative result. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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