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5 Takeaways from Sunday's Alternate Site Action in St. Paul

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#1 Matthew Trueblood

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Posted 19 April 2021 - 11:00 AM

The Twins are in an indefinite holding pattern as they deal with an outbreak of COVID-19, but at their alternate site, action continued this weekend. Here are five takeaways from their Sunday workouts and simulated game.Blankenhorn Called Up to Taxi Squad; Kirilloff Still in St. Paul

The implications of the decision are inscrutable, but the Twins added Travis Blankenhorn to their taxi squad after the postponement of their games against the Angels this weekend. Blankenhorn had not been on the initially reported taxi squad for the road trip to Anaheim and Oakland, so his absence from St. Paul is of some note, especially given the expected roster upheaval whenever the team does take the field again.

Meanwhile, however, Alex Kirilloff remains in St. Paul. He took batting practice and participated in the team’s brief simulated game, getting in good swings off the likes of Derek Law and Juan Minaya. Apparently, the Twins still don’t feel that Kirilloff has built the developmental momentum they want him to have before permanently adding him to the parent club.

Forgotten Man Ben Rortvedt a Solid Fallback Plan at Catcher

After Ryan Jeffers’s ascendant 2020, it became easy to lose sight of Rortvedt, as the Twins appear well-fixed at catcher. Should either Jeffers or Mitch Garver suffer an injury, though, Rortvedt would be well-positioned to get the call. The lefty-swinging 23-year-old is already on the 40-man roster, which could give him a leg up over Caleb Hamilton or Tomás Telis, and on Sunday, he took Cody Stashak deep at CHS Field. He caught half the simulated game in addition to getting his licks in, and looks the part of a solid backup backstop in the majors even now.

Juan Minaya’s Changeup Plays

One thing CHS Field does not currently offer fans or players is a live scoreboard with velocity readings. However, it does afford fans close-up views, so it’s possible to get a quick, amateur assessment of certain pitchers’ stuff based on the way the ball comes out of their hand and on the reactions they get from hitters. Minaya was impressive in an inning-plus of work Sunday, including a changeup that flummoxed Kirilloff for a strikeout.

Though he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2019, Minaya was briefly an effective big-leaguer, with a fastball that sat at 94 or 95 miles per hour. His changeup was his best pitch then, too, and he used it to run reverse platoon splits. (In other words, he was better against left-handed batters than against fellow righties.) I overheard two Twins hitters talking about his stuff prior to his appearance, and they were under the impression that his fastball was sitting at 97. If true, that’s a significant development for the non-roster bullpen hopeful. Whatever speed the fastball had, though, the changeup played off it nicely.

A Good Environment for Development, Perhaps; For Evaluation and Preparation, Not So Much

Like the other 29 teams, the Twins are ardently making the most of the situation while they await real minor-league games. Coaches talk up the benefits of the unique setting from a development and feedback perspective. It’s not hard to buy into that, when watching a pitch sail over a Rapsodo camera a dozen feet in front of home plate, or when hearing about the way the team can offer players immediate and thorough feedback after each session.

However, from every other perspective, it’s a profoundly diminished thing. Fans should attend workouts only if they’re exceptionally eager to see baseball movements and delight in the details of practice. The game-level fan experience can only be called soporific. The atmosphere is sterile. Whole swaths of the field went unmanned Sunday, as the team worked even more shorthanded than usual. No serious conclusions about any player’s ability to make key adjustments or handle game situations can be drawn from what is happening in St. Paul. Nor can any objective observer argue that those workouts are preparing players adequately for big-league contests. Everyone involved is doing their best, and it’s not a worthless exercise, but it’s even further from the optimal minor-league setting than you would imagine.

Nick Gordon Doesn’t Look Like a Useful Utility Man

Speaking of someone doing their best (but their best not necessarily being sufficient), Nick Gordon took some early infield practice at shortstop. It wasn’t encouraging. Persistently struggling to get off strong throws from the hole, Gordon also began dropping or mishandling balls to his backhand side at a high rate as he tried to speed up his pick and transfer. Making mistakes is why you take the extra reps, and they can make you better. At this stage of his development, though, Gordon shouldn’t be having as many problems as he was having on that play, if he’s ever to provide value with his glove on the left side of the infield.

This has been the biggest problem for Gordon for a couple of years now. Ever since he settled into what looked like a low-ceiling offensive profile, the question has been whether he would be able to play anywhere but second base on a big-league infield. Unfortunately, the answer seems to be no, and the process by which he would change that at this stage is hard to envision. If the Twins hope for help from the alternate site in case of further depletion on the infield, it will probably have to come from Blankenhorn’s bat or the glove of Tzu-Wei Lin.

MORE MINOR LEAGUE COVERAGE
The Brightest, Anonymous Superstar: My Conversation with Tzu-Wei Lin
Kirilloff Preparing for Big-League Opportunity
Toby Gardenhire Is Following in His Father's Footsteps
Twins Minor League Report: Depth Camp Opportunities

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#2 DocBauer

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Posted 19 April 2021 - 10:16 PM

I think it's great MLB has allowed the taxi squad and the development team at an off site to get ready for 2021. But until someone from MLB can give me a really good reason for the delay of milb starting at its normal time I'm going to again question Manfred and his "leadership". There is no substitute for preparation than playing. But that has been removed. So what to do when you want to make a roster move? Taxi squad and extra site sounds like a good idea. Except, just like last year, no games and limited experience until games start. Teams, and prospects, are largely handcuffed until late May or June. Your comments on Gordon are disappointing, if not unexpected. But I have to wonder still, with a little more time to gain strength and endurance after his covid 2020, could he be servicable at SS with time and strength?
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#3 Doctor Gast

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 06:17 AM

I too like Doc, am hopeful that Gordon will eventually gain his strength and show improvement at SS. But IMO Gordon doesn't have a real future with the Twins even before he got covid. Was hoping for more news relating to Broxton, Lin and others.
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#4 blindeke

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 07:12 AM

Wow great writeup. thanks!


#5 Trov

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 07:58 AM

Nick Gordon has become a huge disappointment.He was expected to be a high floor guy at minimum.He may never make the majors as a Twin.There are a few guys right after him that would have been better, Aaron Nola, for one.The next SS take was Trea Turner, who is not the best around, but has been decent in his career and been in majors for 7 years now.I remember people were down on Turner in the draft because his lack of power.  

 

In the 7 years he has had between a 3 to 4 war each full year.This is not world changing but much better than what Gordon has done and will do.  

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#6 ashbury

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 08:20 AM

 

Nick Gordon has become a huge disappointment.He was expected to be a high floor guy at minimum.He may never make the majors as a Twin.There are a few guys right after him that would have been better, Aaron Nola, for one.The next SS take was Trea Turner, who is not the best around, but has been decent in his career and been in majors for 7 years now.I remember people were down on Turner in the draft because his lack of power.  

 

In the 7 years he has had between a 3 to 4 war each full year.This is not world changing but much better than what Gordon has done and will do.  

No question Gordon is a whiff by the scouting/evaluation staff at the time. Choosing him seems in retrospect the triumph of bloodlines & projectability as the dominant scouting techniques. I wouldn't be surprised to learn "has the good face" figured in on at least one scouting sheet.
 

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#7 Dodecahedron

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 08:27 AM

I always felt that if Nick Gordon ever plays regularly for the Twins, it's a catastrophic sign. He has never been a good defender nor a good hitter. I think the only reason the Twins keep him in the middle infield is his whiffle-bat won't play anywhere else, but his middle infield defense will never be good enough to start in the MLB.

 

Gordon has played plenty of reps at both SS and 2B and the results have always been what the OP witnessed. In fact, most of his games have been at SS. His defensive metrics at both positions are very similar.


#8 jrod23

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 08:58 AM

 

Nick Gordon has become a huge disappointment.He was expected to be a high floor guy at minimum.He may never make the majors as a Twin.There are a few guys right after him that would have been better, Aaron Nola, for one.The next SS take was Trea Turner, who is not the best around, but has been decent in his career and been in majors for 7 years now.I remember people were down on Turner in the draft because his lack of power.  

 

In the 7 years he has had between a 3 to 4 war each full year.This is not world changing but much better than what Gordon has done and will do.  

 

I always hate doing this to myself.Looking at who was drafted after and how could we possibly miss on that talent.Going further, I think you're even underselling Trea Turner.Kid can play baseball.

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#9 iowaguychris

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 12:05 PM

Disappointed to hear Gordon is still pretty much what we've learned him to be.Maybe someone like the Tigers will give us ANYTHING for him?

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#10 SkyBlueWaters

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 12:06 PM

 

Nick Gordon has become a huge disappointment.He was expected to be a high floor guy at minimum.He may never make the majors as a Twin. ... 

 

I completely agree.I was trying to remember how highly Nick Gordon was ranked as as prospect--not just a Twins prospect, but I think in all of MLB he was once given high marks. 

 


#11 jkcarew

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 06:20 PM

Twins took the high school kid with “protectable tools”. The Padres took the college guy that could play.

 

(Padres traded Turner to Dodgers in a deal that netted Will Myers.)


#12 Twinfan603

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 03:53 AM

A bummer to hear about Nick Gordon's struggles, I've always rooted for him to succeed because he seems like a great guy.

 

That 2013-15 draft stretch is really biting the Twins in the rear right about now. To have three top-6 picks and miss on all of them is a killer. Imagine where this team would be if even 1 had become a regular...

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#13 rdehring

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 08:49 AM

 

A bummer to hear about Nick Gordon's struggles, I've always rooted for him to succeed because he seems like a great guy.

 

That 2013-15 draft stretch is really biting the Twins in the rear right about now. To have three top-6 picks and miss on all of them is a killer. Imagine where this team would be if even 1 had become a regular...

I hit the like button Twinfan603, then deleted it. There is nothing to like about your comment...it is just too bloody depressing thinking about those three top-6 picks. What is even worse is that I can't remember who they all were...now that's depressing.

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#14 Vanimal46

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 08:54 AM

I hit the like button Twinfan603, then deleted it. There is nothing to like about your comment...it is just too bloody depressing thinking about those three top-6 picks. What is even worse is that I can't remember who they all were...now that's depressing.


2013: Kohl Stewart 4th overall
2014: Nick Gordon 5th overall
2015: Tyler Jay 6th overall

Massive misses for sure, and telling why the old regime is gone. On a positive note, their final draft was Kirilloff at 15 overall.
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#15 nicksaviking

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 10:29 AM

 

2013: Kohl Stewart 4th overall
2014: Nick Gordon 5th overall
2015: Tyler Jay 6th overall

Massive misses for sure, and telling why the old regime is gone. On a positive note, their final draft was Kirilloff at 15 overall.

 

Yeah, 2013 and 2015 appear to have been bad years to have high draft picks. A few good players pop up at the end of the first round those years, but overall, those were bad classes.

 

They totally duffed it in 2014 though. Lots of people had them picking Aaron Nola, there were folks here asking for Trea Turner.

 

Wish I could claim I was one of them but I had my eye on the upside arms that year. I wanted Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint or oops, Grant Holmes. I thought Nola was a soft-tosser who'd be a high-contact arm like the Twins always fell in love with so I wanted nothing to do with him!


#16 Trov

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 10:30 AM

 

I completely agree.I was trying to remember how highly Nick Gordon was ranked as as prospect--not just a Twins prospect, but I think in all of MLB he was once given high marks. 

I recall at the time of the draft he was highly touted.Really the top of that draft has been a lot of busts. Of the top 10 only 5 has made majors, and of them only 2 have double digit career WAR.It just goes to show that scouts are far from perfect.Guys like Dobnak go undrafted and make majors, where number 1 overall picks do not make majors.  

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#17 SkyBlueWaters

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 01:24 PM

 

I recall at the time of the draft he was highly touted.Really the top of that draft has been a lot of busts. Of the top 10 only 5 has made majors, and of them only 2 have double digit career WAR.It just goes to show that scouts are far from perfect.Guys like Dobnak go undrafted and make majors, where number 1 overall picks do not make majors.  

 

I have a friend who often carps about the high draft picks for his team that miss. Good guy, but has trouble realizing how deceptive 20-20 hindsight is.

 

I found a list online of the Seattle Mariners first round picks throughout their history and sent it to him. Most are guys we never heard from again, or maybe had a cup of coffee, or rode the bench.

 

Tito Nanni? Al Chambers? Darrel Akerfelds? Patrick Lennon? 

 

The thing is, the list also includes names like Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. (A few others of note include Dave "Hendu" Henderson, Mike Moore ('89 World Series), Tino Martinez, and Jason Varitek.)

 

It feels so perfectly reasonable for any hometown fan to ask, in hindsight, why did you pick the guy who bottomed out in double A rather than the future hall of famer *who now excels for our arch-rival?!*

 

The media has a field day yammering about the players selected ahead of the GOAT.

 

And why not? Fuel for the hot stove leagues.

 


#18 Trov

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Posted 22 April 2021 - 07:43 AM

 

I have a friend who often carps about the high draft picks for his team that miss. Good guy, but has trouble realizing how deceptive 20-20 hindsight is.

 

I found a list online of the Seattle Mariners first round picks throughout their history and sent it to him. Most are guys we never heard from again, or maybe had a cup of coffee, or rode the bench.

 

Tito Nanni? Al Chambers? Darrel Akerfelds? Patrick Lennon? 

 

The thing is, the list also includes names like Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. (A few others of note include Dave "Hendu" Henderson, Mike Moore ('89 World Series), Tino Martinez, and Jason Varitek.)

 

It feels so perfectly reasonable for any hometown fan to ask, in hindsight, why did you pick the guy who bottomed out in double A rather than the future hall of famer *who now excels for our arch-rival?!*

 

The media has a field day yammering about the players selected ahead of the GOAT.

 

And why not? Fuel for the hot stove leagues.

Exactly, every team has bad misses and pass on amazing players.I am sure every team in Mike Trout draft that picked before him wish they could go back.Mark Appel was picked 8th, but was projected 1st did not sign, then picked 1st and he is 29 yet to make majors.The MLB draft is a major crap shoot.There are some players that people say are can't miss, but even them end up being a miss.  

 

I believe MLB draft is the hardest to project.Some drafts are filled with future MVP's/HOF and some are filled with busts.The fans will remember the home team bad choices, but rarely remember the hits compared to others drafted before them.  

 

I doubt you will find a single team that has a run of no busts in their drafts.Where I get more upset is when bad trades are made.I bet White Sox fans are real upset of the Tatis Jr. trade for Shields years ago.Shields did nothing to help Sox and Tatis Jr. is expected to be one of best players for next decade.  

 

The reason I have bigger issue with bad trades are that you had a chance to really get to know the player you are sending away.If you did not see the potential then your system may be broken.With the draft you only get to scout, watch tape, and make educated guesses.So often if a player is out of HS in a northern state they get little attention because they do not play as much and are not considered as good of competition.That leads to some misses of good players.  


#19 Doctor Gast

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Posted 22 April 2021 - 01:20 PM

I'll to state again that trading is good. Many players are looking for a key to transform their careers and can't find it with the teams that drafted them. Some get traded a few times until they finally find the team that has the key they are looking for. The League is full of examples, one that comes to mind is Luis Castillo. He was traded around several times (2x with MIA) until he landed with the Reds.

Hanging onto nice guys aren't doing them any favors, let alone the team. We shouldn't feel bad about trading a player and they do well (they just found the key that wasn't available here). Scouting is essential to find needed players to fill our needs that we have the keys to unlock their potential.

#20 twinfan

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Posted 23 April 2021 - 10:44 AM

Being in a minor league city, the word we got was the minors were starting late because of the COVID pandemic which was going to cause major league teams to call up players and also to keep minor league players safe. Also, the callups were not supposed to count against the major league teams (whatever that means). 

 

I don't know what a minor leaguer has to prove before getting the callup. First year minor leaguers may have to learn to be away from home and adjust to playing almost every night. Otherwise, who knows why one player gets the call and another doesn't.