Thursday, December 7, 2017

Minnesota Makes Much Of Nothing

When Derek Falvey and Thad Levine consummated trades with both the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels, they made much of absolutely nothing. Sending $1 million worth of International Bonus Pool space to both teams, the Twins got two legitimate prospects in return. Knowing that Bonus Pool is really not cash at all, makes the move even more shrewd.

Going into the offseason, the Twins had the third largest International Bonus pool to offer Shohei Ohtani or any other international free agent they wanted to grab. Once Ohtani let them know they weren't going to make his final cut, the club has significantly more clarity as to what they should use that flexibility for. International Bonus Pools really aren't money in terms of actual cash, but instead a threshold of what you can offer to players. With no one making the Twins jump, Falvey and Levine preyed on two teams still in the running for the assumed Japanese superstar.

Obviously there is only one Ohtani, so both the Mariners and Angels aren't going to end up with him. Each felt the additional spending flexibility would increase their chances however, and they parted with legitimate pieces to obtain that. The Angels gave up 2017 3rd round pick Jacob Pearson, while the Mariners parted with 5th round pick David Banuelos. For the Twins, two legitimate prospects looks a lot better than inanimate money destined for nowhere.

While the Angels farm system is notably weak, Pearson was their 5th overall prospect. MLB Pipeline slots him in at 22 for Minnesota, and I'd suggested he'd be 15th on my list. Banuelos would be outside the top 15, but I suggested I'd have him 18th behind LaMonte Wade and Akil Baddoo. Both players also fill a significant need on the farm, with Pearson able to play CF and Banuelos being an legitimate catcher.

Going forward, both players are going to take time to develop. Pearson is a high schooler from Louisiana that was headed to play on the same LSU team as (now teammate) Blayne Enlow. Banuelos is just 21 and also has less than a year of pro ball under his belt. The expectation from Pearson is that there should be some speed and a little pop in his bat, while Banuelos is seen as a strong receiver with very good pop times. Many of the Twins prospect outfield types are on the corners, and behind the dish, it's really just Ben Rortvedt.

We won't know how the narrative of these two players works out for at least the next couple of years, but right now, the process was executed flawlessly. Minnesota tried their hand at landing Ohtani, and when they couldn't, they preyed on those teams still in the running, They now have eight players taken in the first five rounds of the 2017 MLB draft, and adding talent to an organization is always a good practice.

The organization should have something like $1.2 million left in International Bonus spending space, and that should be enough to lure former signee Jelfry Marte if the club is still interested (per Darren Wolfson). There's no telling what Minnesota does with the rest of their allotment, and they may choose to do nothing at all. Right now though, we know that the move they made was an exceptional one.

Oh, and too bad to Seattle or Los Angeles, whichever one of of you doesn't land Ohtani and dealt on false hope.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

2018 Minnesota Twins Top 15 Prospects

As the Major League Baseball offseason trudges on, and the Winter Meetings soon commence, it's time to take a look at what the Minnesota Twins have on the farm. Over the past few years, the Twins have drafted higher in the draft, allowing them to stockpile talent replacing those who have graduated. Although the current class isn't headlined by a Byron Buxton, it's overall level is impressive.

Here at Off The Baggy, this will now be my third annual Top 15 Twins Prospect list. You can find 2016 here, and 2017 here. Many of those names are now on the big league club, and a few have moved on to other organizations. Prepping us for the season ahead, here's how I see the next wave of future Twins greats.

15. LaMonte Wade OF

A 9th round selection in the 2015 MLB Draft, Wade has continued to impress at each stop for the Twins. He ripped off an .805 OPS across 117 games at Double-A Chattanooga this year, and the seven home runs continue to suggest there's a bit of pop in his bat. Wade makes a ton of contact, and has walked more than he's struck out at each level. He may not have an All-Star ceiling, but being a nice rotational outfielder seems like a good bet.

14. Zack Littell SP

Brought into the organization through the Jaime Garcia deal with the Yankees, Littell provides an immediate boost to a club looking for pitching. He was lights out in the Eastern League, and continued to roll with Chattanooga. His strikeouts and walks both went in suboptimal directions following the trade, but it was a small seven game sample size. He has real strikeout ability, and should be a capable middle-of-the-rotation starter for Minnesota as early as 2018.

13. Brusdar Graterol SP

If there's an arm on the farm capable of challenging Fernando Romero's velocity, it's probably Greterol's. Just 19, he fared well in both the GCL and Appy League's this past season. With a big velocity fastball, and some solid secondary offerings, he's had no problem mowing down hitters at the lower level. He'll need to hone in command as he works on promotions, but the electric stuff makes him among the most intriguing Twins prospects in the system.

12. Lewis Thorpe SP

Returning to the mound following Tommy John surgery, Thorpe had a long road to recover. However, he made 16 starts in 2017, and was nothing short of impressive. With Fort Myers, he posted a 2.69 ERA and struck out 9.8 batters per nine. Walks have been a concern both in Cedar Rapids, and in the Florida State League, but an acclimation period is to be expected. If he can settle in to start 2018, he may be less than two years away, and should be a dependable lefty on the bump.

11. Blayne Enlow SP

Enlow was taken in the 3rd round of the 2017 MLB Draft, yet has true first round talent. Pitching at 18 right out of high school, he owned a 1.33 ERA across 20.1 IP in the GCL. His advanced command was nice to see, and there wasn't a time that he took the mound where it wasn't can't miss baseball. Although high school pitchers have a rough track record to go against, Enlow has all the makings of a special talent.

10. Travis Blankenhorn

After getting to Cedar Rapids a year ago, Blankenhorn spent the entirety of the 2017 season there. His average dropped off some, but the on-base percentage held strong. His .784 OPS was still more than respectable, and following up the 10 homers in 2016 with 13 in 2017 was nice to see. I'm not sure if he'll end up sticking more at second or third going forward, but he's a kid that's continued to come into his own.

9. Tyler Jay

Taken 6th overall in the 2015 draft, the road through the minors has been anything but smooth for Jay. Dealing with injuries, and shifting roles, he finally looks on track for the 2018 season. He recorded just 11.2 IP a year ago, but was able to get in 9.2 IP of work during the Arizona Fall League. The new front office hasn't yet ruled out using him as a starter, but I think he's best suited in the pen. He could slot into a future closer role, and the strikeout stuff is definitely there. If he's healthy, I'd imagine Minnesota may be able to call on him midway through 2018.

8 Alex Kirilloff

Thanks to Tommy John surgery, Kirilloff sat out the entirety of the 2017 season. Obviously for a position player, the surgery is much less of an issue. He put up a solid .794 OPS in his debut season with Elizabethton, and should be expected to pick up where he left off. It remains to be seen if Kirilloff can stay in the outfield, but if the bat plays, the Twins will no doubt find a place for it.

7. Felix Jorge SP

The good thing was that Jorge got a test of the big leagues in 2017. The bad thing was how those 7.2 IP went (10.57 ERA). Not to worry, I don't think that's indicative of the young starter's future. Still with just three starts at Triple-A under his belt, Jorge has time for growth. He should start 2018 with Rochester, and as he finds his command there, should make his way back to the Twins rotation. He's more of a pitch-to-contact type, but he keeps the ball in the yard and profiles as a nice back-end starting option.

6. Brent Rooker OF

Looking at how they've started out, I'm not sure it's possible for me to like the top of the 2017 Twins draft class any more than I already do. Rooker is the lone bat of the group, and he's an incredibly good one. After destroying the SEC in his final year, he made both the Appalachian and Florida State Leagues look easy. Minnesota could be aggressive and start him at Double-A in 2018, which I would hope for, and we may even see him in Twins Territory by season's end.

5. Wander Javier SS

The first of three top five shortstop prospects for the Twins, Javier just continues to gain steam. I walked away from watching him live during spring training in awe, and think he has a chance to be special. Playing his first season stateside, Javier owned an .855 OPS with Elizabethton. As he continues to fill out, there will be more power to come, but he's a true gap hitter with what seems like a decent chance to stick at short.

4. Nick Gordon SS

Creeping towards top-50 prospect status in all of baseball, Gordon had somewhat of a disappointing season. The .749 OPS was a career high, but there's questions as to whether or not he can stick at shortstop. The hope is that either the bat or the glove will pick up significantly and start to point towards what type of big leaguer he may be. At just 22, the Twins still have some time but it would be great to see Gordon have a breakout 2018.

3. Fernando Romero SP

Having arguably the best chance at turning into a potential ace among all Twins pitching prospects, Romero had another solid season in 2017. Making his Double-A debut, he started 23 games and pitched a career high 125.0 innings. His walk rate did spike a bit, but the strikeout numbers held strong. He has upper 90's velocity, and has shown strong pitchability thus far throughout the minors. There's probably an outside chance we see him with the Twins, at least briefly, at some point in 2018.

2. Stephen Gonsalves SP

Cracking Top 100 prospect lists for the first time prior to last season, Gonsalves is finally starting to get some of the national recognition he deserves. The lefty isn't flashy, but he's ridiculously consistent, and he's very good. His 2.68 ERA and 9.9 K/9 followed up a strong 2016 showing, and he made his Triple-A debut this past year. Aside from one start, he excelled at the highest minor league level (3 starts), and his overall command was sharpened a year ago. Expect him to slot in for the Twins at some point in the upcoming campaign.

1. Royce Lewis SS

Selected as the first overall pick in the 2017 draft, Lewis has been exceptional in his brief time as a pro. Making quick work of the GCL, he was promoted to Cedar Rapids for their playoff run. Despite being just 18 years old, he owned a .757 OPS and batted .296 in a league he was over three years younger than the average. He should easily be a top 50 prospect in all of baseball heading into 2018, and there's a case to be made that he is ranked within the top 25-30. We're still a few years away from seeing him with Minnesota, but early indications suggest Lewis is worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Emptying Out The Hot Stove Mailbag

With free agency already underway (despite the lack of movement), it seemed a good time to field some questions regarding the Twins offseason and upcoming year. After a Wild Card appearance a season ago, Thad Levine and Derek Falvey have a team with the arrow pointed straight up. How they handle this winter, and set themselves up for 2018 will be intriguing, and there's plenty more question to explore.

After sourcing questions from followers on Twitter at @tlschwerz, I received a handful of good submissions. Now, let's get into looking at some answers.
From the get go, I don't think we'll see any prospects in the rotation. Adalberto Mejia, who's no longer a rookie, will have a shot at rounding out the group however. I'd tab Stephen Gonsalves as the first prospect up, with Fernando Romero following him. We could also see Zack Littell later in the year.
Ohtani is so young, and he did strike out plenty in Japan, but I think that league is better than Korea by quite a bit. I'd expect his bat skills to lag behind his pitching, but think they could end up being above average. The arm is going to play, and I expect him to be an impact starter from day one.
This is somewhat of a trick question, because my ideal answer would be no one. To me, the more back-end relief options you build you bullpen with, the stronger it is as a whole. If a guy is a middle reliever, the ceiling is just lower in my opinion. That said, relievers I'd be interested in are Bryan Shaw, Addison Reed, and Tony Watson. I liked Mike Minor, but the Rangers just grabbed him and are allowing him to start.
Right now, I can't imagine Gibson having any real trade value. Halfway through the season, he was a non-tender candidate for Minnesota this offseason. You have to hope his second half was real, but no other team is giving up anything for him. Santana is dicey going forward as he creeps up in age. That said, even as he regresses, he should remain serviceable. The Twins window is opening right now, and supplementing the rotation with a better number one than Ervin is a must.
I'm more of the thought process that believes closers can be developed (see; Kintzler, Brandon or Belisle, Matt). Colome is a nice 9th inning option, and he's not a free agent until 2021; that's not going to be cheap. Sign a free agent to plug into that role instead.
I'll say 49%. All offseason, Darren Wolfon has been suggesting he keeps hearing the Twins may be most likely to move on the trade front. It makes some sense as there's better options available currently in organizations. I'm all for moving Nick Gordon, but don't know they he'll command a significant return. Pairing him with a big leaguer or another prospect could get Minnesota something usable however.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

2018 IBWAA Hall Of Fame Ballot

Officially sent out on December 1st, the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America has began accepting 2018 Hall of Fame Ballots. This is now my third year voting, and I'm proud of the privilege to induct players alongside fellow bloggers and other smaller outlets. Linked here, you can find my 2017 ballot as well.

Before diving into the selections, I'd like to lay out a few notations. Both Vladimir Guerrero and Edgar Ramirez have previously been honored, which is why the remain off the current ballot. Despite the ability to vote for up to 15 candidates, I have previously elected to vote just 10. This year, I felt the need to expand that number a bit. Finally, here is my stance on steroids and performance enhancing drugs as they relate to the Hall of Fame.

For players I have voted previously, I will denote them as such with an asterisk. I will also be using the same explanation as the previous vote. With that out of the way, let's get into it.

*Barry Bonds: 164.4 fWAR

It's a no brainer. The all-time home run king (762) is arguably the best player to ever step on the field. A seven-time MVP, eight-time Gold Glove winner, and 14-time All Star, Bonds did it all.

*Roger Clemens: 133.7 fWAR

The Rocket is one of the greatest pitchers to ever grace the mound. He's won seven Cy Young awards, claimed an MVP as a pitcher, and was invited to 11 All Star Games. His 4,672 strikeouts were buoyed by leading the big leagues five separate times.

*Trevor Hoffman: 26.1 fWAR

At one point the All-Time saves leader, Hoffman's 601 career saves still rank second, trailing only Mariano Rivera. His career 2.87 ERA was is dazzling, and the seven-time All Star has a place in the Hall.

*Fred McGriff: 56.9 fWAR

The Crime Dog spent many of his early season among MVP discussions. Despite never winning won, he finished fourth in 1993. He was elected to five All Star games and won three Silver Slugger awards. It's his 493 career home runs that get him over the top and into the Hall however.

*Mike Mussina: 82.2 fWAR

Pitching his entire career in the AL East, Mussina was a household name for Yankees and Orioles fans. Making five All Star games, and winning seven Gold Gloves, Mussina has his fair share of awards. Totaling 270 wins, and just over 2,800 strikeouts, Mussina comes up just short of the guaranteed numbers.

*Curt Schilling: 79.7 fWAR

Bloody sock nonsense aside, Schilling is a three time Cy Young runner-up, and six-time All Star. He struck out 3,116 batters in his career and owns a 3.46 ERA while totaling more than 200 wins. Three World Series rings, an MVP, and a 2.23 postseason ERA do him favors as well. Since voting for him last year, Schilling has made plenty of splashes in the media. He's not well liked off the field, but the character clause is among the most dated pieces of inclusion into the Hall of Fame. On baseball merit alone, he's worthy of the nod.

*Larry Walker: 68.7 fWAR

Although he played the field plenty, Walker also turned in a nice run spending time in both the infield and outfield. He was the 1997 NL MVP and made five All Star games. His glove netted him seven Gold Gloves and his bat produced three Silver Slugger awards. Walker finished his 17 seasons with 383 homers and drove in over 1,300 runs.

Andruw Jones 67.1 fWAR

Jones's 17 year career is often going to be questioned as he held on for five uninspiring seasons to closer out his time as a big leaguer. That aside, the 10 year stretch from 199-2007 was one for the ages. With 10 Gold Glove's and five All Star appearances, he was easily among the greatest in the game for a decade.

Chipper Jones 84.6 fWAR

An eight-time All Star, MVP and World Series winner, and a batting title to boot, Larry Wayne Jones was among the greatest third basemen to ever field the position. While he falls short of the 500 HR club, and the 3,000 hit club, it's a no-brainer that he deserves enshrinement in Cooperstown.

Scott Rolen 70.1 fWAR

Vastly under appreciated, Rolen started as a Rookie of the Year winner, and went on to tally eight Gold Glove awards. He was a seven time All Star and among the best to ever field the Hot Corner. With an .855 career OPS, his bat more than does enough to supplement what was an exceptional defensive career.

Johan Santana 45.3 fWAR

After suffering injuries and setbacks, it was apparent that Santana's career carried on much after his time had come. That being said, there's an argument to be made that there was no more dominant pitcher for a seven year stretch than what Santana brought to the table. In that time, he owned a 2.88 ERA, racked up 111 wins, and tallied 1,500 strikeouts. Two Cy Young awards were supplemented with four All Star games, three ERA titles, and a Triple Crown. While it wasn't lengthy, calling it anything but astounding would be selling him short.

Jim Thome 69.0 fWAR

A five-time All Star and a Silver Slugger Award recipient, Thome's accomplishments are more apparent in the numbers. His 612 career home runs rank 8th all time, and his .956 OPS across 22 seasons is remarkable. A giant for the Phillies and Indians, Home even posted a 1.000+ OPS at the age of 39 with the Minnesota Twins. The slugger should have no problem finding his plaque in Cooperstown.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

One Abbreviation Highlights The Need For Another

This time of year, especially with the free agent market moving as slow as it is, puts the Hall of Fame in the spotlight. Although the Hall tends to do more bad than good in the press (yes Joe Morgan, you're at fault here), the ballot does get us to some intriguing talking points. I've written plenty about my stance on voting and who should get in, and I'll share my IBWAA ballot in the coming weeks. In 2017 though, the HOF highlights the need for the universal DH.

A quick look at the timeline of Sporting News' Ryan Spaeder will hint that he's on a crusade he shouldn't need to be embarking upon. As with Tim Raines a year ago, Edgar Martinez has been the cross taken up with Spaeder and some other writers around the baseball community. On the ballot in his 9th year (of 10 eligible), Martinez is drawing eerily close to missing his opportunity to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

In 2017, Martinez received 259 votes (58.6%). He needs to jump just over 15% in his final two ballots to reach enshrinement, and that it looks like an uphill battle remains a sad development. While the BBWAA has voted previously to expand the possible votes from 10 to 12, the Hall of Fame shot the motion down, and a stacked ballot continues to haunt players that are simply left out. While the IBWAA did the right thing and inducted Martinez in 2016 alongside former teammate Ken Griffey Jr., the BBWAA has yet to follow suit.

Over the course of his 18 year career, Martinez was a seven-time All Star, five-time Silver Slugger, and racked up two batting titles. He owns a career .312/.318/.515 slash line, and he's one of very few players that can claim more walks (1,283) than strikeouts (1,202) to their credit. The one detractor everyone seems to point at when considering Martinez comes down to two different numbers. First, the amount of games he played in the big leagues (2,055). There's nothing wrong with that number, but it's the 560 games started in the field that apparently holds him back. The simplest way to address that argument is to flat out call it wrong.

Even if Edgar Martinez was the worst defensive first or third basemen in the majors for those 18 seasons, he would've been among the greatest hitters to ever play the game. At 65.5 career fWAR, there's just five third basemen with a higher mark in their career. One of them is retired, and based upon his merits in the game should be in the Hall when eligible (Alex Rodriguez). Two of them are still currently playing, and should be Hall of Fame locks (Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera). Another is on the ballot and isn't given enough credit, despite much of his value coming on defense (Scott Rolen). The final name is Graig Nettles.

Looking at the landscape we just explored, Martinez has compiled an fWAR number on par with every Hall of Fame third basemen already enshrined, and did so solely by the production of his bat. Again we reach the crossroads of the designated hitter becoming disrespected. It's at this point, and upon the induction of Martinez, that the game needs to change.

In the National League, on a nightly basis, pitchers embarrass themselves at the plate. Failing to get down a bunt, flailing away, or having to stand in for the first time since high school is not something that should take place in a big league game. While Madison Bumgarner is hitting his one or two longballs a year, he's still a terrible hitter that has no business ever batting over a big league offensive player (yes, that was silly Bruce Bochy).

The game of baseball has changed in 2017, and even earlier than that to be fair. Managers use closers in high leverage situations as opposed to just the 9th inning, platoons give offenses a tactical advantage, and shifts seek to steal away would be base hits. Specialty play is something that game has embraced for the better, except when it comes for the players to be recognized after they are done.

It's not the fault of Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, or Lee Smith that they pitched one inning a night. The were the by-product of the save, and in turn, were exceptional at the task they were called upon to complete. Martinez may have been able to hack it in the field longer than he did, but wielding just a bat, he was among the best in the game. It's time those things are remembered when the votes are cast.

Looking ahead to the class reveal on January 24th, I fear Martinez will be staring his final year of eligibility in the eye. It's a situation I can't imagine the beloved David Ortiz will find himself in (steroid accusations or otherwise), and it's disgusting that the Mariners star has to shy away from what he was as well. Edgar Martinez was, on a nightly basis, designated to hit and that's exactly what he did. We're long past due on enshrining him for that greatness, and in turn, allowing baseball to embrace the specialty across both leagues.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Shooting High Bodes Well For Minnesota

As the offseason continues, the Minnesota Twins will eventually make a free agent acquisition. While all of baseball appears at a standstill right now, dominoes will eventually begin to fall. Recently, Twins GM Thad Levine told MLB Network that the club is focused on both Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish. Although neither may happen, that suggests the club is in a good place.

In 2017, the Twins turned heads making the postseason as an Wild Card team. While the turnaround wasn't unexpected, winning as often as they did probably was a bit much to ask. The reality however, is that Minnesota did accumulate those wins, and the ship was righted as the youth continued to blossom. Arguably the greatest problem for the franchise in recent history has been pitching, and that didn't necessarily leap forward.

Coming in 19th across MLB in team ERA (and 19th among starters), pitching still left a lot to be desired. By FIP measures, Minnesota checked in at 25th, and that really highlights how pitching was addressed prior to 2017. The reality is that not much changed going into last year, but an improved defense and a much better defensive catcher made a significant impact. With the defense and catcher returning, it's now time to raise the water level on the mound as well.

The current free agent class leaves plenty to be desired in terms of pitching, and there will never be a time that quality arms come cheap. That being said, Levine's comments suggest Minnesota is putting their best foot forward. There's no denying that both Ohtani and Darvish are the two best available pitchers on the open market. Rather than aiming at the middle ground the Twins have targeted the cream of the crop. For Darvish, money will factor in significantly more than it will for the capped out Ohtani. Regardless, knowing that Minnesota can't possibly aim any higher than they already are is a good thing.

Regarding Ohtani first, Minnesota isn't going to have to shell out an extraordinary amount of dough. The spending is capped through the posting system, and for a guy turning down literal hundreds of millions a year from now to compete early, the fit in an organization seems to be much more enticing. Minnesota can offer him a young team on the rise, and a place that he could truly find himself as a superstar.

Coming to Darvish, cash is absolutely going to be king. While he may not choose the most lucrative offer, getting the former Rangers ace for anything less than $100 million simply isn't going to happen. His stumble in the World Series doesn't deflate his market, and the fact that he's bounced back from Tommy John surgery so nicely calms most of the injury concerns. Darvish is a true ace, with strikeout ability, and that's something the Twins have needed since the years of Johan Santana. Levine having a leg up here, working with him in Texas, definitely can't hurt the situation.

At the end of the day, the Twins may wind up being without either Darvish or Ohtani. Starting there though suggests a few things. First and foremost, they realize that starting pitching has to be a priority. The club has more than a few options to round out the rotation, but the reality is they are barren at the top. Ervin Santana isn't an ace, and is likely only going to decline. Jose Berrios could push for more, but that still leaves the club with just one shut down starter. Bringing in another arm one way or another is a good plan.

Also, the Twins aren't shying away from the top of the market. Now it could be all talk. but there's no uncertainty when it comes to the payday Darvish is going to land. If Minnesota wasn't interested in playing at that level, having discussions at all would seem to be a waste of time. The fact that there's been engagement suggests that there's a level of commitment financially to tighten things up on the mound.

Finally, starting at the top makes a level of settling a bit more manageable. If Minnesota can't land either Ohtani or Darvish, a step down to Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb is hardly a throwaway. While neither of those two guys are going to be an ace, they could slot in at Santana's level or higher, which helps the Twins as a whole. If the club started their search at the middle ground, adding a back end option as a fallback does little to actually fix anything.

Right now, teams and players seem to be playing a game of chicken. There's likely big numbers being thrown around, and it's going to be interesting to see who bites first. Once moves are made however, the expectation should be that they come in relative bunches. Commend the Twins for doing more than their due diligence, and being aware of the focus they should have. Although Ohtani and Darvish may not end up in Twins Territory, it's hardly a bad thing that they're being heavily discussed at this point in time.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Twins Hinting At A Busy Offseason

Recently, the Twins (and all of Major League Baseball) had to finalize their 40 man roster in regards to Rule 5 Draft protection. While the Rule 5 Draft isn't until the conclusion of the Winter Meetings, any eligible players left unprotected on the 40 man are now eligible to be taken by other clubs. With Minnesota having around six guys they could've added, the expectation was that more than a few would be chosen. After the dust settled though, we may have gotten our first teaser into what will be a busy offseason.

Prior to the deadline for 40 man additions, the Twins added three pitchers to their 40 man roster. Top starting prospect Stephen Gonsalves was joined by Zack Littell, and Lewis Thorpe. Littell was acquired from the Yankees when Minnesota ate Jaime Garcia's salary, and Thorpe has rebounded well from Tommy John surgery. Those three were essential locks, but the exclusion of three names may turn some heads. I'd argue the assumed expectation was that each of Jake Reed, Kohl Stewart, and Lewin Diaz would be added as well.

After the moves were made, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine had four spots left to work with on the 40 man. Sitting at 36 of 40, each of the three aforementioned players could've been included, but there's most definitely a reason they were left off. First and foremost, it may be best to take a look at their individual contributions.

Reed was a 5th round pick in 2014, seen as a fast mover through the system, and a way to garner relief help at the major league level. Outside of a tough 2015, he's been very good for the Minnesota organization. Despite missing time to start 2017 following a spring training injury on the final day, he posted a 2.13 ERA across Double and Triple-A. While Reed has a relatively safe floor, the ceiling may have decreased some in recent years. As the strikeouts have sagged, the walks have risen. Had things broke differently in 2017, he probably would've been a no-brainer for a September call up.

The highest pick of the three, Kohl Stewart, may be the most intriguing. Taken 4th overall in the 2013 draft, the former Texas A&M quarterback recruit has never flashed top of the rotation stuff. Velocity is middle-of-the-road, while his game has been generating ground balls. He owns just a 5.9 career K/9 and posted a 6.1 K/9 to go with a 5.3 BB/9 mark at Double-A in 2017. The former regime showed patience through injuries and development stemming from a kid just beginning to play baseball full time. Now at 23, the flame out worries are genuine, and it seems the new regime has more questions than answers.

Rounding out the trio is Lewin Diaz. Diaz was signed out of the Dominican Republic and has long been a prospect darling as a power bat. After putting up a .928 OPS in the App League during 2016 as a 19 year old, 2017 became an important year for the lefty masher. Diaz posted just a .773 OPS at Single-A Cedar Rapids, but did hit for average (.292) and added 12 home runs. I'd imagine the thought process here is that if a major league team wants to gamble on bringing a 21 year-old yet to play above Single-A to the big leagues for a full season, that's a risk Minnesota is willing to let them take.

Looking at the three main omissions as a whole, Diaz seems to be the most understandable. I'd wager there's about a 35% chance he's lost in the Rule 5 Draft, and for a power hitting, bat first type, that's something you can probably replace. Both Reed and Stewart are different stories, and I'd put them at 100% and 90% gone respectively. Reed is big league ready right now, even if he's not yet a polished prospect. The walks are an issue, but there's strikeout stuff there even if it's only in the mid-90's. Stewart probably can't start on a regular basis in the big leagues, but being stashed in long relief for a pitching-needy team seems to be a smart bet.

With Falvey and Levine willing to lose two decent pitching commodities for an organization who could use more, the assumption is that more must be in play. Reed could've been added to the 40 man, and helped to fill out a Twins pen needing improvement. In being passed over, and with spots open, it's almost certain that Twins brass sees the need for proven big league help in the pen. Rather than taking fliers on guys that could accept a minor league or one-year deal, it stands to reason a big league contract could be offered to a true arm.

On the starting side, Stewart represents more quantity than quality in terms of starting depth. While the Twins need to beef up their rotation, right now the group of guys filling out the back end seems to be relatively plump. Adding top of the rotation pieces is where Minnesota needs to focus, and Stewart doesn't ever appear to profile as that. Again, open 40 man spots suggest that pitching is going to be a focus, and we should have clarity soon enough.

It'll be interesting to see if Minnesota can package either Reed or Stewart in any prospective trade talks. With the market for starting pitching being thin, and the expected loss of both players in the Rule 5 Draft, they could be moved for a return prior to that date. It's always tough for prospects of a former regime to find their footing amongst new bosses, but it seems the Twins levied some clarity to the group. Now, the organization will begin to show us what they intend to do with their four open roster spots, and that's plenty exciting.