Friday, May 13, 2016

How Do You Fix The Twins?

With the Twins having 33 games under their belt, the club has won just eight contests. They've been swept in a series seven times thus far, and the reality of the situation has gone from dire to laughable. While I don't contend that either Paul Molitor or Terry Ryan are the best for the organization going forward, a change there doesn't handle the issues at present. So, how do you fix the Twins?

In an attempt to salvage the most out of the 2016 season, and put a best foot forward for 2017, here's the strategy I'm going with sooner rather than later.

Move 1: Demote Eddie Rosario

I've been telling you this would happen since way back in February. My comments on Eddie Rosario have generally been met with the question as to why I "dislike him." That really couldn't be further from the truth. Rosario was my "Danny Santana" pick in 2015. He was the early call up who was going to force his way into the lineup and stick. It happened, but what also became apparent was that it wasn't sustainable.

Some have tried to categorize Rosario as a "bad ball hitter" but really, he isn't that. He's swung and missed over 19% of the time in 2016, and has chased pitches outside of the zone a staggering 40.6% of the time. His 67.7% contact rate is in line with a guy that hits a lot of balls out of the park. but that's not Rosario's game either. He saw an inflated OPS a season ago due to his MLB leading 15 triples, and that shouldn't have been expected to be repeated. Now also compounding problems is that Rosario has posted a negative Defensive Runs Saved metric and isn't operating as an asset in the outfield.

He's a guy who has long been talked about being bored on the farm. That may be fair, but his head isn't on straight, and he isn't above having to work at being good at this game. He needs to go down and rework his approach, while also figuring out who he wants to be between his ears.

Move 2: Start Oswaldo Arcia, then trade him

Fresh off of his 25th birthday, Oswaldo Arcia is still a part of the crop of youth the Twins employ. Despite being yanked around the last few seasons, and in part because of his lack of production, he's stuck with the Twins due to being out of options. Now drawing more regular starts due to Eddie Rosario's struggles, Arcia should be finding himself in the lineup every day.

Arcia is always going to struggle versus lefties, and his OPS in 2016 is nearly 70 points higher off of righties with all of his four homers coming against those pitchers. He can hit for power though, and despite facing shifts quite often at the plate, he's a capable power bat for a good club. He's just two seasons removed from being worth nearly 1.0 fWAR and remaining under team control until 2020 works to his value as well.

You probably aren't going to get a huge return for him, but opening up some room for Move 3 to happen makes sense.

Move 3: Promote Byron Buxton and Max Kepler

It wasn't expected that Bryon Buxton would struggle so mightily to start off 2016, and it wasn't hoped that Max Kepler would be called up to be to poorly mismanaged by Paul Molitor. That said, both guys are beginning to force the Twins hand, and removing Rosario and Arcia from the picture could help to accommodate that.

Over his last 12 games, Buxton is slashing .374/.423/.625. He's hitting for gap power, as well as putting the ball over the fence, and most importantly, his strikeout rates are reduced below 20%. Now finally getting consistent at bats (something Molitor stunted him of), Kepler is also heating up in Rochester slashing .324/.425/.529 across his last nine. Bring them up together, and make them your starting outfield along with Miguel Sano.

In this scenario, both Buxton and Kepler are able to work towards being cornerstones of the future, while Sano is allowed to continue his transition. While much is made about Sano defensively, he's far from an issue when you look at the landscape of power bats playing right field (Jose Bautista, J.D. Martinez, Nelson Cruz...all are negative defenders). Danny Santana then returns to his super utility role that he's best suited for, and you have the largest amount of talent on the field at one time.

Note that this is move three. I'd look to see what can be done about at least move one or two before going here. I think that both Buxton and Kepler stand to benefit from playing at Rochester at least until early June.

Move 4: Trade Jorge Polanco

This move has been complicated in how Paul Molitor has used Polanco since Eduardo Escobar has landed on the disabled list. Polanco has long been one of the guys the Twins have promoted, gone unused, and then has been sent back down. He'll now be out of options in 2017 because of it, and the big league club has very little idea what he can do at the highest level.

Polanco has not played shortstop at all, at any level, in 2016. He's probably not capable of playing the role at the big league level due to his tendency for errors. That being said, the Twins have a second basemen in Brian Dozier (and no I'm not worried about his slow start). If you aren't going to see what Polanco has while the already struggling Escobar is hurt, then there's no place for him on the Twins roster.

It's pretty widely regarded that Polanco's bat is big league ready. His glove may not be, but playing at second should help to alleviate some of those concerns. I'd be shopping Polanco immediately and if a team would rather give you a decent haul for Brian Dozier, then sure go ahead and pursue that route. If both Polanco and Dozier are in the organization to begin 2017 however, the Twins may have fumbled an opportunity.

Move 5: Promote J.T. Chargois and Alex Meyer

This offseason, I was completely behind the idea of Terry Ryan standing somewhat pat on his pen. Sure, they weren't good a year ago, but it's also one of the organizations areas of strength. Fernando Abad looked like shrewd signing from the get go, and has been absolutely that. Glen Perkins put the Twins in a bind, but they weren't going to be in the market for a closer. What has compounded problems is the lack of follow through on what appeared to be the plan.

Coming into the year, and now 26 years old, the Twins still seem lost as to what Alex Meyer is. He was worked as a starter in Rochester and dominated. Then he was promoted, went unused, was thrown into a start, imploded, and was demoted. Rather than seeing some time in relief, where he appears destined to succeed, the Twins continue to jerk their return for Denard Span around. He should be up in the big league pen generating strikeouts at a 10+ K/9 pace and hoping the command issues stay as they were to start in Rochester (see nonexistent).

Along with Meyer, flame throwing reliever J.T. Chargois could be up helping the Twins. He was dominant to start 2016 with Chattanooga, and appeared to have earned the call. His 10.8 K/9 and 1.54 ERA as the Double-A closer were more than respectable. When healthy, Chargois has been nearly as good as they come in the Twins system. Instead, he was handed a ticket to Triple-A Rochester.

For a floundering team and struggling bullpen, the Twins saw fit to add guys like Pat Dean and Brandon Kintzler to the fold, despite having no real long term viability with the club.

At the end of the day, this club is playing horrible baseball right now. Unlike the Atlanta Braves who are actually bad, the Twins are a average to good collection of players, all playing well below their capabilities (spare Joe, Byung Ho, and one or two others). With the season where it is now, you don't throw in the towel, but if you aren't positioning for 2017 and working in some of the ones above, you're doing it wrong.


  1. Lots of good thoughts here, but I disagree in one area.

    The Twins have created a new organizational prototype by ignoring the element of Triple-A baseball in developing players. During the recent Ryan era, the pattern is to bring players up from Double-A, watch them fail in the majors, and then either send them to Rochester before they drown or to give up on them. For starters, Santana, Hicks, Buxton, Kepler, etc, etc.

    I'm not sure that the Royals are the new model, but they bring their players up one level at a time and bring them up when they have succeeded at each level. The Omaha team has four or five guys who could step in now and play at the major league level.

    Slowing down the development process by the Twins won't solve all their problems, but at least it would increase the chances that the young guys will succeed in Minnesota.

    Just one man's opinion. Thanks for listening.

    Pat Doyle

  2. Interesting perspective and something that's not overlooked. I think often, Triple-A is more a proving grounds for guys who may need a little extra time. Kepler, Buxton, and Berrios would seemingly be prospects above that. Santana, Rosario, Vargas, etc are the crop that makes sense there. Some of the level of failure has to be pinned on mismanagement of prospects at the highest level as well.