Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why Do Twins Doubt Themselves?

In 2016, the Minnesota Twins have been among the worst teams in baseball. While that's far from an ideal situation, the reality is that it's provided an opportunity for the organization to get a look at a lot of different players. In too many cases though, they haven't taken it. Why not remains a realistic question.

You can almost take your pick as to which players you may want to shake your head at getting significant time for Minnesota. Danny Santana has played in 75 games this season, Juan Centeno has caught 44, Ryan O'Rourke is currently on the big league roster, and Neil Ramirez was given over a month of poor performances before being sent packing. Over the course of the season, Paul Molitor has gone with plenty of low ceiling options.

Now, if the Twins were looking to field the team with the most veteran presence, there's probably some merit to their roster construction. The reality however, is that this team hasn't been good since the get go, and they really owe nobody anything. Poor performances didn't need to be compounded by lengthy stays on the 25 man roster. While Minnesota would have been promoting inexperience, it's that youth that is going to be relied upon to turn things around.

Highlighting the scenario as a whole is a current member of the starting rotation, Andrew Albers. Albers hasn't started a major league game since 2013, for a Twins team that finished the year 66-96 while also having Cole DeVries and P.J. Walters make starts. Since then, he was a failed starter in Korea (5.89 ERA in 28 starts), and played a game in the Atlantic League for the Lancaster Barnstormers. Now starting for Minnesota, he was added to the 40 man roster over a more deserving option in Jason Wheeler.

Wheeler, a 25 year old 8th round draft pick by the Twins, owns a 3.23 ERA in 23 Triple-A starts this season. He's not a high strikeout guy, owning just a 6.4 K/9 over 131 minor league starts. He pitched the final game for Double-A Chattanooga a season ago to win the Southern League title, and he's owned a 3.04 ERA in 2016 after resurfacing in Triple-A. By all measures, Wheeler has earned it at this point.

It's in these situations that the Twins appear to be operating with a confusing knowledge of their own organization. Sure, Wheeler is far from a sure thing, but when a 40 man roster move is needed regardless, putting the developed player with some upside in position to compete seems like a better bet than the castoff retread. In failing to understand these principles, the Twins turn an already bad season, into one that they learn little as well.

You have to ask yourself what the Twins may have been able to learn from Mitch Garver, D.J. Baxendale, or Jake Reed at the big league level right now. As rosters expand, they could easily be called up. No matter the 40 man situation, Minnesota is far from a position in which they don't have warm bodies occupying roster spots. Rather than lose and do so without purpose, using the stretch run as an acclimation process seems to be an ideal scenario.

At some point, you'd hope that the Twins would put stock in the players they've drafted, and seemingly developed. You can't assume they'll all work out, but rather than going out and cycling through the Neil Ramirez's and Edward Mujica's of the world, playing time at the highest levels for those expected to carry some realistic weight would be a good idea.

Sooner rather than later, the Twins need to understand (and covey that) what they have at their disposal, and actually use it.

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