Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Remember, during the middle of the year, long time General Manager Terry Ryan was relieved of his duties. Assistant GM Rob Antony stepped in and was the head honcho in the front office through both the non-waiver and waiver trade deadlines. Whether new boss Derek Falvey would've approved of these moves or not is a moot point, and whether they were worth of praise for Antony is moot as well. At this point, we're far enough out from the moves themselves to see how things have gone since.
Move 1: Eduardo Nunez traded to San Francisco for Adalberto Mejia
If there's ever been a fraud of an All Star, it was Eduardo Nunez for the Twins in 2016. Owner of a career .696 OPS while being a glorified utility man/backup, Nunez broke out in 91 games with the Twins. He was still lackluster defensively, but his .764 OPS was a career best. He went to San Diego to represent Minnesota at the mid-summer classic, and then somehow was turned into a top 100 prospect. Since going to San Francisco, Nunez has cooled some, but still owns a .418 OPS. Nunez has helped to spell the Giants on the left side of the infield, and has gotten to be a part of a playoff race.
Minnesota received Adalberto Mejia in return, which seemed like a good haul for Nunez. Mejia made four starts for Triple-A Rochester posting a 3.76 ERA. He made his MLB debut for Minnesota as well, working 2.1 IP of relief. Mejia will likely compete for a spot in the starting rotation to begin 2017, but is probably destined to begin the year at Triple-A. He's 23 and not a top of the rotation arm, but in an organization starved for pitching, he should help at the big league level soon.
Move 2: Fernando Abad traded to Boston Red Sox for Pat Light
Over the course of his career, Terry Ryan had a solid record of non-roster guys that made an impact for the big league club. Blaine Boyer fits that bill in 2015, and it's absolutely what Abad was in 2016. In 34.0 IP for Minnesota, Abad posted a 2.65 ERA. He walked nearly four per nine, but that's been something he's struggled with for the past two seasons. The Twins believed he was tipping his pitches, worked it out, and got 39 games of production out of him. Since having gone to Boston, Abad has blown up to the tune of a 6.39 ERA and has been virtually untrustworthy in relief.
For the Twins, Pat Light has always been a guy that can throw hard. Light's biggest problem has always been his ability to throw strikes and have command in the zone. He pitched seven innings for Triple-A Rochester after the trade and posted a 2.57 ERA along with a 2.6 BB/9. In the 12.1 IP for Minnesota through, he owns a 10.22 ERA, 9.5 K/9, and a terrible 10.9 BB/9. At 25, Light needs to hone in his command sooner rather than later. He was acquired for nothing (being that Abad was a non-roster guy), but should factor into the Twins pen in 2017 if he can get out of his own way.
Move 3: Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer traded to Los Angeles Angels for Hector Santiago and Alan Busenitz
Rounding out the Twins trades this year was the one that was a surprise, and met with far more excitement than it should've been. I was immediately critical of Minnesota giving up on Meyer simply to shed Nolasco's salary, but that's absolutely what happened. Ryan failed big time in overextending himself with a big contract on a mediocre starter when he signed Nolasco. In his time with the Twins, Nolasco was significantly more bad than he was good. Since going to the Angels though, he's made 11 starts to the tune of a 3.21 ERA and a 1.8 BB/9. Between getting out of Minnesota and having a better defense behind him, Nolasco has found success.
If there's a silver lining in Meyer moving on, it's that he deserved it. A 26 year old that the Twins failed to develop, and Paul Molitor washed his hands of, Meyer needed a change of scenery. Since joining the Angels, they got him back on the mound (Minnesota had him not pitching for over a month due to a shoulder injury that was never given an MRI), and up to the big leagues. In four starts with Los Angeles, Meyer owns a 4.58 ERA and 9.7 K/9. His 6.1 BB/9 are still a problem, but one that the Angels seem they'll work through him with.
The Twins return in the whole thing, aside from the salary relief from Nolasco, comes in the form of Hector Santiago. Minnesota is still paying a portion of Nolasco's deal in 2017, but they'll have the option to tender Santiago. Arbitration eligible after making $5 million this season, Santiago has made 10 starts for the Twins. He owns a 6.22 ERA along with a 5.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. Since coming over from the Angels, Santiago has been worse across the board. He probably will be around, and in the 2017 starting rotation, but expecting him to be reliable is probably a fool's errand unless the coaching staff can get more out of him.
Busenitz gets lost in this deal as merely a throw in. He's a 25 year old that reached Triple-A this season. For the Twins, he pitched in 7.2 innings at Rochester while owning a 3.52 ERA. Busenitz has pumped strikeouts right around eight per nine thus far in his career, and he's a middle relief option if and when he makes it to the big leagues.
As a whole, the Twins can look back at their exchanges this season and see a slam dunk in the Nunez deal, a mediocre flip in the Abad swap, and a less than thrilling return with the Nolasco and Meyer move. When you're losing, the goal is to flip veterans to stockpile assets, but unfortunately the Twins didn't have anything to give up. In the few exchanges they did make, there was really only one that can be looked back upon as something of value going forward. It's unfortunate, but 2016's swaps could end up being evaluated upon how much move three blows up in Minnesota's face.
Monday, September 26, 2016
A year ago, the Twins pitched and hit the ball well enough. They competed on a nightly basis, and most importantly, they got a good deal of luck. In one run games, the Twins went 23-22. They had winning records against two of the four AL Central teams, and Molitor's club squeaked by it's 81-81 Pythagorean projection.
During 2016, Molitor has had a roster of nearly the same players. He's watched his youngsters such as Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton struggle at points, while players like Trevor Plouffe, Miguel Sano, and Joe Mauer have all dealt with injuries. This club has set new levels of futility when it comes to pitching, and aside from Brian Dozier, there's been next to no bright spots.
Now ready to announce that former Indians front office member Derek Falvey will be named the new Head of Baseball Operations for the Twins, a turnaround needs to begin. As the news has started to break however, there's been comments immediately made about the Twins being better in 2017. While that's true, it's probably not worth putting much stock in.
The reality that Falvey will be dealing with is the 2016 Twins will almost assuredly be coming off of the worst record in franchise history. If the club wins an extra 10-15 games a year from now, that puts the 2017 record somewhere in the high 60's for a win total. Out of 162 games during a season, that number should still be seen as unacceptable.
As for his manager, Molitor has been given a vote of confidence from Jim Pohlad. He's been told he'll be back in 2017, but there's almost no reason for him to have been told as much. While 2015 was fun, the level of set back that has been 2016 can't go unnoticed. He's failed to develop virtually any of his youth, more often than not he's been unable to simply get them into games. Then there's the head scratching lineup decisions, and the criticism that has been loudly proclaimed by plenty of national names.
A year ago, three managers were fired, and none of them lost more than 94 games. With the Twins destined to top that mark by a possibility of ten, Molitor sticking around would seem to be nothing more than allowing the futility to continue.
Sure, Derek Falvey can't be expected to step in and change things over night. If the Twins do win 10-15 more games a year from now, it's progress. What has to happen though, is a commitment to revitalizing progress, or progress that allows for some real sustainability. For that to take place, Falvey cleaning out what left over fodder there is, seems to be a good ask.
I think Falvey sounds like a guy that could be a very great fit for the direction the Twins need to take into the future. Asking him, a 32 year old, to fire Paul Molitor as a first point of business would take some serious cajones. Separating 2015 from the underlying realities that Paul Molitor has been tied to makes the decision easier though, and one I think has merit in being made.
No matter how 2017 plays out, progress needs to take place, and doing so without Paul Molitor could help to speed things up as well.
This year, the Twins had playoff hopes coming into the campaign. While those in Minnesota were likely higher on the club than that of national pundits, this team wasn't expected to flop. Sure, a season ago the club was fueled by things going their way, and a good amount of luck, but it all breaking down at once was something no one expected.
As the Twins hit the 100 loss mark with a series losing defeat by the Seattle Mariners, it's worth wondering what exactly the Twins accomplished this season. The two most notable developments are arguably the ridiculous year that second basemen Brian Dozier is having, and the firing of General Manager Terry Ryan.
For Dozier, his homer output has been among the best in all of baseball, and his ability to pull the ball over the fence has increased his average by over .30 points. By all measures, Dozier's incredible year has positioned him among the best second basemen in the game, and has presented the Twins with an interesting decision this offseason. The next head honcho for Minnesota will have to decide whether to hang onto Dozier, or flip him for something that is deemed as assets that can be utilized in the future.
On the Ryan front, Minnesota did something incredibly right for the direction of their franchise going forward. Terry Ryan had long become someone that wasn't going to right the ship for Minnesota and a change was needed. While the organization did make the right move, Jim Pohlad likely was force fed his hand as he watched attendance plummet greatly.
Outside of those two developments however, it's really hard to take a step back and see anything the Twins really learned. Sure, Taylor Rogers looks for real, and Byron Buxton has been great since his recall. Long term though, Minnesota may still have some questions about Jorge Polanco at shortstop, and internal relief options may present more questions than answers. We still don't know what Adam Brett Walker or Daniel Palka look like as big leaguers, and there's no reason to believe that a group of five starters are set in stone to begin the 2017 season.
As the season has worn on, more often than not, Paul Molitor has made puzzling decisions in regards to both youth as well as his lineups on a daily basis. The Twins seem somewhat stuck between placeholders and future growth, while failing to commit wholeheartedly to either.
When a team loses as many games as the Twins have this season, there's obviously going to be more negatives than positives. What generally is desirable though, is a gameplan for future growth and a showing of some executable areas for improvement. Right now, it's hard to take a step back and see either of those realities playing out for the Twins.
A new Head of Baseball Operations and a General Manager are going to make a difference for the Twins, but there's little reason to believe that 2017 won't feel like completely starting from scratch. For a fan base and a franchise that has preached rebuilding, the reality is that the execution of that rebuild might just now be starting to take place. The Twins will hopefully get back to relevance, but 2016 doesn't give many reasons to suggest we're close to seeing that take place.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
For 2016, IBWAA president has set a cut off date of October 2 for ballots to be place. With most teams having right around 10 games left in the regular season, my ballot was filed to IBWAA Founding Director Howard Cole recently. As I have done every year, my vote is now going to be made public.
The IBWAA votes on ten different awards (five for each League). Below are the full results of my selections for each award. Feel free to engage in discussion and share your thoughts in regards to my votes in the comment section below.
American League MVP
- Mike Trout
- Mookie Betts
- Jose Altuve
- Josh Donaldson
- Brian Dozier
- Manny Machado
- Adrian Beltre
- Dustin Pedroia
- Adam Eaton
- Kyle Seager
American League Cy Young
- Masahiro Tanaka
- Rick Porcello
- Chris Sale
- Aaron Sanchez
- Corey Kluber
American League Rookie of the Year
- Michael Fulmer
- Gary Sanchez
- Tyler Naquin
American League Manager of the Year
- Terry Francona
- Jeff Banister
- John Farrell
American League Reliever of the Year
- Zach Britton
- Andrew Miller
- Edwin Diaz
National League MVP
- Kris Bryant
- Corey Seager
- Daniel Murphy
- Freddie Freeman
- Nolan Arenado
- Anthony Rizzo
- Joey Votto
- Christian Yelich
- Justin Turner
- Paul Goldschmidt
National League Cy Young
- Noah Syndergaard
- Clayton Kershaw
- Kyle Hendricks
- Madison Bumgarner
- Jon Lester
National League Rookie of the Year
- Corey Seager
- Trea Turner
- Trevor Story
National League Manager of the Year
- Joe Maddon
- Dusty Baker
- Brian Roberts
National League Reliever of the Year
- Seung Hwan Oh
- Kenley Jansen
- Mark Melancon
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
The Minnesota Twins have just over a week's worth of baseball games left in 2016. As the season draws to a close, Paul Molitor's troops are certain to lose 100 games, and they may end up posting the worst record in team history. Although we've seen Jim Pohlad move on from long time General Manager Terry Ryan this season, the reality is that it's the bank account that reigns supreme.
Here's what we know right now. In the middle of the summer, the Twins gave Terry Ryan his walking papers. They were long overdue, and they should be considered performance related first and foremost. For far too long, his approach had become outdated and the results hadn't been fruitful. After firing his head man, Pohlad quickly went on record to suggest that Manager Paul Molitor would remain in 2017 regardless.
At that point, we were quickly reminded that Pohlad's expertise is solely rooted in dollars and cents. He's not a baseball man, Molitor isn't worthy of a vote of confidence, and the chips falling where they may still means that Pohlad's scope ends with the fans walking through the gates.
With six home games left, the Twins have a recorded attendance number of 1,831,020 fans. That boils down to roughly 24,400 fans per game. At capacity, Target Field tops out at 39,504 fans per game. That's a figure that the Twins haven't seen often at all this season. In reality, the stretch run has consisted of roughly 14,000 season tickets being accounted for every night, while the in game crowd likely falls somewhere below 10,000 people.
You can probably look at the numbers above and make the educated conclusion that the Twins aren't proud of those results. Target Field is a gorgeous venue, and baseball during a Minnesota summer and fall are some of the best ways to spend your time. What those numbers don't show on their own however, is a reality that has the current Twins club being less supported than any team in recent memory.
Since Target Field opened in 2010, the Twins have never had less than 2.2 million fans over the course of a season. That number came last year, when the Twins narrowly missed the playoffs after four straight 90 loss seasons. The first two years at their new digs saw the Twins draw over 3 million fans per year, and the third year brought in over 2.75 million. Minnesota's number for 2016 though, won't compare to anything Target Field has seen before.
When the dust settles on the year, the Twins will likely be right around 1.9 million for a final attendance figure. You'd have to go back to 2001 at the H.H.H. Metrodome to find a Twins team that drew that few fans over the course of an 81 game home slate. The 2001 Twins were coming off of four straight 90 loss seasons, but boosted their attendance to 1.7 million (after not topping 1.43 million since 1993) while winning 85 games and finishing second in the AL Central that year.
To Pohlad, and Team President Dave St. Peter, the fact that this collection of Minnesota Twins will draw the smallest crowd since 2001 is a problem. It's a problem because it doesn't even sniff previous Target Field attendance numbers, and it gets beat by the last eight seasons at the Metrodome (which was an absolute dump). The honeymoon phase with Target Field appears to be over, and expecting to draw simply because of the atmosphere is no longer a realistic proposition.
Over the winter, Pohlad and his business partners can roll out as many new food options, patios, and perks as they so choose, but without a commitment to a competitive product with a purpose on the field, the fans dollar will continue to speak. It's a great thing that the organization has decided to go in a different direction than the one Ryan was treading water in, but nothing forced them to make that decision more than the financial implications that this season presented. While wins and losses highly dictate the turnout, it's ultimately the turnout that continues to control operations.
As you make your last trips to Target Field in 2016, be glad that it's the paltry crowds that have forced change, and hope that change brings the people back. A new Baseball Operations President and General Manager will be tasked with righting the ship, and if they succeed, the Minnesota Twins will once again run like a well oiled machine.
Monday, September 19, 2016
As has always been the case, Phil Hughes is a guy that simply does not walk many batters. He's never been a real serious strikeout threat, and it's probably fair to suggest Hughes hasn't been the player that Yankees hoped they would get from a first round starter. That said, he's more than capable of holding down a spot in the middle of a big league rotation, and he can make getting professional hitters out look routine.
During 2014, Hughes struck out batters, while walking so few, at a truly incredible pace. He eventually finished with an 11.63 strikeout to walk ratio, which would go down as the single greatest mark over the course of a season in Major League history. Hughes joined Bret Saberhagen as the only pitchers ever to post a strikeout to walk ratio of 11.0 or greater.
Since 1884, only four pitchers have ever had a strikeout to walk ratio of 10.0 or higher. Jim Whitney accomplished the feat in 1884 for the Boston Beaneaters. Saberhagen joined him in 1994 while pitching for the Mets, and Cliff Lee rounded out the trio in 2010 as he split time between the Mariners and Rangers.
This all now becomes relevant again though because the record which Hughes set in 2014, one that broke Saberhagen's 20 year old mark, could fall this season. As September baseball winds down, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw currently owns a mark that would smash Hughes' number into oblivion. With a 17.22 strikeout to walk ratio through 18 starts, Kershaw would top the Twins pitcher by nearly six strikeouts per walk. The one caveat to the scenario is whether or not Kershaw pitches enough to become qualified.
A big talker as the summer wound down, Kershaw was placed on the disabled list with injury issues. There were concerns as to whether or not he would pitch again this season, and if he did, what kind of effectiveness he would have. Now removed from the disabled list, Kershaw has made two starts in September in which he's owned a 2.25 ERA and a 10/0 K/BB across 8.0 IP.
Pitching today, Kershaw should make three more starts for the Dodgers yet this season. That would give him 21 on the year, and somewhere in the realm of 140.0+ IP. Should he reach the floor to qualify, his mark will almost assuredly unseat that of Hughes.
While Kershaw's number is significantly higher than the mark the Twins 2014 ace put up, it's impressive to see just how the two of the compare as well. Clayton Kershaw is one of the game's best at striking batters out, and that's witnessed by his 10.8 K/9. In just 129.0 IP, he has 155 strikeouts. For comparison, Hughes pitched 209.2 innings during 2014 while fanning just 186 batters. When looking at the walks, it's Hughes that may get the nod. In over 200 innings during 2014, he issued just 16 free passes. Kershaw has been stingy as well, but has given up nine walks in 129 innings thus far in 2016.
Regardless of how everything shakes out, the efficiency displayed by Hughes in 2014 and Kershaw this season is something to truly marvel. The former did it but limiting the damage he inflicted upon himself, and the latter has been a master of inflicting damage upon opposing hitters. Using history as a guide, Hughes and Kershaw have shown us something we may not see again for quite some time.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Heading into the 2016 Major League Baseball season, the Minnesota Twins shocked the sport as they won the bid for Korean Baseball Organization slugger Byungho Park. The most fearsome hitter in the league was headed to a team in Minnesota that was expected to hit a lot of home runs. While his position only complicated things on the Twins roster, his power potential remained certain. As the story has unfolded, the results couldn't be more disheartening. That said, maybe there's more to it?
Prior to the 2016 season, Park was signed by the Twins to a four-year, $12 million contract. Add in the additional money required to negotiate with him, and Minnesota chipped in a healthy sum for the Korean slugger. What they got in return was 62 games at the MLB level with a .191/.275/.409 slash line. Park turned in just 12 homers and had 10 other extra base hits (nine doubles, one triple), with 80 strikeouts and 21 walks.
In watching Park, it was pretty apparent that his swing and miss tendencies from Korea only grew here in the big leagues. Having owned a 161/78 K/BB with Nexen in 2015, the expectation is that he would strike out plenty this season. The understanding though, was that the power would overshadow the negatives.
By the percentages, Park's power showed up quite often when hitting a fly ball. Over one-fifth of the batted balls he launched in the air left the yard. His hard hit percentage wads right at 37% with a swinging strike rate that rested at 15%. A contract percentage of 67.4% leaves something to be desired, but isn't all that uncommon for a home run or bust type hitter.
Putting it in the simplest terms though, a guy that nearly won his 3rd MVP in the last four years for the KBO didn't acclimate well to the big leagues. His back to back 50 home run seasons seemed like a mirage, and the power production that was supposed to dwarf the strikeouts was only visible in short bursts.
What's interesting though, is that Park appears to be alone. Prior to the 2016 season, four Koreans (including Park) were signed to big league deals. Joining the Twins power bat was Dae-ho Lee (Mariners), Seung-hwan Oh (Cardinals), and Hyun Soo Kim (Orioles). The unfortunate reality for Park is that three inferior players to himself, have seen much more success in the early going.
For the Mariners, Lee was the only Korean to sign a deal that included the ability to send him to the minors. He spent just seven games in Tacoma (late in the year), and has batted .261/.323/.445 in 96 games at the big league level. Lee's 14 homers and 49 RBI have been a solid source of run production as well.
Arguably the best season of the Koreans this year has come from Oh of the Cardinals. At 34 years old, he's hardly a typical rookie, but on a one-year $2.5 million deal, he's been an absolute steal. In 70 games (72.1 IP) with St. Louis, he owns a 1.87 ERA and a dazzling 97/18 K/BB ratio. Having moved into the closer role and racking up 17 saves, Oh is going to be in the running for the NL Rookie of the Year award.
Rounding out the group is Kim, who is probably the most interesting story of the bunch. After signing a two-year, $7 million deal with the Orioles, a bad spring training had the club wanting to ship him to Triple-A. Tensions nearly got to the point of an all out release, but cooler heads prevailed. Spending the entirety of the season at the MLB level, Kim has played in 81 games and owns a .308/.389/.421 slash line. He's not the flashy player at the plate, but with 16 doubles to his credit, he's more than carried his weight.
Obviously, the influx of KBO players into baseball follows the emergence of Jung Ho Kang's breakout a year ago. Byungho Park's best friend slashed .287/.355/.461 and launched 15 homers en route to a 3rd place NL Rookie of the Year finish in 2015. He, along with the three aforementioned players, have established that a transition from the KBO to MLB is more than doable.
So, what gives for Park?
At the end of the day, I think that there's probably a bit more about Park's wrist than what he wanted to let on. He underwent surgery in August and effectively ended his first big league season. While he came with mammoth expectations, his power was sapped even further due to his health. Combine that with an adjustment period both on the field and off (the Twins didn't even begin spelling his name as he asked until halfway through the summer), and you end up with less than ideal results.
Going into 2017, there should be heightened expectations that Park is able to come in and contribute. He's likely never going to be the MVP type player he was in Korea, but absolutely should be able to be a vital member of the Twins 25 man roster. Lesser players from the KBO have shown success is attainable in the big leagues, and a healthy wrist could be the key that unlocks the next level for Park.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Now official, the Minnesota Twins minor league affiliates have all completed their 2016 seasons. The Cedar Rapids Kernels ended theirs with a playoff berth, as did the Elizabethton Twins. Regardless of the team results, there were plenty of stand out performers in 2016 across the Twins system.
Here at Off The Baggy, I'd like to congratulate one hitter and one pitcher by honoring them with my pick for the Minor League Hitter and Pitcher of the Year. Of course, the Twins system has made it difficult to select just two players, but both of them rose above the rest in 2016.
2016 Off The Baggy MiLB Hitter of the Year: Zach Granite
Granite was a 14th round selection out of Seton Hall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2013 Major League Baseball draft. He spent the entirety of his 2016 season with the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Southern League. At the Double-A level, Granite made quite the debut. He slashed .295/.347/.382 across 127 games. While power production isn't a big part of his game, he did hit a career high four homers. His eight triple were the second most in the Southern League, and his 155 hits were the most in the league.
To classify Granite's game is to understand his speed. In swiping 56 bases, he lead all of Minor League Baseball. In the field, that speed plays well also. Granite totaled 13 outfield assists while making just one error in over 1,097 innings in the outfield. There's plenty of reason to believe that Granite has a big league future, and when he gets there, it will be his bat that allows his speed to play.
2016 Off The Baggy MiLB Pitcher of the Year: Stephen Gonsalves
In 2016, Stephen Gonsalves began the season with the Twins High-A affiliate Fort Myers Miracle of the Florida State League. Across his first 11 starts of the campaign, he posted a 2.33 ERA while striking out 9.0 per 9 innings, and walking just 2.7 batters per 9 innings. While those numbers are plenty impressive on their own, his promotion to Double-A Chattanooga turned in even better results.
Pitching in the Southern League, Gonsalves made 13 starts and compiled an 8-1 record. His 1.82 ERA was a career best across any level with at least ten starts. He struck out 10.8 per nine innings and gave up just 43 hits in 74.1 IP. While walks rose at the Double-A level, Gonsalves was also tweaking parts of his pitching motion throughout the season. He'll head to the Arizona Fall League for the Twins to push his innings total somewhere close to 160 in 2016. Gonsalves should be a likely call up for Minnesota at some point during the 2017 Major League Baseball season.
Rather than go into any further analysis, or try and wrap my head around exactly what Dozier is doing this season, let's let the numbers talk for themselves. That's it, no meat and potatoes here. Just feast your eyes on the numbers below and look in awe as Brian Dozier continues to put up one of the best seasons in Major League Baseball by a second basemen ever.
- Brian Dozier sits at 38 homers while playing second base in 2016. That is second most (behind Alfonso Soriano's 39) all-time in the American League, and trails Rogers Hornsby's 42 for the 1922 Cardinals overall.
- In 139 games during 2016, Dozier has hit 40 homers. He has never eclipsed 28 in a single season previously (157 G in 2015), and hit just 16 homers in 365 MiLB contests.
- Since returning to the lineup (following a two-game benching) on May 25, 2016 Brian Dozier is slashing .307/.371/.671 and has posted a career best .277/.348/.574 line on the season.
- Brian Dozier's 40 homers are second in all of baseball, trailing Baltimore's Mark Trumbo by just one long ball.
- On the season, Dozier owns a .297 ISO (measurement of a hitter's raw power). That mark is second best in all of baseball trailing only Boston's David Ortiz (.311)
- To date, Dozier has been worth 5.7 fWAR for the Twins. That mark is easily his highest career fWAR and is good enough to make him the 9th most valuable player in all of baseball (7th in the American League).
- Of his 40 homers, 20 of them have gone more than 400 feet.
- By Fangraphs estimation of fWAR converted to dollars, Brian Dozier has been worth $45.9 million to the Twins this season. He is being paid $3 million.
I'll leave you with this image of Brian Dozier's home run spray chart for 2016.
Monday, September 12, 2016
If you're still following along with the Twins, you've nearly made it through the 2016 Major League Baseball season. Just 19 games remain, and Minnesota needs to win 10 of them to avoid 100 losses for just the second time in franchise history, and first since 1982. To be sure, a year full of losing is far from fun, but does a top pick in the upcoming draft make it feel any less gloomy?
Baseball is a different beast than basketball and football. While the top pick in the draft holds immense value, it generally isn't realized at the top level for at least a year or two, and the draft itself doesn't take place until well into the next season. For Minnesota, plenty will change by the time June 2017 comes around.
With Terry Ryan fired midway through the current 162 game schedule, Jim Pohlad and Dave St. Peter are in the process of finding a replacement head honcho (or, as we've learned, a duo). The Twins will have a new Head of Baseball Operations, as well as a new General Manager by the time the 2017 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft rolls around. Paul Molitor may very well be gone, and the hope would be that the on field product shows significantly better than it has this season.
For Minnesota, 2016 was another year of the prospect. Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, and even Byungho Park were supposed to lead this group. Instead, their were injuries, failed expectations, and regression for what can be described as the Twins future. Although the offense was expected to carry this club, it was nowhere to be seen out of the gate.
Now with the writing already on the wall, the only thing left for the Twins to do is finish. It's largely understood what has all taken place for Paul Molitor's club this season. What's next is what comes as a result of the final standings. If the year were to end today, that would include the Twins drafting first overall next June.
The Braves currently are two games clear of the Twins when it comes to record. I'm not sure there's a determination to "tank" as there may be in other sports, but Minnesota could have their choice if things stand pat. By the looks of most national experts, there doesn't appear to be a consensus top pick in the upcoming draft. Undoubtedly there's a few names that will rise to the top, but all will have their detractors (however slight they may be).
Unlike in sports such as basketball or football, it's hard to suggest that a first overall pick gives something back to such a horrendous season. Mentioned on the broadcast during the recent Cubs and Astros series, you can bet that Houston wishes they would've selected Kris Bryant over Mark Appel with their recent first overall pick. The stories of the big miss are many, and the sure thing first selection are few and far between.
When it comes down to it, the Twins won't have much to hang their hats on as the 2016 dust settles. The first overall pick is definitely an exciting and welcomed consolation prize, but it will be in the hiring of front office executives, and the retooling of the organization that the true forward progress is felt.
Reality probably suggests that the Twins did this to themselves. They stuck by Terry Ryan and his country club ways for a little bit too long, and it has the year ending with some significant emptiness. His parting gift will likely end up being a top three draft pick, but if Minnesota is looking to hang their hats on something, expecting it to be a relative unknown is probably not a good proposition.
When June rolls around, the first overall pick will have plenty of merit attached to it, but how much excitement it generates will largely be determined by who the Twins put in charge of making those decisions.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
As of today, Tim Tebow is a 29 year old that has not played organized baseball since he was a well rounded athlete at Neese High School. He's played since at The Swamp, and in big time NFL stadiums. He's been a quarterback, and now a TV Analyst. At no point in over ten years has he ever been a baseball player, until now.
Let's address a couple of the rebuttals I've seen on the interwebs this far. No, I don't dislike Tim Tebow. In fact, I believe he's a better NFL quarterback than at least a handful of current backups, and I'd personally rather see him start than one NFL quarterback. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant, the point is that I don't have a vengeance against the man at all. In fact, I think he's been blackballed from the sport he fits in simply because of the media frenzy that baseball is welcoming.
Secondly, there's this notion that it's just a minor league signing and that excuses any ill-advised decisions because they are (for the majority) all low risk crapshoots. Sure, there's a ton of players in minor league baseball, and a very minute amount that will ever reach the big leagues. Tebow though, was graded above average only in speed and raw power. When considering how fast you can run, or how far you can hit a meatball, teams don't typically line up to offer contracts to those that are received warmly.
I'd make the argument that hitting a baseball is quite possibly the most difficult athletic feat there is. A small round object is being thrown towards you at speeds of nearly 100 mph and you are tasked to make a split second decision to swing, and make contact, with a small round bat. It's not for the faint of heart, and those that are projected to develop into being capable of competing at the highest level have significant signs in their corner.
Understanding where Tebow is on his developmental curve, and the fact that he's at essentially the age a player typically reaches their prime, expecting him to progress substantially is a fool's errand. A below average thrower, hitter, and fielder, investing into him as a project could be better served with a player that may actually allow you to reap dividends.
It's not at all fair for me to suggest that the New York Mets are signing Tim Tebow simply as a publicity stunt. Obviously Tebow doesn't need the media attention, but it'd be silly not to assume that jersey sales and affiliate ticket sales wouldn't rise because of his presence. That all being said, GM Sandy Alderson isn't doing himself any favors to dispel the notion that's all this is either. Today he even went as far as wondering whether the Mets may have the former quarterback invited to big league spring training.
At the end of the day, the grind through minor league baseball is far from an easy one. It takes countless hours devoted to a craft you already possess better than average skills for. It's not for the faint of heart, and more often than not, it ends in heartbreak. Tebow is attacking that reality by working out with the Mets that he will continue to serve ESPN as an SEC analyst on the weekends, and he may even be on an Arizona Fall League (usually reserved for an organization's top talents) roster.
The showcase treatment for Tim Tebow as if he were some Cuban superstar was amazing in and of itself. The way the Mets have allowed it to progress from there has taken an even more interesting turn. Minor League baseball is professional baseball after all, and it shouldn't be used as a proving ground to try and expand decade old skills. Absolutely baseball has been looking for ways to drive new viewers to the sport, but making a mockery of itself in the form of some participation-trophy-esque fashion is a sad development.
There will be minor leagues that likely welcome the opportunity to be starstruck by the former NFL player, but if really considering it at its core, I'd assume the idea of Tebow being given a free pass isn't thrilling. There's a place for this kind of thing in non-affiliated Indy Leagues, but let's stop pretending this is any more legitimate than the farce it should be seen as.
Signed to a one year, $7.25 million deal this season, Plouffe will be entering his final year of arbitration this winter. Given the expected salary increase, Minnesota will likely be on the hook for something like $10 million during 2017 if they so choose to tender him a contract. For a 31 year old third-basemen who's posted a .731 OPS since 2013, that's a tall ask. To complicate things further, the organization also has Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, Kennys Vargas, and Byungho Park all vying for time in similar roles. The writing may be on the wall. It's very possible he's played his last game with the Twins.
Now, with that all being said, it's a tenure that ends with a touch of sadness.
Trevor Plouffe was a first round draft pick out of Crespi Carmelite High School way back in 2004. He rose through the farm system and made his major league debut on June 16, 2004. Starting at shortstop, then moving into more of a super utility role over his first three professional seasons, Plouffe found his footing at the hot corner in 2013.
Showing up first in 2012, Plouffe established himself as a capable power slugger. His 24 long balls that season will go down as his most in a single year with the Twins. Over the course of his 723 games played for Minnesota, he has landed just four homers shy of the century mark. That total ties him for 18th in Minnesota Twins history. Never an All Star, Plouffe had plenty of seasons that qualify his as a quality piece on the Minnesota 25 man.
Playing the bulk of his Minnesota career during seasons in which the club lost 90 or more games, Plouffe didn't get to experience the highs of the Twins division championship seasons. Most notably during his career however has been the intense work ethic that allowed him to transform his ability with the glove.
I think Plouffe would be among the first to admit his time at shortstop in the big leagues, and initial venture over to third base, didn't go well. He posted a -12 DRS at short in 2011, and was -8 at the hot corner in 2012. From there however, he pushed his total to league average in 2013 and then was worth a career high 6 DRS in over 1,110 innings during 2014. Increasing both his DRS and UZR (6.7), it was in 2014 that Plouffe flashed the best of himself at third base. He became a legitimate asset at the hot corner and was incredibly far removed from the guy that needed to acclimate to a big league infield.
Over the past couple of years, Plouffe has been bit by the injury bug and missed time here and there. When healthy however, he's shown he's capable of being a good big league hitter, and has a place somewhere in the middle of the Twins lineup. While the latest malady may sap the rest of 2016 from him, Plouffe went out on a high note slashing .302/.365/.523 with five homers over his last 21 games.
Whatever happens from here, both the Twins and Trevor Plouffe are better off because of each other. The California kid grew up into a very solid big leaguer, and the Twins solidified the extreme left side of their infield thanks to the work ethic of a guy who was determined to give the club more.
From here, whether in Minnesota or elsewhere, the only thing to say is thank you Trevor. Thanks for being a part of Twins Territory. Thanks for committing to your craft. Thanks for always giving Minnesota the best you had to give. Thanks to you, Olivia, and Teddy for calling Minnesota home. Whatever the next stop on your journey, you will always have a place in Twins Territory.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
While the excitement Brian Dozier has provided has been nothing short of extraordinary, it's hard to overlook the state of things for Paul Molitor's club. They will almost assuredly lose 100 games, and one most nights, competing isn't even in the realm of possibility. As has been the case for some time, pitching remains the Twins biggest struggle.
Through 139 games, Dozier owns a .278/.349/.580 slash line. His .929 OPS is nearly .200 points better than at any other point in his big league career. Minnesota's second basemen has 39 homers (sure to be eclipsed by the time you read this), and has 92 home runs. He's going to hit 40, and it's almost certain he'll drive in 100 runs. Minnesota hasn't had a player reach those plateaus since 1970 when the great Harmon Killebrew last did it.
Considering his value will never be higher, it's been a popular suggestion that now be the time the Twins part with Dozier for pitching. The reality is that he'll likely not be a significant part of the next solid Twins run, and he's their best bet to return high level assets. The question is though, is there actually a deal that would make sense?
Let's lay the groundwork for a deal here first. Dozier is owed $15 million over the next two years. While that's far from a substantial amount, the caveat is that the Twins did not buy into any of his free agent years when locking him up to the long term deal. He'll still hit the open market in 2019, albeit at the age of 32. When considering the Twins needs, any Dozier deal would need to be focused around pitching. Already chock full of position players and prospects, Minnesota needs top tier starting pitching (get in line right?). It should also be noted that I think the Twins would much prefer a young, controllable type that's already at the big league level as opposed to yet another prospect.
Knowing what the Twins would need to make a deal, there's also got to be a market analysis that takes place. Dozier is not a designated hitter, and he's not capable of playing shortstop or third base. Now, and going forward, Dozier is a second basemen. In knowing that, finding teams that either have depreciating players, or those looking to add a final top tier place at second should be most highly considered.
Immediately excluding teams with established quality second basemen, those with up and coming stars, and those too far out of relevancy to matter, here's some names I'm staring at: Chase Utley and Neil Walker. It's hard to consider players like Brandon Phillips and Scooter Gennett given the state of their respective teams. Both Utley and Walker could provide the Twins an opportunity though. With that in mind, let's explore.
At 37 years old, Utley is at the end of his career. His one-year, $7 million deal is done in the coming months, and the Dodgers will have a decision to make. He could stick around as a rotation player, and he's been better than league average this season. Los Angeles doesn't rebuild though, and Dozier could provide an immediate upgrade in an already potent lineup.
The problem is this equation is what exactly Minnesota lands in return. Clayton Kershaw is absolutely off limits, and Julio Urias might be as well. The Dodgers rotation leaves plenty to be desired and it's not exactly an area they can afford to part with pieces. If somehow Kenta Maeda comes into the equation, or Jose De Leon (a top prospect, but still) can be had, then maybe it's a spot worth pursuing.
On the New York Mets front, a perceived pitching surplus is probably less realistic than once imagine. Neil Walker ended his 2016 with surgery, and he'll be on the open market again this offseason. Sure, New York could re-sign him after his best offensive season in the big leagues. The reality though is that he'll be 31 and coming off of surgery, making him a relative question mark.
For the Mets, there are a few pitching options Minnesota could choose from. Not knowing which ones would be deemed untouchable, deGrom and Syndergaard would push the envelope the most. Both Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are unknowns due to injury situations, and Steven Matz is the one I can't quite peg (while also noting he's injured). When looking at the Mets farm system, there's not a pitching prospect that moves the needle enough for me to be ok with the idea of going that route either.
To summarize, I think the Twins find themselves in a situation where their current asset in Dozier, continues to be worth more to them than any other team. Asking for a one or two type pitcher is probably going to be a unenviable task given the possibilities, and settling for less due to the height of Dozier's stardom doesn't seem ideal either. There's definitely reason to believe that Dozier is a late-bloomer that could keep his production up into his mid-thirties. Right now though, he's signed for just two more years, hasn't quite found 162 games of consistency, and may have Minnesota looking for more than others are willing to feed them.
Admittedly there's more options out there than the ones I was able to come up with. No matter who the next General Manager is, a task at the top of the list should be looking at what Dozier can net the Twins. At the end of the day though, if the ask is not in line with the get, Minnesota should probably be ok holding onto their newly born superstar as well. No matter what happens, you can bet it'll be the storyline of the winter in Twins Territory.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
As the 2016 Major League Baseball season comes to an end, the final month of the season sees big league rosters expand. This season is different than last for Paul Molitor's club though. Instead of adding pieces for a stretch run, the Twins are looking for the losing to end and simply calling up a few guys who've already been with the big club. Outside of James Beresford's Major League debut, the September names weren't anything new.
Over the past few weeks, Minnesota has been forced to shuffle their 40 man roster a significant bit. With injuries, and poor performances at the highest level, Rob Antony has been tasked with adding some alternative options to the big league clubhouse. A season from now though, Minnesota will be looking to round out a 40 man with less filler and more upside.
Given that the Twins are in the process of hiring a new General Manager and Head of Baseball Operations, we're likely a ways off from 40 man decisions being made. That said, I think it's clear there's some room that can be cleared. Before the actual results are brought to our attention, I'll take a stab at the guys I'd look to DFA.
To lay the groundwork right now, understand that the Minnesota Twins 40 man roster is currently full. They also have Danny Santana, Glen Perkins, and Phil Hughes all on the 60 day disabled list not taking up an active spot. That all being said, here's the cuts I make:
Andrew Albers LHP
Albers owns an ERA north of 6.00 for the Twins this season. He's started two games, and the results haven't been pretty. The soft tossing lefty is about as low of a ceiling as it gets for a big league pitcher. His 8.4 K/9 is a career high, but Albers shouldn't be on a bad team, let alone one trying to turn things around.
Buddy Boshers RHP
Credit Terry Ryan for making another one of his nice non-roster finds. Bothers had been solid early on for the Twins but has really faded down the stretch. His 9.0+ K/9 is solid, but in just 27.0 innings of work, he owns an ERA north of 5.00. I'd actually be surprised to see the Twins move on from Boshers, but trust a new GM to understand that the system has better options in it.
Pat Dean LHP
Although he just debuted in 2016, Dean hasn't shown anything that suggests he's capable at the big league level. He's been markedly mediocre in Triple-A, and worse for the Twins. He's not a strikeout guy, and he shouldn't be starting at the highest level either. If you want to try him as a lefty out of the pen, I could maybe get behind it out of the gate.
Tommy Milone LHP
This is probably less of his doing than it is the state of the Twins. Milone is serviceable in the rotation, and is fully capable of pitching at the back of a big league rotation. He needs to be on a staff that has top heavy arms though, and right now, that's not the Twins. Minnesota will likely non-tender him, and his time here will come to an end.
Juan Centeno C
For virtually the whole season, Centeno has spent borrowed time with the Twins. Only up due to John Ryan Murphy's massive failure in his first year with Minnesota, Centeno has been largely unimpressive. He's mediocre at best with the bat, and has been nothing short of a warm body behind the plate. Had the situation played out differently, Mitch Garver probably could have been in this spot at some point during 2016.
Kurt Suzuki C
At least immediately following the season, Suzuki will be off of the Twins 40 man. He's set to be a free agent, and I'd hope the Twins aim a bit higher than resigning him. His switch to the Axe Bat has helped to stabilize his offensive production some, but Suzuki isn't going to push the envelope for Minnesota. If I'm the Twins, a more realistic upgrade at such a weak position is where I'd want to turn to.
James Beresford IF
Understandably a great story, Beresford earned his promotion with his 2015 season more than he did the 2016 year. He's a guy that can do everything, but nothing particularly well. Maybe Minnesota allows him a chance to compete for a super utility spot during spring training, but in reality, he looks much more the part of a guy that does really well at Triple-A.
Trevor Plouffe 3B
Included in this exercise simply because I believe it's what the Twins will do. I've written multiple times that I believe there's a way for Sano, Plouffe, Mauer, and Park all to coexist. Admittedly though, Plouffe's arbitration number will be out of line with the season he has had. Whether he's traded or not remains a mystery, but the writing could be on the wall for Trevor.
Danny Santana IF
Santana is currently not on the active 40 man, but I'm not sure I'd add him back either. Outside of the inflated rookie debut season, he hasn't hit well at all, and he simply doesn't get on base enough. The most notable thing Santana does for the Twins is play all over the field. Unfortunately, the caveat is that he doesn't play anywhere at even an average level. Out of options, I'd see if there's a market for him before DFA'ing the scrappy utility man.
Robbie Grossman LF
Immediately after signing him out of the Indians organization, Grossman looked to have found a new home with the Twins. Even still, he's done a great job at having a disciplined approach all year that's led to a very high OBP number. What he has also done is be the worst left fielder in recent Twins memory, and that's including comparisons to Josh Willingham and Delmon Young. For a leftover outfield type, you can't have a guy that can't play defense. That's Grossman, and he's out for me.
Logan Schafer OF
If there wasn't already room to complain about Schafer being called up by the Twins, it was compounded when Adam Brett Walker wasn't added following the Triple-A season. Schafer is a warm body in centerfield, but that's about it. Minnesota has other options, and even the jump from Double-A for someone like Zach Granite might be a worthwhile consideration.
There you have it, by my count, this scenario would leave Minnesota with 10 openings on the 40 man. Danny Santana isn't currently on it, and then two of the 10 vacancies would be needed for Phil Hughes and Glen Perkins. Where the Twins go from there is anyone's guess.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
2015 was a tough debut season for the Twins centerfield phenom. He played in 46 big league games and slashed a measly .209/250/.326. This season, he has followed that up with a .193/.247/.315 line in 63 big league games. The biggest issue for Buxton hasn't been the statistical line though as much as it has been his ability to put the ball in play.
Through 2015 in the minor leagues, Buxton had never struck out in more than 26% of his at bats. At the big league level a season ago, he whiffed 34% of the time. It's obviously to be expected that the highest level of competition will provide the toughest test, so his number rising was far from unpredictable. In 2016 however, Buxton has fanned 41% of the time for the Twins. Going backwards was a pretty disheartening development for the top prospect, and something I assume Minnesota wanted him to work on.
When Buxton was sent back to Triple-A Rochester following the Twins August 5 contest, he had batted just .204/.257/.322 in a 45 game stretch with the big club. Over that period, he'd struck out 56 times in 152 at bats, or 37% of the time. With Minnesota's season already well down the drain a focus on plate discipline and approach on the farm seemed to be what Paul Molitor and his cronies were looking for.
The reality however, is that what took place was anything but.
Down in Rochester for just 20 games in his latest stint, Buxton owned a .257/.288/.514 slash line. He garnered hitter of the week honors after homering in four straight games, and his bat showed plenty of pop. The problem though, is that's not the kind of hitter Byron Buxton is (nor the one the Twins should want him to be). While you can criticize Minnesota for asking a corner player to hit for contact, doing so for a speedy centerfielder would be foolhardy. At his best, Buxton should be a gap hitter that sprays line drives all over the field. In Rochester during those 20 games however, he struck out a whopping 32 times while drawing just three walks. The 32 strikeouts also represented a 43% K-rate.
There's simply no other way to describe that number, other than suggesting it's unfathomably bad.
Both Rochester teammates Daniel Palka and Adam Brett Walker, who are well known as home run or bust hitters, have struck out in 42% of their at bats at Triple-A this season. Buxton surpassing even their marks is not at all a good look for a guy the Twins need to produce at the big league level. Understanding that rosters expand because of a selected date on the calendar is one thing, but Buxton did nothing to suggest he's ready to come back up.
A bigger problem here is that the scenario as a whole plays out in a way that suggests the Twins are simply guessing. Minnesota sent Buxton down presumably to get confidence back and work on not striking out. Arguably, he did neither, but has been recalled. If the goal is to acclimate him for the role that he once again will need to play for Minnesota in 2017, then why hasn't this situation been used previously?
Guys like Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, and Kennys Vargas all could have benefited from extended big league time in a season prior to being relied upon. This year, players such as Mitch Garver, Jake Reed, and D.J. Baxendale could arguably be put in that boat. If the goal is simply to get players feet wet knowing you need them to be ready to go a year from now, using September as a welcome mat regardless of results should have been done well before Buxton.
At the end of the day, it was probably foolish to expect that the Twins would leave Buxton down on the farm. That being said, he regressed by all statistical means there, and rewarding him for it seems counterproductive to whatever plan may have been in place. Some point down the line Buxton will get it, I truly believe that. Right now though, I think he's struggling, and so are the Twins when it comes to figuring out how to fix it.