Thursday, March 23, 2017

WBC Rolls Dice On Trio Of Twins

The United States captured their first ever World Baseball Classic trophy. After coming up short in the previous three contests, it was the fourth time that the American's captured the title. In doing so, they knocked off a Puerto Rican squad that had earlier bested them in the tourney. It is that Puerto Rican team that ended up being the focus for many Twins fans as well.

Although there was a handful of players with Twins ties all over World Baseball Classic rosters, it was Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario, and Kennys Vargas playing on a stacked Puerto Rican squad that drew the most concentration. What's interesting, and maybe maddening for Minnesota, is that each of the trio had a very different experience during the tournament.

The reality of the situation is that we're looking at a max of an eight game sample size, and right around 30 at bats for position players. That's incredibly foolish to draw any conclusions based off of (as Nolan Arenado displayed in the title game), but there's plenty to be said about process and how things played out.

With Puerto Rico advancing to the Championship, the squad played in eight games from March 12-22. In those eight games, Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario played in six of them compiling 19 at bats. He hit to a solid OPS, and the highlight of his tournament was easily the laser he threw to catcher Yadier Molina to cut down a runner at the plate. For his part in the tournament, the Twins have to be happy with how his dice roll shook out.

Rosario was likely always a lock for the Opening Day roster. He had a less than ideal season a year ago, both at the plate and defensively. In participating in the World Baseball Classic, he was able to accumulate similar at bats to those he was missing in Grapefruit League action, and showed positive signs of being ready for the season. He'll settle in as a regular for Minnesota, and if he can continue to hone in on the strike zone, a big season could be in store for him.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Minnesota finds Kennys Vargas. He was given a vote of confidence to win the starting DH spot when ByungHo Park was removed from the 40 man roster. Although I've never seen Vargas as the superior player, it seemed Minnesota was going to allow him an opportunity to prove it. In WBC play though, Vargas was cast more along the lines of how I view him ever fitting with Minnesota.

Across the eight games, Vargas played in just three. The Twins first basemen routinely sat behind T.J. Rivera, a guy that's started a whopping 33 G at first across 600+ professional outings. Vargas struck out in just under half of his at bats (4/9), and while he did hit a home run, was routinely an afterthought. Not only did he miss out on vital spring plate appearances, but he's likely had to watch as ByungHo Park's spring has also overtaken his 25 man roster spot. That dice roll couldn't have gone worse for Minnesota. Their plan didn't work, and their guy didn't get his work in.

Landing somewhere in the middle is arguably the most talented of the group, Jose Berrios. Expected to be in the competition for the 5th starter role, Berrios was given the opportunity to throw in just two contests.

His first outing was a five inning start that featured a blow up, two home run inning, and was then solidified by being a six strikeout and one walk performance. Pitching for the last time in the title game, he was brought on in relief. After striking out four of the first five hitters he faced and looking untouchable, Berrios gave up a hit, hit Eric Hosmer, and walked a batter. When the dust settled, three earned runs were charged in just 1.2 IP.

For Berrios' participation in the WBC, he didn't really do anything too damaging results wise, but the process was something that left much to be desired. While command alluded him at times as it had in 2016, the Twins young phenom simply wasn't stretched out at all. He couldn't ramp up past 40 pitches or so, and almost certainly won't be on track to start full games when the season kicks off. That in and of itself essentially takes him from consideration for a starting role. For the player that maybe needed it most, the dice roll here just leaves everyone feeling empty.

The run that Puerto Rico made back to the title game was a fun one, and totally worth being locked into. For Eddie Rosario, it could vault him into a fast start. Kennys Vargas may find himself on the outside looking in, and Jose Berrios could be left wondering what happened. For everything the WBC isn't results wise, the process still matters, and that's where the Twins may be found scratching their heads.

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