Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Topps Does Photography Greatness in Stadium Club

Each year the Stadium Club line is one to circle in the Topps Baseball release calendar. A product with strong affordability and not driven by extraordinary chase cards, the allure here is the stunning visuals. There’s short prints and photo variations across a plethora of Topps products but it’s Stadium Club that showcases images on the most beautiful level.

Stadium Club is not a massive product and boxes include 128 total cards. The base checklist is 301 cards and there’s only a handful of insert checklists in the product. Boxes will retail around $80 and include two autographs along with three guaranteed insets. Minnesota has a few noteworthy cards to check out as well.


In that 301-card base checklist the Twins find themselves with nine different subjects. Stars include players like Jose Berrios and Eddie Rosario, while veterans Miguel Sano Jonathan Schoop and Nelson Cruz also make appearances. Willians Astudillo has a rookie offering and Harmon Killebrew is a legend representative on the checklist.


Despite not having a base card Jake Cave does have autographs in the product. He is joined by Astudillo who has certainly become a popular signer for Topps in recent products. Each of these cards have parallel versions as well.


While not incredibly extensive, there’s more than a few insert checklists to collect in Stadium Club. Unfortunately for Twins fans, the only player included in any of them is Byron Buxton. He gets a single entry in the Warp Speed set. Even with the photography and base cards being the main draw of this product, it certainly feels like a missed opportunity not to include more Minnesota flavor in this section.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Lift Proving to be Final Key for Kepler

Max Kepler used to be relatively vocal about his decision to avoid an increased launch angle. He wasn’t looking solely to hit home runs, and while his goal was to enter the zone on a level swing path, he was just fine with ground balls. Former Twins beat writer Mike Berardino talked to the outfielder back in the spring of 2018 and Kepler said as much there. Now he’s become one of the best outfielders in baseball, and it’s because he’s changed his approach.

Baseball has transitioned to a sport where getting lift on the baseball provides the optimal route for success. As the game invokes shifts and the ball is now juicier than ever, lifting the pill over defenders is the most direct path to generating extra-base hits. Although this may not be a direct focus for Kepler, it’s a principle that James Rowson has impressed upon Twins hitters and it’s one Max is putting to use.

In 2019 Kepler owns an 18.5 degrees average launch angle. Last year that mark was 16.2 degree and in 2017 it sat at just 12.6 degrees of lift. Launch angle on its own isn’t conducive production, but Max has paired it with an enhanced exit velocity as well. The 90.9 mph mark this season improves upon an 89 mph mark last year and an 88 mph tally the season before. Summarizing it easily, harder and higher is producing the best results of his career.

The percentages reflect what we are seeing in the raw data as well. Kepler owns a career low 35.7% ground ball rate and a career best 18.3% HR/FB number. His 42.6% hard hit rate is nearly seven percent higher than his career average and over a five percent improvement from 2018. Despite chasing and whiffing a bit more often, the contact rate is right on par with career norms and contact within the zone is a career best 93.9%.

Through just 70 games played Kepler has the 7th best fWAR total among outfielders. He’s the second best in the American League trailing only a guy named Mike Trout. Minnesota saw the value in their German native this offseason and extended him for $35 million over five years. Fangraphs estimates his worth as already being over half of that mark ($21.8MM).

When you hear launch angle from a place of scrutiny it generally is assumptive of the idea that players are simply swinging up through the zone attempting to get lift. The practice is built around creating hard contact on the bottom portion of the baseball. A level swing can still be utilized with the point of contact being honed in. Combining lift with an enhanced exit velocity is where the power stroke comes from. As balls are being thrown harder than ever, they’re also being put in play at a similarly increasing velocity.

Minnesota’s instruction may not have transformed Kepler’s swing plane through the zone, but it’s certainly worked to adjust the contact point and process when putting the ball in play. Regardless of if the baseball leaves the yard, Kepler is hitting the ball harder and longer than ever before. It’s because of that fact he’s experiencing a jump in performance and the Twins look to be the benefactor of belief over the next five years.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Topps Rolls Out the Carpet for Museum Collection

This week Topps will launch the latest entry to the Museum Collection line of baseball cards. The 2019 set continues along the path of previous offerings presenting a mid-high end offering composed of multiple packs and big hits. The box contains 20 cards and checks in right around $200. Split between base cards and hits, there’s a gamble that could pay off in a big way here.

Unlike the previous upper tier product, Definitive, Minnesota is well represented in Museum Collection. There’s a handful of chase cards and Twins fans should be able to find excitement in one of the best-looking products each year.

Base Set-

The base checklist runs 100 cards deep, but unfortunately there are zero Minnesota Twins inclusions. With subjects consisting of past and present stars, this would’ve been a great opportunity for a nice image of Joe Mauer, but Topps passed on putting anyone in this checklist.


Museum Collection hits are split heavily between swatch relic cards and autographs. Although there isn’t a base inclusion for the Twins, they’re well represented in both categories. Byron Buxton has a quad relic card with multiple parallels, as well as having a jumbo patch offering. Six Twins are found in the Meaningful Material checklist including two different Joe Mauer cards. Each of these offerings have five different parallels with a 1/1 chase card per player. The limited 1/1 Museum Memorabilia checklist also includes the same six Twins (Buxton/Kepler/Sano/Rosario/Berrios/Mauer) providing some very big hits.


Minnesota is a bit light on autographs, but many of these come in the form of sticker signatures. Rod Carew and Torii Hunter are both included in the Archival Autographs checklist with Carew being the sole representative in the Framed Autograph offerings. Both Rosario and Berrios have dual relic autograph cards to be had.

Short of reintroducing Joe Mauer as a signer or expanding to guys like Justin Morneau, many of the same names Minnesota has had sign in products all year, will remain constant.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Joe and Kirby Can Co-Exist in Twins Lore

Justin Morneau addressed the throng of Minnesota Twins fans gathered at Target Field on Saturday night. There to celebrate the retirement of Joe Mauer’s jersey, it was the other half of the “M&M Boys” that offered some thoughts. Among his comments Justin noted that Joe’s favorite player growing up was Kirby Puckett. The star of yesteryear is thought fondly of, while the one currently receiving organizational praise is heavily scrutinized. It’s probably time to put down that cause and appreciate them equally.

Puckett was the Willians Astudillo of decades ago. He was the short and stocky athlete that allowed every man, woman, and child to believe their major league dreams weren’t so far out of reach. Puckett didn’t toil away in the minor leagues though, as he was a man who performed admirably on the highest stage. A batting champ, 10 time All Star, six-time Gold Glove winner, and member of two World Series teams, the peak was as good as there ever was. The result was a Hall of Fame induction and years of post-playing career celebration.

The parallels between the Twins hero that was and the one that was before run so deep. It’s in that reality that the need to divide the two remains so unfortunate.

Twins fans will never stop wondering what Puckett’s career may have been had it not been cut short due to Glaucoma. Those same fans will never have to guess what Mauer’s career looked like after a brain injury changed his trajectory forever. One of the two saw his days on the diamond end immediately, only to be instantly celebrated with a Hall of Fame induction at the first opportunity. The other was forced to remake himself, miscast in a new role, and playing on a contract offered under different circumstances. A similar crossroads was approached, but next steps moved the two players in opposite directions.

There’s certainly something to be said about achieving the ultimate goal, a World Series title in baseball. That’s not an individual accomplishment in this sport however, even with the highlight reel offerings provided during both stretches. Puckett contributed to those trophies while Joe was never presented the same opportunity. It’s probably in those accomplishments that the division begins.

Whether you like analytics or not, Puckett’s career was worth a total of 44.9 fWAR, or roughly one spot higher than Mark Texeira on the all-time leaderboard. Joe Mauer topped 50 career fWAR, and while he played three more seasons, the time at first base was largely to his detriment. The most obvious parallel between these two is their injuries and how one was ended and the other was changed.

We’ll get to a point in the next five years where Joe Mauer’s Hall of Fame candidacy becomes a reality. Writers will need to put pen to paper, and the decision will come down to whether a catching career reminiscent of Johnny Bench is worthy of induction. He was the best in the game for roughly a decade, but following injury, played out of position and over his head in a role miscast for his skillset. Where Puckett got benefit of doubt regarding his injury, Joe will be judge because of his.

It’s fair to wonder what if for Kirby. Although he was set to be 36 years old in 1996, coming of an .894 OPS season doesn’t suggest that regression was close. A first ballot inclusion likely would not have been the result, but future celebration was sure to come. The reverse narrative will need to work in Mauer’s favor, and a campaign pushed by those in Twins Territory should be what fuels that fire. Rather than continuing to debate a contract signed under different circumstances, or a personality that didn’t jump off the page, celebrating the greatness that was should be a unifying discussion.

Players like Kirby and Joe don’t come along often for organizations. Even those that are the best rarely sustain that production for this type of length, and for every All-Star selection there is, very few push the envelope towards a Hall of Fame discussion. When each new ballot comes out, and there’s an opportunity for a bronzed cap to be added in the halls of Cooperstown, it should be something we all find excitement in.

Joe Mauer’s favorite player was Kirby Puckett. Puck might have considered Joe one of his favorites as well. You can bet that Kirby is waiting to welcome Joe into The Hall, and its time Twins fans get on board with that movement as well.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Midseason 2019 Minnesota Twins Top 15 Prospects

It’s that time of year again, and with the 2019 Major League Baseball amateur draft in the books we can update the prospect rankings. After picking 13th in the draft this season the Twins took more of a developmental approach with their first-round pick. Going heavy on college players following that selection the system gets much deeper. With early season performances influencing those already into their pro careers this list has some movement to it.

My Top 15 Prospects were last updated in December prior to the season starting. You can see that list, as well as the others dating back to 2016 below. Also, in this offering, I’ve expanded the total names to go 30 deep. While those names past 15 don’t have any breakdown, know that they are certainly names worth monitoring.

30. Gabriel Maciel 29. Travis Blankenhorn 28. Griffin Jax. 27. Zack Littell 26. Jose Miranda 25. Yunior Severino 24. Gilberto Celestino 23. LaMonte Wade 22. Ryan Jeffers 21. Misael Urbina 20. Stephen Gonsalves 19. Akil Baddoo 18. Matt Canterino 17. Ben Rortvedt 16. Luis Arraez

15. Luke Raley OF

Dropping a couple of spots from the first 2019 list, Raley’s positioning is indicative of a strengthened system. He has posted an .878 OPS for Triple-A Rochester and is right there with teammate Brent Rooker when it comes to a big power bat. Unfortunately, he just dislocated his ankle and is going to miss significant time due to surgery. He’ll return late this year and hopefully end on a high note.

14. Jorge Alcala RHP

His first full season in the Twins organization has been spent entirely at Double-A Pensacola. The 5.25 ERA isn’t good, but the FIP and xFIP numbers suggest that’s not indicative of true performance. His 9.6 K/9 is impressive, and the walks are below his career average. There’s lot of life on this fastball, and he could pop up to make a splash for the big-league club as early as this season.

13. Nick Gordon INF

Starting the season on the shelf Gordon has just 26 games to his credit thus far. He got out to a quick start and has continued to produce for Triple-A Rochester. The .784 OPS with an ok OBP is about what you should expect from the contact bat and speed profile Nick possesses. At this point he’s probably more 2B than shortstop, and while he may be a big league regular, it’s becoming less certain that happens here. Gordon could push for his debut later this season if he continues along this path.

12. Matt Wallner OF

Originating from Forest Lake, Minnesota Wallner was selected with the Twins first round compensatory pick. He’s a corner outfield bomber from Southern Mississippi that should have an advanced approach at the dish when getting to the next level. He’s played in the Cape with wood bats previously and could take a similar path to that of Trevor Larnach.

11. Keoni Cavaco 3B

After quickly jumping up draft boards the high schooler from California found himself going to the Twins in the top half of the first round. Announced as a SS but likely destined for the hot corner, Cavaco’s bat is going to be what carries him. He possesses an above average defensive profile at third but should continue to display pop as he further develops his frame.

10. Blayne Enlow RHP

Recently promoted to Fort Myers after making eight starts for Cedar Rapids this season, Enlow has turned in 18 strong innings with the Miracle. The strikeout numbers aren’t quite there yet, but he’s continued to work on both control and command. Just 20 years old, Enlow remains one of the most exciting developmental pitching prospects in the entire organization.

9. Lewis Thorpe LHP

Putting more distance behind his missed time, Thorpe has turned in 11 starts at Triple-A Rochester this season. While the 5.95 ERA isn’t good, he’s been much better of later. The 11.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 are beyond impressive, and if he can keep the ball in the park the numbers really pop. I’d expect a major league debut to come at some point in 2019, and he’ll have a real chance to be a difference maker being more than your traditional soft-tossing southpaw.

8. Jhoan Duran RHP

A model of consistency over the past two seasons, Duran has struck out 10+ per nine while walking roughly three over the course of his last 31 starts. He’s just 21 years old and can pump his fastball towards triple digits. Finishing at Low-A Cedar Rapids in 2018, he’s made 10 starts for the Miracle this season. There’s an outside chance he could progress to Double-A this year. Minnesota is stockpiling some fireballing arms to be sure.

7. Jordan Balazovic RHP

The Canadian has seen a rise like no one in the Twins system this season. After a strong 2018 for Cedar Rapids as a 19-year-old his 2019 has only taken him to new heights. Making four starts for the Kernels before a promotion to Fort Myers, Balazovic owns a ridiculous 13.1 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9. His 2.09 ERA is beyond impressive and the body of work spans 51 innings. He’s still so young and is going to blow by his previous career innings totals, but if he keeps this up there’s no reason to think another challenge is out of the question.

6. Wander Javier SS

Having made it through plenty of setbacks over the course of his early career, Javier is finally healthy and on the field for the Kernels. He’s got as good of a chance as anyone to stick at SS defensively, and this is one of the best prospects in the system. He hasn’t leapt out to a fast start at Low-A Cedar Rapids, but we’re dealing with a sample size under 15 games thus far.

5. Trevor Larnach OF

The 2018 first round pick was drafted for his bat and since turning pro all he’s done is hit. Making it to Cedar Rapids in his debut season, he began 2019 with High-A Fort Myers. In his first 61 games he has an .863 OPS and has displayed a very strong approach at the plate. At 22 he could be pushed with a new test getting to Pensacola in the next couple of months.

4. Brent Rooker OF/1B

Taken in the first round of the 2017 draft Rooker has done nothing but crushed his way through the minors as well. Now 24 and at Triple-A Rochester, he owns a .908 OPS through 35 games with seven longballs. The exact positioning at the next level is still up in the air, but this is a power bat that doesn’t have a ton of swing and miss and is going to rake anywhere he goes. A Twins debut this season isn’t beyond comprehension.

3. Brusdar Graterol RHP

Pitching all season at Double-A despite being just 20 years old, Graterol has been dominant in his nine starts. A 1.89 ER and 8.7 K/9 are both plenty to marvel at. He needs to hone in the command some, but for a guy who can hit 100 mph on his fastball there’s just so much to like here. Unfortunately, he’s shut down with a shoulder impingement, but the hope is that there’s no long-term damaging effects.

2. Alex Kirilloff OF

It took some time for Kirilloff to get healthy and into action starting 2019, and then it took a bit more time for his bat to warm up. Across his last 11 games for Double-A Pensacola however, Kirilloff owns a 1.033 OPS and has six extra base hits (two homers). He’s a great athlete who has hit in each stop across the minor leagues and expecting the numbers to climb as the season goes on is a very good bet. He’s probably missed the window for 2019 time with the Twins, but 2020 should have him more than ready.

1. Royce Lewis SS

Entering the season as a top 10 prospect across all the big leagues Lewis has scuffled a bit in his second tour with High-A Fort Myers. A .726 OPS in 46 games last year has been followed up by a .606 OPS in 62 contests this season. The plate discipline has worn down a bit with walks not being as plentiful. He’s also tallied less extra base hits and seen the power production take a dive. Just recently turning 20, Royce is still so young and remains and elite prospect who should stick at shortstop as he rises the ranks. It’s time for him to adjust, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Water on La Tortuga

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time on Twitter, you know that I’m skeptical when it comes to the Minnesota Twins cult hero. Willians Astudillo made his MLB debut last season, and after a September explosion, fans around Twins Territory lost their collective minds. Both from a conceptual and statistical perspective he’s been a lightning rod player for me, and someone I’ve struggled to get on board with.

Rather than tweeting in short bursts I thought it pertinent to organize my thoughts in a single blog post with supporting facts and use this as a point of reference. Maybe some number of months from now this will be something that you can point to as a massive miss for me. If that ends up being the case, Minnesota likely benefits, so we all win in that case.

To date Astudillo has 62 games in his major league career. 29 of those games came during September 2018 in which he posted an .887 OPS. He swatted eight extra-base hits (three homers), .379 wOBA and 139 wRC+.  On top of his offensive contributions, he also played six defensive positions for Minnesota. The next 33 games came to open the 2019 season, in which he posted a .630 OPS, .267 wOBA, and a 62 wRC+.

As Twins Daily’s Nick Nelson alluded to me on Twitter, we’re dealing with two sample sizes spanning roughly 100 plate appearances. Generating definitive conclusions off either scenario is not entirely fair, but I’m attempting to tie feelings into statistical output. Without being completely dismissive of those 97 September plate appearances, they took place during the most watered-down portion of the big-league schedule. His slump or injury has been credited with the slide in 2019, but the reality is that aside from his first three games (6-for-9), he owns a .537 OPS across 110 plate appearances.

My belief is that Astudillo must entirely shift his approach at the plate in order to see sustained big-league success. Astudillo saw 2.93 P/PA this season, the lowest in baseball, with the next closest being the Angels Andrelton Simmons (3.03). It’s not that swinging early and often isn’t a viable process, it’s the way in which Astudillo uses it that’s the problem.

Minnesota’s utility man owned just a 28.8% hard hit rate this season (31.9% in 2018) and puts the ball on the ground 40% of the time. He also popped up on one-fifth of his batted balls. With as much swinging as Astudillo does, while avoiding strikeouts and walks, it’s not a surprise he has a 95% contact rate. Unfortunately, he also has chased 47% of the time (40% in 2018). The summary of his plate discipline and approach is a guy who doesn’t hit the ball hard, puts it on the ground, and isn’t fast enough to make a difference.

If there’s going to be a successful career ahead with the Twins or elsewhere, something must give for Astudillo. He’s done this swing early, avoid strikeouts, and don’t walk for the entirety of his pro career. A pop-up season in the PCL saw a strong OPS, but his minor league OPS is .759. There’s some pop in the bat, but he doesn’t work counts enough to find good pitches. Major league hurlers make him eat out of their hand, and he obliges regularly. This profile is the exact representation of why strikeouts aren’t bad and are arguably worse than any other out.

I touched on a guy who isn’t patient earlier. The Angels Simba swings often too, but he’s become a strong hitter (for average) with a hard-hit rate in the upper 30’s. The ground ball rate isn’t good (and it’s why his SLG will never be favorable), but he only chases pitches out of the zone roughly 30% of the time. Not a slugger by any means, Simmons finds a strike and attacks it while Astudillo attacks almost any pitch thrown his way.

The greatest asset Astudillo provided Minnesota in the early going this year was that he had positional flexibility. He’s able to stand almost anywhere on the diamond but grades out as roughly average at all those places. Lacking a standout defensive skill, and currently employing an approach not conducive to big league success, there’s an uphill battle ahead of him.

It’s great when players like this excite a fanbase or represent a polarizing figure in the clubhouse. What’s worth keeping in perspective, however, is that there’s still a game being played between the lines and casting aside reality, or the merits of other players is something that will only make the letdown that much more difficult. Here’s to hoping an overhaul can be made during his stint on the farm. The more contributors Rocco Baldelli has, the better.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Buxton Ticketed for Big Time Votes

The year was 2017 and the month was August. Byron Buxton had just been shelved since mid-July, entered with a .604 OPS, and was ready to get back on the field. The Minnesota Twins needed a jolt to push towards the playoffs and man did his month of August provide it. A .973 OPS across 29 games ended up vaulting him onto the national scene and he was rewarded with an 18th place finish in the American League MVP voting. Fast forward to 2019 and we’re watching it happen again.

Right now, Buxton doesn’t own a .973 OPS, and no 29-game sample size has jumped off the page quite like that final month of summer did. However, it’s what Byron Buxton has done this season that is getting deserved recognition across the sport. He isn’t going to win an MVP award because Mike Trout exists, but behind arguably the greatest player to ever step on the diamond, Buxton is currently the second-best centerfielder in the game.

On May 13th Buxton had played 37 games for the Twins and his 17 doubles led all of baseball. He had just one homer, but his .275 average and .806 OPS were plenty promising. This date is significant as it was then that I offered the following thoughts on Twitter:

We’re now roughly a month out from that Tweet, and things have gone as expected. Buxton’s hard-hit rate since that date is 38.6%. He has jumped the 2% HR/FB rate all the way up to 25% and has six dingers. He still leads the American League with 21 doubles (trailing only Josh Bell’s 25 across baseball), but the longball is now being incorporated back into his game. I have long believed Buxton won’t hit for average as much as he’ll combine to hit for power. If the .270 sticks, so be it, but the .500+ SLG is exactly what I’d like to see.

You already know about the defensive acumen. Buxton leads baseball in Outs Above Average (10) and Actual Catch Percentage (94%). His 9 DRS is third in the big leagues, and his UZR is also off the charts. It’s fair to suggest that, when healthy, he’s the most dynamic player on defense that the sport currently employs.

What is great, and maybe less known, is that the offensive outburst looks sustainable. He’s decreased his chase and whiff rates. His contact rate is a career high, and the hard-hit rate is a substantial improvement. The ball is on the ground nearly 10% less than career averages, and he’s not just trying to beat out ground balls as has been previously suggested to him. This is a good hitter that allowing his tools to work and is creating absolute nightmares for opposing pitchers because of it.

It really doesn’t matter where he hits in Rocco Baldelli’s lineup. I’ve talked about moving him up previously, and something like 6th or 7th seems to make sense. Even if he stays in the 9-hole though, this is a guy that’s settled in and finally comfortable showing off the ability that has been there all along.

While he won’t win the MVP award, he’s a top 10 candidate at this point in the season, and even that may be a bit too light.

Topps Continues On with Series 2

Baseball collectors of yesteryear remember when the full set of cards were offered in one large grouping. For years now, Topps has expanded the players covered by introducing their full yearly sets in three installments. January pumps out Series 1, with Series 2 coming in June, and Update covering the rookies near the end of the Major League season. Now Series 2 is upon us, and this could be one of the best releases in recent memory.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is getting his first flagship card in this set, despite being a shortprinted offering. There’s also Eloy Jimenez and Fernando Tatis Jr. cards to be had here, so with the expected career paths of the three premiere rookies, you can bet this is a set that will be chased after for years to come. Looking at Minnesota Twins cards specifically, there’s plenty to get excited about here. Let’s dive into what fans in Twins Territory should be on the hunt for.

Base Set-

The Twins base set consists of 14 different subjects. Rookies include Willians Astudillo, Jake Cave, and Stephen Gonsalves’ first standalone flagship card. There’s some reliever love with both Taylor Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger being depicted, and The Boomstick himself has a card to collect. Arguably the most interesting inclusion is Ronald Torreyes, who has never played a game for the big-league club but is on the team’s 40-man roster. Each of the rookies, as well as Cruz, are chase cards in the extremely limited (to 10) clear acetate parallels.


Continuing with the Series 1 theme, 1984 is the throwback year here. Twins rookies are depicted on throwback cards, while Stadiums and Franchise greats give nods to that era as well. Bert Blyleven is depicted as an Iconic Card reprint, and some of Killer’s career feats are displayed on cardboard as well.


None of the flagship products are driven heavily by hits. With autographs generally being of the sticker variety and relics being small swatches or manufactured patches, it’s more about the cards themselves than the added flair. That said Minnesota is well represented in the hits category. Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios are among the veteran signers, with all three rookies offering up their penmanship as well. There’s a Killebrew cut auto to chase, and four Twins (Buxton/Sano/Rosario/Kepler) are all worked into the 1/1 ‘In The Name” checklist.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Keeping Up With Twins Picks: 2019 Edition

The Minnesota Twins finished 2018 in a position that awarded them the 13th overall pick in the 2019 Major League Baseball draft. On June 3, 2019 the amateur draft got underway and with 40 rounds to tackle there are plenty of picks to keep track of. With the influx of talent entering the organization it's always been beneficial to keep track of the players in one place.

You can take a look back at the 2018 Minnesota Twins draft class here. For 2019 make sure to stay locked into this entry as it will be updated over the course of the three day affair.

The picks:

Round 1, Pick 13: Keoni Cavaco, SS Eastlake HS (CA) @koeni_cavaco21
Round 1A, Pick 39: Matt Wallner, RF Southern Mississippi @Matt_Wallner
Round 2, Pick 54: Matt Canterino, RHP Rice
Round 3, Pick 90: Spencer Steer, SS Oregon @spenc_er
Round 4, Pick 119: Seth Gray, 3B Wright State @gray_seth18
Round 5, Pick 149: Will Holland, SS Auburn @Will_Holland2
Round 6, Pick 179: Sawyer Gipson, RHP Mercer @sawyergipson
Round 7, Pick 209: Anthony Prato, SS Connecticut
Round 8, Pick 239: Casey Legumina, RHP Gonzaga @casey_legumina4
Round 9, Pick 269: Brent Headrick, LHP Illinois State @BrentHeadrick
Round 10, Pick 299: Ben Gross, RHP Duke
Round 11, Pick 329: Tanner Brubaker, RHP UC Irvine @tanner_brubaker
Round 12, Pick 359: Sean Mooney, RHP St. Johns
Round 13, Pick 389: Dylan Thomas, RHP Hawaii
Round 14, Pick 419: Cody Laweryson, RHP Maine @Codebraker49er
Round 15, Pick 449: Louie Varland, RHP Concordia (St. Paul) @LouieVarland
Round 16, Pick 479: Ryan Shreve, RHP  University of the Pacific
Round 17, Pick 509: Antoine Jean, LHP Edouard Montpetit HS
Round 18, Pick 539: Edouard Julien, 2B Auburn
Round 19, Pick 569: Niall Winderler, LHP University of British Columbia @Windy_16
Round 20, Pick 599: Owen Griffith, RHP Clemson @osgriffith14
Round 21, Pick 629: Bradley Hanner, RHP Patrick Henry CC @1999bradleyh
Round 22, Pick 659: Rogelio Reyes, RHP California
Round 23, Pick 689: Matthew Swain, RHP Georgia Gwinnett College
Round 24, Pick 719: Trevor Jensen, 1B Tulane @t5jensen
Round 25, Pick 749: Nate Hadley, RHP UCLA
Round 26, Pick 779: Blake Robertson, 3B Edmond Santa Fe HS @Robertsonblake3
Round 27, Pick 809: Parker Phillips, 1B Austin Peay
Round 28, Pick 839: Travis Phelps, RHP Alvin HS @Traviee9
Round 29, Pick 869: Alex Isola, C TCU @alex_isolaa
Round 30, Pick 899: Tyler Beck, RHP University of Tampa
Round 31, Pick 929: Max Smith, RF UNLV
Round 32, Pick 959: Bryson Gandy, CF Lurleen B Wallace St JC @_gandy2
Round 33, Pick 989: Kyle Schmidt, C Richmond
Round 34, Pick 1019: Antoine Harris, RHP Chalmette HS
Round 35, Pick 1049: Drew Gilbert, LHP Stillwater Area HS @drew_gilbert32
Round 36, Pick 1079: Will Frisch, RHP Stillwater Area HS @willfrisch7
Round 37, Pick 1109: Adrian Colon, CF Dr. Juan J. Osuna(PR)
Round 38, Pick 1139: Zack Mathis, C San Joaquin Delta College @just_zack55
Round 39, Pick 1160: Jake Hirabayashi, 3B UCLA @JakeHirabayshi
Round 40, Pick 1199: Logan Steenstra, SS Cowley County CC @lsteen0612

The 2018 Draft: Where Are They Now?

Tonight the 2019 Major League Baseball draft kicks off with the first round. Minnesota will make their lone selection at the 13th pick, and while that doesn’t include the hype of a #1 selection like Royce Lewis, there’s plenty of talent to be had in that spot. For the best team in baseball, who also employ one of the strongest farm systems, this is about strengthening the future. Amateurs will be able to take another step towards the goal, and the organization can execute a plan months and years in the making.

Before getting to know some of the newest names entering Twins Territory, it’s worth taking a quick look back at where the players selected a year ago are today. Minnesota had nine selections in the top 10 last year. Here’s how they’re doing:

Trevor Larnach OF (1-20)

Larnach got to Low-A Cedar Rapids in 2018 before starting this year at High-A Fort Myers. He got off to a slow start for the Miracle but has been on a tear of late and now owns a .304/.377/.479 slash line on the season. The bat has looked impressive in every stop and given his advanced hitting profile at Oregon State there’s no reason to believe he won’t be at Double-A Pensacola in short order.

Ryan Jeffers C (2-59)

Like Larnach, Jeffers ended 2018 at Cedar Rapids and began this season at Fort Myers. Initially splitting time behind the dish with fellow prospect Ben Rortvedt, Jeffers has now assumed the role of the guy. He has a .281/.347/.431 slash line and has looked the part behind the plate. Some scouts were concerned about his ability to stay at catcher, but so far results have been encouraging. Power should also play a bit more which will help to raise the current SLG profile.

DaShawn Keirsey OF (4-124)

Unfortunately for Keirsey, a significant amount of his pro career has been spent on the Injured List. He’s played in just 42 games since being drafted and is currently at Low-A Cedar Rapids. He put up a respectable .798 OPS for Elizabethton last season, but there’s little to go off from a sample size here.

Cole Sands RHP (5-154)

Quite the steal in the 5th round, Sands has enjoyed a strong 2019. He didn’t pitch after the draft last year but has already earned a promotion to High-A Fort Myers. Across eight starts for Cedar Rapids Sands posted a 3.05 ERA with 10.7 K/9. Recently the former Seminole twirled a strong debut start for the Miracle. This is a prospect whose arrow is pointing straight up.

Charles Mack SS (6-184)

After the draft Mack was assigned to the GCL. He got in 30 games with a .588 OPS as an 18-year-old. He’s in Extended Spring Training right now and will play in one of the short-season leagues for the Twins. This was a long-term play and Mack is still working on development.

Josh Winder RHP (7-214)

After pitching for short-season Elizabethton in 2018 Winder began 2019 with the Kernels. He owns a 2.98 ERA across his first nine starts and has a sparkly 1.086 WHIP. He’s not currently a big-time strikeout arm, but more of that may come. He’s been among one of the best starters for Cedar Rapids and certainly could push for time with Fort Myers yet this season.

Chris Williams C/1B (8-244)

All Williams has done is hit since being drafted. The former Clemson Tiger posted an .872 OPS with Elizabethton in his first 62 games last season and has followed it up with an .860 OPS through 37 games with Cedar Rapids this year. Williams blasted 15 dingers in 2018 and has reached eight thus far on the season. A strong plate discipline is evidenced by his K/BB ratio, and any increase on his batting average would have him pushing that OPS into elite territory.

Willie Joe Garry Jr. OF (9-274)

Garry Jr. was one of the more impressive looking athletes this spring down in Fort Myers. He played in the GCL last season following the draft and posted a .476 OPS in 33 games. Just recently turning 19-years-old, there’s plenty of time for this development cycle to take place. Right now, he’s in EST and will play for one of the short-season teams.

Regi Grace RHP (10-304)

Another high-school pick by the Twins, Grace pitched in six games for the GCL club last year. He posted a 5.06 ERA across just 10.2 IP. There isn’t much of a sample size to analyze here, but that will change as he gets another taste of short-season ball under his belt. Grace has a strong trunk and lower half. Expecting him to add velocity in the coming years in a pretty good bet.

Odorizzi Confirming What’s Always Been

Prior to the 2018 Major League Baseball season the Minnesota Twins acquired Jake Odorizzi in exchange for Jermaine Palacios. At the time, Palacios was a second or third tier prospect that had some internal fanfare. Swapping him for a big-league starter was a no-brainer though. Jake’s first season with the Twins was mostly mediocre, but there was reason to believe he was better than the numbers.

Across 32 starts a season ago Odorizzi owned a 4.49 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and a 3.8 BB/9. He dropped his home run rate significantly, and while the WHIP was a career worst, a 4.20 FIP suggested a bit more was in the tank. Fast forward to where we are today and Odorizzi owns a league best 1.96 ERA, 9.8 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9. His 226 ERA+ leads the league and he has all the makings of a Cy Young candidate.

In terms of increased production, nothing has substantially jumped off the page. The step forward has been the culmination of tweaks made across the board. Jake now owns a strikeout rate of 28%, a 6% increase over his 2018 mark. The walks are down while both the homers and hits have tailed off as well. If there’s something substantial to note, it’s the incredible 83.6% strand rate.

Batted ball profiles suggest that hitters are producing the same type of contact against the former Rays starter. Hard hit rates are static over the past two years, and trajectories are also all in line. The difference in induced contact likely comes in the form of velocity and offering. Odorizzi has added 2 mph to his average fastball, and the 11% curveball usage is over double the rate that it’s been since any point following 2013.

You’d have been hard pressed to see comments with a positive tone regarding many of Odorizzi’s starts a season ago. Despite the mediocre results, and a bit better in terms of peripherals, there wasn’t much excitement about the possibility of a 2019 rebound. Today we’re in a place that Odorizzi is often looked upon as a certainty when toeing the rubber, and the results have followed. It’s hard not to be happy about the reality that the changes haven’t been dramatic.

If there’s an extension candidate in the Twins rotation, then Odorizzi is it. Still just 29 years old, he should have more than a few years of high-level production still ahead of him. Knowing Minnesota has a few rotation holes to fill for the year ahead, Odorizzi slotting in as one of the guarantees would be a welcomed presence. Unfortunately, by waiting through this season Minnesota will have to deal with an inflated price tag. At the end of the day though, the Twins aren’t hurting for cash flow and wrapping up a starter this good is something they should jump at.

Derek Falvey and Wes Johnson have helped to overhaul the Twins pitching process, and the infrastructure set up throughout the system makes it a sustainable solution for years to come.