Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Veteran Reinforcements Focus on October

Today the Minnesota Twins announced one-year contracts with veteran starting pitchers Homer Bailey and Rich Hill. The former immediately slots into the starting rotation while the latter won't be an option until early summer. With both acquisitions it's evident that the front office has an eye on building depth for a deep run.

Last Postseason Rocco Baldelli turned to rookie arm Randy Dobnak at Yankees Stadium. It seemed like a logical move given all of the available options, but predictably it went awry. Rather than needing to go down another unproven path, it's been in stabilizing the foundation that Minnesota has operated in constructing a winner for 2020.

Early on in the offseason Thad Levine suggested that the front office was aware of the need for impact pitching. Jake Odorizzi was a nice returning addition, and Michael Pineda may have been the best 5th starter in baseball last year. Looking for another arm to slot into the top three of the rotation, there has yet to be that level of acquisition made. I can listen on Rich Hill fitting that bill, but there's a good deal of uncertainty surrounding his efforts, and we won't know his capabilities until June at the earliest.

Dating back to 2015 Hill has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. In that time he's posted a 2.91 ERA and 3.43 FIP with a 10.7 K/9 and a 2.8 BB/9 total. Not an overpowering arm, he's a magician when it comes to putting the ball past hitters, and that's made him a key cog in a very good Los Angeles Dodgers rotation. The reason he's available however, is because a 40th birthday is upcoming and it's yet to be seen how his elbow responds to recent surgery.

There's obviously a good deal of belief in what Hill has left as evidenced by the Twins monetary commitment to him. Although the guaranteed salary is just $3 million, he can push that total all the way up to $12.5 million by contributing 75 innings or 15 starts. Extrapolate that figure to a full season and you're looking at a guy that would represent a commitment above $24 million.

In Homer Bailey, the addition is a bit different. He doesn't have the high upside that Hill does, and the floor is relatively unremarkable. After being bad for quite a few years, he took considerable steps forward in 2019, and showed very well after being dealt to the Oakland Athletics. His 3.65 FIP was one of the best marks of his career, and his walk rate took a nice dive.

Minnesota's front office had already entrenched Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi at the top of their rotation. Bailey should fit in a the 4th option with Pineda eventually sliding into the five-hole come May. Hill can pitch out of any of the top three spots from June onwards, but banking on his contributions seems a bit lofty given the present opportunity. This is where the final step lies.

Having built the roster backwards this winter, it's in the last touch that Minnesota can truly put this over the top. A corner infielder is still needed, and a Josh Donaldson signing would be monumental. Sure, Marwin Gonzalez can play first base, but removing his utility would seem to limit his upside. Hill and Bailey could round out the rotation, but swinging a trade for an upper-tier arm should still be the goal.

Before these moves were made official my belief was that the Twins were two Opening Day arms away from calling it good. Bailey represents one of them, and the second is still to be determined. The 40 man roster is now full, prospects are aplenty, and opportunity is there for the taking. Falvey and Levine finding a trade of their liking to bolster the top half makes a depth group highlighted by Hill and supplemented by names like Thorpe, Smetlzer, Dobnak, and Graterol all the more exciting.

On it's own, this pair of pistols can't be seen as enough. With a last boost to the top of the ladder, then it's more than worthy of calling the offseason complete.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Diamond that Made the Decade

March 10, 2015 was the debut of Off The Baggy. I had begun writing roughly a year prior and found myself trying out this newfound hobby at a few different blogs. Looking for an outlet to more completely express my own opinions this place was born. As the decade comes to a close, it's worth looking back at how this has all grown.

I’m not sure what my Twitter following was back in those days, but I know that original announcement of another Minnesota Twins blogging alternative was read just 30 times. I’ve now cultivated over 330k pageviews, have a Twitter following north of 12,000, and this piece will be the 875th entry on this site.

None of that is remarkable on its own, but the purpose when starting out on this adventure was always generating engagement. I wasn’t a fan of Twitter initially, failing to understand the point and its usage. Upon a closer look, it became obvious that it was a vehicle for consuming the most pertinent information to my general interests. By constructing a feed geared towards my preferred news I became excited about the quick hitting updates.

When Twitter stopped being enough to share my thoughts and outlook with those I had met, or those I would come to engage with, blogging represented a new opportunity. Being able to write out thought processes in a longform style, having an ability to look back, and in general create a whole new level of engagement, was immediately thrilling for me.

Since those early days I’ve now found myself experiencing opportunities I would’ve never thought possible. Relationships, both from readers and professional athletes alike, have spun up out of nowhere. I’ve had the opportunity to act as a reporter from a Major League clubhouse. I’ve broken news. I’ve written good things, and some less than quality. I’ve been brought on as a regular contributor to the best baseball fan site in the country, and it has never once felt like anything more than an exciting outlet furthering the consumption of baseball.

I have no idea what the next decade looks like for me and blogging, but I do know I’m ecstatic to still have an outlet and a growing population of people willing to share their input. I’d bet heavily on this set of years being more enjoyable from a Twins fan perspective, and with that being the chief source of subject matter, I’m excited to buckle up for the ride.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A Twins Offseason Mailbag

It’s been a while since I’ve fielded some questions and handled a Twins mailbag. With the offseason in full swing, and plenty of irons in the fire, the Minnesota Twins have provided a good deal of questions for fans. Doing my best to pick out a handful of them, here’s my take on some of the discussion.

The Twins have been tied to a handful of position players, but really the only role needing to be filled is corner infield. If Sano moves to first base, then the idea of Josh Donaldson makes a ton of sense. Minnesota has suggested they feel comfortable starting Marwin at first, but I feel like that saps a significant amount of his value. Eric Thames, Travis Shaw, or a recently proposed trade including Daniel Murphy could all be in play. Obviously, Alex Avila was inked to slot in behind Mitch Garver.

I don’t think there’s any question as to whether Minnesota will acquire another pitcher. They only uncertainty is what avenue they’ll choose to go down. Hyun-Jin Ryu is an ideal fit, but he’s about the only “impact” arm left on the open market. They could swing a trade and then decide to sign someone like Julio Teheran as an additional bullet.

This was part of my piece for the Twins Prospect Handbook, but I did offer it up on Twitter so you can have it again here. If there’s a guy I like to make a Luis Arraez like, out of nowhere impact, it’s Travis Blankenhorn. He was added to the 40-man this offseason, can play everywhere, and is close to big league ready.

That shipped has probably sailed, he just hasn’t shown the chops to stick in the rotation. Unfortunately, we’re bordering on the time when Romero’s run with the organization ends as well. He’s out of options, so unless he shows well enough this spring to grab a bullpen spot, he’ll likely be claimed off waivers by someone else.

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time on Twitter you know I’m not high on what Rosario brings to the table. I loved him as a prospect and was onboard a trade for an aggressive promotion schedule. He’s 28 now, has no ability to control the strike zone, plays poor defense, and produces hollow stat lines. Should the Twins be able to deal him, it would be on the premise of another level being unlockable. I don’t think he’s good enough to command much of anything on his own but packaging him with a prospect and dangling Rosario as an MLB-ready piece could have appear for someone.

Funny you should ask; I wrote that exact scenario up at Twins Daily last night. Give it a read here.

My ideal arm from the get-go has been Jon Gray, though I do like German Marquez quite a bit as well. I’d be in on either Chris Sale or David Price if the Red Sox want salary relief.

You won’t find a stauncher supporter of Miguel Sano’s ability that myself. I think you’re guaranteed to get a significant power threat and real home run production if he stays on the field. For all involved, I think the biggest turning point was creating an environment of accountability and buy in. This front office has cultivated a strong infrastructure that no doubt supports its players. Miguel’s problems always stemmed from his level of commitment. We saw buy in last year, and unless he’s willing to throw that away, I’d imagine it remains consistent. He won’t be a perennial All-Star, especially if he crosses the diamond (and eventually moves into the DH role), but a lineup staple seems like a good bet.
Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett, Joe Mauer

I did get a good deal of questions regarding timelines for prospects as well. I do love those, but it’s the subject of my yearly piece for the Twins Prospect Handbook. That will be available in the coming weeks, so you’ll have to check that out there.

Friday, December 13, 2019

2020 Minnesota Twins Top 15 Prospects

The Winter Meetings in San Diego have come to a close and the Minnesota Twins have all sights set on the 2020 Major League Baseball season. Rocco Baldelli is looking to repeat an extraordinary 2019 performance, and the big-league club looks to remain one of the best in the majors.

As the reigning AL Central Division champions, the Twins now have teams gunning for them, and while the offseason still must incorporate significant talent acquisition, getting contributions from a deep and loaded farm system is something to be expected.

My top 15 prospects were last updated back in June at the midway point of the season; you can find those here. Going back over rankings, here is the full history.

15. Nick Gordon INF

Gordon followed the same narrative he has employed most of his minor league career. Year two at Triple-A was significantly better than the first season, but the ceiling looks relatively muted at this point. He’s a contact hitter with average defensive ability and good speed. There are some question marks on passion, but talent remains enough for him to be a big league regular.

14. Matt Canterino RHP

After being taken in the 2nd round of the 2019 draft Canterino quickly established himself in pro ball. He skipped over Elizabethton and turned in five nice starts at Low-A. He’s got strikeout stuff, and while the delivery is somewhat quirky, it showed well in his debut. We’ll need to find out what tweaks are necessary as he rises through the system, but this looks like a middle of the rotation arm.

13. Wander Javier SS

No one had more anticipation leading up to 2019 than Javier. After missing all the 2018 season, he finally had a clean bill of health. Now with the year in the rear view, it’s hard not to suggest health was the only positive development. Playing 80 games at Cedar Rapids, Javier posted just a .601 OPS and put up a 116/35 K/BB. He’s got all the talent to be a top 20 prospect in baseball, but he needs a turnaround in 2020 badly.

12. Matt Wallner OF

A big arm but drafted for his bat, Wallner showed out in his first year of pro ball. He posted an .813 OPS at Elizabethton and swatted six homers. His time in Cedar Rapids didn’t include gaudy numbers, but it was brief only getting in 12 games. Owning somewhat of a similar profile to fellow prospect Brent Rooker, Wallner should be able to use his athleticism to continue producing at higher levels.

11. Keoni Cavaco SS

Minnesota grabbed Cavaco with the 13th overall pick and sense him to the GCL. Freshly out of high school, the 18-year-old didn’t get off too much of a hot start. That said, he ascended draft boards due to strong national showings, and his tools all jump off the page. The most important thing that took place for him this year was simply getting engrained into the pro ball schedule.

10. Ryan Jeffers C

If there’s something the Twins did at the highest level last year, it was develop catchers. Jeffers took another step forwards behind the dish, and his bat continues to be an asset. He was promoted to Double-A down the stretch and generated an .856 OPS. Possessing true home run power as well as a growing ability as a defender, he’s asserted himself as the best catching prospect in the system.

9. Blayne Enlow RHP

Things just continue to trend upwards for the Louisiana native. He made it to High-A Fort Myers and posted a 3.38 ERA across 69.1 IP. The hope would be that strikeouts would continue to rise with the walks seeing some decrease. He’s still working on pitching, honing in command, and being able to do more than simply put the ball behind opposing hitters. There’s a ton of talent here and he’s a hard enough worker to harness it all.

8. Lewis Thorpe LHP

Thorpe’s big-league debut came as a contributor to the Twins division title. Although he posted a gaudy 6.18 ERA, it was backed by a 3.47 FIP and was a result of one blow up start against the Indians. He was great in relief and posted a strong 10.1 K/9. He should be still viewed as a starter, but he could be a lefty weapon out of the pen if a change is made. Although he won’t ever be an ace, he looks the part of a certain asset in on the mound.

7. Jhoan Duran RHP

An MLB debut is probably on the horizon for Duran in 2020 if things go well. He was dominant at High-A Fort Myers and outpitched his 4.86 ERA at Double-A Pensacola. A fireballer with strikeout stuff, this is looking like a very nice return for the Twins from the Eduardo Escobar trade. Duran keeps the ball in the yard and does a decent job limiting walks. Another step up and he could be trending towards a frontline starter.

6. Brent Rooker 1B/OF

Somewhat limited by position and age, Rooker continues to rake and make it not matter. He could factor in for the Twins at 1B if the footwork gets in line, but the bat is going to have him up sooner rather than later. He missed the latter half of the season due to injury, but in 65 games at Triple-A Rochester he posted a .933 OPS with 14 dingers. Expect him to start on the farm, but there should be early opportunity for him in the majors.

5. Trevor Larnach OF

After a strong pro debut with an .890 OPS over his first 42 games in 2018, the former Beavers outfielder did nothing to calm his steam last season. He made it to Double-A Pensacola and posted the same .842 OPS he had in 84 games with High-A Fort Myers. A power threat homered in his first major league spring training game, Larnach can play all over the outfield and could push for an opportunity with the Twins before 2020 ends.

4. Jordan Balazovic RHP

Maybe no one in baseball ascended more in 2019 than Balazovic did. After being a fringe top 100 prospect, it’s hard to see him anywhere outside the top 50 heading into the upcoming season. He threw 73 innings for Fort Myers and posted a 2.84 ERA. The strikeouts are there, the command is there, and it all resulted in dominance. We’ll see if he’s tested at the next level, but the Canadian is looking like a staff ace.

3. Brusdar Graterol RHP

A three-inning cameo was what Graterol got to call his MLB debut experience. Velocity is his game and that showed as he routinely pumped triple digits. Strikeouts dipped for him at Double-A Pensacola this year, but he was enough of an asset to be used out of the pen on a division winning club. Expect him to go back to starting and be stretch out to begin 2020, but there’s so much to like here. If a third pitch develops, he could be a dominant starter. If it doesn’t, he’ll be a lockdown relief talent.

2. Alex Kirilloff OF

Missing time to start the year, Kirilloff took a while to get going. It resulted in just a .756 OPS in his first look at the Double-A level, but that shouldn’t cool anything about his trajectory. He’s still a corner outfielder that oozes athleticism and has an advanced approach at the dish. He’s a disciplined hitter with plenty of power, and a quick start in 2020 is going to light a fire under the promotion talk.

1. Royce Lewis SS

Much like Kirilloff, Lewis didn’t get off to a quick start and his bat scuffled all season. He posted just a .661 OPS between Fort Myers and Pensacola, while being questioned as to whether he’d stick at shortstop. Heading to the Arizona Fall League, he took home the MVP trophy and challenged for the batting title after posting a .975 OPS in 22 games. There’s far too much talent to ever write Lewis off regardless of the sample size. This kid still looks like an absolute superstar and getting back in a Blue Wahoos uniform to prove it is likely driving him this winter.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Spending First or Not at All

Last night the baseball world watched in awe of the contract that Gerrit Cole was handed by the New York Yankees. He signed the for the largest AAV and total contract value ever given to a pitcher. New York spending money isn’t surprising at all, but there’s a tickle down effect and how it impacts a team like the Twins remains to be seen.

It’s a great thing that the Minnesota Twins have significant funds and a real opportunity ahead of them. What is less than great is there’s only so many desirable commodities. When Cole came off the board, teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels immediately pivoted to the likes of Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Just hours before, those arms looked like targets Minnesota may be able to wrangle in. Now, the competition just became more fierce.

This exact scenario is one that we can consider during the regular season as well. Although many teams like to wait until closer to the deadline providing an ability to determine their fate, acquiring organizations obviously benefit by earlier action. We can assume somewhat of a premium is paid for early swaps, but the desired result could outweigh that cost when it results in additional wins.

During the offseason games aren’t being immediately impacted, but the game of musical chairs gets more intense with each spot pulled from the circle. Zack Wheeler went from reports suggesting he’d accept something south of $100 million to signing for $18 million north of it. That contract upped Madison Bumgarner’s ask, and both Stephen Strasburg and Cole being gone dwindled the list of worthy assets. Does all of that equate to an opportunity being missed?

We’ll never directly know what contract negotiations sound like on an individual basis, but early action could seem to hold some weight. Rather than being worried about setting the market to high, a team could be sitting pretty having nabbed their desired talent prior to feeling pressure of commodities being unavailable. A team like the Twins is now faced with the proposition of outbidding either Los Angeles franchise if Ryu or Bumgarner was their man, and that creates a higher level of stress than was initially desired.

Although we’re discussing these principles within the realm of baseball, it’s applicable across so many facets of life. As human beings we’re all out for our best interests and looking to snipe a deal. Is the coupon at Target going to save us the most money, or should we save the additional five miles by going to Walmart and buying it first? The fear of missing out can cause us to make rash decisions but being comfortable in our evaluations may afford the opportunity to overlook the result.

I’d imagine Derek Falvey and Thad Levine aren’t going to tip their hand as to which pitching assets they had ranked highest. Maybe everyone was lumped together and they truly do not care who winds up in Twins Territory, a true test of their internal development staff. We can draw some conclusions or generate educated guesses once all the chips are on the table, but the waiting and guessing game is all we have for now.

In a vacuum it seems the Twins may be best suited to approach a high value target with a strong offer and a deadline. Maybe it doesn’t work that way and maybe they tried, but maybe being the one without a dance partner at the end of the song isn’t so great either.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Twins Could Trade for a Former Free Agent Target

After bringing back Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda the Minnesota Twins should be turning their focus solely to the top of their rotation. Madison Bumgarner is the presumed name, but Jon Heyman recently reported that former Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu could be the target. What if Minnesota wanted to go a different route entirely?

There’s no denying that Bumgarner and Ryu are the best (see: only) arms left in the second tier of available starters. Bumgarner has been dissected plenty, and Ryu is essentially the flip side of what he brings to the table. Injury concerns are abundant and could be an immediate issue. He won’t command the same length in a contract, but that may not matter if you get burned on the front end. Ryu is a really nice arm, but there’s plenty of risk regarding how much time he’ll miss.

For a while I’ve contended the Twins plan this winter should be to acquire a top-tier arm through free agency while also dealing for an option with some nice team control. What if it they decided to deal for the top-tier arm as well, and spend by taking on someone else’s contract?

Enter Yu Darvish.

Minnesota came up a year short in signing Darvish before he eventually landed a six-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. Thad Levine has in-depth knowledge of the arm having worked in the front office that originally signed him in Texas, and the parallels with Ryu run pretty deep.

Chicago’s starter is roughly six months older than Ryu. He could be had on a four-year, $81 million contract today assuming the Cubs take on no salary. Although Ryu may not get four years, he’ll probably wind up somewhere between the $60-75 million range. Darvish was injury and bad a season ago, and then started slow in 2019. Across his final 20 starts last year he allowed just a .629 OPS and had a 162/18 K/BB ratio.

When looking at Darvish and Ryu it comes down to what path you prefer (and if Chicago is truly motivated to move him). Ryu costs dollars and brings a strong amount of command while lacking the strikeouts. Darvish would require prospect capital, involves a similar level of injury risk, but brings arguably the best strikeout numbers Minnesota would have ever employed.

If you’re hoarding prospects, and there’s reason to suggest that the Twins should be at least until the deadline this season, then spending money on Ryu or Bumgarner should be the obvious decision. If Darvish is seen as the superior option to Ryu, then engaging the Cubs in meaningful discussion is absolutely a conversation worth having.

We’re at the point in roster construction where big moves are going to involve a certain level of skepticism. Knowing that there’s nothing certain about any of the options involved, a level of belief will be required with any asset acquired. I’m not sure which path the Twins will choose, and I don’t know what the right one is. I am glad we’re at the crossroads where it becomes a necessity, and these are the real discussions that we’re having.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Twins Set Up for a Big Splash

So far, the Minnesota Twins have committed something like $30 million in 2020 contracts to three players this offseason. Two pitchers and a backup catch mean the 26-man roster is quickly closing in on finality. At this point, there’s nothing left but the big bang.

Jake Odorizzi returning to the Twins was a great development. A longer-term deal is probably better than the qualifying offer situation, but it’s negligible nonetheless. Michael Pineda is a guy that made sense to QO, and instead Minnesota’s front office gets him on a two-year deal for less than the one-year tag. Alex Avila replaces Jason Castro as the backup catcher, and he provides a logical platoon partner for star starter Mitch Garver.

Although Odorizzi and Pineda are returning talents, their abilities represent some of the best on the market. Disappointment in the lack of a new name doesn’t hold much weight when the accomplishment of high-quality assets is the goal. Avila isn’t flashy, but it’s a pretty lofty expectation for catcher number two being able to accomplish that. In the moves they've made this front office has gotten the job done and nailed each and every acquisition.

Now comes the big wave.

At this point the Twins have something just shy of $100 million committed to 2019. Needing to push the payroll to no less than $135 million, there’s a significant chunk of change yet to be doled out. A reliever and corner infielder seem to still be on the docket, but it’s that key starter still twisting in the wind that has everyone wondering. Maybe it’s Madison Bumgarner or maybe it’s Hyun Jin Ryu, but no matter who it is, a fat check is getting cut.

I still think that the Twins are best served by both paying and trading for starters. The latter isn’t going to jump the bottom line much given the goal should be a level of youth and team control, which generally has a muted price tag. No one has ever gotten more in a free agent deal from Minnesota than Ervin Santana’s 4/$54 million in 2014, but both the total and AAV should be blitzed by in the immediate future.

There has been somewhat of a back to front way about attacking this offseason cycle from Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. They’ve shored up the holes with some of the lesser coveted assets, and now they can focus solely on positioning of the big guns. It seems to be only a matter of time before it happens, but the reality of when and not if has started to sink in.

Expect the Twins to land a player with an AAV of $15-20 million yet, and another $15-20 million split on the final assets to follow. It’s been fun seeing clubs cut checks before Christmas, and just maybe we’ll get back to the days of the Winter Meetings being some sort of exciting frenzy.

We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see how and what all transpires, but the monumental move looks to be on the horizon.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Twins Prospects Taking Over Bowman

Today is one of the biggest releases on the calendar in the hobby world. As Topps pumps out the latest Bowman Draft product, collectors feast their eyes on an opportunity to grab autographs and cardboard of the next great stars. For the Minnesota Twins specifically, a Bowman product hasn’t been this exciting in a few years.

While collecting sports cards is a hobby, a large contingent of its appeal is monetarily driven and provides an aspect of gambling. Outside of buying specific cards you covet on secondary markets, opening boxes or packs leaves the consumer fully open to chance. With Bowman that reality is heightened given the nature of the product. Up and coming prospects are put in their major league uniforms, and for many, it will be their first professional cards.

From a desire perspective it’s the “1st Bowman” card that reigns supreme. Mike Trout’s fetch more than $20,000, and while no one else is on that pedestal, plenty of players routinely top the $1,000 mark on an annual basis. At the most fundamental level, you’re looking for strong prospects with youth and talent on their side, with the understanding that hitters are more desirable than pitchers. In Draft, which features the top picks from the previous amateur cycle, Minnesota has five key subjects. Let’s get into what their potential, cardboard and baseball, may look like.

Matt Wallner- OF 1st Round 2019 Age 21

A decent comp within the Twins system would be Brent Rooker, although the Minnesota native has youth on his side. Wallner pitched as Southern Miss as well, but he’s being groomed solely for his bat after being taken in the first round. There’s plenty of power potential here as he set college records, and his eight professional dingers in 65 games was a nice start. Wallner is the type of hobby player that sits in the middle. He’ll hit a boatload of homers, but the position and other abilities leave him with some bust potential. Given his hometown narrative, he could be coveted by Twins collectors, but this should remain an affordable chase player.

Keoni Cavaco- SS 1st Round 2019 Age 18

A helium pick for the Twins, Cavaco played in 25 games after being the 13th overall pick. He didn’t show well owning just a .470 OPS in the GCL, but there’s reason to call that expected. He came into his own during the showcase circuit, and pro ball is going to be yet another leap. Minnesota obviously sees all-around promise and continuing his development should only raise his overall ceiling. In the card world he could soon become an expensive get. Youth is in his corner, and talent is through the roof. The minute results follow, there’ll be a clamoring for his cardboard.

Anthony Prato- INF 7th Round 2019 Age 21

Taken after his junior season at Uconn, Prato is an up-the-middle player that the Twins see promise in. He played in 45 games for Elizabethton while getting in two at the next level for Cedar Rapids. He’s not a power guy, but he can swipe bases and hit the gaps. That profile is much more beneficial on the diamond than it is in the baseball card realm. He could be a solid utility player at the big-league level, but his cards aren’t going to see much of a jump unless there’s a shift in projection.

Matt Canterino- SP 2nd Round Age 21

Another Conference USA product, Canterino was taken in a class with Wallner, who he is very familiar with. Arguably the best projected player of Minnesota’s 2019 class right now, the pitcher posted a 1.44 ERA across his first seven professional starts. He’s got a quirky delivery, but he’ll mow down hitters and has an advanced approach on the mound. There’s middle-of-the-rotation upside here for Minnesota and that’s great news for the big-league club. Pitchers aren’t highly collectible however, and that generally mutes prices significantly. With the volatility of injury or ineffectiveness as well, there should be no reason this is ever more than an entry level purchase.

Spencer Steer- INF 3rd Round Age 21

After playing for the Oregon Ducks across three seasons, Steer was selected by the Twins and made quite the impression. His .949 OPS at Elizabethton earned him a promotion to Cedar Rapids. In 44 games there he owned a .745 OPS still buoyed by a strong OBP. He’s always controlled the strike zone well, and he should have some potential to grow into power. Steer isn’t going to light the world on fire, but he’s probably got the safest floor of anyone that made it into the product for Minnesota. An affordable autograph with staying power makes this one worthy of looking into.

Monday, December 2, 2019

2020 IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

Once again, it's that time of year and December 1 saw my inbox being hit with the yearly IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. Although this isn't part of the official BBWAA vote to enshrine players in Cooperstown, there's plenty of crossover between voting parties and many of the same principles are the same.

At this time the IBWAA allows voters to select up to 12 candidates. You can find my 2018 ballot here, and my 2019 selections here. As was the case last year, I wound up with a ballot less than the maximum amount. The IBWAA has cleared a backlog of candidates already enshrining Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Although I could've included more players I had previously left off, I chose to stay the course.

When sending my ballot back to the IBWAA I wound up with four holdovers and the expected unanimous selection who makes his first appearance. Here we go:

Curt Schilling: 79.7 fWAR

Bloody sock nonsense aside, Schilling is a three time Cy Young runner-up, and six-time All Star. He struck out 3,116 batters in his career and owns a 3.46 ERA while totaling more than 200 wins. Three World Series rings, an MVP, and a 2.23 postseason ERA do him favors as well. Since voting for him last year, Schilling has made plenty of splashes in the media. He's not well liked off the field, but the character clause is among the most dated pieces of inclusion into the Hall of Fame. On baseball merit alone, he's worthy of the nod.

Derek Jeter 73.0 fWAR

The Yankees Captain enters the ballot as a near-lock for unanimous selection. He had an incredible career with significant accolades in both the regular season and playoffs. Over-glorified in part because of the market in which he played, Jeter will go down as one of the best to ever play the shortstop position. What he lacked on defense he contributed with his bat. The 14-time All-Star and five-time World Series winner will forever be one of the most celebrated Yankees of All-Time.

Scott Rolen 70.1 fWAR

Vastly under appreciated, Rolen started as a Rookie of the Year winner, and went on to tally eight Gold Glove awards. He was a seven time All Star and among the best to ever field the Hot Corner. With an .855 career OPS, his bat more than does enough to supplement what was an exceptional defensive career.

Larry Walker: 68.7 fWAR

Although he played the field plenty, Walker also turned in a nice run spending time in both the infield and outfield. He was the 1997 NL MVP and made five All Star games. His glove netted him seven Gold Gloves and his bat produced three Silver Slugger awards. Walker finished his 17 seasons with 383 homers and drove in over 1,300 runs.

Andruw Jones 67.1 fWAR

Jones's 17 year career is often going to be questioned as he held on for five uninspiring seasons to closer out his time as a big leaguer. That aside, the 10 year stretch from 199-2007 was one for the ages. With 10 Gold Glove's and five All Star appearances, he was easily among the greatest in the game for a decade.