Monday, December 20, 2021

2022 Minnesota Twins Top 15 Prospects

While we have no baseball right now because of the league locking out its players, there’s still minor league prospects to dream on. 2021 provided us a full season of minor league action and the Twins saw a ton of movement from their biggest names.

It was certainly tough to see the injuries mount this season, but that can likely be tied to the non-traditional 2020 and having to get back into a demanding flow. The last update to the top 15 in this space came in June, prior to the Major League Baseball draft, so now feels like a good time to refresh the list. 

Previous rankings can be found below. Let’s get into it:

15. Cole Sands RHP

Sliding Sands back a spot here has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with additions before him. He posted a 2.46 ERA in 80.1 IP all at the Double-A level in 2021. The strikeouts are there and while the walk rate was up, he still worked around damage. Some time on the IL wasn’t a great thing, but he could be an option for Minnesota soon.

14. Matt Wallner OF

I’m pretty bullish on Wallner being a better version of Brent Rooker. His .854 OPS at High-A was a professional best this season, and he raked for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League. He has massive arm strength and should be fine in a corner spot. He’s going to hit for power, and I think the on-base abilities are there too.

13. Noah Miller INF

Taken 36th overall by the Twins, Miller’s brother Owen is a big leaguer. Noah is expected to be a better all-around prospect and has plenty of speed on his own. I think he’s got a pretty good shot to stick in the middle of the infield, and it’ll be exciting to see him on the field in 2022.

12. Blayne Enlow RHP

Throwing just 14.2 innings this year, Enlow was put on the shelf early and then underwent Tommy John surgery. He was added to the 40-man roster protecting him from a Rule 5 selection. He’s still one of my favorite breakout prospects, but he won’t be healthy to start 2022.

11. Josh Winder RHP

After dominating Double-A, Winder earned a pretty quick promotion to Triple-A. He was just ok in his four starts at St. Paul, but there’s no reason to believe this isn’t a talented arm. He’s consistently had strong strikeout stuff and avoided free passes. Winder was bit most by the longball for the Saints. He did experience a trip to the IL but should be healthy coming into 2022.

10. Keoni Cavaco INF

In 60 games for Low-A Fort Myers Cavaco did little to impress. That said, he’s still just 20 years old and it was great to see him advance beyond the complex league. He’s still filling out form a body standpoint, and 2022 will be an important year for his development.

9. Chase Petty RHP

Selected as the 26th overall pick in the 2021 Major League Baseball draft, Petty was seen as a great value selection given his ability to reach triple-digits on the mound. He’s still got a good amount of refinement to undergo, but this is a great arm for Minnesota to mold.

8. Matt Canterino RHP

Spending a good amount of time on the IL this year, Canterino certainly wanted to get in more than 23 innings. The work he did do was dominant, however. A 0.78 ERA and 45/4 K/BB is plenty indicative of him needing the challenge of at least Double-A to start 2022.

7. Simeon Woods-Richardson RHP

One piece of the return for Jose Berrios, Woods-Richardson pitched just eight innings for the Twins at Double-A. After playing with Team USA in the Olympics, he needed a good amount of time to ramp back up. The strikeout numbers are exciting, but he does have command issues to work through. Still, this is a top-100 prospect that should be fun to watch in 2022.

6. Jhoan Duran RHP

After being among the best Twins pitching prospects coming into 2021, Duran took a slight step backwards. He was injured for a good part of the season and contributed just 16 innings. The high strikeouts were combined with too many walks. The velocity is certainly there, but he could wind up being a reliever too. 2022 will be a big season for him.

5. Joe Ryan RHP

Acquired in exchange for Nelson Cruz, Ryan wound up being among the best things to happen for the Twins last season. After pitching for Team USA, Ryan made five starts at the big league level. His 3.43 FIP was better than the 4.05 ERA, but a 30/5 K/BB is beyond impressive for a guy who doesn’t have dominant velocity. How Ryan adapts to more tape on him in year two is going to be intriguing.

4. Jose Miranda IF

No player in the Twins system had a better year than Miranda. He tallied a .973 OPS across Double and Triple-A while blast 30 homers. He played all over the infield and it’s clear the bat is ready for his next challenge. I’m not sure where he fits for Minnesota yet, and it may not be Opening Day, but he’s coming and soon.

3. Jordan Balazovic RHP

Starting 20 games for Double-A Wichita, Balazovic turned in 3.62 ERA with a 9.5 K/9. He looked every bit the pat of an ace at times while going through growing pains as well. He’ll need a clean bill of health and complete season in 2022, but he’s very close.

2. Austin Martin SS/OF

The headlining return for Jose Berrios, Martin is a very similar player to Minnesota’s top prospect Royce Lewis. Playing shortstop but potentially an outfielder, Martin owned a .779 OPS at Double-A Wichita. He hasn’t really hit for any power, but that should come. The athleticism is strong, and the speed is there as well.

1. Royce Lewis SS/OF

Putting him back on top of the prospect rankings, Lewis missed all of 2021 with a torn ACL. He’ll return to the field healthy in 2022 and looking to distance himself from a 2019 that left production to be desired. Lewis’ bat has flashed plenty, and he’s looked comfortable at both short and in the outfield. A quick rise to the big leagues may be in the cards.

Monday, December 13, 2021

2021 IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

While having until January to cast my annual IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, I decided to get it in before the holidays this year. Once again, the IBWAA is not part of the Official BBWAA vote to enshrine players in Cooperstown but with a large voting body this is a fun process to partake in each season.

The IBWAA selection process allows for 12 candidates to be voted. My previous ballots can be found here:


I didn’t hit the 12 max but did decide to open up my restrictions a bit. I’ve never been a “Small Hall” type but keeping out those on the border doesn’t make much sense to me considering there’s always going to be more worthy players.

After Larry Walker and Derek Jeter were inducted last cycle, I have just three holdovers this time with seven new candidates. Let’s get into it:

Alex Rodriguez 113.7 fWAR

Arguably one of the best to ever play the game, Rodriguez rubbed plenty the wrong way, but his numbers are otherworldly. I’m still mad he missed 700 homers by just four, but the career .930 OPS is beyond impressive. Rodriguez also racked up three MVP awards and was a 14-time All-Star. He’s remade his image a bit after his playing career while being an analyst, but regardless of what you think about him, the talent was something that doesn’t come around often.

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.

Scott Rolen 70.1 fWAR

Vastly underappreciated, 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.

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.

Manny Ramirez 66.3 fWAR

In 2002 Manny Ramirez picked up his only batting title with a .349 average. He’s a career .312 hitter and has a .996 OPS. He’s a member of the 500 home run club with 555 and picked up MVP votes in nine-straight seasons. Ramirez won nine Silver Slugger’s and was a part of two World Series championship teams. One of the best pure hitters to ever step on the diamond, Ramirez is worthy of induction.

Gary Sheffield 62.1 fWAR

Sheffield grabbed his batting title with the San Diego Padres in 1992 with a .330 tally. His .907 OPS is borderline for induction, but the 509 career home runs is enough to get it done for me. Sheffield picked up nine All-Star appearances and won the Silver Slugger five times. He was part of the 1997 Florida Marlins World Series team and was consistently a middle-of-the-order hitter.

Sammy Sosa 60.1 fWAR

Giving baseball one of the best home run chases in history, Sammy Sosa tangled with Mark McGwire during the amazing 1998 season. Sosa won his MVP that season hitting 66 homers and finished his career with 609. Sosa’s .878 career OPS isn’t all that special, but I can’t continue to ignore the career home run tally.

David Ortiz 51.0 fWAR

It took a while for the Hall of Fame to make room for designated hitters, but David Ortiz is among the best of them. He’s been both an ALCS and World Series MVP while picking up three rings. His career 541 home runs is beyond impressive, and the fact that he finished his career at 40 with a 1.021 OPS continues to be among the best seasons ever.

Billy Wagner 24.0 fWAR

Relievers are very under-represented in the Hall of Fame and Billy Wagner is another good one to get in. His career 2.31 ERA is impressive, and the 11.9 K/9 was ahead of his time. Saves are an overrated metric, but Wagner has 422 of them. A seven-time All-Star, put him in.

Joe Nathan 19.5 fWAR

Not far off from the man above him, Nathan falls into the category of relievers needing to make their way to Cooperstown. He posted 377 saves and owned a 2.87 ERA. Nathan’s K/9 of 9.5 wasn’t spectacular, but he was named to six All-Star games of his own.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Bundy Signing Isn’t from the Same Old Twins

Right before the final bell on the Major League Baseball offseason rang before Rob Manfred locked out the players, Minnesota got a deal done. The Twins signed former first round pick Dylan Bundy to a one-year deal worth $4 million. No, it’s not cut from the “same ole’ Twins” cloth.

Take a quick glance at Bundy’s 2021 numbers and it looks like a scrap heap pickup. He had an ERA north of 6.00 and a FIP that suggests he was equally as bad. The strikeouts dipped, the walks rose, and he gave up two homers for every nine innings he pitched. That’s not good. Now, take another look.

In the truncated 2020 season Bundy finished 9th in the American League Cy Young voting. He posted a 3.29 ERA and an even better 2.95 FIP. His 9.9 strikeout rate was a career high, and his 2.3 BB/9 was a career low. At 27 years old he posted the best season of his career. Now, where does the truth lie?

Probably somewhere in the middle. Prior to 2020, Bundy owned a 4.69 ERA while striking out just shy of one batter per inning. He gives up a decent number of dingers but has largely put the injuries that plagued him as a prospect behind him. That is, until this season. Bundy threw just 90.2 IP for the Angels in 2021 and was one of the many pitchers that saw dips in spin rate following the sticky substance ban.

So, what do we make of all this?

Firstly, regarding the sticky substances, it’s hard to draw too many conclusions. Players were forced to adapt on the fly with no warning. This is on top of having a ball that was already being manipulated by the league itself. With more runway this offseason to work through things, we could expect to see a greater ability of adaptation. The hope would be consistency from the implement centered in the game, and we’ll have a greater opportunity for a base level of results.

Secondly, regarding the injury issues, it’s fair to wonder what the impact of a shortened 2020 and competitive changes in 2021 had on his body. Baseball players are characters of habit and routine, throwing that off can have substantial ripple effects and I believe we saw that to a larger extent on the minor league side this season.

But why isn’t Bundy just another cheap pickup you ask?

Look at the upside here. Last season the Twins gave $8 million to a 38-year-old J.A. Happ who was very likely on the tail end of his career. He’d posted sub 4.00 ERA’s but had very little upside and plenty of room to go bottoms up. They gave $2 million to Matt Shoemaker who had been solid when healthy, but rarely was able to stay on the field. Again, that’s a decent amount of chance to count on in the rotation for Opening Day.

With Bundy, he has both youth and ceiling on his side while not coming close to breaking the bank. Of course this signing on its own is not worthy of praise should the Twins do nothing else, but if they execute on acquiring two more arms above this ability level, it’s a threesome they can rely on. Last season the starting staff needed top three arms or better. Instead the front office acquired two guys to mop up innings as fourth and fifth placeholders.

Should the Twins fail to execute in allocating the funds they could’ve dispersed to Jose Berrios as a rotation centerpiece, then they need to be held accountable for it. Right now though, Bundy represents a solid floor for what can be hoped to be the start of something more (once the lockout ceases, of course).

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Buck. Got. Paid.

For months I have been tweeting that the Minnesota Twins need to pay Byron Buxton. There has never been a point at which that should have been anything close to an uncertainty. Today, it became reality.

The Twins centerfielder has received MVP votes twice in his career. He has an .887 OPS over the past three seasons, and he was barreling towards and MVP award prior to injury this past season. Therein lies the rub. Minnesota was only in a position to sign their superstar thanks to his injury history. Missing games is the reason Buxton wouldn’t have received the $300 million payday in free agency, and it’s the necessary push needed to negotiate an extension with the mid-market club.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece for Twins Daily looking at the parallels between Buxton and Minnesota’s last mega-star, Joe Mauer. The hometown hero was paid $184 million because of his exploits prior to injury, and then denigrated in his later years because of them. On the flip side, Buxton is being shorted because of his injury history and leaves the Twins ample opportunity to experience value-based riches in the future.

Just two seasons ago this same front office paid a 34-year-old Josh Donaldson $100 million for four seasons. He’s dealt with chronic calf issues for much of his later career and they still took that gamble. Nabbing a 28-year-old star in Buxton for that same amount and tacking on an additional three years is nothing short of larceny.

We can go rounds as to whether Buxton is injury-prone or a byproduct of unfortunate circumstance. There was a time he was running into walls and his all-out style had him in precarious positions. Breaking a bone after being hit by a pitch or suffering a concussion following a dive onto grass certainly shouldn’t be assumed as indicative of future issues. No matter what happens, Byron would be the first person to wish for a clean bill of health, even while not being able to reap the rewards of a payday it would produce.

There’s been plenty of reason to question this front office and the noise that’s been made public regarding roster construction over the past few months. This extension alone was the largest opportunity to call the offseason a failure and is now done and over with. It’s time they continue to supplement around a lineup bolstered with talent, and that remains to be seen.

No matter what happens from here though, they paid the man.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Jose Berrios Stings Again for Twins

The Minnesota Twins dealt Jose Berrios to the Toronto Blue Jays during the 2021 Major League Baseball season. Today he signed a seven year deal worth $140 million to stay in Canada for the bulk of his career. The wound is opened again. 

When the Twins flipped Berrios to the Blue Jays, they did a great job acquiring prospect capital. Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson are both top-100 prospects. Despite Martin looking more like a centerfielder than a shortstop, his talent still plays up the middle. Woods-Richardson will get a shot to re-establish himself after competing in the Olympics last season. If Minnesota wasn’t going to sign Berrios, then getting that type of haul was nice.

In seeing the deal get struck with Toronto, it’s very clear that Minnesota’s sticking point was the duration. As Darren Wolfson points out, the front office is not keen on offering seven year pacts to players. That’s a fair stance, even with someone who’s been as durable as Jose, and even though he’s just 27-years-old. What remains to be seen is how they will compete for those top talents otherwise. If you’re taking a hard and fast approach on avoiding length, then you must make a more aggressive push on value.

A $20 million average annual value for Berrios seems like a fair amount. That’s below what Noah Syndergaard will get, albeit on a one year deal, despite pitching just two innings since 2019. Should Minnesota look to mitigate risk by avoiding length, they’ll need to tack on a percentage above market rate to lure free agents into their organization. 

We’ll very quickly get an idea how this plays out for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Ultimately, they “saved” the money on Berrios by flipping him for outstanding prospects. Instead of breaking up the $20 million annually across two or three pitchers, they must be willing to spend that type of coin on one arm that fills the void. They’ll be hoping the length of the deal is shorter, but banking that salary flexibility, or trying to patch it together through multiple players is not something that should be met with praise. 

As I’ve harper on for months, this offseason is going to be the most important in determining the true ability of the front office, and they should be judged accordingly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Which Free Agent Starter Fits the Twins?

After unloading Jose Berrios at the trade deadline, watching Kenta Maeda go under the knife, and seeing Michael Pineda hit free agency, the Twins starting rotation is bare. Who is the top choice to bolster it? 

As of right now you’d have to bank on either Bailey Ober or Joe Ryan being the Opening Day starter in 2022 for Rocco Baldelli. Both showed well in their rookie seasons, but if that’s the top of the rotation, there’s cause for concern in the year ahead. Minnesota failed tremendously on the mound, and depth was exposed quickly as both J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker flopped. For the Twins to make a turnaround in the year ahead, the focus must be on a resurgence from the bump. 

Similarly to the 2021 season, the hope is that Minnesota will see graduations from the farm. Top arms like Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, and Matt Canterino all posted mixed results with injuries sprinkled in. Another year back from the cancelled 2020 season, and the hope would be that a clean bill of health is parlayed into peak effectiveness. Before banking on the youth though, the Twins need to give Wes Johnson some workable ammunition for a group that is essentially bare.

The free agent crop this offseason is a who’s who of big names, and while not all may make it to the open market, there should be one or two that fit to Minnesota’s liking. Here’s how I’d categorize the options: 

The Injured - Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander

There’s a known commodity and a more unknown question here. Kershaw represents the unknown as he’s dealing with an elbow injury that cost him multiple months this season. He is avoiding surgery for the time being but could be ticketed for a much longer time on the shelf if he goes under the knife. The career-Dodger will be 34 next season but has a ton of miles on his arm. Production has never been the issue and if he can avoid back and elbow concerns for the next year or so, there’s reason to like him on a short term deal.

On the flip side you’ve got a guy in Verlander who will be returning from Tommy John surgery having last pitched in 2020. He’ll be 39 next season and has thrown just six innings since 2019. There’s hardly been a time in which you’ve questioned his ability though, and a clean elbow could have him looking like an appetizing option on a one-year deal. The Astros will likely give him a qualifying offer should that still exist, but Verlander definitely has familiarity with the AL Central.

The Aging - Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke

Having just turned 37, that’s about the only reason to define Scherzer as aging. He’s still every bit the dominant pitcher he has been over the course of his career, and he’s attempting to carry a Dodgers staff through the Postseason. Of the options available, I think he’s probably the most likely to be retained by the current team, and while I wouldn’t expect Los Angeles to give him a long extension, they certainly have the money to persuade him to stay.

With the Astros having rotational issues this Postseason it’s clear they have work to do in that department. I’m not sure they hang onto a guy in Greinke that has hit somewhat of a decline. His 4.16 ERA was the highest mark since 2016 and he’s clearly struggled down the stretch. If another team believes they can work through the current ineffectiveness, this is probably the best bet for a good starter on a one-year deal. He seems like a fit for Minnesota but comes with plenty of uncertainties.

The Youth - Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman

If you want to secure a long-term pact with a rotation anchor this is where you’re turning. Starting with Stroman, you’ve got a guy in the midst of his prime and coming off a very strong season. Not a big strikeout guy, Stroman needs to be backed by a good infield as he’s a ground ball maestro. Someone that appears to be a very good leader and clubhouse presence, this is a personality that could mesh well with the Twins plans for quite some time.

The breakout finally happened for Gausman, and it came in a big way. With the Giants being baseball’s best team, the 30-year-old posted a career best 2.81 ERA. He racks up strikeouts, limits walks, and looks every bit the ace you’d hope for. 2020 is where things seemed to click for the former Orioles pitcher, so you’ll need to make sure there’s a belief in the results going forward, but nothing he’s put up recently is anything an organization would want to avoid. 

A positive this winter is that pitching options are plentiful. Those above just barely scratch the surface considering names like Syndergaard, Bundy, and even Pineda are all available. The Twins need to find a path forward, and for a transitional time it might make sense to focus on short term deals. There should be any number of options that are within their wheelhouse, and while the big names are there as always, this might be an opportunity to land the right fit without breaking the bank.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Did Nick Gordon Do Enough?


This upcoming season the Minnesota Twins have plenty to decide when it comes to their middle infield. They need a shortstop, and while that could be Jorge Polanco, I’d advise them looking elsewhere. Where, though, does that leave rookie Nick Gordon?

Playing in 73 games and getting exactly 200 plate appearances, Gordon found himself getting a good amount of run for Rocco Baldelli’s squad. There should have been more opportunity had Andrelton Simmons not clogged things for the entirety of the season, but nonetheless Gordon was given a glimpse.

For the past few seasons, I have wondered whether Gordon’s time would come with Minnesota at all. He has a track record of performing well when repeating a level for the second time, and despite missing 2020 with the minor league shutdown, he showed up ready to go in 2021. Miscast as a shortstop, and lacking the power for a second basemen, Gordon needed to reinvent himself. He proved capable of that this season, but where does that leave him going forward?

As a fielder, Gordon saw action at six different positions this past season. The bulk of his playing time came in centerfield (34 G), and his true home of second base was doubled up (17 G). He also made 14 appearances at shortstop, where he’d contest is home, and 12 in the corner outfield with two cameos at third base.

From an all encompassing perspective, it was a jack of all trades, master of none approach. To be fair, that’s ultimately what a utility player is. Gordon adapting to the outfield on the fly should be seen as an incredible boost for the Twins, and something definitely working in his favor. Recording just over 220 innings in centerfield, Gordon posted a -1 DRS there with a -0.8 UZR. It’s too small of a sample size to take much from, but he did also record 1 DRS in 110 innings at second base.

Ultimately, I think that Nick Gordon proved he can be useful anywhere on the diamond. The question still remains if Minnesota should want him in that capacity. On the offensive side of things, the former first round pick slashed .240/.292/.355 for a .647 OPS and a 79 OPS+. Minnesota’s last two utility players posted a 94 OPS+ (Marwin Gonzalez) and a 103 OPS+ (Ehire Adrianza) during the final full year that was 2019. Both were terrible in 2020, but I’d imagine that’s not the bar the Twins are looking to clear.

Gordon’s additional strength is that he can run. The Twins haven’t had much of a stolen base threat outside of Byron Buxton in recent seasons. They definitely have not had a capable pinch runner on their bench. Swiping ten bags and being caught just once, Gordon displayed an ability to generate runs on the basepaths this season. If that’s a skill or advantage Minnesota is looking for, he’s the cheapest option.

I’m not sure if Gordon makes the 26-man to start 2022 or not, but he’s certainly made his case better than it was at any other point coming into his career. There’s not a ton to hope on future development here, but if Minnesota wants to make use of their former first round pick, then it’s seeming like they’ve got a path to get it done.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Twins Arbitration Decisions Loom


Today Major League Baseball Trade Rumors put out their numbers for projected arbitration salaries. While they aren’t going to be spot on, the website is often seen as the gold standard in this space. Minnesota has some big names to decide on.

The most notable eligible player here is also the one guy deserving of a long term extension. Byron Buxton will at worst be tendered a new deal, and his projected $7.3 million would be a steal. So too would a new long-term extension with Minnesota for anything less than $200 million. The only question here is whether a contract is agreed to with the Twins, and if they’ll wind up paying him for the duration of 2022.

Taylor Rogers gets the second biggest number on Minnesota’s bill after being named a first-time All-Star in 2021. His $6.7 million seems like a steal in terms of value and talent but coming off an injury that shut down his season, it’s worth wondering if the Twins front office will feel the same way. Rogers should be back if there’s belief he’ll be healthy. Trading him with injury uncertainty could be a tough path. Ultimately, I think he returns.

Both Tyler Duffey and Mitch Garver should be seen as favorable options to be back with the Twins. The former is a reliever with a high ceiling that lost his way at times during 2021. He could be dealt if Minnesota finds a willing partner, but the fit at the back end of the bullpen still remains great. Garver is arguably one of the best catchers in baseball, and although he could be coveted by the opposition in any deals Derek Falvey may try to swing, Minnesota will tender him a deal regardless.

It’s still surprising to me that J.A. Happ netted the Twins anything, and John Gant is certainly a few rungs up on that ladder. He wasn’t amazing by any means, but there’s plenty of usable ability there. The question for the Twins is what they see his path going forward being. If he’s a starter then the $3.7 million doesn’t seem egregious at all. If he’s a reliever, that’s a middle-relief arm that doesn’t possess a ton of upside. I’d lean towards keeping him, but also wouldn’t be shocked if the front office feels otherwise.

Minnesota will have easy decisions on Luis Arraez and Caleb Thielbar. At $2 million and under, both players provide well above that from a value perspective. The Twins may dangle Arraez this offseason on the trade market, but he’s also a strong candidate to remain an integral super-utility piece. Thielbar has made himself into a full-time big leaguer, and now he’ll get a payday for it. (An aside, both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs have Luis Aaraez pre-arb until 2023, so he shouldn't need more than the MLB minimum.)

The trio of lower options include Juan Minaya, Danny Coulombe, and Rob Refsnyder. The first was arguably the Twins best reliever down the stretch and has pitched his way into the 2022 bullpen. Coulombe isn’t anything to get excited about, but he’s a fine option to round out a group that will need some cheaper arms as well. Refsnyder is an interesting case as he turned into a pumpkin following his return from the Injured List. Maybe Minnesota keeps him around as a depth outfielder, but Buxton or not, he can’t be the fourth option on this Major League roster.

That leaves just two guys who I see as obvious DFA candidates. It makes no sense for Minnesota to retain the services of either Jake Cave or Willians Astudillo for more than $1 million each. To be frank, neither player fits the roster nor is worthy of a spot at the Major League minimum, but with arbitration eligibility, a non-tender is the way these have to go. Cave is no longer productive at the plate, at the novelty of Astudillo wore off a long time ago.

If this comes to fruition as outlined Minnesota would retain 10 of their 12 arbitration eligible players for a total of $60.4 million.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Projecting the Postseason Winners


After winning two straight AL Central Division titles, the Minnesota Twins flopped and failed a three-peat before things got off the ground. They’ll watch this Postseason from home, but there’s still plenty of exciting talent worth tuning into.

Running from the Wild Card round through the World Series, here’s who I’ve got and why:

AL Wild Card

Yankees over Red Sox

In a one game, winner take all, I don’t think you can bet against Gerrit Cole, and the lineup New York currently has clicking. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have carried this team for weeks. The club nearly gave it away on the final day, but I think they beat their biggest rival at home. Boston owned a 10-9 record with a +1 run differential over the Yankees this season. New York will attempt to even that out.

AL Division Series

Rays over Yankees

There’s no denying that New York has the better ace, but Tampa has owned this matchup all year. While New York is just 8-11 against the Rays in 2021, they have a -48 run differential. The Yankees do have some veteran leadership on their side, but I don’t know that Corey Kluber is a guy I want to hang my Postseason hopes on. The lineup is peaking, but it may have come a bit too soon. I think a very big X-factor here for Tampa Bay could be the usage of highly-touted prospect Shane Baz.

Astros over White Sox

A very small sample, sure, but Chicago was just 2-5 with a -12 run differential against Houston this season. Although the White Sox may have the better rotation, I’m not sure it’s that much of a discrepancy. Houston has largely flown under the radar this season, and the entire lineup is full of star power. Alex Bregman on a big stage always is must-see television.

AL Championship Series

Astros over Rays

These two clubs played each other just six times in 2021, and they nearly split the action with just three runs separating the contests. Both forward-thinking approaches to the game, this should be a fun series. Tampa Bay is looking for a return trip to the World Series, but Houston gets an opportunity to distance themselves from the cheating scandal.

NL Wild Card

Dodgers over Cardinals

Welcome to a year in which a team that won 106 games is playing in a one-game, winner-take-all, affair. The Dodgers have any number of arms to piece this one together, and their lineup should be expected to cause fits for whoever St. Louis puts on the bump. It’s a tough spot, but this is where’d you’d like to believe the best team shines.

NL Division Series

Dodgers over Giants

San Francisco has been the best story of the season in my mind. A team expected to do so little comes out and wins 107 games. These two clubs nearly split their 19 contests and Los Angeles held a +2 run differential. It’s a lot tighter of a matchup than it may seem, but I think this is a spot where the higher tiered talent rises to the occasion. Clayton Kershaw being out hurts Los Angeles, but if there’s an organization with starting arms to make up for it, they are it.

Braves over Brewers

Initially I wanted to ride with Milwaukee’s pitchers, but Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff can’t do it all. Behind them is a rotation leaving plenty to be desired, and the lineup is more name than it is substance. Atlanta will have to prove that they’re more than an 88-win team coming out of a very mediocre decision, but Freddie Freeman can carry this club. Atlanta seems like a strong flier team, and one worth taking a shot on.

NL Championship Series

Dodgers over Braves

If Los Angeles can get past the test that is their first two rounds, they should be looking at a trip to the World Series. Regardless of who comes out of the bottom half of the National League bracket, they should be facing an uphill battle. This is where Atlanta wears down and the Dodgers go back to seek a second-straight World Series.

World Series

The National League has won each of the past two World Series. No team has won back-to-back World Series since the New York Yankees ended their last three-peat in 2000. Houston and Los Angeles faced off during the 2017 World Series, which the Astros won over Dave Roberts. Dusty Baker is at the helm in Houston now and is looking for just the second pennant of his career, and first ring. Again, Houston’s ability has been overlooked much of the season and I think we see a replicated result from 2017. Your 2021 Major League Baseball Champions are the Houston Astros.

Astros over Dodgers

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

What the AL Central Taught Us in a Full Season


Forget the fact that 2020 was an uncharacteristically weird and difficult year in and of itself, trying to deduce anything from the shortened baseball season proved impossible. Back to a more traditional slate in 2021, we have some storylines to actually dive into.

Rather than focusing just on the Minnesota Twins, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at the division as a whole. The AL Central was projected to be among baseball’s worst, and while that may be true, there are some signs of hope across the board. New contenders emerged, and talents have risen. Here’s a few of my takeaways from each of the competitors within the division.

Chicago White Sox

Expected to compete with the Twins for an AL Central division title, Chicago ran away with it. Up by more than double-digits for most of the second half, this season was not the Southsiders playing little brother to the nationally branded Cubs anymore. This wasn’t much of a race from about May on, and that was definitely to Chicago’s credit.

Tony La Russa’s club dealt with more injuries than anyone in the division, and despite depth seeming like a question, they weather and excelled through the storm. Luis Robert looks like an absolute problem, and Eloy Jimenez is going to hit a boatload of homers. Lance Lynn has been a Cy Young candidate all year, and Liam Hendriks has been every bit the stud closer he was signed to be. Sustainability appears to be there for the White Sox, and if anyone wants to knock them off their throne they’ll need to rise up in a big way.

If there’s opportunity for Chicago it may come down to a lack of challenge. They’ve played .500 baseball since mid-season, but they haven’t had anyone provide a test within the division. Depending on how the Postseason goes for them, tenacity could be ratcheted up in 2022 and a 100-win campaign may be their next goal to surpass.


The most notable thing that Cleveland has done this year may be changing their name to the Guardians. This was a team expected to take a step backwards and it has. Built largely around stud pitching, they’ve dealt with substantial injuries to the rotation. Once baseball cracked down on sticky substances, few organizations found it more detrimental than these guys did. Star reliever James Karinchak is a mess, and there’s more uncertainty about a future direction for this club than ever.

Jose Ramirez remains a stud, but it still was probably a down year by his standards. Team options remain each of the next two seasons, and while it will be picked up, there’s little reason for a talent like this to be a part of a rebuild. Cleveland doesn’t have much around the diamond, has remained lost in the outfield, and they could be looking at Terry Francona deciding his health won’t allow for a return.

Consistently one of the division’s best, this is definitely looking like an opportunity for a changing of the guard. They haven’t been horrible by any means, but the lack of anything noteworthy happening for Cleveland this season is about as descriptive as one could imagine.

Detroit Tigers

Arguably one of the best surprises this season has been the emergence of the Detroit Tigers. Under new management in the form of A.J. Hinch, this isn’t a Ron Gardenhire club looking to get through to the next wave anymore. Detroit has been the best team in the division since about the halfway point, and that’s scary for anyone uncertain if they’re figuring it out.

Miguel Cabrera reached his milestone, but this team is all about the youth movement. Matt Manning made his debut, Casey Mize has looked the part at times, and Akil Baddoo has looked like one of the best Rule 5 Draft selections in history. Add in that top prospects like Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene are both at Triple-A and the talent pool gets even scarier for this club.

I’m not sure we’ve seen enough to suggest Detroit is making the leap in 2022 yet, but there’s no doubt the arrow for the organization is pointing straight up. Hinch is a good man to lead them. The front office needs to be a bit more forward thinking and show aggressiveness, but the Tigers don’t reside in the doldrums anymore.

Kansas City Royals

I picked the Royals to unseat Cleveland for third in the division this year, and while they’re six games behind, the narrative is of a fast start and then quickly gassing out. Kansas City made some interesting moves this offseason in hopes of raising their water level. Most of them had safe floors and low ceilings. With peaks coming early for a lot of that talent, they sputtered quickly and never really leveled off.

The Royals are in a weird spot with many of their regulars. Salvador Perez put up a career year but will be 32-years-old despite now being signed through 2025. Carlos Santana has not been good, and Andrew Benintendi needed a late season surge to save his slash line. The rotation has seen some great exposure for youth like Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch, and even Jackson Kowar. Is it enough to jumpstart the turnaround in 2022 though?

Helping the Royals out will be a pair of infielders ready to rake. Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Prato both appear big-league ready, and they should be able to step in quickly next season. This is a team with plenty of questions, not a ton of certain answers, but some very intriguing options.

Minnesota Twins

If there was a group that failed in the division there’s no where else to turn than the Twins. Expected to defend two straight division titles, they never made things interesting with Chicago. Pitching started out a disaster and then shifted between which group was to blame. The offense took a while to get going, and then major injury issues set them back again.

Three of the best developments this season came in the form of health proving performance for Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, and Byron Buxton. The two former talents had down years with small sample sizes while playing through injury last season. Buxton only further substantiated that he’s among the best in the game when available. Both of the first two will be back, and while the third is under contract, he’s a year from free agency and the organization much decide which way to go.

Baldelli will be working through adversity for the first offseason of his career. Derek Falvey must retool the roster with talent that can be paired with youth in order to take a step forward. It was also made abundantly clear that too much depth is never a problem you’ll have.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Did the Real Mitch Garver Stand Up?


Suggesting that 2020 was an awful year for Mitch Garver would be putting it lightly. Even with the small sample size, he left plenty to be desired going into the season. But now, where has the dust settled?

In trying to play a season through a global pandemic plenty was made regarding the small sample size even a full slate of games would provide. Offering players just 60 games of runway largely invalidated the length necessary for baseball statistics to normalize. For Minnesota Twins catcher Mitch Garver, the total was just 23 games and his .511 OPS looked like a far cry from his Bomba Squad contributions a year prior.

Shelved for the stretch run, Garver ceded time to rookie Ryan Jeffers. The 2018 draftee was selected for his bat and the .791 OPS through his first 26 games at the big league level made things interesting. It appeared that the Twins would either have a nice tandem if Mitch returned to form, or that their new pick would unseat the veteran.

Fast forward to where we are today, and the roles have reversed. Through 79 games this season Jeffers has just a .666 OPS and was demoted to Triple-A in favor of non-hitting defensive option Ben Rortvedt. Garver meanwhile has rebounded to the tune of an .880 OPS but again has been hampered by injuries and played in just 61 games.

Missing most of his time this season due to an unfortunate foul ball ricochet, it’s fair to suggest that Garver’s injury situation has been fluky at best. Recently a nagging back has kept him out, but a return to the lineup for the final two weeks has now commenced. The production itself has returned, but we’re dealing with a sample that would’ve been considered too small just a season ago.

That leaves Derek Falvey and Thad Levine in an interesting position going into the offseason. 2020 saw the Twins opting for a split with veteran backstop Alex Avila. It’d be unfortunate if the roster needs a player like that given Minnesota’s internal options. What needs to happen however, is that this version of Mitch Garver continues to present itself over the course of a full season in 2022.

The knock on Garver has always been his defensive ability. Ratcheting up his framing prowess and receiving skills took his game to new heights, and the bat that has always been his calling card has stood out since his true emergence on the big league roster. With an electronic strike zone looking more likely than not, the Twins need a thumping version of Garver to remain productive.

At 30-years-old there’s not much reason to worry about the expense side of the equation. Under team control until he’s entering his age-34 season, Garver could be carried through arbitration without ever truly needing a long-term extension. Minnesota certainly could opt to keep Garver around if his production warrants it past his prime, but the incentive to do so will be entirely results based as opposed to necessary projection.

There’s plenty up in the air when it comes to the Twins in 2022. A team that was supposed to compete should have never flopped this hard. It’s been great to see Mitch Garver take back the reigns on his career however, and looking for a full runway of games, the goal will be to replicate the offensive performance once again.

Monday, September 13, 2021

2021 IBWAA Yearly Awards


Although the Minnesota Twins had a lackluster showing in 2021 it doesn’t stop the from nearing a completion. As competing teams look towards the postseason, it’s first time to take a look at the individual standouts. Each year I have the privilege of voting through the IBWAA and sharing the selections creates transparency.

This season we saw a return to normalcy following an abbreviated run during a global pandemic a year ago. The treat was a two-way player doing unprecedented things within the sport, and some utterly dominant stars. When handing out the hardware, here’s who I went with:

American League MVP - Shohei Ohtani (Runner Up: Vladimir Guerrero Jr)

In what otherwise would be considered an unmatchable season, the Blue Jays slugger gets trumped by the Angels star that brings something to the sport we will likely never see again. Shohei Ohtani has paced the sport in longballs while being in the middle of a Cy Young conversation. Add his blistering speed to the equation and you’ve got some sort of a robot.

National League MVP - Bryce Harper (Runner Up: Fernando Tatis Jr.)

Maybe the quietest of the star performances this season, Bryce Harper has been a catalyst for the Phillies. His 1.032 OPS leads the league and his 32 longballs have a chance to threaten his previous MVP season with a strong finish. Tatis Jr. looked like he may run away with this award in the early going, but Harper has been steady and gets the nod here.

American League Cy Young - Gerrit Cole (Runner Up: Robbie Ray)

The Yankees ace has had little trouble without the use of sticky substances and being good before seems to have continued with the new set of rules. He’s still dominant, striking everyone out, and keeping runs against to a minimum. Blue Jays free agent acquisition Robbie Ray has made plenty of noise and is a worthy choice, but it’s just not quite enough to unseat the man in pinstripes.

National League Cy Young - Max Scherzer (Runner Up: Corbin Burnes)

Being as dominant as Mad Max has been on two different teams this year is a feat in and of itself. Despite being dealt, the former Nationals ace has relocated and picked up right where he left off. Recently joining the 3,000 strikeout club, Scherzer has earned every bit of his fourth Cy Young. Burnes has been exceptional for the Brewers, and would be a fine choice as well, but I had to side with Scherzer on the coin flip.

American League Rookie of the Year - Randy Arozarena (Runner Up: Adolis Garcia)

After starring in the postseason last year for Tampa Bar, Arozarena continued to be an incredible asset on the American League’s best team. He’s got the ability to contribute in so many different categories and has been consistent in a lineup needing him to produce. Texas saw plenty of power production from Adolis Garcia, and he’ll be fun to watch as his game develops more in years to come.

National League Rookie of the Year - Jonathan India (Runner Up: Patrick Wisdom)

A former 5th overall pick, India debut and hasn’t disappointed. With nearly an .850 OPS his power has been on full display. He’s already got 20 longballs and has a shot to finish with 10 steals. At second base the production is a massive boost for Cincinnati, and he’s rounded into a cornerstone type player. The Cubs Wisdom has been a great story, and the home run production has been off the charts. He too has been very fun to watch.

American League Manager of the Year - Kevin Cash (Runner Up: Dusty Baker)

What more can you say about a man that continues to do more with less? Cash has been given teams requiring managerial talent and positioning. Players needing to develop and be utilized in the correct situations, the man voted as “best looking” continues to push all of the right buttons. What the Astros have returned to is impressive, but they’re still looking up at the Rays.

National League Manager of the Year -Gabe Kapler (Runner Up: Dave Roberts)

Cast off from the Phillies and coming off a near-.500 mark in his first season with the Giants, Kapler took a team with no considerable shot for the postseason and turned them into arguably the National League’s best team. Having added veteran talents at the deadline, he’s continued to massage egos, time, and talents in an effort for the winning to continue. Part of the new wave, he’s fended off the Dodgers and their loaded roster under Dave Roberts.

American League Reliever of the Year - Liam Hendriks (Runner Up: Ryan Pressly)

Signed to a big deal over the winter, Liam Hendriks has delivered for the only competitive team in the AL Central. Working as Tony La Russa’s closer, he’s been used traditionally and has held down the role even past the acquisition of Craig Kimbrel. Hendriks has been elite for some time now, but his 34 saves lead the league, and his 14.0 K/9 is a new career high. The Astros Ryan Pressly has pushed himself up into a similar realm.

National League Reliever of the Year - Josh Hader (Runner Up: Kenley Jansen)

Milwaukee has pitched their way to dominance this season and it’s been in both the rotation and bullpen. Hader has been as good as ever, and Devin Williams was in consideration here as well. The lanky fireballer has racked up 31 saves and complied a whopping 15.3 K/9. Los Angeles has gotten consistent run from Jansen, but it hasn’t quite been a career year.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Did the Twins Fleece Tampa Twice?

Teams are often considered to be on the losing end of trades when dealing with the Tampa Bay Rays. The brass in St. Pete does more with less, and players seem to get better when going to Florida. Did the Twins just get them for a second time though?

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine made a deal with Tampa prior to the 2018 season. They sent infield prospect Jermaine Palacios out in exchange for starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. After a solid but mediocre debut season, Odorizzi was an All-Star in 2019 and posted a career best 10.1 K/9 bolstering his 3.51 ERA. Palacios had a .575 OPS as a 21-year-old during his debut season in the Tampa organization, and dropped to a .542 OPS as a 22-year-old repeating Double-A. Now back at Double-A for Minnesota, he’s 24 and owns a .745 mark at the level.

Regardless of what happens with Palacios, it’s hard not to see how Odorizzi worked out a win. Could that be happening again in terms of Nelson Cruz and Joe Ryan?

The Twins had to deal their designated hitter. Cruz is 41-years-old and it’s more than evident this season was lost for Minnesota. Despite his .907 OPS here, Cruz needed to be flipped for any semblance of a return at the deadline. Getting a pitcher like Ryan, capable of fitting into the top-half of a rotation, seemed like a coup for the front office.

It’s far too early to make determinations on what Ryan will be, but Tampa has to be underwhelmed in what they received. Cruz just recently surpassed the .700 OPS mark (thanks in part to facing his former club), and has just a .219 average with a .273 on-base percentage. It plays for a team that needed a big bat, but Nelson hasn’t been close to the Boomstick the Twins knew him as.

Minnesota must be pleased with what they’ve seen from Ryan. In 9.0 IP for St. Paul he had a 17/2 K/BB and allowed just two earned runs. After returning from the Olympics as Team USA’s ace, that was enough to earn his first big league promotion. Across five innings he surrendered three runs while punching out five and walking one. The book that was suggested at Triple-A continued to read correctly at the Major League level, and it’s a step away from what has become tradition.

Ryan is not a fireballer. His average fastball velocity for the Twins sat at just 90.8 mph. In a league focused on hitting triple-digits, it’s an uphill battle for a ball like that to play. His four-seam generated an average of 2,100 RPM and is used up in the zone. Twins Daily’s Parker Hagemen broke down the success of locating that pitch, and why it should be believed that the lesser velocity can still have a tremendous effect at the highest level.

One start is entirely too soon to crown Ryan as Minnesota’s next ace. From my vantage point, I’m not even sure his stuff has that type of ceiling. What I do know is that the Twins getting this much control over Ryan in exchange for two month of an aging Cruz on a bad big league team is a steal in every sense of the word. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine don’t have a good track record on the free agent market, and their trades could even be questioned at times. When they’ve dealt with Tampa though, it’s hard not to consider the front office a resounding two-for-two.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Can The Twins Fill a Rotation for 2022?

Right now, the Minnesota Twins starting rotation is completely turned over. The group that started the 2021 season is gone, and the anchors intended for 2022 are no longer realistic options. So where does the team go from here?

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine already had their work cut out for them going into the winter. The bullpen was nothing short of a disaster this season, and the starting rotation has been lackluster in plenty of different instances. Now faced with the reality that Jose Berrios is gone, and Kenta Maeda is injured, the uphill battle has grown substantially.

Of course, dollars have to, and will be, spent. Before considering the options on the open market, and they are relatively plentiful, looking at who can be an option internally on Opening Day is where we should start. Unfortunately, the names are more plentiful than the logical options you’d hope to ink in.

Bailey Ober

If there’s a guy that’s earned a role among the five openings to kick off 2022 it’s Ober. He’s been lights out of late and now has a sub-4.00 ERA. Ober owns a 2.45 ERA over his last seven starts and he’s posted a 9.3 K/9. The home run bit him hard early, and a 1.8 HR/9 still isn’t great, but that only leaves further opportunity for heightened levels of success. He’s not an ace but pitching himself into the top half of a rotation would hardly be a shock.

Joe Ryan

It’s still surprising the Twins got this type of return for Nelson Cruz, but Ryan has seemed every bit as exciting as you’d hope. Across 66.0 IP at Triple-A this season Ryan owns a 3.41 ERA and has punched out 12.5 K/9. He needs to make his next turn in Minnesota, but regardless, you could do a lot worse than this type of arm as a 5th starter to open the next campaign.

Randy Dobnak

Dobnak has put himself in an interesting situation given the lack of effectiveness and injury issues he’s dealt with this season. Still probably a 4th starter at best, the ceiling really isn’t there in comparison to the two aforementioned arms, and the prospects behind him could close the gap quickly. He’s a great depth guy, but Minnesota can’t afford to fill the rotation with options of this caliber.

Lewis Thorpe

There’s probably a decent chance that Thorpe is dropped from the 40-man roster this offseason. The Twins were granted an additional year of control, but the Aussie hasn’t done anything with it. The velocity has continued to be lackluster, and nothing about the upside that was once there has reappeared. It’s been a disappointing fall through health and personal complications. Either way, this isn’t a viable option.

Griffin Jax

A really great story this season, and one worth keeping in the organization, Jax is a rotational depth piece in my mind. He’s shown that there’s a capable level of stuff to get big leaguers out but relying on him for 30 turns a season could expose Minnesota in a bad way. Jax doesn’t have the high end velocity or strikeout stuff to dominate, but he is a big league arm that can eat innings when necessary.

Charlie Barnes

Of the fringe arms to debut this season for Minnesota, Barnes has been the most underwhelming. His strikeout numbers have never really been anything to write home about and that makes the margin for error at the highest level very slight. Barnes is 25 and hasn’t ever had much in the form of prospect status, but that doesn’t negate the fact he could be a nice depth piece. That’s probably still to be determined, but it won’t be realized in an Opening Day rotation.

The Prospects (Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Drew Strotman, Josh Winder)

Outside of the Ober and Ryan pairing at the top, this is the group the Twins are dreaming on developing some high level arms from. Unfortunately, the majority have either been hurt or are not yet in a place where they’re kicking down the door for a big league promotion. Getting each back to health has to be the chief concern, but beyond that, they’ll need to force their way in. Assuming Minnesota wants to compete, or at the very least be respectable next season, they’ll need to sign a starter for the top of the rotation. Hoping one or more of these arms can then challenge that status sooner rather than later would be the goal.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Believing in Ober


The Minnesota Twins have slogged through a dismal 2021 in large part due to an inability to find consistent pitching. With a starting rotation now entirely flipped on its head, finding a silver lining may seem difficult, but I encourage you to dream on Bailey Ober.

During his first Major League Baseball draft as the Twins President of Baseball Operations, Derek Falvey’s club selected Ober in the 12th round. Ober was a 21-year-old pitching for the College of Charleston and threw 28 innings for Elizabethton during the summer of 2017. In 2018-19, Ober rose the ranks from Single-A to Double-A and finished with a 0.38 ERA across 24.0 IP for Pensacola. The strikeout numbers were gaudy, and the walk rate was stingy.

At 6’9” Ober has the uncanny ability to get on an opposing batter with quickness. His average fastball velocity this season has been just 92 mph, but with such a long stride the pitch is being delivered much closer to 50 feet from home plate. The year with no minor league action certainly didn’t help a guy needing innings due to injury, but it’s clear that he’s put in work.

Despite the Twins needing to call on Ober sooner than they may have liked; he also forced their hand by owning a 2.81 ERA across his first 16 innings of work for Triple-A St. Paul. What we can easily see in the track record is that there’s never been a point at which Ober wasn’t a dominant force on the farm. The only knock on him thus far has been his availability, or more succinctly, his injury history.

Now over 63 innings into his Major League career, we’re seeing the same type of results that have become the expectation thus far. A 4.38 ERA through 14 starts is hardly anything to scoff at, but it’s an even more impressive 3.46 through his last eight turns (39.0 IP). Ober’s bugaboo thus far has been the longball, giving up 14 in his time with the Twins, and a 2.0 HR/9 that seems certain to normalize. He has maintained the strong strikeout rate (9.2 K/9) and continued to limit free passes (2.3 BB/9).

Understanding that this is Ober’s initial run through a big league gambit, it’s fair to assume we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He’s still learning the opposition, and of course the league will be given a chance to adjust to him as well. Although the Twins have been dealt multiple blows in the rotation this year, allowing Ober to showcase his stuff is something that should provide plenty of excitement for Minnesota fans.

As has been the case over the course of his career to this point, keeping Ober healthy and on the mound is the next must for the organization. Maybe he gets shut down soon having now reached a career high in professional innings pitched during a single season. That isn’t a bad idea given where the season currently stands, and it still allows the heightened hurler plenty to build off of for 2022. It’d be hard to see a scenario where Ober isn’t in the rotation on Opening Day next year, and that should be cause for more excitement than concern.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Can Someone Find Tyler Duffey?

The first few seasons of Tyler Duffey in a Minnesota Twins uniform were not good. The former Rice closer had an undefined role and owned a 5.46 ERA across his first 287 innings. Then it happened, he became one of the best relievers in baseball. But, where did he go?

The Twins have long been working to develop their own internal pitching pipeline. Finding relievers is typically an easier venture given the ability to convert failed starters. Taylor Rogers has become one of the best closers and lefties in baseball, but he was joined by the likes of Trevor May and Tyler Duffey. The past two seasons saw Duffey post a 2.31 ERA in more than 80 innings while punching out 12.5 per nine and walking just 2.2 per nine.

Fast forward to 2021.

This season the starting rotation has not been good.and unfortunately neither has the bullpen. Duffey owns a fine 3.63 ERA but that’s backed by a 4.10 FIP and lackluster peripherals including a 7.7 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9. His strikeout rate has dropped from 33% the past two seasons down to a dismal 19%.

Fortunately for Duffey, the stuff hasn’t resulted in more damage. The batted ball profile remains largely unchanged, and he’s not giving up an additional amount of hard contact. His velocity has held steady at 92 mph, which is down from 2019, but not the worrisome mark that appeared in Spring Training.

The largest issue for Duffey is that he’s no longer forcing batters to play into his hands. As a fastball and curveball pitcher, he thrived off setting batters up for a bender they simply couldn’t touch. This season he’s generating just a 27.7% chase rate which is down 13% from 2020, and 5% below his career average. He’s also halved his whiff rate going from 16% a year ago to just 8% this season. The stuff isn’t generating any desire to expand the zone, and isn’t sharp enough to compile swings and misses.

Derek Falvey decided to pull the plug on Jose Berrios being extended by the Minnesota Twins and flipped him before the trade deadline. For a team needing pitching help, that signifies a belief in internal development and a desire to supplement externally. Whether in the rotation or the bullpen, efforts will need to come from holdovers. Duffey will again be relatively cheap in 2022 and enters his final year of team control. If the Minnesota Twins are going to be competitive, they’ll need him to again contribute at a high level in key spots.

Seeing Duffey emerge as an arm that took time to develop but transformed into an incredible asset, it’s been difficult to watch him take such a stark step backwards this season. We’ve seen the ability play at the highest level, and Rocco Baldelli will need an opportunity to rely on that sort of production once again. It may take an offseason of going back to the drawing board, but for both Duffey and the Twins, each party needs things to revert back to where they were.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Making the Most of Miguel


Early on this season Miguel Sano might have been the biggest mess he’s even been during his big league career. There was an inability to time a fastball, and he was a detriment to the Twins lineup. That has changed, and he’s back to being who he’s always been.

Rewind to the Twins slog through April and May to find a slumping Miguel Sano. The team was bad, and Sano owned a .675 OPS at that point. His playing time was reduced as he was splitting reps with Alex Kirilloff at first base. Eventually he’d begin to ride the pine even more often, and there was clamoring from fans to DFA him and pass him down to the St. Paul Saints.

Fast forward to where we are now. Sano isn’t having some sort of revolutionary resurgence, but since June 4 he’s posted an .815 OPS with 22 extra-base hits (including nine home runs) in 47 games. The batting average is respectable (.256) for a power hitter, and while the on-base percentage isn’t where he’d like it (.321) the number is passable.

All season long the problem has been timing more than anything else. His strikeout rate is 35.6%, or below his career average, and substantially below the 43.9% he posted in 2020. Sano’s hard hit rate is above his career average, and basically in line with some of his best seasons. Unfortunately, his barrel rate is at a three-year low, and that again is indicative of point of contact. Sano has dropped his whiff rate back to 2019 levels however, and his CSW% is right below his career norm.

What we’re seeing is the same player that Minnesota paid $30 million over three years for. The problem is that the peaks and valleys have been more pronounced, but at this point you’d have hoped the organization had a better idea as to the player they have. Sano is a former top prospect, but not in the vein of a Guerrero Jr. or even Buxton. Miguel’s tools have always been plus-plus power and a plus-plus arm. Yes, he was a young Dominican shortstop, but it quickly became apparent he wouldn’t stick there. He’s passable at third base, but the frame has always profiled better at first base, a position he’s actually adequate at.

The .923 OPS Sano posted in 2019 is very likely a mirage given his tendency to be inconsistent. His .859 OPS as an All-Star in 2017 makes a lot more sense. The average will always lag behind, but he actually commands the zone well and his hard contact output will always trend towards a slugging outcome. Given the run, he’s a good bet for 25-30 homers a year, and as a guy you can put in the bottom half of a lineup, that seems like a decent asset.

It’s very clear that Miguel Sano isn’t a foundational cornerstone. He can absolutely be worth what the Twins front office decided to pay him though. Committing to him on a regular basis rather than second guessing what he is through slumps doesn’t make a ton of sense. He’s the type of player that isn’t going to benefit from extended time off. Not all prospects pan out the same way, and while this isn’t the 99th percentile of where you’d like development to be, that might not be the worst thing any ways. If Sano was the best version of himself, paying him $30 million might not have happened in order to send him elsewhere for another hopeful return.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Assessing the Twins Trade Deadline


It’s been a few days since the Minnesota Twins allowed the dust to settle on their 2021 Trade Deadline moves. With some big names leaving the organization, and some big prospects entering, it’s time to take a look at the talent that moved places.

The headliner was obviously the Jose Berrios move. As a fan, this one was always going to be hard to stomach. Berrios was drafted by the organization, developed, and became one of the best pitchers in Twins history. As it became increasingly evident that he would not sign a long-term extension with the club, moving him made more and more sense.

Derek Falvey had to maximize the return on Berrios is there was going to be a deal, and he did absolutely that. I noted Austin Martin being my desired target should a swap with the Blue Jays be the plan of action. Still though, getting controllable pitching needed to happen considering Minnesota was moving an ace. To get both Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson was an absolute coup, and it was the strongest return any swap generated during the deadline.

I wrote up the Cruz swap last week and getting Joe Ryan looks like a very strong return for a guy that’s an impending free agent and had limited suitors. While Nelson Cruz is great, there was never a point in which I thought he’d bring back much to work with. Instead, the Twins got Team USA’s game one starter in Ryan, and a flier that’s close to major league ready in Drew Strotman. No matter how Falvey organized this one, he did incredibly well.

Flipping J.A. Happ to the Cardinals was impressive as well. I’ve kicked the notion that he could be seen as valuable to someone for weeks. That always was tongue in cheek with how poorly he’s pitched but leave it to St. Louis to make me look smart. John Gant is under team control in 2022, and that gives the Twins a veteran arm with a longer runway to decide a future on. He can both start and relieve, although he’s currently in Rocco Baldelli’s pen. Gant has pitched well above expectations this year, and his FIP suggests some massive regression is coming. That said, if the Twins can unlock another tier, they may have something to work with down the line.

It wasn’t unexpected to see Hansel Robles moved, although I did think that Alex Colome may wind up being the more coveted reliever. Boston sent back a non-top 30 arm in Alex Scherff, but the 23-year-old has big strikeout numbers and is already at Double-A. Although he’s a reliever, that’s still a useful arm to add for an organization needing to develop pitchers for the highest level. 

There has to be some criticism directed at Falvey and Thad Levine, although none of it should be for what they did. Instead, not trading Michael Pineda or Andrelton Simmons looks like a missed opportunity. Both are impending free agents and serve no purpose to this club down the stretch. I’d like to see Pineda back next season, but that could happen on the open market anyways. There’s no reason for this team to hold onto any semblance of respectability and turning the results over to youth makes more sense than ever. Simmons has been fine defensively, but he’s non-existent at the plate and some contender could’ve parted with a bag of balls for a shortstop upgrade.

When the bell run on July 31, we had seen the most exciting trade deadline in Major League Baseball history come to an end. The Minnesota Twins bettered their future, and made some high impact moves that both Falvey and Levine should be praised for. Now it’ll be up to the organizational infrastructure to develop and best position these talents in an opportunity to bear fruit and turn the tides of the big-league club.