5/17/18

Assessing all the Twins options at catcher (27 names), now that Jason Castro is out for the season.

Twins' starting catcher Jason Castro is out for the season with surgery to repair his meniscus.  Here are the options that the Twins have in catcher to continue the season:

A. Stay put.  Utilize RHH Mitch Garver (.254/.309/.413) as the starter with RHH  Bobby Wilson (.133/.167/.400) filling in.  Potientially replace Wilson with one of the AAA catchers, RHH Willians Astudillo (.260/.284/.416) and also RHH Wynston Sawyer (.231/.385/.385)

B. Go after established or back up major leaguers and use one of them as the starter with Garver moving to back-up, or split time with Garver.  Options:

Starting catchers:

Marlins' starting C, RHH J.T. Realmuto (.316/.375/.558)
Reds' starting C, SHH, Tucker Barnhart (.274/.370/.444)
Rays' starting C, RHH Wilson Ramos (.289/.333/.430)
Yankees' backup C, RHH Austin Romine (.289/.372/.368)
Giants' backup C, RHH Nick Hundley (.288/.329/.530)

Splitting time with or backing up Garver:

Red Sox' utility bat, SHH Black Swihart (.138/.219/.172)
Blue Jay's backup C, RHH Luke Maile (.324/.403/.500)
Tigers' backup C, RHH John Hicks (.293/.337/.512)   
Angels' backup C, RHH Rene Rivera (.259/.322/.481)
Rangers' backup C, LHH Juan Centeno (.162/.184/.270)
Padres' backup C, LHH Rafael Lopez (.214/.333/.429)

C. Go after minor leaguers to backup Mitch Garver. Options:

Red Sox' AAA C, RHH Mike Ohlman (.259/.359/.537)
Blue Jays' AAA C, RHH Danny Jansen (.301/.400/.462)
Rays' AAA C, RHH, Curt Casali (.323/.375/.538)
Astros' AAA C, RHH, Tim Federowicz (.394/.456/.662)
Angels' AAA C, RHH, Juan Graterol (.361/.385/.426)
Mariners' AAA C, LHH, Chris Herrmann (.255/.435/.394)
Marlins' AAA C, RHH, Austin Nola (.302/.383/.453)
Pirates' AAA C, RHH, Ryan Lavarnway (.235/.350/.412)
Cubs' AAA C, RHH, Chris Gimenez (.229/.319/.271)
Dodgers' AAA C, RHH, Rocky Gale (.326/.344/.517)
DFA'd by the Nats C, LHH Miguel Montero (216/.310/.346 in 2017 with Cubs and Jays)
Sugar Land Skeeters, C, RHH Derrek Norris (.222/.344/.278; .201/.258/.380 in 2017 with the Rays)

A few notes: 

First of all I did not include budding young stars in the minors, because teams will have zero incentive to let them go.  The only one I included is Jay's 23 year old Danny Jansen who is behind his AAA battery mate Reese McGuire in the Toronto depth.  And even Jansen is a long shot.   Also competitive teams will not let go of their starting catchers or even some of their backups if there is no clear replacement in AAA, so very few of those were included.  It is just not realistic.

Looking at the list, it is amazing how many former Twins they are, and also how few lefties or switch hitters.

Realmuto or Barnhart would be the obvious choices on paper, unless one realizes that there is zero incentive for the Marins or the Reds to part with them and they will be too expensive.  Ramos, Romine, and Hundley, are likely the other best choices, but should the Twins part with a top 5 prospect for Ramos or a top 10 for the other two?  I am not sure.

I strongly believe that the Twins should allow Garver to show what he can do as the primary catcher, as well as replace Bobby Wilson, with someone who will give them more opportunities to win, and preferably is left handed.  Three names jump to me from this list: 30 year old journey man  Rafael Lopez, currently with the Padres, 30 year old former Twin Chris Herrmann, currently with the Mariners' AAA squad.  Both of these players can jump in and be definite improvements for the Twins; however there is another player who is the best fit for the Twins right now:  Long time Diamondback, and twice All Star, Miguel Montero who was just designated for assignment by the Nationals.  He hit 216/.310/.346 in 2017 with Cubs and Jays. With the Cubs he hit a very respectable .286/.366/.439 in 44 games before falling apart with the Jays .138/.248/.241 after his trade in 32 games.  He will be able to mentor both Garver and the Twins' pitching staff, might hit a bit, and the price is right.


5/14/18

Back to the future: Twins RHP Kyle Gibson has returned to his roots and quietly has become the pitcher we hoped he would be.

In a cold May evening about 5 years go, give or take a week, I witnessed one of the most dominating pitching performances I have seen in person: Twins' first round draft pick in 2009, righty Kyle Gibson, about a year removed from his return from Tommy John surgery, shut  down the Lehigh Valley IronPigs with a three-hitter, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning.  This was when  the Twins were on their way to another season flirting with 100 losses and were conflicting reports regarding Gibson's pitching, so I really wanted to see  what Gibson could do. In person.  Here is how I described his performance 5 years ago:

I was very lucky to be there because this was a magnificent pitching performance by Gibson.  I came in with an open mind and nothing to expect and I left a strong believer in that Gibson is the best starting pitcher the Twins have today.  A bit about his performance, and I am not going to get into things like numbers, which you can read elsewhere:  He had four pitches that he threw when he wanted with a great command.  His fastball was his primary pitch and was sitting from 92-94 all night long.  It spiked to 95 a few times and went to 91 a couple.  It was at 94 in the 9th inning as well.  in the first 5 innings he mostly threw his fastball and his slider, which ran from 84 to 86 and really kept the IronPigs' hitters off balance, causing a lot of swings and misses.  Have to mention that Gibson had impeccable command of the fastball: he would locate it up and down and inside and out.  And throw it at the dirt when he wanted to.  In the latest innings he started throwing more his change up that was running from 81-83 mph with a good late motion; also he featured a tight slow curve (78-80 mph) that I did not realize he had.  He threw that pitch a few times late in the game.  He was totally on top of his game today.  In addition to what he did on the field, a thing that really impressed me was his composure in the dugout, knowing that he was having a no-hitter:  he was sitting there cheering his teammates and clapping when they were batting, instead of being "in his own world" and apathetic about the game.  This was a dominating performance that, I think that won him his first trip to the majors.   Frankly, I thought that I will witness history and it was that close...

After the game ended, Gibson was interviewed in the dugout after the game, and when that was done,  I yelled something like "Great game!  See you in Minnesota soon, Kyle!"  towards him, and he smiled and dismissed the Minnesota part with a hand gesture.  My answer was a "We'll see!".

LENIII penned this about that game the next day:

Class AAA Rochester righthander Kyle Gibson had his best outing of the year on Sunday, taking a no hitter into the eighth inning before finishing with a three-hit complete game shutout as the Red Wings beat Lehigh Valley 11-0. Gibson needed just 93 pitches for his gem – 58 were strikes, 35 were balls. He walked two and struck out eight as his record Improved to 3-5 with a 3.25 ERA

In retrospect nobody noticed the fact that Gibby threw only 62% of his pitches for strikes or noted that it might have been something undesirable, because you cannot argue with the results.

Fast forward a bit over a month.  June 29th.  I was happened to be in the East suburbs of St. Paul that week for work.  A friend of mine who is a season ticket holder treated me to one of his tickets at the Delta sky360 club, so I got to witness, Gibson's first major league start.  In that game, he beat the Royals (who were actually starting Wade Davis) in a six inning, 8 hit, 5 strikeout, 2 run performance.  He threw 91 pitches and 64 for strikes (70%).

The next several years have been up and down for Gibson, until his 3 game demotion to Rochester last season.  He came back and pitched 11 games, of which the Twins won 9,  striking out 8.4 per 9 innings, and walking about 2.1 per nine, while throwing only 63% of his pitches for strikes.  And nobody thought that this was a bad thing.  In 8 games that season, of which the Twins have won 5, he has been striking out 10.1 per nine, walking 4.4 per nine, and throwing 59% of his pitches for strikes (which only some Twins' TV broadcasters think its a bad thing, based on the comments in his Angel's start.)

What happened to that Kyle Gibson of five years ago in my back yard, and what happened for him to slowly appear to be back?

My hypothesis is that Kyle Gibson got Ricked and Neiled out of shape, being forced to be a pitcher he is not.  Both Rick Anderson and Neil Allen, his previous pitching coaches have been stressing "pounding the strike zone" and inducing soft contact either with the sinker or the changeup.  And this approach had been a top to bottom approach in the organization, in the previous Twins' front office.  Change happened and it is a good thing.  The new pitching approach throughout the organization is try to get ahead of the count and then let them chance, either outside, or inside or high.

And this has been working for Kyle Gibson who went back to his roots.  In Saturday's game against the Angels, he even brought back his rarely thrown and ever rarer for strikes curveball when he faces certain batters the second time. That description up there of his performance with Rochester, against Lehigh Valley five years ago, would be pretty close to what he did against the Angels, save a hit or few...  Gibson has been pitching to his strengths and it took an organizational overhaul to allow him (and the rest of the Twins' pitchers) to do that.  Other than Fernando Romero who pitched only two games and will be the Twins' future ace, Gibson leads the Twins' starters in ERA, FIP, K% and K/9, fWAR, and is second only to Berrios in innings pitched per start.

It seems that Gibson is finally the pitcher we all thought that he will be five years ago.  Better late than never, and I hope that it is here to stay.

And a parting food for thought about those who might be bothered by the strike percentage and Gibson's walks:  This season Gibson's K/9 and BB/9 numbers are up there.  The pitcher who struck out the most batters in baseball, has a career 9.5 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9, both worse than Gibson's numbers this season.  Not that Gibson is close to Nolan Ryan; however strikeout pitchers walk hitters as well, and hitters strike out often on balls and hit strikes.  It is ok.  Results are what matters.

5/2/18

How are former Twins' players performing in Korea

Here is how former Minnesota Twins players have been performing so far in the KBO:


Pat Dean LHP, Kia Tigers 3.65 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 37 IP, 27 K, 9 BB
Jason Wheeler  LHP, Hanwha Eagles 5.97 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 31-2/3 IP,  24 K, 12 BB
Byung-ho Park 1B, Nexen Heroes .288 /.468 /.508, 79 PA, 4 HR, 17 BB, 16 K

Mixed bag of results

4/17/18

Who is hot in the Twins' minors: 4/17/2018

Minimum 15 PA and 10 IP, sorted by level of play and performance within.  These are cumulative year to date numbers.  (Age, handedness, and level of play) indicated.

Catchers:

Sawyer Wynston (26, RHB, AA) .214/.389/.429, 1 HR, 18 PA
Ben Rortvedt (20, LHB, A) .400/.429/.550, 21 PA

Infielders:

Gregorio Petit (33, RHB, AAA) .400/.423/.520, 25 PA
Ryan Walker (26, LHB, AA) .269/.321/.538 2 HR, 28 PA   
Nick Gordon (22, LHB, AA) .361/.395/.500, 2 SB, 38 PA
Travis Blackenhorn (21, LHB, A+) .278/.333/.556, 1 HR, 39 PA
Andrew Bechtold (22, RHB, A) .364/.440/.409 1 HR, 25 PA
Royce Lewis (19, RHB, A) .261/.370/.435, 1 HR, 27 PA

Outfielders:

Jimmy Kerrigan (24, RHB, A+) .389/.463/.639 2 HR, 41 PA
Mark Contreras (23, LHB, A) .444/.474/.556, 20 PA
Alex Kirilloff (20, LHB, A) .257/.381/.571, 3 HR, 31 PA

First basemen and DHs:

Zander Weil (25, RHB, AA) .419/.486/.516, 35 PA
Ben Rodriguez (23, RHB, A) .294/.294/.647, 1 HR, 17 PA 

Starting Pitchers:

Aaron Slegers (25, RHP, AAA) 0.75 ERA, 0.750 WHIP, 4.5 K/9, 0.8 BB/9, 12 IP
Kohl Stewart (23, RHP, AA) 3.48 ERA, 0.677 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, 0.9 BB/9, 10.1 IP

Relief Pitchers:

No relievers pitched the minimum 10 innings yet.

4/12/18

By the Numbers: The 2018 Doppelgänger Minnesota Twins 25-man Roster

A doppelgänger (/ˈdɒpəlˌɡɛŋər/ or /-ˌɡæŋər/; German: [ˈdɔpl̩ˌɡɛŋɐ], literally "double-goer") is a look-alike or double of a living person, sometimes portrayed as a ghostly or paranormal phenomenon and usually seen as a harbinger of bad luck. Other traditions and stories equate a doppelgänger with an evil twin. In modern times, the term twin stranger is occasionally used.[1][2] The word "doppelgänger" is often used in a more general and neutral sense to describe any person who physically or behaviorally resembles another person. (Wikipedia)

Who are the Twins' players' doppelgänger's? 

Using the age-based player Similarity Scores (a Bill James invention) at Baseball Reference with an additional positional restriction for the position players, which means that the doppelgänger has to be a player who played that position in the majors.  He might not be the most similar batter overall, but he will be the most similar batter in the position for that age.   A few players do not have statistically significant similarities so they are represented by themselves on the list.  Interesting list with a few former Twins.  Wonder how many wins this team would have had on paper.

Here is the 2018 Minnesota Twins Doppelgänger 25-man Roster:

C: Steve Yeager (Jason Castro)
1B: Michael Young (Joe Mauer)
2B: Dan Uggla (Brian Dozier)
SS: Vance Law (Eduardo Escobar)
3B: Harmon Killebrew (Miguel Sano)
LF: George Bell (Eddie Rosario)
CF: Larry Hisle (Byron Buxton)
RF: Dave Henderson (Max Kepler)
DH: John Milner (Logan Morrison)
OF: Carl Warwick (Robbie Grossman)
UT: Ehire Adrianza (Ehire Adrianza)
C: Mitch Garver (Mitch Garver)
OF: Ryan LaMarre (Ryan LaMarre)

SP: Jeremy Hellickson (Jake Odorizzi)
SP: Al Nipper (Kyle Gibson)
SP: Scott Bankhead (José Berríos)
SP: Jake Arrieta (Lance Lynn)
RP: Todd Jones (Fernando Rodney)
RP: Chris Perez (Addison Reed)
RP: Mitchell Boggs (Ryan Pressly)
RP: Kent Mercker (Zach Duke)
RP: Mike Venafro (Taylor Rogers)
RP: Gabriel Moya (Gabriel Moya)
RP: Tyler Kinley (Tyler Kinley)
RP: Trevor Hildenberger (Trevor Hildenberger)

4/10/18

By the Numbers: The single move the Twins need to make right now to fix their bullpen.

It is a very young season, but the Twins' bullpen, albeit new, did not look as improved as it should for a team that aspires to contend in the post-season before the season started, and it has started to look so on the field so far.   The Twins' pen ranks 18th in the MLB in ERA, 22nd in the MLB in FIP, and 23rd in K-BB%.

Using three modern measurements, it is fairly clear who are the players who are lagging in the pen.  Here are the Twins' relievers' rankings by:

Win Probability Added (WPA) that is probably the single best overall measurement of reliever performance:

Addison Reed 0.30
Taylor Rogers 0.19
Gabriel Moya 0.02
Tyler Kinley 0.00

Ryan Pressly -0.03
Fernando Rodney -0.04
Trevor Hildenberger -0.07
Zach Duke -0.11

A couple more measurements that refine WPA:

RE24 or Situational Run Expectancy.  For more information look here, but in one sentence (from that link,) pitchers with positive numbers are preventing more runs than average given the situations in which they have been placed.

Taylor Rogers 2.69
Addison Reed 2.61
Ryan Pressly 1.48
Fernando Rodney 1.00

Tyler Kinley -0.45
Gabriel Moya -0.67
Zach Duke -1.25
Trevor Hildenberger -2.34

and Fangraphs Clutch. which is (WPA / pLI) – WPA/LI (where LI is a particular player's leverage index and pLI his average leverage index) which measures how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.

Fernando Rodney 0.10
Gabriel Moya 0.10
Zach Duke 0.03
Adisson Reed 0.01
Taylor Rogers 0.01

Tyler Kinley -0.05
Trevor Hildenberger -0.16
Ryan Pressly -0.17

What do the data show?  Clearly there is a single pitcher who lags the rest in all categories, Trevor Hildenberger.  One can argue that Zach Duke does so as well, which is a correct statement; however he does not in high leverage situations, as shown in the Clutch measure.  The Twins should start using him more in high leverage situations.  On the other hand, Hildenberger really has ho business being with the Twins right now and since he has an option, he should be the one demoted for a fifth starter, when the Twins need one, or even before they need one.

Who should that fifth starter be?  Fernando Romero.  About time the Twins get the guy with the highest potential, who has proven that he is ready in Spring Training, playing in games that matter.  In the bigs.

Optioning Hildenberger and recalling Romero will go long ways to fixing the Twins' pen (and rotation) as well...


4/4/18

Twins Notes: 4/4/2018

Here is the latest installment of Twins Notes:

  • The Twins are coming into their home opener on top of the AL Central (albeit tied with the pesky White Sox) and a game and a half ahead of Cleveland, which is a nice place to be.
  • RHP Lance Lynn started his last tune up game at Fort Myers with the Rochester squad against the Red Sox' AAA team five days ago and gave 5 runs in the first inning.  He repeated the feat with the Twins at the Pirates' home opener on Monday.   Lynn indicated that he was a bit behind in his preparation due to late signing.
  • Despite the efforts for a comeback, which are great to see, the Twins fell short, like at the Baltimore Opener by one run losing 4-5.  Again, great to see the Twins not going belly up for the second time this season, but good teams win some of the close games.  The Twins are 0-2 under these circumstances this season.
  • C Mitch Garver who was hit on the head with Manny Machado's bat, thankfully seems ok and will not need to go to the concussion DL.
  • On Tuesday the Twins beat the last undefeated team in the majors, the Pirates, in a snowstorm, mainly due to Miguel Sano's,  bat, base running and defense.  He went 3 for 5, blew threw a stop sign to score the tying run and made some serious defensive plays, including the last play of the game.   The final score was 7-3.
  • This was an ultra cold game and neither of the two starters could get comfortable; so other than Sano, no names need to be named.  Or maybe two:  Logan Morrison got his first hit of the season, and I thin that he does not deserve the Lo Mo moniker.  It is more like Slo Mo.  And if Molitor has not brought Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley yet in the blow outs, I am not sure when he will do so.  Competing teams cannot afford to hold players they will not play.
  • Sam Miller at ESPN writes that Brian Dozier "whining about a bunt is all about trying to gain an edge"
  • The Twins have traded their number 6 prospect, C Rainis Silva to the Mariners for cash considerations.   Not a move I am a fan of...
  • The Twins unveiled a whole bunch of new foods at Target Field.
  • The MLB pipeline published their list of the biggest breakthrough prospect candidates from the AL Central organizations, and the Twins' is their number 45th ranked prospect LHP Ryley Widdell.
  • The Fort Myers Miracle published their 2018 roster.
  •  Dave Paschall at the Chattanooga Times Free Press writes that Twins number 1 prospect, Royce Lewis, may be coming to the Lookouts in 2019.
  • The USA today did a ranking of all MLB mascots.  The Twins' TC Bear did not fare very well.
  • JJ Cooper has an article at Baseball America indicating that Independent Leagues may be in verge of extinction, based on whether the US Congress passed the Save America’s Pastime Act.  Kris Dugan has more on the subject at the Observer-Reporter.
  • The parting shot tonight is of the snow yesterday at Pittsburgh: 

 


You can find all the installments of the 2018 Twins Notes series here.  As always feedback is more than welcome.

4/2/18

Twins Notes: 4/2/2018

Here is the latest installment of Twins Notes:
  • In order for the Twins to compete, they need to win series, and they did that at Baltimore, winning 2-1.  They are second in the AL Central, trailing the White Sox (the only undefeated team in the AL) by half a game.  They are one game ahead of their main competition for the division, Cleveland, which lost their series at the Mariners 1-2.
  • RHP Kyle Gibson pitched like a first round draft pick against Baltimore on Saturday.  He mixed his fastball that he threw up to 94 mph, with a pretty nasty mid 80s changeup and a high 70s slurvy breaking ball to keep the Baltimore hitters off balance and induce strikeouts.  He struck out 6 Orioles in 6 no-hit innings; he walked 5. 
  • RHP Ryan Pressly and LHP Gabriel Moya were serviceable behind him to preserve the win.
  • The long ball helped in that game with Miguel Sano, Jason Castro, and Max Kepler hitting one each.
  • If Gibson pitched like a top of the rotation pitcher on Saturday, RHP Jose Berrios pitched like a true ace on Sunday, completing a shutout allowing only 3 hits and one walk and striking out 6.  All of the sudden, the Twins rotation seems like a strength of the club.  But it is a long season.
  • On Sunday, the Twins hit another whole bunch of home runs:  a couple by Brian Dozier including one in the first pitch of that game, and one each by Sano, and Eduardo Escobar.   Only 1B/DH Logan Morrison who played in all 3 games and C Mitch Garver who appeared only in the Sunday game are hitless, as far as position players go.  Morrison walked twice.
  • The Twins' players were unhappy that on top of the 9th and with Berrios having an one-hitter going, Orioles' catcher Chase Sisco bunted for a hit beating the shift.  Well, if you shift, you better not be unhappy if someone bunts, because you caused it.  If the Twins thought that it were a blow out game, they had no business shifting...
  • The Twins' minor league Spring Training ended last Saturday.  RHP Phil Hughes threw 50 pitches for the AAA Twins' squad in the final day and could pitch again next Thursday in the Fort Myers Miracle opener, with the idea that he will be available to pitch next April 11th when the Twins need a fifth starter.
  • RHP Ervin Santana started playing catch.
  • Twenty nine percent of the players on the MLB Open Day rosters are foreign-born. The Twins are tied for fourth in the MLB with 11 players or 44% of their roster.
  • The Twins, along with the Athletics, Brewers, Marlins, Rays, and Reds, will have the highest 2018-2019 international free agent bonus pool with $6,025,400 allowance. 
  • Mike Berardino has a great piece on the impact of new Twins' pitching analyst Josh Kalk, at the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Phil Miller has an article in Baseball America regarding last winter's creativity by the Twins' Front Office with their international pool money.
  • If you are planning on driving to a game at Target Field, you might want to check this new Twins' partner, as far as finding and paying for parking goes.
  • John Sickels published his AL Central sleeper prospects list.
  • The Twins' A league affiliate Cedar Rapids Kernels' roster is full of talent.
  • Former Twins' prospect  AJ Pettersen's brother, Luke, is one of the top hitters of the University of Minnesota.  Also a middle infield, he might be drafted by the Twins, like his older brother.
  • If you were ever wondering what were MLB's Qualifications for an MLB Scout, you need to wonder no more.
  • Is the ball "juiced"?  A record thirty three home runs were hit on Opening Day.
  • The parting video today is the highlight video of the Twins' game at Orioles last Saturday:


You can find all the installments of the 2018 Twins Notes series here.  As always feedback is more than welcome.

3/29/18

Twins Notes: 3/29/2018

It is Opening Day today and based on feedback, I have decided to continue the note posts I started this Spring (you can find them all here), during the season as well.  The last time I seriously attempted something like that was 5 years ago, with the once weekly and unfortunately named Random Tuesday Twins Thoughts and Tidbits (you can find all the posts of that series here).  These notes will be at irregular intervals, since I would like them to be somewhat substantial in content; however hopefully frequent, pretty much like the Spring Training ones were.  I would love to hear feedback and whether there are certain things you would like to see or not see.

Here is the latest installment of Twins Notes:
  • The 2018 season started with a bang, when Cubs' lead off hitter Ian Happ hit the first pitch of the season from Marlins' starting pitcher Jose Urena for a home run to the right field (video link.) Last time that happened was in 1986 when Boston's Dwight Evans hit a home run off then Detroit (and in 1991 Twins') starter Jack Morris in 1986
  • The MLB celebrated Opening Day (which was the earliest ever and the only one that all 30 teams had scheduled games; the ones in Cincinnati and Detroit were rained out) with special bases
  • Opening Day Twins Trivia: This was be the 118th Opening Day for the Twins franchise. The first one ever was also against the Orioles on 4/29/1901 in a game the Senators won 5-2.  The Twins franchise Opening Day record against the Orioles after today's game is 5-2, 2-1 since the move to Minnesota.  The only AL team that the Twins franchise teams have not faced on an Opening Day is the Houston Astros. On the other hand they faced the Athletics (both Philadelphia and Oakland) a record 28 times (won 18).  The Twins franchise record on Opening Day is 63-55 after today.
  • The Twins needed extra innings in their 2018 Opening Day at Baltimore.  The last time the Twins had an extra inning game in their season opener was in 2004 when they beat Cleveland 7-4.
  • Starting RHP Jake Odorizzi struck out 7 Orioles in 6 scoreless innings.  Refreshing to see a Twins pitcher induce swinging strikes by throwing pitches outside the zone and throwing high fastballs, after years of futility with having everyone in the organization force-throwing sinkers and pitching to contact.
  • LHP Zach Duke struck out 4 men in the 7th inning, but allowed 2 runs, moving runners with wild pitches (including one who struck out), a walk and a hit that scored both.   RHP Addison Reed, probably the best pitcher in the Twins' pen, pitched a perfect 8th and 9th, striking out 2.
  •  If you cannot throw strikes against little leaguers, minor leaguers or in Spring Training, there is no reason to believe that you can throw strikes in the majors when games matter. RHP Trevor Hildenberger who came in the bottom of the tenth and walked two hitters is hurting the Twins and needs to be demoted until he can find the strike zone.
  • Thankfully RHP Fernando Rodney and brilliance by manager Paul Molitor to play with 5 infielders (having Eddie Rosario as an extra) paid off with a double play after the bases were loaded in the 10th.  Unfortunately Rodney was the goat today, allowing the losing HR to the Orioles' Adam Jones with his first pitch, a 92 mph fastball in the middle of the plate, on the bottom of the 11th.
  • The Twins bats were silent in the first 8 innings, having the Orioles with 96.3% probability of winning the game in the top of the 8th when Molitor's moves having PR Ryan LaMarre in place of DH Logan Morrison and having OF Robbie Grossman pinch hit for CF Byron Buxton, and drive two runs to tie the game, proven also brilliant.  Molitor was definitely on a roll today, other than trusting Hildenberger.
  • 1B Joe Mauer has just passed Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew for most Opening Day starts in Twins history with 14.
  • The Minneapolis Star Tribune had a live Twins' Opening Day blog with live Twitter input here during the whole day.  I hope that they continue this at least on special occasions throughout the season.
  • Here is a picture of all the Twins' players on the Opening Day 25-man roster.  Can you name them all?   
  • Also the best pictures of each of the Twins' 25-man roster players from Spring Training by Twins' team photographer Brace Hemmelgarn is here.  A must see.
  • RHP Lance Lynn finished his last Spring Training tune up in a AAA game against the Red Sox' AAA team with mixed results.
  • The Twins are admitting that unfortunately RHP Ervin Santana is behind schedule on his rehab from a finger surgery.  
  • On the other hand, RHP Phil Hughes is "making enough progress" to be available to potentially start the April 11th game against the World Champions Houston Astros.  This would likely mean that either one of the Twins' relief pitchers with options will get demoted or Rule 5 draft pick Tyler Kinley will be returned to the Miami Marlins.
  • The Twins had not published extension talks with 2B Brian Dozier, which seem to broke down very recently.
  • OF Byron Buxton revealed that he is facing a continuous struggle with migraine headaches
  • One Twins player made it to number 25,  and a surprise another one to number 95 in the mlb.com list of the 100 people who will influence the 2018 season the most.  
  • The second player mentioned above, who is not currently on the Twins' 40-man roster, was also picked as the 2018 breakout player (need to scroll down) by Ryan O'Hanlon, Senior Editor of The Ringer.  
  • Three Twins' players made Jon Heyman's list of Top 60 MLB 2018 breakout stars.
  • In case you missed it, here is my analysis of the team and prediction for the Twins in their 2018 season.
  •  There were a couple of rounds of minor league cuts last week. Links to the two stories here and here.
  • You probably did not know (I did not) that fifty years ago the Twins' opening day game, a few miles south of where they are today, at Washington was postponed due to Martin Luther Kings' assassination.
  • Edward McClelland of the Slate, has a great article on fans who root for franchises that left their hometowns, partially based on his dad, a Washingtonian Twins' fan.
  • Nicole Russell wrote an interesting Twins-centered article on baseball and politics in the Washington Examiner.
  • Alexandra Desanctis of National Review wrote a piece on Baseball Season's Opening Day that always feels like a homecoming.  
  • There was an emergency at Rays' Tropicana Field that required firefighter intervention today. 
  • Today's parting video is a video by the American Heart Association, regarding Twins' great Rod Carew's return to the 2018 Spring Training:


You can find all the installments of the 2018 Twins Notes series here.  As always feedback is more than welcome.

3/28/18

The Twins release 11 more minor leaguers

In addition to the six minor leaguers I indicated yesterday, the Twins released eleven more:

C Jhonathan Alvarez; signed as an international free agent on July 2, 2012; Fort Myers.
RHP Vadim Balan; signed as an international free agent on May 28, 2015; GCL.
RHP Austin Bizzle; Drafted on the 40th round of 2017; GCL.
LHP Taylor Clemensia; signed as an international free agent on May 8, 2015; GCL.
C Dariel Crespo; signed as an international free agent from Cuba on August 28, 2017; DNP
C Bryant Hayman; signed as an undrafted free agent on June 18, 2015; Elizabethton.
2B Dane Hutcheon; Drafted on the 29th round of 2016; Fort Myers.
OF Max Murphy; Drafted on the 9th round of 2014; Chattanooga
RHP Callan Pearce; signed as an international free agent on July 5, 2013; GCL.
RHP/SS Joe Rosenstein; signed as an undrafted free agent on July 21, 2017; GCL.
LHP Evan Sanders; signed as an undrafted free agent on March 3, 2017; Cedar Rapids

3/27/18

The Twins release six minor leaguers including a former first round draft pick and a top 60 prospect

Today the Twins released the following six minor leaguers:

RHP Tyler Beardsley; 16th round 2016 draft; Cedar Rapids
RHP Eduardo Del Rosario; signed as an international free agent December 21, 2012; Fort Myers
RHP Sandy Lugo;  Drafted in the minor league portion of the 2017 Rule 5 draft from Reds; Number 56 prospect.
2B/OF Levi Michael; 1st round 2011 draft; Rochester
RHP Patrick McGuff; 32nd round 2016 draft; Cedar Rapids
RHP Keaton Steele; 8th round 2014 draft; Fort Myers.  I saw him pitch this Spring Traning, report here.

3/26/18

Your 2018 Minnesota Twins: Analysis and Predictions.

This is my last Spring Training Notes piece for this season.  As with the previous seasons I finish my Spring Training notes with a prediction of how the Twins will do this season based on what I have seen this Spring.

I think that 2018 will be an interesting season for the Twins.  They improved a lot in the off-season addressing some of their glaring weaknesses, namely starting and relief pitching.  On the other hand, there are some situations that can be disrupting for the team.  Here is a closer examination:

Starting Pitching:
Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn are light years ahead of the likes of Bartolo Colon (15 starts), Hector Santiago (15 starts), Phil Hughes (9 starts), and a whole lot of others (16 starts) who started in 2017.  Ervin Santana is a question mark and that was even before his injury that seems to be lingering into May.  On the other hand, I believer that improvement from Jose Berrios (primarily) and Kyle Gibson (secondarily) as well as potential positive contribution by Trevor May, will offset the loss and regression of Santana.  Based on what I have seen, Fernando Romero might be the best pitcher of the Twins at this point, and if healthy he can make a tremendous contribution in the second half of the season.

Bullpen:
The Twins did improve in the bullpen.  Part of it was addition, part of it was subtraction.  The question is whether they improved enough to have a top bullpen.  Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, and Zach Duke are useful players with varying degree of usefulness.  However, does any of them strike fear in opposing batters?   Would any of them have a place in one of the top bullpens?  Maybe Reed, as far as the second question goes.  Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers were hit hard and often in the Spring and not sure how this will translate into the season.  Other than Gabriel Moya,  and maybe John Curtiss and Jake Reed, there are not many reserves who project as "lights out".  And that is what the new and improved Twins' pen misses.  Maybe the aforementioned May, the injury-nursing Phil Hughes (who is projected in long relief, but way back in the day was Mariano Rivera's successful set up man.) or possibly Michale Pineda might jump into that role.  Alternatively, depending on the team's record come July, a trade for a "lights out" arm, might be in the works.  All in all an improved bullpen, but in no means a top bullpen.  It is hard not to improve one of the 5 worst bullpens in the league, but still it needs work.

Position Players:
The Twins' young core seems much improved from last season:  Miguel Sano who has the allegations now behind him and can focus 100% on baseball will play with a chip on his shoulder and will make some damage.  Byron Buxton is a much better hitter than I have seen him be previously, and based on what I saw this spring, he will finally bring his speed on the table.  Max Kepler is also improved.  He is taking meaningful PAs against LHPs, something that was not true last season.  Jorge Polanco's head was in his positive test all Spring and it showed.  Hopefully he will come back ready in the second half.  Logan Morrison will be a good addition and if he hits behind Sano, he will give him the protection he did not have in 2017.  Eddie Rosario was hurt most of the Spring and I did not have much of an opportunity to form an opinion, but if he repeats 2017, and there is no reason he could not, the Twins will be happy.  With Eduardo Escobar moving into at starting SS at least for the first half of the season, you have a Twins' 2018 double play combination that hit 55 HRs in 2017, second only to Cleveland.  His double play partner, Brian Dozier, and his free agency status might be a distraction this season.  He talked a lot about it, as he did about the decreased FA compensation this off-season.  He also did not do very well with the bat this Spring.  Not sure whether the two things are related or not, and hopefully it will not carry into the season.  The same with the other upcoming free agent, Joe Mauer.  Mauer's situation is different and Mauer has not been vocal about it and I don't think that it will affect him.  It will be great if Dozier and Mauer will speak with their bats regarding their upcoming free agency.

Competition:
Do you remember when the Twins' reigned over a weak AL Central, other than times when one of the other teams was super competitive and they were neck to neck? This season the AL Central will look a lot like that with Cleveland staying about the same on paper and the improved Twins, the only teams with a winning record in 2017 and the rest of the division weakening.  Maybe not the White Sox, if the young players surprise, but Detroit and Kansas City are in full rebuild mode.  According to fangraphs, the Twins have the second easiest schedule (on paper), but this should not be much of a relief, because Cleveland has the easiest.

Prediction:
The 2017 team won 85 games, but overachieved. I think that the 2018 Twins will finish with a record of 90-72, securing at least a wild card spot, and the AL Central will come down to the wire between the Twins and Cleveland.  Unfortunately, unless there is major improvement (or surprises) in the bullpen , this does not seem like a team that will move deep into the post-season, unless the bats go crazy.  And this can happen.

So you have it.  This is my last Spring Training Notes post, since the Twins start the season this Thursday at Baltimore, after they play an exhibition game in Washington against the Nationals.  To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including my daily live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here

3/24/18

Live from Fort Myers: Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/24/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  • This is my last day at Fort Myers  and the last live from Fort Myers Twins Spring Training Notes.  The next version will come from Pennsylvania along with my annual Twins' prediction post.  
  • We are five days away from the major league Opening Day and twelve days from the minor leagues Opening Day.
  • The Twins have re-claimed 1B Kennys Vargas from the Reds on waivers.  The 40-man roster is at 40 currently. 
  • From the trainer's room: Phil Hughes is nursing a left oblique strain, and Zack Granite a right shoulder contusion; both might start the season in the DL because of it.
  • The Twins are currently playing the Orioles in Sarasota, but there was plenty of action in the back fields today.
  • Zack Littell pitched for the AA squad against the Red Sox' and he was very good.  He is not overpowering with a fastball that sits from 88-90 and he commands masterfully up and down left and right, inducing plenty of ground balls.  In several respects he reminds me of former Twins' RHP Brad Radke, but unlike Radke's changeup, Littell's out pitch is a low 70s curve, which make his high 80s fastball look much faster.  He also throws a mid 80s cutter that moves in to righties and out to the lefties.
  • Eddie Rosario hit with the AA team and sat in batter's box during the pregame bullpen sessions.  He still has a bit of timing issues due to rustiness from sitting with the triceps issue, but I think that he will be fine in time for the opener.
  • Speaking of injuries, Kohl Stewart had ice over his elbow after his bullpen and Tyler Jay had to do shoulder stretches with a band before he went to the game.
  • Jay's velocity is not there.  His fastball was at 90-91 and hit 92 once.  His mid-80s slider is still a devastating pitch, and he threw some 75-77 mph curveballs that looked promising, albeit wild.  Hopefully the shoulder will be healthy enough to see a few more ticks in the fastball this season.
  • I had the opportunity to see the Twins' 13th round pick from 2016, RHP Ryan Mason, pitch for the first time.  The now full time reliever did one of the most amazing tricks one can do with a baseball in College.  He has an interesting delivery throwing lower than 3/4 and higher than side arm, I guess that you can call it 2/3 delivery, and across his body.  This bring a lot of deception and downwards torque.  He throws a 90-91 mph fastball and a mid 70s slider (unlike what the velocity indicates, it is a slider vs a curveball.)  He also threw a changeup in the 80s.  The slider is frisbee-like but with tighter downward break and his fastball has good movement.  Keep an eye on him, you can see him in a bullpen in your favorite ballpark one of these days, if his command improves a bit.
  • As far as hitters go, Brent Rooker played at left field and hit a moonshot over to International Avenue.  I ranked him as the Twins' fourth prospect, with an ETA this season; I still believe that he can be in the Twin Cities under the right circumstances this season.
  • I have not always been the biggest Travis Blakenhorn fan.  This off-season he fell to 27th  in my prospect rankings from 15th in 2017.  He did make huge strides from when I last saw him as far as his hitting goes.  His power and contact will be much better this season.  He still has issues with fielding.  He started the game at third base and ended it at left field.  If he finds a home with the glove, his future will be bright, but right now he is a man without a position, which is part of the issue that drove down my ranking.  His bat is legitimate on the other hand.  Interesting to see what he can do with the glove.
  • The Twins made a trade with the Dodgers.  They received Minnesotan high A starting RHP Adam Bray for cash considerations.

To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including my daily live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here

3/23/18

Live from Fort Myers: Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/23/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  • The big news of the day is that Miguel Sano was cleared from any wrongdoing in the recent allegations against him by the MLB, due to "insufficient evidence" and "the absence of contemporaneous substantiation".  I hope that both parties in this situation, and the rest of the world put this thing behind them, and move their attention onto the upcoming 2018 season, and we hear nothing else about it.  Here is the MLB and Sano's statements on the situation. 
  • The Twins faced the World Champion Houston Astros at Hammond Stadium today with a lineup that looked a lot like the opening day lineup.  Unfortunately, it was held to a no-hitter until the bottom of the 9th when Ryan LaMarre broke it with a double and Twin for a day Tanner English hit a 2-run HR to tie the score.  It is more than a bit disappointed that the Twins' bats did not show up esp. when last year's World Champion was visiting.  Spring or not. Winners win and want to beat teams that beat them last season.
  • Lance Lynn had a good day today, allowing only one hit, a HR in his 4 innings of work.  He threw 65 pitches.  Here is a chart of all his pitches today.  As you can see, he worked a lot on the cutter (green highlights) throwing it in blocks and threw 2 curveballs (red highlights).  His fastball, his bread and butter pitch, was effective all day.
  • Trevor Hildenberger had yet another shaky appearance allowing a 84 mph cookie to go for a HR, and had another HR on a 89 mph fastball saved by Max Kepler with a fantastic grab over the right field fence.  Not sure that he will make the team at this point.
  • Eddie Rosario has no issues since he returned on the field after taking some time off with tricep tendonitis. 
  • The Twins starting OF,  Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Kepler, all featured high socks this Spring.  I hope the trend continues through the season.
  • A couple of notes from the minor league fields:  Twins' number 14 prospect 2B Louis Arraez who has been recuperating from a surgery to repair a torn ACL and is listed on the DL, was in uniform and took batting practice today.  Happy to see that.  He is one of the purest hitters in the organization.
  • Color me impressed by the Twins' 19th round draft pick last season from Coastal Carolina IF Jordan Gore. He makes solid contact, has doubles power and has good hands and defensive instincts, at least at second base where I saw him play.  Another prospect to note.
  •  The Twins reassigned catchers Bobby Wilson and Willians Astudillo and 1B/OF Brock Stassi to minor league camp and released IF Erick Aybar officially;  OFs Robbie Grossman, Zack Granite, and Ryan LaMarre are fighting for the last two bench spots. With Jorge Polanco's suspension the Twins 40-man roster is at 39, so there is the potential for someone not on that roster (or even in the organization) now to land that spot.
  • Every season the Cardinals Conclave is doing a round robin Q&A with bloggers of all other MLB teams.  Today was the Twins' turn and I was more than happy to participate along several other Twins' bloggers.  It is very interesting to see how close all of our answers were, perhaps for the first time in many years I participated.  You can find this Q&A session here.
  • Former Twins' RHP Pat Dean will spend a second season with the KIA Tigers of the KBO, after he signed an 1 year, $925,000 contract.

To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including my daily live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here

3/22/18

Live from Fort Myers: Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/22/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  •  No games on Tuesday but RHP Kyle Gibson pitched six innings throwing 95 pitches at the AAA game and he seems ready for the season.   Probably the best Spring of any Twins' pitcher.
  • The likely Twins opening day lineup took against the Pirates of Wednesday night with Jose Berrios starting.  Berrios was not very smooth, requiring quite a few pitches to get through innings; he needs to be more efficient.  Maybe he is working on something, since he threw plenty of (average) change ups.
  • Byron Buxton had a stand up triple off the glove of Pirates' RF Polanco.  I think  that the Twins might be served better having Buxton on the lead off spot, instead of Brian Dozier who struck out his first 2 PAs and grounded out the third.  Buxton, unlike Dozier can provide a spark plug on top of the lineup and occupy opposing pitchers, distracting them and helping the PAs of the following hitters.  
  • Not sure how much his contract situation and the current free agent compensation has been a distraction for Dozier, but he has had an awful spring hitting a pitiful .162/.244/.324; this does not bode well for someone who is a notoriously slow starter.
  • On the other hand Miguel Sano has done his best shut up his critics, including both the BMI police and the self-proclaimed judges and jury of his alleged charges, by letting his bat talk to the rate of .323/.432/.742   
  • Looks like the Twins have not found a trading partner for 1B/OF Kennys Vargas and placed him on waivers.  He was claimed by the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Phil Hughes had a decent outing against the Yankees, but seems that the Twins will go with a 4 man rotation of Jake Odorizzi, Gibson, Berrios, and Lance Lynn, utilizing Hughes as the long man/spot starter.
  • The Twins have optioned RHPs Tyler Duffey and Alan Busenitz, meaning that RHPs Tyler Kinley, and Trevor Hildenberger, and LHPs Gabriel Moya, and Taylor Rogers will be fighting for three spots.  All but Kinley have options.  
  • The Twins announced today that they have cut OF Jake Cave and released OF Chris Heisey.  It also appears that IF Erick Aybar was told that he did not make the roster.  The Twins have 36 players,  13 pitchers and 23 position players, on camp now and they will take 12 pitchers and 13 position players up North.
  • RHP Trevor May recovering from Tommy John surgery is a couple weeks away from throwing live batting practice.
  • One Twins player made Keith Law's 2018 breakout candidate list.
  • The Twins second overall prospect SS Wander Javier has been held out of games with discomfort in his glove shoulder.  It does not sound serious.
  • David Dorsey at Fort Myers Sun Sentinel has a great article on new Rochester manager and long time Twin Tommy Watkins who is only one of nine African Americans holding part of the 160 MiLB manager positions.
  • The Twins have the second easiest schedule in the AL, based on fangraphs projections.  Guess who has the easiest?  Here are the latest fangraphs projected 2018 records and probability of making the postseason list.
  • The Twins are using the Blast Motion tools for player development and swing analysis.  Press release here.

To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including my daily live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here

3/19/18

Live from Fort Myers: Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/19/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  •  The biggest story of the day was Jorge Polanco's suspension that was revealed yesterday.  The Twins' organization found out yesterday when Polanco, who knew about it for a month or so,  decided to drop his appeal.   This might explain all the errors this Spring Training.  His mind was elsewhere...
  • The Twins lost to the Pirates today away, in a game that Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier blasted long home runs (one of the 3 hits for Sano,) and the pitching was intended to test the bullpen against MLB-level competition.  Taylor Rogers did not have a good game raising his Spring ERA to 8.10, Trevor Hildenberger had his second clean game in a row dropping his Spring ERA to 8.00, Rule 5 pick  Tyler Kinley followed with another dud, raising his ERA to 4.50, Gabriel Moya stopped the bleeding with an effective inning dropping his ERA to 1.00.   Tyler Duffey followed in the last 3 innings of the game with his worst appearance of Spring, allowing 5 runs in 3 innings raising his ERA to 7.11.  Thank. Heaven.  Not sure what the Twins' bullpen will look like when the final cuts are made next week.
  • Back in the minor league fields at Fort Myers I had a chance to look at several Twins' prospects and some of the new minor leaguers in AAA and AA games against the Boston Red Sox' squads.
  • Zack Littell was the starter in the AA game and he pitched well.  The Twins' 8th overall prospect, kept pounding the strike zone with his 85-89 mph two-seam FB, changing speeds and locations and kept the opponents on their toes with his low 70s plus curveball.  He did not throw his four-seammer or changeup today.
  • Speaking of a curveball, on the AAA field I had a chance of seeing Ryne Harper, a newly signed Minor League free agent pitch.  The 28 year old has 3 kinds of breaking ball, a 12-6 slow hammer, a slurve and a slider and he threw them often and early in every count.  Supplemented by a heavy sinker at the low 90s that turns a lot of ground balls, he is a pitcher who is better served pitching backwards.  Keep the name in consideration, I suspect that he will spend some time in Twins' uniform this summer.
  • Back at the same field, a blast from the past, Zack Jones pitched an inning.  He really seems to be the last of the Mohicans from his generation of prospects.  First time back from a surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, his fastball was there, with good movement, but he has zero control of his secondary pitches that were all over the place.  Definitely not ready to pitch in game situations yet.  I suspect that he will start the season in the DL.
  • At the AA side of the field 25 year old Keaton Steele, 8th round pick in 2014 who was converted to a reliever last season made quite an impression with quick work, an 87-91 mph heavy sinker an excellent slow curve and a low 80s changeup.  Another guy who nobody knows and might be knocking on the door soon.
  • At the same field Ben Rortvedt looked much bigger than last season and I think that he will make strides with his hitting.  Heir apparent to Joe MauerBrent Rooker punished pitches at the middle and away, but has a hard time at pitches inside, no matter if they are strikes or balls.  His glove at first will need work, but he does have time. 
  • Levi Michael is listed as an OF, so is Vander Weil btw, but he played at second base with the AAA squad today.
  • The Twins have signed OF Jared Foster who was cut by the Angels last week.  The 25 year old former 5th round pick, has reached high A the last two seasons, can play the centerfield and has been plagued by nagging injuries.  The Twins officially released LHP Mike Theofanopoulos.
To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including my daily live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here

3/18/18

Live from Fort Myers: Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/18/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  • The big news of the day is that Twins' SS Jorge Polanco was suspended 80 days for the use of the anabolic steroid Stanozolol. Ervin Santana was suspended 3 seasons ago for testing positive to the same substance.  Ehire Adrianza and Eduardo Escobar will likely play at SS.  This means that there are now two additional roster positions at least until the middle of the season with (alphabetically) Erick Aybar, Jake Cave, Zack Granite, Robbie Grossman, and potentially even Ryan Lamarre or Brock Stassi fighting for them.   Polanco's suspension opens a spot on the 40-man roster as well.  
  • The Twins might want to make a trade or sign a free agent (even though the pickings are very slim for that last category now) to replace Polanco.   SS Adeiny Hechavarria currently of the Rays is owed $5.9 million for 2018, and the Twins need to trade Kennys Vargas.
  • On other player news, Ervin Santana has not been yet cleared to hold a baseball.  Not sure what that means for his return timeline but does not sound too good.
  • The next round of cuts was announced today: OF Nick Bass, IF Nick Gordon, RHP Myles Jaye, C Jordan Pacheco, RHP Jeff Reed, and OF Lamonte Wade were the victims.
  • Before the Twins game hosting the Phillies, RHP Lance Lynn pitched at Bobby Wilson at the back fields, hitting 90-93 mph with his fastball.
  • Jake Odorizzi made his third start with the Twins and it was not as good as the box score says.   Here is every single pitch he made, and he made a lot of them, 69 in 4 innings.  And he was slow and deliberate about it.  After the game he said that part of the issue was that his split-change was not where he wanted it to be.   His curve was his best pitch today and his command with the fastball was mostly ok.  The other problem was that he was ultra-deliberate and took a lot of time between pitches...
  • Newcomers Addison Reed and Zack Duke followed with a clean inning each.  Reed was effective with an 88-91 mph fastball and a sharp breaking slider, while Duke relied on a 87-90 mph fastball and an 80 mph changeup.  A couple of times he dropped down and threw 72 and 75 mph Frisbee sliders that were devastating.   Ryan Pressly followed with a forgettable outing that was highlighted by a 3R HR, and Trevor Hildenberger and Tyler Rogers pitched their first clean innings of the Spring against the Phillies' minor leaguers to end the game.
  • Byron Buxton relied on his speed today and that should be more part of his game.  In his first plate appearance he had a bunt single that he followed with a stolen base and later had a stand up triple, that could had been stretched into an inside the part home run if needed.  Ehire Adrianza also had a triple.
  • One of the side effects of the expanded netting is that it will reduce the fielding plays into the stands by 90% or so...
  • This is a great "then and now" story about a former Twins top prospect from Ron Morris of Baseball America.

To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including my daily live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here

3/17/18

Live from Fort Myers: Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/17/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  • The Twins played today at Bradenton against the Pirates so  I spent most of my time watching some of the top Twins' prospects with the Miracle work group facing the A+ Rays' squad.
  • Few interesting changes in the back fields this Spring Training:  There is music playing on the loudspeakers on the tower throughout the afternoon (and earlier.)  The DSL players who are there for EST, are not here yet, and the three ring binders that kept stats were replaced by laptops and members of the Twins' analytics department working on them side by side with recovering pitchers charting pitches.
  • The Miracle lineup today was (prospect ranking in parenthesis):  Akil Baddoo (11), Royce Lewis (1), Alex Kirilloff (13), Ben Rodriguez, Jose Miranda (18), Andrew Bechtold (26), David Banuelos (30), Trey Cabbage, Andy Crosgrove, and Taylor Grzelakowski (yes that's the batting order and the last 2 were the DHs - not unusual to bat 10 or more people in MiLB ST games.) 
  • So there were a lot of intriguing prospect to observe.  Let me start with the pitchers.
  • Edwar Colina was the starter.  The Venezuelan pitched in the DSL in 2016 and at Elizabethton last season as a starter.  He has an interesting mix of pitches.  He throws both a 2- and a 4-seamer from 91 to 96 mph and it is an above average pitch that flashes plus, esp. the 2-seam variety.  Command is somewhat of an issue, but it is early.  His best pitch is likely a mid 80s changeup with a fairly nasty tailing action.  This is a close to plus pitch and he has a good feel for it.  His third best is a slider at 84-87 that he commanded ok most of the time.  He also throws a 79-81 slow curve that seemed to miss the mark most of the time.  Not sure if it is because he reminded a bit of Alex Burnett, but he looks like a reliever to me.
  • Twins' 17th round draft pick last season, Ricky Ramirez, followed.  Strickly a reliever, about 150 lbs wet, but threw a mid 90s fastball, had a very good 85-88 mph slider and even tossed a low 70s curve.  The slider is his best pitch and there is some potential there.  RHP Juan Gamez, a 31st round pick in 2016 followed.   Fastball (90-93), slider (83-85) pitcher with very good command of the two-seamer.  The last player for the Twins was converted first baseman LHP Zach Featherstone.   He was drafted in the 12th round of 2016 as a first baseman, converted to pitching mid-season last season, and he is the one of the four I saw today who might make it as a starter.  Very good mechanics for a converted position player, he throws a lot like Scott Diamond (mechanics-wise.)  He throws a four seamer from 91-94 mph and a great changeup at 82-84.  He has an excellent feeling for the change, which is pretty rare for a converted position player.  Also throws a breaking ball with confused identity at about 76-81 mph, which is definitely a work in progress.
  • None of these pitchers are top prospects, but a couple are worth keeping an eye on.  There was another fairly huge change that I observed this season:  Minor league pitchers are encouraged to pitch inside and establish the inside fastball early in the game.  With most batters these days standing very close to the plate, that inside fastball strike is one of the hardest pitches to hit.  On a similar note, new Twins' minor league pitching coordinator Pete Maki was at the field today and color me really impressed, based on his ability to mingle with his players (unlike his predecessor) and on some conversations regarding pitching I overheard.  
  • As far as position players go, here is the skinny about the top prospects (and others).  Royce Lewis can hit the crap of the ball if it is on the outside or the middle of the plate.  He has a hard time with inside pitches, both looking at strikes and swinging unsuccessfully at them.  A couple of times he made soft throws to first base, and at another helped turned a double play.  Not sure that he has the arm to be a shortstop.  His uniform practically hangs on him, and he is all legs.  In addition to the arm situation, he might just outgrow the position.  He is still young to be definitive about it, but I see the outfield more in his future.  A very fast base runner with good instincts as well
  • Alex Kirilloff on the other hand is a horrible outfielder.  A couple balls went over his hand and in the three throws he made, two made a single bounce and one a double bounce to the cutoff man.  Allegedly his arm was strong as a prep, but now (could be the TJ surgery) is not enough for right field.   He can hit the ball, esp, pull the ball on the other hand.
  • Akil Baddoo is the guy who does the little things right.  Do I see him be a superstar?  Not the guy I saw today.  I will need to see more but he looks like a solid corner OF with good bat control.  Andrew Bechtold has not seen a pitch he does not like.  He swings at everything and that is something that he will need to fix.  Trey Cabbage is now an OF, and not a very good one.  Had a route trouble at one fly ball that almost had him head first at the chain link fence.  Not good.  David Banuelos reminds me of a baby Pudge Rodriguez but it might be his build.  His arm is not quite at that level yet.
  • The guy who impressed me the most, because I did not expect anything, was the Twins' 38th round draft pick from Pepperdine in 2017, 1B Ben Rodriguez.  At 6-6 and 225 lbs, he is a big presence but has excellent plate control and power, can run well and can hit.  He hit .290/.399/.457 in the GCL in his first pro season.  Will not be surprised if he goes to Cedar Rapids and repeats that performance this year.
  • The Twins' minor league catching coordinator Tanner Swanson was hit with a foul ball in the dugout late in the game.  He was walking back to the Twins' minor league building with the trainer, but it did not look that bad.  It was pretty scary moment.
  • In other prospect news, Levi Michael is now listed as an OF and Brent Rooker as a 1B, making me think that the succession order to Joe Mauer might be written in stone.
  • In other news, Phil Hughes and Alan Busenitz both sucked against the Pirates doing the best to lose their spots in the team.
  • It is a wild card thought, but I will not be surprised if the Twins acquire another reliever at this point...
  • Still the talk of the town is the trade for OF Jake Cave for RHP Luis Gil and the resulting designation of 1B Kennys Vargas for assignment.  Lots of real estate-alluding headlines, like "The Twins acquire Cave" the last 24 hours or so. Apparently Vargas was not very happy with the signing of Logan Morrison by the Twins.  As I indicated yesterday, there was talk of Japan next week.
  • Former Twins' pitcher Anibal Sanchez who was DFA'd to open room for Lance Lynn has signed a minor league contract with the Braves

To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including my daily live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here

3/16/18

Live from Fort Myers: Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/16/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:

  • The Twins played the Tampa Bay Rays today and playing the Boston Red Sox tonight, in split squad games, but a transaction, or rather a set of two transactions stole the show today:  The Twins announced that they acquired 24 year old OF Jake Cave from the Yankees for 19 year old RHP Luis Gil.  Cave was added to their 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 draft last winter.  When the Yankees acquired Neil Walker they DFA'd Gil to make room.  To make room on their 40-man roster for Gil, who has 3 options, the Twins announced that they have DFA'd 1B/DH Kennys Vargas.
  •  There were some rumors last week that Vargas will be released to play in Japan.  Today the talk is that he will be a great fit for the Rays; however he will need to either clear waivers or not get claimed by teams that claim earlier than the Rays for that to happen.  We shall see
  •  Cave is a yet another left throwing and hitting OF, who opened some eyes last season hitting 20 HRs between AA Trenton and AAA Wilkes-Barre.  At AAA he hit .324/.367/.554 with a 6.1 BB%, and 27.6 K%.  He does not walk much, but  makes successful contact at a good clip and the .230 isoP is intriguing.  To late to include him in my 2018 prospect list, but he would be at the mid 20s or so, close to LaMonte Wade.
  • Gil will be 20 years old this June and was signed as a free agent by the Twins on February 12, 2015.  He played the 2015 season in the DSL, had shoulder surgery missing the following season and returned in the DSL for 2017 making 14 starts for 41-2/3 innings, striking out 49 (10.6 K/9, 27.7 K%) and walking 20 (4.3 BB/9, 16.4 K-BB%), hit 5 and threw 5 wild pitches.  He finished with a 2.59 ERA, 3.34 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP (.287 BABIP).  He throws hard but is wild, has command problems, is about to hit his age 20 season and has not appeared Stateside.  He was not ranked among the top 60 Twins' prospects.
  • Before the Twins game vs the Rays started I had the opportunity to watch Andro Cutura throw live batting practice in the back fields.  Definitely a name to know.  He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 season, a season he did not play due to elbow problems, from Southeastern Louisiana University.  He pitched He started 11 game for Elizabethton, pitching for 60-2/3 innings with a 1.34 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.27 FIP and 1.01 WHIP.  He started only 6 games next season at Cedar Rapids before being shut down with elbow issues and having Tommy John surgery on October of 2016.  He missed the whole 2017 season recovering.  Not sure how the Twins see him, but he looks like a reliever to me.  He has plenty of pop in his fastball a good changeup and a decent breaking ball.  He is a tad smaller and his delivery is a bit jerky and max effort, which makes me think that the pen might be in his future.
  • Some interesting happenings at the Twins game:  Jose Berrios was riled pretty badly by defensive mistakes behind him and he started pitching very slowly and without any rhythm in the second inning.  It was his worse outing.
  • Speaking of worse, Chris Heisey had a horrible defensive game.  He had a two-base error when he seemed to push a ball with his glove instead of catching it.  At the next inning he should have been charged with another (three base) error, when he lost the ball on the sun multiple times, stopped looking and ducked with his hands crossed above his head.  The ball bounced 15 yards behind him...      I do not see him as a Twin much longer, especially with Cave now in the organization.
  • Jorge Polanco was charged with 2 errors; however the second should have been on Logan Morrison who like Heisey earlier pushed instead of grabbing the ball with his glove.  Morrison did not have a good day, as he was hit with a line drive in the back later in the game.  With Vargas gone, and Morrison's fairly sketchy play at first, I suspect that Mitch Garver might be used as a back up first baseman on occasion.  He played in that role today and was fine with the glove, making an excellent scoop play as well.
  • Miguel Sano was scratched with a knee bruise he suffered sliding into second in the previous game.
  • Joe Mauer hit the ball hard today; good to see from him in a contract issue.  He receives the most cheers from the Hammond crowd in every game.
  • Trevor Hildenberger was again awful, facing mostly AAA competition.  He allowed a walk and three hits (including a 3R HR) in one inning of work.  His ERA is now 10.29.  I just do not see how he can make the Twins this Spring, even though some might think that he is a lock based on past performance.    

To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including my daily live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here