7/29/16

Twins trade rumors 7/29

Keeping track with the various Twins trade rumors to date.  I will add to this on a daily basis, when news appear.   Hypothetical trades and "good fits" are not in the list, only reports of actual interest by a particular team for a particular player.  Another thing not listed will be negations by Twins' officials that they are not shopping anyone (like this one.)

This is the list of rumors up to 7/29:

Add the San Fransisco Giants in the list of  Eduardo Núñez' suitors, per Jon Heyman via Tyler Jennings, who were actually the team that received him, for LHP Adalberto Mejia, their number 5 prospect, according to Baseball America

There looks to be some action around Brandon Kintzler and Fernando Abad, per Jon Heyman

Eduardo Escobar is auditioning tonight, in request of un-named teams, per Mike Berardino

The Marlins, Orioles, Blue Jays, Pirates and Giants are the 5 teams that have the most talks about starting pitching, according to un-named seller team executives per Joel Sherman.  All 3 but the Jays and Giants have been scouting the Twins and the Twins have been scouting the Marlins recently.

The Twins interim manager Rob Antony has indicated that he will be looking for starting pitching as a return in a trade per Derek Wetmore.

Nunez, Kurt Suzuki, Fernando Abad and Brandon Kintzler are the names that other clubs have been calling the Twins about, per Ken Rosenthal.

An unnamed contenting club has shown interest in Kyle Gibson, but the Twins are only listening, per Mike Berardino.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who are monitoring relievers, according to LaVelle E. Neal, were scouting the Twins game with Atlanta yesterday that Ervin Santana started and finished.   The Cubs and Pirates also scouted yesterday's Twins' game, per Darren Wolfson

For some reason the Twins are scouting the Florida Marlins, per LaVelle E. Neal,

The Florida Marlins and Baltimore Orioles had scouts in the Twins games in Fenway, started by Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone, per Darren Wolfson.

The Twins have talked to the Red Sox, about undisclosed player(s), but no matches were found, per Mike Berardino.

Complete profile and scouting report of the newest Twins' pitcher LHP Adalberto Mejia

The Twins acquired LHP Adalberto Mejia, from the San Fransisco Giants, in exchange for Eduardo Núñez.   Núñez came to the Twins from the Yankees for Miguel Sulbaran who came to the Twins from the Dodgers for Drew Butura who came from the Mets for Louis Castillo who came from the Marlins for RHPs Scott Tyler the Twins 2001 2nd round draft pick and Travis Bowyer the Twins 1999 20th round draft pick.

Mejia was signed as international free agent from the Dominican Republic by the Giants in 2011.  Mejia last played for the Giants in AAA Sacramento River Cats (Pacific Coast League,) and was invited to their 2016 MLB camp for his first time.  He is on the Twins' 40-man roster, and likely September callup.

Mejia was born on 6/20/1993 in Bonao, Dominican Republic and was a late bloomer signing by the Giants as an eighteen year old.  That season in the Dominican Summer League he impressed, starting 13 games for 76 innings with 71 K (8.4 K/9) and only 8 BB, with a 0.868 WHIP, 1.42 ERA and 1.75 FIP.  This was enough for him to skip the Giants' US-based Rookie leagues, jumping right on full season A in 2012, playing for the Augusta GreenJackets of the Southern Atlantic League. He participated in 30 games, among them 14 starts. His final numbers for that season were:  106.7 IP  with 79 K (6.7 K/9) 21 BB (1.8 BB/9), with a 1.341 WHIP, 3.97 ERA and 3.29 FIP.  He started the season in the pen, with limited success and moved into the rotation in June, where he found success, finishing the season with a 6-3 record, 3.00 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, post All Star break.

The next season he moved up to the San Jose Giants of the High A California League.  He started 16 games (87 IP) with 89 K (9.2 K/9) and 23 BB (2.4 BB/9) for a 3.31 ERA,  4.20 FIP and 1.126 WHIP.  He miss 48 games that season in May and June with shoulder issues, but came back okay.  He was called to AAA Fresno to start a single game (5 IP, 5 H, 2 HR, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) and participated in the Arizona Fall League playing in 7 games, 3 as a starter for 8.47 ERA, 1.529 WHIP, 7.4 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 17 innings.  In 2014 he moved up to AA Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League) where he started 21 games and relieved in one, pitching 108 innings with 82 K (6.8 K/9) and 31 BB (2.6 BB/9), for a 1.389 WHIP, 4.67 ERA and 3.78 FIP. He went to the DL three times for 6 days with a leg bruise after a ball hit him in April and for 8- and 12-days in July with finger blisters.   His weight that season went up to 240 lbs (he is 6'3") and needed to be reduced.  Unfortunately he took a banned weight loss supplement that contained stimulants and tested positive, receiving a 50 day suspension, very much like current Twins' DH/1B Kennys Vargas.

He repeated AA in 2015 after he served his suspension. He appeared in 12 games (9 GS), pitching 51.3 innings with 38 K (6.7 K/9) and 18 BB (3.2 BB/9), for a 1.091 WHIP, 2.45 ERA and 3.41 FIP.  Despite the nice performance, he needed innings so he returned to the AFL (7 GS, 31 IP , 1.258 WHIP, 3.48 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 4.1 K/BB) and also appeared in the Dominican Winter League (playing for the Gigantes, coinsidentally: 5 GS, 18.3 IP , 1.091 WHIP, 3.44 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 1.5 K/BB).  After he was invited to his first MLB spring training as part of the Giants' 40-man roster, he was caught in the numbers games and started against at AA Richmond where he excelled after he trimmed down this season (11 GS, 65 IP , 0.985 WHIP, 1.94 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 2.2 K/BB) forcing his promotion to AAA in his age 23 season (he was 22 at the time.)  His numbers (7 GS, 40.7 IP , 1.303 WHIP, 4.20 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 2.4 K/BB) are fairly impressive, especially for the Pacific Coast League.

He has an above average to borderline plus fastball that has increased in velocity this season, sitting at 92-94 and touching 95 as a starter.  Average to above average command and improving and the pitch is projecting to be plus pitch in the near future.  Natural cutting action on the pitch.  His slider is his best pitch.  Siting at 83-84 mph and up to 86.  Nice biting motion, great command and above average control.  This is a pitch that he throws anywhere on the count, pretty much like current Twins' starter Tyler Duffey does with his curve ball.   He also throws a changeup that is an average to above average pitch that can improve.  Nice fluid mechanics.

Weight is a consideration for him, and it currently is under control, listed at 195 lbs.  His ceiling is that of a number 3 starter, but he has a high floor. His floor is of a 8th inning reliever.  He held lefties to a .216/.273/.275 slash line and had 11.3 K/9 against them, which is pretty impressive for the PCL.

Mejia was listed as the 5th best Giants' prospect by Baseball America and 7th best by MLB.com.  He would be among the top 10 in my Twins' list if I had to do this list now, but likely he will be called up in September and that will disqualify him.  Very good return for the Twins.








7/28/16

Twins trade rumors 7/28

Keeping track with the various Twins trade rumors to date.  I will add to this on a daily basis, when news appear.   Hypothetical trades and "good fits" are not in the list, only reports of actual interest by a particular team for a particular player.  Another thing not listed will be negations by Twins' officials that they are not shopping anyone (like this one.)

This is the list of rumors up to 7/28:

Add the San Fransisco Giants in the list of  Eduardo Núñez' suitors, per Jon Heyman via Tyler Jennings.

Eduardo Escobar is auditioning tonight, in request of un-named teams, per Mike Berardino

The Marlins, Orioles, Blue Jays, Pirates and Giants are the 5 teams that have the most talks about starting pitching, according to un-named seller team executives per Joel Sherman.  All 3 but the Jays and Giants have been scouting the Twins and the Twins have been scouting the Marlins recently.

The Twins interim manager Rob Antony has indicated that he will be looking for starting pitching as a return in a trade per Derek Wetmore.

Eduardo Núñez, has been evaluated by the Cleveland Indians, per Buster Olney.

Nunez, Kurt Suzuki, Fernando Abad and Brandon Kintzler are the names that other clubs have been calling the Twins about, per Ken Rosenthal.

An unnamed contenting club has shown interest in Kyle Gibson, but the Twins are only listening, per Mike Berardino.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who are monitoring relievers, according to LaVelle E. Neal, were scouting the Twins game with Atlanta yesterday that Ervin Santana started and finished.   The Cubs and Pirates also scouted yesterday's Twins' game, per Darren Wolfson

For some reason the Twins are scouting the Florida Marlins, per LaVelle E. Neal,

The Florida Marlins and Baltimore Orioles had scouts in the Twins games in Fenway, started by Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone, per Darren Wolfson.

The Twins have talked to the Red Sox, about undisclosed player(s), but no matches were found, per Mike Berardino.

7/27/16

Twins trade rumors 7/27

Keeping track with the various Twins trade rumors to date.  I will add to this on a daily basis, when news appear.   Hypothetical trades and "good fits" are not in the list, only reports of actual interest by a particular team for a particular player.  Another thing not listed will be negations by Twins' officials that they are not shopping anyone (like this one.)

This is the list of rumors up to 7/27:

Eduardo Núñez, has been evaluated by the Cleveland Indians, per Buster Olney.

Nunez, Kurt Suzuki, Fernando Abad and Brandon Kintzler are the names that other clubs have been calling the Twins about, per Ken Rosenthal.

An unnamed contenting club has shown interest in Kyle Gibson, but the Twins are only listening, per Mike Berardino.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who are monitoring relievers, according to LaVelle E. Neal, were scouting the Twins game with Atlanta yesterday that Ervin Santana started and finished.   The Cubs and Pirates also scouted yesterday's Twins' game, per Darren Wolfson

For some reason the Twins are scouting the Florida Marlins, per LaVelle E. Neal,

The Florida Marlins and Baltimore Orioles had scouts in the Twins games in Fenway, started by Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone, per Darren Wolfson.

The Twins have talked to the Red Sox, about undisclosed player(s), but no matches were found, per Mike Berardino.

7/26/16

By the numbers: How bad have Deron Johnson's Twins' drafts been?

As the Minnesota Twins are evaluating their front office, I would like to take the opportunity to objectively evaluate the performance of certain parts of their front office for which there might be appropriate objective evaluation criteria.  Deron Johnson, the Twins scouting director since 2008, who came into the organization when the dearly departed Terry Ryan became the General Manager in 1994, as a regional scout, has been primarily responsible for the Rule 4 amateur draft.  There is a feeling that the Twins do not draft and develop players well.  But drafting and developing are two different things, and need to see how each of them might be performing against the rest of the league. 

How has Johnson done against the league, in the draft?

Here is the data:  I looked at the overall WAR for each team for each draft for all players selected by that team in the first 10 rounds of that draft.   Calculated the average WAR for each draft and the teams better are indicated with green.  The teams are listed alphabetically and the Twins are bolded.  Averages in yellow indicate small sample size, because simply not enough players made it to the bigs in the last few seasons to make any conclusions, but the ones who made it, count to the total team WAR numbers, since Deron Johnson was responsible for the Twins draft.



Long story short:

During the time that Johnson has been in charge of the Twins draft the Twins did better than only 6 other teams in the league: The Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies and the Rangers who all are willing to open their wallets and buy players drafted and developed by others and, surprisingly, the Rays, who are more than willing to sell everyone high to restock their system with players that other teams drafted to develop.  The Twins do neither, so that it a pretty big problem.  And yes Deron Johnson has been performing way below average, and D students should go home...

Few notes:

  • This is pretty interesting data about where the Twins can look to stock their front office.  Surprisingly, the Diamondbacks', Padres', Jays', White Sox', and Nationals' systems might be good sources of scouting talent to replace at least Deron and some of his scouts.
  • If it were not for 2009 where Dozier and Gibson account for most of the Twins' WAR, the numbers would be really pathetic.
  • If you look at teams like the White Sox, that have had the fourth best draft WAR in the period and really nothing to show about it in the majors, you can make easy conclusions about problems with their development and management systems
  • Yes, there are up and downs in most teams, but with the Twins other than 2009, it has been mostly downs, and the other teams, have done something about it (replacing under-performing Front Office pieces.)  Will the Twins have the guts to do the same?

7/18/16

Finally Pohlad fires Ryan but he acts like is not sure that it is the right move

There has been a lot reported about the fact that the General Manager with the worst record in the Twins' history, is history himself and a lot of it has to be digested.   I promise that I will write extensively what I think about this, when things have settled a bit, but here is my reaction:

  • Despite feeling that Terry Ryan should not be the General Manager of my favorite team, since he architected the miserable teams to support daddy Pohlad's contraction plans (and, yes, lot's of people who are reading this do not remember that, because they were not following the Twins back then - and I don't blame you,) I did not have Champagne to celebrate his firing.
  • Been there, done that.  Ryan went away, said that 21st century baseball is way over his head and was hired back 5 years after the fact, and after a hiatus from baseball, presumably making it way way over his head.  And that hiring worked really well for the Twins and Ryan.  It made Ryan the General Manager with the worst winning record since the Twins moved to MN. Actually with the worst record ever, because until Andy MacPhail was hired, the Twins/Senators did not have a GM, but the owner acted as the GM.
  • That press release read way too much like a retirement thing and the Twins have already been there done that with Ryan.  And then he came back.  Like Michael Corleone in Godfather III.  People give too much kudos to Ryan for choosing harakiri now vs. firing in the off-season (and he had a freaking month to make that choice, in addition to have the choice ??!!)   Selfish move.  His way was the highway.  But he wanted it to be his way (pretty sure that someone car write a C&W song for that, and David St Peter might even his/her concern hosted at Target Field.)
  • And everyone in the press is exalting Ryan and saying that he will be hired by someone else soon.  And: a. we have seen this before with Gardenhire (who was only hired by the person who fired him, the aforementioned Ryan, who just got fired), b. I hope he gets hired by an AL Central team and c. How good is he with a broom?
  • Rob Antony is on the spot.  Do or die role.  Probably the only GM (acting - which is about right) in the MLB whose only qualification is Public Relationships.  He's got to do, otherwise the new GM will send him Ryan's way.  Hope he surfaces and trades everyone he should trade (Mr Plouffe, Dozier, Santana, Suzuki, Santana, Nolasco, Milone, Abad, Kintzer, etc, that's you.)
  • Molitor's interview after the fact was enlightening.  And the Twins' reporters did not report it in its entirety.  Among other things he said that: a. he wants to be part of the solution (but he said it in a way too weak way) and b. that now he can do some things that he wanted to do.  Which makes the obvious more obvious:  Molitor and Ryan never saw eye to eye.  And Pohlad imposed Molitor to Ryan.  And likely the Sano to RF idiocy was imposed to Molitor by Ryan
  • But I would not read too much into the Pohlad vote of confidence for Molitor in 2017.  In so many words he told the press that Ryan will be the Twins' GM for as long as he wanted to, the same time he was informing him that he will be gone next season.  About a month ago.  And he did the same for Gardenhire in the middle of the 2014 season.  So Pohlad's word are worth... well not so much.  His vote of confidence is more akin to a dagger in the back.
  • And you will hear a lot about the "great relationship between Terry and Paul"  Look at actions, do not believe at words

More on this later, these are just my first thoughts on the subject... 

7/2/16

The 2016 Minnesota Twins are inching up to a historic record

.252

That's the number the 2106 Twins are reaching towards in winning percentage.  It is the franchise's worst record (1904 Senators) and the modern era's 4th worst for all baseball.

The Twins' current .316 winning percentage (that translates to a 51-111 record) is the 4th worst of the franchise trailing only the aforementioned 1904 (.252) and the 1909 (.276) and 1903 (.314) teams.
 
In its time in Minnesota this is by far the Twins' worst losing clip.  Second worst was that of the 1982 squad (.370, 102 losses)

Another feather in Terry Ryan's and Paul Molitor's caps...

5/26/16

So how do you fix this Twins' mess? Or The more that things change...

I just stumbled upon one of the posts I wrote almost 5 years to date (5/25/2011) and I am just fascinating by how things seem to be the same with these Twins.   It was this post  and pretty much everything I said there, still stands.  Some of the faces have changed, but the story is the same.  Which is another indication that the "Total Systemic Failure" is congenital and really need to look outside the organization for a fix.

Here are some highlights from that post:

May 25th and the Twins are 14.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians, the way to climb up from that hole looks more and more slippery every day, and the light out of the tunnel is as bright as Camping's predictions about the end of the world (as we know it.) So what you do, if you are the Twins' brass to move on and start preparing for the 2012 season? And I know that throwing the 2011 season under the bus, the same way the Manager of the Millennium threw Slowey under the bus, in May is somewhat of a hubris, but I am trying to be realistic...

So, here is what I would do, if I were the Twins' owner (Dream on and Daydream Believer time: )



This team is misfiring in all cylinders, so you gotta re-build the whole engine (think Marlins' tune ups blowing up the whole thing and winning world championships.) So (starting from the top, and these things do not have to happen stimultaneously, but they have to happen before the Winter meetings next fall: )


  • Bill Smith has to go, along with the rest of the "Twins' way" (read: old school) people in the front office. This includes "special advisors", scouts in their golden years, hangovers who care more about horse racing or their personal enterprises and such (ouch). A new front office that includes a holistic player evaluation team that uses computers as well as eyes (hey, it is the 21st century, last time I checked) should be installed in place.

  • (I guess that this might come as a surprise: ) Get rid of the manager and the coaches and start fresh. Everyone who ever read my opinions here knows who I feel about the love of complacency and mediocrity by the media and fans, which embrace the current Twins' field regime, even though they have fallen short since 1991, create cronyism, favoritism and schism in the clubhouse and making lineup and game decisions based on gut feelings that are in a dire need of Pepto (yes, the pink stuff.) So a new manager should be installed, someone with fire who would not take the compliments of being second-(and third- and fourth- and fifth-) best as accolades displayed in a Fargo agricultural show, but would think that an also-ran team is a failure and install this fire to his players. Someone like him (old news that I like him and he is a former Twin.) Also get at least one hispanic coach. This team is blessed to have the pitching coach who made Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Johan Santana who there are now, but he is rotting in the minors (again, old news, sue me.) and has the manager's buddies as coaches.

  • The players. Sigh... I gotta get a tad financially sensitive here, since a bunch of ill-advised contracts were handed out, decisions on who stays and goes and who gets extended were made based on favoritism or the previously mentioned sorts and the like... Realistically, there are few players with any trade value right now (unless some of them would have a mirage-like performance before the trading deadline, which, under the current regime, would make it more likely to keep them long term - see how that Twins' vicious cycle works? Keep high, sell low.) Anyways... back to the business. I would try to trade (mind you not all at once, but up to the trading deadline) the following (and absorb some salary $; and this is quasi-sorted based on descending trade value, pending a miracle of the aforementioned sort):  
 (and I name names of certain players most of them not with the Twins right now.)

I am just totally amazed by how the more that things change with this organization, the more remain the same.   Different names, same feelings, same suggestions that Pohlad will never do.

Maybe it is time for a new owner.

5/17/16

The Twins sign Robbie Grossman, who is he and what can he do?

Today the Minnesota Twins have signed OF Robbie Grossman who has opted out from his minor league deal with Cleveland.  Details on a roster spot are not out yet, but the Twins have an open spot on their 40-man roster.  

Who is Robbie Grossman?

Grossman is a lefty throwing switch-hitting outfielder, listed at 6 feet even and 215 lbs.  He was drafted by the Pirates with the second pick of the 6th round of the 2008 draft out of Cy Fair High School in Cypress TX.  He turned 26, a few months ago. In 2012, when he was ranked the 76th overall prospect in baseball by Baseball America, Grossman was the star prospect who went to Houston in the trade that brought then 33 year old and effective starter Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates for their pennant run.

Grossman was seen as part of Houston's rebuilding, and he was given opportunities to win a starting job in the majors in 2013 (63 games,) 2014 (104 games,) and 2015 (24 games.)  After last season, Grossman was not in the contending Astros' plans, was not offered arbirtation and released in November and singed with the Cardinals who had assigned him to their AAA Columbus Clippers team.  The Clippers are playing in the same league the Twins' AAA team, but they have not yet met this season, thus Grossman was not heavily scouted by the Twins.

He hit .256/.370/.453 with 6 HRs, 21 BBs and 25 Ks in 139 AAA PAs this season before he opted out and played 19 games at CF, 10 at LF and 1 at RF.  During his whole MLB and MiLB career he has played 391 games at CF, 314 at LF and 259 at RF.   How good of an outfielder is he?  In the majors he spent most of his time at LF (1018.7 innings) rated +2 with plus minus, saved 2 defensive runs and had a -0.4 UZR.   His time in CF (250.3 innings, -5 plus/minus, -7 DRS, -9.4 UZR) and RF (278.7 innings, +2 plus/minus, 6 DRS, 4.8 UZR,) are less significant but indicate an average to slightly above average corner OF who could play CF, but not that great.   The level of his Centerfield play is at or slightly below of that of Danny Santana (708.1 inn, -5 plus/minus, -3 DRS, -7.3 UZR,) who is the Twins current Centerfielder.

His career MLB slash line is .240/.327/.341, including a .143/.222/.245 2015 campaign that (along with his .254/.354/.349 AAA PCL numbers) moved him off the Astros' future plans.  He hits equally well left and right hand pitching, has moderate gap power and slightly above average speed, which does not translate into stolen base success (career 65% success rate.)

Bottom line:  I think that the Twins are seeing Grossman as an upgrade with the bat over both Danny Santana (who is hitting .250/.268/.338 in 2016 with the Twins) and Darin Mastroianni (his current backup,) and not much of a drop on the field, in the Centerfield position.  And they are probably right. He will likely get the open 40-man spot and Mastroianni's  25-man roster spot soon, performing as the Twins starting Centerfielder for the foreseeable future.

What the Twins fans have to ask themselves is whether Grossman is a Centerfielder that any competitive team would have (the Astros gave that answer last off-season) and, if not, whether the Twins are served better in the long term by giving the spot to the man who they plan to hold it for a long while, Byron Buxton.  But this is for Terry Ryan to answer.


5/13/16

Exclusive: The Twins Design a New Logo in Hope the Season Turns Around (First Reveal Inside)

We have learned that based on Jim Pohlad's recent remarks about the Twins' 2016, he wanted to create a new team logo that reflects the situation, in hopes the season will turn around.  Here is an exclusive first look at the new handsome Twins logo that will decorate their hats and jerseys:


4/1/16

Twins, Nationals are working on a blockbuster trade

The franchise that brought major league baseball to the Washington DC area in 1901 (Minnesota Twins) and the franchise that moved there recently from Montreal (Washington Nationals) are meeting this weekend for a two day set of exhibition game tune up before the Twins open the season up I-95 against the Baltimore Orioles.

We hear that there are evidence of a major blockbuster trade being worked at this point between the two teams:   They are discussing swapping starting first basemen, catchers and closers.   The Twins will trade Joe Mauer, Kurt Suzuki, and Glen Perkins to the Nats for Ryan Zimmerman, Jonathan Papelbon and Wilson Ramos.

Twins' GM, Terry Ryan, was not available for comment, but his second in command, Rob Antony, has been witnessed talking to himself in the hotel hallway about eradicating some sort of curse and uttering the words "Bill Smith", "caps" and "proven".

More updates as they come.

3/29/16

Spring Training Redux. How will the Twins do in 2016? Here is my prediction

With the Twins' Spring Training almost in the books and having spend about 10 days in Fort Myers following the Twins' closely (here are all my Spring Training articles in Chronological order,)  I am ready to make a prediction for the 2016 Twins.

This team has a few question marks left, but a lot of my concerns were answered:

  • Miguel Sano will be a moster with the bat again this season, and regardless of his size, he will be at least as good an outfielder as Torii Hunter was last season, when it all said and done.
  • Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson are men on a mission in the Twins' rotation and might be the best 1-2 punch the Twins' had since Jack Morris and Scott Erickson in 1991.  Phil Hughes is pitching better than last season and Ricky Nolasco is pitching like a man with something to prove, and he has to.   The only question mark in the rotation is Tommy Milone, who could be easily replaced by the likes of Alex Meyer or Jose Berrios, or even Taylor Roger, if the need comes.
  • Byung Ho Park is the real thing.  And he does not have an attitude about it.  In 2015 DH was the most productive position in the Twins' lineup, mainly because the promotion of Sano.  The Twins got .251/.338/.421 with 21 HRs from the DH position in 2015.  I expect this to be Park's baseline.
  • Byron Buxton has shown signs of improvement with the bat, albeit small.   His glove alone is worth +2 wins and much improved Danny Santana and Oswaldo Arcia (who is in tremendous shape btw,)  can pick the slack if necessary.
  • Kurt Suzuki also looks better and refreshed.  Will a smaller workload keep them getting close to his 2014 numbers?  I hope so.   
  • Joltin' Joe Mauer (sorry couldn't help myself) has an .802 OPS for the Spring, which beat his .756 and  .667 OPS the last 2 Springs, sunglasses or not.
More importantly this team looks like a team that wants to win, a team that wins and a team that has fun doing it.

The biggest question mark is the bullpen, and especially the closer.  If you find out that the out of shape closer, who fell apart the last 2 seasons, took up home brewing as a hobby in the off-season and his fastball and slider are a good 5 to 6 miles per hour below their peak, you have to be concerned.  On the other hand, if Perkins falters, the Twins have good options at AA and AAA, including righties JT Chargois and Nick Burdi who can have a part in the Twins' pen today, and lefty Mason Melotakis,  who is a few innings away from returning from TJ surgery as a dominant lefty.  

The pen was the Twins' biggest concern this off-season and it has not been addressed at all.   The 2016 Twins will go as far as their pen lets them go.   I hope that Ryan has a short leash on Perkins and does the right thing for the team when he has to.

Because of this, and my lack of trust in the Twins' GM and the Twins' closer, I predict that the Twins will finish the 2016 season with an 87-75 record.  90 wins will not be out of reach, with a couple of early season pen investments...

3/23/16

2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. 3/23: Nolasco cements a job in the rotation

Today was the last live game from Fort Myers.   Yesterday, I shared some thoughts about the Twins 25-man roster and based on what I have seen previously, Rickey Nolasco should be the Twins' fifth starter.    With another stellar performance today against the Rays, going for 6 innings allowing only 3 hits, no earned runs, walking 2 and striking out 7, he cemented that position, especially when in Field number 2 his only competition, Tyler Duffey, allowed two home runs among other hard hit balls this afternoon.   Pending a trade, I can see no way that Nolasco will not be in the Twins' rotation, and arguably has pitched pretty well this spring, earning a spot.

Glen Perkins' appearance today and the rest of the Spring has been worrisome.   His fastball barely reached 91 and his slider 81, and has been batter all over Hammond Stadium without finishing an inning.  In 2/3 of an inning he allowed 2 hits and a walk with no strikeouts, adding up to 3 runs.   I hope Terry Ryan has a plan B in his back pocket for a closer, because Perkins is continuing his decline from last season second half.

As far as position players go, Eduardo Nunez was horrible today:  Two errand throws to the first and a dropped ball on a base steal attempt did not help the Twins' cause.  Let's call it a hick up and hope that it will not continue to happen.

Byron Buxton has a lackluster performance a couple days ago,  but today, he made up for it.  He has a great running catch in the first innings and also got an infield hit in a ball hit deep in the shortstop, in the same situation he did not previously.  I think that he also might be cementing a spot in the 25 man roster.

So is Danny Santana, who got an infield hit in a drag bunt, then stole second, and in a play that featured 3 errant throws by Rays scored.  Great heads up play, plus his speed and versatility will help.

Oswaldo Arcia likely won the last 25 man spot over former hated White Sox player Carlos Quentin.  Arcia has been better on the field that Quentin, making some difficult plays, whereas Quentin has no position, and has been better with the stick and the basepaths, stealing a couple of bases so far.   I think that Quentin was brought in as a plan B if Byung Ho Park did not pan out right away as a 1B/DH, but this is not the case.   So it looks like the Twins' position player side in the 25 man roster is about set.  There are still some question-marks in the bullpen, as I indicated yesterday

Next: Catching an airplane up North tomorrow and either later this week or early next will will give my Spring Training Redux and my prediction for the Twins' 2016.  Still need to chew on this a bit... 


3/22/16

2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. 3/22: The Twins Opening Day Roster is as Clear as it was in February

There is about a week of Spring Training games (actually 9) left for the Twins, and the composition of the Opening Day 25 man roster is still very unclear, with exactly the same questionmarks as in the beginning of Spring Training:

1.  Who would be the last 2 Twins' Starting pitchers?  Tyler Duffey, Tommy Milone, or Ricky Nolasco?  Pick 2.

There was the feeling that it could be a 5 way battle with Jose Berrios and Trevor May also vying for a spot in the rotation, but it seems that the inclusion of Berrios & May was for PR reasons.  Milone seems to have earned a spot in the rotation, by arguably being the most consistent starter this Spring, so apparently it is up to Duffey and Nolasco, who both had pretty mediocre springs in official games to claim that last spot.  Nolasco had a great outing in the back fields the other day, and my take has been that it has always been his spot to loose, and he has not done that, or Duffey has not done anything to win it.  But still the Twins have not made it clear

2 (or rather 1b)  Who will be joining Perkins, Jepsen, May and Fien in the Twins' pen?

The only thing clearer than the beginning of the Spring Training here is that Ryan & Co do not want any of the young fireballers to start the season up North, and even though they pitched better than the rest, including the anointed closer whose fastball is about 6 mph south of its peak, Nick Burdi and JT Chargois, were reassigned and optioned to the minor league squads earlier.  Among the other cuts in the reliever group, Mason Melotakis did show flashes of greatness, but also did show rust from sitting for one year, which needs to be shaken, Pat Dean and Alex Meyer need to start games in AAA, Randy Rosario and Yorman Landa are a few years away, Mike Strong and his 40-man spot has proven the head scratcher that has been on paper and Aaron Thompson has proven than wearing a Civil War Beard in 80 degrees in Florida will not help your case if you do not have any talent.   Jake Reed was also disappointing and clearly did not pitch as well as the other young talent in the above list

Who is left:

from the RH side:

JR Graham
Brandon Kintzler
Ryan Pressly
Michael Tonkin

from the LH side:

Fernardo Abad
Buddy Boshers
Logan Darnell
Ryan O' Rourke
Taylor Rogers
Dan Runzler

The interesting thing is that none of those pitchers has pitched themselves out of competition.  If someone asked me yesterday, I'd say that Tonkin and Graham do not belong, but today they both redeemed themselves and maybe bought themselves a few more days, esp. Graham.  Tonkin, who is out of options, pitched two very clean innings throwing his fastball up to 95 and his slider up to 85, but those came against Baltimore's minor leaguers.  I like what Brandon Kintzler did today and most of the Spring, but from that group, Ryan Pressly deserves the first right hand spot, if there is only going to be one.  As far as the lefties go, Abad, O'Rourke, and Runzler, pitched equally well, so it could be one or 2 of them getting jobs.  Only O'Rourke has a 40-man spot, which is a consideration, but with Strong's primarily and Tonkin's, secondarily, spots in jeopardy, there is still a lot of work to be done.

And there is a wild card, who might make the Twins' pen better in 2016:  Tyler Duffey.  The former closer has not proven that he pitch more than 6 effective innings in the majors, and would likely be a force if the Twins' brass decide to move him to the pen, in a similar way that they did with Trevor May.

(Tommorow:  The position players)




3/21/16

2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. 3/21: Zen and the Art of Situational Hitting

.351/.387/.524 - The Twins' team slash line with less than two outs and men on third in 2015.
.489/.460/.766 - The Twins' team slash line with one out and men on third in 2015.
.000/.100/.100 - The Twins team slash line under the above circumstances today.

They simply have to do better than this to compete in the upcoming season.  And if that means trying to get the ball in play softly, instead of trying to hit home runs (Brian Dozier, Carlos Quentin, Oswaldo Arcia) or take a worthless base on balls (Kurt Suzuki,) let it be it.   And the problem here is that at least 3 of the aforementioned 4 will make the 2016 Twins, but still have not understood those fundamentals.

Today's Twins' game was closer that the box score would suggest.  Also based on today's play, I am about to make a prognostication:

Prognostication:  Danny Santana won a job in the 25-man roster for 2016.

Santana was one of the few Twins who played like they wanted to get a job today.  Two good hits in his first plate appearances and good follow ups on the bases, negate loosing the ball in the sun at RF in the later innings.  He played like he wanted that job, and I think that it is his to lose.

Albeit, Carlos Quentin did not do so.  Struck out twice with a man on third and less than two outs, and was a disaster about to be made in first with the globe (but thankfully did not happen.)

Byron Buxton was pretty awful today.  Yes, he took first on bases on balls by avoiding slapping at balls in the dirt in the first inning and moved to second on a mistake, but failed to score from second on a smoking single to RF corner by Santana in the same inning.   Hard time in the rest of his plate appearances and the cherry on top was the 3 pitch strikeout in his last inning.  Pretty sure that Buxton does not get it, and I don't know what he needs to get it.  The one thing that he does not need is pampering and false hopes and  major league roster sports.  He has to start at AAA, until he can prove that he is the hitter people hoped he will be.  Also, he looks at least one step slower, since he was called out on a ball that he hit to deep short, a ball that he would have beaten last season easily for an infield single.  Unless he did not get slower, but got lazier.  Regardless, the big leagues are way above his head right now and I hope that the Twins brass do not make the mistake to bring him up North soon.

Kyle Gibson made another brilliant appearance, allowing mainly ground balls.  His outing was very much like the one I described a few days ago.    Likely will be the Twins second or third starter this season. 

Taylor Rogers who relieved Gibson had a good outing with a fastball between 86 and 91 mph and a curve between 75 and 77.  Nothing spectacular, and had a lot of us on an edge, but it was effective.

So was Glen Perkins'.  He threw fastballs at 91, 91, 91, 89, 89, 94, 89, and 89 mph and two sliders at 78 and 81 mph in an 1-2-3 inning.  About 3-4 mph below where he should be, but...

Casey Fien threw his fastball between 88 and 91 mph, a single slider at 83 and a single changeup at 79 mph, retiring everyone he faced.

Trevor May had a fastball of 91-94, changeup in the low 80s, and a curveball about 75-76, but was not effective and did not have even a decent defense behind him

I expect more than a few cuts today.  Tomorrow the Twins are playing the Orioles in the Hammond Stadium at 1:05 PM local time.

3/20/16

2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. 3/20: Santana, Sano and the Yankees

The Minnesota Twins played the New York Yankees this afternoon at Hammond Stadium, featuring a lineup that could very well be their opening day lineup. 

The starter, Ervin Santana, pitched better than what you will see when you see his line score.  He threw 69 pitches, mostly fastballs (91-94 mph; at some point right after the balk, he hit a 95, a 96 and a 97 mph in a row), sliders 82-84 mph and changeups 84-86 mph.  All of his pitches were working well and he was getting both looking and swinging strikes.   In the second inning, that he needed 21 pitches, he was squeezed badly by the home plate umpire who did not call the low strike he called in the previous evening and for Ivan Nova all night long.  Santana is in mid-season form and will be the Twins' opening day starter, as discussed here about 40 days ago.

Fernando Abad relieved Santana in the 6th inning and threw four kinds of pitches: a 90-92 mph Fastball, which did not fare well since it either was a ball or was contacted, and a couple times for hits, a 76-78 mph Curveball that was much better, a single 74 mph changeup that was taken for a strike and a single 87 mph cutter was was a ball.  Not a clean inning by any means, but it was workable.  Would Abad be better than any of the other LHRP possibilities in the Twins' pen?  I am not sure and he has not really pulled away from the competition.

Speaking of, JR Graham at this point is not a major league caliber pitcher.  In addition to 20 lbs, he lost at least 2 mph in his (straight) fastball that now tops at 94 mph.  Not a pretty picture today by any means.

On the other hand, the Rule 5 draft pick two seasons before the Twins selected Graham, Ryan Pressly, looks like he belongs to the Twins pen.  He threw a 94-96 mph fastball that had too much movement for the opposing batters to turn, a pretty nasty cutter/slider at 86-89 mph, and a solid 81-83 mph curve.  He will definitely be an upgrade to the Twins pen, but will he be enough if he is the only one?

On errors:  Miguel Sano "booted" a ball in the Right Field when he moved to his left to get in the right trajectory of a line drive, he did, but it hit the base of his glove.  E9.   On the other hand, Brain Dozier "booted" a ball earlier in that evening, when he decided to dive for a ball that was totally catchable without a dive.  Botched dive,  scored as a hit.

Carlos Quentin might be the stiffest baseball player I have seen play, and this includes such notables as Brian Buscher and Joshua Willingham.  He came in to play first relieving Joe Mauer in the late innings and made a fairly comical play.  When the ball touches a bat, Quentin puts his head down without looking at the ball and heads to first base to receive the ball potentially.   In one of those instances the ball hit less than a foot in front of him, without him being either away or interested.  Tailor made 3-6-3 double play, it just did not happen, and it is a shame.   I just cannot see how the Twins can bring this guy up North, because what he brings is close to what Park brings to the table but will less glove and bat.  Sorry Carlos, nice knowing you.

Speaking of Byung Ho Park:  Great adjustment in his first plate appearance:  Ivan Nova definitely schooled not to throw anything but stuff outside the zone, started with 2 curveballs in the dirt, that Park took for balls.  Then he threw a couple of chin low fastballs that Park missed swinging, but however adjusted and took the next 2 fastballs in the same location for balls and a walk.   Great to see this from Park. 

Good double for Byron Buxton in the base of the wall and over the outfielders' head in the 5th.  However there was a problem:  JR Murphy who was on first, did not even attempt to score, a thing that he would have done easily and Buxton was robbed by a triple, a thing he would have done easily.  There were zero outs, but the Twins have to be more aggressive in the bases this season, and really there is nothing much to lose, esp. in the Spring Training, being so...

Tomorrow the Twins are hosting the Pirates at Hammond Stadium, with Kyle Gibson getting the starting node.

3/19/16

2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. 3/19: Rainy Day Fields Two and Three

The thunderstorm system that caused havoc in Central Florida and the Grapefruit League and cancelled the Twins' game against the Pirates in Bradenton, hit Fort Myers with its tail end and cut action in the Minor League Fields short.   Here are my notes from today:

With the Twins A+ and A teams playing at home against those of the Red Sox, I was looking forward to see Nick Gordon in action.  Alas, he is still out injured.

Andro Cutura, the Twins 7th round pick in the 2014 draft from Southeastern Louisiana University has never been on my radar, but now he will.  He has an interesting 4 pitch mix: four-seamer, two-seamer, slider/cutter and a changeup.  They all overlap in velocity and his range is up to 91 for the four-seamer and down to 81 mph for the changeup.  He has great command and control of all his pitches and thew all of them in any count.  All of his pitches have the potential of being swing and miss pitches.  His velocity range is somewhat atypical for successful pitches, but his command is also atypical.  He utilizes the whole zone, up, down, in and out, and he is not afraid to throw a sinker or a cutter in the dirt for the hitters to change.  His windup will bring memories of Juan Berenguer to the older Twins' fans, since he starts it with both of his glove and ball arms extended in front of him.  Easy mechanics with a small pause right before his release, which is enough to confuse the hitters.  He pitched 3 great innings striking out 5 and having the rest of the hitters ground out.  He fell apart in his fourth inning of work, allowing 4 consecutive singles after his first fly out.  Not sure whether there stamina issues (the 22 year old missed all of 2014 recovering from injury) or whether his excellent sinker and cutter flatten when he pitches form the stretch, which was the case today.   Definitely someone who is not a household name, to keep an eye on.

Logan Wade, the 24 year old Australian who had an excellent 2013 in Elizabethton and then he fell off the face of the earth, looked very good today.   In his first plate appearance, he singled to the opposite field,  was successful in a delayed steal of second base when the ball was pitched in the dirt, and  then scored from second on a single by TJ White to shallow right field.  In his next plate appearance he hit a line drive home run to the opposite (right) field as a right hand batter against Boston's LHP Jalen Beeks.

Speaking of TJ White, the 24 year old Twins' 18th round draft pick in 2014 from UNLV, has been riding a 4 AB hitting streak that he extended to 6 with singles in his first 2 plate appearances. 

Max Murphy, also 24 and the 9th round pick of the 2014 draft, had another excellent day with a long home run and a shoestring catch in the outfield.   I wrote what he did about days ago here.

Brian Navarreto, the 21 year old Twins 6th round pick in 2013 from Jacksonville, FL Arlington Day School, looked definitely bigger in statute from last Spring.  At this point he looks bigger than Adam Walker.  Navarreto was always regarded as a good catcher, but his hitting was been more than suspect.   He has a very good plate appearance with a single at the opposite field, after he swang wildly at a breaking ball in the dirt, but let the next one go for a ball.  There are some hopeful signs but there is still a lot of work necessary.