9/4/17

Jim Souhan does not have to be afraid of Twins' bloggers, trolls, or windmills

Longtime Twin Cities sports columnist Jim Souhan wrote a column titled On Minnesota Twins and cowardly trolls yesterday.   The trigger was likely that a lot of people had the audacity to disagree publicly with his opinion regarding his column.  The one suggesting that Miguel Sano is overweight and that is a problem with his performance, when the kid had an All Star season, and not to mention the timing of the article, while Sano is battling an injury and trying to get healthy to help the Twins in their post-season run.  So Souhan wanted to diminish the opinions of his critics wrote this about them:  These untethered-from-reality bloggers are trolls, liars, plagiarists and frauds. But mostly, they’re cowards.  According to him unless one has Access to the Twins' Front Office (being tethered-to-reality) cannot have an opinion about the team.

I think that Souhan does not get the following:
  • Access, and esp. Access to this team, disqualifies from objectivity. For example: Give a single person with Access who wanted Ryan's or Gardenhire's head on a plate after years and years of ineptness?  Why hasn't Souhan written anything negative and pointing the finger on eg. Ryan's inability to improve this team in the 2015 deadline?  Or Gardenhire's inability to win at the post-season?  Just like he targeting Sano.  It should be all fair game.  But no. Because if it is, his Access might be in play. Thus someone with Access, like Souhan, cannot really give you an objective opinion on things that might take away his or her Access.In other words: He, Souhan, who threw the first stone, is the coward in this situation. 
  • He does not understand the mechanics of information distribution and opinion distribution (and the right of people to have opinions a. different than his and b. about his writings) in the 21st Century. He calls people with Access, like Brandon and Seth , "bloggers" (albeit of the "good " kind.) Last time I checked, they are both his peers with press credentials, just like his, and making $, like him, by writing down stuff about baseball, and their opinions, like he does.The fact that they started as bloggers has nothing to do with the fact that they are his peers, and he should not discount them or try to diminish them. Phil Mackey and Doogie Woofson started as bloggers also. Are they that now according to Souhan?  I guess he does not understand that the way that information (and opinion) flows today, does not require membership in a certain old mens' club, or even Access. But Souhan wants to protect his little exclusivity of information and the way it used to move last millennium. Hate to bring it to him, but his "reality" has been steamrolled, no matter how delusional he may pretend to be about it.
  • In that piece, intentionally or not, he confirmed his MO: his Access allows him to get information from certain people in the Front Office about players that he then spews, with those FO people's blessing, and throws their targets publicly under the bus, being those (coward, because they are un-named?) Front Office people's mouthpiece. Bravo!
  • Last, but not least:Being one of Souhan's targets (A blogger, with no Access - who never wants Access because of that first bullet up there among other things, and decide to spent my own money to watch every Twins' game and the team in Spring Training, unlike him) my reaction to this article was a huge thumbs up.  He is so scared of people who "dare" to have an opinion opposed to his ,  than when they voice it publicly, it moves him to write a whole article about how better his point of view is because he has Access and because he get direct dirt from the Twins' Front Office.  I did not write a blog about his article, the same with other Twins' "coward" bloggers, I just found it insignificant to bother with. However, he chose to write an article defending his personal status quo attack by "coward" bloggers (whose opinion should not matter, because they do not have Access.)We've come a long way, baby!
  • And here is the cherry:  Souhan called Twins' bloggers without Access "trolls".  I suspect that he wanted to prove that he is "with the times."  Here is the definition of an internet troll:   A troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.  And that piece by Souhan, is such a prime example of trolling...

7/25/17

Who is the newest Twins' pitcher Jaime Garcia?

The Minnesota Twins have announced that they have traded their 20th prospect 19 year old RHP Huascar Ynoa to the Atlanta Braves for 31 year old LHP Jaime Garcia and 33 year old minor league C Anthony Recker.  Recker was assigned to AAA Rochester to provide catching depth, esp. in a situation where AAA star c Mitch Garver is promoted to the Twins.  Jaime Garcia will assume a spot on top of the Twins' rotation, and he will be a free agent after this season.  Who is the newest Twin?

Jaime Omar Garcia was born on July 8th of 1986 in the border city of Reynosa, Mexico, on the South bank of Rio Grande, finished the Sharyland High School across the river in Mission, TX, situated about 12 miles away from the Alamo.  He was drafted as a High School senior by the Baltimore Orioles in the 30th round of the 2004th draft; however the Braves did not sign him because of a failed test.  He was drafted in the 25th round by the Cardinals in 2005 and signed with them.  He started his pro career next season, at the single A Quad City Swing of the Midwest League, where he started 13 games (77-2/3 IP), and went 5-4, with a 2.90 ERA, 2.19 FIP, 9.3 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 1.09 WHIP/.309 BABIP.  Midseason he moved to High A Florida State League Palm Beach Cardinals, where he started another 13 games  (77-1/3 IP) and went also 5-4, with a 3.84 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 5.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, and 1.29 WHIP/.327 BABIP.

The Cardinal have seen enough of him in those 155 innings in his first pro season to promote him all the way to AA Springfield Cardinals of the Texas League in 2007.    Those 155 innings (plus 12-2/3 in the winter) seem a lot for a pitcher right after High School and might have negatively affected Garcia.  For AA Springfield Garcia started 18 games (103-1/3 IP) with a record of 5-9, 3.75 ERA, 4.49 FIP, 8.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, and 1.34 WHIP/.281 BABIP before he was shut down during the All Star Break with a UCL sprain.   He started the next season again in Springfield where he started in 6 games (35 IP) with a 3-2 record, 2.06 ERA, 2.53 FIP, 10.5 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.20/.302 BABIP before he was promoted to AAA International League Memphis Cardinals where he started in 6 12 games (71 IP) with a 4-4 record, 4.44 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 7.5 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.41/.315 BABIP, before he was promoted to the major league Cardinals in his 3rd full pro season after High School as a 21 year old.  He pitched in 10 games (1 start) before the elbow finally gave up in August and needed Tommy John surgery in September.   He missed the whole 2009 season recovering from surgery, other than rehab assignments;  he returned to the Cardinals in 2010,where he started 28 games (163-1/3 IP) going 13-8, with a 2.70 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.32 WHIP/.292 BABIP and finished 3rd in the Rookie of the year voting.

2011 was his first fully healthy season as a major leaguer, starting 32 games (194-2/3 IP), going 13-7 with a 3.56 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 1.320 WHIP/.292 BABIP.  The Cardinals went on to the postseason.  Garcia started a game in the Division Series, and 2 games each in the Championship Series and World Series, getting a World Series ring. He pitched a total of 25-2/3 innings, upping his season (and career) total to 220-1/3.  Next season, 2012, he started only 21 games, including one in the post season, because of shoulder issues that were diagnosed as labrum and rotator cuff strain and inflammation.  In 2013 he pitched only 9 games because he needed shoulder surgery to repair a partial tear of his labrum and torator cuff.  He returned in 2014 to pitch only 7 games before he needed Thoracic Outlet Surgery.  Back healthy in the second half of 2015, he started 20 games (129-2/3 IP), and fully healthy in 2016 (32 G, 171-2/3 IP) before traded to the Braves for 3 low level prospects last off-season.

We have seen his recent stats as a major leaguer, so I am not going to discuss them here.  The Twins are getting a rental, but with his medical history, they should be glad that that is all they are getting.  One of his splits that is worth mentioning is that he has started a career 20 games against the Americal League, pitching 119 innings, going 6-7 with a 4.39 ERA, 1.311 WHIP, 6.3 K/9 and 2.5 K/BB.  These numbers are those of a solid mid-rotation starter, for example just a hair behind Ervin Santana's career numbers (4.05 ERA, 1.271 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.53 BB/9).  You can read a recent full scouting report here, but distilled, Garcia has a four-seamer and two-seamer in the 90-92 mph range (in that report indicates a velocity drop through the game),  a passable slider and curve that he rarely throws and a plus change up that is his out pitch.  Plus command and control of his pitches, esp. the fastball and setting up the change is his game plan.   All in all he will likely be the 3rd best pitcher with the Twins, behind Jose Berrios and Santana (if Santana stays).  This will likely cost Bartolo Colon a spot, with Adalberto Mejia and Kyle Gibson (both have options) taking the last 2 spots of the rotation with injured Hector Santiago, a free agent this off season, a question mark.

But the Twins are not done dealing.  As a matter of fact, they just started.






6/12/17

5 things to look for the Twins 2017 MLB draft first day (along with 15 potential draftee names)

The Twins have the first selection in the MLB draft that starts at 6PM EDT tonight in New York City, and there has been a lot of discussion about the first pick of the draft overall.  Here are 5 things to look for tonight when the first couple of rounds happen:

1. Who is the most signable College pitcher at number one?  The Twins have been on the clock since the last day of the 2016 season, and have been discussing potential targets since that day, and have been having discussions with these targets about bonus money recently.   The indication is that the Twins will take a College pitcher at number one.  Kyle Wright (3-5, 3.40 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 10.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 in 2017) was the most prominent name, until last week when Brendan McKay (10-3, 2.34 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9) became the favorite.  Here is an analysis about who is the best College pitcher based on potential and numbers.  However, the Twins will go after signability and select the pitcher who will come at a bigger discount to potentially spend some of that money in their supplemental (35th) and second (37th overall) round picks.  Survey says the pick will be McKay; I will not be surprised if it is Wright or even J.B Bukauskas (9-1, 2.52 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, 3.6 BB/9) or Alex Faedo (7-2, 2.61 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 11.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9) whose numbers are close to McKay's this season.  But McKay is the only lefty among the group and the consensus at this point among the Draft pundits.  But the day is still young.

2. Will the Twins address catching the first day?  The Twins have a need for a long term catcher.  Last season they selected Wisconsin prep Ben Rortvedt who has trouble adjusting to wooden bat, and even-though he is far away from being called a "bust", he is on his way, hitting just .167/.252/.205 in single A Cedar Rapids.  The two best catchers on the board in a not-strong catching class are preps this season: Luis Campusano from Augusta, GA, and M.J. Melendez from Palmetto Bay, FL.  Even though they are better baseball competition states than WI, I have a hard time seeing them repeating that mistake, and will likely wait until the third round and select one of the Collegiates Riley Adams (San Diego), Evan Skoug (TCU), or Connor Wong (Houston), with Skoug being the favorite to remain at C long term.

3. How much does "make up" matter to the new heads of the Twins?  There are players on every draft that have fallen because of "make up" issues, usually based on bad decisions that they made.  In the past the Twins have selected Steven Gonsalves who had fallen because of such issues.  Is the current team willing to take a talent like Seth Romero (who was kicked out of the Houston team for smoking marijuana, breaking curfew and fighting with a teammate) or even Luke Heimlich (who as a 15 year old was found guilty of molestation of a 6-year old relative)?  I would personally sign Romero and stay away from Heimlich, but will be interesting to see what the Twins will do.

4. Will the Twins still be willing to sign upper Midwest players despite recent disappointments?  The Twins have been known to sign "local talent", bright and early, despite every time this has happened the last 10 years, resulted in disappointment.  The upper Midwest does not have the level of competition, both  Collegiate and Prep that warmer climates have where athletes can play baseball all around and do not trade their cleats for skates in the winter time.  Ben Rortvedt, 2016 round 2 from WI, and Dereck McCallum, 2009 Round 4 from the University of Minnesota, being their highest upper midwest draft picks, and even-though the book might still be out on the former, the latter left baseball after three disappointing professional seasons.  This year's upper Midwest player with a lot of helium is Sam Carlson, from Burnsville, MN.  Will the Twins sign him if he is available with pick number 35 over the aforementioned more talented LHP Seth Romero who has been successful against better competition and is more MLB-ready?   We will see.

5. When will the Twins go after hitters?   The conventional wisdom is that teams should draft the best player available instead of need.  However, "best player" available is horribly subjective, and mostly a guess work, whereas "need" is objective and painful.   And the Twins need arms.  Conventional wisdom also suggests that if the Twins get the best player, they can trade him in a season or two for need, but the Twins have never done that recently.  It will be interesting to see how they will spend their picks number 35 and 37 and whether they will go after a hitter.  Another need in the organization is outfield, there are not many non-project outfielders who can help the Twins in a year or two in this class, assuming that both Adam Haseley (Virginia) and Evan White (Kentucky) are gone by the 35th pick.   If one of them is available, it will be hard to pass.  I would personally go after LHP Seth Romero and a prep pitcher, like RHP Alex Scherff who has a plus fastball and a plus changeup at this point.


6/9/17

Exclusive: Hunter Greene projection

Hunter Greene now:



Hunter Greene a bit past his prime:



Yes.  The fact that he looks like Livan Hernandez's kid scares me.
 


5/11/17

Early AL Cy Young Award contenders include a Twins' pitcher

The second week of May is super early to start predicting post-season awards, but Twins' RHP Ervin Santana remains in the top 3 to win the AL Cy Young this season.

Here are the top 5 AL pitchers based on several criteria that Cy Young voters are usually considering:

Wins:

1 Ervin Santana (5)
1 Dylan Bundy (5)
1 Dallas Keuchel (5)
1 Masahiro Tanaka (5)
2 Hector Santiago and 5 more (4)

Innings Pitched:

1 Keuchel (52-2/3)
2 Chris Sale (51-2/3)
3 Carlos Carasco (48-1/3)
4 E. Santana (47)
5 Bundy (45-2/3)
5 Yu Darvish (45-2/3)

ERA:

1 Jason Vargas (1.19)
2 James Paxton (1.43)
3 E. Santana (1.72)
4 Carasco (1.86)
5 Keuchel (1.88)

Strikeouts:

1. Sale (73)
2. Lance McCullers (50)
3. Danny Salazar (49)
4. Chris Archer (48)
5. Carasco (46)
5. Darvish (46)

All the rankings and statistics are from fangraphs  as of 5/10/2017.

As a mater of fact, only Ervin Santana, Dallas Keuchel, and Carlos Carasco place in 3 out of 4 of those categories, and no pitcher places in all 4 categories.

It will be an interesting race to watch.  As a reminder, the last Twins' Cy Young award winner, was eleven years ago, Santana's namesake, Johan, who won the award unanimously.  Will another Santana bring some hardware to the Twin Cities?  We shall find out in about 6 months.  Everything is possible, especially since the Cy Young races have been very close the last few years with last years' almost a virtual tie.  Still very surprising for a team that has started the season (and the last 10 season after the other Santana left) without an "Ace" pitcher. 

5/10/17

Who is the best college pitcher for the Twins with the 1st overall 2017 pick? Ranking J.B. Bukauskas, Alex Faedo, Brendan McKay, and Kyle Wright

The Twins have the first overall selection in the 2017 draft the coming June, and the likely path is that they bypass the Helium and risk associated with Prep LHR/SS Tyler Greene, and will select the best College pitcher available.  Who might that be?  The Twins have been scouting  J.B. Bukauskas, Alex Faedo, Brendan McKay, and Kyle Wright.  Who of them is the best, at least on paper?

Here are their lifetime NCAA stats in several categories, including PE (if not familiar with that measure please look here and here)  The best in a category is indicated with green and the worst with red:




Clearly, Brendan McKay has has the best NCAA career, with Faedo second, mainly because his advantage over walking opponents.

Career is a long time, and usually recent performance is more indicative of future potential, so here is a comparison of their 2017 seasons:




Other than wins and losses and ERA, measurements that are not always the best to use in evaluating pitchers,  McKay has been the best this season, with Faedo losing a step to Bukauskas and Wright rounding up the quarter.

If I were to rank the four pitchers based on objective measurement criteria, the ranking would be:

  1. Brendan McKay
  2. J.B. Bukauskas
  3. Alex Faedo 
  4. Kyle Wright
However, this needs to be cross-checked with scouting-based subjective rankings, that take into consideration potential upside based on quality of pitches, personal character and make up, health, etc.

In Baseball America's top 2017 draft prospect rankings, the four rank:
  1. Brendan McKay
  2. Kyle Wright 
  3. JB Bukauskas
  4. Alex Faedo
which is also the exact ranking of the four in MLB.com's top draft ranking.

Looking at a mixed objective measurement and scout ranking list, awarding 4,3,2,1 points to players depending on their position in each of those rankings (both the object and subjective), the four would rank as follows (total points in parenthesis.)

  1. Brendan McKay (8)
  2. JB Bukauskas (5)
  3. Kyle Wright (4)
  4. Alex Faedo (3)
There you have it.  Brendan McKay is well ahead of the pack, with the other 3 inch by inch and Bukauskas just a hair ahead of Wright because of their 2017 performance. Alex Faedo lags the pack a bit, mainly because of what the scouts think about him.











5/9/17

Who is the Newest Twin: The Twins Trade Ervin Santana for Aroldis Chapman

Not quite.  I was watching the Rochester Red Wings at the Lehigh Valley IronPigs last night, while my phone pinked a message saying that "The Twins Traded Santana for LHP Chapman."  Digging a bit more, I found out that the trade involved the lesser versions of Santana and Chapman, Danny, who has been Designated for Assignment last week, and the Braves minor league free agent Kevin Chapman.   Who is the newest Twin, Kevin Chapman?

Chapman is an interesting story: He was drafted 3 times:  Once after a high school senior, in the 42nd round of the 2006, by Detroit and did not sign.  At that point, Champan, who had been an impressive High School prospect with a plus plus slider, had his stock fall as his velocity did through the season and was finally diagnosed with elbow tendonitis.  The elbow tendonitis became a full blown UCL tear in the University of Florida and he had Tommy John surgery as a Sophomore in 2008.   He was drafted as a draft-eligible sophomore in the 50th round of 2009 by the White Sox and did not sign.  His Junior season in College was a break-through season, and the lefty, was a poor man's Aroldis Chapman with an up to 95 mph fastball,  the return of his devastating slider, and the addition of a very workable change up.  Chapman became the closer in Florida, pitching in 31 games, in the tune of 1.65 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, striking out 9.1 per 9 and walking only 1.4 per nine.  He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 5th round of the 2010 draft, the next season, after starting this professional career at High A Wilmington (Carolina League) was anointed a top 20 prospect in that organization, which was full by top prospects then, by Baseball America that described his slider as the best in the Royals' organization.  He was a closer in waiting, like the other Chapman

But the waiting turned out to be prolonged, mainly because upon turning a pro Chapman lost the command of his pitches, allowing hitters to lay off the slider that now has been mostly in the dirt and sitting on a fastball that now was mostly on the middle of the plate.  In his 2 seasons with the Royals, albeit up to AA in his second season, Chapman allowed more than a hit an inning and about 4 walks per nine despite striking out 13 per 9 in his second season.  At that point the Royals traded him to the fast rebuilding Houston Astros for reserve outfielder Jason Bourgeois and backup catcher Humberto Quintero.   He pitched the next (2012) season with the Astros' AA Corpus Christi Hooks (Texas League) where, as a teammate of current Twins' OF Robbie Grossman, he found some command of his stuff.  Chapman pitched 58 innings in 49 games, allowing only 49 hits and 2 HRs, and despite walking 21, he struck out 50, finishing the season with a 2.64 ERA and 1.40 WHIP; he was declared the Astros' 17th best prospect by Baseball America.

In 2013 he started the season in AAA Oklahoma City, where he has been also effective (45 G, 50-2/3 IP, 42 H, 2 HR, 36 BB, 61K, 3.20 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) that despite the high walk rate that now was up to more than 6 per 9 innings, was called up to the Astros in early August where pitching well enough (25 G, 20-1/3 IP, 13 H, 1 HR, 13 BB, 15K, 1.77 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)  to start next season in Houston.  However behind his 1.77 ERA, the was a 4.28 FIP and a 5.05 xFIP and the driver for his 1.28 WHIP was a .211 BABIP, and after 20 games in 2014 his numbers normalized (21 G, 21-1/3 IP, 22 H, 3 HR, 11 BB, 19K, 4.64 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) and returned to AAA by late April.  He was only to be recalled for a total of 12 games the next 2 seasons by the now competing Astros before he left as a free agent signing a minor league contract with the Braves.  This season he pitched in AAA International League Gwinnett and the early returns look pretty atrocious on the surface:  (9 G, 11-2/3 IP, 14 H, 1 HR, 3 BB, 10K, 7.71 ERA, 1.46 WHIP).  However behind these numbers there is a career low 2.31 BB/9, a 3.67 FIP and career best 3.28 xFIP and an ugly .371 BABIP.  The now 29-year-old's fastball is not where it used to be, but it is a more controllable 90-92 mph, his slider is still effective in the high 70s and his change up, albeit in the mid low 80s, has been move effective than anticipated.

Chapman will live by the strikeout and ground balls (2.7 ground balls per fly ball, a bit above his career average, this season) and die by the walks and fastballs down the middle.  It is too early to tell which version will play for the Red Wings (and maybe if good enough for the Twins) but this is overall a good trade for the Twins, replacing Danny Santana who fell behind Eduardo Escobar and Ahire Adrianza in the majors (and maybe even Tommy Field in AAA) with Chapman who is a serviceable lefty reliever (who will not require a 40-man spot allowing the Twins to keep one free) and can potentially surprise.   Positively.  Even if his first name is not Aroldis. 

4/25/17

Is Twins' 1B Joe Mauer about to have a breakthrough season?

Joe Mauer, the Twins catcher-turned-first baseman because of the effects of a concussion, has just turned 34 years old and the usual pundits came out of the woodwork to say that Mauer is pretty much done.   But is this the case?    Mauer has signed a contract extension on 3/20/2010 up to and including his 2018 season, for $23 million a season.  According to the fangraphs, dollar's value equation, so far Mauer has provided the Twins a $291.3 million dollar value, while the Twins have paid about $150 million dollars, a close 2-1 bargain for the team. It is true that Mauer's performance the last three season has not been in par with his performance at his peak, and the value he has provided to the team has underperformed his contractual pay, which has been a big part of the sports show chatter in Minnesota the last few seasons, in par with the Twins' miserable showing.

But is this about to change?    In the previously mentioned article, the author suggests that "this spring, hitting the ball hard was very much an exception for Mauer, and there has been almost none of that to start the season".  Thankfully, modern technology has provided us with Statcast measures of exit velocity from a hitter's bat.  The up to date data is here.   Sorting by average exit velocity, Twins' fans will be thrilled that Miguel Sano is leading the league in hard hit balls with 98.1 mph, way ahead of the second place Joey Gallo with 95.8 mph.    Scrolling down a bit, once will see the who is who of the leagues power hitters, and tied with Joe Napoli at 90.9 mph, and ahead of sluggers like Bryce Harper, Yoenis Cespedes, Mike Trout, and Edwin Encarnacion among others,  is Twins' own first baseman Joe Mauer.   The average of his average exit velocity the last two seasons (Statcast was not previously available) was 89.8, a full mph plus lower; and average exit velocities are usually depressed early in the season when it is colder.  So that 90.9 mph will likely get higher.

The fact is that, unlike certain perceptions, Joe Mauer is hitting the ball very hard in this young season.  Add to this fact that, unlike the last few seasons,  Mauer's K% is only 7%, and this season has all the makings for a breakthrough season by Mauer.   How is this possible with a .224/.268/.254 slash line?   Looking at the batted ball date, his BABIP is .242 this season.  His career BABIP (that drives his batting average) is .339.  The previous three seasons (down seasons) his BABIP was averaging .317.   If someone assumes a regression to the last 3 season average BABIP, his current .224 batting average  projects to a .293 batting average.   His current isoD that drives OBP is at .044,  and current isoP that drives slugging percentage is at .030, while his last 3 year averages are at .086 and .119 respectively.  This indicates that upon regression to his last 3 (down) seasons, we are looking at a .293/.379/. 412 slash line for Mauer.  This is a .791 OPS something that we have not seen by Mauer since 2013, and this assumes that he will regress to the performance of the last 3 seasons,  not taking into account the dramatic decreases in strikeouts and increase in hard hit balls.  

Can Joe Mauer have an .850 or .900 OPS season for the Twins in 2017?   All the signs say that it is probable, regardless that being his "foreboding" age 34 season.

4/24/17

Who is the newest Twins' pitcher, Nick Tepesch?

In order for the Twins to stop their recent slide, they have started the Rochester shuffle to improve the parent club.  They optioned LHSP Adalberto Mejia to AAA, placed RHP Justin Haley to the 10-day DL, and replaced them by 1B/DH Kennys Vargas and LHRP Buddy Boshers.   After the Tigers' series ended on Sunday, they optioned Boshers to Rochester.  It looks like RHP Nick Tepesch will be his replacement on the 25-man roster; however Tepesch is not on the 40 man roster and the Twins will need to open a space (perhaps by placing LHRP Ryan O'Rourke who has been on the 10-day DL with a flexor mass pronator strain, to the 60-day DL.)

Tepesch is a 6-4, 225 lbs, 28 year old righty from Kansas City, MO.  He was drafted by Boston in the 28th round on the 2007 draft from Blue Springs (MO) High School, but declined to sign and went to the University of Missouri.  There he was a General Architecture major and 2009 Academic All-Big 12 Conference.  Tepesch was at the Missouri bullpen his Freshman season and moved to the rotation his Sophomore and Junior seasons.  As a Collegiate he participated in 55 games (30 starts) pitching 213 innings,  striking out 176 (7.4 K/9) and walking 67 (2.8 BB/9.)  He ended up with ta 1.49 WHIP and 5.11 ERA.  He was drafted by and singed with the Texas Rangers in the 14th round of the 2010 draft, when current Twins' General Manager Thad Levine, was the Rangers' Assistant GM.  Worth mentioning that his signing bonus was over slot, $400,000, roughly 3rd round bonus money, which means that Levine & Co saw something they liked in Tepesch.

Tepesch rose pretty fast in the Texas system, without being a touted prospect, his highest position was 19th at the 2012 Baseball America list.  He started his pro career in 2011 in the Hickory Crawdads of the South Atlantic League (A).  He pitched 138-1/3 innings in 29 games (23 starts), striking out 118 (20.2 K%, 7.7 K/9) and walking 33 (2.2 BB/9, 14.6 K-BB%), with a 4.03 ERA, 4.13 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP (.328 BABIP).  In the 2012 season he jumped up to the Myrtly Beach Pelicans' rotation (Carolina League, high A), pitching well (12 GS, 71-2/3 IP, 59 K, 18 BB, 1.200 WHIP, .307 BABIP, 2.89 ERA, 3.33 FIP) to warrant a promotin to to the Frisco Roughriders' rotation (Texas League, AA) where he help on his own (16 G, 14 GS, 90-1/3 IP, 68 K, 26 BB, 1.362 WHIP, .312, 4.28 ERA, 4.18 FIP).

In 2013, Tepesch moved up another couple levels:  He started the season in the rotation of the AAA Pacific Coast League Round Rock Express where he pitched in only one game before he moved to the Rangers' rotation on April 9th.  There as a 24 year old he appeared in 19 games (17 starts) pitching 93 innings, striking out 76 (18.7 K%, 7.4 K/9) and walking 27 (2.6 BB/9, 12.0 K-BB) finishing with a 4.84 ERA (4.19 FIP) and 1.37 WHIP (.309 BABIP) and a 4-6 record.  During that season he lost 2 months (July and August) with right elbow inflammation, and return for a start and 2 relief appearances in September.   In 2014 he started the season in Round Rock where he pitched very well (7 GS, 45-2/3 IP, 41 K, 9 BB, 0.985 WHIP, .280 BABIP, 1.58 ERA, 2.91 FIP.)  He was promoted to the bigs on May 14.  His second stint with the Rangers was similar to his first (23 G, 22 GS, 126 IP, 56 K, 44 BB, 1.365 WHIP, .272 BABIP, 4.36 ERA, 5.01 FIP.)  He lost all of the 2015 season with elbow inflammation and thorachic outlet syndrom surgery, spent the 2016 season in the AAA clubs of the Rangers, Athletics, Royals, and Dodgers, before making a single emergency start with the Dodgers on September. 

The Twins signed him to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training and assigned him to AAA Rochester where he made 3 starts (18 IP, 4 BB, 17 K, 2.00 ERA, 2.06 FIP, 1.33 WHIP, .364 BABIP)   He had an opt-out clause on June 1st, so the Twins could have waited another month.  Tepesch has a 87-90 mph fastball, a mid 80s slider/cutter and a high 70s curve ball.  His fastball is an average pitch, but his slider/cutter is close to plus and is his bread and butter pitch.  He uses the curve as a change of pace pitch.  Good command and control of all of his pitches. In 2012 BA said that he had the best slider and the best control in the Texas system.

Tepesch looks like he will move into the role that Haley vacated for the Twins, as a long reliever, and might be in the discussion for the potential fifth starter spot, when it opens on May 6th.  Not an overwhelming pitcher, but someone who can eat innings especially after a short start or during extra innings.

4/14/17

Twins Back Page News: 4/14/2017

As this blog moves into the tenth year of its existence, and enters its Tenth Year Stretch, its content naturally needs to evolve with the times. I suspect that these days, unlike 2007, there are about fifteen daily write-ups of each Twins game each with varying degrees of critical analysis, and many of them data-based.  Nobody needs a sixteenth.  And those reports are better left to be done by people with access, so we all get the nice quotes that only access can provide.    The Twins Back Page News are all about things that are either important enough, but have slipped between the cracks, or interestingly enough, but nobody cares to cover them or analyze them.  Also expect things out of the left field and less serious.  My goal is for this to be a unique compilation of Twins' things, and I would love your feedback about how it works  (or not) and what else you would like to see here.  You can find the complete series in reverse chronological order here.  This is the piece for 4/14/2017.
  • The Twins are entering this weekend at 6-3 on top of the AL Central, tied with Detroit and one and half games ahead of the White Sox, and two ahead of Cleveland.  They are playing all 3 teams, starting with the White Sox and ending with Detroit in a long homestead.   If the Twins keep winning series from division rivals and home and staying close and do not get swept away, it will be a fun spring (and summer.)  Let's see them go 3-0 in their next 3 series. 
  • A word of caution:  The Twins are second in team ERA in the AL with 2.77 (3.66 for starters and 1.44 for relievers), but the team FIP is 4.13, the team BABIP is .217 and they are dead last in the AL with 6.8 K/9.  It looks like a regression might be at works, but as long as they are winning ball games, all will be good.
  • As far as hitting goes, they are first in the AL in walks, which drives them to the 5th best OBP (.335).  With their 10th best batting average (.231) and their 11th best slugging (.378) results to a middle of the road 7th overall OPS (.713).  
  • In addition to Miguel Sano (.310/.459/.793) who has been a monster, Jason Castro (.316/.536/.526), Robbie Grossman (.316/.536/.526) and Chris Gimenez (.333/.538/.444) have been fantastic this early season.  Compared to 2016, the duo of Castro and Gimenez at Catcher is light years ahead.
  • RHP Justin Haley, who averages 9 K/9  and has not allowed a walk in 8 innings pitched this season, has picked his first career save in a 3 inning relief appearance against the Tigers on Thursday.
  • It looks like Twins manager Paul Molitor is regretting his decision to start with 13 pitchers.
  • Twins' 1B/DH ByungHo Park was placed on the AAA 7-day disabled list with a hamstring strain.  He was hitting .375/.444/.563 in the young Rochester season.
  • The Twins are one of nine MLB clubs that have extended safety netting.
  • According to Forbes, the Twins are the 22nd most valuable MLB team, with a value of $1.03B, a 13% increase from last season.   Who would had thought that 103 loses translates to 13% increase in value... 
  • After Jeremy  has been DFA'd by the Nationals, Twins' RHP Brandon Kintzler is one of only three MLB players with Utah connections.
  • As far as the Twins' minor league affiliates go, the AAA Rochester Red Wings are tied for the lead on the International League North with a 5-2 record, the AA Chattanooga Lookouts are third and 3 games behind in the Southern League North with a 3-4 record, The high A Fort Myers Miracle is 6th and last, 6.5 games behind in the Florida State League South with an 1-7 record, and the A Cedar Rapids Kernels are third and 1 game behind in the Midwest League Western with a 5-3 record.         
  • RHP Jose Berrios started two games for Rochester, winning them both, pitching for 14 collective innings, striking out 13, walking just one and allowing just an unearned run.  1B/DH Ben Paulsen is leading the international league in OPS with a .429/.455/.905 line in 6 games while contributing 3 HR.
  • Keith Law updated his top 50 prospect list, and their is only one Twins' prospect on it:  SS Nick Gordon at 44.
  • Former Twins signed to minor league contracts:  RHPs Blaine Boyer (Red Sox) and Vance Worley (Marlins), C Eddy Rodriguez (Yankees)
  • OF Josh Romanski who was signed by the Twins before Spring Training and then released returned to his previous team, while RHP Bo Hellquist became a Canary.
  • For some reason Rod Carew investigated the donor of this heart and kidney and found that it was an NFL player.
  • John Sickels profiles former Twins C Stuart Turner who was selected by the Reds in last winter's Rule 5 draft, and discusses whether he can find success in Cincinnati.
  • A former Twins' player, is having his jersey retired by his College.
  • A former Twins' prospect, and now High School baseball coach, has received a prestigious honor by the  Missouri Sports Hall of Fame 
  • After TK donated his personal memorabilia to the Twins for display at Target Field, a former Twins' trainer, is publicly displaying his collection in Sterling, CO.
  • Sounds like the MLB Commissioner is working with the Indians regarding their logo.

4/10/17

Twins Back Page News: 4/10/2017

As this blog moves into the tenth year of its existence, and enters its Tenth Year Stretch, its content naturally needs to evolve with the times. I suspect that these days, unlike 2007, there are about fifteen daily write-ups of each Twins game each with varying degrees of critical analysis, and many of them data-based.  Nobody needs a sixteenth.  And those reports are better left to be done by people with access, so we all get the nice quotes that only access can provide.    The Twins Back Page News are all about things that are either important enough, but have slipped between the cracks, or interestingly enough, but nobody cares to cover them or analyze them.  Also expect things out of the left field and less serious.  My goal is for this to be a unique compilation of Twins' things, and I would love your feedback about how it works  (or not) and what else you would like to see here.  You can find the complete series in reverse chronological order here.  This is the piece for 4/10/2017.

  • With their AL-best record 5-1, the Twins are 1.5 games ahead of the Tigers in the division.  The last time the Twins leading the division by 1.5 or more games was Sunday October 3, 2010, the last day of the 2010 season.  The biggest league they managed in the 2015 season was just one game.
  • The Twins lead the AL in team ERA with 2.04 (2.35 for starters and 1.61 for relievers) and are 5th in team OPS with .732, and 2nd in BB taken.  They are also 2nd in the AL in Fielding Percentage 
  • In the first series of the season the Twins swept the Royals and the bullpen did not give up a single run.  Only 2 of the seven pitchers that were in the Opening Day 2016 bullpen are in the opening day 2017, and one of them, Michael Tonkin, is the likely 25th man with 13 pitchers now.   The second one is Ryan Pressly.  In addition, to these 2, the Twins opened 2016 with the following in their pen: Glen Perkins, Kevin Jepsen, Trevor May, Casey Fien, Fernando Abad. The Twins opened 2016 with  only 12 pitchers.  
  • The other players in the 2016 Opening Day roster not in the 2017?  SPs Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone and Position Players: Kurt Suzuki, Trevor Plouffe, ByungHo Park, John Ryan Murphy, Eduardo Nunez, and Oswaldo Arcia.  There were complaints that the roster did not change much from the 2016 103 loss team, but the more things look the same, the more they prove different. 13 of the 25 players who opened the 2016 season with the Twins (64%) have been replaced in the 2017 opening day roster.  That is the majority.
  • Minor League prospect guru John Sickels is profiling Twins' Rookie Justin Haley here.
  • It will be a long season for the Fort Myers Miracle.  The highest draft picks on their roster are pitchers Sam Clay (4th Round - 2014) and Dereck Rodriguez (6th round - 2011), along with C Brian Navarreto (6th Round - 2013) and IF Chris Paul (6th Round - 2015) and only LHP Lachlan Wells as a legitimate prospect.
  • After the first week of play the Twins affiliates are:  AAA Rochester 3-0 leading the Internatinal League North , AA Chattanooga 2-2 and 1 game behind the Southern League North leaders, A+ Fort Myers 1-3 and 3 games behind the Florida State League South leaders, A Cedar Rapids 2-2 and 2 games behind the Midwest League Western leaders.
  • Former Twins' manager Tom Kelley has donated a whole lot of his personal memorabilia from the Twins' golden age to the team and will be in display at Target Field.
  • This is an interesting article about the Twins' AAA affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings’ chairman Gary Larder and his philosophy about minor league baseball.
  • Former Twins' RHP Joe Nathan, 42, has signed a minor league contract with the Nationals.
  • The Twins swept the Royals 3-0 in the first series of the 2017 season, and the Kansas State Legislature responded accordingly.

4/6/17

First of a New Series: Twins Back Page News: 4/6/2017

This is a somewhat new feature in this blog.  In the past, during the off-season and the trading deadline, I have done news and rumors posts, like this,  and five years ago or so, I did the weekly Random Tuesday Twins' Thoughts, like this, which were very popular.  With the tenth year of this blog, I decided to bring their evolution back as a (hopefully) weekly feature, called Twins Back Page News.  In 2017, unlike in 2007 when this blog started, there is a myriad of ways to get information about what is happening with the Twins.  I suspect that there are about Fifteen daily writeups of each Twins game.  Nobody wants a sixteenth.  And those reports are better left to people with access, so we all get the nice quotes.  

The Twins Back Page News are all about things that are either important enough, but have slipped between the cracks, or interestingly enough (like news regarding former Twins) but nobody cares to cover them or analyze them.  Also expect things out of the left field and less serious.  My goal is for this to be a unique compilation of Twins' things, and I would love your feedback about how it works (or not) and what else you would like to see here.  You can find the complete series in reverse chronological order here.  This is the piece for 4/6/2017.

  • The Twins have won 2 games and clinched their first series.  This included victories by SP Ervin Santana and  Hector Santiago.  Santiago started the 2016 season with the Angels, but Santana who started the season with the Twins got his first victory in 2016 in game 34,  on May 14th at Cleveland.  Progress.
  • Might have been lost in the light of the Twins first Opening Day win for a while, but Jorge Polanco's defense at SS was very good; he participated in a couple of double plays and made a few non-routine plays as well.  
  • Statcast classifies catches made with less than 25% probability to be made, as "5 star catches".   Twins CF Byron Buxton, had the first one of the 2017 season on Opening Day.
  • Apparently  the reason that there were not so many changes this off-season for the Twins, was because manager Paul Molitor convinced the new Chief of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey and new GM Thad Levine that the team was not that bad.  Feel free to be convinced by that article that this was the case.  Or not. 
  • Twins' LHP Stephen Gonsalves who is in AA DL because of shoulder issues, is healthy.  He is being stretched out in Fort Myers before returns to Lookouts rotation.
  • The Twins have signed 24 year old middle infielder Bradley Strong and assigned him to EST. Formerly in the White Sox' organization, played last season with the full A South Atlantic League Kannapolis Intimidators.  Was singed as a SS from Western Carolina, but has played exclusively at second base in the pros.
  • The Twins have also signed 24 year old RHP Chris Anderson who was released by the Dodgers.  He was the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2013 draft from Jacksonville.  He is a Minnesota native who started his pro career as a starter but was mostly a swingman in 2016.  He reached AA last season and pitched in the Arizona Fall League with not very good results.
  • The Twins have released the following minor leaguers: IF Tom Belza,  C Dominic Blanco, OF Leandro Castro,  OF Austin Diemer, OF Jorge Fernandez, RHP Tyler Fox,  OF Roberto Gonzalez, LHP Bo Hellquist, IF Chris Ibarra (signed with Independent American Association League Lincoln Saltdogs), RHP Garrett Kelly RHP Confesor Lara, RHP Jim Miller, RHP Brandon Peterson (signed with the Angels), C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Reynaldo Rodriguez, RHP Seth Rosin, RHP Zach Strecker, LHP Austin Tribby
  • Baseball America published their opinion on the 2016 Twins' International Free Agent class (pay link.)  The Twins signed 24 players with their top signing being Dominican 3B Wander Valdez.  In addition to Valdez, RHP Prelander Berroa (Dominican), SS Jesus Felix (Dominican), RHP Yeremi Garcia (Venezuela), C Victor Heredia (Venezuela), OF Fransisco Martinez (Dominican), RHP Junior Navas (Venezuela), CF Felix Reyes (Dominican), and SS Estamy Urena  (Dominican), are highlighted in the BA Article.  
  • Still early but according to Baseball America's "industry sources", the Twins are concentrating in 9 players for the first overall pick of the 2017 Draft: College: LHP/1B Brendan McKay (Louisville), RHPs JB Bukauskas (North Carolina), Alex Faedo (Florida) and Kyle Wright (Vanderbilt), OF Jeren Kendall (Vanderbilt), 1B Pavin Smith (Virginia); Prep RHP/SS Hunter Greene (CA), and OFs Austin Beck (NC) and Royce Lewis (CA).
  • Former Senators'  four time All-Star 1B/OF Roy Sievers has died; he was 90
  • It looks like former Twins' OF Drew Stubbs will sign with the Giants as a potential replacement for injured former Twins' OF Denard Span.
  • The following former Twins were released by their teams recently and are free agents:   RHP Blaine Boyer (Braves),  LHP Sean Burnett (Phillies), RHP Kevin Jepsen (Diamondbacks), RHP Joe Nathan (Nationals), RHP Mike Pelfrey (Tigers, discussions to sign with the White Sox), OF Jason Pridie (Diamondbacks),  LHP Caleb Thielbar (Marlins), RHP Blayne Weller (Angels)
  • The MLB commissioner might want to fasten the pace of baseball games, however the "slow pace of the game makes it perfect for blind fans".  I admit I never thought about that. 
  • Cooper Tires is sponsoring the Twins (and 9 more MLB teams) and it is featuring an interesting promotion that they call “Buy Four and Score!” where if someone buys four Cooper tires in May, they receive a voucher for home game tickets.  
  • The four pitchers who preceded closer Santiago Casilla for the Athletics' on Opening Day were:  Graveman, Dull, Doolittle, and Madson.  Despite their names, they beat former Twin Ricky Nolasco and the Angels.

4/3/17

How far reaching is the Terry Ryan curse for the Twins?

Tonight the Minnesota Twins won on Opening Day for the first time since 2008.

As a reminder, 2008 was the first season for the Twins after Terry Ryan "retired" and left the team.

2017 is the first season for the Twins after they fired Terry Ryan (for good, I hope.)

Few more monsters and few more curses to conquer, including abandoning the Metrodome...

Annual Prediction: How many games will the Twins win in 2017?

Every season after Spring Training I make my annual prediction on how many games the Twins will win in the coming season, based on observations about how the team looked in Spring Training and sometimes math.  Earlier on in this blog, it was much more about math.  Interesting to look at those earlier projections now.

In 2008 I had them win the division with and 89-73 record.  That would have done it, but won 88 games, tied with the White Sox and lost the tie breaker.
In 2009, I had them winning the division with 90 games. They won the division with 87 games.
In 2010. I had them winning the division without predicting wins; and they did, but did not go far.
In 2011, I had them win the Central with 87 wins.  Then the wheels fell off and finished with 99 losses.
In 2012 for some reason, I did not bother to predict a record despite having an 3 part series analysis called "Can the Twins Rebound?  Part I, Part II, and Part III, but had them wining the Division. Yes, right :)
In 2013, I had them with an 83-79 record.  They went 66-96 and finished 4th in the Division.
In 2014, I had them in the 5th place with a 70-92 record.  I should had played the lottery or Vegas, because that was their exact record.
In 2015, I got some interesting vibes in Spring Training after Gardenhire was fired.  Here is what I wrote:  "This will not be another 90 loss team, unless something weird happens.  80-82 is the baseline.  Another factor:  I did get some 1987-like excitement there, like this might be a magic year (like that one.)  But I think that they are one year away.  So my prediction for 2015 is that the Twins will have the same record as their Pythagorean in 1987: 79-83.  But, yes, this year feels a lot like 1987, and you never know what is going to happen..."  I should had taken the over, since they finished second in the division with an 83-79 record (and not that far from the 85-77 record of the '87 team)
In 2016, I was enthusiastic and predicted an 87-75 record, but stressed that "The 2016 Twins will go as far as their pen lets them go", and that was not very far.

This in the tenth prediction in the 10 years of this blog, and goes like this:

Two particular things, as far as results go, killed the Twins in 2016:

a. Their record against their division rivals, 26-52
b. Their record in games that were decided with 2 or fewer runs, 26-47

The 2017 Twins will improve in both.  I feel that the division weakened considerably compared to 2016.  Also, during Spring Training there was an intensity and enthusiasm and motion in the dugout, including a lot of discussion, that bodes well for this team.   No more Miguel Sano at Right Field and similar nonsense.  Jorge Polanco has finally been freed, and the youngsters are a year older and hopefully better.  The bullpen and the rotation look better and part of it is addition by subtraction.  I expect big seasons from both Duffey in the pen and Mejia in the rotation.  Santana and Gibson will be solid, and Hughes and Santiago will be ok, with Berrios waiting in the wings.

How many games will they win?

In 2016 they went 4-15 against Detroit and Kansas City and 7-12 against the White Sox.  Also 9-10 against Cleveland, but the Indians are not the weak link here.

If they go 10-9 against each Division team not named Cleveland and repeat against Cleveland, this will be a +15 wins from 2016.    This will take them to 74 wins

Their 26-47 record in games decided by 2 or fewer runs were against the whole league.  If we exclude the AL Central teams, the Twins were 15-27 in games decided by 2 or fewer runs.  If they go .500 in those games, 21-21, (and all it might take is a better framing catcher) this will be a +6 wins from 2016.  This will take them to 80 wins.

One additional factor:   The Falvey Levine factor.  If the season goes the way I predict it, esp with the Twins playing a whole lot of games against the division early,  I feel that unlike their predecessor, Farvey and Levine will be players in the deadline and before, helping the team win another 4 games.

My prediction for the 2017 Minnesota Twins:   84-78, second in the AL Central and in the battle for the second AL Wild Card.  Run to get those post-season tickets.

3/31/17

Nuances regarding the Twins 2017 opening day 25-man roster

By now the Twins announcement regarding their opening day 25-man roster are old news.  However there are some nuances that need pointing out:'

  • There is a general feeling that the 13 pitcher / 12 position player set up, that cost Spring Training Superstart ByungHo Park a major league position, is temporary 
  • Again, all signs point out to a general evaluation season, thus the out of options Mike Tonkin made the team.  How low his lease will be, has yet to be determined.
  • A spot on the 40-man roster has to open for  Chris Gimenez;  the most logical move will be to place Glen Perkins on the 60-day DL, which means that he will no pitch until June, if ready.  Based on the new CBA, he will have to agree on this.
  • The Twins have 3 players on the 10-day DL and will have to deal with them:  Kennys Vargas, who has options and could be optioned to Rochester, Ehire Adrianza, and Ryan O'Rourke, both out of options.   I suspect that the decision regarding Adrianza will be harder than that regarding O'Rourke who will likely be waived, pass those waivers and outrighted.   I feel that the presence of Adrianza (who has shown an improvement with the bat under the Twins' tutelage during Spring Training, and will likely not pass through waivers) makes the leash on Danny Santana and Mike Tonkin (if they decide to go with 12 pitchers) very short.
  • It has to be noted: It was good to see that Adalberto Mejia (who can miss bats and was one of the best Twins' starters in Spring Training) won the last starting job over Tyler Duffey who has pitched 191 inning with the Twins and has proven that he is better fit for the pen (2 pitches only, big trouble getting through the order second and third time) and can flourish there.  Not sure that a Terry Ryan team would have made that decision.
  • Only pitchers Tyler Duffey, Adalberto Mejia, and Taylor Rogers and position players Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, and Migue SanĂ³, in other words the Twins' young core, have options in this roster.  Justin Haley does technically have options, but as a Rule 5 selection he has to stay the full season with the Twins.
  • There are reports that the Twins are interesting in RHRP Jared Hughes who was released by the Pirates, so the composition of the opening day bullpen might be in flux.  The Twins have the number one priority in the waiver wire, and this is the time of the year that teams make hard decisions, so there might be some players available the next few days.

3/22/17

Live Fort Myers Report from the Twins Spring Training: 3/21/17

This is the latest report of the happenings in the Twins' Spring training, and the first live from Fort Myers.   The previous one is here, and can find all 2017 Twins Spring Training related posts here.  I will be describing events of interesting in the Twins' camp as well as happenings with former Twins.  For two weeks, starting this week, these reports will be live from Fort Myers and daily and will be indicated in the title.

  • Last day at Fort Myers from me, so the next Twins' Spring Training report will be from up North
  • RHP Trevor May is having his Tommy John surgery today
  • LHP Ryan O'Rourke will start the season in the 10-day Disabled List with elbow tightness, diagnosed as flexor mass strain.  Athletics' P Homer Baily had that condition, and this is an interesting article on it.
  • The Twins released RHP Ryan Vogelsong per his request
  • Looks like C Stuart Turner might be returning from the Reds.
  • Kyle Gibson was good against the Phillies yesterday, pitching for 5 innings allowing 5 hits, including a HR, one walk, that one run and striking out 2.  His Spring ERA is 2.01 and WHIP 1.12 now.  Threw a variety of pitches and had good command and control.  He maxed out at 91 mph.  The Twins relievers, especially JT Chargois (8.64 ERA 2.28 WHIP for Spring), Buddy Boshers (8.59 ERA 1.91 WHIP), and Raul Fernandez (14.93 ERA 3.00 WHIP)were not that good, allowing 8 earned runs to the Philly AAA and AA players.   I cannot see Chargois or Boshers (Fernandez for that matter too, but he was never in the conversation, and, along with Jake Reed was cut after the game) to make the  Twins at this point and they both have options.  Boshers' 40-man spot might also be on jeopardy. 
  • As far as the 25th man spot battle goes, Danny Santana (.256/.289/.395), Ehire Adrianza (.280/.379/.400), and Bengie Gonzales (.462/.481/.654) all played with Santana starting at LF and the other two coming in infielder substitutions.   Despite hitting the least, Santana still has the upper hand because of position flexibility and also because of the fact that Jorge Polanco (.225/.244/.550) and Miguel Sano (.229/.270/.514) have been more than adequate with the gloves in their respective positions.  This fact and the presence of Eduardo Escobar (.273/.333/.303), makes yet another middle infielder less attractive than Santana.
  • RHP Phil Hughes touched 94 mph today at Astros, but pitched only 2 innings allowing 9 hits (2 HRs), 6 runs, and struck out 2.  Not very inspiring outing, but the Twins seem to feel that he is ready.
  • Back field day today where LHPs Craig Breslow and Stephen Gonsalves pitched an inning a piece for the Twins' high A and A teams respectively.  Good to see Gonsalves not being bother from his shoulder issues.  He was throwing all his pitches and had good command of the curveball, which is very encouraging.  As far as other pitchers went, RHP Derreck Rodriguez (A+) sporting long hair and a goatee (not unlike that of JT Chargois) and a new cutter that sat at 84-86 had a very good day.  His high 70s curve was sharp as always and had good command of both his 92-94 mph four-seamer and 89-91 mph two-seamer.  The Twins still treating him as a starter, but I will not be surprised if he is fast-tracked in the pen.  RHP Eddie Del Rosario (A) is lanky, has a rubber arm and a nice 92-93 fastball that looks like it will break a lot of bats.  First time to see one of the newest Twins pitchers and is one to keep an eye on:  Jonny Drozd (A+) who was signed as a minor league free agent this off-season from the Yankees organization.  Tall and lanky he is throwing sidearm with a lot of deception.  His bread and butter pitch is a frisbee slider that he is throwing at any count and runs from 72-74 mph.  He supplements it by a 86-87 mph two-seamer that he has excellent control of and a 76-77 mph change up that is a third pitch.  The lefty is pitching backwards, throwing many more sliders than fastballs and uses his fastball as a change of pace or an out pitch.  Andy McIver (A+) is another talk lanky lefty, but he throws 3/4 and is much more of a traditional pitcher throwing a 88-91 mph fastball with good command and a 78-79 mph change up.
  • Had the opportunity to see 5 catchers today:  On the high A side, I think that AJ Murphy will open a lot of eyes this season. He has very good bat control and squared more than a few balls this spring.  I really expect him to shoot on the prospect rankings.  Brian Navarreto is huge and a tremendous presence behind the plate.   He looks a lot like Adam Walker, but still, albeit being better in recognizing pitches than previous seasons, he has a hard time hitting his way out of a paper bag.  Mitchell Kranson whom the Twins drafted in the 9th round in 2016 from UC Berkeley looks like a catcher and he reminds me of a young Mitch Garver.  Will probably be at Cedar Rapids, but definitely someone to keep an eye on.  On the A side, two teenagers: Ben Rortverdt looks like the real thing behind the plate with good game calling and strong arm.  Passed balls/ wild pitches might give him some trouble this season.  Venezuelan Robert Molina might hit as well  as Navarreto, but he is definitely a presence when he catches.  Interesting to see him develop.
  • Parting thoughts about 2 players who happen to share the same first name:  Travis Blackenhorn looks a lot like Travis Harrison of yore.  Very tentative at the plate and plays smaller than he is.  Travis Harrison on the other hand, really opened some eyes both at Hammond Stadium and at the back fields.  He came in all muscle, attacks the balls and shows the power that the Twins hoped he will show when drafted.  As of now my choice for both the Twins' minor league comeback player of the year and player of the year.  Might be in the Cities by season's end.
  • Tomorrow is my travel day and will post my thoughts regarding my prediction of the 2017 Twins record some time next week.

3/20/17

Live Fort Myers Report from the Twins Spring Training: 3/20/17

This is the latest report of the happenings in the Twins' Spring training, and the first live from Fort Myers.   The previous one is here, and can find all 2017 Twins Spring Training related posts here.  I will be describing events of interesting in the Twins' camp as well as happenings with former Twins.  For two weeks, starting this week, these reports will be live from Fort Myers and daily and will be indicated in the title.

  • Nick Burdi pitched a perfect inning last Wednesday.  
  • Kennys Vargas was 2 for 5 with a walk, a home run and three strikeouts for Team Puerto Rico in a WBC game Saturday.
  • Ervin Santana started for the Dominican Republic against the US last Saturday.  He pitched 2-2/3 innings, threw 68 pitches, allowed six hits, including a HR, 4 earned runs and struck out two hitters, taking the loss.
  • Former Twins RHP Pat Light was cut by the Pirates and was assigned to their minor league camp. 
  • The Twins battle for the last 2 spots still remains interesting.  Hector Santiago has not pitched more than 2-2/3 innings for Puerto Rico and will be used from the pen in tonight's game against the Netherlands.  Jason Haley did not pitch very well on Sunday at the Rex Sox,  lasting two innings, allowing 5 hits, including a HR, a walk, and 4 ERs.  He struck out 4 in those 2 innings.  On Monday at the Blue Jays Tyler Duffey went 5 innings, allowing only 4 hits and a walk, striking out 2 and dropping his Spring ERA down to 3.86.  At the same game Adalberto Mejia followed, pitching 4 innings allowing 3 hits (including a HR,) 2 walks and 2 ER, while striking out 5.  His ERA is now at 1.88.  These 4 pitches, in addition to Jose Berrios who might start the WBC final for PR, are in battle for the last 2 rotation sports for the Twins.
  • ByungHo Park and Miguel Sano had long HRs today and Dunedin, but so did Mitch Garver at the back fields that was my focus of the action for the last two days, and attracted Twins Brass including Favrey, Levine, Antony, Steil, etc.  News from the back fields:
  • Pitching Notes:  RHP Ryan Eades, who dropped from my top 50 prospect list, was the biggest surprise today (and, yes, Tyler Jay was also pitching.)  The 25 year old former second roung pick in 2013, sported shoulder long hair and a big fastball that was sitting at 94-96 mph that he supplemented with a low to mid 80s changeup.   He looks like he is making the transition to a reliever, but that fastball was very surprising.  The command is not as crisp as it should be, but this is his second ST week.   Tyler Jay who the organization fast tracked by deciding that he will be a full time reliever was throwing 92-94 with the fastball that was hitting spots and inducing ground balls that was supplemented with a very good, 79-81 mph curve that was missing bats and was commanded very well.  Bit of rust, but still early in the ST.  A few relatively new to organization players also pitched:  23 year old Tyler Fox who was signed as an undrafted free agent last season was hit pretty hard yesterday and was serving bombs to the Cedar Rapids hitters.  34 year old Jim Miller who was acquired as a minor league free agent this off-season was ineffective for Rochester, topping off at 89 mph and trying to get outs with off-speed pitches that was sitting from the high 60s to low 70s.  However fellow minor league free agent signee this off-season, 28 year old lefty Matt Tracy was pretty impressive starting for Rochester: He was an imposing figure on the mount featuring an 89-91 mph fastball and a very good 80-81 mph change that induces swings and misses, having 4 strikeouts in 2 innings.  Very composed and excellent command and control.  He might pitch for the Twins this season, if this continues.  Alan Busenitz (of the Nolasco and Meyer trade fame) throws a 93-95 mph fastball and a low 80s curve and the 26 year old looked pretty promising today.  26 year old Dominican Confesor Lara who was singed late last season from the independent leagues as an injury fill in looks like a worth while work in progress.  He throws a very heavy sinker at 91-93 mph that induces plenty of swings and misses that he supplements with a mid 80s off-spead offering that needs some work.  But that singer is a good base to make him a suitable reliever, if he develops a secondary pitch.
  • Other than the Fort Myers (and maybe Rochester, pending opt outs) team, it looks like that the full season minor league teams of the Twins will be excellent this season, with the bats at Cedar Rapids and the arms in Chattanooga leading the way.  A Burdi, Jay, Curtiss pen in Chattanooga has the possibility of being one of the most lethal ever at any level.
  • Tomorrow the Twins are hosting the Phillies and I will be following this action.

3/19/17

Predicting the Twins 25-man Roster - version 3.0

Right before I came to Fort Myers, I published by second prediction regarding the Twins' 25 man roster.  That was:

Starting Pitchers (5)
Ervin Santana
Kyle Gibson
Phil Hughes
Trevor May
Hector Santiago (*)

Relievers (7)
Brandon Kintzler
Ryan Pressly
J.T. Chargois
Matt Belisle
Craig Breslow (*)
Taylor Rogers (*)
Justin Haley

Catchers (2)
Jason Castro (*)
Chris Gimenez

Infielders (5)
Joe Mauer (*)
Brian Dozier
Jorge Polanco (#)
Miguel Sano
Eduardo Escobar (#)

Outfielders (5)
Byron Buxton
Max Kepler (*)
Eddie Rosario (*)
Robbie Grossman  (#)
Drew Stubbs

25th man (1)
Danny Santana (#)


Now after Trevor May's injury, the rotation and the bullpen look mostly like this:


Starting Pitchers (5)
Ervin Santana
Kyle Gibson
Phil Hughes
Adablerto Mejia (*)
Jose Berrios 


Relievers (7)
Brandon Kintzler
Ryan Pressly
Matt Belisle
Craig Breslow (*)
Taylor Rogers (*)
Justin Haley
Hector Santiago (*)

The important data point is that Santiago has been used exclusively out of the bullpen for Team Puerto Rico in the WBC and will not be ready to start.  If ready to start, he will likely take Berrios' position who I think has been bypassed in the depth charts by Mejia at this point. 

Here are how the position players look like:

Catchers (2)
Jason Castro (*)
Chris Gimenez

Infielders (5)
Joe Mauer (*)
Brian Dozier
Jorge Polanco (#)
Miguel Sano
Eduardo Escobar (#)

ByungHo Park

Outfielders (5)
Byron Buxton
Max Kepler (*)
Eddie Rosario (*)
Robbie Grossman  (#)

25th man (1)
Danny Santana (#)


One change here: Park over Stubbs.   Park and Kennys Vargas, along with Matt Hague are fighting for a rotation spot and Park is definitely ahead at this point with Vargas at the WBC.  For the 25 man spot the battle is between D. Santana, Stubbs, Ehire Adrianza and Bengi Gonzales.  Santana seems to be ahead as far as the Twins preferences go, at this point.

3/18/17

Live Fort Myers Report from the Twins Spring Training: 3/18/17

This is the latest report of the happenings in the Twins' Spring training, and the first live from Fort Myers.   The previous one is here, and can find all 2017 Twins Spring Training related posts here.  I will be describing events of interesting in the Twins' camp as well as happenings with former Twins.  For two weeks, starting this week, these reports will be live from Fort Myers and daily and will be indicated in the title.

  • On Saturday C Mitch Garver, OF Zack Granite, OF Daniel Palka, and IF Edgelb Vielma were optioned to AAA Rochester.  IF Niko Goodrum, IF Nick Gordon, IF Leonardo Reginatto, and C Dan Rohlfing were reassigned to the Twins' minor league camp. 
  • LHP Tyler Jay and the Twins decided that he better move full time to the bullpen.  A great decision.  Add Burdi, and hope that one of Duffey/Chargois/Reed gets it, and will get the Twins' version of the Nasty Boys, as soon as later this season.
  • The Twins hosted the Red Sox today, in a game that rotation hopeful Ryan Vogelsong started.  He lasted three innings, and needed 62 pitches to do so.  Here is a complete pitching log.  His fastball touched 87 three times and it felt that he was pitching batting practice out there and that he was a pitch away from disaster.  Yesterday I questioned whether Phil Hughes is ready to pitch in a Twins' game this coming season.  Compared to Vogelsong, he is light years away.  I just cannot see Vogelsong making the Twins right now, Culture Club or not...  In addition, the time that Vogelsong takes between pitches makes Mr Pelfrey seem lightning fast.
  • Jake Reed got his fastball up to 97, and his slider was at 84-86, but he did not attack batters.  Max Kepler had to leave after the first inning because Pablo Santoval deliberately stepped on his hand after a slide.  Reed had a chance to make him pay for it or even throw a bit of chin music, giving the message that the Twins are not any more going to be a team that goes belly up easily.  Instead he was tentative and served him a 94 mph FB down the middle that was turned into a home run and opened the doors for a 5-run inning.   Trevor Hildenberger followed with an equal uffdaish appearance, featuring an 85-87 mph FB and a 75-76 mph off-speed pitch that was batting practice like.  Nick Tepesh followed and allowed 5 more runs to score.  Matt Belisle struck out the side of AAA Red Sox hitters he faced and Brian Kintzler allowed a couple of hits to them before he realized that he better get serious and close the game.  All in all a pretty horrific pitching appearance by the Twins.
  • As far as the sticks went,  the Twins had a great first inning against reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and quickly get up 4 runs.  Brian Dozier went 3 for 3,  Miguel Sano had a nice opposite field hit, and ByungHo Park added a couple of hits.   Danny Santana was very disappointing with the glove, not getting to a couple of balls a regular outfield could easily get to at LF, costing the Twins at least 3 runs and becoming the third out trying to steal second, albeit in a hit and run play.
  • I will take another cut at the likely Twins' roster tomorrow, but the rotation spots are getting very thin with the disappointing appearance of Vogelsong and the fact that Hector Santiago will not make a single star for Team Puerto Rico and thus will be unlikely to be stretched enough to start the season in an MLB rotation.  But that was his choice, and his contract is not guaranteed.  Jason Haley will start tomorrow's game at the Jet Blue Park, while the Twins will be having minor league intrasquad games in the bag fields tomorrow, and this is where I will be.

3/17/17

Live Fort Myers Report from the Twins Spring Training: 3/17/17

This is the latest report of the happenings in the Twins' Spring training, and the first live from Fort Myers.   The previous one is here, and can find all 2017 Twins Spring Training related posts here.  I will be describing events of interesting in the Twins' camp as well as happenings with former Twins.  For two weeks, starting this week, these reports will be live from Fort Myers and daily and will be indicated in the title.

  • The Twins played at Port Charlotte today against the Tampa Bay Rays.  Phil Hughes made his latest start and was effective.   He threw 57 pitches in 5 innings and then 21 more in the bullpen.   You can see each of his pitches here.   This was the start that Hughes was supposed to go 100% with his fastball, but it sat at 88-90, touching 91 once.  He had a good command today and he mixed his pitches well to keep the Rays players guessing; he ended up with 8 swinging strikes out of those 57 pitches (14.0 %)  If this is indeed 100% for Hughes right now, the Twins need to decide whether they can think that he can embrace his inner crafty righty and be a different pitcher or whether he should start the season in the DL until his fastball reaches its pre-injury levels.  I am on the fence about it right now.
  • JT Chargois who followed hit 94-96 with his fastball and 84-86 with his slider.  He was a bit out of control, esp when a Ray reached.  Have yet to see much from Chargois this Spring and I feel that he will get caught in the numbers game and will be optioned to Rochester to start the seasons.   Buddy Boshers and Alex Wimmers pitched ok, but against minor leaguers, so it is tough to judge their assignments.
  • The Twins bats were alive early.  Jorge Polanco hit a line drive solo home run in the second and made every single play that was in his direction.   Brian Dozier hit a 3-run home run the following inning and that was all the offense that the Twins would need to win the game.  Max Kelper had a highlight reel diving catch early in the game.
  • Interesting to see that Gene Glynn is the coach who is responsible for the outfield formation; also during the game Jeff Pickler several times seeked and talked with Paul Molitor when the Twins were hitting.
  • Tomorrow the Twins will host Boston with Ryan Vogelsong starting.

3/16/17

Live Fort Myers Report from the Twins Spring Training: 3/16/17

This is the latest report of the happenings in the Twins' Spring training, and the first live from Fort Myers.   The previous one is here, and can find all 2017 Twins Spring Training related posts here.  I will be describing events of interesting in the Twins' camp as well as happenings with former Twins.  For two weeks, starting this week, these reports will be live from Fort Myers and daily and will be indicated in the title.

  • Back fields day today, but the news from yesterday is that they timed Glen Perkins' fastball at 78 mph, and he apparently has no goals or timetable for his return.
  • Former Twins' LHP Logan Darnell has signed a contract with the Somerset Patriots of the Independent Atlantic League 
  • The Twins were at Jupiter, hosts of the Cardinals, where Kyle Gibson put together a great performance allowing only one hit (unfortunately a home run and the only run) and a walk and striking out 5 in 5 innings.  The action was in the back fields where the Twins high A, A, and extended Spring Training teams were hosting the equivalent Rays' teams.
  • My focus was at field four, where several of the Twins' top prospects played for the Cedar Rapids team against the Rays' Bowling Green team.  Number 1 prospect SS Wander Javier, who is just eighteen, held up on his own in a league that averages 3-5 years older players.  He had several good to great plays with the glove had good plate appearances.  In his first PA he would have had a sure fire triple, if for some strange reason, Toby Gardenhire, the third base coach did not put the stop sign up when Javier was half way through the third base, yet then waving him in.  Still he was out by half a foot.  Good solid contact and excellent eye for the ball.
  • Other top prospects were Lewin Diaz and Amaurys Minier who split time at first base and were good with the glove.  Minier almost did the splits trying to save an errant throw by second baseman Andre Jernigan, but was not successful.  SS Joe Cronin, namesake of the franchise's Hall of Famer, played at LF today.  It will be hard for any team that has Javier on the roster to play him any place but SS.
  • As far as pitching went, I was not very impressed with the starter Tyrel Breadsley, or his first reliever Hector Lujan, even though they both had nice change ups.  The third reliever, LHP Alex Robinson, was impressive.  The Twins' 5th round pick from 2015 from University of Maryland showed excellent control of a 93-95 mph fastball and a good slider and change up and struck out the side for the 5th inning.  Someone definitely to keep an eye on.  Garrett Kelly who followed flashed  a very good 89-91 two seamer and 91-94 four seamer, and a high 80s cutter, getting ground outs, but at some point his control fell off and was all over the place.
  • On the other field LHP Lachlan Wells, looks like he has grown a few inches (up to 6'1" or 6'2" now) and got rid of his trademark glasses.  Pitching for high A Fort Myers, his FB was ranging from 91-92 and his supplementary stuff was working well.  There were 3 scouts there for him.  Travis Blackenhorn in the same team played second base and had a couple of tentative swings.  I noticed that his bat is very buzy in his batting stance, something that the Twins might want to look at some point.
  • At the EST field Taylor Clemencia was filthy.  He was throwing a low 70s devastating curve that he supplemented with a well commanded 84-85 mph pitch that I thought was a change, but it was his fastball.  Not sure whether he is coming back from an injury, that velocity has to be monitored.  On the other hand that curve was a plus plus pitch.
  • Tomorrow with drive to Port Charlotte to watch the Twins visit the Rays.

3/15/17

Live Fort Myers Report from the Twins Spring Training: 3/15/17

This is the latest report of the happenings in the Twins' Spring training, and the first live from Fort Myers.   The previous one is here, and can find all 2017 Twins Spring Training related posts here.  I will be describing events of interesting in the Twins' camp as well as happenings with former Twins.  For two weeks, starting this week, these reports will be live from Fort Myers and daily and will be indicated in the title.

  •  First full day at Fort Myers yesterday and the Twins had the day off and that was completely off.  No practices, no bullpens.  Off off.
  • There is a new look at the minor league park of the camp.  The drainage river pebbles have been replaces with turf and there is a new fence that would allow locking of the fields off, something that was previously impossible.  Also, by each bench there are now massage tables, another new thing this season.
  •  Attended some minor league batting practice and noticed a few of the players: OF  LaMonde Wade, OF Travis Harrison and IF Louis Arraez, all added bulk this off-season. OF  Edgar Corcino who was signed a couple off-seasons ago from the Frontier league looks like a monster and made some solid contact, his batting stance is a bit busy though.   So did C AJ Murray.  
  • Cardinal 70 of C70 at bat had his annual playing pepper off-season series for each team, and today was the Twins' turn.  Several Twins bloggers, including myself, answered several questions about the Twins off-season and 2017.  You can read it here.
  • When thinking about who will make the team one needs to consider that the following Twins' players are out of options: Ehire Adrianza, Eduardo Escobar, Robbie Grossman, Jorge Polanco, Danny Santana, and Michael Tonkin.
  • The Twins hosted the Cardinals today and LHP Adalberto Mejia has a masterful start in front of an all time record attendance.  He scattered 4 hits in 3-2/3 innings, struck out 8 and left a scoreless game.  His fastball was ranging from 91-94 mph, and his slider and changeup were working very well, as one can tell from the swings and misses.  Jake Reed, Brad Kintzler, Ryan Pressly, Craig Breslow, Tyler Rogers preserved the shutout in the bullpen.   Tyler Duffey, in the minor league fields had a good couple of innings following by a disasterous one.  It is time that the Twins pull the plug in the hopes that he can be a starter and let him relieve full time.  He can be a dominant one.
  • The offense scored 8 runs.  BuyungHo Park and Matt Hague who are competing with Kennys Vargas for one 1B/DH spot each had a hit and raised their team best OPS to 1.307 and 1.495 respectfully.  Will not be surprised if Hague ends up wining that spot.  All this guy does is hit.