Friday, December 30, 2016

Twins Request Final Offers For Dozier

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
The Twins want some roster clarity as the calendar flips to 2017. According to a report from the Star Tribune's La Velle E. Neal III, "The club would like interested teams to step up with their best offer in the coming days, or they plan to prepare for the 2017 season with Dozier as their second baseman."

Trade rumors have been swirling around the Twins' face of the franchise after a monster season where he belted over 40 home runs. With two-years remaining on his contract at a team friendly price, there are multiple teams interested in acquiring the second baseman.

Here's a recap where things are when it comes to a Dozier deal.

The Dodgers continue to be the team most likely suited to acquire Dozier. Los Angeles has a surplus of pitching prospects and a desire to win now. Jose De Leon's name is the one that has been most associated with the Twins. The right-handed pitching prospect was a top-25 prospect entering last season while making his MLB debut at age-23.

According to Neal, the Dodgers have been pushing for a straight Dozier for De Leon trade. The Twins have wanted the addition of another top prospect like first baseman Cody Bellinger or right-handed pitcher Yadier Alvarez. Los Angeles hasn't budged in their offer.

Other teams rumored to be interested are the Giants, Cardinals, and Braves. If the Giants want to work a deal, they would likely need to bring in a third team because their farm system doesn't have as many high caliber prospects. They also have Joe Panik to play second base so Dozier could need to move to third base, a position he has little experience playing.

Chatter surrounding the Cardinals interest in Dozier peaked last week when KSTP's Darren Wolfson reported that the Cardinals are "very much in it." However, the Cardinals might be hesitant to include their top prospects like right-handed pitcher Alex Reyes or catcher Carson Kelly. Some believe the Cardinals reported interest in Dozier was a ploy from the organization to get more value squeezed out of the Dodgers.

Washington was aggressive this off-season by trading multiple prospects to the White Sox to acquire Adam Eaton. This might leave them little in the tank when it comes to dealing for Dozier. Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post said the Nationals "haven't made any serious inquiries on Twins' Dozier." She went on to say that there was "no natural fit there."

Atlanta has been working on their own rebuild so it doesn't seem likely that they would want to trade away top prospects for the remaining years on Dozier's contract. Dozier would help their current squad make strides in the right direction but their organization is built to win in the future, not in the present.

While the Dodger continue to seem to be the most likely fit, Los Angeles is going to have to up their offer for the Twins to take a deal. With multiple years remaining on his contract, the Twins could wait until the trade deadline and hope there are more teams willing to deal away their top talent. This would also require Dozier to continue to play the way he did in the second half.

Time might be running out on a Dozier deal.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Projecting The 2020 Twins Line-Up

Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson, USA Today Sports
As Seth, Jeremy and I put the final touches on the 2017 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook, it's always fun to look to the future. There are plenty of changes that could be coming with the new baseball operations department. The future is still a little cloudy with the trades of Brian Dozier and Ervin Santana looming.

The players on this list are subject to change. Minnesota could always add players on the free agent market or trade for other players that would be a better fit in the line-up. For now, here is a look at how the Twins could come together for the 2020 season.

C: Mitch Garver
The Twins recently signed Jason Castro to a three-year deal that runs through the 2019 season. Garver will be given every opportunity to evolve into a starter during the duration of the Castro contract. He ended this season at Rochester and hit .329/.381/.434 with six extra-base hits in 21 games. His defense and game management is praised by pitchers and coaches throughout the system.

1B: Miguel Sano
Joe Mauer's contract will expire at the end of the 2018 season. This could give the Twins the opportunity to move Miguel Sano to a less demanding defensive position. At first base, he can worry less about his defense and concentrate on hitting the ball over the fence. Other players might fit into the first base picture with Sano getting some DH at-bats.

2B: Travis Blakenhorn
When the Twins took Travis Blakenhorn with a third round pick, there were high expectations for his future. This season he was 2.5 years younger than the competition in the Midwest League. He combined for an .850 OPS between two levels. He was originally drafted as a third baseman but he played more second base this season. It will take him time to adjust to a new position but he should be ready to go by 2020.

3B: Jorge Polanco
With Sano shifting off of third base, the Twins will need to find another option at third base. Polanco has made big league appearances in each of the last three seasons. Last year in 69 games, he hit .282/.332/.424 with 23 extra-base hits. His defensive time at shortstop left a little something to desire as he committed 11 errors in 189 chances. Many believe he will eventually end up being shifted to a different position especially in the wake of Dozier being dealt. He could end up at second base or third base.
SS: Nick Gordon
Minnesota took Gordon with the fifth overall pick in 2014 with every intention of him being the team's future shortstop. There are still questions about his ability to stick at the position in the long-term. Offensively, he continues to show an advanced approach at the plate. Like the other infielders on this list, he might eventually need to move to another defensive spot. However, he has the best chance of staying there.

RF: Eddie Rosario
Out of all the players on this list, Rosario is one of the first that would move out of a starting spot. It seems likely for him to move into a fourth outfielder role. At this point, there weren't any other prospects in the Twins system that are knocking down the door in the outfield. If the Twins can get an outfielder from the Dodgers in a Dozier trade, they might be a better fit for the Twins in the long-term.

CF: Byron Buxton
Buxton finally seemed to put it all together during last September. He hit .287/.357/.653 with nine home runs, six doubles, and two triples. His defense continues to be outstanding in center field. Many Twins fans hope Buxton has become an All-Star caliber player by 2020. He can help to turn the franchise around by becoming one of the best players in baseball.

LF: Max Kepler
Kepler showed some positive signs during his rookie campaign but he also left some room for improvement. In 24 games from June 10 to July 5, he hit .284/.347/.580 with six home runs and eight doubles. Throughout the rest of the season, his average dipped to .228 but he still got on base over 30% of the time. If he can continue to mature at the plate and make more consistent contact, he should be a solid MLB regular.

DH: Daniel Palka
During his first season in the Twins organization, Palka showed the prestigious power he'd shown through most of his professional career. He surpassed the 30 home run mark for the first time in his career and he had an OPS over .845 for the second consecutive season. He's played corner outfield spots and first base so he could split time at first base with Sano or take over a corner spot from Rosario.

Change will be a common theme in the years to come. The next wave of prospects is getting closer to Target Field. Who do you think will fit into the Twins long-term plans? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Turning Trevor May Into Andrew Miller

Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski, USA Today Sports
Bullpen usage is one of the most scrutinized parts of a managers job. This scrutiny is only heightened the stress of the playoffs. With pitchers like Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Aroldis Chapman being used for multiple innings, a new era of bullpens has been thrust on the baseball world.

One of the most important pieces to Cleveland's playoff run was relief pitcher Andrew Miller, the ALCS MVP. He was once a starting pitching prospect before finding his home as a bullpen arm. Now he might be one of the most valuable assets in baseball.

Miller was the sixth overall pick by the Detroit Tigers in 2006. He'd debut with the club later that same season after making only three minor league appearances. His stay in Detroit would be short as he was one of the key prospects sent to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera. He'd bounce around to the Red Sox and Orioles organizations before finding himself in Yankee pinstripes.

After arriving in the Big Apple, he posted a 1.90 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 61.2 IP during the 2015 season,. Opponents hit .151/.237/.239 against him. It was hard to build off that season but the 2016 campaign was even better. He lowered his ERA to 1.45 and increased his SO/9 from 14.6 to 14.9.

As Miller was dominating the American League, Minnesota's bullpen compiled the league's worst ERA while providing a -2.66 win probability added. Ryan Pressly pitched the most relief innings while Brandon Kintzler had the most saves. Trevor May (12.66 K/9) and Michael Tonkin (10.05 K/9) both posted K/9 totals over 10.0. These small positive signs overshadowed by a major injury to Glen Perkins and ineffective play from Kevin Jepsen.

May is an interesting figure in the Twins bullpen. Expectations were high for him heading into last year. He underwhelmed to the tune of a 5.27 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. Under the previous front office, there was talk of turning May back into a starter but another year in the bullpen could give him the chance to adjust to being a full-time reliever.

Miller's first full season as a reliever came in 2012, his age-27 season. May turned 27 in September and is just coming off his first year without making a start. One of May's biggest issues has always been his command. He walked 17 batters in 42.2 innings pitched (3.6 BB/9). Miller walks almost no one as he issued nine walks in 32 more innings than May.

Besides the control issues, May would need to continue to miss bats. Miller strikes out batters at a higher rate than May and he makes it tough for batters to reach base. The Twins are clearly in rebuilding mode so May won't likely be recording any big outs in the playoffs anytime soon. This type of environment can allow bullpen arms to develop as they start to figure out their craft in an environment with less pressure.

Can May be the next Miller? It's a lofty goal and 2017 will be a critical for whatever future role May will fill. What kind of role do you think May should fill? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Five Twins Bounceback Candidates

Photo Credit: Denny Medley, USA Today Sports
Minnesota had lots of issues during the 2016 campaign. Pitchers didn't pitch well, hitters were inconsistent, and there were defensive gaffes. After nearly making the playoffs in 2015, the 2016 season was tough to swallow. The 2015 Twins likely overachieved and the 2016 Twins underachieved. Hopefully, the 2017 Twins find a spot somewhere in a middle.

Here are five candidates that could rebound in 2017 and help the Twins get back to respectability.

Jose Berrios
2016 Stats: 3-7 W-L, 8.02 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, 49 SO, 35 BB, 58.1 IP
Berrios dominated the upper levels of the minor leagues so it was hard to swallow the rough start to his MLB career. One of the biggest problems might have been that Berrios was tipping his pitches. Another issue was his increased walk rate. In the minors, he was touted for his excellent control, 2.5 BB/9, but that number more than doubled (5.4 BB/9) in the majors. Minnesota has been in search of an ace and there's still hope for him to be a front of the rotation hurler.

Kyle Gibson
2016 Stats: 6-11 W-L, 5.07 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 104 SO, 55 BB, 147.1 IP
At the end of the 2015 season, Gibson was named the Twins Daily Pitcher of the Year. He finished that season with a respectable 3.84 ERA and 145 SO in 194.2 IP. Gibson started 2016 with a 0-5 record and a 6.05 ERA over his first seven starts. This included missing a month and a half with shoulder injury. From June 28-August 17, he'd win five of his seven decisions while posting a 4.19 ERA. If he can avoid injury and return to his 2015 form, Gibson should fit back into the middle of the rotation.

Trevor Plouffe
2016 Stats: .260/.303/.420, 12 HR, 13 2B, 60 SO, 19 BB, 84 G
The 2016 season was the first time Plouffe failed to play over 110 MLB games since 2011. He suffered through an oblique strain, a strained intercostal muscle, a cracked rib, a groin strain, some knee soreness, and another intercostal strain. When he was on the field, Plouffe put up some respectable numbers. However, he needs show he can stay healthy since next year will be his age-31 season. Plouffe will be a free agent at the end of the season so it would be nice for the Twins to be able to get something for him before the deadline.

Eddie Rosario
2016 Stats: .269/.295/.421, 10 HR, 17 2B, 91 SO, 12 BB, 92 G
Rosario hit .294/.340/.484 in seven minor league seasons. On his way to the big leagues, his hit tool was praised and many thought it would translate to baseball's highest level. There were some positive signs in his rookie campaign as he combined for 46 extra-base hits including a MLB leading 15 triples. His average and OBP rose this season but his slugging percentage dropped by almost 40 points. If he can continue to mature as a hitter, he could be the Twins breakout player in 2017.

Miguel Sano
2016 Stats: .236/.319/.462, 25 HR, 22 2B, 178 SO, 54 BB, 116 G
In 80 games during the 2015 campaign, Sano hit .269/.385/.530 (146 OPS+) with 17 doubles and 18 home runs. He turned a lot of heads as he hit 13 home runs over his final 48 games. Expectations were high entering 2016 and it was tough for Sano to reach those lofty heights. The year started with the team trying to transition him to the outfield. This experiment failed and it's hard not to think that some of his defensive struggles followed him to the plate. Sano should spend 2017 as a DH and a third baseman and this could be trouble for American League pitchers.

Who will have the biggest bounceback season in 2017? Would you add someone else to the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Cody's 2016 Twins Offseason Blueprint

Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray, USA Today Sports
Breaking news... The Twins aren't going to win the World Series in 2017. It's going to take time to turn this organization around. Derek Falvey might have packed up some of Cleveland's magical roster dust but even Theo Epstein didn't turn the Cubs around in a year.

Each offseason starts with a plan. Here's my blueprint to get the organization moving in the right direction.

Arbitration Decisions
Trevor Plouffe might be the toughest decision in the group but it makes sense to keep him around. Sano hasn't proven he can be an everyday third baseman. Plouffe provides some Sano insurance and he can be used at other places in the line-up. His name has been part of the hot stove discussion over the last couple years. It wouldn't be a surprise if Plouffe ended up on another team by the middle of the season.

The Twins Daily blueprint included non-tendering Hector Santiago and Brandon Kintzler. I think it makes sense to keep both of them. Minnesota's roster doesn't have an overload of pitching. It would be easy to get rid of both of them and some of it will depend on the other members traded away in the coming months.

Here's the arbitration player rundown:
-3B Trevor Plouffe – $9 million
-SP Hector Santiago – $9 million
-IF Eduardo Escobar – $3.5 million
-SP Kyle Gibson – $2.5 million
-RP Brandon Kintzler – $2.5 million
-RP Ryan Pressly – $1.5 million
Total: $28 million

Dealing Dozier
Brian Dozier's value is never going to be higher. He is the leader of the team on and off the field but the Twins need pitching. Also, Dozier's not likely going to be part of the next winning team in Minnesota so it makes sense to trade him. The Twins Daily offseason handbook names the Mets as a potential trade partner because of their surplus of young pitching. This is where I deal Dozier.

If the Mets come calling with the right package, the Twins will have to listen. Left-handed pitcher Steven Matz has posted a 3.16 ERA through 28 career starts and he's the main piece of the puzzle. There would likely be other prospect pieces involved but Matz is the center of a Dozier swap.

Free Agent Frenzy... Well Not Really
This might be one of the worst free agent classes of all-time. There's not a lot of talent and the second-tier of players is quite a drop-off.  Teams are going to spend money but it doesn't mean it is going to be wisely spent. 

With the Twins deciding to part ways with Kurt Suzuki, there's need to add a new backstop. Former Twins catcher Wilson Ramos will likely get the biggest free agent deal. The Twins Daily plan and Brandon Warne's plan included signing Jason Castro. He's a cheaper option and could help bridge the gap to some younger catchers in the Twins farm system. 

There are no great options and Falvey will have to decide how close Mitch Garver is to being an everyday catcher. With little depth in the catching market, I think Castro finds a bigger deal with a team that is closer to winning. Minnesota will be left with some of the scraps. I give Alex Avila a one-year deal to platoon with John Ryan Murphy. I think Garver should be getting regular at-bats by mid-season. 

The bullpen also needs an upgrade. Names like Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are going to sign huge contracts. I offer Scott Feldman a two-year deal with some incentives as he has shown some positive signs since joining the bullpen. Who knows? Maybe he turns into a valuable asset that the Twins can trade in the future.

With Dozier gone, I look to add a veteran infield option to help pick up some of the slack. Stephen Drew has played both shortstop and second base and he showed a little upside in 2016. He'd be cheap and would be easily expendable if other in-house options show they are MLB ready.

Here's the rundown of my 25-man roster. Feel free discuss my plan in the comments section.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Following The Cubs' Blueprint

Photo Credit: Jon Durr, USA Today Sports
Only two short seasons the Cubs were in the midst of five straight seasons of 87 losses or more. This included a 101-loss season in 2012. Flash-forward to the present day and the Cubs have been rebuilt and are four wins away from their first World Series title in over 100 years.

Minnesota is in a similar spot to the Chicago teams from 2010-14. Can the Twins mount a similar turnaround in the years to come? How can Derek Falvey, the Twins new chief of baseball operations, follow the Chicago blueprint?

Find Pitching
One simple message is plastered across the conference room wall for Chicago's baseball operations staff... "FIND PITCHING." Three-fifths of the Cubs rotation was signed as free agents. NLCS co-MVP Jon Lester signed a six-year, $155 million in December 2014. Jason Hammel signed a two-year deal ($32 million)in the same off-season as Lester and John Lackey joined the rotation this past off-season.

Two of Chicago's best starting pitchers joined the team in very favorable trades. Jake Arrieta, the 2015 NL Cy Young winner, was acquired for catcher Steve Clevenger and right-handed pitcher Scott Feldman. Kyle Hendricks, the hero of the NLCS clinching game, came to Chicago for right-handed pitcher Ryan Dempster. A change of scenery and new coaches helped both of these pitchers develop into front of the rotation arms.

Minnesota's recent search for pitching has left plenty to desire. Ricky Nolasco signed a four-year, $49 million deal before the 2014 season. During his three years in Minnesota, he posted a 5.44 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP while being worth a -0.3 WAR. Phil Hughes looked great in his first season in Minnesota so the Twins signed him to a long-term deal. He struggled in 2015 before missing most of 2016 with an injury. Ervin Santana, another free-agent signing, was the team's best pitcher this season but there weren't many options.

Falvey and the team he assembles are going to have a mission and that mission will be to find pitching.

Youth Movement
When a team is playing poorly, it's easy to say let the young prospects play. This isn't always the best strategy as there are plenty of ups-and-downs and sometimes patience can be the key. The Cubs have a young core including Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Javier Baez. Some patience has been required along the way.

Baez, the NLCS co-MVP, spent most of 2014 and 2015 going back and forth between the minor leagues and the big league roster. Bryant lead the National League in strikeouts a year ago and he will likely win the 2016 NL MVP award. Russell has yet to hit over .242 in a season but raised his OPS from .696 last year to .738 this season. Patience seems to have paid off.

Epstein has even referenced Kansas City's approach with young players to build a World Series roster. Players like Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer took years to develop into solid everyday players. "You experience a lot of valleys along the way, whether it's being demoted or having a difficult month or year," Epstein told Sporting News. "In the end, they were rewarded for their patience."

Minnesota will need to follow a similar strategy with their young core. Miguel Sano finished third in the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year voting before struggling through parts of 2016. Byron Buxton has been demoted multiple times before a strong final month of the season. Jose Berrios has dominated Triple-A but his MLB starts have been disappointing.

Twins fans have waited for this young core to show promising signs. However, fans will need to continue to show patience.

Managerial Switch
When the Twins let Terry Ryan go, ownership made it clear that Paul Molitor would be the Twins manager entering the 2017 season. Molitor surprised many during his rookie managerial season by leading the Twins to the cusp of the playoffs. This ended a streak of four straight 90 loss seasons. Things got worse in 2016 as the Twins lost a team record 103 games which was the worst record in baseball.

Since Epstein joined the Cubs in 2011, Chicago has employed three different managers. Dale Sveum averaged over 98 losses per season. Rick Renteria posted a more respectable 73-89 record but he was only given one season to turn the team around. Joe Maddon, considered by many to be one of baseball's best managers, took the reigns last season. In both seasons, he's had the Cubs in the NLCS with an average of 100 wins per season.

Molitor might be the right man for the job but Falvey could want his own man at the helm. Even if Molitor survives the coming season, it's hard to know what the future will hold. Changing managers worked in Chicago but Maddon isn't going to come knocking in Minnesota.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the blueprint for changing things in Minnesota. Epstein has worked his magic with multiple organizations and his ideas have spread throughout baseball. What do the Twins need to do? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Minnesota's Revolving Door Continues At Shortstop

Photo Credit: Linwood Ferguson, Captive Photons
Shortstop has been a revolving door for the Twins organization for more than the last decade. Since the Christian Guzman era ended in 2004, there has only been one time the Twins have used the same shortstop on Opening Day in back-to-back seasons. That player was Pedro Florimon and he wasn't really a long-term solution to the Twins' problems.

Is there finally an end in sight to the Twins long-term shortstop woes?

Eduardo Escobar, Danny Santana, Pedro Florimon, Jamey Carroll, Alexi Casilla, JJ Hardy, Nick Punto, Adam Everett, Jason Bartlett, and Juan Castro have all taken their turn as Minnesota's Opening Day starter. New Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey will try to end this disastrous trend in the years to come. 
Falvey has watched his current team's shortstop, Francisco Lindor, enjoy a coming out party during the 2016 MLB Postseason. Lindor has put the Indians in position to make their first World Series since 1997. Lindor was a top-10 pick back in 2011 and the Twins hope their own top-10 pick will be able to develop in a similar fashion.

Nick Gordon was the fifth overall pick in 2014. This fall the Twins sent him to the Arizona Fall League and the 20-year old shortstop wasted little time making his mark. Baseball American named Gordon as the number one prospect on their AFL Hot Sheet. In the first week of play, he went 6-for-9 with two RBI, a walk, and two steals. BA called him "a smooth-swinging shortstop" and went on to say he "has surprising strength with gap power."

If Gordon is going to end the revolving door, he is still multiple years away from being an everyday play at the MLB level. He spend all of this season in the Florida State League which means he will likely start 2017 in Chattanooga. Some of the Twins' top prospects have made the jump from Double-A to the big leagues but Gordon still has some flaws. 

There have been questions about his defensive ability in the past. He posted a career worst .952 fielding percentage this season while committing 24 errors. Gordon has shown some good signs in the AFL including impressing ESPN's Keith Law by saving an error and completing a double play. The mixed reports on his defensive ability will continue to follow him.

Offensively, he has hit 23 doubles in each of the last two seasons but he's never hit more than three home runs. He has shown the ability to get on base as his OBP has been over .333 in every professional season. He did all of this while being considerably young for each league. This past season, he only had two at-bats against a pitcher that was younger than himself. 

While the Twins continue to wait for Gordon to develop, there will be other players given the opportunity to show they can handle shortstop. Jorge Polanco started 45 games at shortstop in 2016 and he could be in line to be the team's Opening Day starter. Eduardo Escobar is still arbitration eligible and he's played over 70 games at shortstop in each of the last three seasons. 

Major League Baseball is in the midst of a young shortstop revolution. Players like Lindor, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts are showing unbelievable talent at one of baseball's toughest positions. Gordon might not be in the same class as these players but he could still develop into a solid MLB contributor for years to come. 

Will Gordon finally stop the dizzying trend of revolving shortstops? I guess we will all have to wait to find out together.

How plays the most games at shortstop in 2017? When will Gordon take over the shortstop position in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Out With The Old

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
Veteran players can be the key to a winning team. Their experience can be valuable during season's most imperative moments. However, the Twins are a long ways away from being relevant in the American League. This might mean it is time to clean house of veteran bats that are taking playing time away from younger players.

On Monday, Nick ran through some of his ideas about how to revamp the Twins pitching staff. One of those ways could be to jettison some veteran players that have been part of Minnesota's culture of losing. 

Derek Falvey, Minnesota's new chief baseball officer, will be at the helm for plenty of changes in the years to come. The following names might be just a few of the players he will be looking to deal as he takes the reigns this off-season.

Trevor Plouffe
Over the last couple of seasons, Miguel Sano's emergence has meant that Plouffe's name has swirled around the rumor mill. Plouffe is coming off one of his worst MLB seasons and he still has one more year of arbitration eligibility. He was limited to under 115 games for the first time since 2011 as he battled through a groin injury, a cracked rib, a strained intercostal, and a strained oblique. It might be best for Plouffe to prove he is healthy in the first half of 2017 and then he could be dealt closer to the trade deadline. This would mean Sano and Plouffe would have to split time at third base and designated hitter.

Brian Dozier
Dozier is coming off a record breaking season where he set the American League record for home runs by a second baseman. His trade value is the highest it will likely ever be in his career. Dozier will turn 30 next May and the Twins have him under contract for an average of $7.5 million per season. With multiple years of team control and a team friendly contract, there could be multiple suitors looking for a veteran bat. I've been critical of Dozier's defense in the past but other team's might be able to look past his flaws because of his monster power numbers from a middle infield position.

Joe Mauer
When Mauer signed his eight-year deal to stay in Minnesota, no one had any idea that he wouldn't play catcher after the 2013 season. There are now two years remaining on his contract and there have been few flashes of the Mauer of old. On August 16 of this season, Mauer was hitting .284/.384/.417 before injuring his right quadriceps in that game. While playing through the injury, he strained his other quad and ended up batting .146/.255/.244 the rest of the way. No team is going to willingly take Mauer unless the Twins eat most of the contract. He's not getting any younger as he turns 34-years old near the beginning of next season. Mauer probably can't be moved at this point but it might start coming to the point where he's taking at-bats away from younger players.

Ervin Santana 
Twins Daily recently named Santana as the Twins' "Pitcher of the Year." When the team has the worst pitching staff in the American League, this isn't a huge honor but there were flashes of brilliance from Santana in 2016. His best stretch of pitching was in the middle of the season and this lead to plenty of trade rumors. From June 19 through August 21 (11 starts), he posted a 1.79 ERA with two complte games and one complete game shutout. Minnesota's biggest weakness is starting pitching so it's tough to imagine the team dealing away Santana unless they are getting some young pitching in return. He is signed through the 2018 season and it seems likely that he won't finish his current contract in a Twins uniform.

There's a very good chance that none of the players mentioned above will be on the next winning team in Minnesota. Dozier and Santana seem like likely options to be traded while Plouffe and Mauer's value might be too low this winter. Even if all of these players are on the Opening Day roster, it's time to start moving out with the old and in with the new.

Who will be on the roster when spring rolls around next year? Could any of these players bring back a decent prospect or two in return? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Twins Daily Awards 2016: Pitcher Of The Year

It's no secret that Minnesota's pitching was bad this season. They tied with Arizona for the worst ERA in baseball. Since the Twins last made the playoffs in 2010, every pitching staff has posted an ERA of 4.07 or higher. The only year the staff managed an ERA below 4.55 was the 2015 club. Pitching continues to be a giant hole for the Twins. 

The Twins Daily writers including minor league writers, voted for their top three pitcher of the year candidates. Three points were given for first place votes, two points for second place votes, and one point for third place votes. All seven ballots and point totals can be found below. In the end, Ervin Santana was the unanimous choice for the Twins Pitcher of the Year. 

Here is a quick reminder of our previous 2016 Twins Daily award winners:
Most Improved- Brian Dozier
Rookie of the Year- Max Kepler

Ervin Santana had something to prove during the 2016 season. This came a year after being suspended for 80 games on the heels of a big off-season free agent deal. When he returned from suspension, he allowed four runs or more in six of his first ten games (6.05 ERA) including 11 home runs. He would settle in from there posting a 1.62 ERA and a 5-2 record over his last seven starts.

Santana was able to build off of this strong finish in 2015 as the 2016 season began. Through his first seven starts, he had an ERA under 3.15 and a 32 to 14 strikeout to walk ratio. Even with these numbers, the Twins compiled a 1-6 record. Over his next five starts, he allowed five runs or more in all but one of those games. His season ERA topped out at 5.10 and he had a rough 1-7 record. 

From June 19 through August 21 (11 starts), Santana saw his best stretch of the year and it's likely one of the main reasons he won this award. Across 75.1 innings pitched he limited opponents to 15 earned runs (1.79 ERA). Batter hit .202/.241/.285 against him. This stretch also included two complete games and one complete game shutout against Oakland. 

"I haven't had many decisions in a year-and-a-half of letting a guy go out there to get a shutout," Twins manager Paul Molitor said about his late-inning decision to keep Santana rolling. "But, he was dominant." 

Santana's dominance cooled down as the season winded to a close. In September, he averaged less than six innings per appearance while opponents got on base over 32% of the time against him. He struck out more than a batter an inning (36 SO in 34 IP) and posted a solid 2.65 ERA. However, there was only one start where he was given more than three runs of support and that was his final win of the year. 

While Santana was a lone bright spot in a struggling rotation, there were some other bullpen arms that compiled solid numbers. Minnesota went into the season thinking a back-end trio of Glen Perkins, Trevor May, and Kevin Jepsen would be the key to winning games. Perkins missed almost the entire season, May tried to play through an injury, and Jepsen pitched terribly. This allowed other players to claim a role.

Brandon Kintzler signed with the Twins in December from the Brewers organization. With the trio mentioned above, he likely was uncertain of his role in Minnesota. He wouldn't earn his first save until the beginning of June but he went on quite a stretch after taking over the job. Over his next 19 appearances, he allowed three earned runs (1.50 ERA) as opponents got on base less than 28% of the time. There were some rough appearances over the last month but he set career highs in saves and games finished.

Other bullpen arms like Ryan Pressly and Fernando Abad were offered opportunities to prove they belonged at the big league level. Pressly set a career high in SO/9 and tossed over 75 innings for only the second time in his career. Abad signed on a minor league deal before the season. He posted a 2.65 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP before being dealt to the Red Sox at the trade deadline for RHP Pat Light. 

In a poor that included plenty of poor pitching, Santana and part of the bullpen put together strong stretches. There was plenty of talk of trading Santana around this year's trade deadline. It will be interesting to see if the new regime keeps Santana around or uses him as a trade chip to build for the future. 

In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily writers:
  • Seth Stohs – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Ryan Pressly/Taylor Rogers 
  • Parker Hageman – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Fernando Abad
  • Nick Nelson – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Ryan Pressly
  • Jeremy Nygaard – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Ryan Pressly
  • Cody Christie – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Fernando Abad
  • Steve Lien – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Ryan Pressly
  • Eric Pleiss – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Ricky Nolasco, 3.) Buddy Boshers
Ervin Santana- 21
Brandon Kintzler- 12
Ryan Pressly- 3.5
Ricky Nolasco- 2
Fernando Abad- 2
Buddy Boshers- 1
Taylor Rogers- 0.5

Feel free to discuss. How would your ballot look?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Twins Daily Awards 2016: Rookie Of The Year

Over the next week, we will be handing out the Twins Daily Minnesota Twins Awards. Today, the second award is announced in our series of “Of The Year” awards. Even in a terrible season, there were some positive signs from the young players on the Twins roster. 

The Twins Daily writers including minor league writers, voted for their top three rookie of the year candidates. Voting for these awards was completed with over a week left in the season so things could have definitely changed with some strong performances down the stretch. In the end, Max Kepler was the unanimous choice for the Twins Rookie of the Year. 

Here is a quick reminder of our previous 2016 Twins Daily award winners:
Most Improved- Brian Dozier
Photo Credit: Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
Max Kepler got a brief taste of the big leagues at the end of 2015 after a monster minor league campaign. With only seven at-bats above the Double-A level, it made sense to have Kepler start the year in Rochester. Minnesota was also experimenting with Miguel Sano, last year's Twins' Rookie of the Year, in a corner outfield spot so there wasn't a place for him to get consistent at-bats.

Kepler spent most of April and May in the Rochester line-up where he hit .282/.367/.455 with 11 extra-base hits in 30 games. At the beginning of June, the Twins recalled Kepler and he'd spend the rest of the season in the big leagues. There were still a few growing pains in June as he posted a 26 to 9 strikeout to walk ratio with nine doubles and three home runs. He found his power stroke in July as he cranked eight home runs on his way to posting a .898 OPS for the month. He got on base over 32% of the time in every month from June through August. 

Kepler best stretch might have come when he was named co-American League Player of the Week for the week from August 1-August 7. He began that week with a three-homer, six-RBI outing against the Indians. He finished the week hitting .370/.471/.815 with four home runs and 11 RBI. "I'm not a home run hitter, so it's rare," Kepler said. "I'm trying to put the ball in play and hit it hard. I'm thankful for the backspin I was blessed with."

Not everything was a blessing for Kepler this season. While Buxton was on a tear in September, Kepler struggled through the final month by hitting .207/.255/.283 with five extra-base hits. A mild neck strain kept him out of the line-up for a handful of games. There were also some issues with Kepler's defense throughout the season. He lead the AL in errors committed as a right-fielder. FanGraphs ranks him as the second worst defensive right-fielder out of players who qualified in 2016.

If the season had been a couple weeks longer, this award might have belonged to Byron Buxton. During the season's final month, he batted .287/.357/.653 (1.011) with nine home runs, six doubles, and two triples. Even with the hot month, he still only hit .225/.284/.430 for the year with a 118 to 23 strikeout to walk ratio. FanGraphs' defensive ranking placed him fifth in the AL among center fielders with over 750 innings. This was two spots ahead of perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout.

Taylor Rogers and Jorge Polanco also showed some of their long-term value to the club. Rogers was one of four Twins pitchers to post an ERA under 4.00. He showed decent control by tying his lowest BB/9 mark of his career while setting a career high mark in SO/9 for a full season league. Polanco played 50+ games over the season's final two months and hit .286/.330/.419 with 18 extra-base hits. He will likely open next year as the team's starting shortstop if he can continue to hit at that pace while improving his defense. 

Even with his struggles, Kepler surprised a lot of people in 2016 and showed that his break-out 2015 campaign was not a fluke. He played in a career high 143 games after never playing more than 120 games in minor league season. There are still areas of improvement but he has the chance to be an above average major league player for most of the next decade. 


In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily writers:
  • Seth Stohs – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Jorge Polanco, 3.) Taylor Rogers
  • Parker Hageman – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Bryon Buxton, 3.) Taylor Rogers
  • Nick Nelson – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Bryon Buxton, 3.) Taylor Rogers
  • Jeremy Nygaard – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Jorge Polanco, 3.) Byron Buxton
  • Cody Christie – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Bryon Buxton, 3.) Taylor Rogers
  • Steve Lien – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Jorge Polanco, 3.) Taylor Rogers
  • Eric Pleiss – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Buddy Boshers, 3.) Byron Buxton
Max Kepler- 21
Byron Buxton- 8
Taylor Rogers- 6
Jorge Polanco- 5
Buddy Boshers- 2

Feel free to discuss. How would your ballot look?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Picking AL and NL MVPs

Photo Credit: Troy Taormina, USA Today Sports
One league has a pretty clear cut choice as the regular season comes to a close. The other league's MVP race is a little more open ended which can lead to quite the debate. Should the MVP go to the league's best player even if he's on a bad team? Or should the MVP be on a team that was in contention for the entire year?

In the middle of his recent hot streak, I wrote about Brian Dozier's chance at the AL's top honor. There's little chance the MVP would come from a team with over 100 losses but he could end up getting some top-10 votes. Selecting the top spot in the American League certainly comes with it's own array of challenges.

American League MVP Race
For the second time in his young career, Mike Trout has surpassed 10 WAR according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs has Trout a tick under 10 with a 9.4 WAR. Both of these totals are a full win higher than his next closest competitor, Mookie Betts.

Betts versus Trout is going to be the hot button topic in the MVP race. Trout led all of baseball in runs, walks, OBP, and OPS + while playing terrific defense in center field. The Angels PR Department tweeted out a list of Trout's accomplishments this season and it's pretty remarkable. Betts led all of baseball in at-bats and total bases while playing defense that might have been better than Trout.

The Angels haven't been within five games of first place since the middle of May. Betts and the Red Sox have been near the top of the AL East for most of the season. Since September 7, Boston has lead the East. Over the last month of the season while being in the middle of the pennant race, Betts has hit .310/.373/.389 with seven extra-base hits.

Should the voting members of the BBWAA pick A very good player on a 90-win team? Or should the best player in baseball over the last couple years get his second MVP award? Betts might have the narrative that voters tend to favor but Trout has been better than Betts so my vote goes to him.

Who should win? Trout
Who will win? Betts
Complete Ballot: 1. Trout, 2. Betts, 3. Josh Donaldson, 4. Jose Altuve, 5. Manny Machado, 6. Robinson Cano, 7. Adrian Beltre, 8. Dozier, 9. Francisco Lindor, 10. Corey Kluber

National League MVP Race
While the AL race might be close, the National League race could be a unanimous choice. The Chicago Cubs were the best team in baseball for most of the season. They won over 100 games and cruised to a division title in what had been one of the toughest divisions in recent years. Kris Bryant has been the best player in the league and he should easily win his first MVP.

Bryant has been impressive during his second full-season. He lead the NL in runs while raising all of his offensive numbers. In 2015, he led the league with 199 strikeouts but he cut that number back to 154 this year. He's also been used at multiple defensive positions including third base, first base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions.

Corey Seager and Daniel Murphy will have a good battle for the NL's runner-up spot. Both players had very good seasons on team that easily won their divisions. Seager's impressive rookie campaign could be the sign of future MVP awards. Murphy might be the missing link for a Nationals club that has struggled with finding post-season success.

Who should win? Bryant
Who will win? Bryant
Complete Ballot: 1. Bryant, 2. Seager, 3. Murphy, 4. Anthony Rizzo, 5. Freddie Freeman, 6. Max Scherzer, 7. Nolan Arenado, 8. Brandon Crawford, 9. Justin Turner, 10. Noah Syndergaard

How would you ballot look for each league? Leave a COMMENT and start this discussion.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Can Derek Falvey Be The New Andy MacPhail?

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher, USA Today Sports
The Minnesota Twins of the early-1980's were bad... like really bad... like almost as bad as the Twins of the last handful of years. There was a 100-loss season in 1982 as well as multiple 90 loss seasons as a new age of young players took their lumps. As these players gained their footing, Minnesota would win two World Series titles in a five year span.

When Calvin Griffith sold the Twins to Carl Pohlad, the new ownership group looked for a young, up-and-coming executive to bring the team back from the abyss. Andy MacPhail, a 33-year old with two years experience as an assistant GM, was handed the reigns and the rest is history.

Putting trust in a young, unproven leader worked for the Twins in the late-1980's. Now Twins fans hope that history will repeat itself.

Sources point to the Twins hiring 33-year-old Derek Falvey from the Cleveland Indians as their new president of baseball operations. Minnesota wanted a new voice at the front of their baseball operations and Falvey is half as old as former GM Terry Ryan. To put this in more perspective, Falvey is the same age as current Twins player Joe Mauer.

Falvey has moved swiftly through the Indians organization as he started as his baseball career as an intern in 2007. In less than a decade, he moved up to assistant general manager. During the last calendar year, he will have moved from director of baseball operations to assistant GM and now to president of baseball operations.

As I mentioned at the end of last week, Falvey's young age and rapid rise in the Indians organization could all help his cause. The Twins don't switch front office personnel very often so a young, passionate person could hold down the spot for years. It's going to take a massive shift to move Minnesota from the bottom of the standings and a lot will be riding on the shoulders of Mr. Falvey.

MacPhail has gone on to work as the Preisdent and CEO of the Cubs, the President of Baseball Operations in Baltimore, and he currently serves as the President of the Philadelphia Phillies. Even with all of these stops, one of his biggest accomplishments might have been rebuilding the Twins pitching staff leading into 1987 and overhauling the rotation going into 1991.

Frank Viola, Bert Blyleven and Les Straker led the 1987 rotation with Jeff Reardon in the closer role. Jack Morris, Scott Erickson, and Kevin Tapani were the top three starters in 1991 with Rick Aguilera as the closer. "We had to turn the entire pitching staff over in a four-year period, which was no easy feat," MacPhail said. He went on to say it took "a little bit of everything" to turn the pitching staff around.

Now Falvey is tasked with a similar challenge including turning around a pitching staff with an AL's worst ERA. Falvey's current team, the Indians, are on their way to winning the AL Central and their pitchers have the AL's best ERA. Falvey currently oversees the Indians' whole pitching program and that might be one of the main reasons he is ending up in the Twins front office.

Only time will tell if Falvey can find some of the same magic that surround MacPhail and the Twins two World Series rosters. Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Jose Berrios could end up following in the footsteps of Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, and Scott Erickson.

Those days seem a long ways off but Falvey provides some hope for a better tomorrow even if a World Series title seems years away.

What can Falvey do to overhaul the rotation? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

President Candidates Narrowed To Five

Photo Credit: Jerry Lai, USA Today Sports
Minnesota's search for a new president of baseball operations might be getting closer to completion. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports the Twins front-office interviews could stop at five candidates. The list includes one internal option and four options with various roles throughout baseball.

As recently as last week, there were reports that "multiple GM types have rebuffed" the Twins interest. There are plenty of issues within the offices of 1 Twins Way and it is going to take some time to rebuild the team's infrastructure.

With a young core that includes the likes of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, there are pieces to build around. Minnesota also looks to be headed toward the number one overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. This would be another cornerstone piece and an attractive incentive for a potential hire.

So who are the candidates and what should fans know about their credentials?

Rob Antony
Current Position: Interim GM, Minnesota Twins
Antony is the only internal candidate that will be granted a formal interview for the Twins' president of baseball operations role. His interview has already been conducted and he has served as the team's general manager since Terry Ryan was fired two weeks before the trade deadline.

Antony was able to make a handful of deals at the deadline including dumping the contract of Ricky Nolasco. Even with this moves, it seems like the Twins are destined to look outside the organization for some new ideas and a new direction. Antony has been with the Twins since being hired as a public relations intern in 1987.

Jason McLeod
Current Position: Senior VP of Player Development , Chicago Cubs
Earlier this week, Buster Olney reported that McLeod "has done well in the Twins' interview process." He went on to say he is "well-regarded" and "well-positioned" in Minnesota discussions. In the days following Ryan's firing, I said the Twins should focus their attention on McLeod because of his connections to Theo Epstein. Epstein is widely regarded as the top front office mind in the game.

McLeod has worked with Epstein since the beginning and he has been rumored to be a candidate for multiple jobs through the years. Some of his player development successes include Dustin Pedroia, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo. He's also done a good job of finding undervalued pitchers like last year's NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta.

J.J. Picollo
Current Position: VP/Assistant GM-Player Personnel, Kansas City Royals
The Royals have been one of the darlings of the baseball world over the last two seasons. The Twins have gotten a first hand look as the Royals rolled through the AL Central in 2014 and 2015 on the way to back-to-back AL pennants. He has worked with the Royals since 2006 and has held the titles of Director of Player Development and Assistant GM- Scouting and Player Development.

Before coming to Kansas City, Picollo worked as an Area Scouting Supervisor in the Braves organization. He worked for Atlanta from 1999-2005 with his highest title being Director of Minor League Operations. As recently as last off-season, he was a finalist for Philadelphia's GM opening.

Chaim Bloom
Current Position: VP of Baseball Operations, Tampa Bay Rays
After graduation from Yale University in 2004, Bloom was hired by Tampa Bay as an intern. He has moved quickly through their ranks from assistant in baseball operations to assistant director of minor league operations in 2008. Other positions he has held include director of baseball operations and vice president of baseball operations.

According to the Rays, his current duties include overseeing "all aspects of the baseball operations department, including the Rays international scouting efforts and both domestic and international player development." He also assists the Ray's president of baseball operations with many of the day-to-day aspects of running the baseball operations side of their club. This could be vital with the Twins looking to create a new position in their organization.

Derek Falvey
Current Position: Assistant GM , Cleveland Indians
At 32-years old, Falvey was promoted to Cleveland's assistant general manager last October. He is in his ninth year in the Indian's organization. Before the move to his current position, Falvey spent four years as the Indian's director of baseball operations. He started his baseball career as an intern with the Indians in 2007 before moving to the role of Assistant, Scouting Operations.

Yahoo's Jeff Passan labeled Falvey as "emerging as a strong candidate for Minnesota Twins president job." He went on to say, "Falvey is extremely well-regarded in [the] industry." His young age and rapid rise in the Indians organization could all help his cause. The Twins don't switch front office personnel very often so a young, passionate person could hold the spot down for years.

Which candidate stands out to you? Who would you like the Twins to hire? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dozier's Case For American League MVP

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
There's no arguing how bad the Twins have been this season. Even through all the mucky mess on the field, Brian Dozier has emerged as one bright spot in a sea of darkness.

The home runs and his recent hitting streak have kept him in the news. He's put up numbers that have never been seen before from a second baseman but is it enough to put him into the American League MVP conversation.

By The Numbers
Dozier's 39 home runs as a second baseman (two have come as DH) have him tied for all-time AL record by a second baseman. He is only three home runs behind Davey Johnson and Rogers Hornsby for the MLB record. Baseball Reference ranks Dozier as the fifth best player in the AL this season while FanGraphs ranks him as the sixth best AL player. He has more home runs than everyone in front of him and he is closing in on the century mark with RBI (98) and runs (99).

When Dozier scores his next run, he will join Chuck Knoblach as the only Twins to ever score 100-plus runs in three straight seasons. Since June 18, Dozier has 34 home runs, the most in baseball, while his closest competitors have only managed 22 apiece. During his current 22-game hit streak, he's hitting .351/.425/.766 with 11 home runs in 94 at-bats.

Historical Precedent
Voters tend to look at the best players on winning teams when handing out the top AL hardware. However, there is a historical precedent for MVPs playing for losing teams. The 1991 Baltimore Orioles finished in sixth place in the AL East with a 67-95 record. Cal Ripken Jr. cranked 34 home runs and drove in 114 on his way to the AL MVP.

The 2003 Texas Rangers finished the year with 91 losses but Alex Rodriguez still came away with the AL's top honor. Rodriguez had a historical season for a shortstop while hitting 47 home runs and drove in 118 RBI. He combined for a 8.4 WAR, the seventh best total of his career.

It takes the right atmosphere in the baseball world but it is not unprecedented for player on a losing team to win the MVP.  

Candidates Catching A Cold
For much of the first half of the season, it looked like Jose Altuve could run away with the AL MVP. The Astros were playing well and he was putting up tremendous numbers. He hit .341/.413/.542 with 14 home runs, 24 doubles, and 23 stolen bases. As the Astros have fallen further behind in the standings, Altuve has struggled at the plate. So far in September, he is hitting .222/.279/.365 with five extra-base hits.

Josh Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, looked to join Miguel Cabrera as the only back-to-back MVP winner in the 2000's. Much like Altuve, he played very well in the first half by combining for a 1.017 OPS with 23 home runs and 20 doubles. A second half slide has seen his average dip to .253 while be limited to just 20 extra-base hits. Toronto is just four game out in the AL East so this could help Donaldson's candidacy.

Fishing For Trout
While other candidates might be falling by the wayside, Mike Trout might be emerging as a favorite. Like Dozier, Trout is on a bad team but his WAR total far outpaces the competition on both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. He entered play on Monday leading the AL in walks and OBP. He's also on pace to lead the AL in Offensive WAR for the sixth consecutive season.

If the voters looked solely at WAR, Trout would have many more MVPs in his trophy case. His lone MVP award came in 2014 when the Angels won the AL West by 10 games. If Altuve and Donaldson continue their recent cold streaks, the voters might look to a familiar name even if he is on a bad Angels squad. By many accounts, he is the best player in the game and he has only one MVP award.

When push comes to shove, Dozier will likely get some top-10 and even top-5 votes for the AL MVP. He would need to continue his blistering pace over the last few weeks to make his numbers truly stand apart from the crowd.

Unfortunately, there haven't been many eyes on Minnesota baseball this season and that can only hurt his MVP chances. It's been an historic season for the Twins Brian Dozier but it has been a small ripple in a very big MLB pond.

Where would Dozier be on your AL MVP Ballot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Is The Buxton Era Beginning?

Photo Credit: Jordan Johnson, USA Today Sports
The Twins' schedule is slowly coming to an end and many fans might be turning away as the losses continue to mount. But while fans are averting their gaze, they could be missing the start of something special on the field.

After struggling through his first 100+ games, Byron Buxton might finally be putting together all the skills that made him one of baseball's best prospects. Is the Buxton Era beginning in Minnesota? 

Being able to adjust to pitching at baseball's highest level can be one of the toughest challenges. When the Twins drafted Buxton, a concern surrounding him was the fact that he played his entire amateur career in rural Georgia. Even with this background, he showed few hitting concerns as he moved through the Twins system. 

Buxton has dominated the upper levels of the minor leagues over parts of the last two seasons. In 2015, he hit .305/.367/.500 at Double-A and Triple-A. The 2016 season has been even better as his Triple-A OPS is up to .927 while hitting double digit home runs at a level for only the second time in career. All the signs were there but the transition to baseball's highest level wasn't smooth. 

Through his first 109 games, Buxton batted .199/.248/.319 while positing a 34.8% K%. Pitchers were overpowering him at the plate. There were sprinkles of positive signs but the overall numbers don't lie. Something had to change with the 22-year old uber prospect and maybe he finally found the cure for his big league blues. 

One of the biggest changes for Buxton this season might be the return of his leg kick. Minnesota tried to have Buxton cut back on this movement after drafting him. According to FanGraphs, the Twins organization has a "front foot down early" hitting approach. At the beginning of this season his leg kick wasn't there but throughout this season his leg kick has reemerged. 

Since being recalled on September 1, Buxton has looked like he might finally be hitting his stride at the big league level. Entering play on Wednesday, Buxton has gone 15-for-43 with five home runs and four doubles in his last 12 games. Obviously this isn't a huge sample size but the Twins are searching for small rays of hope during this mess of a season. 

It may be too early to declare the official start of the Byron Buxton era but he is certainly one of many reasons to watch the Twins as the season winds to a close. Minnesota's future is tied to Buxton's success. He will need to continue to make adjustments but we could be on the cusp of a new era for the Twins.