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.