Archive for Twins

Daily Prospect Notes: 7/11

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Andres Gimenez, SS, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Hi-A   Age: 19   Org Rank: 3   FV: 50
Line: 3-for-5, 2B, 3B

Notes
Gimenez is a 19-year-old shortstop slashing .280/.350/.430 in the Florida State League. That’s good for a 107 wRC+ in the FSL. Big-league shortstops with similar wRC+ marks are Trea Turner (a more explosive player and rangier defender than Gimenez) and Jurickson Profar, who have both been two-win players or better this year ahead of the break. Also of note in the Mets system last night was Ronny Mauricio, who extended his career-opening hitting streak to 19 games.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 7/9

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Victor Robles, CF, Washington Nationals (Profile)
Level: Rehab   Age: 21   Org Rank: 1   FV: 65
Line: 0-for-1, BB

Notes
Robles has begun to make rehab appearances on his way back from a hyperextended left elbow that he suffered in early April. He’s gotten two plate appearances in the GCL each of the last two days. The Nationals’ big-league outfield situation should enable Robles to have a slow, careful rehab process that takes a few weeks. He is one of baseball’s best prospects.

Adam Haseley, CF, Philadelphia Phillies (Profile)
Level: Hi-A Age: 22   Org Rank: 7   FV: 45
Line: 2-for-5, HR

Notes
The homer was Haseley’s fifth of the year and his slash line now stands at .301/.344/.417. He’s undergone several swing tweaks this year, starting with a vanilla, up-and-down leg kick last year; a closed, Giancarlo Stanton-like stance early this season; and now an open stance with more pronounced leg kick that loads more toward his rear hip. All that would seem to be part of an effort to get Haseley hitting for more power, his skillset’s most glaring weakness. But Haseley’s swing plane is so flat that such a change may not, alone, be meaningful as far as home-run production is concerned, though perhaps there will be more extra-base hits.

The way Haseley’s peripherals have trended since college gives us a glimpse of how a relative lack of power alters those variables in pro ball. His strikeout and walk rates at UVA were 11% and 12% respectively, an incredible 7% and 16% as a junior. In pro ball, they’ve inverted, and have been 15% and 5% in about 600 pro PAs.

Akil Baddoo, OF, Minnesota Twins (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 19   Org Rank: 12   FV: 45
Line: 3-for-5, 2B, SB

Notes
Baddoo is scorching, on an 11-game hit streak during which he has amassed 20 hits, nine for extra-bases. He crushes fastballs and can identify balls and strikes, but Baddoo’s strikeout rate has doubled this year as he’s seen more decent breaking balls, with which he has struggled. Considering how raw Baddoo was coming out of high school, however, his performance, especially as far as the plate discipline is concerned, has been encouraging. He’s a potential everyday player with power and speed.

Jesus Tinoco, RHP, Colorado Rockies (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 23   Org Rank: NR   FV: 40
Line: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 1 R, 7 K

Notes
Tinoco didn’t make the Rockies’ offseason list, as I thought he had an outside shot to be a reliever but little more. His strikeout rate is way up. He still projects in the bullpen, sitting 93-95 with extreme fastball plane that also adds artificial depth to an otherwise fringe curveball. He’ll probably throw harder than that in the Futures Game.

Travis MacGregor, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 20   Org Rank: 21   FV: 40
Line: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 2 R, 6 K

Notes
MacGregor is a projection arm who is performing thanks to his ability to throw his fastball for strikes, though not always where he wants. His delivery has a bit of a crossfire action but is otherwise on the default setting and well composed, with only the release point varying. It’s pretty good, considering many pitchers with MacGregor’s size are still reigning in control of their extremities. MacGregor’s secondaries don’t always have great movement but should be at least average at peak. He projects toward the back of a rotation.

Austin Cox, LHP, Kansas City Royals (Profile)
Level: Short Season Age: 21   Org Rank: HM   FV: 35
Line: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 1 R, 10 K

Notes
Cox, Kansas City’s fourth-rounder out of Mercer, has a 23:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11.2 pro innings. He put up goofy strikeout numbers at Mercer, too, but struggles with fastball command. He’s a high-slot lefty who creates tough angle on a low-90s fastball, and his curveball has powerful, vertical shape. It’s likely Cox will be limited to relief work due to fastball command, but he could be very good there, especially if the fastball ticks up in shorter outings.

Notes from the Field
Just some pitcher notes from the weekend here. I saw Rangers RHP Kyle Cody rehabbing in Scottsdale. He was 94-96 for two innings and flashed a plus curveball. Joe Palumbo rehabbed again in the AZL and looked the same as he did last week.

Cleveland has another arm of note in the AZL, 6-foot-1, 18-year-old Dominican righty Ignacio Feliz. He’s one of the best on-mound athletes I’ve seen in the AZL and his arm works well. He sits only 88-92 but that should tick up as he matures physically. His fastball has natural cut, and at times, he throws what looks like a true cutter in the 84-87 range. He also has a 12-to-6 curveball that flashes plus.

Feliz could develop in a number of different ways. Cleveland could make a concerted effort to alter his release so Feliz is more behind the ball, which would probably play better with his curveballs. Alternatively, they might nurture his natural proclivity for cut and see what happens. Either way, this is an exciting athlete with workable stuff who doesn’t turn 19 until the end of October.

Between 15 and 18 scouts were on hand for Saturday night’s Dodgers and Diamondbacks AZL game. That’s much more than is typical for an AZL game, even at this time of year, and is hard to explain away by saying these scouts were on usual coverage. D-backs OF Kristian Robinson (whom we have ranked No. 2 in the system) was a late, precautionary scratch after being hit with a ball the day before, so he probably wasn’t their collective target. Instead, I suspect it was Dodgers 19-year-old Mexican righty Gerardo Carrillo, who was 91-96 with a plus curveball. I saw Carrillo pitch in relief of Yadier Alvarez on the AZL’s opening night, during which he was 94-97. He’s small, and my knee-jerk reaction was to bucket him as a reliever, but there’s enough athleticism to try things out in a rotation and see if it sticks.


Another Fascinating Thing About Willians Astudillo

Willians Astudillo has captured baseball’s collective imagination — and for good reason.

In an age when the march toward three true outcomes seems inevitable and indomitable, Astudillo arrives as an outlier of outliers, an offensive peformer who never walks or strikeouts, whose batting line would make much more sense if it were produced by a 19th century hitter.

When the Twins called up Astudillo late last month, Jeff Sullivan examined his curious numbers at every professional stop. It is believed Astudillo first appeared in these Web pages as Carson’s “guy” way back in 2016.

Fittingly, Astudillo has not struck out or walked through his first 14 major-league plate appearances.

Said Astudillo of his approach to the Star-Tribune:

“Coaches try to change my approach,” he said. “It’s just who I am. I’m a free swinger.”

Said Twins baseball operations chief Derek Falvey to the Star Tribune:

“I don’t think he gets to [strike] three very often. He’s an aggressive guy. It’s not a secret. I’m not revealing anything the advance work won’t show. He attacks the ball and makes good contact. Sometimes that profile plays well off the bench when you think about different types of guys to bring in the sixth, seventh, eighth inning.”

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The Twins’ 2018 Has Been a Mess

It would be an exaggeration to say that nothing has gone right for the Twins since the 2018 season began. After all, they’ve won 35 games, which is more than the Orioles, Royals, or White Sox have done. They finished June with their best record of any calendar month (13-14, .481). Their big-league pitchers have avoided Tommy John surgery this year, Target Field has not burned down, and the last time we checked, none of their players has been sucked into an interdimensional vortex.

Still, yuck. This was supposed to be a much better and more interesting team, with 24-year-old center fielder Byron Buxton its centerpiece in the wake of last year’s second-half breakout (.300/.347/.546, 130 wRC+, 2.7 WAR). Buxton was a promising part of a Twins group that become the first team to rebound from a 100-loss season with a playoff berth.

The Twins were also one of the most active and intriguing clubs the winter, exploring the possibility of trading for the Rays’ Chris Archer, making free agent Yu Darvish a credible nine-figure offer, and taking advantage of the weird slowness of the market by buying bargains in bulk. They signed Lance Lynn, Logan Morrison, Michael Pineda, Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, and Zach Duke, all without committing more than two years or $16.75 million to any of them.

While they may have avoided falling knives when it comes to Archer and Darvish, the Twins were swept by the Cubs at Wrigley Field this past weekend and fell to 10 games below .500 for the first time since the end of 2016. Their playoff odds, which stood at 28.7% at the start of the season, were down to 1.2% entering Tuesday. They’re a big reason the AL Central is on track to be the worst division since 1994 realignment; at 18-33 in games outside that division, their .353 winning percentage is right on target with the entire division’s collective .354 mark in such games.

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The Weirdest Player in the Minors Is Now in the Majors

When you do this as a full-time job, you spend a lot of time looking at the numbers. And when you spend a lot of time looking at the numbers, you start to notice certain outliers. Then you start to root for certain outliers. It’s hard to be a fan of a team, when you’re supposed to write about everyone objectively. So you settle on other interests. The Twins just called up an interest.

The Twins selected the contract of catcher/infielder Willians Astudillo from Triple-A Rochester. Astudillo appeared in 49 games for the Red Wings this season, hitting .290 (51-for-176) with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 25 RBI.

Astudillo is now on the roster at the expense of Felix Jorge. Or, if you want to look at it differently, he’s on the roster at the expense of Taylor Motter. Jorge was designated for assignment, and Motter was placed on the disabled list. And I don’t think the Twins want to be here; they’d rather be higher in the standings. They’d rather have a healthy Jason Castro. They’d rather have a productive Miguel Sano. The Twins would like to have a lot more things going right. But there’s the story of the team, and there are the stories of the team’s individual players. Circumstances have permitted Astudillo to reach the majors for the first-ever time. I’m sure he doesn’t care about the explanation. Astudillo has been a career-long outlier, and now he’ll receive his first major-league paycheck.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/27

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Jabari Blash, OF, Los Angeles Angels (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 28   Org Rank: NR  FV: 35
Line: 3-for-3, 3 HR, BB

Notes
Blash is no longer rookie-eligible, so while he’s a fun player to watch hit bombs and had a hell of a game last night, he’s on here today as a conduit to discuss what’s going on with some of the Angels hitters in the lowest levels of the minors. This is Trent Deveaux last fall, when he first arrived in the states. His swing was largely the same early this spring, albeit with a stronger, more involved top hand, which helped him drive the ball with more authority. This is what he looks like right now, which bears quite a bit of resemblance to Blash. No offense to Blash, who has had a long pro career and will probably play for another half-decade or so, but I’m not sure I’d proactively alter an ultra-talented 18-year-old’s swing to mimic that of a notoriously frustrating replacement-level player. Deveaux isn’t the only low-level Angels hitting prospect whose swing now looks like this.

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Eddie Rosario Has Surpassed His Peers

A little more than four years ago, on the cusp of the 2014 big-league baseball season, you could have been forgiven for not paying all that much attention to Eddie Rosario. His performance as a 21-year-old between High-A and Double-A in 2013 had been good but not exceptional (a .275/.324/.415 line over 746 plate appearances), and he’d just been popped for use of a banned substance, which would keep him off the field for the first 50 games of 2014. He was a back-end top-100 prospect — No. 60 on BP’s list, 76 on ours, and 119 on Minor League Ball’s — but sufficiently outclassed by the four Twins ranked above him on all three lists (Byron Buxton at No. 1 on our list, Miguel Sano at No. 10, Alex Meyer at No. 23, and Kohl Stewart at No. 32) that he missed out on much of the national attention then showered on his colleagues.

Four years later, it’s a different story in Minnesota. Stewart is in Double-A, Meyer is in Anaheim, and Rosario’s 9.0 career WAR outclasses every single one of the Twins’ prospects from that loaded class, including Sano and Buxton — even if you throw the rest of our 2014 Twins top-10 list into the hopper for comparison’s sake:

2014 Twins Top 10 Prospects
Player 2014 Rank 2018 Age Career WAR
Byron Buxton 1 23 4.6
Miguel Sano 2 24 5.3
Alex Meyer 3 26 1.0
Kohl Stewart 4 23 N/A
Eddie Rosario 5 25 9.0
Jose Berrios 6 23 4.9
Max Kepler 7 24 3.4
Jorge Polanco 8 22 1.7
Danny Santana 9 25 1.5
Josmil Pinto 10 26 0.8

Now, let’s be clear about what I’m not saying here: I’m not saying that Rosario will end his career with more WAR than Buxton, Sano, or even Berrios, who’s had a pretty nice start in the majors, as well. At 25, Rosario is older than all three of those men, and more than a third of his career WAR has come in the last three months. We’re nowhere near being able to render a final verdict on the Twins prospects of recent vintage. So I’m not saying Rosario has “won” anything or that his peers have flopped.

What I am saying, though, is that it’s perhaps at least a little surprising that Rosario — and not any of the other men on this list — has been the most productive member of that loaded Twins farm system to date and, further, that perhaps his performance to date merits a little bit of examination as a result. So let’s examine, shall we?

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The Manager’s Perspective: Ron Gardenhire on Players from His Past

Ron Gardenhire’s experience in the game extends far beyond his 14 seasons as a big-league manager. The 60-year-old “Gardy” has also spent time as a coach and a minor-league manager — and, before that, he played nine seasons as an infielder in the New York Mets system. Primarily a shortstop, Gardenhire appeared in 285 games with the NL East club between 1981 and -85.

He’s also a lifelong fan of the game. The bulk of Gardenhire’s formative years were spent in small-town Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where he collected bubble-gum cards, religiously tuned in to The Game of the Week, and cheered for his heroes. Then he got to live his dream. Gardenhire played with and against the likes of Dave Kingman, Rusty Staub, and Pete Rose. As he told me recently at Fenway Park, “I’ve been fortunate.”

———

Ron Gardenhire: “I was an Okie, so I followed the guys who were from Oklahoma more than anything else. Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, Bobby Murcer. I also watched the Dodgers, Don Drysdale and those guys, because my dad was in the military and we were out in Arvin, California when he was overseas in Korea. That’s when I really got into baseball. I collected bubble-gum cards, and all that stuff, with my cousins out there.

“Every Saturday we would hunker down in front of the TV and watch the Game of the Week. In our area — this is when we were back in Oklahoma — a lot of the time it was the Cardinals. They were prominent there. We’d also get to see the Yankees quite a bit, and the Dodgers.

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The Padres Paid a Bunch for a Draft Pick

This past weekend, the San Diego Padres completed a trade, sending Janigson Villalobos to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Phil Hughes.

The precise players involved aren’t of particular significance. The Padres’ prospect list contained 75 names and Villalobos was not among them. As for Hughes, he had recently been designated for assignment after pitching poorly over the last three seasons. Much of that subpar performance was due to injury and included thoracic outlet surgery. As Jay Jaffe recently chronicled, few pitchers return to prominence after TOS.

By designating Hughes for assignment, the Twins appeared willing to eat the roughly $22 million remaining on his contract through next season. The Padres are taking on some of that obligation in exchange for a competitive balance draft pick, so the functional part of the trade looks like this.

Padres get:

  • 74th pick in 2018 draft and $812,200 in bonus pool money that goes with it.

Twins get:

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Phil Hughes and the Sobering History of Thoracic Outlet Injuries

The Twins designated Phil Hughes for assignment on Monday, bringing to an apparent end the 31-year-old righty’s five-year run with the team and perhaps marking the end of his 12-year big league career. On a superficial level, his is a tale of a big-money contract gone wrong, as the Minnesota media — which knows red meat when it sees it, as fan perception of Joe Mauer’s long decline phase attests — was quick to take note of the team’s $22.6 million remaining salary commitment. On a deeper level, Hughes’ tenure with the team is a reminder of the fragility of pitchers’ bodies in general, and the ravages of thoracic outlet syndrome, for which Hughes underwent surgery not once but twice. The annals of such surgeries feature few happy endings.

Hughes had thrown just 12 innings this year, allowing four home runs while being pummeled for a 6.75 ERA and a 7.62 FIP. After starting the year on the disabled list due to an oblique strain, he returned on April 22 and failed to escape the fourth inning in either of his two starts. Sent to the bullpen, he made five appearances, the last three each separated by one day of rest. While his average fastball velocity (90.4 mph according to Pitch Info) was back up to where it was in 2015, his last reasonably healthy season, it sounds as though manager Paul Molitor felt hamstrung when it came to finding situations in which to use him.

“I guess it was somewhat comparable to almost a Rule 5 situation where you’re trying to find the right spots, and they were few and far between,” Molitor told reporters on Monday night.

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Top 30 Prospects: Minnesota Twins

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Minnesota Twins. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.

All the numbered prospects here also appear on THE BOARD, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. Click here to visit THE BOARD.

Twins Top Prospects
Rk Name Age High Level Position ETA FV
1 Royce Lewis 18 A CF 2020 55
2 Nick Gordon 22 AA SS 2019 50
3 Alex Kirilloff 20 A RF 2021 50
4 Fernando Romero 23 MLB RHP 2018 50
5 Stephen Gonsalves 23 AAA LHP 2019 50
6 Travis Blankenhorn 21 A+ 2B 2021 45
7 Wander Javier 19 R SS 2022 45
8 Brusdar Graterol 19 A RHP 2023 45
9 Mitch Garver 27 MLB C 2018 45
10 Brent Rooker 23 AA 1B 2020 45
11 LaMonte Wade 24 AA LF 2019 45
12 Akil Baddoo 19 A CF 2021 45
13 Jose Miranda 19 A 2B 2022 45
14 Yunior Severino 18 R 2B 2023 45
15 Blayne Enlow 19 A RHP 2022 40
16 Jaylin Davis 23 A+ RF 2020 40
17 Lewin Diaz 21 A+ 1B 2021 40
18 Jake Reed 25 AAA RHP 2018 40
19 Jake Cave 25 AAA CF 2018 40
20 Zack Littell 22 AAA RHP 2019 40
21 Landon Leach 18 R RHP 2023 40
22 John Curtiss 25 MLB RHP 2018 40
23 Gabriel Moya 23 MLB LHP 2018 40
24 Andrew Bechtold 21 A 3B 2022 40
25 Ryley Widell 20 R LHP 2022 40
26 Zack Granite 25 MLB CF 2018 40
27 Tyler Jay 23 AA LHP 2019 40
28 Lewis Thorpe 22 AA LHP 2019 40
29 Alex Robinson 23 A+ LHP 2019 40
30 Luke Bard 27 MLB RHP 2018 40

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from JSerra HS (CA)
Age 18 Height 6’2 Weight 188 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/55 50/55 25/50 60/60 45/55 55/55

Lewis was one of the best players on the summer showcase circuit in 2016, showing a rare combo of hit, power, and speed tools, though it was unclear if he fit better in the infield or center field. He had an up-and-down spring for his high school, with contact concerns caused by some mechanical changes, but he finished strong and the raw tools were still there, helping him go No. 1 overall in a year without a clear-cut top prospect.

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Matt Harvey Is Now a Reclamation Project

When Matt Harvey burst onto the scene in 2012 — yes, it has been six years — there was every reason to believe he was destined to lead the long-maligned Mets back to the promised land. Over a 10-start camero, he struck out 28.6% of the batters he faced, good for nearly eleven strikeouts per nine innings. And while he walked more than 10% of his opponents, the future seemed limitless: Eno Sarris wrote before the 2013 season that “Yu Darvish might be his floor.”

Then Harvey went out and blew the doors off Queens in 2013.

However good you remember Harvey being in 2013, he was probably better. His ERA? It was 2.27. His FIP? Even lower than that. He cut his walk rate down to 4.5% while preserving his strikeouts (27.7%). He recorded an average velocity of 95.8 mph with his fastball, which was an incredible 30 runs above average. But his slider, and curveball, and changeup were all plus pitches, too, which is what has to happen to be 50% better than league average.

In the 2013 campaign, Harvey accrued 6.5 WAR in just 178.1 innings. To understand that in context, consider that, last year, Clayton Kershaw threw 175 innings and accrued 4.6 WAR. The mighty Noah Syndergaard was worse in 2016 than Harvey was in 2013. Harvey was, in 2013, the best pitcher in baseball.

Then Harvey tore his UCL and needed Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss all of 2014. Still, Derek Ambrosino wrote before the 2014 season that “there isn’t a great reason to worry that he won’t regain form as soon as he regains health” — and, a year later, before his return, Eno called him a “top-15 pitcher” even with the uncertainty of the surgery.

Matt Harvey circa 2015 wasn’t the same pitcher he was in 2013, but you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. After the All-Star break that year, Harvey posted a 25.7% K rate, a 3.6% walk rate, a 48.6% ground-ball rate, a 2.28 FIP, and a 7.18 K/BB. In other words, post-TJ Matt Harvey in 2015 looked an awful lot like prime Cliff Lee.

Then the postseason happened, and the World Series happened.

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Joe Mauer and the Rule of 2,000

Joe Mauer’s 2,000th hit doesn’t make his Hall of Fame case, but it removes a possible impediment.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

Two thousand hits is not 3,000, and yet there was plenty of reason to celebrate Joe Mauer reaching that milestone on Thursday night at Target Field via a two-run single against the White Sox. If nothing else, it shores up the 35-year-old catcher-turned-first baseman’s case for Cooperstown, because 2,000 hits has functioned as a bright-line test for Hall of Fame voters for the past several decades. Neither the BBWAA nor the various small committees has elected a position player with fewer than 2,000 hits whose career crossed into the post-1960 expansion era, no matter their merits.

Just 34 of the 157 position players in the Hall for their major-league playing careers (including Monte Ward, who made a mid-career conversion from the mound to shortstop) have fewer than 2,000 hits, and only 11 of them even played in the majors past World War II:

Most Recent Hall of Famers < 2,000 Hits
Player Years H
Bill Dickey 1928-43, ’46 1,969
Rick Ferrell 1929-44, ’47 1,692
Hank Greenberg 1930, ’33-41, ’45-47 1,628
Ernie Lombardi 1931-47 1,792
Joe Gordon 1938-43, ’46-50 1,530
Lou Boudreau 1938-52 1,779
Ralph Kiner 1946-55 1,451
Phil Rizzuto 1941-42, ’46-56 1,588
Jackie Robinson 1947-56 1,518
Roy Campanella 1948-57 1,161
Larry Doby 1947-59 1,515
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Eight of the 11 players on that list had substantial career interruptions that contributed to their falling short of the milestone. Dickey, Gordon, Greenberg, Kiner, and Rizzuto all lost multiple seasons to military service, while Campanella, Doby, and Robinson were prevented from playing in the majors due to the presence of the color line, which fell on April 15, 1947 (71 years ago this Sunday) with Robinson’s debut. Of the other three, Ferrell and Lombardi were constrained by spending their whole careers as catchers; the former, a two-time batting champion, was classified as 4-F by the time the war rolled around, while the latter, one of the Hall’s lightest-hitting catchers (and the lowest-ranked in JAWS), was too old for the draft.

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Jose Berrios Throws Increasingly Rare Kind of Game

The trend in baseball is unmistakably one towards shorter starts. Pitchers compiled the fewest complete games in major-league history last year. That beat a record-low mark set the previous season, which itself had beaten a record-low established the year before that. Relievers are throwing a higher percentage of innings the ever before. Starters are, by definition, throwing fewer. The 200-inning starter is disappearing.

If his actions from this past weekend are any indication, Minnesota’s Jose Berrios seems not to care for this development. On Sunday, the young right-hander pitched a shutout, going the full nine innings while fanning six batters and conceding just three hits — and only of them prior to the ninth inning. (I’m not sure if I’m obligated to mention the Chance Sisco bunt against the shift and Brian Dozier’s odd reaction, but please consider this parenthetical as fulfillment of that obligation.) For a Twins team hoping to repeat the successes of last season, a lot hinges on the success of Berrios. He and the team got off to an awfully good start in their series win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Before getting to Berrios’s start, here is another reminder about how the game of baseball has changed over the years, particularly when it comes to bullpen use and expectations for starting pitchers. The graph below shows the number of shutouts by year since the advent of the designated hitter in 1973.

Just 25 years ago, there was pretty close to a shutout per day during the MLB regular season. A combination of expansion and the PED era greatly increased the use of relief pitchers. Coupled with increased offense, it was incredibly difficult for a starter to navigate a full game without letting the opposition score. In the early part of the last decade, as scoring decreased, we would still see a shutout every two or three days. As offense has again risen the last few years, however, shutouts have dropped — to about one per week last season.

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Effectively Wild Episode 1192: Season Preview Series: Twins and Rangers

EWFI

Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about the Eugenio Suarez and Jose Altuve extensions, whether this offseason’s slow free-agent market will make players more likely to sign extensions, the industry’s latest effort to avoid paying minor leaguers, and the debate about where Shohei Ohtani should start the season, then preview the 2018 Twins (18:52) with Baseball Prospectus’s Aaron Gleeman, and the 2018 Rangers (56:45) with The Athletic DFW’s Levi Weaver.

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Analysis of a No-Look Pickoff

To the overwhelming majority of baseball fans, the name Willians Astudillo means nothing. The 26-year-old has never been called up to the majors, and for three years in a row now, he’s elected free agency and signed a minor-league contract. Astudillo is there in spring training right now, but so are countless professional players you’d never recognize at the next table in a restaurant. Most people don’t know Willians Astudillo. Most people will never know Willians Astudillo. But there are those out there who know exactly who he is. Astudillo has a claim to being the single most interesting player in the minors.

Astudillo has yet to strike out this spring. Over the winter he batted 223 times in Venezuela, and he struck out on just four occasions. He struck out less often than a teammate who came to the plate just eight times. This is the Astudillo story. Out of the thousands of players in the minors in 2017, Astudillo had the third-lowest strikeout rate, and the lowest strikeout rate in Triple-A. He had the lowest strikeout rate in the minors in 2016. He had the lowest strikeout rate in the minors in 2015. He had the second-lowest strikeout rate in the minors in 2014. He apparently didn’t play in 2013, but in 2012, and in 2011, and in 2010, he had the lowest strikeout rate in the minors. Astudillo doesn’t strike out. Astudillo also doesn’t walk, and he has a limited track record of hitting for power, but he doesn’t strike out. As a professional, Astudillo has 67 strikeouts in 2,154 plate appearances. Joey Gallo recorded his 67th major-league strikeout in his 140th plate appearance.

For his ability to make contact alone, Astudillo has won himself some fans. But now, he also has another claim to fame. Although Astudillo has moved around, he is still considered a catcher. And, the other day, in a spring game, he picked off Shane Robinson without looking.

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Twins Add Lance Lynn to Island of Misfit Free Agents

Even the 2017 version of Lance Lynn would be of some benefit to the 2018 Twins.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

The Minnesota Twins continued a productive offseason over the weekend, signing Lance Lynn to a bargain-rate one-year, $12 million deal. Lynn turned down a $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals in November. He also reportedly turned down higher guarantees from other teams, per Jon Morosi. 

Not clear regarding those other offers is whether the average annual values of the contracts would have been equivalent or if Lynn would have had to forfeit the opportunity to explore free agency next offseason in exchange for a few extra million dollars. Whatever the case, it appears as though Lance Lynn will have to try his hand at free agency next winter if his ambition is to find a long-term home.

As for the Twins, they get great value on a player seemingly overlooked by the market. Indeed, the club seems to have specialized in this sort of deal over the winter. Heading into the offseason, for example, the crowd believed Addison Reed was in line for $27 million, the third-highest guarantee among relievers behind only the figures estimated for Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Reed ultimately agreed to join the Twins for just $16.75 million in mid-January — or less than the overall deals received by seven other relievers who’d signed at that point in the offseason.

The addition of Logan Morrison represents another instance in which the Twins have taken advantage of a slow market. The crowd expected Morrison to sign for $20 million. At the end of February, however, Derek Falvey et al. signed him for just one-third that amount.

Finally, there’s Lynn. Projected by the crowd to receive $60 million over four seasons, the right-hander settled for 20% of that figure. When the offseason began, it was reasonable to think that the Twins would need to guarantee $107 million to acquire all three players mentioned here. With just $35.25 million, though, the club signed the trio at a rate discounted by 67% from initial estimates.

The Twins’ bargain-shopping was not limited to free agency: the team also took on Jake Odorizzi and his $6.3 million salary in exchange for a prospect of little significance. Odorizzi went to the Twins not because of their willingness to provide Tampa Bay with considerable talent but because they were willing to pay his salary.

There are some logical explanations for the Twins’ apparent good fortune. For example, all the players acquired by the club come with significant question marks, and none are currently projected to provide more than two wins this season. That said, each possesses some kind of upside and a relatively recent track record of success. The combined five wins the club is projected to receive will cost just $33 million in 2018 salaries. Given the recent cost of wins on the free-agent market, the Twins’ efficiency should be lauded. More important than getting a good deal, though, they have also obtained solid major leaguers at areas of need.

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Byron Buxton Just Missed a Perfect Season

Since Byron Buxton arrived in the majors, observers have wondered if he’s going to hit. The concern there is valid, but it also misses the point, because Byron Buxton is already special. He’s already a better hitter than Billy Hamilton is, and if the bat moves further along, the Twins will have a superstar. Yet even with Buxton as what he presently is, he’s the envy of many opponents. The non-hitting skills are where Buxton stands out.

He’s a clear Statcast favorite, because of his league-leading sprint speed, and because of his league-leading outs above average. Buxton’s in the conversation for the most valuable defender on the planet, and Twins pitchers have basically given him credit for saving their most recent season. That speed, though, also helps elsewhere. According to our metric, Buxton was 2017’s most valuable baserunner. He ranked third in baseball in stolen-base value, fifth in double-play value, and seventh in all the rest. Buxton, of course, relies on his speed. But he also benefits from good baseball instincts and big-league experience. Buxton just ran with more confidence than ever, and his baserunning season was just about perfect. I’ll tell you what I mean.

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What We Can Actually Say About the Miguel Sano Situation

In December, Twins slugger Miguel Sano was accused of violently assaulting a photographer, Betsy Bissen. Sano has unequivocally denied the allegations. But the report of the incident led to an investigation by Major League Baseball under the “Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy” and “Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct” in the CBA. On February 27, as part of that investigation, Major League Baseball investigators interviewed Sano for four hours.

The entire process has set off something of a free-for-all on the internet, with people taking sides between Sano and his accuser, throwing around terms like “sexual assault” and “due process.” Under such fraught circumstances, however, precision in one’s language is ideal. So let’s try to clear up some of the confusion.

There’s been a debate regarding whether Sano has been accused of sexual assault, simple assault, or something else entirely. Again, this is not to say that Sano is guilty of any offense. However, it’s probably worth asking the question: assuming Sano actually did what he is accused of, what law would it violate? As for the answer, it really depends upon the state in which the incident has occurred, because there is actually a pretty big disparity between states as to what constitutes a sexual assault.

In this case, we’re looking at Minnesota law. I’m a civil litigation attorney, not a criminal attorney, and we’re dealing with issues here where it’s really important to get the law right. So I spoke with a Minnesota private criminal defense attorney, Erica E. Davis, Esq. from Davis and Egberg, PLLC in Minneapolis, to get her thoughts.

Davis believes, at the very least, that Sano “could clearly be charged” with misdemeanor assault. Under Minnesota law, “assault” is “(1) an act done with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or (2) the intentional infliction of or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another.” Here, we’d probably be talking about misdemeanor assault in the fifth degree under Minn. Stat. § 609.224. Davis said that, for purposes of this statute, if we assume the allegations are true, Sano “clearly caused [Bissen] bodily harm.” She emphasized Bissen’s allegations that her wrist hurt the next day and that she repeatedly told Sano she didn’t want to go with him.

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Job Posting: Minnesota Twins Baseball Systems Developer

Position: Baseball Systems Developer

Description:
The Minnesota Twins are seeking a Full Stack Software Developer to join the Baseball Research and Development group. This position offers wide-ranging exposure to current programming methods and frameworks in a fast-paced agile environment. With creativity and passion, this candidate will collaborate with the Baseball Operations staff to develop, deliver, and maintain data driven solutions for player evaluation, player development, and leading-edge baseball research. This position requires strong full stack web development skills and experience as well as a demonstrated ability for independent curiosity and a commitment to excellence while working within a team framework. Strong communication and interpersonal skills will enable the candidate to enjoy direct relationships with product users.

Essential Functions:

  • Work closely with all groups within the Baseball Department including Baseball Operations, Scouting, Coaching, and Player Development to develop, maintain, and expand strategic web and mobile baseball applications.
  • Design and develop web services and APIs to be consumed by web and mobile applications.
  • Create easy to understand interfaces and reports with data visualizations that showcase data and analysis in a creative and effective way for a variety of different users and use cases.
  • Use an agile software development approach for quick roll-outs combined with incremental improvement process to existing systems and environments.
  • Work closely with Infrastructure team to ensure secure, scalable, and high-performing applications.
  • Provide courteous and timely first-level contact and problem resolution for all Baseball Department users with application issues.

Technical Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or a related field or equivalent work experience.
  • Software development experience, including requirements definition, design, development, testing, implementation, and iterative improvement.
  • Full stack experience with Angular, JavaScript/TypeScript, HTML, CSS, .NET, ASP.NET, Entity Framework, C#, and API design patterns preferred.
  • Experience with SQL, relational databases, and database design.
  • Familiarity with data visualization and graphical packages such as Tableau, Power BI, D3.js, or ggplot is a plus.
  • Mobile development experience a plus.
  • Strong work ethic, initiative, and problem-solving skills.
  • Interest in optimizing user experience through effective UI/UX design.
  • Understand software development best practices and long-term maintainability of code.
  • Strong curiosity and interest in researching and learning new technologies as needed.

Requirements:

  • 2-5+ years of relevant work experience.
  • Knowledge of baseball player evaluation techniques and concepts.
  • Ability to relocate to the Twins Cities area.

To Apply:
To apply visit www.twinsbaseball.com/jobopportunities and look for the Baseball Systems Developer position.