Sunday, 25 June 2017 19:59

Nothing can stop the Twins on the road

The Minnesota Twins started a catcher in left field on Saturday in Cleveland and walked out of the ballpark with a win and a chance to sweep the Indians. That catcher, Chris Gimenez, would later move to first base defensively and hit a mammoth home run in the ninth inning to pad the Twins' one-run lead by one more.


 

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On Saturday, Twins’ manager Paul Molitor had to scratch right fielder Max Kepler after fouling a ball off his right foot on Friday, and left fielder Eddie Rosario due to illness. And since Eduardo Escobar had to play third base for Miguel Sano (illness) for a second straight day, he couldn’t play left field for Rosario. Enter Gimenez, the Twins’ backup catcher, mop-up reliever and, now, fifth outfielder.

Despite liabilities in both corners of the outfield, Gibson walking four over four and two-thirds innings, and Kennys Vargas repeatedly getting in Brian Dozier’s way defensively, the Twins found a way -- like they have all season. Matt Belisle almost blew it for the Twins but battled after falling off the first base bag and missing a double-play throw that allowed the tying run to score. Dozier didn’t miss a big mistake on a fastball up and in and broke the 2-2 tie in the eighth inning, and Rosario came on to play left, moving Giminez to first so the Twins wouldn’t lose their backup catcher for the rest of the game.

Brandon Kintzler, a closer averaging six strikeouts per nine innings, gave up a two-out double to Francisco Lindor before locking up the save. He’s tied for the league lead in saves at 20. The Twins bullpen, the worst in baseball, picked up Kyle Gibson, who failed to complete six innings for the tenth time in 13 starts. He also failed to complete five innings for the fourth time in his last 13 starts. Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey carried the bulk of the load again, and the Twins got their most unlikely and impressive win of the season to pull within a half game of Cleveland in the American League Central Division.

Then the Twins went to work on Sunday, taking an early 2-0 lead thanks to a two-run double by catcher Jason Castro. And with Ervin Santana finding his command and pounding the strike zone, the Twins completed the sweep of Cleveland and moved into first place in the AL Central with two weeks until the All-star Break. It was the vintage Santana the Twins will need to remain competitive this season. He was getting swings and misses on sliders buried in the dirt and painting the corners with 95-mile-per-hour heat while walking no one and striking out seven over six innings.

Twins fans keep awaiting the regression, and you feel it’s got to show itself over this stretch where the Twins face quality starter after quality starter everyday for over a week, all on the road. Luckily, the Twins can’t seem to lose on the road, winning over 70 percent of their road games. That’s better than everyone but the MLB-best Houston Astros.

The Twins play 21 games in 20 days entering the All-star Break, with four of those games coming against the surging Kansas City Royals. They have 15 of those games to go, so if the Twins can hang around the .500 mark entering the All-star Break, they’d not only be in contention, but potential buyers at the Trade Deadline.

Instead of searching for pitching prospects for the near future, Falvey might be forced to consider pitching rentals for this season. Maybe free-agent-to-be Jake Arrieta could be had for Eduardo Escobar now that Kyle Schwarber’s been demoted. San Diego’s Clayton Richard is also a free agent after the season, and with the Padres’ glaring needs in left field and at shortstop, Falvey could target Brad Hand as a relief pitcher to include with Richard. Hand won’t be easy to acquire, though, given his stellar K:BB ratio (4.25) and the fact he won’t be a free agent until 2020. I’d say only Nick Gordon and maybe Zach Granite are off the table if your Falvey, but it might take one of them to get Hand if Escobar, Polanco, Grossman or Rosario aren’t desired.

The Twins just got bullpen reinforcements in Dillon Gee and sidearmer Trevor Hildenberger, so they’ll get a sense of whether baseball’s worst bullpen is trending up entering the All-star Break. Phil Hughes could even join the bullpen sometime soon, and while we don’t know what to expect of Hughes, just having another guy out there who can throw more than one inning would be a blessing for a starting rotation that rarely pitches six innings. Hughes has tossed two scoreless innings with AAA Rochester, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out one. Glen Perkins is still a long way from contributing to the Twins, but would be a welcomed addition come mid-July or early August.

One thing is clear -- the Twins’ rebuild is way ahead of schedule.

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For a lot of people (just under 95 percent, according to an MLB Trade Rumors poll), the Minnesota Twins' selection of California shortstop Royce Lewis with the first pick in the 2017 MLB Draft was a surprise. It shouldn't have been. Most knew there was no consensus number one pick in this draft. There were five potential number ones. The Twins took one of the five.


This was originally published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters providing uncensored, commercial-free play-by-play.


Lewis can play anywhere and received the highest possible grade for his speed. Unsurprisingly, the Twins might have found another impact center fielder. Lewis already has a swing that stays in the zone a long time and allows him to barrel up a lot of balls. He struck out just seven times in 116 plate appearances this season. The mental makeup is everything you want in a player -- natural, born leader. He is still years away from the majors, so Byron Buxton fans need not worry.

Many Twins fans bemoaned the pick, hoping for high school shortstop/pitcher Hunter Greene or college first baseman/pitcher Brendan McKay. Those fans shouldn't be disappointed.

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The Twins likely saved nearly $1 million by taking Lewis number one overall, which allowed new chief of baseball operations Derek Falvey to allocate more money to later picks. Since the Twins also selected at 35 and 37 overall, Falvey could use that money to sign more expensive or harder-to-sign draft picks that fell out of the first round.

Falvey was rewarded with the best college hitter of the year. Mississippi State outfielder Brent Rooker (great baseball name) had a 1.371 OPS in 2017. He's set to become only the second player ever (Rafael Palmeiro) to win the SEC Triple Crown, batting .387/.495/.810. Some were surprised Rooker got past Oakland with the sixth pick.

Then, Falvey scored Canadian high school right-handed pitcher Landon Leach. Leach is committed to Texas but could be persuaded to sign with Minnesota given the money the Twins have to offer. The approximate pick value is $1.8 million.

You could say the Twins should have gone with pitching at number one overall, but that would have severely limited Falvey when offering Rooker and Leach contracts. And there's a lot of draft to go.

The Twins next picks are 76 and 106. They will pick first in each of the next 36 rounds of the 2017 MLB Draft. I fully expect Falvey to target high school pitching he can develop, since that's sort of his thing. But I wouldn't be surprised if he takes Oregon State starter Jake Thompson if he's there at 76.

Other pitchers ranked around that 76th pick for the Twins are right-handed pitcher Kyle Hurt (another great baseball name), and lefty Daniel Tillo, who the Twins drafted in 2015. Jackson Rutledge is interesting at 106. He's six-foot-eight and throws 94 mph with an expectation for more.

While I can understand Twins fans' frustrations given the downfall of their pitching staff, there's no solution to that problem in the draft. Even Brendan McKay would likely be a year away from the majors, and perhaps more if given the time to adjust at the plate as well as on the mound. Hunter Greene has even more development time ahead of him. Evaluating a draft that can't be evaluated for at least three years is completely pointless. Reacting as if the Twins organization was "cheap" is incorrect. The Twins were "frugal," and it's already paying off.

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The Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft starts at 7 p.m. EST, with pre-draft coverage starting at 6 p.m. EST on MLB Network and MLB.com. Here are five things you need to know about the 2017 MLB Draft.


 

This was originally published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters providing uncensored, commercial-free play-by-play.


There’s No Consensus #1

While MLB.com analysts all agree on the first five picks of the draft, any one of those five players could go number one overall.

Two, Two-way Players Atop Draft

Two of the top five projected players could start their professional baseball careers pitching and hitting. High school right-hander Hunter Greene is an easy choice at number one because while he’s at the top of the draft because of his 102-mph fastball, he’s easily a middle first-round talent as a shortstop as well.

The same goes for college left-hander Brendan McKay out of Louisville. McKay has legitimate power as a first baseman to go along with his collegiate, pitching prowess. He hit 17 homers this season for Louisville to go along with his 2.34 ERA on the mound. The fact he has collegiate experience might push him to the top of the draft.

Whoever drafts Greene or McKay will likely have them pitch once every five days and play the field on days between starts in order to evaluate their hitting and fielding ability.

Minnesota Twins Pick First

For the first time since Joe Mauer was selected number one overall back in 2001, the Minnesota Twins will open the 2017 MLB Draft with the first overall pick. MLB.com has the Twins and new chief of baseball operations Derek Falvey taking McKay number one overall. With the Twins bullpen the worst in baseball in ERA, FIP, average against, line-drive rate, strikeout rate, fastball velocity and swinging strikes, it makes sense that they would lean towards a college pitcher they can start at AA rather than a high school pitcher who will start in rookie ball.

Vanderbilt righty Kyle Wright was considered the Twins favorite by analysts until his latest start on ESPN against offensive powerhouse Oregon State, during which he allowed seven earned runs over six and two-thirds innings while tossing 120 pitches. There’s no telling what that outing has done to the Twins interest in him until the draft kicks off tonight, but it’s likely the Twins front office had already made its decision prior to the start. Analysts seem to think McKay is the Twins’ pick.

Hunter Greene Won’t Fall Past the Reds

If the Twins pass on Greene, he likely won’t get past the Cincinnati Reds, who pick second overall.

Most Valuable Player Won’t be Drafted on First Day

This might sound like a bold prediction, but it’s really just taking the field over the first round. The 2017 MLB Draft’s first round will be held Monday night, including 27 regular, first-round picks and three compensatory picks. The Blue Jays, Rangers and Cubs each added first-round picks when free agents Edwin Encarnacion, Ian Desmond and Dexter Fowler signed with the Indians, Rockies and Cardinals, respectively. Rounds two through 40 will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, with coverage on MLB.com. So there’s 1,170 players who will be drafted after the draft’s first day.

Albert Pujols, who became the ninth member of the 600 home run club last week, was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round out of a Kansas City community college. Twenty-four teams passed on Mike Trout. And Mike Piazza went 1,390th overall in the 62nd round back in 1988.

Basically, the best MLB players aren’t always drafted in the first round. The Twins took Adam Johnson back in 2000 with the second overall pick and he has a career ERA of 10.25 in just over 26 innings pitched. He washed out after the 2006 season. So keep an eye on the later rounds, because that’s where you find the diamonds in the rough.

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Last week I urged the Minnesota Twins front office to acquire pitching -- any pitching -- and not to wait too long in doing so. Well, here are five pitchers the Twins could target if they want to remain competitive this season, but most of them will cost something you might not like to lose.


 

This was first published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters who provide live, uncensored, commercial-free play-by-play and color commentary during sporting events.


 

Pat Neshek

Neshek is familiar to Twins fans, and his side-armed delivery should play well out of a Twins bullpen that can't miss bats. He misses plenty (8.4 K/p) despite going on 37. He's a free agent at year's end and playing on a bad team in rebuilding mode. I can't imagine Philadelphia would have interest in bringing back Neshek, so the Twins should bring him home. It's only money after all (over $6 million per year, so $4 million as of this writing). But with the year Neshek's having (.797 WHIP), the Phillies could ask for a lot. So what do they need? Well, starting pitching, which the Twins can't afford to lose.

The Phillies seem set on letting 22-year-old, third baseman Maikel Franco work through his struggles (68 OPS+). But the Phillies also have a 30-year-old, light-hitting, bad defensive right fielder who will be a free agent at the end of the year. Michael Saunders (73 OPS+) is not the future. Of Philly's minor league outfielders, center fielder Cameron Perkins (26) is closest, and he's more likely to take light-hitting, center fielder Odubel Herrera's place (82 OPS+). Nick Williams fits the bill as a power-hitting right fielder (11 HRs and 10 2Bs for a .515 slugging percentage). He's even got okay range and has logged quite a few innings in right field.

Anyways, it's going to be hard to find something to pluck from Rochester unless you're talking about Daniel Palka, and I doubt that'd be enough. So now we're looking at something more complicated than a one-for-one deal, which isn't really a problem.

David Phelps

Phelps is another one who will cost the Twins plenty because Miami won't want to give up his final arbitration year for anything less than young, starting pitching. I got nothing.

Drew Storen

Storen is quietly having a pretty good year (196 ERA+) but a regression is on the horizon given the massive difference between his ERA (2.25) and FIP (3.80). He can still miss bats, though (7.5 K/9). But the Reds need the same thing as everyone else: starting pitching.

Brad Hand

San Diego is a most interesting trade partner because they have glaring need at shortstop, and the Twins have a really good, young one in Nick Gordon. He's untouchable, however.

Sam Dyson

It sure seems like the Twins are the perfect landing spot for Texas Ranger relief pitcher Sam Dyson. The Twins are in the mix and the Rangers are nearing a deal, according to Darren Wolfson. GM Thad Levine came over from Texas, and Dyson could probably use a change of scenery (10.80 ERA, 9.05 FIP). He's given up more homers this season (6) than last (5) for a HR/9 of 3.2, but maybe the depths of Target Field, where nothing but rain drops, will help Dyson get back on track.

It's pretty sad that the best the Twins front office might be able to do to fix a broken bullpen and bending rotation is picking up a guy allowing 16.7 hits per nine innings, but trading for any kind of pitching is expensive. I can't imagine any team with a competent reliever giving him up for anything else than high-upside, starting pitchers (think Kevin Jepsen for Chih-Wei Hu).

Hey, the Twins should get Glen Perkins back in mid-June, though. And Joe Nathan is available. He only allowed 10.7 hits per nine innings in AAA before being released by the Nationals. He was striking out 8.4 batters per nine, though. I guess I'm saying the options suck, and the Twins are stuck. Hey, at least they claimed Chris Heston, right (12.66 FIP, 23 ERA+, 5.4 HR/9, 25.2 H/9, 5.4 K/9 this year and last)?

Published in News & Information

The Minnesota Twins announced today details for their newly released mobile-based Student Pass program for the upcoming season, exclusively available using MLB.com's Ballpark app.

The Twins Student Pass will allow students to receive $5 Ballpark Access (no seating) tickets for all Wednesday home games, with tickets delivered directly to their mobile device. In addition, students can receive a free ride pass from Metro Transit, available at twinsbaseball.com/student.

"We're pleased to offer students this great program, which is conveniently available through their mobile device," said Mike Clough, Twins senior vice president of ticket sales and service. "This is a great opportunity for students to enjoy Twins baseball in a fun and affordable way."

To sign up, students can visit twinsbaseball.com/student or text STUDENT to 51655. From there, they will receive a text message the day the offer becomes available. They will then click on the link to redeem the offer.

To receive the tickets, participants will need the MLB.com Ballpark app, which is available via the Apple App Store and on Google Play. In addition to their Student Day tickets, other purchased tickets, as well as the ticket barcode will be available through the app leaving no need to print tickets.

Twins Student Day is presented by Rasmussen College.

The MLB.com Ballpark app is your mobile companion when visiting Target Field. The official MLB ballpark application perfectly complements and personalizes your trip to Target Field with digital ticketing, mobile check-in, social media, offers, rewards and exclusive content. Target Field also offers seat and experience upgrade components. Check in automatically with iBeacon technology at Target Field for exclusive Twins offers and in-game features.

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