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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In a prior post I called Jose Berrios the ace of the Minnesota Twins pitching staff. Not because I think six starts proves anything, and not because I don't believe in Ervin Santana. I do. Santana gets by on pitching prowess like Greg Maddux. But Berrios can flat out miss bats, regardless of who's swinging them, and that's what makes an ace. We'll get a good indication of Berrios's development on Thursday at noon against a hot Mariners lineup that roughed up Ervin Santana, Wednesday.
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Berrios is in a position to lift his team with a strong start. It's kind of a big spot, especially with the disarray that is the Twins pitching staff. The only thing we can honestly expect from the three other starters in the Twins rotation is that they will leave plenty of innings for baseball's worst bullpen. Even if Hector Santiago comes back and is serviceable, there's still at least three innings left in every game he starts! At least! The same goes for Kyle Gibson and Adalberto Mejia (or anyone else). And while the Twins bullpen is terrible, all bullpens are less terrible the fewer innings they pitch.
Berrios pitched into at least the seventh inning in each of his first three starts this season. He hasn't done so since. While he allowed just four runs against the game's best Houston Astros (and that is an accomplishment), it took 105 pitches to get through five innings. He only went five and a third innings against San Francisco, the worst offense in baseball. And while he struck out eight, I think Paul Molitor would have preferred he pitch seven innings.
I know, I'm starting to sound like Terry Ryan. But Berrios must find that happy place between missing bats and kissing bats. "Strikeouts are boring. Besides, they're fascist. Throw some groundballs." Sure, it's from a movie, but it's 100 percent correct. When you have the game's best defense, you can kiss bats rather than miss them and get easy outs, especially if you work ahead in counts.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs raves that the Twins finally have a strikeout starter for the first time in nine years, but being a member of a team requires sacrifice. When the bulk of your bullpen arms can't miss bats nor prevent runs, the starter must do everything he can to extend his starts.
Santana has not been great his last six starts. He's allowed 18 earned runs during that span. But you know what he has done over those six starts? He's pitched 41 innings -- three more than Berrios over the same number of starts. If that trend continues, Santana will have pitched an entire game's worth of innings more than Berrios over 18 starts.
You know what else Santana does that Berrios must? He doesn't leave runners on base for the bullpen to clean up. In 14 starts, the Twins bullpen hasn't inherited one runner in a game Santana has started this season. That's huge for a bullpen that allows 29 percent of inherited runners to score.
Over Berrios's six starts, he's left three of them with runners on base, and the bullpen's inherited four runners total. That trend can't continue. The solution is to get outs with fewer pitches earlier in games to leave something in the tank for later.
When your pitches naturally move as much as Berrios's do, it's understandable that some days you just can't find the strike zone. That's when a hard fastball comes in handy. In the past, Berrios would appear visibly frustrated when he couldn't command his pitches, but this season he's acting more like Santana -- cool, calm, collected. He's getting out of jams by believing in his fastball and locating it for quality strikes. He's just not doing it late in games because it's hard to trust anything you throw when your "arm feels like Jell-O."
So while Santana struggled Wednesday, there's still plenty to be learned from his outing if you're Berrios. First, when you don't have command of your pitches early, trust your fastball. Santana got strikeouts of Nelson Cruz and Danny Valencia to get out of the first inning on Wednesday by elevating his fastball and enticing swings. Next, don't let an early mistake control your approach. There's a lot of game left and your team needs every inning you can give them. Finally, never leave a game with men on base. Santana didn't have a single 1-2-3 inning on Wednesday, but the closest he got was in his final inning. If Berrios can take these few pages from the Smell Baseball book of pitching, he will have earned the title of ace.
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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.
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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.
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) June 12, 2017
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.
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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 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.
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.
If the Twins pass on Greene, he likely won’t get past the Cincinnati Reds, who pick second overall.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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)?
It’s no secret that attending a Major League Baseball game is expensive despite being the cheapest option ($31) when compared to the NBA ($55.88), NHL ($62.18) and NFL ($92.98). I’ve been to 16 of the first 24 Minnesota Twins home games, but just experienced my first pair of doubleheaders over the last four days -- one a split doubleheader and one a traditional back-to-back. I doubt I’ll see many more split doubleheaders, as taking a break between games tends to leave seats empty during the second game.
Getting into the ballpark isn’t prohibitively expensive. You can get into Angels Stadium in Anaheim for less than $10, and standing room only tickets at Target Field in Minnesota are usually $11. But eating and drinking beer, liquor, soda or water at the the ballpark is expensive.
The Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies have the most expensive beer in baseball, followed by Minnesota in second, according to Fortune. That doesn’t include tip. My research revealed that you can buy 16 ounces of Bud Light, Miller Lite or a Bud Lime-A-Rita for $7 at Target Field. You can expect to pay close to $5 for a water and more for soda.
Doubleheaders don’t have to be doubly expensive, though. I enjoyed two games, a meal and three drinks for less than $35. Here’s how you can save money at the ballpark.
When your game gets rained out, don’t exchange your ticket for a different game. Generally, if you have tickets to the makeup game, you’ll get free admittance to the second game of the traditional doubleheader. That’s not the case for split doubleheaders, though. Do your best to make it to the makeup game because they tend to be attended by fewer people, making for a more intimate game, shorter lines for the concession stands and bathrooms, and you’re more likely to get a foul ball, an autograph, or a chance to meet Tony Oliva, which happened to me Thursday.
You’re also more likely to win something if you attend the second game of a doubleheader. Professional sports organizations give away free stuff every game. At Minnesota Twins games, the big winners are those who get scratch-off tickets from the Minnesota Lottery. But there’s plenty of other door prizes to be had. I won a large, two-topping pizza from Papa John’s on Thursday.
The organization will say you can exchange your ticket for a ticket of equal value for another game, but equal value is what they declare, and face value of tickets changes depending on demand. So, if you have a ticket to see the last-place Royals play the Twins and exchange it for a game against the Yankees or Red Sox, don’t expect to get the same seats or even the same section. You are at the discretion of the corporation at that point, and you never want to be in that position.
If you are going to exchange your ticket for another game, check the promotions schedule first. You can get something free like a shirt, hat or bag just for showing up early, or take advantage of discounts on food. You can get a hot dog for a dollar at Target Field every Wednesday. Here’s every team’s promotions schedule ranked for 2017.
Although you’ll spend a few more minutes in the security line on your way into the ballpark, the wait is negligible when considering the value of having a bag with you at the ballpark, especially during a doubleheader. I take my laptop to the game in case I want to work (like I am now), a microphone in case I want to do a live broadcast (I do live, uncensored play-by-play of select games), a solar charger for my phone and computer and my preferred scorecard and pens to keep score.
I recommend taking a backpack to the ballpark as opposed to a satchel or purse. Your lower back will thank me if you do a lot of walking to or around the ballpark, as side-swinging bags tend to cause more back and hip pain. Backpacks also have plenty of hidden pockets, and security guards aren’t going to take the time to investigate every interior pocket, which brings me to my next point.
Beer is the biggest ripoff at the ballpark. While you’re getting 20 ounces of beer for around $8 at Target Field, you can get a hefty shot of liquor for $9 that will pack a bigger punch. My biggest suggestion is to not drink beer at the ballpark, and you can avoid doing so by packing your own booze.
While outside liquor is not allowed at any ballpark, I say you risk it. The worst that could happen is security discovers your stash and throws it out, but it’s highly unlikely if you use a backpack. You can use those interior pockets of your backpack to sneak in a flask of liquor. You generally won’t have to worry about your bag being scanned for metal, so your flask doesn’t have to be plastic unless you’re keeping it on your person. I forgot to finish all the water in my water bottle before entering Target Field on Sunday, and the security guard didn’t even take notice. That could have been filled with vodka, as it was visible on the outside of my pack. If you’re using interior pockets, though, you can bring in anything you want, including a pre-mixed cocktail. Just don’t drink too much or give your fellow fans a reason to have you removed.
You can bring your own food to the ballpark, so you never have to spend money on peanuts, sunflower seeds or hot dogs (unless it’s $1 dog day at Target Field). I usually pack a snack for every game, but for doubleheaders, I pack a cold lunch like a protein-rich sandwich.
You’ll burn a lot of calories and give your legs a workout just walking to and from the ballpark and your seat, and you’ll most likely sweat, so having a water bottle will allow you to take advantage of the free tap water at the ballpark instead of paying nearly $5 for bottled water.
If you fail to pack a lunch and/or liquor, I suggest getting both in one drink. Most ballpark bars will make you a Bloody Mary with a few fixings like olives, celery, a pickle and, perhaps, beef sticks and cheese. The Twins offer a Bloody Mary with either a cheeseburger slider or slice of pizza at Hrbeck’s Bar for $24, and it will fill you up thanks to an eight-ounce, Bud Light beer back.
If you don’t drink Bloody Marys, order liquor on the rocks. It’s the best deal you’ll get at the ballpark, especially if you order doubles. Bartenders tend to pour heavy drinks (about three full shots) when you order doubles, which run around $15 for bottom shelf liquor before tip. The more games you attend the better you’ll get to know the bartenders, and them you, so despite the expensive price I recommend you tip your bartenders. They’ll remember it, even if you don’t tip 20 percent. I do a dollar per shot as a base and go up from there.
If you intend to eat at the ballpark, try these recommended dishes so you know you’re at least getting something unique or well-received for the insane amount of money you’ll spend.
The easiest way to avoid overpaying to see a baseball game or doubleheader is to not pay for parking. The closest parking garage near Target Field costs up to $25 for event parking and the most expensive parking in baseball is in Boston and New York for $35.
If you don’t live near public transit or need your car after the game, use apps like Park Whiz or Best Parking to score cheap deals on parking. I can park half a mile from Target Field for $6 during every night game, and a few blocks further away I can score parking for $4. I’ve parked for free at public parks and walked 25 minutes each way as well. If I pack my bike in the trunk of my car, I can cut my time to the ballpark down to 10 minutes or less and lock it up at one of the many bike racks available right outside the ballpark.
Taking public transit is my favorite way to get to and from the ballpark, though. For $3.50 I can get dropped off right at the ballpark and returned a block away from my apartment. I can read or work on the way to or from the game instead of driving, so I can actually make money during my commute. It’s also safer than driving, and if I want, I can take in a few drinks at a nearby bar before boarding.
My entire day for two games at Target Field on Sunday cost me a total of $29. Since I purchased the Spring Ballpark Pass for every home game except Opening Day for $99 in advance, my average price per ticket was $6.60 and will continue to fall for each game I intend through May (six more games brings it down to $4.71 each). If you buy tickets to the rainout, you got a free ticket to the second game of the doubleheader, so that’s $11 for both games at Target Field. Add a double (really a triple) bourbon on the rocks for $17 including tip, and I’m right around $30 and you’re under $30. My transportation puts my total at less than $35, and if you don’t pay for parking or are willing to do some walking, and now you can save money at the ballpark, too.
Despite being the Minnesota Twins best hitter, and one of the best in all of baseball during Spring Training, ByungHo Park will not be on the field with the Twins at Target Field on Opening Day. Park, who hit .353 with six home runs and 13 RBI in Spring Training, was optioned to AAA Rochester.
Park didn’t do himself any favors in his first season in America. After dominating the hitter-friendly Korean Baseball Organization, Park hit just .191 with 12 home runs and struck out 80 times in 244 plate appearances (a .275 on-base percentage) last season. But Park sustained a wrist injury on May 13, 2016, that clearly affected him at the plate. He was hitting .245/.324/.582 before the injury and over the next 33 games posted a slash line of .145/.233/.265.
In the offseason Park was placed on waivers by the Twins, which allowed the team to put reliever Matt Belisle on the 40-man roster. Belisle had an uncharacteristically good 2016. His career WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) is 1.357, and it was 1.087 last year. The last and only time his WHIP was that low was seven years ago. Belisle’s 2016 FIP (fielding independent pitching) was nearly a run lower than his career FIP.
So now that Park is not on the 40-man roster, the Twins had a convenient way of demoting him despite winning the designated hitter gig over the injured Kennys Vargas. Switch-hitting outfielder Robbie Grossman will be the Opening Day DH because Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey basically said the team can’t trust its pitching staff. Rookie Adalberto Mejia is the Twins fifth starter, and both Phil Hughes and Hector Santiago might not be ready for long starts, as Santiago’s spring program was affected by competing in the World Baseball Classic. Hughes is recovering from thoracic outlet surgery.
Twins manager Paul Molitor said Park did everything he was expected during the spring, and even gave him a few extra words of encouragement on his way out the door. Imagine your boss is looking to promote either you or a fellow employee, and while you outperform your fellow employee in a different area of expertise, your boss awards the promotion to your fellow employee -- patting you on the back and saying, “You exceeded our expectations, but we’re going in a different direction because the rest of our staff sucks.”
Granted, Park’s stay at AAA shouldn’t be a long one, but he’ll have to be added to the 40-man roster, which means someone will have to be removed from the 40-man roster. Given Buddy Boshers terrible spring and age (29 in May), he could be a waiver candidate that allows Park onto the 40-man roster.
The Twin Cities welcome Derek Falvey, the new chief baseball officer for the Minnesota Twins. Tyler Kepner of the New York Times profiles Falvey’s quick rise from scouting prospects in the Cape Cod League to running Minnesota’s baseball operations at the age of 34. Falvey, a former college pitcher who never hit 90 miles per hour with his fastball, is tasked with turning around a Twins pitching staff that has historically pitched to contact and was second to last in ERA during the 2016 season.
Falvey’s first move to help pitchers Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson and Hector Santiago was to sign pitch-framing catcher Jason Castro to a three-year, $24.5 million dollar deal. Castro would rather you call what he does “receiving,” though, as reported by Parker Hageman of Twins Daily. He told Hageman that pitch-framing isn’t stealing strikes by tricking the plate umpire, but giving the umpire a clear view of the pitch and getting strikes called on pitches that are in the strike zone.
Castro’s former club, the Astros, have been one of the best in baseball at getting strikes called on pitches thrown in the strike zone. Fangraphs’ Travis Sawchik recently ranked the Twins catching corps 22nd in the league for 2017. They were ranked 25th last year with old-schooler Kurt Suzuki behind the plate. According to Baseball Reference, Suzuki was 18 runs below league average defensively over 1,200 innings while Castro was five runs above league average last season. Both players were slightly below average with the bat last year, but Castro has averaged a home run every 33 plate appearances the last four years while Suzuki averaged 80 plate appearances between dingers over the same span.
The Twins are also hoping Kyle Gibson’s mechanics adjustment keeps him healthy and effective this season. Twins beat reporter Rhett Bollinger reports that back issues forced Gibson to make a change in his delivery after posting an ERA of 5.07 last year. Gibson continued to impress in Spring Training by pitching six scoreless innings Sunday against a potent Red Sox lineup to lower his spring ERA to 1.59.
The Twins are also logging its players’ baseball-related activities for the first time in an effort to monitor fatigue and avoid injury, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports. Manager Paul Molitor says the team is “just trying to be a little smarter,” but executive director of the MLB players’ union Tony Clark said collecting such data could be dangerous given its value and how it could be used.
The Twins kick off the season on Monday, April 3rd, at 3 p.m. against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field. They will try to avoid repeating their nine-game losing streak to open last season that resulted in the organization’s worst finish since moving to Minnesota in 1961. As of this writing, Opening Day tickets have not sold out and are available here.