The Twins Takes – The Minnesota Twins MLB Draft History

Read about the History of the Minnesota Twins & the MLB Draft

How have the Minnesota Twins done in the MLB Draft in the past and recently?

The Minnesota Twins has to make the most out of every player they acquire through the draft. You can say that about every team in Major League Baseball but, some of those teams have the ability to make up for a bad draft every now and then. They can stretch the payroll to go get top tier free agents or make a big trade to acquire players who have already established themselves as great players.

Those teams are the exception, not the rule. That’s really the only way of going to get the sure thing, though. See a great player or an ace pitcher and go get them, either in free agency or in a trade. To be honest, though, none of those teams really want to do that. They would rather draft a player and develop them and have a farm system that consistently brings results then have to overspend. It’s hard to tell what a prospect will turn into as a major league player. His talent may be a lot better in the minor leagues but, as he works his way up the ladder, that gap closes a little at each level.

For the teams where free agency isn’t  as much of an option, the MLB Draft is priority number 1 when it comes to acquiring players. It happens every year and they have to be prepared. They have to know what kind of players they want and what kind of players & pitchers they need and then go get those players. They can’t relax if the current team or the current prospects are doing very well at any time or any position. They can’t pick for need, either, or, at least, they can’t pick for the need of the Major League team. They can pick for an organizational need to strengthen some of the weaker positions in the organization but that’s something that should probably be done in the later rounds. Players acquired in the draft won’t help the major league team for years.

The old adage of pick the best player available is likely the best way to go, especially in the early rounds. That also means the best player available in their minds based on the reports from their scouts and from their own opinions as a group. It has nothing to do with the best-rated player available. They should Trust the Process, trust their philosophies and trust their draft board.

There should always be prospects coming who are close to ready for a chance to move into the lineup, rotation or bullpen as soon as possible to see what they can do, how they handle it and if they need more work to get there. They should be forcing the front office to promote them and pushing the veterans for their position and their spot in the lineup. That increases competition for each spot on the roster and makes everyone know they have to earn their spot. Competition brings the best out of everyone because every player knows they have to keep getting better to keep their spot.

Deep to Every Part of the Field

There’s always a possibility of having too many players for one position. If they are all ready to play at the major league level, then the front office can use the depth to make a trade to strengthen another position. A team can never have too much depth. They dream of having depth at every position. It’s a good problem to have if the organization has a difficult job figuring out who makes the team and who has to be sent down to the minors.

When teams are taking players in the draft, there is no way of knowing how long it will take them to develop into major leaguers. That’s if they even make it at all. Very few players go right into the big leagues. They all need a little seasoning in the minors nowadays. There’s no way to predict how any prospect will do no matter how good they were before turning pro.

Nobody knew Mike Trout would be Mike Trout or he wouldn’t have fallen to the 25th pick in the 2009 Draft. He would’ve been taken 1st*, yes, even ahead of the first pick by the Washington Nationals, RHP Stephen Strasburg. There are probably aren’t many drafts where the #1 overall pick ends up being the best overall player. The best player usually ends up being a player picked lower than #1. (Hmm….another post, another time.)
*The Twins took RHP Kyle Gibson with the 22nd pick in the first round, if you were wondering.

The Minnesota Twins Takes
“With their 1st pick, the Minnesota Twins take…”

You could probably guess the Minnesota Twins haven’t done very well in the draft, recently. If they had, they wouldn’t be where they are right now. They wouldn’t have over 90 losses in 5 out of the last 7 seasons. They wouldn’t have had to fire the GM. They wouldn’t have had to make some of the trades they made, hoping they would work out. They wouldn’t have had to force players into the lineup who may not have been ready. They wouldn’t have had to use 36 pitchers in one season to see what they can do and then risk losing them to waivers.

For a long time, the Minnesota Twins were known as a team that would draft well and always had a good farm system. It became known as the Twins Way and was part of the reason they won 6 division championships between 2002 & 2010. They knew how to develop players. In those same years between 2002 & 2010, they may have lost their way when it came to drafting well and developing players and most of all, pitchers. Here’s what they got from the drafts from 2002 to 2010:

2002: OF Denard Span, RP Jesse Crain, RP Pat Neshek
2003: SP Scott Baker
2004: 3B Trevor Plouffe, RP Glen Perkins, SP/RP Anthony Swarzak
2005: SP Matt Garza, SP Kevin Slowey, SP/RP Brian Duensing
2006: 1B/OF Chris Parmelee, 3B Danny Valencia, SP Jeff Manship
2007: OF Ben Revere
2008: OF Aaron Hicks, RP Michael Tonkin
2009: SP Kyle Gibson, C/1B/OF Chris Hermann, SS/2B Brian Dozier
2010: SP/RP Alex Wimmers, SP Pat Dean, SP Logan Darnell, OF Eddie Rosario

So, in 9 years, all they produced for the rotation were Scott Baker, Matt Garza* and Kyle Gibson. Three middle of the rotation pitchers in 9 years. You could include Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing and even Glen Perkins in there as well. They all began as starters and were then moved to the bullpen. They did alright with relievers Jesse Crain & Pat Neshek and also developed some pretty decent players in OF Denard Span, OF Ben Revere, OF Aaron Hicks, 2B Brian Dozier and OF Eddie Rosario.
*They traded possibly the best of them in Matt Garza to TB with SS Jason Bartlett for OF Delmon Young & SS Brendan Harris. Garza became a very good starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. He helped lead them to the 2008 World Series and won the ALCS MVP.

Brick by Brick

The draft is a foundation for building great teams. It’s not the only part teams need to do right to build a winner but it’s a great place to start building. It’s hard to say what kind of production any team expects to come out of every draft. It’s something like an average of 2 players out of every draft* making it to the major leagues. That’s just making it there, too. Not if they’re starters or All-Stars, it’s any player who makes it to the major leagues. It could be an All-Star player, a #1 pitcher or a utility player or middle reliever.
*I couldn’t find anything concrete on this. I’ve heard that before, though.

It’s done slowly, building the foundation and adding to that foundation until they’ve built a champion. If you look at most championship teams, they have players who’ve been there for a long time who were acquired through the draft. Then they’ve continually added pieces from year to year to finally build a team that has everything they need to win a championship. They have depth at every position so they can survive any injuries or other challenges that come up during the season.

If you look at the 1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins, they slowly built that team. They drafted 1B Kent Hrbek in 1978 and he was one of the first pieces for that team. Then from 1979 to 1984, they kept adding more pieces to that team.

1978: Kent Hrbek
1979: Randy Bush, Gary Gaetti (June-2nd Phase), Tim Laudner
1980: Jeff Reed (Traded for Jeff Reardon)
1981: Frank Viola, Steve Lombardozzi
1982: Alan Anderson, Mark Davidson, Kirby Puckett (January Draft)
1984: Jay Bell (traded for Bert Blyleven), Gene Larkin

So the 1987 Twins drafted starters at 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Catcher and Center Field along with #1 starter Frank Viola and bench players Randy Bush, Mark Davidson & Gene Larkin and relief pitcher Alan Anderson. They also used draft picks to acquire a majority of the other pieces from that championship team.

Most people probably never think about that when it comes to the draft. In almost every trade a player who was acquired through the draft is involved. There are some trades that are just players signed through free agency or who were acquired through another trade. Also, the majority of those drafted players included in those trades never make it to the big leagues. They end up being throw-ins to get the trade done. The teams obviously believed they’d be more than that or they wouldn’t have asked for those players but, it still points to how important the draft is for building a team into a champion.

Are they building another champion with pieces drafted since 2009?:

2009: SP Kyle Gibson, 2B Brian Dozier
2010: OF Eddie Rosario
2012: SP Jose Berrios, RP Tyler Duffey, RP J.T. Chargois?, RP Taylor Rogers, CF Byron Buxton SP Luke Bard? RP Mason Melotakis
2013: SP Stephen Gonsalves, C Mitch Garver, OF Zack Granite
2014: RP John Curtiss, RP Trevor Hildenberger, SS Nick Gordon
2015: RP Tyler Jay?
2016: OF Alex Kiriloff
2017: SS Royce Lewis, OF Brent Rooker

There are some pretty nice pieces on this list. They have starters at 2nd base, left field, center field, a few pitchers for the starting rotation & some good arms for the bullpen as well. It’s definitely a good start.

The 5th Rule of Drafting

The Rule 5 Draft was put into place so teams couldn’t stockpile talent on their minor league rosters. It forces teams to commit to keeping players who have been in their organization for 4 or 5 years depending on the age they were signed, 5 years if they were signed before they turned 19 and 4 years if they were signed after they turned 19. Players not protected by being placed on a team’s 40-man roster are available to be picked by other teams who have spots open on their 40-man roster.

The drafted players cost the drafting team $100K and must stay on the active 25-man roster for the entire next season or be offered back to the original team for $50K. Most of these players are not yet ready for the jump to the Major League so it’s a bit of a risk. It’s also another way for teams to find players who’ve already been in the minors for 4-5 years so they have a pretty good track record for teams to judge them on.

Rule 5 picks rarely make a big impact but sometimes it can work out quite nicely. Roberto Clemente is probably the biggest example of success but there are others, too. Twins fans surely remember LHP Johan Santana, who wasn’t actually picked by the Twins. They traded their 1st pick, Jared Camp, to the Florida Marlins in the 1999 Rule 5 Draft, who selected Johan from the Houston Astros. Other good examples for the Twins are OF Shane Mack in 1989 and C Mark Salas in 1984 (he was traded straight up for P Joe Niekro (with a nail file) in 1987. LHP Scott Diamond looked like a pretty good pick from 2010. He pitched well for a while but fizzled out and was released in 2014.

Recent examples of successful Rule 5 picks from the rest of the league are OF Joey Rickard for the Baltimore Orioles and 1B Justin Bour for the Miami Marlins. We view success as adding a piece to your major league roster that either helps you win or helps you acquire another piece that helps you win.

The Last Pick

That’s all for the history of who the Minnesota Twins have taken in the MLB Draft. They had a bad run there for awhile but they may have made up for it in more recent drafts. It helped to have higher picks because of the losing seasons. A philosophy change on what kind of pitchers to target from Terry Ryan may help the new regime get to the promised land, too.

In the next article, we’ll delve into how the Twins have done with International Signings. The BIG one that stands out is Miguel Sano but that’s because he’s the most recent success. We’ll see how they’ve done and if they’ve improved in this area throughout their history.

Thanks for reading our TwinsTakes on the Draft History of the Minnesota Twins!  We’d love to hear your ‘Takes on the subject! Please comment below, on TwinsDaily.com or the posts of this article on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and/or Google+!

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TwinsTakes on Team Development – TTP Part 4

TwinsTakes on Trusting the Process -of Team Development

Team development is the final step to building a winning team.

Team Development is similar to player development but from a team aspect. A winning team doesn’t come from simply putting the best players on the field together. Talent, while a huge part of winning, isn’t the only trait needed to field a winning team. It might not even be the best trait of a winning team. A winning team has to have every piece of a winning team and those pieces have to fit together and have great chemistry in order to succeed consistently.

Team development is building your team so they have no weaknesses on or off the field but it’s also building them into a team that knows how to win and also has the confidence that they can win. A team will struggle if they don’t believe they can compete against any team they come up against and when they start to believe they can beat any opponent anywhere, that’s when they’ll start becoming a team to beat.

This is part 4 of our Trusting the Process series. Please check out part one, simply called Trusting the Process, about how the Twins Front Office and CBO Derek Falvey & GM Thad Levine helped or let the 2017 Minnesota Twins compete this season and why what they did, or didn’t do, at the trade deadline was actually showing how they were trusting the process.

Part 2 is Trusting the Process of Acquiring Players, about what tools are available to every team for acquiring players and how they should use them. Part 3 is about Trusting the Process of Player Development so your team always has players coming up to help your team or to help acquire the pieces needed to get to the ultimate goal of winning championships.

Philosophy Alignment

Every winning organization should have a philosophy of everything that goes into winning and that philosophy should align throughout the organization, from the top to the bottom, from the Major Leagues to the Rookie Leagues. There will be an on the field philosophy (for pitching, offense & defense), an off the field philosophy (for developing individual skills) and a development philosophy for promotion & advancement.

On the field, every player will know very well how the organization wants to play the game & win in every possible situation. They will either learn those situations before they get on the field or as a result of what happens on the field. There will be a philosophy for how they want to pitch, how they want to play offense and how they want to play defense. Teams would definitely go into a lot more depth in each of these areas.

Off the field, they will learn what it takes to develop & advance to the next level. They will learn about other off the field skills that go into being a professional baseball player, learning from failing, learning from teammates & opponents (how they play, how they prepare, how they work on their games physically and mentally), using all the tools available to them from video to analytics to working out the right way, and doing any off the field team events, promotions and interviews that come along and how to handle all of it together without allowing one area to mess with another.

Developing, A Plan

A Development Philosophy of how quickly a player will be moved to another level since there is no one way to develop a prospect into a major leaguer should be handled on a player-by-player basis. Each player is different and will have different weaknesses and different strengths. For some of the more gifted players, developing and advancing might be easier while for others, there could be many ups & downs along the way. The key will be knowing how to treat each player’s development.

Some players can be pushed harder than others due to their combination of talent and makeup. Knowing when to leave them at a level when they are struggling rather than demoting them right away can go either way. A player doing really well at one level could very easily struggle after being promoted, doing a number on their confidence. Confidence is a game-changer.

A player without confidence in their game will continue to struggle and start to question if they are good enough to play at a higher level. It has been shown to destroy some players or, at least, set them back. There’s a really fine line between getting a player right back out there the next day to keep at it, sitting them down for a game or two and demoting them to a level where they’ve already been successful. The knowledge of how to handle players in these situations will go a long ways to getting the best out of every player.

Also, they may have to do this, at most, 6 times before having success in the majors with some players starting in the rookie leagues and working there way up through the system. That’s not counting fall or winter leagues, either. It will also take anywhere from 1 to 6 or more years to make it happen. This is why rebuilding a team takes so long and probably why a lot of teams try to tweak their roster by going after some free agents or making some trades to see if they can hang on and still be competitive while their top prospects work their way up. Most of the time it doesn’t work and they would’ve been better off trusting the process but it’s hard to admit your team has to go the way of a rebuild.

A Lot Of Patience

It takes years for an organization to build and develop a consistent winner. If they are rebuilding for whatever reason, a lot of patience will be needed and they will have to stay the course, resisting the urge to take shortcuts along the way. There are not many, if any, shortcuts to rebuilding a team back into a winner. Every aspect of the organization will have to exercise patience. Trying to take any kind of shortcut no matter how small it may appear to be could set the rebuild back weeks, months or even years.

Depending on the reason for a rebuild, an organization will have to take what they already have on their team, figure out where there are weaknesses and strengths and then figure out how to develop the weaknesses into strengths or, at least, to a level where they are no longer a weakness. They will likely have some pieces already in place but, if they’ve been going through hard times, they may have traded their best players for prospects and/or fired the management who may have put them in this situation to begin with. If that’s the case, the rebuilding endeavor may take longer as new management assesses what they currently have to build around and gradually implements a new philosophy.

Every team would love to have a rebuild take as little time as possible but it’s just not that easy. Some of the pieces needed will take a long time to mature into the players they are meant to be. It’s not a guarantee they will ever even get there or be as good as management thought when or if they do reach the major leagues. It doesn’t mean they have to start over as teams should have some prospect depth at each position. It just might take longer.

Building Your Core

Core players are the strength of any organization. They are the team’s leaders and they will show the younger players how to be valuable big league players, making them part of that core group. Having core players is probably the biggest and hardest job of building a championship-caliber team. They aren’t easy to find but might be the biggest key to success as they will be there for the long haul and be a huge part of the team’s success for a long time.

MLBTradeRumors.com does a great job reporting MLB news and rumors but they also have articles that explain the rules of transactions, drafts, free agency and pretty much anything that comes to your mind about baseball. Recently, they published a “How They Were Acquired” series for every 2017 MLB playoff team. These articles show how long it has taken some of these teams to reach the playoffs. They also, obviously, show how each player was acquired. It’s pretty cool to look at the more successful teams and see how they’ve built their teams into playoff contenders.

As we said in our Acquiring Players article, teams have to use every tool available to them to acquire the players they’ll need to win a championship. Those tools are the MLB Drafts, International Signings, Trades and Free Agency. Waiver Claims can be included but are not really a major tool of player acquisition. So, the “How They Were Acquired” series of posts on each playoff team are broken down into those categories although they have combined the Draft and International Signings into one category called Homegrown Players.

We broke down each group by team to show how many players were acquired in each category. If you’d like to check that out, just click here for the spreadsheet of the results or click the pic below:

How the 2017 MLB Playoff Teams Acquired Their Players

If this is too difficult to read, clicking the picture will send you to the original document allowing you to print it and/or save it as a PDF. Each category is a separate sheet on the bottom.

The results were: Homegrown-88, Trades-96, Free Agency-57, Waivers-8; Core Players/Starters – Homegrown-53, Trades-53, FA-30, Waivers-2. For the core pieces, we just went through each team’s list and picked who we believed were the core pieces or the starters for each team.

A belief across a majority of baseball is that building through the draft is the best way to build a team. The results did show that for the most part but we were a little surprised how many players were acquired from trades at 96 with 53 of those players being starters/core players. In a lot of ways, though, some of those players could end up being homegrown since they were acquired as prospects and grew up on their current team’s farm…uhh …system.

Joe Mauer, from the 2001 Draft, is the oldest homegrown acquisition, Andre Ethier is the oldest trade with a trade from December of 2005 and C.C. Sabathia (2008) & Jayson Werth (2010) are the oldest free agent signings. All of those players are key parts and big reasons why their teams made it to the postseason.

The biggest thing a playoff team has is depth. Every roster spot is taken by a player who will play a big part in that team winning. They will know their role, except it and do it to the best of their ability. There will usually be veterans available at every position or that can at least fill in at every position. If they were rookies at the beginning of the season and they made to the postseason, they are no longer rookies. They were a huge part of their team making it to the dance party and doing some dancing.

Eat Your Wheaties!
The breakfast of champions! Have a bowl…or two.

Winning isn’t easy. There’s no book or class that can show you how to do it. You have to learn how to win from the experience of playing the game. Teams can develop into winners. Mike Zimmer, Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings, has said multiple times (and we’ve shared this before, too) that there are 4 stages, or learns, to winning. He said:

“There are four learns in football.
First you Learn How to Compete.
Then you Learn How to Win.
Then you Learn How to Handle Winning.
Then you Learn How To Be A Champion.”

Obviously, he’s talking about football but it’s not hard to see those stages, levels or learns of winning being used across all sports and working from an individual and/or a team concept. With the right players together, a team can learn together how to win and gradually grow into being a playoff contender then, hopefully, become a championship contender.

This Series is Over!

That’s our series on Trusting the Process. We hope you’ve enjoyed it. We’ll now get into how the Minnesota Twins have done in all areas of Trusting the Process. There has to be a reason why they had such a terrible run from 2010 through 2016. We’ll see where they went wrong and if the new regime will or has improved in that area.

Thanks for reading our TwinsTakes on Trusting the Process of Team Development! We’d love to hear your ‘Takes on the subject! Please comment below, on TwinsDaily.com or on the posts of this article on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Google+!

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Minnesota Twins to Partner with Paul Molitor for 3 More Years

Paul Molitor signs for 3 more years with the Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins sign for 3 more years of partnership with Paul Molitor.

The Minnesota Twins, having come off a very good season where they made the playoffs for the first time since 2010, have re-signed their manager, Paul Molitor, to a 3-year contract. Terms of the 3-year deal have yet to be announced. Now, the 61-year old manager will do his best to get his team to take the next step from being a playoff contender to a championship contender.

Coming off one of the worst seasons in baseball history and the worst in Minnesota Twins franchise history, Paul Molitor was on the hot seat from the season’s first pitch. He never managed for his job, though. He wanted to win and turn this team back to the winning team he had in 2015. Did he know the odds of turning a 100+ loss team into a playoff team or even into a .500 or better team again? That’s doubtful and even if he was told a team had never made the playoffs after a season with that many losses, he most likely wouldn’t have cared.

Managing The Game

Like when Paul Molitor was first hired to be the Minnesota Twins Manager back in November of 2014, there will be fans who don’t like this deal or think 3 years is too long. They are discouraged by the way he manages the game or by certain things he does during the course of a game. Most of this lies in how he handles his pitching staff. Beginning his managerial career only 3 years ago, the pitching side of managing is the area he likely needed to learn about the most.

Fans tend to think that players are finished products when they get to the Major Leagues, meaning there is very little room for them to improve. The biggest argument for that is once they’ve reached the highest level of professional baseball, they now have the best coaches and players to learn from along with the best tools to figure out where they can improve.

As a player, Paul Molitor is one of the greatest examples of improving as you get older. He had his best years after he turned 30, which is supposedly the age players start to decline. As a manager, it’s yet to be seen but he’s going to do everything he can to help this team be successful. He has a lot of support to look to, from CBO Derek Falvey to GM Thad Levine to the rest of the front office to his coaching staff and the analytics department. Ultimately, it always comes down to his decision and if they weren’t happy with what he was doing, they wouldn’t bring him back.

Alignment, Partnership & Collaboration

Watching the Twins Press Conference on bringing back Molitor for 3 years, you can see right away this is a collaborative effort, to use a Derek Falvey/Thad Levine often-used phrase, and Derek Falvey wants Paul Molitor as his manager. That says a lot about what they think of the job he did this season. They didn’t have a choice last year. Paul Molitor was their manager but now, they could’ve gone in a different direction. It also says a lot about how open Molitor is to what they are trying to do to develop the Minnesota Twins into a championship-caliber team.

It’s extremely difficult to have success if the front office, scouting department and on-field staff are not aligned in their philosophy about the game and their building process, how to acquire players, develop those players and develop the team into a winner. Every decision is talked about among all of them before coming to a final decision. This is aside from the on-field and in-game decisions that Molitor has total freedom on.

“We do this as a partnership” said Derek Falvey during the press conference. Then, after being asked if he and Thad Levine were interested in bringing in their own guy, he said, “…when you go through that process…you want to make sure there’s a fit…” and they “…work to make the best decision for the Minnesota Twins, not for me or for Paul…” This is a “partnership all the way through” when it comes to the offseason decisions, too.

New Pitching Coach in 2018

One of those decisions was to fire pitching coach Neil Allen. Molitor said “changing coaches is a hard thing” and he feels Neil is a late-in-life found friend but they will “…pursue someone in that role that will help push our pitching forward.” Falvey said that process has started over the last couple of days and some key elements they look for in a pitching coach is alignment from top to bottom, a Twins Way, not one way but a way that evolves over time and to make sure development continues.

The Minnesota Twins also hired Jeremy Zoll away from the Los Angeles Dodgers to take over as Director of Minor League Operations. He’ll take over for Brad Steil, who was promoted to Director of Pro Scouting. These are new hires could have a significant impact with the Twins.

Closing

We are excited for the offseason to see who the Twins bring in and what they do to help the pitching move forward. Will it include moving Brian Dozier? That would seem to be a bad move, now. He has established himself as a leader of this team and he’s producing at the plate while providing good defense. Trading him could also open up a new problem. Jorge Polanco would most likely move to 2nd Base but then who takes over at shortstop? Sure, they have some options but are any of them ready? Either ready to play in the majors if you’re talking about Nick Gordon or ready to be a full-time SS in the case of Eduardo Escobar or Ehire Adrianza?

Thanks for reading our TwinsTakes on Paul Molitor coming back for 3 more years! We’d love to hear your TwinsTakes on the subject! Please comment below or on the posts of this article on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Google+!

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One Game In New York – Yankees vs Twins – 2017 AL Wild Card

One Game In New York - "Anyone can win one game."

One & Done or Won & Some More Fun?

The history of the Minnesota Twins playing the New York Yankees in the postseason for most fans brings up nothing but bad and/or angry memories of lost games and lost series. Unfortunately, the results have rarely, if ever, been good for the Twins when they meet the Yankees in the postseason. Heck, the results have rarely been good in the regular season and they get worse in the postseason.

The Twins have a 2-12 record in the postseason against the New York Yankees. They have met them in 4 playoff series, losing all 4 series either 3 games to 1 of being swept 3 games to none. Strangely enough, the 2 Twins victories came in New York. The frustration when the Twins matchup with the Yankees is at some point, the Yankees take over the game and/or the series and the Twins look just helpless to stop the bleeding. Then once that happens, it just seems to get worse.

So many weird things have happened against New York as well.* There was the ground rule double from Corey Koskie that kept Luis Rivas from scoring and giving them the lead in the top of the 8th inning in Game 2 of 2004. Then a Torii Hunter home run did give them the lead in the top of the 12th but Joe Nathan couldn’t close it out as he tried to go 2.2 innings. There was another ball hit down the 3rd baseline that was foul that the umpire called fair and it wasn’t even close. It was like 6 inches foul, right?
*Ughh…I don’t remember partly because I don’t want to remember. I wish I had one of those Men In Black zapper memory remover thing-a-ma-jigs although I’d like to be more selective than just erase all my memories. There are some good ones in there.

But…here’s the thing! None of that matters, now! Only Joe Mauer has faced the Yankees in playoffs past. The rest of the team doesn’t care about the history against the Yankees. The Minnesota Twins are a young team full of players who don’t know about the postseason and that might be just what they need. They do have some veterans who have definitely helped lead the way this season in Brian Dozier and tonight’s starter Ervin Santana. Expect that to help them tonight. 

The New York Yankees are heavily favored. That’s not really big or surprising news. They are the mighty Yankees. They spend big on everything. They have the best bullpen in the game and one of the best young starting pitchers in 23-year old RHP Luis Severino, who will start for the Yankees tonight. The Twins got to Luis early in New York including a 46-pitch 3rd inning where the Twins took a 3-0 lead. Severino didn’t come back for the 4th inning but his team did as the Yankees went on to win that game 11-3 and sweep the Twins a couple of weeks ago.

Of course, this made a lot of Twins fans think their team just can’t win in New York and a lot of those fans started wondering if it’d be better if the Twins had to face the Boston Red Sox instead. As a team clinging to just making the playoffs, the Twins should not and did not care who it was they had to face in the postseason. They are glad to extend their season and see what they can do in One Game in New York. (See what I did there?)

The Twins have some experience in the one-game format, having played 2 Game 163 tiebreaker games in 2008, a 1-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox with Nick Blackburn going 6.1 innings and John Danks shutting down the Twins for 8 innings, and in 2009, a crazy extra-innings affair that would end with an Alexi Casilla game-winning hit in the bottom of the 12th that scored Carlos Gomez and gave Bobby Keppel the one and only win in his career. (How ‘bout that?) What does that mean? That means anyone can play a part in these games. Anyone can make that game-changing play or get the game-winning hit.

This might not fall into the one-game territory but another interesting part of the history of these two teams meeting in the playoffs is how it began in 2003. The Yankees were overwhelming favorites…yadda, yadda, yadda. The Twins had never faced the Yankees in the playoffs before so that 2003 team didn’t know what to expect and went into it with no thoughts of failing and won game 1, something they would do again in 2004. The Twins only 2 wins in their postseason history against the New York Yankees had given them a 1-0 series lead. Unfortunately, they’d lose the next 3 games both years but the message stands that it’s possible to beat the Yankees AND, a 1-0 series lead would look mighty good this season!

Big Erv should pitch well tonight but in a one-game format, Paul Molitor will have a short leash should things go a little awry early. He will have young RHP Jose Berrios to turn to along with 9 other pitchers for that reason. If they get down early, the veteran leadership will play a big part. A lot of times these postseason games can mirror a team’s regular season. For this Twins team, that would mean a good start, a few bad stretches then responding resiliently in the end.

No Sano Tonight

Well, anyone except Miguel Sano, who is not on the Wild Card playoff roster tonight. I’m somewhat puzzled by this decision even if Miguel did not appear to have his timing right during the last series of the regular season. He’s a nice player to have on the bench as a pinch-hitter to face a lefty or in a big spot. How fun would it have been to see Miguel Sano face fireballer Aroldis Chapman late in a game and see Miguel connect on one of those 100+ mph fastballs?

Closing Time

So, yes, the Yankees are favored because they are supposedly the more talented team or because they’ve won more games but, they are also supposed to be here. They are supposed to win this game because it’s in their park, on their turf and in front of their fans. The Minnesota Twins are the surprise team of the season. Nobody thought they were going to be here. Their own fans (& maybe even their own front office) counted them out several times this season but they just kept responding and coming back to prove everybody except themselves wrong. This is just another case where people are doubting them. They don’t care because any team can win…

One Game In New York!!!

Some further reading on tonight’s American League Wild Card Game:

*This series is also responsible for one of my favorite Torii Hunter plays of all time and it didn’t even result in an out although, it maybe should have. I believe it was Game 3 in 2003(?) so it was at the Metrodome and Hideki Matsui hit a deep fly ball to left center field. Torii got on his horse and went all out to catch that ball. He jumped at the right time, the ball went in his glove but he then hit the hard, very lightly padded wall and the ball came out. It’s a favorite play because Torii Hunter showed absolutely no fear of what might happen if he hit that wall. I don’t remember if it went over the wall or stayed in the park. I thought it went out because I also thought it was a home run. For the life of me, I cannot find anything on it. A highlight, a news article or anything about that play. I was at the game. It was the playoffs. Does anyone else remember that play?

Thanks for reading our TwinsTakes on One Game in New York! Let us know your thoughts (or ‘Takes) on the Twins playing the New York Yankees in the postseason! Please comment below or on the posts of this article on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Google+!

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Trusting the Process of Player Development – TTP Part 3

Trusting the Process of Player Development - TwinsTakes.com

The development of players is how teams succeed and win.

The Minnesota Twins are a team that has to rely on player development. They don’t really have the luxury of using free agency to fix their weaknesses or, at least, to use it very often. They have to trust the process of developing players so they always have good prospects coming. If they do that, those prospects will either help the team by becoming good players for the Minnesota Twins or by being pieces the front office can use to trade for the pieces they need to make this team into a perennial playoff team that can challenge for a championship every season.

This is part 3 of our Trusting the Process series. Please check out part one, simply called Trusting the Process, about how the Twins Front Office and CBO Derek Falvey & Thad Levine helped or let the Minnesota Twins compete this season and why what they did, or didn’t do, at the trade deadline was actually showing how they are trusting the process. Part 2 was about Trusting the Process of Acquiring Players, about what tools are available to every team for acquiring players and how they should use them.

You Have A Lot of Makeup

A lot of people believe there is only one way to develop a player. That way seems to be to promote the player as fast as possible and if they don’t do well, send him back down until he figures it out then promote him again. That would mean as soon as a player shows success at one level, move them up to the next level and if they don’t have success there, move them back down until they figure it out. That might work for robots but these are human beings you’re dealing with and they are all different. They all have a different makeup and a different timeline to how or even if they are going to make it to the big leagues and have success. That is the end goal, be successful in the big leagues, not just to make it there.

That means each player has to be handled differently and knowing their makeup (or how they tick) will help decide how hard they can be pushed. Just think, a player drafted out of high school* who starts in rookie ball will most likely have to progress through 6 levels of baseball to finally make it to the dream of playing Major League Baseball.
*A player drafted out of college will most likely start at a higher level but they’ve also played a few years of a higher level of baseball so they should develop quicker but they will still have around 3-4 levels to climb to get to the majors.

So, 6 times they could be playing really well and get the call that they are being promoted to the next level. Then, each time they get a new level, it’s almost like starting all over again, learning that a new level means they have to get better at every part of the game and all of a sudden, they might not be as good as they thought they were because now they’re in a league with better players.

Basically, they are knocked down 6 times and have to get back up 7 times. That’s if they can stay at that level and battle through the frustrations and slumps they might have to keep from being demoted back down to a lower level again. The bottom line is they have to keep getting back up and that is what separates the players that make it from the players who end up giving up on their dream of being professional baseball players.

The mind (or the lizard brain) is the big hurdle. Getting knocked down by not being able to adapt to a new level will get in their heads and make them think they can’t do it or they aren’t good enough. This is where a player’s makeup comes in. The mind will try to trick them into believing they can’t do it so not only do they have to battle through the physical part of the game but the mental part as well. They have to keep going to practice every day and have the confidence they can do it and keep getting better so they can make the next jump.

This is where teams have to be careful how quickly they promote each and every player. If they promote a player too aggressively without knowing how they’ll react if or when they fail at the higher level, they could destroy that player’s confidence and they might never get it back. This is why there’s no one way to player development.

Plant the Seed and Watch it Grow

A player drafted is a seed planted. Coaching, management and the players playing the game are the sun and water that will allow the seed to grow or die. Every franchise should have the same philosophy across their whole organization of how they are going to grow their players, their teams and their organization as a whole.

They have to keep watering the seed so it will continue to grow. The managers throughout the organization’s minor league teams should be teaching the same way to play the game so the players continue to improve their skills and take them to the next level. If they forget to water the seed or give up on a player for whatever reason, the player’s growth will slow down or even stop.

It could take longer for some players because they may have been learned differently either from a different organization or from where they played in high school or in college. They are moving to different and possibly better soil to improve how well and how fast they grow.

This process involves the front office, management, the coaches and the players. Nobody can be left out. They all have to understand how it works and that it’s a process that won’t happen overnight. If they continue to work at it and trust it, they could make it.

The Great Misconception of D…evelopment

Another misconception is the belief that a player has fully developed or reached a point where they can no longer improve. This is more about older players or players who have made it to the major leagues and have carved out a role within a team or in their careers.

Any player can get better at any age and any point in their career. It might not be a huge improvement but they can improve aspects of their game whether it be physically or mentally. It can come from having a different coach or different teammates or a different team that might give them a different view on their skills or adds something to their game. Nobody is a finished product.

Yogi Berra has a famous quote that goes something like, “Half of this game is 90% mental.” That basically means your mind is a crazy thing and can help you or hurt you in a game. Managers always say they don’t mind (there’s that word again) physical mistakes but the mental mistakes drive them crazy.

It’s that mental half of the game that can be the final hurdle to get a player over the hump to having success in the big leagues. That could be anything from realizing they have to think the game better or that their physical skills are no longer elite so they might have to find different ways to having success. That could be learning to become a pitcher instead of just throwing hard or learning they can’t or shouldn’t try to hit every pitch but focus on the pitches that will give them the best chance of getting a hit.

The brain is a computer. Use it for research and development, not for evaluation. Evaluation should come from your results. A lot of times you can trust evaluation from mentors, coaches, teammates and colleagues but, unfortunately, it’s not foolproof.

The Finished Product

In closing, player development is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, parts of building a consistently great team. Every year a team has to make changes. Knowing how to develop players will give them more opportunities of success because free agents and drafted players will know they will have a very good chance of success with them.

In the next article, we’ll delve into Trusting the Process of Team Development. After the series, we’ll see how the Twins have done in Player Development and Trusting the Process and if it’s a part of the reason they’ve had such a terrible run since 2010.

Thanks for reading our TwinsTakes on Trusting the Process of Player Development! We’d love to hear your TwinsTakes on the subject! Please comment below or on the posts of this article on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Google+!

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