TwinsTakes on Acquiring Players – Trust the Process Part 2

Our TwinsTakes on Trusting the Process of Acquiring Players

Players are the lifeblood of your team. Acquire them well and often.

The Minnesota Twins are finally at a point where they have built a team with a lot of talent. Most of that talent is young and still developing into what they could potentially be. They will go a long way towards making the Minnesota Twins a perennial playoff team now and in the future. All those years of losing are…uhh…finally paying off? Wait…that doesn’t sound right. They are finally seeing the fruits of having the higher draft picks as a result of all those losing seasons.

This is part 2 of our “Trusting the Process” series on what it takes to build a perennial playoff and championship contending team. The first part, simply called Trusting the Process, was about how the Twins Front Office and CBO Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have 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.

At the end of the series, we’ll go over how the Minnesota Twins have done in each area. Maybe we’ll find why they struggled for so many of the last 6 seasons. Today, though, we will continue the series with how a team acquires players and what tools are available to each organization to do it.

4-Tool Player Acquisition

There is a process to developing a team into a champion. The front office of any organization needs to trust that process to become a championship caliber team, not just for one season, for every season. That is every team’s goal, to contend for a championship every season. Acquiring and developing players is how teams compete, how they improve and ultimately, how they win.

Every team has the same tools at their disposal to acquire players. The major tools are the Draft/Drafting, Free Agency, International Signings, and Trades. They have to use any means necessary to acquire players. If they lose focus or don’t do very well on any one of them, they’re probably not going to become that perennial championship-caliber team.

If a team doesn’t draft well, they won’t have many prospects. If they don’t sign good players in Free Agency, they’ll be stuck with bad contracts which will affect payroll and not allow them the flexibility to get other free agents or acquire the players they want or need in trades. If they get nothing from International Signings, they aren’t getting anything from all the time and money they put into their baseball academies and their international scouting and if they don’t make good trades, they’ll either get rid of their best players for nothing or trade their best prospects for very little return.

A team may need to make a few moves to help push an already contending team to the brink of winning a championship but, those moves could also change their team for the worse in the future and if they don’t win that season, they may set themselves back because of it. If they’ve done well in all areas of acquiring players, they should be able to recover from those trades.*
*One name….Matt Capps! Ughh!

First Draft

The best way to get players is through the draft. It happens every year and every organization picks and signs about 30+ players and they don’t have to give anything up to acquire these players. Obviously, the biggest problem with the draft is having to wait for 3-6 years or more for most of those drafted players to reach the majors but, if you’ve consistently drafted well, there should always be players coming or close to ready to contribute to the big club.

Of course, if the organization has done well in the other 4 areas of player acquisition, they won’t need to rely on rookies as much. If they do have players coming consistently every season, they have the opportunity to trade other pieces to either improve the club now by adding a good veteran or in the future by adding more prospects.

We can’t cover acquiring players without talking about scouting. Without scouting or a team’s scouts, they would have no idea how good a player is right now or how good they might be in the future. The movie, Moneyball, taught a lot of us that scouting is now a lot more than just watching a player and seeing their skills in person.

Analytics now play a big part in evaluating a player and their talent. Another area probably not talked about enough is a player’s makeup and how he’ll look on television and in a team’s promotional videos. Noooo….not that kind of makeup! Makeup as in what makes each player tick, how hard they compete, how good of a teammate they are and how they handle adversity. It’s not talked about very much because the fans rarely see that side of a player, especially when it comes in the dugout or in the clubhouse but a player can change the whole team with his makeup.

The draft is the easiest way to acquire players but it might be the hardest way to produce players. You can get a lot of players at one time but, of the 30 or so a team signs, very few of them make it to the majors at all or become impact players once they get there. That being said, the years a team has control over a player and their salary is a big reason why they need to get players from the draft.

Free Agency isn’t Free at All

Free agency is the quickest way for a team to improve. Teams can simply negotiate with a player and give them a better deal or more money than any other team. It’s not that simple, of course, and it doesn’t always work the way teams would like it to. Maybe a player just doesn’t fit or wasn’t as good as advertised so there are risks involved with every signing.

There is the problem of not getting the player you want and then having to go to further down your list and/or maybe overspending to get the player you want. Free agent contracts in Major League Baseball are getting crazier by the year. Because of how long teams have control of their players, the majority don’t hit actual free agency until they are in the high 20s or early 30s. Obviously part of that also has to do with teams re-signing their players and buying out some of their free agent years but it may make free agency even more of a risk.

Depending on many factors, players hit their peak sometime around 30 years old, give or take a year or two. That’s also when most of them hit the free agent market. So, teams are signing players to gigantic multi-year contracts and it’s very likely they end up paying more money as they age and as their play declines. Yoenis Cespedes signed the biggest contract last offseason at 4 years/$110M and he was 31 years old when he signed that contract. Will he get better in the span of that contract or will his play decline as he gets even older? That’s up for debate and it’s different for every player but you might want to keep that receipt just in case.*
*”Umm…this didn’t work like it was supposed to. Can I get a refund?”

Free agency is a great tool to use to quickly strengthen an area of weakness or to get that player a team might need to get them over the hump but it might not work as well as they’d like it to work. I’m sure that won’t matter when the General Managers get their owner’s checkbooks out next offseason, though. 

Foreign Signatures

The MLB International Signing Period is how teams sign players born outside of the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico because there isn’t an International Draft. So, it’s basically International Free Agency but it’s for prospects and players who are as young as 16 years old. That means every team has to trust their international scouts but every team also has Baseball Academies in the Dominican Republic and other countries so they can develop these players and get them into their system.

Look no further than the current Twins roster as proof that International Signings work. 2009 was a good year for the Minnesota Twins on the International market as they signed current players, OF Max Kepler, SS Jorge Polanco and 3B Miguel Sano*. Those players are a part of the core of this young Twins team and it shows how big of a part international signings are for every team.
*Pelotero: Ballplayer (2012) is a highly recommended documentary that is mainly about the signing of Miguel Sano and all of the problems that occurred through that process. A sequel, The Miguel Sano Story, is on the way. No release date is available at this time.

Trading Place

There is also the possibility for any team’s General Manager to pick up the phone and call another team’s General Manager, tell them they’re interested in a player and ask if he’s available. The answer could be no, he’s untouchable, what would you give us or this is what we’d need coming back to us if we were to trade him. It could get done right away. It could take a week, a month or even more. They could get really close to making a deal and then something makes it go wrong.

Look at the Brian Dozier saga from last offseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers were looking for a 2nd baseman. The Minnesota Twins have Brian Dozier and the whole league knew he was on the trading block. Did the Twins want to trade him? Not necessarily but he was the player with the most value at that time. The Twins need pitching. Starting, relieving, sales, any kind of pitching. They need it. They wanted a significant return for their All-Star 2nd Baseman who had 2 years left on a contract at a good salary. The Dodgers did not want to give up more than one of their top pitching prospects, Jose De Leon.

The talks seemed to go on forever. The Twins wanting another top prospect added to the deal. The Dodgers, not wanting to give up another prospect or, at least, a prospect as high as the Twins may have wanted, decided to go in another direction and trade Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays for 2B Logan Forsythe. Some have said the Dodgers basically traded for Brian Dozier because of how similar they are but, as the season has gone on, you have to wonder if the Dodgers will be kicking themselves if the postseason doesn’t work out like they want it to.

Just like in Free Agency, there’s risk involved in making trades. It’s almost the same thing except teams are giving up prospects instead of money to acquire players in a trade. They can acquire almost any level of player in a trade so if they believe there’s a diamond in the rough and they can get him on the cheap for a low prospect or two, the risk isn’t nearly as steep.

Closing Time
You may already be home and you CAN stay there!

There aren’t many other ways to acquire players but they shouldn’t be considered major tools. Waiver claims are another way to acquire players but I’d consider that either under trades or free agents. Teams may have to waive one of their own players to get the player claimed on the roster or not so that’s pretty much a player for player trade if they do lose the player or signing a free agent if they don’t.

There’s also the Rule 5 Draft. Yes, it’s another way to acquire players but it hasn’t really shown to be a very consistent way to find good players.

In the next article, we’ll delve into Trusting the Process of Player Development. After the series, we’ll see how the Twins have done in all these areas of Acquiring Players and Trusting the Process. There has to be a reason they’ve had such a terrible run since 2010. Was it because they didn’t trust the process?

Thanks for reading our TwinsTakes on Trusting the Process of Acquiring Players!  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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TwinsTakes on Trusting the Process

The 2017 Minnesota Twins currently hold the 2nd Wild Card spot. Trust the Process.

There are no shortcuts to winning. Trust the Process!

The Minnesota Twins are near the end of a season where they are contending for the playoffs. When the Trade Deadline passed on July 31st, Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine had to make a big decision. Buy or Sell? Were the Minnesota Twins ready to compete for a playoff spot? The answer to that question would lead to another question. If they thought there were ready, what do they trade for to help their team make the playoffs? If they thought they weren’t ready, who do they trade away to get help for the future?

After the All-Star Break, the Minnesota Twins, with a record of 45-44, had some playoff caliber teams in the Houston Astros, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers on their schedule. Two of those teams already had 60 or more wins on the season, the Astros (60-29) & the Dodgers (61-29,) so there was a measuring stick to help Mr. Falvey & Mr. Levine make a decision for what to do at the trade deadline. Compete with the best teams in the league and get some help for the stretch run or get overmatched and see some veterans shipped out hurting your chances at the playoffs this season?

Alternating wins and losses, including losing a series at home to the Detroit Tigers, showed they might need some help so a trade was completed for Atlanta Braves LHP Jaime (Hy-me) Garcia. They would proceed to go 1-5 getting swept by the Dodgers and lose 2 of 3 in Oakland with the only win coming from their newly acquired lefty pitcher. They were 3 games under .500 at 50-53, 6.5 games out of 1st place in the American League Central and 4.5 games out of a wild card spot with 5 teams ahead of them on the day before the deadline.

That made Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s decision pretty simple, trade away some assets and get what you can. This team didn’t look ready to make that push for the postseason. Just acquired LHP Jaime Garcia was traded to the New York Yankees and All-Star closer RHP Brandon Kintzler was traded to the Washington Nationals.

Those trades didn’t make the players happy and they would respond by having their best month of the season with a bunch of guys leading the way, veterans Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Ervin Santana & Bartolo Colon and young core players Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, & Jose Berrios.

A 26-16 record since the July 31st Trade Deadline has put the Minnesota Twins right back into the thick of the playoff race, currently holding the 2nd wild card with the Los Angeles Angels 2 games back, the Seattle Mariners 3.5 games back, the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals 4 games back, and the Baltimore Orioles only 4.5 games back. Being in the hunt for the playoffs is allowing this team to get the experience you’d want a young rebuilding team to get in order to take that next step.

Derek Falvey & Thad Levine had a tough decision to make with their team only 1 game over .500. They decided to send a message thinking their team deserved some help so they acquired a veteran starting pitcher in RHP Jaime Garcia to see if it could help them get over the hump. Even before that, they signed RHP Bartolo Colon to a minor-league contract after he was released by the Atlanta Braves in the hopes he could help a young starting rotation with his veteran leadership and his pitching savvy.

They may have sent another message by only trading players facing free agency and keeping the established core veterans like Ervin Santana & Brian Dozier. They were still giving their team a chance to compete:

“We weren’t looking to tear this thing apart,” Falvey said. “Our goal was to find ways to keep an eye on the future at that moment in time, but no one waved a white flag. No one said, ‘This team can’t compete.’ We just knew that, by and large, we were going to give ourselves a chance to get to the playoffs with the group that we had here.”

With all of these moves, including the moves they didn’t make, Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, and the Minnesota Twins are trusting the process of building a winning team, a winning organization and winning players.

“Trust The Process”

The phrase, Trust the Process, is heard a lot in professional sports but it really is a part of everything we do in life. It’s all around us, in our education, in our jobs, in our relationships, and pretty much in everything we see and hear every day. It is probably heard from leaders most often because they’ve gone through the process and they know there is no other way to achieve success. They’ve done it and have seen people, groups, and organizations try taking shortcuts to speed up the process in one way or another and fail.

We’ll get into that process in the next article….

Thanks for reading our TwinsTakes! We’d love to hear your TwinsTakes on this season’s Minnesota Twins. Will they make the playoffs? Do they have the core pieces to be a perennial playoff team and championship contender? Please comment below or reply to this article’s post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Google+!

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Byron Buxton Struggling but Twins are Winning

Do you like Wins (Ws) or do you dislike Strikeouts (Ks)?

The Minnesota Twins are 4-0 to begin the 2017 season. They’ve used all aspects of the game to help them win those 4 games. They’ve pitched very well, they’ve played great defense and they’ve scored plenty of runs to win 2 games and as much as they needed to win the other two games.

Unfortunately, Byron Buxton is struggling mightily at the plate and he’s hitting out of the number 3 spot in the batting order. He’s still playing great defense and the Twins have needed that defense to help win the 4 games.

So, here’s the question, with Byron Buxton struggling, do you move him down in the batting order to take some pressure off of him? Or, do you leave him in the 3 spot because the team has been winning?

On the season, Byron Buxton is 1-for-18 with 1 hit, 1 walk and 11 strikeouts. He’s struggling to make contact with the ball. Because of that, we’ve heard he can’t hit and he’s terrible and, of course, we’ve heard the Twins should move him out of the 3 spot in the batting order. A lot of fans thought right off the bat (no pun intended) that he shouldn’t be hitting from that spot in the batting order, anyways.

Before the game, Paul Molitor said he won’t consider moving Buxton out of the third spot just yet. Then, last night, Byron went 0-for-4 with 4 strikeouts and he said after the game, “I ain’t swinging the bat so good.” He also made 2 spectacular catches in the first inning to keep the game scoreless on one catch and at 1-0 with the other catch. The 2nd catch was the 3rd out of the inning and the White Sox had runners on first and second so most likely 2 runs would’ve scored if he doesn’t catch that ball. The final score was 3-1 Twins so he’s helping the Twins win with the glove despite being non-existent with the bat.

Why mess with what might be a winning formula and, at the same time, chance messing up Byron Buxton’s mental state even more by moving him from the 3rd spot in the batting order? He’s already putting too much pressure on himself to produce, thinking he has to swing when he doesn’t, being too anxious on every pitch. He’s going to put in the work to get out of this slump and he’ll have the help & support of all his teammates and coaches to get him through it so leave him there for now while reassuring him of the reasons he was put in that spot to start the season.

Someone commented that it doesn’t matter if they’re winning. What? The whole point of the game is to win! What other reason is there for playing the game? YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME! Herm is right! Now, teams can play bad and win and play good and lose. There’s almost always something that can be done better to help you win, but, like someone else said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

So, let’s say he moves down the batting order after 4 games and 19 plate appearances and the Twins start losing. What do you do then? Move him back? Try something else? There’s no reason to panic after 4 games no matter who’s struggling at the plate, in the field, or on the mound. It’s a 162-game season. Players can’t be playing scared that they’re going to come out if they make a mistake. It’s a team game. The team wins or the team loses.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, or ‘Takes.

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2017 Minnesota Twins Season Preview – Framework

2017 Minnesota Twins Season Preview - Framework

Are the Minnesota Twins building a framework of winning baseball?

The Minnesota Twins begin the 2017 season with new hope as they enter a new era of their franchise. After hiring a new Chief Baseball Officer in Derek Falvey and a new General Manager in Thad Levine, the Twins seem headed in the right direction. Of course, it’s hard to go anywhere but up after a 103-loss season but, with this new regime taking over the organization, the feeling is they will turn this team around and, maybe, they weren’t as bad a team as their record showed last season.

Last season was the worst season in this franchise’s history in terms of the number of losses but how many of the losses and how bad the season was can be attributed to a young team that couldn’t get over the hump with a big hit or not enough leadership in the clubhouse? It was a season most people would like to forget but, the players that went through it can learn from that season, too. Even if it’s something as simple as never wanting to go through that again can help them now and in the future. Learning how to win can come from knowing what has made you lose in the past.

Help is on the Way

There is talent on this team. Most of that talent is in the field or at the plate rather than on the mound but still, there is talent and it’s talent that can be a big part of turning this team around. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some talent on the mound, too. It just might not be enough talent. That’s where Derek Falvey and Thad Levine come in. They are known for having a background steeped in pitching. They have been able to find and develop pitching that has helped their teams get to the playoffs.

There was a question on Fox Sports North’s Twins Town Hall meeting asking,

“Do you think there is a true ace in the Twins organization currently, at any level?”

Thad Levine humorously just answered, “Yes.” Derek Falvey elaborated on the question, saying they don’t like limiting any player and they want to maximize every player’s potential. He used Indians ace Corey Kluber as an example saying that he didn’t come up through the minor leagues as that prototype guy. Thad Levine said they think there is somebody in their farm system that can get to that level. They just don’t know who that is yet. Someone or many will overachieve their potential and turn Minnesota Twins pitching into a strength instead of a weakness.

That is what is so exciting about this season. They will use every way possible to develop the pitchers currently on the roster and, maybe, more importantly, develop the prospects they have coming soon and also to scout pitchers (and players) they might draft with the number 1 pick and the entire 2017 MLB Draft.

Changing Mechanics?

Can a tweak in any given pitcher’s mechanics make them into a better pitcher? Or a different pitcher? How much better? How long will it take?

A good example of a veteran pitcher is 29-year-old right-handed starting pitcher Kyle Gibson. He’s always had a ton of potential, advancing from High-A to AAA in his first professional season. Gibby’s biggest problem has been finding consistency from start to start where he can be the best version of the pitcher he should be. He’s been up and down on almost a month to month basis where he’ll be great for a while then struggle. If he can be the same pitcher every start, he should be an above .500 pitcher and be a key to this team getting back to competitive baseball again.

You can say the same thing about every pitcher in the organization. From your opening day starter Ervin Santana to a pitcher ready for the next step like Jose Berrios to a pitcher just hitting the higher levels in the minors like Kohl Stewart to a pitcher just drafted in 2016, any one of them could improve with a tweak to their mechanics, changing a grip on a pitch or two, moving one way or the other on the rubber, or adding a new pitch to their repertoire. Maybe they see something in Hector Santiago which explains why they kept him, too.

A Winning Framework

Pitching and defense are a huge part of helping a team win. That is precisely why Derek Falvey and Thad Levine had Jason Castro as their primary target in free agency. As a catcher, Jason Castro helps both the pitching and the defense so they addressed two weaknesses with one signing.

Signing Jason Castro to a 3-year, $24.5M contract probably seems a little too high. That’s because the first thing most fans will look at are his stats and they will be underwhelmed. The majority of fans just look at the standard stats, with most of those being on the offensive side of the game. Mr. Castro won’t wow you with his bat, which isn’t to say he can’t hit, but it’s not the reason he’s getting that big contract.

Casual baseball fans might not understand how much a catcher has to do with the pitching staff and the entire game.* In fact, they are really like quarterbacks behind the plate, a leader in the field and in the clubhouse. Being called a “catcher” really limits what they do on a day-to-day basis.
*This is also a big reason why Joe Mauer is still being paid $23M a year but, that’s a conversation for another time.

The skill most talked about when it comes to Jason Castro is pitch-framing. How many times did we hear the phrase Pitch-Framing in Minnesota in the Old Era? Did we ever hear it? Pitch-Framing is the skill of catching a pitch and framing it so it looks like a strike to the umpire. That’s the quick definition but that almost sounds like catchers are cheating and, of course, nobody likes being thought of as a cheater so here’s Jason Castro’s longer and more definitive explanation of pitch-framing:

“The goal at the end of the day is to try to help your pitcher keep as many strikes as possible,” Castro said. “And to not do anything to take away from presenting pitches that are in the strike zone to the umpires that would lead them to believe that any given pitch is not a strike.”

With his pitch-framing, Jason Castro will help the pitchers get more called strikes. Changing a ball to a strike will also change the behavior of the hitter and slightly widen the strike zone. Castro was ranked the 5th best overall at pitch-framing with 12.8 runs above average. Compare that to Kurt Suzuki who was 5 runs below average and the Twins could save almost 18 runs with a better pitch-framer. We’ve all seen how a strike being called a ball or a ball being called a strike can affect a game.

A catcher also has to be a leader. Leadership was another area where the Twins struggled last season. A catcher leads by knowing his pitching staff, knowing their pitches, knowing how they want to pitch and knowing how to use all of that information to get the opposing hitters out over the course of an entire game. They have a gameplan for the opponent and each of the opponent’s individual players. They are also part-time psychologists because they have to know how to motivate the pitching staff, get them to calm down if things aren’t going well and figure out how to get the best out of them.

Then, of course, there’s the actual playing the game part. That’s somewhat important, right? Jason Castro’s defense will help stop the opponent’s running game with his arm and when to call for a pitchout and/or a pickoff throw.
“Hello, this is Diamond Security…Jason Castro speaking. Is everything alright? You mean like a bass guitar? Oh, I see. Can you describe it? Ok, it’s square and they are stuck into the ground. Have you ever thought of bringing them in the house or locking them up somehow?”

Love for the Glove

Speaking of defense, we have come to yet another weakness the Twins have to fix in order to start winning more often. They’ve got some areas that are very good and should be for a long time but there are, of course, some areas that still need some work and will require some patience.

The strongest area is the outfield, predicting Eddie Rosario is in left, future gold glover Byron Buxton is in center and Max Kepler is in right. All 3 of them are young and they are above average defensively. They are slightly above average at 1st base with Joe Mauer as the starter and at 2nd base with Brian Dozier. The areas of concern are at shortstop with Jorge Polanco and 3rd base with Miguel Sano. Something that comes from a team trying to take the next step is figuring out if Polanco and Sano can hold down the job defensively on the left side.

It’s been said that Miguel Sano’s natural position is 3rd base. Natural usually means that’s where they aren’t meant to play and we did see him make some great plays at the hot corner last season but we also saw a lot of bad plays like infield fly balls that dropped to the ground. Give the man credit though. He used the offseason to workout to get in better shape and to work on his defense. He has a rocket for an arm and is pretty good coming in on bunts. We’ll see how he progresses through the season.

The Twins moved Jorge Polanco to 2nd base a couple years ago, moving him from the shortstop position where he had played most of his career. Was it due to arm strength, defensive range, throwing accuracy, or just trying him out at 2nd base because he really never looked like he’d make it as a major-league shortstop?

The Twins are no stranger to having a new starting shortstop as a season opens. They’ve only had one shortstop since 2004 that has started 2 seasons and that was Pedro Florimon. It’s pretty crazy that they haven’t been able to find and/or develop a shortstop in 12 years. Is it impatience at the major league level, giving up on a player too soon? Or is it giving up on a player too soon in the minors? Or did they actually never have anyone capable of being their shortstop for an extended stay? Whatever the answer is, it doesn’t paint a good picture of the old front office and the scouting department.

They claimed shortstop Ehire Adrianza off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers in early February mainly for his glove. He’s average at best with the bat but he does have decent on-base skills. Knowing defense helps teams win, Falvey & Levine probably want a fallback option in case Jorge struggles at short and they want that fallback option to be solid defensively.

Let’s Play Ball!!!

The bottom line is, for the most part, the same as it has always been for the Minnesota Twins. If they pitch well and play good defense, their offense is good enough to score enough runs to win games. That offense was 16th in all of baseball and 9th in the American League in runs scored last season. That’s 4 ½ runs per game and it can easily go up with good years from Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton, Joe Mauer, Max Kepler, Byungho Park at some point and a new hitting coach in James Rowson.

This is The Dawn of a New Era of Minnesota Twins baseball. Winning is coming. It’s just a matter of how soon. This is a baseball team with a lot of talent. Can some confidence individually and as a team get them there as soon as this season?

That’s a lot to ask. I’m predicting 75+ wins.

Thanks for reading our TwinsTakes on the 2017 Minnesota Twins season. We’d love to hear what you think or your ‘Takes on how you think the Twins will do this season. We’re on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. We also post most of our articles on TwinsDaily.com.

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2017 Minnesota Twins Opening Day Roster – Where to, Park?

Byungho Park reassigned to the minors? 13 pitchers?

The Minnesota Twins have made their final roster decisions for Opening Day 2017, which is on April 3rd and only 3 days away. They:

  • assigned 1B/DH Byungho Park to minor-league camp
    • along with OF JB Shuck, 3B Matt Hague, INF Benji Gonzalez, 1B/DH Ben Paulsen, and C Eddy Rodriguez
  • named LHP Adalberto Mejia their 5th starter
    • RHP Tyler Duffey will join the bullpen
  • will add C Chris Gimenez to the 40-man roster
  • optioned C John Ryan Murphy to AAA Rochester

So that means the 25-man Opening Day roster, for now, is:
Hitters/Fielders – 12
C – Jason Castro
1B – Joe Mauer
2B – Brian Dozier
3B – Miguel Sano
SS – Jorge Polanco
LF – Eddie Rosario
CF – Byron Buxton
RF – Max Kepler
DH – Robbie Grossman
Bench – C Chris Gimenez, INF Eduardo Escobar, UTIL Danny Santana

Starting Pitchers – 5
RHP Ervin Santana
LHP Hector Santiago
RHP Kyle Gibson
RHP Phil Hughes
LHP Adalberto Mejia

Relief Pitchers – 8
RHP Brandon Kintzler
RHP Matt Belisle
RHP Ryan Pressly
LHP Taylor Rogers
LHP Craig Breslow
RHP Michael Tonkin
RHP Justin Haley
RHP Tyler Duffey

On Disabled List
LHP Glen Perkins (?), LHP Ryan O’Rourke, INF Ehire Adrianza, 1B/DH Kennys Vargas (?)

Why “for now?”

Because, obviously, everyone is most likely wondering how Byungho Park did not make the team after a great Spring Training where he hit 2 doubles, 6 HRs and had 13 RBIs among 19 hits with 6 walks and 15 strikeouts in 51 at-bats for a .353 average and a .414 on-base percentage. He showed that he’s worked on his swing and is taking better at-bats.There might be a few reasons.

First off, he’s not on the 40-man roster and the Twins already have to add backup catcher Chris Gimenez to the 40-man roster. Assuming they’re taking Buddy Boshers off the roster for that spot, who else can you take off of it to find a spot for Byungho Park? Ryan O’Rourke? He’s on the 10-Day DL so he can’t be removed unless they move him to the 60-Day DL and he won’t be out that long. They could move Glen Perkins to the 60-Day DL and they still might but I believe he has to agree to that and he probably doesn’t want to be out until near the end of May if he can get back before that. There may be other players you could take off the 40-man roster but, obviously, the front office and the coaches like those players or they wouldn’t be on the roster.

Second, yes, Park’s stats are impressive but, they’re also from Spring Training, which is hard to take seriously so, maybe the front office would like to see him continue that same type of consistent hitting and good at-bats in AAA. If he keeps mashing the ball like he did in Spring Training, he’ll most likely get called up to the big club. Or if Robbie Grossman or a reliever or someone else struggles early, they could make a move to recall him?

Third, and this might be the biggest one, maybe Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are looking to acquire and/or move a player to make room for Mr. Park. By reassigning him to minor-league camp, some other teams might show some interest. We expect them to be looking for every possible way to improve this team.

Why 13 pitchers?

That seems unusual but, again, that doesn’t mean they’ll stay with 13 pitchers for the whole season or even a month of the season. The Minnesota Twins biggest problem (and need) has been pitching since the losing started 6 seasons ago. So, having 13 pitchers shows how bad it’s been. They might need that many to get through a week. If the starters are pitching bad, that bullpen can get overworked quickly.

So, they might want to get a look at these guys in real games when it counts rather than just evaluate them in spring training. Some, if not all, pitchers are working on new mechanics, new pitches, and/or new grips on pitches, trying to get used to those new tweaks to their deliveries or adding a new pitch. They aren’t that concerned if they get hit hard during a game.

Plus, having 13 pitchers could mean they are going to go with this starting lineup for awhile and let them play. They’re going to let Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano figure out if they can stay at shortstop and 3rd base. The bench of Eduardo Escobar, Chris Gimenez, and Danny Santana gives them the flexibility to replace every position as Gimenez has played some 1st base, Escobar and Santana can play 2nd, 3rd or short and Santana can play in the outfield, too. Sano could play some 1st base and in the outfiel…uhh…no, let’s not go back to that. Anyways, this lineup does have some flexibility even if there are only 12 players.

So, basically, let’s wait and see how it goes for the next 3 days before Opening Day. If they’re still the same after that, let’s give them some time to play it out for awhile and see what happens. It might not be as bad as you think.

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