Well, everyone else was wrong. Brian Dozier was right. You were all wrong. Everyone.
Unless you watched the game last night… Maybe Brian is wrong…
The Twins are starting the second half of the season and they are above .500. Thanks to a struggling AL Central and a ridiculous road record (25-16), they went into the All-Star Break with a 45-43 record, trailing the World Series Losers by just 2.5 games.
How did we get here? How did we go from the worst Twins Team of all time to a team that is in serious playoff contention after the mid-way point? Well, I’ll sum it up quickly since that’s not what this is about:
- Ervin Santana is REALLY good – (2.99 ERA, 1.080 WHIP, 3 Shutouts)
- Jose Berrios has rebounded to become a reliable 2 guy – (3.53 ERA before for last night)
- Brandon Kintzler Saves games when the rest of the pitching staff gets it to him (24 SV, 2.29 ERA, 1.068 WHIP)
- The Twins Defense is REALLY good (esp. Buxton + rest of OF, Mauer, Dozier, Castro)
- Miguel Sano is REALLY good at hitting and hasn’t sucked in the field (.274 BA, 21 HR), 2.2 WAR)
- Young hitters have continued growth: Rosario, Kepler, Sano, Buxton (kind of – sadly)
However, the Twins are being MAJORLY held up by some GLARING weaknesses:
- The Bullpen has sucked anytime they are handed adversity
- After starting pitchers Santana and Berrios, disaster is always 1 pitch away
- Polanco has taken a LARGE step backward offensively after focusing more on D (.222 BA in ’17 vs .282 in ’16)
- Buxton has some wondering how he ever hit MINOR League pitching (Up to .218 after going .478 over last 6 games)
So here we are. Falvey and Levine have to be extremely nervous to make any “win now” moves, knowing this was supposed to take years to turn around. They haven’t made any big moves yet. They are likely waiting to see how July starts to play out. We may get an idea, very soon, about the validity of playoff hopes for our favorite baseball team. They open the 2nd half of the season with the Astros in Houston (61-29) and then come home to face the hated Yankees (45-42). Then they get a “break” against Detroit before heading across the country to play the best team in the National League – LA Dodgers (62-29).
If the Twins start off hot, we might see them turn into buyers quickly. The opposite is true too. If things go downhill fast, Falvey and Levine might hire the best auctioneer in the Twin Cities area, and give out auction paddles to any team that happens to wander into the bidding room.
Your guess is as good as mine on the actual outcome. But let’s take a look at both.
Twins Become Buyers:
If the Twins end up being buyers it means we have a fun couple weeks ahead of us. It means they finished July off with a bang against 3 playoff teams. Two of which are leading their respective league in wins.
If this is the way it plays out, the fans will be crying for a move. And let’s be real. If the Twins are going to have a chance of doing any damage in the playoffs, or even making them, they NEED pitching help. One top 3 starter and a reliable bullpen arm would go a long way.
With that being said, they have mentioned how they likely will NOT make any moves that would include a half-season rental player (1500espn.com). That is a smart choice. The Twins have some good talent in the organization that is going to be coveted. Don’t give anyone up for a half-season guy when a World Series run is neither likely NOR expected.
There are some big pitching names out there that still have years on their current deal (Gerrit Cole, Sonny Gray, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Brad Hand, Kirby Yates, Ryan Madson) – 1500espn.com. However, some of those guys would cost a ransom.
The Twins have recently become somewhat deep at the SS position organization-wide. The closest one (outside Polanco) is Nick Gordon. Gordon is currently in AA Chattanooga but is having a great season (.297 BA, .366 OBP, 46 RBI, 6 3B, 22 2B).
Most great Twins’ minds have him here next season. With Polanco’s offensive struggles do you really want to lose your closest SS prospect? Newly drafted Royce Lewis won’t be ready for 2 years with the best of projections. Wander Javier is another SS prospect who is inside the team’s overall top 10 in most lists (there are 4 links there TwinsDaily & Puckets Pond) along with Jermaine Palacios who is in (A) Cedar Rapids. Both are young, 18 and 20 respectively, and likely a couple of years away from sniffing big league sod. Again there is depth at the SS position. However, a top-end SS is VERY important. Most good teams have one. The Twins don’t. They are hoping one of these prospects is that guy… but which one?
Here are the other hitting prospects the Twins could look at moving (Twins Daily):
- Daniel Palka (OF)
- Lewin Diaz (1B)
- Mitch Garver (C)
- Travis Blackenhorn (3B)
- Brent Rooker (OF) (’17 Draft)
- Zach Granite (OF)
None of these guys would bring in the haul that the likes of Gordon, Javier, or Lewis would. Again, the Twins’ top 3 SS all land in most’s top-10 overall in the organization. Kirilloff might be worth a ransom, if he played this year. He jumped on the scene last year and was listed in the top-5 prospects for some Twins’ minor league minds. However, an injury has him out the rest of the year so he isn’t going anywhere.
Personally, with the current situation in the outfield, I would rather the Twins moved Rosario over most of the guys listed above. More on him in the selling section.
After watching the Twins play last night, in the first game of this very important stretch (10-5 loss to HOU), some may think we are heading down the other side of the highway. The one that takes you BACK in time instead of forward. The one that makes you younger and less experienced but hopefully more talented.
Twins Become Sellers:
If the Twins show up the rest of this month like they did last night, they will turn into sellers…. fast. If that happens, we will likely start hearing the same names we have before as selling pieces. This scares me after watching fun baseball this year. The guys we would be looking to move would be the few veterans we have.
Brian Dozier would be the one most would talk about. If the Twins look to move him, hopefully he gets hot like he showed last night. He had 4 of the 5 Twins’ RBI. Currently, according to Baseball-Reference, Dozier has his lowest WAR since 2012 with 1.2. Last year it was 6.2, which is over two wins better than any other season in his career.
Hot streak or not, Dozier is the obvious choice because of the middle infield help they have coming. Polanco is more natural at 2nd base which would make room for Nick Gordon to get his shot at SS. If Gordon weren’t to work out (which I think he will personally, but I don’t matter) then we have plenty of others who will be chomping for a shot as mentioned above.
The other big pull would obviously be Ervin Santana, who made the All-Star game this year, and would bring back a good prospect haul. It is scary to think about the Twins’ starting rotation without Erv… Wow… what a dumpster fire that would be…
Here are some other Twins who would be jumping at every phone call, until July 31st, if the Twins open the auction doors:
- Brandon Kintzler
- Eddie Rosario
- Jason Castro
- Jorge Polanco
- Robbie Grossman
Kintzler and Grossman are both guys that most see as exceeding their talent. That type of player doesn’t usually pull in what he is worth, in trades. So I am not sure those guys would bring back any huge prospects but you could definitely still see them on the move. I don’t know if I agree with moving any bullpen pitchers that are on the good side of average though at this point…
Jason Castro is having a good season and is on a team-friendly deal ($8M/year through 2019 – Spotrac). Would the Twins risk moving him? It would likely mean handing the catching keys, at least in the interim, to Mitch Garver. Garver is currently in (AAA) Rochester and is really the only + talent catcher in the organization. Most have raved about Castro’s ability to manage a rotation. Where has that gotten them? Back to being one of the worst pitching teams in the MLB (4.89 ERA).
The most logical move is Rosario. Eddie is having his best year so far (.286 BA, 26 RBI, 10 HR) which would make him his most valuable. The Twins have a log jam at OF. Zach Granite is finally getting his shot. He only has one hit in three MLB games, so far, but the guy was hitting like .970 this year in (AAA). Okay, fine: .360. My point still stands.
I don’t think anyone would tell you it is likely we see the Twins’ move Buxton or Kepler, unless offered a ransom. That leaves Rosario. The guys at Twins Daily have denounced his value to me on Twitter but he is only 25. He plays a great LF and, if you can get him to keep his swing zone from his chest to his shins, he is a good hitter. A team might unload a decent return for that come end of July.
So now, we wait. We wait to see if September and October will be filled with Twins Baseball. Will you walk by houses and see families glued to the TV as the Twins battle for a playoff spot? Will we see Target Field party like it’s 2011? Will we see ourselves digging into our garage/attic to find our Homer Hankies that have seen way too much dust over the last decade?
Or will we see what we have gotten used to? Will we see what many already predicted? Have the Twins gotten our hopes up just to bring us crashing down before we even get to August? Would it surprise anyone? Are your hopes even up?
I’d really appreciate the former. The Twins have been fun to watch this year. They bring something to the game that we haven’t seen since Christian Guzman and Luis Rivas were making commercials where their speed left nothing but the sound: Na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na. (For all you kids out there, just click that link above.)
Looking at the rest of July is a scary thing for those who subscribe to the idea that the Twins are BAD this year against good teams. However, every time we have thought this Twins team was down and out this year, every time they lose a few games; they have come back to surprise everyone and remain competitive. If they can claw through July and remain in grasping distance of the Indians and/or Royals, it will prove as a testament to who this team is and what the future might hold.
And hopefully show the new regime they can give the fans what they have been waiting for…. October baseball… this season?