Monday's Mail (5.3.21): Assessing the Royals, a Buxton Extension and Jhoan Duran
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Tweet @brandon_warne or @accesstwins with the hashtag #askBW
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Should be pretty easy, right? Let’s talk to it:
I really like what they have going so far, and I think there’s more room for the offense to thrive when guys like Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler get going.
Beyond that, they’re bringing some more of the kids along — Daniel Lynch on Monday night, Bobby Witt Jr. in the near-ish future — and the bullpen looks like it could be really good.
Now with that said, I don’t think they’re quite there — yet. The pitching staff is 12th in ERA and that’s with Danny Duffy posting a 0.60 ERA through his first 30 innings. I see a path to exciting September baseball at the K, but I don’t think I see much more than 78-80 wins.
So yes, I think that’s pretty close to 2001 Twins energy — or even 2003 Royals energy.
I keep coming back to the George Springer contract with the Blue Jays. While Buxton has one more year of club control, he also won’t turn 28 until December. George Springer came into this season as a 31-year-old and landed a six-year deal worth $150 million from the Blue Jays.
Buxton is younger and a better defender, but also has to cede almost two years of control and a mixed, at best, track record of staying healthy.
It’s going to be hard to strike a deal anytime soon, though. While I’m not sure on current club policy as it pertains to striking in-season deals, the way he’s playing right now makes it hard to imagine finding a middle ground that would be agreeable to both sides.
He’s going to open the season at St. Paul, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach the big leagues quickly — especially if they need some octane in the bullpen. Duran has only ever really pitched as a starter in the minors — just one of his 77 appearances has been as a reliever — but his pitch mix would obviously also work in the bullpen, and the path to the big leagues might be an easy one to navigate as a reliever.
That’s especially true with Randy Dobnak, among others, in his way. Dobnak was optioned to the minors prior to Monday’s game, and it appears as though he’ll be joining the Saints as their season starts so he can lengthen out and perhaps take Matt Shoemaker’s rotation spot if the veteran doesn’t iron things out semi quickly.
Also, with Duran not playing in any meaningful on-field action last season, it might make sense for him to have a bit of a parachute landing as a reliever to ramp him up for big-league competition.
With that said, I suspect he’ll have to make at least a handful of starts at St. Paul before he’s in that sort of conversation.
Since Brusdar Graterol departed in the Kenta Maeda deal, the collective gas from the Twins farm has taken a bit of a hit, but there are a few guys who aren’t far off who could help the team in this respect — in addition to guys like Hansel Robles and Taylor Rogers, who are throwing plenty hard to start the season.
From friend of the program — and Access Twins subscriber, to boot — Seth Stohs, these are the guys he’s monitoring who can bring the heat:
Matt Canterino - probably a year off, I would say.
Josh Winder - at least a year off, but is on the older side so might move fast
Edwar Colina - on the 60-day IL right now, but when healthy has potential to really help the bullpen
Duran - could make an appearance this season as a reliever, but is a starter in the long-term
Louie Varland - reportedly hit 100 mph in his offseason workouts
Please note this question came in before Sano was hurt, but the sentiment is still acceptable.
Now there’s marital symmetry. Mr. and Mrs. Watson are united in their disdain for Sano this season — and I can’t really blame them.
Yes! He’s walked nearly a quarter of the time. Yes! He’s struck out exactly 10 percent less frequently than last season.
But a wise man — Ron Gardenhire — once told me “you can’t walk your way out of a slump.”
And while he was talking about Aaron Hicks in 2013, it applies to Sano here as well. Sure, his .136 BABIP is something that should regress in a positive sense, but he’s also just not really hitting the ball that hard. His average exit velocity is 86.6 mph — almost 10 (!) mph down from last year (95.2 mph).
It’s possible he’ll lose playing time to Alex Kirilloff once he’s up for good (which hopefully is now). Then again, it’s not as though left field has been locked down by anyone with Jake Cave really, really struggling besides. Could Mitch Garver steal some time over there? Sure. But neither he nor Ryan Jeffers have really been hitting much either.
So basically, whoever starts swinging a hot bat the soonest will stand to have the most to gain — including Sano.