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Twins Midseason Report Card
We're a little late, but (hopefully) worth the wait
If you’ve followed Access Twins for more than five minutes, you know I’m not always the best at getting things out in a timely fashion. I try, but I was born 17 days late and have spent the last 35 years trying to catch up.
So far, no good.
Anyway, here’s the midseason report card for your Minnesota Twins.
As you might expect, it’s not good.
Hitter MVP - Nelson Cruz
Cruz is hitting more than 50 percent above league average (157 OPS+) and doesn’t appear to be showing too much in the way of slowing down. The uncomfortable truth is that he’s auditioning for whatever team is next on his tour — and it’s possible the return isn’t going to be what Twins fans are hoping with a limited marketplace and his age factored in.
Most Improved Hitter - Byron Buxton
Who else is even in this conversation? Ding him for playing just 27 games in the first half — totally fair — but he hit a BONKERS .369/.409/.767 in the process. Get him healthy; get him signed.
Biggest Disappointment Hitter - Miguel Sano
A 98 OPS+ is respectable in a fair number of scenarios — but being a plodding first baseman holding down a fairly large salary and a spot that can be filled by younger, better players isn’t one of them.
Pitcher MVP - Jose Berrios
For my money, he’s basically in that ether between a No. 1 starter and an ace. In my view — which changes every day, I guess? — and ace is in the top 10 or 12 pitchers in baseball and a No. 1 is good enough to start the opener for at least one of the 30 MLB teams.
Signing him now might be the smart play. If he stays healthy, it’s hard to imagine he does anything other than get better.
Most Improved Pitcher - Luke Farrell
You could make a case for Berrios here, too. Farrell gave the Twins 15.1 innings of strong relief (1.76 ERA), and that was after entering the 2021 season (his age-30 season) with a career ERA of 5.00 and FIP of 5.41.
Yeah, it’s that bleak right now.
Biggest Disappointment Pitcher - J.A. Happ
He’s outpitched Matt Shoemaker but what is that really saying? In 89.1 innings he’s allowed an unthinkable 19 home runs and 61 earned runs. Over his last 12 starts, he’s allowed 55 earned runs in 61.0 innings (8.11 ERA) with an OPS against of 1.034.
Rookie of the Year - Alex Kirilloff
Trevor Larnach (109 OPS+) has slightly outperformed Kirilloff (105 OPS+) offensively but the advanced stats LOVE the latter. AK is hitting .256 with a .431 slugging percentage and .314 wOBA. His expected stats are a .290 batting average, .537 slugging percentage and .367 wOBA. That’s J.D. Martinez territory.
Most Valuable Reliever - Taylor Rogers
To be fair, this is an easy selection but he’d win the award in most good bullpens, too. The numbers absolutely jump off the screen: 3.52, 56-6 K/UIBB rate in 38.1 innings, 0.9 HR/9, 1.15 WHIP.
Minor League Player of the Year - Jose Miranda
Carve the bust now. No, not in Cooperstown, but as in Miranda winning the award when the Twins announce the Diamond Awards winners this winter. Miranda slashed .345/.408/.588 in 47 games in Wichita and hasn’t missed a beat in 18 games since being promoted to St. Paul (.342/.417/.630). It’s still unclear if this is a massive step forward for a guy who has a .760 career OPS in the minors, or just a Yangervis Solarte impersonation.
I’m thinking the Twins will give him more of a chance in the big leagues than Solarte.
Individual Player Grades (minimum 30 PA/10 IP/MLB Games Only)
IF Jorge Polanco - B
Hitting .268/.336/.477 since May 1 and playing respectable defense at second base.
DH Nelson Cruz - A
He’s had some ebbs and flows but the man is freaking 41 and still mashing.
3B Josh Donaldson - A-
The primary gripe people have with him is that they want to see him more often. I don’t disagree.
SS Andrelton Simmons - C-
He’s been very, very good overall defensively but a mess at the plate.
1B Miguel Sano - F
Just an absolutely disastrous season. Might open next year as DH but might also be lucky to finish it still in the league.
IF/OF Luis Arraez - A-
Deserves credit for handling everything thrown at him, especially given limited time in left field prior to playing it in the big leagues.
RF Max Kepler - B-
July (.991 OPS) has been a step in the right direction. Still, gets dinged for role he played in slow start.
1B/OF Alex Kirilloff - A-
Absolutely annihilating the ball to the point where his .314 wOBA is absolutely paltry compared to his .367 xwOBA.
LF Trevor Larnach - A-
Has cooled lately but he’s a rookie hitting above league average (107 wRC+ entering play Monday) over his first 57 MLB games. Hard to expect more.
C Mitch Garver - Inc.
Started to heat up before dealing with, um, uncomfortable injury to nether region. Should play a big role in boosting the offense down the stretch.
C Ryan Jeffers - C
Has filled in capably for Garver since returning (.732 OPS), but is nothing more than high upside backup unless he picks it up offensively. Has a .315 xwOBA which is more promising than .282 raw total.
UTIL Willians Astudillo - F
Complete non-factor during a time when the team was struggling. Not his fault, but his issues were exposed — again.
CF Byron Buxton - A
Up to the reader if they want to ding him for injuries but even still was playing like an MVP favorite when he was on the field.
OF Kyle Garlick - B
Had a role on the team and filled it — .878 OPS vs. LHP — but platoon guys don’t make much sense on teams that end up being awful. No end in sight to current IL stint.
OF Jake Cave - F
Deserves credit for playing through health issues that landed him on the 60-day IL, but it actively hurt the team as well (42 OPS+).
C Ben Rortvedt - C-
As advertised on defense. Unfortunately, on offense too. Drew Butera clone.
IF/OF Nick Gordon - B-
Keep expectations low and he could do a decent Danny Santana impersonation. Trouble is, people are still expecting too much.
UTIL Rob Refsnyder - A
One of precious few fun stories so far this season. Still unclear if he’s close to returning.
OF Gilberto Celestino - F
Wasn’t ready to play in the big leagues but was forced to with injuries, and it’s shown. Will be unfairly compared to LaMonte Wade Jr. until one or the other changes course. Still only 22.
OF Brent Rooker - Inc.
He’s absolutely mashed in the minors but did not look comfortable in the big leagues. Will probably get a longer look after the deadline.
SP Jose Berrios - A-
Hard to give any Twins pitcher an A after how this season has gone, but he’s close. Walks and homers down, grounders up. Headed in the right direction. Twins would be wise to get him signed.
SP J.A. Happ - F
Might just be done. Absolutely disastrous season.
SP Kenta Maeda - B-
Expectations were unfair after such a good 2020, but he’s been decent when he’s been on the mound. It’s not unreasonable for him to be a No. 3 starter going forward — but then the team has to lock up Berrios and find a No. 2. That won’t be easy.
SP Michael Pineda - C+
He’s getting by on a 91 mph fastball and guts. It’s admirable, but probably not super sustainable. If the team brings him back as a No. 4 starter, that’s probably OK.
SP Matt Shoemaker - F
See Happ, J.A.
SP/RP Randy Dobnak - F
It’s not his fault, but he’s hurt and has had a disastrous season. He was shoehorned into a role that didn’t work for him and it predictably failed.
RP Hansel Robles - C+
He’s basically a souped-up Juan Minaya at this point. He throws the shit out of the ball but has no idea where it’s going. A half-step up would make him a good seventh-inning guy on a strong team. A half-step down would make him, well, Juan Minaya.
RP Taylor Rogers - A
The numbers are incredible (13.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 2.23 FIP). If he’s moved in the next two weeks, it better be for a ton.
RP Tyler Duffey - C+
He’s been better since June 1 (1.76 ERA, .459 OPS against) but in general, it’s been a weird season. Just 11-7 K/BB in 15.1 innings over that frame, and he’s walked at least one batter in nearly half of his appearances (18 of 37).
RP Jorge Alcala - D
The talent is clearly there. The results aren’t. Don’t give up on him yet, though; guys like Ryan Pressly took a while to find their way even as relievers.
RP Caleb Thielbar - B
He’s given up too many homers and he’s not really been all that effective even against lefties (.718 OPS against). Underlying numbers a bit more favorable (3.35 FIP).
SP Bailey Ober - C+
If he can keep the ball in the park, he can hang as a No. 4-5 starter. If not, it’s going to be a pretty short big-league stay.
RP Alex Colome - F
Has to be graded this way for how badly his play doomed this team’s season early on. He’s pitched…eh, ok since May 1 (3.52 ERA, 21-8 K/BB and .720 OPS against).
SP Griffin Jax - F
It’s been ugly, but keep an eye on something friend of the program Jeremy Maschino pointed out during his Game 1 start on Monday:
RP Cody Stashak - F
Oof. It hasn’t been good (6.89 ERA in 15.2 innings) — but he should get a little more leash based on how good he was in 2019 and 2020. Has to figure out how to retire lefties consistently (1.204 OPS in 2021, .829 for career).
RP Luke Farrell - Inc.
It was just 15.1 innings, but he was really good. It’ll be worth watching when he comes back how he handles righties (.814 OPS allowed).
RP Derek Law - C
He’s just kind of existed over the course of the season with the Twins (4.20 ERA in 15.0 innings), but deserves credit for how well he’s pitched since returning on July 1 (1.04 ERA, .460 OPS in 8.2 innings).
SP/RP Lewis Thorpe - Inc.
He was respectable in a couple of spot starts but dealt with a dead arm/shoulder woes and hasn’t pitched in a game since June 2. He’s still only 25, but he wasn’t signed by this regime. Unclear how much patience they have with him moving forward.