Central Concerns: The Twins finally find starters

While the White Sox weren’t able to land Zack Wheeler, their pursuit of the former Mets righty wasn’t entirely in vain. Their bidding war with the Philadelphia Phillies pushed Wheeler’s price out of the range of the Minnesota Twins by nearly $20 million, so the Sox weren’t the only ones who had to move on to Plan B.

The White Sox collected themselves and ended up landing Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez. That wasn’t as direct a blow, because the Twins didn’t seem to have much documented interest in Keuchel at any point over the last two years. They were routinely connected Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The former stayed in the NL West, supposedly on a discount, while the latter took a four-year, $80 million offer from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Having missed out on the second tier of starters, the Twins found two pitchers one level down. On Tuesday, old pal Dan Hayes reported that Minnesota had reached agreements with Homer Bailey and Rich Hill. The former will earn $7 million with the potential for $2 million in incentives, while Hill’s contract is loaded the other way ($3 million base, up to $9.5 million in incentives).

Bailey is a good match for Gonzalez in terms of goals for the role, but Hill is a completely different use case than Keuchel. Hill had elbow surgery and isn’t expected to return until June, and even if he does, the 40-year-old won’t be a great bet for a regular workload. He’s as good as any second-tier starter when available, but that’s a hefty caveat for him over the last decade, and so the Twins will treat him like a trade-deadline upgrade for strategic deployment. I suppose that makes Carlos Rodón, not Keuchel, the Hill analogue on the White Sox.

The Twins have the makings of a decent starting rotation …

  1. Jose Berríos
  2. Jake Odorizzi
  3. Michael Pineda
  4. Homer Bailey
  5. Rich Hill

… but with Hill out until the summer and Pineda serving the remainder of his PED suspension for the first month of the season, it’s possible this revised vision is never active all at once.

If the Twins can somehow land Josh Donaldson, they should have enough offensive firepower to compensate for parts of a season. However, Hayes says one can read Donaldson’s delay as a discouraging sign.

The Twins have been patiently waiting for Donaldson’s response, the lack of which has left them uneasy about his willingness to come to the Twins Cities. It’s believed that Donaldson’s preferred destination is Atlanta and that he’s waiting to see if the Braves would add a fourth year to their offer.

This is a position the Twins have already found themselves in multiple times this offseason as Wheeler — who reportedly bypassed a $120-million offer from the Chicago White Sox — and Bumgarner both preferred familiarity when making their decisions, staying in the same divisions in which they’ve played their entire careers.

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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ImmortalTimeTravelMan

Combine a worse starting rotation with most of their hitters coming back down to earth from the OPS they all posted last year and I like the White Sox chances against them. I don’t think either team could be looked at as a clear-cut favorite at this point.

As Cirensica

Totally agree.

With that rotation, they are an injury away to land them into the Despaignes, Coveys, etc territory. That would be a complete disaster even if the offense does not regress.

As the White Sox realized last year, having pitching depth is essential. When the starting rotation can’t shoulder innings, you will find the team taxing the bullpen. Not a good thing down the stretch in August and September.

I am not sure what the Twins FO is doing, but they will start 2020 season in a familiar uneasy ChiSox strategy: needing everything to turn out right. And we know this strategy fails most of the time. I think the Indians are better equipped than the Twins right now, and the idea of our team sneaking in is no longer far fetched.

HallofFrank

I’m not so sure about this.

First, there’s a decent chance they’ll swing a trade for a SP, still. I suspect they are waiting to see how the Donaldson saga plays out. If he goes elsewhere, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they made a move for someone like Price. Or, if they do get JD, perhaps a cheaper SP. 

Second, the Twins, like the Sox, have some intriguing options among prospects. I’m not sure what their plans are for these guys, but Brusdar Graterol (50 FV) and Lewis Thorpe (45 FV) are current big leaguers who FanGraphs project to be starters. They also have Jhoan Duran (50 FV) in AA, but FG expects him in Minnesota in 2020. 

They could still use another SP, but they likely will get one and they could have some decent depth when they do. 

roke1960

You are right about them having intriguing options among their prospects, but they are just that- prospects. I’d much rather take my chances against Graterol or Thorpe or Dobnak than a proven commodity. And I’m not sure that they will swing a big trade- they are not keen on trading their prospects, and though they are shopping Rosario, he won’t bring back much in return. Counting on Homer Bailey and Rich Hill is not what contenders do- the Pohlad family is cheaper than Jerry.

HallofFrank

Sure, but you could say the same thing about the Sox. It’s Giolito, Keuchel, Gonzalez, and a bunch of unproven commodities. If we’re talking proven commodities, it’s advantage Twins.

Don’t get me wrong: the Twins rotation doesn’t scream contender as currently constructed. But even a modest add will give them some interesting options, and—again—I wouldn’t count them out on someone like Price. It’s clear they want to make another impact move and are willing to add to the payroll to do it, and Price won’t cost much (If anything) by way of prospects. If they add Price, this could be a very good (and deep) rotation come mid-summer. 

roke1960

I lived in Minnesota for 25 years, and the Pohlads are cheaper than Jerry when it comes to big free agent contracts. They did spend big on Joe Mauer- $184M for 8 years. But that was a special exception. Mauer was the local hero and the fans would have killed the Pohlads if they let him walk. After that, I think their biggest contract is less than $60M. So, much like we saw Jerry “sitting at the table” with the big boys last year, that’s how the Twins fans see the Pohlads. They are very skeptical that they will pay the big bucks for Donaldson or any other big name.

They made very prudent, low-cost signings last year. That’s the way the Pohlads do business.

HallofFrank

I’m not really sure how this is a response to what I said. All I’ve said is that the Twins likely aren’t done adding to the rotation (even if what they add is relatively modest) and that they have good SP prospects, ergo they will be deeper than is suggested in the above comments. They are arguably currently as deep (or at least nearly so) as the Sox. 

roke1960

I was just responding to the Price acquisition. They are not likely to spend risky money on Price. And yes, they are about as deep as the Sox, though I would take Lopez and Cease over the Twins prospects. I’m not quite sure that they aren’t done adding to the staff- except for Price, any significant pitching they can add will cost some of their prospect pool, and history suggests they are not fond of giving those up. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go into the spring with Graderol, Thorpe and/or Dobnak as their 4/5 pitchers for the first month+. It should be a very interesting year!

ImmortalTimeTravelMan

But if those prospects are MLB ready why bring in Homer Bailey for 7 mil? Save for 3 years in Cinci he’s a pretty mediocre pitcher. It would be like us bringing Nova back because we were concerned about how good Dylan Cease is.

HallofFrank

I suspect for the same reasons the Sox signed Gio Gonzalez. Giolito, Keuchel, Lopez, Cease, Kopech *might* be a really good staff, but chances are one will be ineffective or injured. So it’s good to have depth. 

ImmortalTimeTravelMan

That’s assuming Price turns back the clock and plays better than he did last year: one of the reasons I didn’t want the Sox to get price was just getting an overpaid Ivan Nova for 3 years….

There is zero comparing Price to Nova. Nova has been significantly healthier while Price has been significantly better despite playing less.

John SF

Thanks for the reminder about Graterol, Thorpe, and Duran.   

It’s also important to remember that while we have Robert coming up next year, they have Royce Lewis   SS.   Drafted first overall in 2017, age 20.     He’s currently ranked #9 on MLBPipeline:  Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 70 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 60

And Fangraphs has him:
Hit 30 / 50 | Game Power 40 / 60 | Raw Power 60 / 65 | Speed 60 / 50 | Field 40 / 45 | Throw 50 / 50 | Future Value 60

And while we have Madrigal coming up, they have Alex Kirilloff 1B/OF.   Ranked #15 on MLB pipeline.   
First round draft (15th) in 2016

MLB Pipeline: Hit: 65 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 60.  

Fangraphs: Hit 45 / 60 | Game Power 45 / 55 | RawPower 60 / 60 | Speed 30 / 30 | Field 45 / 50 | Throws 60 / 60 | Future Value 50

We have Kopech coming back next year, but they have Graterol, who is MLB Pipeline’s #53 prospect.   Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55

His ceiling is a lot lower than Kopech’s though b/c his secondary stuff is a lot worse and his control is erratic so far.   

—————

While I’m doing this roundup, MLB Pipeline lists Brent Rooker OF/1B as the Twinkie’s 8th best prospect and the 7th best overall 1B prospect (admittedly not a very stacked position).   They had his timeline 2019 but he didn’t make it out of AAA despite posting an OPS around 930 in only 65 games.   (Maybe he was injured?).   

Pipeline is bullish on him: Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 40 | Overall: 50

But Fangraphs is not, giving him a hit tool of 40 and a power of 60 but a FV zog 40.   Steamer only projects him to play a couple of games for the twins next year and to be worth 0 WAR.  

—————

I also want to say I am a firm believer that we can and should see Stiever in a Sox uniform next year and we should be penciling him into our 2020 depth chart.    

But if we do that, yeah we do have to include Duran in the Twins 2020.   A 6’5 power righty who destroyed A+ pitching last year.  He reminds me of Alec Hansen a little.   His 1.19 WHIP last year was fine and 3.76 ERA across 2 levels ok (4.86 in AA).   But 136K : 40BB in 115 innings pitched as a 21 year old is something special.  And he has a good curve and upper 90s FB.  So basically Duran is EXACTLY like Stiever.  WTF the twins have all of our farm in their farm.   

Lewis Thorpe
The Twins Called up their 12th ranked (per MLB Pipeline) prospect last year, LHP an Australian!   He was considered pretty high ceiling before his TJ surgery, but now he is back-end at best.    

Thorpe’s first 30ish MLB innings did not go well; posted a 6.18 ERA.   But they will probably try to start him again next year.  

Per Pipeline:  
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50

Fangraphs gives him Fastball 45/45 | Slider 55/55 | FV 45.   And that’s it.  They don’t consider his changeup to even exist.    No control.    No curve.   Weird right?   They like his slider more than MLB but they hate everything else?!   

Anyway, I’m rooting for the guy because honestly we should hope for him to stick in the Twins rotation.  1) it’s fun to have Australians playing baseball.  And 2) our team is built to demolish LHP for years to come.    

I think remembering that they have Thorpe available is equivalent to remembering that ZiPS projects Flores to earn > 1 WAR for the Sox this year, and that technically we also have Lambert and Dunning coming back this year.    

Nick Gordon SS/2B
Nick is basically their Danny Mendick.  He hit AAA last year to about an 800 OPS which isn’t actually any better than Mendick did.   Gordon however comes from a famous baseball family, and he was drafted fifth overall in 2014.   

MLBPL:  Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

FG: let’s just say Fangraphs disagrees.   They have him freshly ranked 37th organizationally with a FV of 35+.    They do not expect him to play any MLB games next year.    

So hey.   Twins wasted a #5 draft pick!   That’s exciting!    

Griffin Jax
(21st ranked prospect on MLBPL) a low leverage reliever the twins look likely to promote next year.  25 year old 3rd round pick they drafted out of the military.    Interesting story, look him  up.   Anyway.   Their bullpen will be getting at least one internal prospect reinforcement.

——————

I didn’t intend to make this a crazy long Twins prospect round up when I started typing.   But I was reading up on who they would have coming next year and, well, now I’ve written it all down here.  

Hope it’s useful to someone!  

roke1960

They have really restocked their farm system well the last few years. Let’s hope they don’t make an impact this year!

Trooper Galactus

The difference between the Twins’ top prospects and the White Sox’s top prospects is proximity. Robert and Madrigal have already crushed at AAA and are MLB ready, and Kopech would have already had a full year of service time if not for TJS. Conversely, Lewis struggled in AA, Kiriloff did well there but didn’t exactly dominate, and Graderol is nowhere near the sort of pitcher that Kopech is.

roke1960

Yes, the Sox should expect major contributions from some of their top prospects. Any contributions the Twins get from their top prospects (with the possible exception of Graderol) would be a bonus.

HallofFrank

Yeah, this is probably right. If we’re comparing the systems, I think the Sox should expect a much larger impact from their prospects in 2020 and 2021. But the Twins have the much deeper system, and should expect a bigger impact in 2022 and beyond than the Sox.

tommytwonines

Someone CliffsNotes papertrail’s post. Too rambling… were you in the dispensary line today?

Joliet Orange Sox

The Cliffs Notes version of papertrail’s post is that it contains lots of useful information about Twins’ prospects. If only every comment were so rambling.

As Cirensica

Your comment needs to ramble more.

There is also a very real chance that Tim and Yoan also regress next year due to their very high BABIPs. I’m optimistic about them but I still have to consider the possibility of their regression.

andyfaust

I agree that they are both regression candidates along w nearly all of MNs lineup , but you got me thinking again about babip. I feel like many people treat that stat as if it is only a function of luck. I’m sure luck is baked into that number and will affect it, but if someone (Yoán) is smacking the shit out of the ball, will that not also increase his babip? Yoán was barreling the ball all year and had great exit velocity and it’s tough making plays on balls hit like that. Not because of luck, but flat out skill from the hitter.  So when looking at babip, it’s not that helpful imo unless you know what is causing the babip to change from its norm. 

In summary, when Sox players enjoy an increased babip, it’s from crushing the ball. When Minnesota players have a high babip, it’s luck and certainly due for regression. 

burning-phoneix

That is true that quality of contact increases BABIP. Everyone agrees that star players maintain a much higher BABIP than normal, especially fast players like Yoyo and Timmy who can beat out more infield singles (and hitters in general can control their BABIP much better than pitchers) but here’s the rub: Yoan literally has one of the top 10 single season BABIPs in history at .406. Mike trout has a career BABIP of .348, Ty Cobb has a career BABIP of .378. To continue running a BABIP that high, it would mean Yoan has to deliver a higher quality of contact than Ichiro’s 2004 season (.399 BABIP). Timmy is similar (20th highest single season BABIP).

It’s not all doom and gloom though. High BABIP isn’t necessarily needed for a great season. Mike Trout had the worst BABIP season in his career (excluding his rookie year) at a pedestrian .298 but still put up 180 wRC+ and an MVP. Of course, that’s coming mostly from his much much better ability to take walks.

Its for this reason I believe the Sox cut Steverson. They realized that this ultra aggressive approach was just not sustainable in the long run.

I’m worried a bit about Timmy because having a walk rate that low is almost unprecedented in terms of batting success. He’ll never be a guy who gets 10% walk rate but just increasing his walk rate to a below average 6% would really boost his performance. (Though what do I know? He raised his Walk rate to 5% last year and he hit terribly)

roke1960

The Carlos Rodon comparison for Rich Hill is spot on. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rodon pitches more than Hill this year. I have a hard time believing Donaldson will pick the Twins over the Braves, Nats and Dodgers. The Sox need to start fast and take advantage of the fact that Homer Bailey will be the #3 starter for the Twins for the first part of the season- Pineda is due back around May 9th.

dwjm3

Yeah, the nationals don’t get outbid a lot.  They were even willing to outbid the Yankees for Patrick Corbin.  The Lerner family is everything Jerry isn’t.

Neat_on_the_rocks

With Penada out a a month, and hill out at least two months, even if everything goes right, they’re still going to be struggling at Starting Pitching right out of the gate.

I like Gio Gonzalez a lot more than Homer Bailey. I’m not sure why the projections are being so “kind” to Bailey.Hes 34 with immense injury concerns of his own. The dude hasn’t thrown 170 innings since 2013, and eclipsed 100 innings only 3 times in that span. He is a solid depth add, but they need like two more Homer Bailey’s with the way their SP situation is right now.

Save for 3 years in Cinci Bailey has sucked pretty hard….

burning-phoneix

Even after Pineda comes back from his suspension, what’s to say he’s gonna be as good as he was last year without his PEDs?

denman

Just for the record, Pineda claims not to have used any PED’s. He was found to have used a “masking agent” which he could have taken inadvertently. The length of his suspension was reduced based on lack of evidence that he’d used any enhancing substance.  Still, of course, there is some question as to whether he’ll pitch as well as he did last season.

dwjm3

It seems odd one would use a masking agent when one has nothing to hide

lil jimmy

So you are saying PED’s might have enhanced his performance? Interesting.

FlyingSpaghettiMonster

I’m surprised that NL East teams haven’t started to apply for asylum in the AL Central

roke1960

The White Sox have reached a long-term agreement with outfield prospect Luis Robert, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. The deal includes $50MM in guaranteed money over six years, and it includes two club options, per Jeff Passan of ESPN.

Another great move!!