Over the last few days the Twins have brought in a number of players. They're all on minor league contracts, which is perhaps why we've been in no great rush to dig deep into any one of them individually, but we're starting to see a pattern: the Twins are amassing warm bodies. Which is about as positive as I can make it sound.
Joe Benson, a second-round pick for the Twins in 2006, is back in the organization. Those five tools that once looked so promising have lost their luster, but if Minnesota does nothing else this winter he'll have a legitimate chance to become the club's fourth outfielder on Opening Day.
Darin Mastroianni played in 114 games for the Twins between 2012 and 2014, when the Blue Jays claimed him off of waivers in April. He's bounced from Toronto to Philadelphia to Washington, acting as organizational depth in the minor leagues, which is the role he'll serve upon his return to Minnesota as well. Wilfredo Tovar has a similarly small chance of making any kind of Major League impact, but will give the Red Wings options on the left side of the infield.
Two other signings, before we even get to Fernando Abad, are right-hander Brandon Kintzler and lefty Buddy Boshers. Kintzler will be entering his age-31 season, and from the 2011 through 2014 season he gave the Brewers 166.2 innings of 3.08 ERA relief. But he scuffled in spring training last year and was beat out by Michael Blazek for a roster spot. His underlying indicators of performance aren't promising, however, with a 90mph fastball and a slider/changeup combo in the mid 80s, along with a pedestrian 18% career strikeout rate.
Boshers, meanwhile, is left-handed - which is nice. He managed 15 innings of relief for the Angels in 2013, but since then washed out of Los Angeles' minor league system thanks in no small part to command issues. Pitching in the International League this past summer, Boshers gave the Somerset Patriots 54 innings of 1.50 ERA baseball. He continues to garner swinging strikes, but unless he's discovered a way to consistently locate his pitches this will be a very short comeback.
After all of that, Abad might be the gem of the bunch. He's had an interesting three year span. sporting ERAs of 3.35, 1.57, and 4.15 this past season. Two years ago he was a legitimate threat for Oakland, but in 2015 things went awry. Hard-hit rates spiked, as did a normally above average home run-to-fly ball rate. His FIP was a scary 5.50. Walk rates went up a bit, but giving up two home runs for every nine innings pitched is going to cause serious damage. If he hadn't still managed to strand 85% of base runners, who knows how catosphrophic this past year could have been.
Abad's fastball velocity is down from 93 mph in 2013 and 92 mph in 2014, sitting at 91 mph this season. He's only entering his age-30 season, but it's a trend worth watching nevertheless. Traditionally strong versus left-handed hitters, that's another red flag to monitor as they posted an .860 OPS versus him in 2015.
Yet if Abad can turn things around this season, he can record a fair number of strikeouts. There's potential here for him to turn into the left-handed reliever the club needs, even if he - unlike Terry Ryan's own stated desires - is typically a one or two-out reliever.
We'll be back with more Twins news later today, as well as a feature on Pete Rose.