The All-Star break is the unofficial “halftime” of the MLB season, so let’s take a look at the surprising Minnesota Twins team, and see how they rate so far.
Players: Joe Mauer, 66 games; Kennys Vargas, 22 games; Miguel Sano, 6 games; Chris Gimenez 5 games.
Joe Mauer has played gold-glove caliber defense, and been hitting well for the last few months. Kennys Vargas has been an acceptable defensive replacement when he has been with the team. The problem is the lack of a real back-up plan, since Kennys can’t seem to hit enough to claim a MLB spot, and your only other options are Miguel Sano and Chris Gimenez.
Players: Brian Dozier, 81 games; Eduardo Escobar, 8 games; Ehire Adrianza, 4 games.
Brian Dozier, as usual, is a streaky player. He has hit 13 home runs, one fewer than the first half last year, and fielded his position on par with his career performance. Another monster second half moves his overall grade up, while continuing on this pace moves it down.
Players: Jorge Polanco, 70 games; Ehire Adrianza, 14 games; Eduardo Escobar, 9 games.
Despite the common belief that Polanco was a bat-first guy who would have trouble fielding his position, he has shown the opposite this season. He owns a .969 fielding percentage, and has only committed nine errors, but has had an extended cold-streak at the plate and is batting only .224/.323/.596. It’s still enough to be worth slightly above replacement.
Players: Miguel Sano, 62 games; Eduardo Escobar, 29 games; Ehire Adrianza, 3 games.
I love Miguel Sano. He has fielded his position well enough to quiet the naysayers who thought he belonged at first or DH, and has already collected 21 homeruns. Is it too early to say he is the best to man the hot corner for the Twins since Harmon Killebrew? Eduardo Escobar is a serviceable MLB player wherever the Twins play him, hits well, and is highly regarded as a “clubhouse guy.”
Players: Eddie Rosario, 81 games; Byron Buxton, 83 games; Max Kepler, 82 games; Robbie Grossman, 43 games.
Every one of these guys has a positive bWAR on the season. Nothing falls but raindrops seems to be true. Buxton is making crazy, acrobatic catches like they are routine, and despite scuffling at the plate to start the season, has raised his batting average to “not atrocious.” His defense has been so good he has already earned almost two WAR on the season. Kepler has actually been more valuable, and Rosario has been solid as well. Grossman has been a surprise, and while his defense is not on the same level as the other three (but who’s would be?) He has gotten on base like a machine.
Players: Robbie Grossman, 29 games; Kennys Vargas, 22 games; Miguel Sano, 16 games; Eduardo Escobar, 13 games; Joe Mauer, 6 games.
Molitor has used the DH position as a way to give some of his players a half-day off, primarily Sano and Mauer. Robbie Grossman there makes sense when he isn’t rotating into the outfield. Kennys Vargas has not hit well enough to claim the position.
Players: Ervin Santana, 18 games; Kyle Gibson, 16 games; Hector Santiago, 14 games; Adalberto Mejia, 13 games; Jose Berrios, 11 games; Phil Hughes, 9 games; Nik Turley, 3 games; Other Guys, 4 games.
Ervin Santana earned his all-star bid. Already, at the break, he has pitched over 120 innings, and has kept his ERA under three. He has pitched four complete games. Jose Berrios has been mostly fantastic as well. Those two would earn an A+, but the other 3/5 of the rotation has let them down. Gibson and Mejia have both had good and bad starts, both look like they could stick in the back end of a MLB rotation. Both are probably worth a C, if the Twins weren’t forced to rely on them so heavily. Santiago and Hughes both started the season well, but have suffered from injury and ineffectiveness, and the other pitchers the Twins have had to ask to fill in have been bad.
Players: Brandon Kintzler 39 games; Taylor Rodgers, 39 games; Matt Belisle 37 games; Tyler Duffey, 32 games; Craig Breslow, 27 games; Ryan Pressly, 27 games; Buddy Boshers, 15 games; Justin Haley, 10 games; Michael Tonkin, 9 games; Alan Busenitz, 6 games; Chris Gimenez, 6 games; Alex Wimmers, 6 games; Trevor Hildenberger, 5 games; Adam Wilk, 3 games; Other Guys, 11 games.
There has been a lot of shuffle at the back of the bullpen, but most of those guys have been replaceable in terms of performance. The three top guys; Kintzler, Rogers, and Duffey have been very good. Hildenberger and Busenitz have shown promise, and everyone else has been pretty bad. Oh, and Phil Hughes is a reliever now.
I like Paul Molitor, and I believe he is trying to listen to the analytical minds around him, but his bullpen management could use some work (stop giving Matt Belisle high leverage situations) and he tends to call bunt at strange times. Overall, he seems to have the respect of his team, and the results speak loudly.
Front Office: A+
After a quiet winter, and a disappointingly conservative opening day roster, the Twins have been impressively active on the transaction front. Serial under-performers have been removed from the roster, and guys who have earned a chance have been promoted. There has been a bit of a “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” when it comes to pitchers who have been DFA’d by other teams, but many are veterans with decent performance records, and little-to-no risk for the team. THEY SIGNED BARTOLO COLON, guys!
Overall Grade: B
This is a team which has been much, much better than we thought. I think it is safe to say that 2015 and 2017 were closer to the real thing, and 2016 was a 103-loss aberration. While the pitching needs to improve for the team to be a truly competitive, it has been bitten hard by an injury bug. The defense is already championship caliber, and the bats are strong. Even if they don’t go far this season, the Twins are only a few good off-season moves from being a very good team. The Double-A rotation is completely full of starting pitchers who can contribute within a few years, and a veteran or two would complete the puzzle. I tend to follow the Terry Ryan approach that you can get relievers anywhere, so there are really very few holes to fill. Two starters, one of whom is likely in-house, and a couple bull-pen arms. Maybe a slugger off the bench, and you’re set.
**Note, I did not count any players with less than 2 games at a position.I gave players credit for a “game” if the appeared at all at that position. All grades are based on my completely subjective opinion, and I’m a hopeless optimist.
What grade would you give the Twins at the All-Star break?
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