The Twins took 2 of 3 from Chicago over the weekend, which in 2020 years is a 6-3 start. Here are my grades for every players performance: Max Kepler – looked great ambushing Lucas Giolito for two home runs and assuaging my fears that his scapula injury was going to linger from last year. Then he went 0-12. It looked like he was able to get through his swings though, which if you watched him try to play through his injury last year, is a good sign. He mainly chased a lot of pitches down, and faced a lot of lefties so for his season outlook I’m still positive. Was anyone weirded out though, when Bremer claimed Cave was the better centerfielder? I hope that is not Rocco’s opinion. Grade: B-
Jose Berrios – couldn’t spot his fastball and barely threw his slurve-thing. Threw a lot of decent chang-ups, even to righties, but that really doesn’t matter if you can’t throw anything else. Got away with quite a few meatballs, although pitching out of the 1st represented some good success after Tim Anderson took a 2-seamer out of the zone and rifled it over Donaldson’s glove and Baby Jesus Moncada got an excuse-me double to lead off the game. Even if he had pitched well, he still strikes me as a tragic figure- the one left on the mound after giving up a crucial home run in an elimination playoff game; someone who can never quite meet the moment even though they have all the skills. Maybe he’s a modern day Walter Johnson who needs his team to succeed despite him until they need him in relief in the 7th game of the World Series and he pitches 4 scoreless.
Josh Donaldson – looks rusty; he’ll probably be fine but we should temper expectations a bit. He is going to be a good fielder and draw a lot of walks, but his k rate has steadily increased since it was at 16.5% in 2013 to 23.5% in 2019. He still hit the ball hard in Atlanta but he is no longer someone who can hit .300. In the year of the juiced baseball he slugged .521 which I would take but his .900 OPS seems like the highest in his range of possible season ending results. I would expect something in the range of .800 to .850 based on his age and contact ability.
Then again, he was primarily hitting 4th in Atlanta, after all of their good hitters. The 5th place in their lineup had a 99 OPS+. Perhaps having Polanco, Cruz and Rosario behind him will allow him to see better pitches than Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley. I just hope his bat hasn’t slowed down too much and we end up with an albatross contract who is the worst hitter in our lineup. Even so he would give a good at-bat, play good d and give the Twins an edge they have been lacking (another reason I am excited about Rich Hill).
Randy Dobnak – Still foolin’ people. Pitched pretty well and had some tough at-bats he battled through. But at some point doesn’t the league just assume he is throwing the sinker, take it below the zone and force him to come higher in hitters counts? Or is that not what the Yankees did..
Jorge Polanco – Looks great, good to see him healthy. I get nervous he’s pulled an oblique every time he swings and misses though.
Trevor May and Tyler Duffey – Love those guys. Still not sure they have the minds for pitching a shutdown 8th in a playoff game with a lead. I don’t hold it against Duffey too much that he got Gleyber’d so hard in game 1 since he was throwing good pitches but I worry about his mental game when he doesn’t get calls on good pitches. Like in the second game of the series in Minnesota last July when he threw two perfect sliders to Luke Voit.
He was taken out after that, likely in part because he was not ok- barking at the ump and crouching on the mound, despondent. Don’t really blame him, but doesn’t show he has ice water in his veins, either.
May is very cerebral and may be too much of a thinker to be trusted in the playoffs, but he hasn’t gotten a chance to prove me wrong.
For now though: B+
Nellie Cruz – What a beautiful man. I still worry about his wrists and any time he has to run, because I don’t think he’ll ever stop hitting, it’s just a matter of him staying intact.
Zack Littell – Did the Yankees ruin him? He may not get too many more chances to prove they haven’t.
Eddie Rosario – Looks like he is making a concerted effort to have a plan at the plate. He is starting to, maybe, lay off the low ones but is still letting himself chase high ones which I am fine with because I don’t think anyone swings as well at eye level pitches than Eddie. He also seems to have regained some quickness after last years ankle injury that never totally healed. Perhaps he is starting to realize that he could get paid if he shows a little improvement in his strike zone management, walks or no walks.
And as I have said before, he is exactly the type of player to get hot and carry a team in the playoffs no matter what he does in the regular season.
Devin Smeltzer – got kind of rocked but struck out 5 in 2 innings. Seems like an emotional guy, lets bad luck affect him somewhat, like when he was publically pissed off he kept getting shipped to triple A last year. His arm can keep him in the game for 10 years as a swingman lefty, he just needs to accept that that is pretty good, and if he can be a little more stoic he might be more than that.
Luis Arraez – He’s on .400 watch at MLB Network and that’s not really fair but I would be sweating my ass off if I was an opposing team’s fan watching him up in a crucial spot when a single could tie it. I think he’s much more Placido Polanco than Rod Carew but that is a perfect complement to the rest of the Twins lineup. In fact I just got a little PTSD thinking about Placido Polanco flipping 8th inning base hits with the Tigers.
Matt Wisler – slider looks good but not the god-like pitch everyone said it was. Spotty control but could be this year’s Ryne Harper I guess.
Jake Cave – Wouldn’t be the worst platoon partner for Buxton, and he set the tone in both wins with huge hits. Watching him face lefties is painful, though.
Grade: B (seriously, no more lefties for him)
Kenta Maeda – Until he got tired in the 5th he was beautiful, pumping surprise fastballs and unhittable sliders. He also threw this 92 MPH pitch that seemed like a 2-seam that ducked under Abreu’s bat. He does not have that pitch in MLB the Show.
Mitch Garver – Seems like he just missed a few pitches, but still went 2-3 with a walk on Saturday. Is he a .995 OPS guy? No, but he could be a force as a great hitting catcher in a short season. He clearly didn’t let the game come to him against the Yankees and was swinging at garbage in hitters counts, so all I can say is that hopefully he learned from that.
Tyler Clippard – My best reliever in MLB the Show for some reason- well the reason is probably his splitter changeup combo, which he displayed on Friday and looks great pitching in between May and Duffey. You have two relievers with elite stuff and then you throw 2020 Paul Byrd into the mix, that’s a tough adjustment.
Also I didn’t know Keuchel now pitches with 86MPH for his fastball- do I really have to deal with another Mark Buehrle for the next 4 years?
Miguel Sano – I have noted before that he can’t hit righty change-ups and boy howdy did Giolito make him look dumb and me smart. Then Keuchel did the same thing from the left side. I know Sano worked hard to get on top of fastballs but in doing so has the book on him changed to off-speed low and inside until death? I’m a little worried but if he really struggles to the point he is unplayable, we can slot Marwin in over there, or Garver, and apparently now Lamonte Wade. Maybe having the same position combo as Cody Bellinger will inspire old Lamonte.
Marwin – hit some balls hard on Sunday including a meaningless home run in garbage time. It was off Kevin Herrera though, who still has a decent fastball change-up combo, so I’ll take that as a positive.
We’ll have to see how Rogers and Romo are looking, since they didn’t see any game action. Romo bombed off of my MLB the Show team but that might just be because I suck at video games.
Buxton is supposedly going to play against the Cardinals this week even though his foot isn’t 100%. I’m not sure that is necessary since a Buxton with average speed is just Jake Cave- some power, not great k-zone judgment and a .750-.800 OPS. Maybe they will platoon then? I think I would rather have him play the final 6 weeks of the year and have the lowest probability of being hurt for the playoffs but that’s just me.
Also did you know that if the Twins win the division and the Yankees get the #1 seed, we won’t have to play them until the ALCS as either the #2 or #3 seed?