As the season comes to a close and rehab assignments dry up with the Saints having just 4 more games left this year, it's time to take a look at the status of Twins players who are/were expected to potential provide a vitamin shot in the arm for Minnesota coming into the playoffs.
1. Brock Stewart - Stewart (60 day IL) was the Twins' best relief pitcher this year before having elbow soreness 3 months ago. His first attempt at a return was derailed by soreness before a rehab assignment putting a real damper on expectations of his return this season, but he's back and is currently pitching in AAA with 2 appearances. 9/15 and two days ago 9/19. 2.0 innings, 0 R, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 0 hits. The results are encouraging, and there's enough time for him to get another 2 appearances in AAA before making an appearance at the MLB level where a better view of his velocity and movement will be on show. He's probably the highest playoff ceiling value considering the shaky Twins bullpen, especially in high leverage. Stewart's 0.85 WPA this year points to him not defecating the bed when the game is on the line. The Twins really, really need that from the bullpen in the playoffs. Return 90%. Playoffs 90%.
2. Carlos Correa - His placement on the 10 day IL is simply a technicality for rest. He'll 100% be back on the roster before the end of the season at Coors Field on 9/29 to see a couple plate appearances before the playoffs start. While Correa has been far from elite this year, his bat's been solid lately, even if his glove hasn't been. In September .296/.377/.463 OPS .840 and wRC+ 136. That said, Correa's had several two week hot streaks followed by miserable cold streaks this year. Expecting more than solid defense and a league average bat is questionable, though Correa has a big game reputation. Return 99%. Playoffs 99%.
3. Byron Buxton - Buxton's on a 10 day IL which has stretched on much longer than anticipated. He starts his rehab assignment with the Saints today at DH despite head trainer, Nick Paparesta, saying he expected Buxton to be able to play in the field this year as well... because, well, yeah. Anyway, it's disappointing to see Buxton start off at DH. His performance at the plate this year has been below average, especially after a hot start, and if Buxton's balky knee is still bothering him, there's a real cap on the value he can provide to the team. That said, I can't see the Twins not activating him as long as he can get into a batting stance and technically swing the bat. A healthy Buxton is clearly beyond a reasonable expectation if he's starting off at DH even in AAA, but just maybe healthy "enough" to get hot before the playoffs and make a real difference. Healthy Michael A. Taylor is basically how a hurt Byron Buxton plays and Stevenson is basically a left handed Billy Hamilton so if Buxton can play CF, he will almost certainly be an upgrade. Return 80%. Playoffs 90%.
4. Chris Paddack - Paddack's (60 day IL) rehab assignment is over. He probably won't pitch again for the Saints after his 3rd rehab appearance on 9/19. Other rehab appearances were starts on 9/6 and 9/12, leaving Paddack's next scheduled appearance for 9/25 with the 24th being the last game for the Saints. Paddack has a line of 9.2 IP, 4 ERs, 15Ks, 3BBs, 8H. The Twins have committed to Paddack for the long haul and I expect he will be activated off the 60 day IL and pitch for the Twins before the end of the season. Whether he looks good enough to get added to the playoff roster is another thing, though. To be blunt, Paddack has been a "should be better" rather than "is actually good" type of pitcher at the MLB level for the past couple of years. Return 50%. Playoffs 10%.
5. Joey Gallo - Gallo's 10 day IL stint is for a bruised foot after fouling a ball off his foot on 9/5, and he's already eligible for return, fast approaching his 20 day IL maximum which ends before the regular season does. His results at AAA don't matter and we all know how brutal he's been at the MLB level since mid-May. I think the Twins are just waiting to feel comfortable with Kirilloff's heath before DFA'ing Gallo. I hope. Honestly, Gallo definitely should not be on the playoff roster. Return 10% Playoffs 0% (I hope).
6. Nick Gordon - Gordon's (60 day IL) been on the IL since taking a hard pitch off the shin which led to a fracture in his tibia (big bone in the lower leg) on May 17th. Gordon started his rehab assignment at AAA St. Paul due to the other MiLB regular seasons being over already and he's been playing all over the field. Gordon started cold at the plate this year with a .176/.185/.319 triple slash, much attributable to a terrible .179 BABIP, but there are some reasons to be a bit concerned with his results like the walk rate and soft contact rates. That said, his K rate was way down and his ISO was pretty reasonable and his K rate was way, way down from 2022 as well. I'm not sure where Nick Gordon fits on the roster at this point, and he's not going to use him his max rehab stint before the end of the season. He was a bit of a hero on the 2022 team, with a great story and a great personality to boot. TBH, Gordon's not going to bump any of the utility guys off the roster for the playoffs, but I don't think it's impossible he sees a game or two of action in the big show after the end of the Saints regular season just for a feel good return. Return 50%. Playoffs 5%
7. Jorge Alcala - Alcala's (60 day IL) stress fracture was a far easier injury to diagnose and understand, but he's long been the type of pitcher who "should be better" rather than "is actually good." He started his rehab assignment throwing 97-98mph and has 4 appearances from A-, AA and AAA. 9/9, 9/12, 9/15, 9/19. His results 4.0 IP, 2 ERs, 6Ks, 1BB, 4Hs. Alcala's rehab assignment started late enough where he does not need to be activated prior to the end of the regular season and I don't expect he will be activated, which would force a player off the 40 man. Returns 10%. Playoffs 0%