Although the Twins’ have enjoyed a rapid turnaround from 78 wins a season ago to 101 wins and a division title this year, that breakout has roots tracing back to 2009, writes Dan Hayes of The Athletic. A decade ago, the Twins landed a transformative class of international amateurs—Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco—that blossomed into franchise cornerstones and 2019 stars. At the time, the $4.65MM the team doled out to land the three 16-year-olds was uncharacteristic for the Twins franchise, which had largely been a non-factor in the international scene; the team had no academy in the Dominican Republic and had virtually no connections with the players’ pseudo-agents. That made it especially difficult to land Sano, a coveted prospect who commanded a $3.15MM bonus and captured the attention of nearly every MLB club. On the other hand, there was less competition for Kepler, a German-born prospect, and Polanco, a scrawny teenager who lacked the projectability of Sano. Of course, those signings have delivered immense value to a team that has ridden Polanco, Kepler, and Sano to the franchise’s first division title since 2010. According to Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, those three have been the 2019 Twins’ first-, third-, and seventh-most valuable players, combining to contribute 12.8 wins of value to the team.
- At age 35, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel could be playing himself into another contract with Houston’s club, writes The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan. Gurriel has enjoyed a career year at an age where he should be declining, perhaps a reflection of his acclimation to the game in the United States. The 2020 season will be the last under his current contract, a five-year, $47MM deal inked prior to 2016, when he defected to the U.S. as one of Cuba’s most accomplished players. He’s by no means the star of a stacked lineup in Houston—he most often slots into the sixth spot for the Astros—but he has delivered solid offensive value, thanks in part to an in-season mechanical change, a focus on lifting the ball, and a heightened focus on preparation.
- With eliminated teams beginning to consider offseason decisions, the Angels will have to decide whether to protect 26-year-old infielder Jose Rojas or expose him to the Rule 5 Draft. He posted career-best numbers at Triple-A this year, slugging 31 home runs and a .293/.362/.577 batting line. Mike DiGiovanna of Baseball America takes a look at Rojas’s case, pointing out that teams around baseball are having some difficulty tuning their evaluation of Triple-A players to the drastically altered offensive environment at the level. Since Triple-A leagues introduced the MLB-used baseball for the 2019 season, power numbers have universally spiked in Triple-A. With the reliability of raw home run numbers in question, DiGiovanna points out that teams are increasingly reliant on their scouts’ eyes in their valuation of Triple-A players.