- Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey is profiled by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, who details Falvey’s rise from scouting prospects in the Cape Cod League to running Minnesota’s baseball operations department. A former college pitcher himself, Falvey’s biggest priority is to upgrade the Twins’ pitching philosophy after years of subpar results from their arms. “There’s an organizationwide desire to shed that label, the pitch-to-contact term,” Falvey said. “So there’s a lot of energy around embracing some new programs to make sure we are talking about velocity development and how we get strikeouts and some elements to finish pitches. I think it’s the right fit now, because the organization is open to that conversation.”
- In an effort to potentially cut down on injuries and player fatigue, the Twins have been monitoring the cumulative total of their players’ baseball-related activities, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. Everything from time in the batting cage to workouts to actual on-field playing time is charted under this system. For another angle, Berardino’s piece features some interesting quotes from MLBPA head Tony Clark about how the players’ union has some concerns about how such information is being collected and how it could be used by teams.
Outfielder Drew Stubbs has opted out of his minor league contract with the Twins, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (Twitter link). The Twins informed Stubbs on Sunday that he wasn’t going to make their big league roster.
The 32-year-old Stubbs will now look for an opportunity elsewhere, he told Berardino.
“Obviously, first and foremost, I’d want to be on somebody’s Opening Day roster,” Stubbs said. “If that opportunity’s not there, I’ll just have to reevaluate the situation and see where the best opportunity would be for me.”
The right-handed Stubbs has a history of faring well against southpaws, having slashed .272/.348/.444 in 952 plate appearances, which could have made him a platoon partner for one of the Twins’ lefty-swinging corner outfielders, Eddie Rosario or Max Kepler. Instead, the Twins could go with the switch-hitting Robbie Grossman as their fourth outfielder, as Jason Martinez of MLBTR and Roster Resource projects, and they also have the out-of-options Danny Santana on hand.
In addition to his quality track record versus left-handed pitchers, Stubbs has racked up 161 stolen bases in his career. However, the journeyman struck out in at least 40 percent of plate appearances in each of the two prior seasons, and he combined to hit a disastrous .207/.302/.365 during those campaigns.
- The Twins optioned right-hander Jose Berrios to Triple-A Rochester on Saturday, thus eliminating him from the competition for the final spot in their rotation. The job will go to either Adalberto Mejia or Tyler Duffey, whom Berrios fell behind while he was with Team Puerto Rico for 18 days at the World Baseball Classic. Berrios only threw 6 2/3 innings during that nearly three-week span, which hurt his chances of beginning the season in Minnesota, but he doesn’t regret participating in the tournament. “Playing for Puerto Rico is an honor; it makes me proud,” Berrios told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press through an interpreter. “I know this is my team, it’s my job. This is who drafted me. This is who I’m going to make it with, but you don’t get to play for Puerto Rico every day or every year. That’s not how it is.” The 22-year-old Berrios, who has dominated in the minors, still seems likely to end up in the Twins’ rotation sometime in 2017. If that happens, the former premier prospect will try to bounce back from a rough rookie year in which he posted an 8.02 ERA, 7.56 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9 over 58 innings.
- It came as a surprise when the Twins designated DH Byung Ho Park for assignment in February, but he ultimately remained with the organization after clearing waivers. Nearly two months later, he has the inside track on a big league roster spot on account of Kennys Vargas’ less-than-ideal spring, per Berardino. Vargas, who was also with Puerto Rico at the WBC, has gone just 1 for 15 with three walks during the Twins’ exhibition season. His situation worsened when he fouled a ball off his left foot Friday, and is now on crutches. Although initial X-rays were negative, the Twins will send Vargas for further testing, writes Berardino. “If he doesn’t play for a week, it’s going to have an impact,” manager Paul Molitor said of Vargas’ chances of earning a place with the Twins. “He just hasn’t had many at-bats.”
This year’s amateur draft class is still quite unsettled, though in Baseball America’s initial ranking of the Top 100 draft prospects, Hudson Belinsky and John Manuel note that a pair of two-way players are standing out as the potential top two picks. Louisville first baseman/left-handed pitcher Brendan McKay is drawing most of his attention as an “elite pure hit tool” batter though “at least one” interested team prefers him on the mound. No right-handed high school pitcher has ever been drafted first overall, though 17-year-old Hunter Greene has an upper-90s fastball and has touched the 102mph mark. This kind of live arm at such a young age has even drawn some Dwight Gooden comparisons, so most evalutors prefer Greene as a pitcher, though he also possesses “top-of-the-scale raw power” as a shortstop. The Twins own the first pick in June’s draft, though McKay and Greene are just two of nine players Minnesota is reportedly considering for the top selection.
- Byron Buxton and Max Kepler appear to be the only true untouchables on the Twins roster as the team continues its rebuilding process. It’s worth noting that Minnesota only made a couple of minor deals this offseason under the new Derek Falvey/Thad Levine-led front office, despite a lot of rumors surrounding such veterans as Brian Dozier or Ervin Santana.
- Glen Perkins will meet with Twins trainers and coaches later this week to determine the next step of his rehab from shoulder surgery, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, and a 60-day DL stint is a possibility. Perkins would have to give his consent to be placed on the disabled list, as per the rules of the collective bargaining agreement. That placement would allow Minnesota to open up a 40-man roster spot for another player, though Perkins wouldn’t be able to return until June 1 at the earliest. The veteran lefty has been limited to 20-pitch bullpen sessions every four days during Spring Training, and will start the season on at least the 10-day DL, though he is hopeful of being able to pitch much earlier than June 1.
- Byung Ho Park was outrighted off the Twins’ 40-man roster last month, but the first baseman is trying to work himself back into the club’s immediate plans with a big Spring Training, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger writes. Park has recovered from a wrist injury that hampered him during his rookie season, and he also seems generally more relaxed now that he is more used to MLB pitching. According to South Korean reporters who followed Park in the KBO League, Bollinger writes that Park similarly put a lot of pressure on himself early in his career before settling in and becoming a major star for Nexen Heroes. Since Kennys Vargas has one more option year remaining, Minnesota has the flexibility to send Vargas to Triple-A if Park impresses enough to win the DH job.
MARCH 11: Twins right-hander Trevor May has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament, per Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He’s slated to receive a second opinion next week, Berardino adds, but certainly Tommy John surgery is now a strong possibility for the 27-year-old.
It’s dejecting news for the Twins and for May, who was in competition to reclaim a spot in the Twins’ rotation after spending the past season and a half in the bullpen. Originally acquired in the trade that sent Ben Revere to the Phillies, May had a solid first half of the 2015 season in the Twins’ rotation before moving to a setup role when Glen Perkins went down with an injury. May thrived in that bullpen role in 2015 but struggled in the same role last season, missing significant time due to back injuries.
May totaled just 44 2/3 innings out of the Twins’ bullpen last season due to the aforementioned back issues, pitching to a 5.00 ERA but posting an impressive 60-to-17 K/BB ratio while averaging 93.9 mph on his fastball. A year prior, May logged a 4.43 ERA in 83 1/3 innings as a starter but delivered a much more encouraging 3.35 FIP and 3.96 xFIP. Upon shifting to the ’pen in July, May turned in a 2.87 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings to finish out the season.
Earlier this spring, May suggested to Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the move to a relief role might’ve adversely impacted his health. Now, in the wake of this latest, devastating injury, that question will be up for even further debate. The injury, it seems, occurred during May’s most recent start, when he tossed 3 2/3 innings against Team USA’s World Baseball Classic lineup. As May explains (video link via Berardino), he felt a “grab” in his elbow on a single pitch. “I downplayed it in my head,” said May. “I thought it was some tightness in my flexors, something I’ve felt before.” May went on to throw another 34 pitches after the initial “grab” and felt continued soreness the following day, which prompted an MRI.
It’s of course possible, albeit unlikely, that May can avoid Tommy John surgery. We’ve seen pitchers such as Masahiro Tanaka and Garrett Richards opt for platelet-rich plasma injections and stem cell injections in recent years and avoid the operation. And, depending on the extent of the tear, May could be a candidate for the “primary repair” surgery that Seth Maness underwent last August. However, any of those treatments could very well sideline May for the entire season anyhow, perhaps making the more traditional Tommy John route the most logical course of action.
The loss of May means that the competition for the fifth spot in the Twins’ rotation will now come down to Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey, Adalberto Mejia and, perhaps, non-roster invitees Ryan Vogelsong and Nick Tepesch.
Minnesota still controls May through the 2020 campaign, so he could play an important role in future Twins clubs should he make a full recovery. May will presumably spend the entire 2017 season on the 60-day disabled list and accrue a full year of service time, making him eligible for arbitration next winter.
The Twins have granted right-hander Ryan Vogelsong his release, the club announced to reporters, including Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter links). Vogelsong asked for an early release from his minor league contract (Minnesota didn’t have to make a decision on his status until March 28) and the Twins granted the request to give the veteran more time to potentially catch on with another team.
The 39-year-old signed a minor league deal with the Twins in January and was competing for a job in the team’s bullpen or potentially as a fifth starter, especially in the wake of Trevor May’s season-ending UCL tear. According to Berardino, however, other pitchers had moved ahead of Vogelsong in the fifth starter battle, as Vogelsong was hampered by lagging velocity.
Even in his prime, Vogelsong wasn’t much of a power pitcher, relying instead of soft contact rather than missed bats to generate outs. At his best, Vogelsong was a valuable and durable rotation arm for the Giants from 2011-2014, posting a 3.74 ERA over 657 2/3 IP in that stretch and solidly contributing to San Francisco’s World Series titles in 2012 and 2014.
Vogelsong posted a 4.81 ERA, 6.7 K/9 and 1.53 K/BB rate over 82 1/3 innings for the Pirates in 2016, a season shortened by a frightening injury suffered when Vogelsong was hit in the face by a Jordan Lyles fastball. Vogelsong underwent surgery to correct an orbital fracture and was worried about losing his vision, though he ended up returning to the field two months later.
The Twins will add southpaw Craig Breslow to their 40-man roster, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (via Twitter). The veteran had an opt-out opportunity last night.
Evidently, Minnesota saw enough from Breslow — and his revamped delivery — to make the move, all but ensuring he’ll break camp on the active roster. Breslow will stand to earn $1.25MM on the year — with $1MM more in available incentives — under the minor-league deal he signed in early February.
After showcasing a new approach over the offseason, the 36-year-old drew some interest from organizations that hoped he might stage a late-career renaissance. Long a quality reliever, he had struggled to a 4.93 ERA over the past three seasons.
He has responded thus far with six innings of 1.50 ERA ball this spring, allowing just three hits but also seven walks against his five strikeouts. There are obviously still some kinks to work out, but Minnesota’s new front office clearly thinks there’s enough promise — and enough value in Breslow’s clubhouse presence — to give him another crack at the majors.
Here’s the latest from Minnesota…
- Left-hander Tyler Jay, the sixth overall pick of the 2015 draft, will be used as a reliever going forward, Seth Stohs of Twins Daily reports. The decision was mutually made between both Jay and the Twins. Jay mostly pitched in relief in college, yet the Twins were intrigued enough by his four-pitch arsenal that they spent the high pick on him in order to test him as a starter. The southpaw pitched well in 13 starts at High-A ball last season before battling some neck issues over five appearances (two of them starts) and 14 innings at Double-A. Baseball Prospectus ranked Jay as 98th on their recent list of the 101 best prospects in baseball, and he also appeared on top-100 lists from MLB.com (60th) and Baseball America (80th) prior to the 2016 season.
- Jay was drafted one spot ahead of Andrew Benintendi in 2015, and 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter link) that the Twins “had very little interest” in the outfielder who is now the game’s consensus number-one prospect. Notables such as Carson Fulmer and Ian Happ were picked in the next two spots after Benintendi. In fairness to Minnesota, however, Jay was highly regarded by the major prospect scouting pundits headed into the 2015 draft, so he likely wouldn’t have fallen much further than sixth had the Twins passed.
- The Twins made a point of adding veteran leadership to their young clubhouse this winter, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. Matt Belisle, Ryan Vogelsong, Chris Gimenez, Drew Stubbs and Craig Breslow were all signed to minor league deals or low-cost MLB deals this offseason, providing Minnesota with inexpensive but experienced players who can help on the field and also serve as mentors. “The idea at this stage of my career that I could impact an organization for longer than I may be playing for it is pretty powerful and pretty compelling,” Breslow said. “I’ve started to think about all of the players who have helped shape my career. I certainly look to them with incredible deference. If I have the opportunity to fill that role for somebody, it’s a legacy I would be really proud of.”
- Also from Berardino’s piece, he notes that Stubbs will earn $1MM on his minor league deal should he crack the Twins’ big league roster. Stubbs has bounced around with the Braves, Orioles, Rockies and (multiple stints with the) Rangers over the last two seasons, playing in 137 games and hitting .207/.302/.365 over 234 plate appearances.
- Breslow’s contractual opt-out date is early next week, though Berardino tweets that the Twins will add him to their 40-man roster. Trevor May will be moved to the 60-day DL (due to his torn UCL) in order to create space.