TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.

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TwinsCentric: Slow going at Winter Meetings

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: December 10, 2014 - 10:02 AM

The Hot Stove is piping hot! Have you caught the fever?

With names like Logan Ondrusek, John Axford, Dustin McGowan and Alexi Ogando floating around as early targets, it's pretty hard to avoid getting swept up in the excitement.

OK. Pardon the sarcasm. But indeed, the Winter Meetings haven't yielded many Twins-related rumors worth buzzing about.

Francisco Liriano, who had oddly been painted as a player of interest to Minnesota in recent days, came off the market Tuesday when he signed a three-year, $39 million deal to stay in Pittsburgh.

Regardless of how much weight those faint rumors held, Liriano was the most high-profile pitcher that has been meaningfully linked to the Twins.

Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press has been trying to play up the Ervin Santana angle, noting Terry Ryan's willingness to forfeit a draft pick and quoting a source that said Santana "loves pitching in the cold." La Velle confirmed that the Twins are "in on Santana," adding that they've been in contact with his agent. But I can't see the Twins making a serious play there, largely for the same reasons I didn't buy the Liriano steam.

As it stands, the confirmed connections we're getting are to names like Ondrusek, Axford, McGowan and Ogando. All players that will likely end up with minor-league deals. Yeesh. I had a feeling this would be a fairly quiet offseason for the Twins, but it's still a little tough to see them being so passive while the White Sox -- who finished alongside them at the bottom of the AL Central this year -- have been so incredibly aggressive.

It sounds like Ryan is at least kicking the tires on some trade options, as Jon Morosi mentioned that they have spoken with the Mets about Dillon Gee. Ultimately, if a big move takes place this week involving the Twins it will probably be a trade; I suspect they've already made their biggest free agent splash of the offseason.

And if Ryan is looking to make a trade, I'd have to imagine Josmil Pinto's name is being dangled heavily. He's big-league ready, but there's just no path to regular playing time for him here.

What do you think? Will the Twins make a trade this week? Will they surprise us and snag a major free agent? Share your thoughts on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings here.

TwinsCentric: Is Torii Hunter's defense really that bad?

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: December 5, 2014 - 10:34 AM
The Minnesota Twins signing of outfielder Torii Hunter has sparked some debate among fans. The most recited complaint is that while Hunter is able to perform at the plate, his defensive skill set has eroded significantly and has made him a detriment to the team. Just how bad is his fielding?
 
At 39-years-old, there is little question that the tools that had at one time made him an elite defender -- a blindingly quick first step and the closing speed -- has been left behind in some old Angels uniform pants.

Every stat that measures range has painted him a liability in right field. Ultimate Zone Rating dismisses him wholly as the worst among qualified right fielder. Revised Zone Rating dinged him for not making plays in the accepted right fielder zone that are typically made. Inside Edge’s video scouts agree, saying he has caught 98% of all plays deemed “Almost Certain” (99% conversion rate average) and made 88% of all plays, third worst among right fielders.

As the metric world has come to a consensus regarding the outfielder, some industry sources have mentioned his defensive abilities are not represented within that particular data. Hunter has entered the savvy veteran world of being able to take a proper route in order stave off would-be advancing baserunners. He has done things like thrown behind runners on the bases to get them out. In some ways, touting skills like this feels like sort of like congratulating an elder person who is doing 10 under the speed limit for at least staying in his lane. While there may be some value, it is still not as important as getting to the ball on time.

Consider this play off the bat of the Twins’ Danny Santana in Comerica last June. With the bases loaded and two outs, this harmless fly balls lands safely at Hunter’s feet:
 

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Meanwhile, compare that play to the one made by the former Brave, now current Cardinal Jason Heyward:
 

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Admittedly, without the ability to have MLB StatCast data on both these plays, this is an exercise in imperfection. There are other factors that might have led to the outcome like daytime versus nighttime, the score of the game or whether or not the glove oil fumes were causing dizziness. These two plays were selected based on the hit type, estimated hang time, direction and perceived distance from the right fielder to the play. What the two examples show is the visual difference in the person with the highest UZR (Heyward) and the person with the lowest (Hunter) on a very similar play.

*** CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE AT TWINS DAILY ***

 


More at TwinsDaily.com:

Nick Nelson questions whether the Twins will add more starting pitching this offseason.

Former Twins pitcher Cole DeVries shares his thoughts on pitching coaches, clubhouse chemistry and more.

Seth Stohs asks Where Are We Now?

TwinsCentric: Torii Hunter signing is hard to figure

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: December 3, 2014 - 11:42 AM
Last offseason, the most head-scratching series of moves the Twins made was signing Jason Kubel, Jason Bartlett and Matt Guerrier, all of whom were aging and coming off down seasons. The strategy was apparently based on familiarity more than anything else, and the outcomes were roundly terrible.

On Tuesday, the Twins made their first big splash of this offseason, signing Torii Hunter to a one-year, $10.5 million deal. And while it's certainly a better move than any of those mentioned above, once again the team seems to be eschewing logic in favor of comfort, familiarity and vague intangibles.

Hunter was a fixture -- THE fixture, really -- in Minnesota's run of AL Central dominance from 2002 through 2006, when they won four division titles in five years. He has continued to produce at a consistently excellent level since leaving in '07. There's no denying that he's had a fantastic career and has taken pristine care of his body.

But the No. 1 imperative for the Twins this offseason, if they wanted to meaningfully improve in 2015, was to find ways to prevent more runs. A contact-heavy pitching staff with a league-worst defensive outfield was a recipe for disaster needing to be addressed.

In theory, signing a nine-time Gold Glover would appear to do just that, but Hunter is no longer the asset in the field that he once was. Far from it.

I don't put a ton of stock into defensive metrics but Hunter ranked as the worst right fielder in the majors this year by both DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), so it's probably safe to say he wasn't good.

Now, the Twins are evidently going to stick him in right field and move Oswaldo Arcia -- who was already a liability there due to lack of range and bad instincts -- to left, where his weaknesses are magnified by increased action and real estate.

The Twins aren't improving their outfield defense. Astonishingly, they are moving in the opposite direction.

Attached Image: hunter.jpg

In order for this signing to benefit them, Hunter would have to make up for that negative impact in other ways. I can't see him doing it offensively. This year he posted a .765 OPS with 17 homers and 33 doubles in 142 games, which is impressive for a 39-year-old but only slightly above average for an American League right fielder.

He has remained stunningly effective into his late 30s, but Hunter will turn 40 next July and is at an age where skills can deteriorate quickly. As you may recall, Jim Thome went from being an MVP-caliber hitter at 39 to out of the game at 41. Hunter will still probably bring a decent bat but it's a stretch to expect much more than that.

What it comes down to, then, is a word we'll probably hear tossed around a lot in discussion of this signing: mentorship. The Twins have a young club, and Hunter generally has a reputation for being a good guy who brings energy and positivity to the clubhouse.

I don't know how to weigh that. It's the same kind of stuff we heard from Ron Gardenhire last year in justification of Bartlett's inexplicably long leash, so I tend to downplay it. This notion that attitude is the difference between a 90-win team and a 60-win team is comically ludicrous.

The $10.5 million price tag is high, but that doesn't bother me -- quite to the contrary actually. They had to overpay on a one-year deal to lure their guy away from interested contenders, and for that I commend them.

I just feel like the Twins view Hunter as "their guy" for all the wrong reasons. Why do they need to sign a mentor/leader when they just assembled an entirely new coaching staff? Why add a 39-year-old in the twilight of his career when they're rebuilding? How does it aid Arcia's development to be playing out of position for one season before inevitably moving back to right and needing to re-adapt?

The Twins may still be stuck with the idea of Hunter as the player he used to be, but he's no longer a guy who hits 25 homers, steals 20 bases and tracks down everything in the outfield. He's an aging and declining version of what he was, much like the last round of reunion tour additions.

I can only hope things work out a whole lot better this time, but it certainly doesn't seem like the Twins learned much from that fiasco.

~~~

Want a more detailed breakdown of Hunter's defense? Head over to Twins Daily, where Parker delivers an in-depth look including various stats and videos.

Gleeman and the Geek, Ep 172: BSing with Stu

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: November 23, 2014 - 8:00 PM

Aaron and John welcome special guest Steve "Randball's Stu" Neuman for beers atSummit Brew Halland talk about filling out the Twins' coaching staff, having Torii Hunter feelings, Miguel Sano and 40-man roster additions, good charities and $100,000The Sportive podcast, and trying out for The Voice.

Don't forget, you can subscribe to GATG using iTunes or Stitcher. Or listen by clicking on "Play" below.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Episode_172_BSing_with_Stu.mp3

Also at Twins Daily this weekend, you'll find everything you would ever want to know about the Korean pitcher with whom the Twins are actively negotiating, Hyeon-Jong Yang. And also about the pitching coach that will be replacing Rick Anderson, Neil Allen. 

TwinsCentric: Twins feel top prospect Rosario close to being ready

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: November 21, 2014 - 10:54 AM

When Mike Radcliff returned from Arizona he was hopeful with what he had seen from Eddie Rosario.


Among the organization’s prospects playing for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League was the recently rehabilitated prospect. Rosario had served fifty games away from the club due to a failed marijuana test -- his second of such offenses. In the grand scheme, with the nation heading towards increasing tolerance and two major league cities allowing use of the recreational narcotic, it appeared less of a concern then the use of performance enhancing drugs to inflate their numbers. Nevertheless, rules were rules and Rosario had broken them. Twice.

The suspension could not have come at a worse point along his development timeline. Rosario was starting to gain attention as a hitter and, after a line drive that caught him in the face and required plates to be inserted in 2012, he already needed to play catch up. Beyond the lost time due to the injury, the Twins were trying to see if his path to the major could be accelerated by moving to second base. Another hurdle in his path. 

“Losing 50 games, that’s a huge setback,” general manager Terry Ryan told the Minneapolis Star Tribune at the time of his suspension. “That’s a lot of development time, a lot of learning that he’ll miss. It sets back his progression going up to the big leagues.”

When he returned in 2015, based on his offensive numbers and reports from scouts, his time away from the game appeared to stunt his development. Shifted back to the outfield because of the emergence of Brian Dozier at second, Rosario struggled to square the ball as frequently as he did in the past. He finished the season with the worst line of his career, turning in a .243/.286/.387 mark between High-A and Double-A. While with the New Britain Rock Cats in June, a Baseball Prospectus’ scout reported he was a “[b]at first player” and believed that he was “not likely to stick as long-term regular” after watching him for two games. They also questioned his hustle. In July another member of the Baseball Prospectus’ team, Jason Parks, concluded that “[w]ith his bat control and bat speed, he could really develop into a good hitter if he works the gaps and takes advantage of his strengths instead playing into his weaknesses. He’s a tweener for me right now, more a hit tool/speed type than a complete player.”

Recognizing the need to get one of their more advanced prospects additional at-bats, Rosario was sent to the Arizona Fall League. In the desert -- while wearing the obsolete Twins pinstripe uniform and facing the game’s top prospect talent -- he started to hit again. The same type that earned him the reputation as one of the best hitters for average.

Perhaps it was clicking at the right time or just a burst of small-sample size magic but the Twins’ Vice President of Player Personnel says there may be due to finally reengaging with the game.


*** CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE AT TWINS DAILY ***

TwinsCentric: The case for pitcher Brett Anderson

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: November 19, 2014 - 9:38 AM
I feel like I've written this article before. Maybe that's because I have.

A year ago, Brett Anderson looked like a good target for the Twins to pursue. This time around, because of his circumstances -- and the team's -- he seems like an even more logical fit.

Will Terry Ryan feel the same way? And if so, what will it cost to bring in the left-hander?

Last offseason, Anderson was a known trade candidate, with just one guaranteed season remaining on his contract and Oakland's rotation flush with young talent. Given his age, his previous success and his depressed value coming off a bad season, he had the makings of a great buy-low candidate with big upside.

Ultimately, it was another pitching-needy team that chose to take the gamble on Anderson, as the Rockies shipped out a couple of prospects in December to bring him aboard.

That move didn't really pan out for Colorado. Once again, the oft-injured hurler could not stay healthy. He made only eight starts, finishing with 43 1/3 total innings. A fractured finger cost him most of the first half, and a bulging disc in his back that required surgery cost him most of the second.

It was the fifth straight year in which health issues prevented Anderson from being able to get in anywhere close to a full season's work. He hasn't completed even 45 innings in any of the past three years.

The overwhelming durability concerns caused the Rockies to opt out of his 2015 option, making him a free agent, and he might have trouble finding a guaranteed contract. Now is the perfect time for a savvy GM to strike, and the Twins are in a better position than perhaps any other club to do so.

Obviously, Minnesota needs pitching help about as badly as anyone. But they also have considerable depth in the rotation, with Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Trevor May, Alex Meyer, Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey and others all potentially in the mix. It might not be great quality of depth, but you can argue that all those guys deserve a chance.

The Twins can afford to gamble on an injury risk like Anderson because if he gets hurt once again, they have viable options to fall back on. It's also an attractive situation for the player. Whereas a contending team would want to have strong contingency plans in place -- and thus, a higher barrier of entry -- the lefty should have no trouble locking up a spot in this rotation as long as he's healthy and effective in spring training. From a pure talent perspective, he would be arguably the best starter on the roster.

Beyond the mutually beneficial circumstances in place, there are three key reasons I believe Anderson makes a ton of sense for Ryan and the Twins.

He's still really young. Hughes was 27 when the Twins signed him last year -- uncommonly young for a free agent. Anderson doesn't turn 27 until February, so he's still right in the midst of his physical prime. And the silver lining in all the injuries and setbacks is that his arm is still pretty fresh. It's rare to find a starting pitcher who's been in the majors for six years and has thrown fewer than 500 innings.

He doesn't have chronic arm injuries. He has already undergone Tommy John surgery and hasn't had any elbow issues since. The first injury that cost him several months this year was a broken finger suffered when he got hit by a pitch while batting -- total freak incident and not a long-term concern. The bulging disc that ended his season is more worrisome, as he battled low back soreness late in 2013 as well, but his August surgery hopefully resolved the problem. He should be 100 percent in March. As far as rehab projects go, Anderson's a much safer bet than someone like Josh Johnson or Chad Billingsley, both of whom are coming back from arm operations.

He's still got it. Although his 2014 campaign did nothing to reverse his rep for being fragile, Anderson did show something while on the mound. In an admittedly small sample size, the lefty posted a 2.91 ERA and 2.99 FIP, and did so while making half his starts at Coors Field. He looked very much like the guy who had emerged as one of the best young pitchers in the game years earlier.

Anderson is the rare example of a young pitcher who could be signed to a low-money, low-years deal while offering the real potential to be a No. 2 or No. 3 type in the rotation. Those opportunities don't come along very often and the Twins should be looking to pounce on this one if they can.

His history of health problems is daunting, but one of these years Anderson is going to stay on the field and when he does I suspect that the team that employs him will benefit greatly. No club could use that boost more than the Twins.

~~~

Once you're done here, head over to Twins Daily, where today Parker takes an in-depth look at another realistic free agent starter in Justin Masterson.

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