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.
Aaron and John talk about Terry Ryan all but saying Ron Gardenhire will be back in 2015, broadcast live from the Touch Em All Pub Crawl with a variety of guests, and discuss what they want to see in September including Joe Mauer, Danny Santana, Aaron Hicks, Phil Hughes, Brian Dozier, Ricky Nolasco, Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer, Trevor May, and Josmil Pinto.You can listen by downloading us from iTunes,Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click the Play button below.
Over at Twins Daily, you can hear about the Twins Daily Pub Crawl, catch up on the minor leagues or help our members figure out what the Twins will do in left field next year.
And at Vikings Journal, Arif Hasan has the most complete recap of Saturday's Vikings game that you'll read anywhere and Bo talks about the the Viking that is en route to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It has been his ability to drive the ball with total disregard for human life that has made his plate appearances “must see” events, as far as “must see” events go this season anyway. At the same time, it has been his inability to make contact with the ball for the bulk of the season that has come at a heavy price to his overall numbers. While he has deposited a ball in the seats in every 20 at-bats, he’s whiffed in just under every three.
Arcia’s strength has been prevalent throughout his professional career. In the minors he displayed a more balanced approached at the plate with less of a leg-lift stride that allowed him to use all fields. Of course, Arcia has eschewed this style for his prefered all-or-nothing pull approach at the major league level that has paid off well as of late.
Take a look at his follow through earlier this season:
His front side opens far too much -- particularly on a pitch that was middle-in in the example above. This pitch was an off-speed that Arcia did not stay back on and flew open in a failed attempt to yank it on to Nicollet Mall. If he continued to do this, he would see a reduced coverage on the outer-half of the plate (which he did) and this is something that can been seen throughout his at bats early in the season.
As I pointed out in June, because Arcia drops his hands, he has already shown a weakness to fastballs up in the zone and the Twins were trying to fix that issue as well. By the end of July, he was hitting a paltry .219/.299/.383. Needless to say, here was a lot to work on for the talented young slugger and, if his August numbers have anything to say about it, he appears to have had turned a corner.
While Arcia’s focus may be on pulling the ball with ferocity, manager Ron Gardenhire has said that he would like the outfielder to temper his swing instead of trying to hit the ball “8,000 miles”. Though some may interpret that as an attempt to convert Arcia from a power hitter into a punch-and-judy slapper, the reality is the Twins were looking for him to stay in on the pitch in order to drive the ball. Since August 1, this message apparently has resonated with Arcia and he has remained closed instead of flying open:
This practice should be enable him to handle left-handed pitchers, who up to this point have been the bane of his existence.
The 23-year-old Arcia is making progress at the plate and it could spell more offense for the Twins in 2015.
Finding a non-temporary answer at the shortstop position has been a long-standing issue for the Minnesota Twins, dating back about a decade.
In late April, we looked ahead to the upcoming crop of free agent shortstops, suggesting that this might be the best (only) method for finding a palatable starter at the position in the remotely near future. However, since then, two players have emerged in a big way, to the point where we may now actually have a legitimate competition that doesn't amount to "which option is least terrible?"
Eduardo Escobar has been drawing the lion's share of time at short, and he has performed fairly well. His .273/.319/.393 hitting line is above-average for the position, and his 32 doubles tie him for the team lead. I have always been a believer that Escobar's upside healthily outweighed his past production, and wrote back in March about his momentum toward overtaking the inadequate SS incumbent Pedro Florimon.
Of course, the fact that Escobar has proven to be a superior option to Florimon isn't saying much, and while the 25-year-old has been solid both offensively and defensively this season, I think it's a stretch to argue that he should be counted on as the starter going forward. Escobar is a nice piece to have around, but I think he's best suited as a utility man and backup option at short.
It's Danny Santana that has made the strongest case to claim shortstop duties in 2015 and beyond, even if he hasn't been playing there a whole lot. Santana's initial success upon being called up in May was surprising, in light of his .692 OPS in Triple-A prior to that promotion and his .708 career OPS in the minors, but what's more surprising is that he never really cooled off. His OPS has been at or above .773 in every month, and so far in August he's hitting .319/.364/.458.
Santana's production with the Twins this year has been strong enough to be an asset at any position, and jibes with the idea that his relatively unimpressive numbers in the minors were shaded by rawness and youth. Still, even if his abilities to spray line drives and run like crazy should keep his offensive game afloat, I'm not ready to tab him as an .800-plus OPS guy. His bat is much more likely to play at shortstop in the big picture, and I'm confident he'll ultimately bring more to the table there than Escobar.
Of course, Santana is considered to be somewhat rough at shortstop, so it would help if he could play there and refine his defensive game. The Twins might view it the same way, as they gave him consecutive starts at short over the weekend -- his first infield exposure since June. Hopefully in September (or sooner), Aaron Hicks or someone else will take over center field and Santana can spend the final weeks solidifying his case to lock up the shortstop position, while Escobar moves around the diamond.
Assuming both players stay on track and Santana can flash some fielding chops in a more extended audition, the Twins will finish the season with a multiple legitimate internal options that have proven they have what it takes to play shortstop in the majors on a regular basis.
That's something we haven't been able to say for a long time, and it means that the club can finally go into this offseason without a clear need at that position.
Once you're done here, check out Twins Daily to get caught up on all the latest Twins news and minor-league developments. After that, make sure to visit Vikings Journal, TD's new partner covering the Minnesota Vikings from an independent and in-depth perspective. We know you'll love it.
The Twins made only one deal before the non-waiver deadline on July 31st, sending Sam Fuld to the A's for Tommy Milone in what might go down as one of Terry Ryan's niftier pickups, but they've been characteristically active on the trade market here in August. Over the weekend, they dealt Kevin Correia to the Dodgers, making room for Milone in the rotation. And on Monday, needing to free up a roster spot for the return of Joe Mauer, Ryan was able to send Josh Willingham to the Royals.
A couple fairly intriguing minor-league pitchers have come back in these swaps (as well as the Kendrys Morales deal), but the chief imperative there was always to open up playing time for younger guys. The deals also work out pretty well for the departing players, who head from the cellar-dwelling Twins to first-place contenders.
Neither Correia nor Willingham has ever made a postseason appearance despite a combined 23 years of experience in the majors. Both will have a good shot now.
The Twins might not be done. There are still a few relievers on the roster who could draw interest from competing teams and are likely in their final years here -- most notably Jared Burton and Brian Duensing. There are several bullpen arms in Rochester that deserve a look.
Additionally, as Mike Berardino pointed out on Tuesday, Ryan might try and find a suitor for Yohan Pino; his 1-5 record and 5.37 ERA won't wow anybody, but his solid peripherals -- in addition to his spectacular Triple-A numbers -- could stir up a bit of interest from a club needing a fifth starter or added rotation depth. The Twins have motivation to move Pino with Ricky Nolasco expected to return from his rehab stint soon.
The ongoing rebuild that has been taking place here in Minnesota has been a difficult one to endure, filled with fits and starts, injury setbacks and indecisiveness. But finally, you can really begin to feel some momentum building. The Twins might be headed toward another 90-loss finish, but pieces are beginning to fall into place.
May and Milone have arrived. Kennys Vargas is getting his feet wet while Danny Santana continues to build his case for a prominent 2015 role. Prospects are starting to be moved up more aggressively, with Byron Buxton's promotion to Double-A despite underwhelming numbers in Ft. Myers serving as the latest example.
It's hard to heap praise on a franchise that has shown little in the way of on-field progress, but the Twins have done a good job of clearing house, and will enter this offseason with relatively few holes to fill. They'll have plenty of money to address those that can't be filled by incoming youth.
"Wait until next year" might not be the most satisfying mantra to fall back on, but after a lot of treading water, it feels like we can at least feel confident in saying it now.
Aaron and John talk about Kevin Correia's long-awaited departure, Trevor May's shaky arrival, upside vs. known quantities, Joe Mauer's impending return, Francisco Liriano and Vance Worley thriving together, playing Danny Santana at shortstop, the good and bad of Twitter, penthouse plans, and car-buying 101. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click on the "play" button below.
Also, over at TwinsDaily.com, you'll find more on the Kevin Correia trade and a great story by AJ Petterson about Minnesota Town Ball.
In New Britain, Vargas displayed power from both sides of the plate but hit 11 of his 17 home runs from the left side with this swing:
When he joined the team in Chicago, his swing was changed slightly. Though the big hand-drop before the swing was still prevalent -- as was the large leg-kick -- he had closed his stance. Most noteworthy is that the White Sox pitching staff did not let him see very many fastballs. According to ESPN/trumedia, Vargas saw 47 pitches and just 14 of those were fastballs. The vast majority were changeups and an assortment of breaking pitches:
While the results were not bad for Vargas, his swings often produced bloops to the opposite field as the plethora of off-speed pitches disrupted his timing.
As the team returned from Chicago for a series at home against the Padres, Twins Daily reader Willihammer astutely pointed out that Vargas had altered his swing. Instead of the leg-kick and hand movement, he was keeping himself still and his weight back:
In at least the example above, Vargas kept his weight back effectively on the hanging breaking ball and was able to send that ball effortlessly into the stadium’s overhang. The Padres, for their part, sent more fastballs Vargas’s direction than the White Sox did.
For those older fans who remembers the Twins teams at the turn of the century, this all should sound familiar. In 2001, David Ortiz was struggling to stay healthy and the Twins had him go through a series of adjustments at the plate to improve his overall approach. This from The Sporting News of that year:
“This season, the club would like to see Ortiz take advantage of the power potential in his 6-4, 230-pound frame. He has made several adjustments, including lowering his hand position in his stance and shortening his leg kick.”
After Ortiz was released, he joined the Red Sox and continued to implement his big leg-kick swing and generated plenty of power and the ability to drive the ball to all fields, like the Twins had wanted him to do.
This is not an attempt to open up old wounds from the past or berate the organization for a decision that probably still haunts them to this day, but the comparison is uncanny.
To be sure, Vargas, a player who came straight from Double-A, is coming from a league whose pitching landscape is often filled with talented power arms but are still learning to locate their secondary pitches. Many analysts will tell you that if you succeed in Double-A, you should be able to succeed at the highest level. While that may be true in some cases, developing hitters miss out on the experience gained at Triple-A where pitchers do not have the same sexy velocity as their Double-A counterparts but are able to locate breaking balls and changeups. Players like Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks both have seen what can happen when pitchers can deploy secondary pitches with precision. What Vargas learned in his weekend in Chicago is that pitchers at this level can spot a change down and away with regularity.
Hitting is an evolution and Vargas’s tweak may just be a temporary adjustment until he feels more comfortable with the mix of pitches he is now facing rather than a long-term change to his swing. Either way, Vargas represents a reason to watch the Twins even as the team wallows at the bottom of the division yet again.
Over at TwinsDaily.com...
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