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Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes

TwinsCentric: Twins Daily award for Best Rookie

At Twins Daily, we have been handing out our postseason awards for various categories. On Tuesday Seth wrote about our choice for Most Improved Twins Player, and today we turn our attention to an impressive rookie class. Make sure to check in on Thursday and Friday for Best Pitcher and MVP.



Across baseball, 2015 was The Year of the Rookie. A majority of the game's highest rated prospects debuted this season, and in most cases they made that transition with notable success.
The Twins were a microcosm of this trend, graduating several of the best young players in their system and receiving numerous highly impactful rookie performances.
But while there were a few different names deserving of consideration, the choice here was pretty easy.
Voting Results
1. Miguel Sano: 24 points
2. Eddie Rosario: 13.5 points
3. Tyler Duffey: 6 points
4. Trevor May: 4.5 points
There were eight voters and points were awarded on a three-point scale, meaning that Sano received first-place votes from every participant (Seth Stohs, Cody Christie, Jeremy Nygaard, Steve Lein, Eric Pleiss, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman and myself).
I mean, what choice did we really have? Sano's season was not only head-and-shoulders above the rest of this year's class, it was also one of the best rookie campaigns in franchise history. Playing in 80 games following his early-July promotion from Double-A, Sano hit .269/.385/.530 with 18 home runs and 52 RBI. He became an intimidating force at the cleanup spot and completely changed the complexion of the Twins lineup during the second half of the season.
Among Twins players to make 300 or more plate appearances as a rookie, Sano's .916 OPS ties him with Tony Oliva (1964) for best all-time, beating Bobby Kielty (.890 in 2002) and Justin Morneau (.875 in 2004). He has the most home runs, walks and RBI for any Twin through 80 games. 
In his first taste of the majors, Sano struck out at an exorbitant rate of 35.5 percent; the leader among qualified MLB hitters was Baltimore's Chris Davis at 31 percent. However, the young Dominican slugger made up for the whiffs by drawing tons of walks and batting .468 with a .925 slugging percentage in at-bats where he didn't strike out. The huge numbers on balls in play were driven by an AL-leading hard-hit percentage of 43.2 percent. Only Miami's Giancarlo Stanton had a higher rate, at 49.7 percent.
Sano's ability to absolute smash the baseball every time he made contact was certainly impressive, but what might have been most encouraging was the consistent quality of his at-bats as a 22-year-old getting his initial exposure to the big leagues. He ran the count full in 28 percent of his plate appearances and batted .240/.581/.700 when he did so. 
That mature and advanced plate approach set Sano apart from the No. 2 finisher on this list, Eddie Rosario, whose advantages over Sano included providing substantial defensive value where Sano provided none, and playing in about three-quarters of the team's games where Sano played only half.
Rosario was a solid hitter in his own right, piling up 46 extra-base hits in 474 plate appearances, including a league-leading 15 triples. His plate discipline issues proved problematic, leading to an ugly 118-to-15 K/BB ratio and .289 on-base percentage, and ultimately his .748 OPS was only a shade above the MLB average for a left fielder (.736).

TwinsCentric: Ervin Santana's impressive turnaround

If the Minnesota Twins somehow miraculously find themselves in the postseason, they will have Ervin Santana’s month of September as a big reason for that.

Yes, it is crazy considering that by the end of August the fan base was ready to declare Santana’s signing a huge mistake. Over his first nine starts of the year, Santana owned a 5.53 ERA -- the sixth highest in baseball in that span. He had allowed 11 home runs -- tied for second-most in that time -- and he managed to strike out just 14% of batters he faced. In an instant, that all changed. Over the past 30 days Santana has the second lowest ERA (1.47) falling just behind the Cubs' Jake Arrieta (0.37), who has been pitching out of his mind this season.

In a matter of a few weeks, Santana has gone from a pariah to a savior. How did that happen?
In late August, following a stretch of starts in which Santana allowed 25 runs over 24.2 innings and a sad 11-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Minnesota Twins pitching coach Neil Allen identified Santana’s compromised release point as the source for his struggles. He used some unorthodox drills in order to help Santana rediscover his natural release point. On his recent media tour including an in-game chat with Fox Sports North’s Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven, Santana has been crediting that session as the reason for his turnaround late in the year. Over his 11 seasons at the major league level, Santana told the audience that he had never attempted any sort of drills like the one Allen put him through in Tampa.

Allen's choice of drills -- specifically the shortstop-ground ball drill -- appeared designed to help a problem with Santana’s struggles while pitching from the stretch. Prior to the session, Santana struggled mightily when throwing with runners on base, allowing seven home runs with runners on base. Essentially, he made every bad situation worse. However, after that session, Santana has limited the hard hit contact and has missed more bats.

Attached Image: Santana_Stretch.png

While there is little evidence of Santana’s vertical release point (height) changing much, PitchF/X data shows one major change he has made to his approach -- his horizontal release point is drastically different. Turns out, Santana has shifted from the third base side of the rubber to the first base side of the slab.

Attached Image: Snatana Rubber.png

While the narrative surrounding Santana has been focused on the bullpen session where Neil Allen taught him all the secrets of throwing good, the fact that Santana has made a tangible change in his approach has been wholly ignored or overlooked by the local media and hired baseball pundits. Meanwhile,’s Alec Dopp astutely picked up on Santana’s mound changes and posted about them on September 15, showing visual stills of his new release and their implications. By’s database, as Dopp showed, Santana began throwing from the first base side of the rubber for his August 19 start in New York -- or about a week before his magical bullpen session with Allen.

Does repositioning on the mound really give a pitcher that much of an advantage?

Even adjusting a few inches on the pitching rubber can supply an entirely new angle for a the same old pitch -- it adds an element of deception, says Washington Nationals’ starter Doug Fister.

“Whether it’s my height, where I stand on the rubber, the sinker I throw, whatever it may be. Trying to deceive a hitter is what I’m trying to do, keep him off-balance,” Fister told the Washington Times. “So, if moving over a little bit can help just a fraction of an inch, then hey, I’m going to try to take as much benefit out of it as I can.”

Since repositioning towards the first base side of the rubber, Santana has seen an increase in swings-and-misses out of his slider, particularly on pitches located in the strike zone. His chase rate grew from 34% to 39%. His swinging strike rate on the pitch went from 17% to 22%. Opponents’ well-hit average went from .167 to .046. Perhaps the minor adjustment has added another element of difficulty to the pitch.

Attached Image: output_wzmhdv.gif

Then there is just a comfort level that moving a few steps over can provide to a pitcher. In Milwaukee, Brewers’ top prospect Taylor Jungmann cited his move from the first base side to the third base side in AA Nashville as one of the reasons he has had success in 2015.

“I can’t explain it but I started throwing more strikes. My mechanics were a little more fluid. I didn’t change a whole lot; I just moved to the other side of the rubber,” Jungmann told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It felt natural. It made it a little easier to be consistent with my (pitching) motion. The biggest thing was getting my breaking ball back.”

Of course, it doesn’t always work for everybody. Back in 2012, then-Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta explained to the media his logic as to why he went back to the first base side of the rubber after a tryst with the third base side. Going back to the first base side "[m]ade the pitches more effective because I could command them better. And the comfort level was much greater, much better. You need to find a delivery that you can repeat on every pitch.” Fast forward to 2015 and Arrieta is now one of the game’s best pitchers and uses the extreme third base side of the rubber to do all of his hurling.

The Nationals’ pitching coach Steve McCatty downplayed the effects of that type of adjustment saying “Can it have a major impact where you say, ‘Oh my God, we landed on the Moon?’ Some guys it does. But most of the time, it’s not a big deal.”

Did the shift have some game-changing effect on Santana’s pitching or was it Allen’s tutelage that helped revive his season? The answer is likely both. Santana’s shift may provide him with a more deceptive angle and comfort on the mound while Allen’s drills helped correct his release point and helped him to not fall off towards first as much. Either way, there is no denying how markedly different Santana has been since the end of August.

Naturally, the biggest disappointment is that if Santana somehow leads the team to the postseason because of his PED usage, he would be unable to participate in any games. Still, no matter how the remainder of the season plays out, Santana has rebounded nicely in this season and has given the Twins front office some reassurance that he can be a key component in next year’s rotation.

More at

Why has Byron Buxton been struggling with the Twins?

The Royals come to town for the final series. Are you going to be there?

John Bonnes files his Twins awards ballot.

Final, 10/4 R H E
Kansas City 95-67 6 10 1
Minnesota 83-79 1 7 0

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