Any effort to get Terry Ryan, the former Twins general manager, to talk about the fact that most of the players who contributed to this surprising season were picked by him or his staff, including another former Twins GM in Bill Smith, has been unsuccessful.
However Twins President Dave St. Peter recently spoke about how Ryan and his staff helped develop most of the team’s core.
“I think that there certainly was a vision here, and I have to give credit to Terry Ryan and his group for really helping to rebuild our farm system in the early part of this decade and we’re starting to see what we hoped would happen last year happen this year,” St, Peter said. “[Chief Baseball Officer] Derek [Falvey] and [GM] Thad [Lavine] have worked to add to it over time and in the Sanos and the Buxtons and the Keplers and the Berrios of the world we think have a chance to do something special here in Minnesota.”
Paul Molitor, who should have been given a new contract as manager a long time ago, has kept the team in the battle for the wild card even though there have been a number of injuries, most notably to All-Star third baseman Miguel Sano. And the team has managed to rebound following the trade of their closer Brandon Kintzler to Washington.
Going into Thursday’s series opener with Toronto, ESPN had the Twins’ playoff chances at 60.4 percent. It is an incredible mark for a squad that lost 103 games last season, was left for dead at the trade deadline and has been missing its cleanup hitter for nearly a month.
In an interview with Falvey, during the final month of his first regular season with the Twins, he was asked how about his performance this season.
“I let other people judge that, but hopefully we’re making progress in a lot of different spaces,” Falvey said. “I’m really happy with the draft and what we were able to do on the scouting side. Certainly internally in our offices, we’ve added some people that we think will make a difference for us moving forward.
“We’ve integrated a little bit more with what we’re doing in the clubhouse and interacting there, so I’m happy with where we are today, but we have a lot of work left.”
One thing that Falvey said might not have seemed to make a lot of sense at first but does now is how cautious the Twins were in free agency heading into this season.
“We had a lot of young talent that we wanted to build around,” he said. “We certainly didn’t want to get in the way of those guys developing — whether it’s Byron Buxton or Max Kepler or Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, all of these guys who we think are going to be part of what we want to build here.
“That was our focus this offseason, was growing the group internally.”
Falvey did acknowledge that the pitching staff has to be improved.
“Certainly a focus for us,” he said. “We said this past offseason we wanted to take that step forward with a lot of those young players that you’re talking about and then we’ll assess every free-agent market independently.”
It’s hard to think of a better scenario for an incoming baseball operations leader than having both a successful regular season, and landing a No. 1 overall pick such as Royce Lewis. The shortstop hit .271 with three homers, two triples, six doubles, 17 RBI, 38 runs and 15 stolen bases in 36 games with the Gulf Coast League Twins. He was then promoted to Class A Cedar Rapids where he hit .296 with a home run, a triple, two doubles, 10 RBI, 16 runs and three stolen bases in 18 games.
Minor league depth
The Twins have had so many call-ups from Class AAA Rochester this year, they have used the most pitchers in team history. But when Falvey talks about the minor leagues, he really likes what he saw in Class AA and A.
“That’s some of the levels where we’ve had the most exciting baseball,” he said. “Guys like Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, Nick Gordon all have a chance to impact us in the future. They are maybe a little bit further away.
“Then you add to that our draft class, guys like Royce Lewis, Brent Rooker, Landon Leach, [Blayne] Enlow, those guys have all gotten off to a great start in their careers.”
And when you add that young talent to the fact that the Twins have few free agents, it makes for a promising future.
“The vast majority of our group here is under control going forward,” Falvey said.
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. firstname.lastname@example.org