Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Sunday Funnies

Wilbur Mizell was a left-handed pitcher known in the late 50s and early 60s for his fastball, his lack of control of that fastball, and his nickname of "Vinegar Bend," for a Mississippi hamlet near which he grew up.

Mizell on life in Vinegar Bend:

"Probably the worst thing that happened was the fire. It started in the bathroom. Fortunately, we were able to put it out before it reached the house."

Friday, January 18, 2019

Where they stand: Left field

Presumed regular: Eddie Rosario

Others on 40: Jake Cave, Zack Granite, LaMonte Wade, Michael Hall

Notable nonroster: None

This may be the spot at which the Twins can have the most confidence in what they're going to get. Rosario isn't as good as the "Minnie and Paul" promo ad last summer claimed ("one of the best outfielders in the league," I believe it called him), but he's certainly a productive, useful player.

What Rosario needs to be a real star, the kind of hitter you can build a productive lineup around, is better strike zone judgment. He took a big step forward in that department two seasons ago, but plateaued last season. As long as he's drawing 33 walks and fanning 105 times a year, his on-base percentages will never be particularly good.

Turn another 15 outs into walks or hits, now you have a guy who can belong at the top of the order. Find another five extra-base hits a year, now you have a guy who can belong in the middle of the lineup. Right now, Rosario's just a bit shy both ways. Almost there, not quite.

Maybe I'm picking nits. He is, as it stands, a quality supporting piece. And that's what I expected him to be when he was coming through the minors. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano were supposed to be the stars. Rosario is probably the best all-round position player on this roster. It's OK to want a bit more from him; his shortcomings are not why this team failed in 2018.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Where they stand: Center field

Presumed regular: Bryon Buxton

Others on 40: Jake Cave, Michael Reed, Zack Granite

Notable nonroster: None who figure for 2019

As with Miguel Sano, the Twins are counting on Buxton to get them where they want to be. Unlike Sano, they have some reasonable alternatives on the 40-man roster if he fails again.

Cave, who got a little more than 300 plate appearances last season and hit 13 homers, may seem the obvious Plan B. He wouldn't be for me. Two primary reasons:

  • I believe that Max Kepler, Granite, (probably) Reed and (possibly) Eddie Rosario are superior defensive center fielders to Cave;
  • Cave's walk-to-strikeout rate is horrendous, and I believe the Twins have already crossed the line on hitters with limited command of the strike zone.

My ideal Plan B is probably impractical in the era of 13-man pitching staffs, and that's a platoon of Granite and Hall. That duo would be made up of two guys with leadoff-hitter skills -- which is not to say that their skill are necessarily pitched high enough. But the Twins don't have an obvious leadoff hitter, so that would fill a lineup need.

Obviously, the ideal Plan B is not to need Plan B. If Buxton is the player we saw in the second half of 2017, the Twins don't need a Plan B, and they will have, if not a prototype leadoff man, someone who works in that lineup slot.

Buxton is Plan A. And I expect the Twins to be patient with Plan A.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A trade, a trade, a minor trade

Ozoria is an 18-year-old infielder from the Dominican listed at 5-9, 135 pounds. That sounds more like a Kentucky Derby jockey than a professional shortstop. As befits the vast majority of 18-year-old infielders, Ozoria hasn't gotten out of Rookie ball. He didn't exactly tear the Arizona League apart last year, either, exhibiting all the power you'd expect of a 135-pounder.

He's a lottery ticket. But at least the Twins got something in exchange for Curtiss other than the waiver price. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Hello, Parker; goodbye (presumably) Curtiss

Left out of that tweet was that to make room on the 40-man roster the Twins designated John Curtiss for assignment.

Both are right-handed relievers. Parker has a pretty good major league resume, mostly composed over the past two seasons. Curtiss does not. On the other hand, Parker turns 34 in June, and Curtiss turns 26 about a week after opening day.

This may be my fascination with bright shiny objects at play again, but I see enough red flags in Parker's record, and enough promise in Curtiss' stuff, that I'm not convinced this is an upgrade for the Twins. Just as with the DFA earlier of Aaron Slegers -- he was claimed by the Pirates -- I see other arms on the 40 that I would prefer to part with. I expect Curtiss to be claimed.

And as with Slegers, many of those arms are attached to bodies acquired by the current front office. Curtiss was part of the wave of college relievers drafted by the second Ryan administration. Few of those have panned out, and those relievers are being purged from the system in what has become a fairly steady flow.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Where they stand: Third base

Presumed regular: Miguel Sano

Others on 40: Ehire Adrianza, Ronald Torreyes

Notable nonroster: None

The Twins are all in on Sano at third base this year.

In 2018 and 2017, they had Eduardo Escobar as Plan B, and El De La Pica was a pretty good Plan B. It is quite possible that Escobar is a better player than Sano. In 2016 and 2015, they had Trevor Plouffe as Plan A at third base, which was part of the failed attempt to make Sano an outfielder. And overlapping with those two was Eduardo Nunez.

When Sano went down with injuries, there was always somebody to plug in at third base.

There is no obvious Plan B at third base now. Escobar is with the Diamondbacks. Plouffe is 32 and scrounging for a spring training invite after just 12 major-league at-bats in 2018. And the Twins have Adrianza and Torreyes, shortstops with no power, at the top of their infield reserve ladder.

The Twins say they have been monitoring Sano's offseason more diligently this year, that he is checking in at their Dominican complex regularly. New manager Rocco Baldelli went to the island a couple weeks ago to visit Sano, and a photo of the two on social media suggests that Sano is trimmer than we've seen him in the past.

All that is well and good, but we've see three full seasons since Sano was called up in midseason 2015, and the big man has yet to stay off the disabled list. This year, more than ever, the Twins need that to change.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Sunday Funnies

Yogi Berra was, as we know, a great player who was almost as famous for his malaprops as for his baseball exploits.

His son Dale also played in the majors. Dale Berra wasn't as accomplished a player as his father (few are), nor was he as witty. But he had his moments.

The younger Berra, comparing himself to his Hall-of-Fame father:

"Our similiarities are different."