Royals series preview: Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins finished 2016 with the worst record in baseball. The performance of their potential young studs was largely underwhelming. Outside of Brian Dozier and Ervin Santana, there were no Twins worth more than 1.7 fWAR.

After spending the offseason unsuccessfully attempting to ship Brian Dozier off to a bidder that never bid high enough, the Twins come into the 2017 season looking virtually the same as they did in 2016. The key differences are the addition of Jason Castro via free agency, along with the return of Phil Hughes and a full season from deadline acquisition Hector Santiago. Santiago was obtained in a deal that sent Ricky Nolasco to Anaheim, and the Twins’ other deadline deal sent the flexible Eduardo Nunez to San Francisco for their new fifth starter Adalberto Mejia. Gone, too, are Trevor Plouffe and Kurt Suzuki, who signed elsewhere as free agents.

These will be the pitching matchups in the three games this opening series, which will nfl throwback jerseys take place at the following times:

Monday, 3:10 PM CDT / Tuesday, off / Wednesday, 12:10 PM CDT / Thursday, 12:10 PM CDT

While the Royals don’t have a clear advantage in the Opening Day tilt matching Danny Duffy with Ervin Santana, they certainly would look to have an edge in Wednesday and Thursday’s games. Duffy comes off the best season of his career—one that garnered him a long-term extension—but it wasn’t all that dissimilar from Santana’s 2016 campaign, at least when looking at defense-independent pitching statistics (DIPS) like FIP, xFIP, and SIERA and either measurement of Wins Above Replacement (WAR).

Both Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel should enjoy a distinct advantage over their Twins counterparts. Hector Santiago was significantly worse after being traded to the Twins, surprising many by actually finding a way to be worse than he’d been in Anaheim last year. The 4.25 ERA and 5.04 FIP to which he subjected the denizens of Orange County turned into a positively abysmal 5.58 ERA and 5.82 FIP in his 61.1 miserable innings logged as a Twin. Kyle Gibson was just your typical underwhelming Twins starting pitcher, getting by (arguably) on mediocre stuff while pitching to contact. Of modest relief to Twins fans, Gibson has actually fared fairly wholeale jerseys black friday well against the Royals historically, owning a 3.58 ERA and 5-4 record against Royals since 2013. That success was not present in 2016, however, as the Royals hit him early and often the three times they saw him last season never scoring fewer than four runs against him.

Position Players
The Twins will commence the 2017 season with two new faces behind the dish. First up, their most significant addition of the offseason, Jason Castro. Known for his skills behind the plate, the former Astro has enjoyed an up-and-down major-league career but seems to have settled into the 1.0-1.5 fWAR player, as his defense carries an underwhelming cheap hockey jerseys but not entirely unpalatable (for a catcher) offensive profile. Also in the mix is former Cleveland backup catcher, Chris Gimenez, who beat out the American League Horror Story John Ryan Murphy for the job as a non-roster invitee.

First Base
So the Twins have this guy to whom they’re paying a boatload of money who goes by the name of Joe Mauer. His salary has made him a bit of a lightning rod as he’s moved waaaaaay down the defensive spectrum from catcher to first baseman. Over the past three seasons, Mauer’s production has dropped down to the general vicinity of being worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 WAR. ZiPS projects him to be worth 0.7 fWAR, while Steamer has him at an even (and mythical) 1.0 fWAR. With two years remaining on his mammoth contract, it’s hard to see where he’ll be worth the $23M he’ll be paid in each of the next two seasons. He’s probably a nice guy though.

Second Base
Brian Dozier is coming off a monster year in which he was worth 5.9 fWAR, thanks in large part to the ridiculous season he had against the Royals. Of his 42 dongs hung, 11 demoralizing dongs came off Royals pitchers. That he only slashed .284/.351/.806 against Kansas City could be seen to argue the existence of a merciful God were one to squint hard enough.

It looks as though prospect Jorge Polanco has finally ascended to the role of starting shortstop for the Minnesota Twins, unseating Eduardo Escobar (and sort of Danny Santana) to get the role. Sneaking into the top 100 prospect lists for both and Baseball America in advance of last season, Polanco was thought to be a sort of average-across-the-board prospect heading into last year (at least per John Sickels at Minor League Ball) with only power registering a tick below that. Hitting from both sides of the plate, Polanco hit pretty well at nearly every stop in the minors from 2012 onward. He could be a bit of a surprise, and both ZiPS and Steamer like him to be a pretty solid addition of 1.7 and 1.0 fWAR, respectively (though projections are obviously pretty volatile with players as inexperienced as Polanco is).

Third Base
The Twins’ thinly veiled attempts at trying to see if they had angels in their outfield last year blew up spectacularly in their face as the likes of Miguel Sano and Robbie Grossman were given chance after chance to flub innumerable plays while slotted in positions they really had little business manning. With Trevor Plouffe gone, third is once again Miguel Sano’s, getting his arm back on the field after being largely relegated to designated hitter duties as his misadventures in right dictated. It’s fair to say that Sano’s weaknesses in the outfield are not as likely to be problematic for him at third, and in limited time, he’s been a much better fit there than anywhere else on the field. Sano’s real gift is in his prodigious power. If he finally harnesses that tool in his Age-24 campaign, opposing teams starting with the Royals could be in for a rude awakening.

Perhaps the clearest testament to the Twins’ youth movement of the past few years, the trio of Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler will patrol the grass in Target Field this season. Buxton looked every bit the star-in-the-making that his presence atop multiple top prospect lists portended when he returned to the majors for his third stint last year, tearing through opponents like a chainsaw through hot butter over the last month of the season, clubbing nine dongs in 29 games fueling a .287/.357/.653 triple-slash. This might be the superstar everyone thought was there. Kepler and Rosario share a slightly less lustrous prospect sheen than the Twins center fielder, but each was also highly touted. Rosario’s undoing has been his complete lack of plate discipline, somehow managing to walk nearly seldomly as Salvador Perez. Kepler has struggled against lefties but performed fairly well in his 113-game 2016 campaign that saw the then-23-year-old German put up a 1.1 fWAR season. If hope springs at all in Minnesota, the water is bubbling up through the turf in the outfield.

Designated Hitter
Having grown tired of watching Robbie Grossman misplay fly balls against the Royals (this could have happened), Grossman beat out Byung-ho Park and Kennys Vargas for the designated hitter spot. Grossman actually hit quite well last season, managing a .363 wOBA and 127 wRC+ that when balanced against his atrocious defense allowed him to be worth 0.7 fWAR.

With a 13-man pitching staff featuring the fearsome bullpen of Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly, Taylor Rogers, Matt Belisle, Craig Breslow, Justin Haley, Michael Tonkin, and Tyler Duffey, the remaining position players on the Twins’ roster are Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar. Both are coming off particularly disappointing 2016 seasons. Santana was worth -0.7 fWAR, and Escobar was just a hair less bad at -0.6 fWAR. Escobar was actually more than a win above replacement value the year prior, but Santana has been worth -2.1 fWAR since 2015. With Kennys Vargas and Byung-ho Park having been assigned to AAA – Rochester, there isn’t likely to be much in the way of production being threatened from the bench.

Sue Nelson’s cool sports job: Minnesota Twins organist

Sue Nelson discovered baseball as a little girl in southern Minnesota when she would go to her grandpa and grandma’s farm.

“They were one of the only ones with a TV,” she says. “I would sit and watch baseball in the early days. My parents would say, ‘Oh, that’s so nice you want to go visit grandpa and grandma,’ and I really didn’t wholesale jerseys free shipping. I just wanted to go watch baseball.”

Nelson, 72, laughs as she tells the story, something she does often when discussing her lifetime love of baseball, hockey and music. She knows she’s fortunate to have combined those passions for decades.

She’s been the Minnesota Twins’ full-time organist since 1999 (even though she made her MLB debut in 1998, filling in for Ronnie Newman when he had arthritis) and has one of the best seats for every game at Target Field. She also played the organ for the Minnesota North Stars NHL team from 1981 through 1992, the outdoor and indoor versions of the Minnesota Strikers soccer team in the 1980s and at hundreds of high school hockey games in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area custom nfl jerseys.

She’s a fine classical pianist who made her living by performing and teaching, but when it comes to playing the organ for the Twins, she says she’s a fan first and a musician second. Her job isn’t to show off what she can do, but rather to help create a fun atmosphere and keep fans involved.

“What I do is cheerleading,” she says. “I’m not that much of a musician. I mean, I can play stuff, but I’m a cheerleader. That’s my specialty.”

Though she doesn’t play the organ for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, she works for the franchise in the winter as “the food and drink police,” keeping fans’ refreshments out of the team’s main store.

Nelson is a people person first. She leaves her home in Roseville, a Twin Cities suburb where she lives with her softball-playing husband, and arrives at the field about two hours before every game to visit with fans. She loves having fans around her as she plays and getting the chance to talk about the game and the importance of music with them.

Nelson shares her thoughts about wholesale jerseys her career as an organist for the Twins and others:

Setting the tone
I was a cheerleader for basketball in high school, and I always say that it’s up to you to try and get people to put their hands together. As the organist, I’m a cheerleader. I don’t always hit the right notes, but it’s always the rhythm, the rhythm. The rhythm is always absolute.

The opportunity
I worked in a music store. I played demo things and I taught music lessons and played piano bar. A guy came in one day in November of 1980, on a day I wasn’t there. He said, “I’m having a nervous breakdown and I need somebody to take my job.” So that job (with the North Stars) went up for audition. And the guy (at the store) called me and said, “Sue, Sue, there’s a really good job for you.” So I went and auditioned. There were some fabulous musicians, but of course they weren’t looking for a musician, really. They thought they were, and they hired a really good one. But he didn’t like hockey and he didn’t want to stop his song in the middle, and he didn’t want to watch the game. So I got a call the morning of March 18, 1981, and he said, “I know this is short notice, but do you want to play the game tonight?”

Twins complete Royals sweep to open season 3-0

For a third time in three games, the Twins exchanged high-fives at the mound at Target Field, celebrating a 5-3 victory Thursday and a perfect start to the season that few saw coming.

A team that lost 103 games a year ago opened 2017 with a three-game sweep, outscoring the Kansas City Royals 21-5 in the series, their first sweep nfl throwback jerseys of their American League Central rival since April 2014.

The Twins managed just two three-game sweeps all of last season.

“I don’t want to make too much out of it, but it beats the alternative as we know all too well from just a year ago,” manager Paul Molitor said. “To get a couple wins under our belt early, it’s got to make those players feel awfully good about what they’re doing.”

These Twins, who are off to the best start of any Twins squad in a decade, are mostly the same ones that opened last season 0-9.

And yet, the early results have been vastly different.

“We set out a mission in spring training to iron a lot of things out,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “Our talent matches up with anybody. It’s just about doing the little things right. And I think it’s paid off already. We’re moving guys over, being disciplined at the plate, drawing walks to create big innings, and our pitching has been unbelievable wholesale mlb jerseys. If we can keep all that together, I think we’ll be pretty good.”

The Twins drew seven more walks Thursday after compiling 16 the first two games.

But in their latest win, back-to-back-to-back hits from Miguel Sano, Jason Castro and Jorge Polanco broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh inning and drove in the go-ahead runs.

“We hung in there and found a way to withstand a comeback and find a way to score late,” Molitor said.

Thursday afternoon’s win in front of 16,078 wasn’t as crisp as the Twins’ first two victories. But they overcame a misplaced throw by Danny Santana that brought in a run in the fifth, and avoided disaster in the sixth inning when reliever Ryan Pressly got out of a bases-loaded jam.

Pressly was awarded the game ball for his work navigating the Twins out of trouble.

“Whenever you win, you want to play it up as much as you can,” starting pitcher Kyle Gibson said. “That’s what we’re doing here. A couple years ago it was dancing. This year we’re just trying to make sure we don’t take for granted any wins.”

In his first start of the season, Gibson cruised through four innings with four strikeouts, allowing only one hit. But trouble arose in the fifth, and Gibson cyber monday jerseys deals had little response.

Royals catcher Salvador Perez drove a 90-mph fastball into the upper deck in left field to lead off the fifth, and three batters later Paulo Orlando crossed the plate for Kansas City’s second run.

Gibson lasted only two batters in the sixth inning because the first, Mike Moustakas, deposited a change-up into the barren right-field bleachers, and the second, Lorenzo Cain, smacked a well-hit single.

That put a bitter end to Gibson’s debut, which began so promisingly after he didn’t allow a hit to the first 10 batters he faced. He was pulled after only 81 pitches, but Molitor insisted there was plenty to be pleased by.

“There were a lot of good things about how Kyle threw the ball,” Molitor said.

The Twins opened the scoring in the second behind RBIs from Polanco and Eddie Rosario, who drove in Sano and Castro. In the fifth, a Max Kepler double off the wall scored Dozier.

Brandon Kintzler earned his first save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning that closed the Twins’ first sweep since May 2016.

“We have high expectations,” Molitor said. “I don’t think we put limitations on what we can do. But I know with six months of baseball ahead, I’m not going to get too giddy. I’m sure pleased that we were able to come out and play well in the opening series.”