Who could the Minnesota Twins target for a HUGE move?

benjaminchase
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 17: Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey of the Minnesota Twins looks on as number one overall draft pick Royce Lewis signs his contract at a press conference on June 17, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 17: Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey of the Minnesota Twins looks on as number one overall draft pick Royce Lewis signs his contract at a press conference on June 17, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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BALTIMORE, MD – SEPTEMBER 24: Chris Archer
BALTIMORE, MD – SEPTEMBER 24: Chris Archer /

Chris Archer

It is possible that not a single player has had more trade rumor discussion about him in the last 3 years than Chris Archer has. Already on his third organization, Archer was originally a 5th round draft pick out of high school by the Cleveland Indians. He was traded in a deal for Mark DeRosa to the Cubs, who then flipped him 3 years latter in a big deal that netted the Cubs Matt Garza.

Typically one of the first things discussed about Archer is his contract. Archer is signed for two more guaranteed seasons with two more options after that, and if a team would pick up both options, he’d earn a little over $34M, which is a pretty solid price for a mid-rotation starter. Heck, in the free agent market, that’s what you’d pay for a back end starter.

However, the Twins aren’t looking for a back end starter or even a mid-rotation starter as they have those kinds of guys in house. They need a guy who can be elite and match up against another team’s ace in the postseason. Many believe that Archer is that type of guy.

It is easy to see why. Archer has struck out 29%, 27.4%, and 29.2% of hitters the last 3 seasons while having a walk rate in the 7% range all three seasons. He’s posted ERAs of 3.23, 4.02, and 4.07 the last three seasons, with a FIP of 2.90, 3.81, and 3.40, so many belive that he’s simply better than what his raw stats show.

However, this is simply not true. In listening to a number of podcasts recently, I honestly do not recall the one that mentioned it, but the comparison between Archer and Javier Vazquez is incredibly apt. Both were pitchers whose underlying numbers always indicated that their numbers should be better.

One of the things I think that you would notice if you took a look at Archer’s profile of batted ball. He doesn’t have any specific out of line numbers in ground balls, fly balls, or line drives, or even fly ball rate. However, what you see is that of all types of hits, Archer allows only 16.6% career soft contact. He has seen that number go down from his rookie year (the only season he was above 20% weak contact) down to 13.2% in 2017. He has seen his medium-strength hit rate stay fairly stable between 47-50%, but his hard hit rate has gone up every season since 2013 to 39.4% of balls hit in 2017. In total, he has allowed over 80% medium or hard hit balls in his career. For comparison, even other hard throwers don’t have similar rates. As a good comparison, Luis Severino has a similar pitch mix (with a higher velocity fastball, but still…), and his career rates are 21.2% soft contact and 50.6% medium strength. He had his breakout season this year due to his highest rate of medium strength contact, reducing his hard hit rate.

The other thing of Archer that is significantly concerning with Archer and his possibility of long-term success is his pitch selection rates. He’s not only seen his pitches go from a quality four-seam and two-seam mix of fastballs to almost exclusively four-seam fastballs (nearly none thrown in the last three seasons after throwing as much as 41% in seasons prior to that), but he’s also seen the amount he throws his slider go up drastically, from 26.9% in his rookie year to 44.4% in 2017. He’s also throwing that slider much harder, from an average of 83.8 in 2012 to 88.9 on average in 2017. Throwing harder sliders more frequently is not a good indication of future arm health.

Many have discussed how badly they want to get Archer, but for the price in prospects that he would cost and the worry that his performance and injury risk would not make him a valuable performer at all.

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