It’s October 1st, and the Minnesota Twins haven’t been playing meaningful baseball in two weeks. It’s hard to watch a team that got going well in May fall apart so dramatically, but the team isn’t done playing quite yet.
There are five games left in the season, but the team is doing a good job of already beginning to change the focus towards next year. Last month, I argued that the Twins needed to complete four goals as the season wound to an end:
- Make it clear that 2023 is Playoffs or Bust
- Clear out Players who won’t be around in 2023
- Make the Tough Decisions on the Lineup
- Call up Young Prospects who were ready.
In the past two weeks, they’ve done nearly everything they can to meet those four points. On the first point, the team has made clear that Rocco Baldelli and Derek Falvey will be back for 2023, which is the right call. They haven’t quite highlighted the importance of next season, but the Twins have the talent (or cash to acquire talent) to compete, so it’s good that the current group is back.
While they can’t make lineup decisions for next year, they have been able to address the the other two points. For the second point, I highlighted how pitchers like Jharel Cotton, Trevor Megill, Emilio Pagan, Aaron Sanchez, and Austin Davis needed to be pushed out.
Davis and Cotton are out of the organization, Sanchez is back off the 40-man roster, leaving Megill and Pagan as the only members of the group remaining. Similar to Gary Sanchez, Billy Hamilton, Sandy Leon, and Miguel Sano, there time will be up soon enough.
With most of the Twins’ lineup is on the injured list (Polanco, Kepler, Buxton, Larnach, Garlick, Kirilloff), the Twins’ front office has FINALLY made the excellent decision to turn the keys over to the young players to try and see what they have. It may have taken until the last possible second, but they’re moving their eyes towards the future.
The Minnesota Twins’ front office is doing a great job of keeping its eyes towards the future.
For starters, the Twins have given run to guys like Jermaine Palacios, Mark Contreras, and Caleb Hamilton, prospects who are looking to prove they have what it takes to play in the majors. They haven’t looked like they belong, but it’s good to know that for sure, as all three have flashed in the upper minors.
More importantly than that, they have committed to getting their young top prospects some opportunities. With so many important bats missing, the Twins called up their best MLB-ready bat in outfielder Matt Wallner.
In his first taste of MLB action, Wallner has posted a .256/.333/.465 slash line over 13 games, mashing two homers and looking like he should have been called up a long time ago. With Max Kepler’s continued regression, Wallner appears ready to open next season as the Opening Day right fielder, so it’s good to see him get nearly twenty games of pro experience before then.
On the pitching side, I had been begging to see the likes of Evan Sisk be called up and added to the pen, and while that didn’t occur, the Minnesota Twins have added several other MLB-ready pitching prospects.
The 2021 Minnesota Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year and Minnesota’s own Louie Varland made his MLB debut and has gotten several starts to begin his major league career. Top 30 prospect Ronny Henriquez brought his excellent stuff to the MLB level and has pitched well as a long reliever. Now, the Twins are adding another top young arm:
Simeon Woods Richardson has been the Twins’ best minor league pitcher in 2022, and has shredded Triple-A hitters. His strikeouts have dropped off compared to the past, but his control is significantly improved, so it’s extremely exciting to see the freshly 22 year old make his MLB debut.
Make no mistake: Louie Varland, Simeon Woods Richardson, and Ronny Henriquez shouldn’t start the 2023 season with the big league ball club. In the rotation, Kenta Maeda, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan make up a strong group. Josh Winder is a great long relief option, and when Chris Paddack returns, that adds another arm.
With that that being said though, the Twins saw first hand just how much damage injuries can do, so these three pitchers (along with hopefully a restored Jordan Balazovic) are key for the Twins depth. These MLB innings are very important for development.
Wallner should start the year in the MLB unless the Twins add a major corner outfielder or first baseman, but if they don’t, it’s good that Wallner had a cup of coffee to show his ability and get used to MLB pitching.
The 2021 Minnesota Twins season is littered with mistakes made by the team’s front office, but finally calling up their best young prospects isn’t one of them. As the season winds to a close, giving these players experience and giving fans something to watch is a good thing. One just wishes that they had done it sooner, rather than when things had already fallen apart.