Twins-White Sox Series Notes

Twins at White Sox
Setting: U.S. Cellular Field
Season Series: White Sox Lead 1-0

Game Two Matchup: RHP Felipe Paulino (NR) v. RHP Kevin Correia (NR) – 1:10 CT

Paulino Scouting Report: The Twins have seen Paulino before on three separate occasions (1-1, 4.60 ERA, 17 K/3 BB in 14.2 IP), as the 30-year-old right-hander previously toiled for the Royals in 2011 and 2012. In fact, Paulino’s last big league appearance came against the Twins, as he exited after just two-thirds of an inning back on June 6, 2012 with a strained right groin. Paulino then tore his UCL while rehabbing his groin, which required Tommy John surgery. If that wasn’t enough, Paulino missed all of 2013 with shoulder surgery to remove a cyst, as well as rotator cuff and labrum cleanup. When healthy, Paulino can throw some real heat. His average fastball in his career is 95.2 mph. For some context, last year’s MLB leaders in fastball velocity among ‘qualified’ pitchers were Matt Harvey of the Mets (95.4 mph) and Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals (95.2). His velocity, repertoire, and workload will both be monitored closely as the season wears on. In the past, Paulino has featured a very good slider (86.1 mph career average thrown 25.5 percent of the time), as well as a changeup (86.4 mph, 8.3 percent) and a curveball (77.8 mph, 7.5 percent).

Game Three Matchup: Jose Quintana (NR) v. Phil Hughes (NR) – 1:10 CT

Quintana Scouting Report: The White Sox inked Quintana to a five-year deal late in spring training, which is a huge coup for a player who had pitched just 48.2 innings above High-A — and at one point was left off the Yankees 40-man roster altogether — prior to making his big league debut with the Sox in 2012. The 25-year-old left-hander quietly threw 200 innings last year, and his 3.7 fWAR tied him for 24th among all big league starters (tied with Homer Bailey, Madison Bumgarner, Patrick Corbin, and ahead of Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Minor). Quintana does it with a low-90s fastball that’s almost exclusively of the four-seam variety. He supplements it with a high-80s cutter, high-70s curve, and a mid-80s changeup. Quintana’s best pitch last year was his four-seamer, which resulted in a batting line of .237/.295/.360 (.291 wOBA). In fact the only pitch he got hit hard with last year was his changeup (.299/.377/.522 | .389 wOBA), which he only threw 10.4 percent of the time. Quintana’s best swing-and-miss pitch is his curveball, which generated a whiff 11.3 percent of the time last year. Overall, Quintana has shown a healthy penchant for grounders (44.5 percent career rate) and strikeouts (6.6 per 9, 7.4 in 2013), and that sort of combination is the holy grail for pitchers. He may not have ace type projection, but he could be a thorn in the Twins side for years to come.

Best White Sox Player You Haven’t Heard of: Marcus Semien, Infielder
Lowdown: Most people have already heard of masher Jose Dariel Abreu, and the answer here could probably be a couple other players — including Paulino if healthy — but Semien gets the nod for right now. The Twins telecast referred to him as a backup second baseman on Monday, but that’s not totally fair to Semien either. He may well beat out Gordon Beckham for regular playing time at second, and is versatile enough around the infield to see time at short and third too.

Baseball Prospectus rated him as the sixth-best prospect in a weak White Sox system over the winter, saying that while he lacks top-end projection, he “will provide a valuable service for a major league team, and given the skill set, has a chance to stick around for a long time.” Patience is wearing thin with Beckham on the South Side, and Semien could force him out sooner rather than later. Beckham is currently on the disabled list (strained left oblique).

Weather (courtesy of BleacherWeather.com): 60% chance of precipitation, 42 high/35 low Wednesday afternoon | 60% chance of precipitation, 40 high/38 low Thursday afternoon.

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Audio from Podcast Recorded with Notch

Hi friends, long time no post here at BW.com. I have some fun ideas about how I’m going to utilize this space in the near future, but for now, I’m just going to say that there are a lot of fun things in the works in my life, and I’ll be updating you all on them as soon as I can.

But the chief point of today’s post is to bring you the audio from a podcast I joined yesterday called “Notch’s Sports Spectacular” which featured me as a guest with my good pal W.B. Nottger.

This link will take you straight to the audio, which is nearly 30 solid minutes in which the worst thing I say is “Aaron Hicks was never close to the prospect Byron Buxton is.”

Please listen, enjoy, and feel free to comment. Thanks!

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My Life Story

As a budding journalist I was taught the inverted pyramid; that is, structuring a story so that the most important events are first in a piece, with secondary, less important information coming in descending order.

In some ways, my life follows that concept.

And before I get started, a disclaimer: These are the events as have been pieced together in my 27-year-old mind. I cannot attest to their 100 percent accuracy, but that they’re retold with the best my memory has to offer via second-hand information and my life experiences.

It doesn’t happen much anymore to my knowledge, but I was the child of a coerced marriage. That is, my parents got pregnant with me and were pressured into getting married.

It didn’t work; it rarely does. Continue reading

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The Matt Garza Files

A handful of days ago, 1500ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reported that the Twins and right-hander Matt Garza’s representatives met at the GM meetings in Orlando in the last week.

Essentially, Garza has ‘done his homework on the Twins’ and is open to a reunion with the club who drafted him 25th overall in the 2005 MLB draft. Garza spent parts of two seasons with the Twins at the major league level, throwing on 133 innings before being traded in the Delmon Young deal in November 2007.

The Garza File

2014 Opening Day Age: 30
2013 Team: Chicago Cubs/Texas Rangers (7/22/13 trade)
2013 Stats: 10-6, 3.82/3.88/3.73 (ERA/FIP/xFIP), 8.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 1.24 WHIP.
2013 Salary: $10.25 million
Qualifying Offer: No (ineligible). No draft pick compensation tied to Garza.
2014 Projection (STEAMER): Steamer doesn’t really have a projection for Garza, oddly.
Repertoire: If memory serves right, the Twins and Garza clashed over his fastball usage patterns, which have tumbled since he left Tampa. However, those tendencies were embraced in Tampa to begin with, as the right-hander routinely threw some type of fastball 70% of the time before moving onto the National League. This past season, Garza’s primary offering of choice was a four-seamer that averaged 93.2 mph (44.7% in 2013). Had Garza thrown enough innings to qualify (he was six-and-two-thirds short), that velocity would have ranked 14th, between Max Scherzer and Justin Masterson.

Garza’s next delivery of choice is an 84.8 mph slider (24.4%). That ties with John Lackey and Rick Porcello at 19th-fastest. Next, Garza turns to a 92.6 mph two-seamer (18.9%), which is tied with Darvish as another top-20 offering speed-wise (13th). Finally, Garza will flash a curve (74.9, 8.3%) and a changeup (85.2, 3.2%). The average velocity on the changeup is the same as Clayton Kershaw (21st), and the curve was quite a ways further down the list. In terms of offspeed pitches and velocity, it’s unlikely that speed plays too much of a role anyway.
Links: Here Jeff Sullivan breaks down what adding Garza meant to the Rangers, as a non-elite but hard-throwing starter. Here, Carson Cistulli happened. Here, Cistulli and FanGraphs readers projected what a Garza contract would look like (roughly 4/$60, it appears).
Analysis: By the looks of Garza’s heat maps, it appears the right-hander is at his best when he works up and away with his fastball. Granted, he’s relied on his heat a bit less in recent seasons. Garza throws his slider much more frequently to right-handed hitters, targeting the outside corner — ideally, low — which has resulted in a 19.9% swinging strike rate and .185/.224/.300 triple-slash on the offering. His curve also gets pretty good strikeout rates (30.1% on 8.2% swinging strikes), but he has trouble locating it (strikes on just 53.6% of the curves he’s thrown in his career). Garza’s fastball is what I’d consider ‘hittable’, as he’s got an incredible sample size on it. He’s 11 heaters shy of 10,000 for his career, and hitters have hit a combined .269/.338/.425 on it with a strikeout rate of 12.7% and a whiff rate of 6.3%. Without league averages readily accessible — that I know of — that’s probably a better than average fastball output. The weighted pitch values at Fangraphs — for whatever they’re worth — seem to agree.

I have to say this much, I’m less sold on Garza now than when I prepared to dive into his numbers. The big fastball is nice, but won’t last forever. I’m not sure he’s evolved into a pitcher rather than a thrower.
Expected Financial Committment: There’s little reason to believe Garza won’t command around $15 million per year on the free agent market, if not more. That’ll likely come in excess of four years.

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The Ricky Nolasco Files

National baseball scribe Ken Rosenthal reported early Friday morning that the Twins were making a strong push for free agent right-hander Ricky Nolasco.

Like just about every free agent starter, Nolasco has his fair share of intrigue and warts. Here’s a peek at what he has to offer:

The Nolasco File

2014 Opening Day Age: 31
2013 Team: Miami Marlins/Los Angeles Dodgers (trade 7/6/13)
2013 Stats: 13-11, 3.70/3.34/3.58 (ERA/FIP/xFIP), 7.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.21 WHIP.
2013 Salary: $11.5 million
Qualifying Offer: No (ineligible). No draft pick compensation tied to Nolasco.
2014 Projection (STEAMER): 12-12, 4.01/3.70/null, 6.6 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 1.25 WHIP.
Repertoire: In recent years, Nolasco has relied more and more on his slider. In fact, in the past two years, he’s thrown more sliders than any other pitch. In 2013, his slider averaged 82.1 mph (27.6% usage). The rest of his repertoire is as follows, with 2013 velocity averages: 90.4 mph four-seamer (24.2%), 90.3 mph two-seamer (17.9%), 74.5 mph curveball (16.8%), 80.9 mph changeup (6.3%), 80.1 mph splitter (6.2%).
Links: Here Mike Petriello breaks down Nolasco’s ‘career year’. Jeff Sullivan breaks Nolasco down here as only Sullivan can.
Analysis: Nolasco is a thickly-built righty who works off the first base side. That’s an adjustment he’s made in the last year or so, to the benefit of his strikeout rate versus left-handed hitters. Nolasco lacks ideal velocity, and his fastball absolutely gets peppered when he’s forced to throw it (.338/.408/.487 in ’13 | .304/.352/.509 career). But that’s something he’s keenly aware of, as he upped his slider usage in the last season.

Nolasco threw 878 sliders last year; that’s more than 100 more than he threw of his next most frequent pitch, the four-seam fastball. The numbers on the slider are eye-popping: 35.2% strikeout percentage, .195/.220/.307 collective line (.232 wOBA), and 18.8% swinging strike rate. The only other two pitches that Nolasco throws with that type of swing-and-miss potential are his splitter (19.9%) and his changeup (18.9%), but those are two of his least frequent pitches.

Nolasco is a good pitcher. Is he a pitcher you’d give $50-60 million to in an extension? Maybe; you’d know his medicals and tendencies to know whether or not he’s worth it. Is he a pitcher good enough to offer that kind of deal as a free agent? I personally think so, especially when you consider the Twins need and how the free agent market on the whole works. At his age, and with his skillset and durability (180-plus innings in five of last six years), this would be a good gamble for the Twins.
Expected Financial Committment: Upwards of $12-15 million per year for a likely minimum of four years.

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The Bronson Arroyo Files

Late Tuesday night, St. Paul Pioneer Press Twins beat writer Mike Berardino reported that talks between the club and free agent right-hander Bronson Arroyo were ‘heating up.’

Arroyo’s trademarks are durability and control, both of which would clear endear him to the Twins’ way of thinking. But don’t take that entirely the wrong way; there’s a decently good chance that Arroyo would be a pretty solid upgrade on the likes of Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey.

The Arroyo File

Opening Day Age: 37.
2013 Team: Cincinnati Reds
2013 Stats: 14-12, 3.79-4.49-3.97 (ERA/FIP/xFIP), 5.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 1.15 WHIP.
2013 Salary: $16.4 million
Repertoire: PITCHf/x suggests Arroyo leans heavily on an 87.4-mph sinker (40.8%), with a slider (25.4%), change (17.6%)  and curve (12.4%) all figuring prominently in his 2013 pitch mix. By Arroyo’s reckoning, PITCHf/x will sometimes have issues with classifications on some of his pitches, however.
Links: Here, legendary Fangraphs Q&A guy David Laurila talks shop with the righty. This is where Arroyo attempts to reconcile some of the differences he has with PITCHf/x classifications. And here, the Fangraphs community projects contracts for the top free agents, including Arroyo.
Analysis: Arroyo is a crafty lefty who just happens to throw right handed. He has a multitude of arm angles, and comes at hitters with a leg kick that at times is nearly 45 degrees from his torso (for a crude diagram |/ ). From those angles come fastballs that either cut, or sink, and can start the game at 80 miles per hour — sometimes showing up as a changeup via PITCHf/x — but never more than 90. He’ll also bring breaking balls on different planes, and he seems to have an outstanding feel for what he brings to the table.

In a lot of ways, this will look to fans as the Twins bringing in another retread, but make no mistake: Even at his age, Arroyo can help this team. Furthermore, Arroyo has an outstanding rapport with Ryan Hanigan, his battery-mate in Cincy who is arbitration-eligible for the final time this offseason. He could be on the Twins’ radar if the Arroyo deal is finalized. Offensively, Hanigan is the catcher version of Jamey Carroll. Defensively, he’s considered one of the best, and he and Arroyo had Arroyo’s entire repertoire down to a one or two sign from behind the plate. That’s remarkable.

Finally, here’s a look at Arroyo’s heat maps. Overall, Arroyo seems to work away to left-handed hitters, and middle-in to away on righties. That makes sense with his lack of ideal velocity. This dynamic rings true with his curveball, sinker, and his slider — three of his bread and butter pitches.

As with pretty much all free agent signings, the money will go a long way in dictating what kind of move this would be for the Twins. At two years, and something less than $10 million per, it’s a move that can be at least construed as defensible. North of $10 million, and it becomes much harder to look upon favorably, pending this winter’s pitching market and how it shakes out.

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Predicting the Top-50 Free Agents: 11-50

I had grandiose plans of posting each of these ten at a time for all of last week. And well, sometimes the best laid plans…..nonetheless, here are the remainder of my top-50 picks for the MLBTradeRumors contest.

You can still get your own picks in between now and midnight, too.

Note: I have changed my Brian McCann pick from Texas to Boston, with the Geovany Soto signing.

Anyhow, here are my remaining picks, with brief reasoning:

Nos. 11-20

Nos. 21-30

Nos. 31-40

Nos. 41-50

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