I have to admit, I’ve been wanting to do a Q&A for a long time, but being the newbie to the staff that I am, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to handle it. When one of the writers over at Twinkie Town sent us a request for a Q&A, I was all too happy to accept on behalf of the OTM staff.
Today, our Q&A is with myjah. Let’s be excellent and welcome her, because she just might be watching!
I want to thank myjah for her time, because I certainly had a lot of questions to ask her, and she was excellent in answering all of them for us.
1. What story about the Twins might we not be aware of, over in Red Sox land?
Did you hear the one about how reliever Ryan O'Rourke vomits in the bullpen before every pitching appearance? I was really excited to look into the bullpen at Target Field and see this in person, but then O'Rourke tore his UCL and had to undergo Tommy John Surgery.
(Editor’s Note - That is extraordinarily gross.)
2. How much longer will the Twins remain in first place in the Central? Will they actually compete for a playoff spot or is this all just early season weirdness? (Editor’s Note - This question was asked prior to the standings changing)
Well, the Twins lost yesterday so now they're actually in third place, but that shows you how tight things are in the division right now. The top four teams are all within one game of each other, and then there are the poor Royals who appear to be this year's version of the 103-loss 2016 Twins. So as of now, all four of those teams are competing for a playoff spot.
Will all four of those teams make it to the playoffs? I'm going to venture out on a limb here and say PROBABLY not (Editor’s Note - I’m also going to venture out on a limb and say she’s being quite sarcastic here guys. It would be impossible for all four teams to make the playoffs), but I do think the Twins could stay in the mix. This year's team was actually a pretty big question mark in terms of what to expect, since most of the roster is made up of young, developing talent. Much of the Twins' fortunes have been dependent on how fast or slow they those whipper snappers are at figuring things out.
3. What's been behind Miguel Sano's surge this season?
Basically just being Miguel Sano with a little more experience. Since he was one of the top prospects in all of baseball, people have been hearing about him for awhile, but he's still only 23 years old.
There are, of course, particular things that I think are helping him now. First of all, he's not playing in the damn outfield like he was for some reason last year. That was basically the Fyre Fest of attempted position changes. He spent so much time focusing on trying to do that I think it threw him off his game. He also lost 15 pounds over the off-season and stopped drinking.
Plus, he's walking a ton. He has the fifth most walks in baseball right now.
4. Is Ervin Santana really this good or just on a hot streak?
I think Ervin Santana has always been a pretty solid pitcher, but I'm not quite sure why he's looking like Cy Young this year. I have to admit that MLB-leading 0.66 ERA and MLB-leading 0.71 WHIP make me pretty dang giddy as a Twins fan right now even though I know it won't last. (Editor’s Note - It’s worth noting that Santana does have a 4.12 xFIP, and is limiting the HR ball like never before in his career).
So yeah, it's a bit of a hot streak, but it's not like he's normally a bad pitcher or anything. I think he's also been benefiting from the improved pitch framing skills of our new catcher Jason Castro, and I know for a fact he's benefiting from the vastly improved outfield defense. Last year the Twins were trotting the likes of Miguel Sano, Oswaldo Arcia, and Danny Santana out there. Compare that to this year's starting outfield of Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario, and it's night and day. The Twins now have one of the best outfield defenses in the league.
5. Brandon Kitntzler has an ERA below 2.00 and a FIP above 4.00. Has he just been getting lucky or is there something he's doing differently this year?
I think he's just getting lucky.
6. Any hot names on the farm, that might we might not be aware of?
Not really. Most of the Twins' big prospects have reached the majors, so the farm system isn't all that exciting anymore. Jose Berrios is still down there absolutely dominating the Triple-A International League on the mound, but the Twins have said they want to be really patient with him this time around, so it doesn't appear a call-up is imminent. He made his major league debut last year and it didn't go very well...
ByungHo Park, the 1B/DH slugger from South Korea, is still in the minors as well. Park came over to the states last year and started off pretty hot, hitting a bunch of giant dingers, but he cooled off after about a month and was sent to the minors. Apparently he had some kind of wrist injury he was trying to play through and ended up getting season-ending surgery last August. In a sneaky move, the Twins removed him from the 40-man roster just before spring training and he passed through waivers unclaimed. He went on to be probably the Twins' best hitter in spring training, but didn't make the team, which shocked everyone. Apparently the front office wanted to be extra sure he was ready to compete in the majors before the re-add him to the 40-man roster. It doesn't appear he'll be re-added anytime soon, though, since he suffered a hamstring strain almost a month ago and hasn't been playing.
Other than that there aren't really any show stoppers down there who are near major league level. Some hard-throwing relievers like J.T. Chargios, Mason Melotakis, and Nick Burdi. Some catchers like Mitch Garver and former-Yankees John Ryan Murphy. Power-hitting outfielder Daniel Palka. Whatevs.
(Editor’s Note - The Twins have a lot of good prospects that everyone knows about, like Tyler Jay, Nick Gordon, Alex Kirilloff, Kohl Stewart, and Stephen Gonsalves, but one prospect that stands out to me in particular is LaMonte Wade, who is off to a fast start at AA. He’s not a power hitter, or even a speedy baserunner, but he seems to do all the little things really well, and could carve out a decent niche as one of those Ben Zobrist types - minus the 20 HR power - if everything breaks right. He’s super pesky to take out, 54 walks to 44 strikeouts last year, and that can be a hard to teach skill.)
7. What do you expect from the series?
To vanquish the souls of our enemies and Miguel Sano to hit dingers--though he might end up having to serve his one-game bullshit suspension for the whole fracas with the Tigers a couple weeks ago if he loses his approaching appeal hearing.
8. Are you all afraid of Chris Sale? It's ok to be honest here.
Not really. The Twins faced Sale a lot when he was with the White Sox and actually did pretty well against him. Brian Dozier has three career home runs off Sale, and Miguel Sano is for 6-for-10 with a dinger and a walk.
BONUS (I wasn't going to ask this since he apparently just got injured, but if you can, I'd appreciate this as well) - How much patience is there for Buxton to produce? Any reason for optimism?
Yeah--Byron Buxton's seemingly complete disregard for his body as he flings himself into walls and the ground is a little concerning. Paul Molitor removed him from the game as a precaution and he passed concussion tests, so I think he'll still play this weekend.
As for patience and optimism with Buxton, the Twins and most fans have a lot of it. Buxton's case is a lot like the case with Sano--he was such a big prospect that people have been hearing his name for a long time, but he really just turned 23 years old last December. He's still plenty young, and it's immediately obvious all of the tools are there. He just needs to figure things out more, and he will. A lot was made about his early season struggles at the plate--especially with the strikeouts, which he was racking up at an alarming rate--but he's already cut down on that a ton.
Also--and the Twins themselves have said this--Buxton's defense in center field has been so stellar there is no way they are going to send him back down to work on hitting. He's already worth a lot to the team just in the runs he can save out there.
Thanks again to myjah for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk baseball with us!