Not much has changed for the Twins since the Yankees last faced them in June. Minnesota never turned its season around and became sellers at the trade deadline, shipping off two of the club’s most prominent players in Nelson Cruz and José Berríos.
The Yankees took two of three from the Twins in June, but as you may remember, it very easily could have been a sweep. Aroldis Chapman had an epic meltdown and coughed up a a three run lead in four batters. Cruz delivered the walk-off blast. Those were still The Bad Times for this year’s Yankees. Fortunately, that ship has sailed and the Yankees should have no issue handling Minnesota this weekend.
Their story so far
The Twins are one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season. Fresh off back-to-back division titles, they entered this season as a favorite in the AL Central, only to be 54-67 now. How did it come to this? I’d be remiss not to share this Baseball Prospectus piece Patrick Dubuque wrote about what went wrong for the Twins this year. He did a great job breaking all of the team’s faults this season.
Offense hasn’t been the issue for the Twins. They have the fifth-best OPS+ in the majors. Byron Buxton’s been incredible when healthy, Cruz remained his same old self up until the trade to the Rays, and ten other guys have an OPS+ of 100 or better, minimum 90 plate appearances.
As you’d expect from a team 13 games under .500 in spite of a great offense, Minnesota’s pitching is dreadful. Its 86 ERA+ ranks fifth-worst. What, signing JA Happ and Matt Shoemaker wasn’t the best idea to bolster a pitching staff, you say? Couldn’t have seen that coming. To make matters worse, Kenta Maeda has faltered (although he’s been better of late). Berríos is now on the Blue Jays. You’re not gonna recognize a lot of arms this team throws at the Yankees this weekend, that’s for sure.
For what it’s worth, the Twins are 10-6 this month, albeit with a -3 run differential. They’ve won four straight series: at Houston, and then three series at home against the White Sox, Rays, and Cleveland. Three of ten wins have been walk-offs.
|Byron Buxton||CF||Fractured hand||10-day IL||September|
|Kyle Garlick||OF||Sports hernia||60-day IL||September|
|Alex Kirilloff||OF||Wrist surgery||60-day IL||2022|
|Edwar Colina||RHP||Elbow surgery||60-day IL||TBD|
|Randy Dobnak||RHP||Strained finger||60-day IL||September|
|Michael Pineda||RHP||Strained oblique||10-day IL||September|
|Jorge Alcala||RHP||Triceps Tendinitis||10-day IL||September|
|Luke Farrell||RHP||Strained oblique||10-day IL||September|
|Derek Law||RHP||Shoulder Impingement||10-day IL||TBD|
|Taylor Rogers||LHP||Sprained finger||10-day IL||TBD|
|Devin Smeltzer||LHP||Elbow inflammation||60-day IL||TBD|
|Cody Stashak||RHP||Back discomfort||60-day IL||TBD|
|Lewis Thorpe||LHP||Shoulder Strain||10-day IL||TBD|
Spotlight: Luis Arráez
Luis Arráez is a pain, and I say that in the kindest possible way. He hardly ever strikes out, works long counts, draws his fair share of walks, and hits for average. He’s more or less what the Yankees had hoped for from DJ LeMahieu this season, although Arráez has practically no power in his game.
This year, the 24 year-old left-handed hitting Arráez owns a .318/.385/.409 (121 wRC+) batting line with the league’s third-lowest strikeout rate (9.6 percent) and 10th-most pitches seen per plate appearance (4.21). These numbers follow a .331/.390/.429 (122 wRC+) in 2019 and 2020 combined, and yet, it feels like he’s flown under the radar. I guess that’s what happens on a Twins club that’s set power hitting records in recent seasons. He’s the polar opposite of what much of the rest of Minnesota’s lineup does, as Arráez has just six homers in 817 career plate appearances.
Arráez also offers some defensive versatility even though he grades out poorly per OAA. You’ll see him mostly at second and third base, but he has played plenty of left field in his young career as well.
It’s been pretty impressive for Arráez to get to this point. The Twins signed him for a mere $40,000 as an amateur free agent in 2013, indicative of his prospect status at the time. That followed into his professional career, as he never garnered much attention outside of Twins’ top-30 lists. Last but not least, it’s not like he’s physically gifted, either. His official listing of 5-foot-10, 175 pounds is probably quite generous. To become one of the game’s premiere leadoff hitters (though he’s now hitting in the heart of the order with Cruz gone) despite little prospect hype it’s a fantastic outcome.
- Max Kepler, RF — .205/.301/.426, 97 wRC+
- Brent Rooker, LF — .202/.275/.412, 87 wRC+
- Jorge Polanco, 2B — .271/.333/.480, 121 wRC+
- Josh Donaldson, DH — .251/.355/.457, 121 wRC+
- Luis Arráez, 3B — .318/.385/.409, 121 wRC+
- Mitch Garver, C — .233/.338/.523, 134 wRC+
- Miguel Sanó, 1B — .216/.309/.450, 106 wRC+
- Jake Cave, CF — .178/.260/.271, 49 wRC+
- Andrelton Simmons, SS — .214/.277/.274, 55 wRC+
- Ryan Jeffers, C — .216/.299/.449, 104 wRC+
- Willians Astudillo, UTIL — .263/.287/.419, 91 wRC+
- Nick Gordon, 2B/SS/CF — .255/.309/.333, 79 wRC+
- Rob Refsnyder, OF — .293/.366/.427, 120 wRC+
Tonight, 7:05pm eastern:
RHP John Gant (112 ERA+)
Gant, the return for JA Happ, will make his first start for the Twins tonight. He’s pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since the trade and has been solid, posting a 4.15 ERA and 2.37 FIP in 8.2 innings pitched.
RHP Jameson Taillon (110 ERA+)
Taillon is coming off his “worst” start in two months. He gave up three runs in five innings against the White Sox last weekend. Only Walker Buehler and Corbin Burnes have a lower ERA than Taillon since mid-June.
Tomorrow, 7:05pm eastern:
LHP Charlie Barnes (86 ERA+)
Who? Yeah, I haven’t heard of this guy either. He was the Twins’ fourth-round pick in 2017 and made his major league debut in July. Last time out, he allowed just one run in five frames against the Rays, the best performance of his young career.
LHP Nestor Cortes (169 ERA+)
Can Nasty Nestor keep it up? He’s been nothing short of a lifesaver for this rotation down the stretch. In his last start, the funky southpaw gave up just one run in six innings against the high-octane White Sox. He’ll keep his rotation spot as long as he keeps this up.
Saturday, 1:05pm eastern:
RHP Kenta Maeda (94 ERA+)
Maeda’s dropped his ERA from 5.56 at the end of June to 4.41 entering this start. He’s posted a much more Maeda-like 2.98 ERA and 3.08 FIP in his last eight games.
RHP Gerrit Cole (141 ERA+)
This will be Cole’s second start since returning from the COVID-IL. Back in June, Cole gave up two runs in six innings against the Twins and struck out nine.
Sunday, 1:05pm eastern:
RHP Griffin Jax (82 ERA+)
The club’s third-rounder in 2016 has pitched well since mid-July, posting a 2.73 ERA in his last five starts. He may be pitching over his head though, as his 4.96 FIP and 1.71 HR/9 points to trouble. He’s faced the Yankees twice in relief this year and allowed four runs in 4.1 innings.
LHP Jordan Montgomery (114 ERA+)
Monty hasn’t completed six innings since July 17th, so a little more length would be nice to end this series. He hasn’t pitched poorly by any stretch, though (1.77 ERA in the span). The lefty surrendered three runs in 5.2 innings against Minnesota back in June at Target Field.
|Caleb Thielbar (L)||9||19||15|
|Danny Coulombe (L)||7|