Minnesota Twins Series Preview: August 19 to 22

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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.

Injury Report

PlayerPositionInjuryStatusReturn
Byron BuxtonCFFractured hand10-day ILSeptember
Kyle GarlickOFSports hernia60-day ILSeptember
Alex KirilloffOFWrist surgery60-day IL2022
Edwar ColinaRHPElbow surgery60-day ILTBD
Randy DobnakRHPStrained finger60-day ILSeptember
Michael PinedaRHPStrained oblique10-day ILSeptember
Jorge AlcalaRHPTriceps Tendinitis10-day ILSeptember
Luke FarrellRHPStrained oblique10-day ILSeptember
Derek LawRHPShoulder Impingement10-day ILTBD
Taylor RogersLHPSprained finger10-day ILTBD
Devin SmeltzerLHPElbow inflammation60-day ILTBD
Cody StashakRHPBack discomfort60-day ILTBD
Lewis ThorpeLHPShoulder Strain10-day ILTBD

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.

Projected lineup

  1. Max Kepler, RF — .205/.301/.426, 97 wRC+
  2. Brent Rooker, LF — .202/.275/.412, 87 wRC+
  3. Jorge Polanco, 2B — .271/.333/.480, 121 wRC+
  4. Josh Donaldson, DH — .251/.355/.457, 121 wRC+
  5. Luis Arráez, 3B — .318/.385/.409, 121 wRC+
  6. Mitch Garver, C — .233/.338/.523, 134 wRC+
  7. Miguel Sanó, 1B — .216/.309/.450, 106 wRC+
  8. Jake Cave, CF — .178/.260/.271, 49 wRC+
  9. Andrelton Simmons, SS — .214/.277/.274, 55 wRC+

Bench:

  • 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+

Pitching matchups

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.

Gant.

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.

Barnes.

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.

Maeda.

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.

Jax.

Bullpen Status

PitcherWed.Tues.Mon.Sun.
Alex Colomé311013
Tyler Duffey1427
Juan Minaya4019
Caleb Thielbar (L)91915
Danny Coulombe (L)7
Ralph Garza2313
Edgar García3521
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4 Comments

  1. MikeD

    Beware the “trap” series. The Yankees are coming off an emotional high sweeping the Red Sox and they know they’re staring down a potentially tough road trip.

    They first need to take care of business against the Twins. We all think it’s the Yankees birthright to win every Twins series. That’s the way it’s been seemingly forever, even when the Twins are good. This is not a good Twins team, but they are playing well at the moment. As Paul O’Neill has said, I’d rather play a good team playing poorly than a bad team playing well. The Twins have been playing well of late, they probably are relaxed felling they have nothing to lose, so the Yankees need to maintain their focus.

    I agree with Eddard (gasp!). Need 3/4, and frankly, I want a sweep. The Yankees are playing well, but they can’t easily escape the sins of the first half. They have a much tougher schedule than the Red Sox upcoming, starting with the trip through Atlanta then Oakland and Anaheim. They often don’t do as well as they should on these West Coast swings. Oakland in particular has been a difficult place for them in recent years, and the A’s know they have to play the Yankees competitively if they want to make the postseason. You know the Rays, Red Sox and Blue Jays are hoping Oakland and this upcoming road trip slows the Yankees down. Even the Angels should not be taken for granted. This upcoming stretch is critical. They all are at this stage. I do, however, have faith in this version of the reconstituted 2021 Yankees.

  2. Anthony Rizzeddardo

    It’s a must win at least 3/4 series, Derek. Historically the Yankees have always beat up on the Twins regardless of how good either club is and this should be no different. Rays play the White Sox so it’s a good chance to gain some ground. We’ve got our four best starters going in the series and the lineup is almost at full strength. Score 40 runs in the series and give the pen a much needed rest. Braves and A’s after this so better beat up on these bad clubs while we can.

    • DZB

      Indeed, three of four is a must, and a sweep could help finally make up some ground on the Rays (who somehow are always at least five games ahead, regardless of how many games the Yankees win). Those four pitchers should keep us in the game against that offense, and the offense has finally heated up.

      • Anthony Rizzeddardo

        If the Rays were paying anyone other than the Orioles the past few days we woulda gained a game or two. Orioles are just absolutely worthless.

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