MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins were a surprise team in 2015, winning 83 games en route to their first winning season since 2010. But not everything went right for Minnesota, as several veterans and youngsters had down years. In Part I of our Spring Training preview series, we take a look at Twins players on the rebound in '16, led by Joe Mauer, who was healthy in '15, but is looking to bounce back offensively.
1B Mauer: The Twins believe Mauer can be better offensively than he's shown the last two years after sustaining a concussion at the end of the '13 season. Mauer played in a career-high 158 games last season, but he hit .265/.338/.380 with 10 homers and 66 RBIs. It marked the first time in Mauer's career that he had an OPS below the league average. If Mauer can stay healthy and increase his production offensively, it would be a major boost for the Twins. He's under contract through 2018 and the Twins are crowded at the corner infield spots and designated hitter.
MINNEAPOLIS -- It would've been easy to understand if Twins reliever J.R. Graham's teammates didn't recognize him at TwinsFest last weekend.
Graham showed up to the event having lost roughly 30-40 pounds this offseason, as he went from weighing 210 last season to about 170-175. Graham didn't change his workout routine, but simply adjusted his diet because he didn't like the way he felt physically in his first year in the Majors as a Rule 5 Draft pick with the Twins.
MINNEAPOLIS -- John Ryan Murphy woke up from a midday nap after an early morning hunting session with his friend in Virginia on Nov. 11 and noticed he had a voicemail on his cellphone.
It was Yankees general manager Brian Cashman telling Murphy to give him a call back. Murphy wasn't sure what to think, but once he got Cashman on the phone, he was informed that he had been traded to Minnesota for center fielder Aaron Hicks. Twins general manager Terry Ryan was the next to call to welcome Murphy to the organization.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins will have seven Minor Leaguers participating in the upcoming World Baseball Classic qualifying round, including five players on Team Australia and two on South Africa's roster.
Infielder James Beresford, an International League All-Star with Triple-A Rochester last year who is a non-roster invitee to Spring Training this year, is joined by fellow infielder Logan Wade, outfielder Aaron Whitefield and right-handers Sam Gibbons and Todd Van Steensel on Team Australia. Van Steensel and Wade played for Class A Advanced Fort Myers, Gibbons played at Class A Cedar Rapids and Whitefield participated in the Gulf Coast League last year.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Veteran outfielder Carlos Quentin is coming out of retirement and signing a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training with the Twins, the team announced Tuesday.
Quentin didn't play last year and announced his retirement last May after a nine-year career that included two All-Star appearances. But Quentin, 33, decided to give it another shot with the Twins, who have been looking for a fourth outfielder this offseason.
Ever since Byron Buxton started tearing up the low Class A Midwest League and emerging as baseball's best prospect in 2013, the Twins center fielder has been drawing comparisons to Mike Trout.
Trout had done the same three seasons earlier, earning parallels to Mickey Mantle. Veteran scouts said Trout had the best combination of tools they had seen in years. Now they're saying that Buxton has the best combo since Trout.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Get to know the Twins' new faces with Two Truths and a Lie
By Ben Cosman |
When a rookie debuts for your favorite team, it's a bit like getting a new classmate. The school has a certain dynamic established -- everyone knows the teacher's pet and the class clown and you already have your group of friends -- but man, the new kid in school seems so cool. And eventually, everyone forgets he transferred in from that weirdo school across town and it's like he's been with you since kindergarten.
The 2016 Twins are about to have a lot of new kids in school.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite reports to the contrary, the Twins never shopped third baseman Trevor Plouffe at any point this offseason, as they believe he's still a big part of the club's future despite the signing of Byung Ho Park and the emergence of Miguel Sano.
After the Twins won the bidding for Park, who will be the club's designated hitter, in early November with a $12.85 million posting fee, they contacted Plouffe to assure him he wasn't going anywhere and that Sano would make the move to the outfield. So while Plouffe saw some reports that he could be traded, he knew from what he had heard from the front office and manager Paul Molitor that it wasn't going to be the case.
Vargas hoping to capitalize on trip to Caribbean Series
Slugger hopes winter ball in Puerto Rico helps him earn more time with Twins
By Jesse Sanchez
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Kennys Vargas stood near the steps in the visiting dugout at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal hours before the first pitch against Venezuela, folded his arms and stared across the diamond.
Vargas signed a few autographs for Team Puerto Rico fans and chatted up reporters in town to cover the 2016 Caribbean Series.
MINNEAPOLIS -- When Byung Ho Park walked into TwinsFest for the first time Friday, he was greeted by a team of Twins employees who learned a few Korean phrases such as "Hello" and "Thank you."
It helped Park feel a bit more at home despite the fact he's more than 6,000 miles away from his native Seoul, South Korea. Park, who joined the Twins on a four-year deal worth $12 million after the club won the bid for him with a posting fee of $12.85 million, spent this week in Minnesota trying to acclimate himself with the culture and meet his teammates at TwinsFest.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Hall of Famer Rod Carew gave an emotional interview on stage at TwinsFest in front of hundreds of Twins fans Saturday morning, encouraging people to have their hearts checked after he suffered a major heart attack Sept. 20.
Carew traveled from his home in Southern California to help announce a major initiative with the Twins, who created a yearlong partnership with the American Heart Association called "The Heart of 29" campaign to raise funds and awareness. Carew, who has to wear a left ventricular assist device until he undergoes a heart transplant, said the first thing he told his wife, Rhonda, after his heart attack was that he felt it was his mission to help raise awareness so the same thing wouldn't happen to others. It's similar to his work as an advocate for leukemia patients, as his daughter, Michelle, died from the disease at age 18 in 1996.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Much has been made about Miguel Sano's impending move to right field after the Twins decided to hold onto third baseman Trevor Plouffe and sign Byung Ho Park to be a designated hitter this offseason, but the young slugger doesn't see it as a big deal.
Sano, a natural third baseman who served mostly as Minnesota's designated hitter last year after being called up on July 2, joked that he'd even catch if it meant being in the lineup every day.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton fell from the No. 1 overall prospect to the No. 2 prospect, but the Twins placed six players on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, as announced Friday night on MLB Network.
Buxton, who made his Major League debut last year but still has rookie status going into 2016, was replaced by Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager as the game's top prospect. But the center fielder headlines a crop of impressive prospects from the Twins' organization, including right-hander Jose Berrios, (No. 19), outfielder Max Kepler (No. 44), left-hander Tyler Jay (No. 60), shortstop Nick Gordon (No. 91) and infielder Jorge Polanco (No. 97).
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins are adding two members to their Hall of Fame, as outfielder Torii Hunter and broadcaster John Gordon both were elected, the club announced at their annual media luncheon before TwinsFest on Friday.
A year after no one was elected to the Twins Hall of Fame, the club waived its two-year wait period to make Hunter eligible, and he was voted in by a landslide. He received the highest percentage of votes since Jim Kaat was elected in 2001.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Miguel Sano was the big winner at the 11th annual Diamond Awards on Thursday at Target Field, as the young slugger took home both the Calvin R. Griffith Award for Twins MVP and the Bill Boni Award for Twins Most Outstanding Rookie.
It was another successful night for the Diamond Awards, which are based on voting by the Twin Cities chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The event benefits research, education and care in brain, nerve and muscle disorders at the University of Minnesota.
MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
For the third (and likely the last) time, this Top 10 -- the final by-position ranking unveiled prior to the Top 100 Prospects list -- is headed by the Twins' Byron Buxton. He may not have taken the world by storm during his big league debut, but neither did Mike Trout. And, let's face it, Buxton's tools across the board are unparalleled.
MINNEAPOLIS -- With the annual Diamond Awards at Target Field on Thursday and TwinsFest starting on Friday, it's a sure sign that Spring Training is right around the corner.
The two-week Twins Caravan comes to a close on Thursday as well, and I was able to tag along with Byron Buxton, Casey Fien, Paul Molitor and Dick Bremer last week throughout Minnesota. Twins general manager Terry Ryan joined the caravan last Thursday and gave the latest on where his club stands in free agency this late in the offseason. And with that in mind, it brings us to the first question in this week's Twins Inbox.
Phil Hughes used this particular nickname in reply to Rodriguez's own tweet of himself working out in the pool. Because he is not above teasing his former teammates on Twitter, especially not when it involves calling a 40-year-old man bae.
MINNEAPOLIS -- While his Twins Winter Caravan teammate Byron Buxton took a straightforward route to the Majors as a former No. 2 overall Draft pick, Casey Fien's road to becoming a solid big league reliever was a bit more unconventional.
It saw him pitch at three different colleges before being drafted by the Tigers in the 20th round of the 2006 Draft. He ended up pitching in the Majors briefly in 2009 with Detroit before a wild Spring Training in '10 that saw him claimed by both the Red Sox and Blue Jays before ultimately going back to the Tigers.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins avoided arbitration with reliever Kevin Jepsen on Friday, as they signed him to a one-year deal worth $5,312,500.
Jepsen filed at $5.4 million and the Twins filed at $5.05 million on Jan. 15, so Jepsen receives a higher amount than the midpoint. The 31-year-old right-hander excelled for the Twins after being traded from the Rays on July 31, posting a 1.61 ERA with 10 saves in 29 appearances.
If club gets big years out of Sano, Park and Buxton, Minnesota could contend in tough division
By Mike Bauman
The Minnesota Twins were a pleasant surprise last season. Nobody should be surprised if they become even better in 2016.
The Twins, a popular pick for fifth place in 2015 preseason predictions, made a 13-game improvement over '14 and finished second in the American League Central. They remained in contention for an AL Wild Card berth until the final days of the season.