Dan Dobish

Baseball Daily Dose

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Daily Dose: Twin Killers

Thursday, September 28, 2017


The Major League Baseball regular season is a grind. It seems like forever ago that pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, we had the bunting on Opening Day and then the All-Star Game in Miami with the Home Run Derby featuring Aaron Judge looking like a man among boys. Many fantasy championships have already been decided, but those in rotisserie leagues are battling down to the bitter end. It's a lot of work to win a season-long championship, so if you're in the mix or already wearing the crown, congratulations.

 

One of the more surprising things to happen this season is the re-emergence of the Minnesota Twins. In 2016, the Twins were in the basement of the American League Central with 103 losses. They had an improbable run this season, blessing the good fans of the Twin Cities with a summer full of exciting baseball at Target Field. I was lucky enough to catch a game at Target last month, and for the first time in who knows how long, I decided to manually keep score of the game in the program. I did it partly to try and teach my two school-age boys the game of baseball and the many different numbers involved in the game, but also because there was something special about this Twins squad.

 

On that warm August evening it was Ervin Santana besting James Shields on the hill, but pitching hasn't exactly been the calling card of this team. Jorge Polanco belted a pair of solo home runs, Eduardo Escobar drove in a couple and Eddie Rosario already plated a run. The Twins might not have a who's who of baseball on their roster, but their collection of bats really works well together.

 

Brian Dozier is an impressive power-hitting middle infielder. He has managed at least 23 homers and 71 RBI in each of his past four seasons, including 75 homers and 189 RBI over the past two years. Dozier would be a household name if he played in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles or New York, but he is a hidden gem like Chuck Knoblauch was for many years in the Twin Cities. His partner in crime up the middle, Jorge Polanco, has driven in 74 runs while also swiping 13 bags through 130 games. He ranks seventh in the majors among shortstops in RBI, and his 30 doubles has him ranked in the top 10 at shortstop. This has been a breakout season for Polanco, and it looks like the Dominican is here to stay.

 

Escobar floundered in the mouth of August with a .202 average and just two homers, but he has been a major reason the Twins have rolled to a playoff spot. He has managed eight of his season's 20 home run in the month of September, slashing .257/.299/.584 in 101 at-bats. Only Toronto's Josh Donaldson and Cleveland's Jose Ramirez have more homers over the past 30 days than Escobar, among hot corner men. Between the players mentioned above, fan favorite and St. Paul native Joe Mauer, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Kennys Vargas, this is a lineup from top to bottom that can go toe-to-toe with any of the other teams in this season's playoff field. The biggest question is who will pitch the Twins to the promise land?

 

Editor’s Note: Win a FREE trip to the World Series plus cash prizes!

 

Best trade acquisition ever?

 

There have been a lot of rental player situations that haven't exactly worked out. And there have been many transactions which eventually came back to bite the contending team. The Arizona Diamondbacks' trade for J.D. Martinez will not be confused as one of them. He has piled up a ridiculous 29 home runs with 65 RBI in just 222 at-bats over 59 games with the D-Backs, slashing .306/.372/.761 with a 1.134 OPS. His giant 45-homer season overall comes at a great time for the slugger, as he'll be one of the most coveted free agents on the open market this winter.

 

The final chapter of Martinez's 2017 season hasn't even been written yet, but teams out of contention are already dreaming of plugging Martinez into the middle of their lineup for an instant injection. Last winter it was Edwin Encarnacion joining an already potent Cleveland Indians offense, keeping them on top. Now, Martinez is the guy who, along with Miami's Giancarlo Stanton, is at the top of everyone's wish list. In fact, since the All-Star break, Martinez and Stanton lead the majors with 31 homers each. He has posted 105 home runs and 274 RBI over the past three seasons, so look for Martinez to fetch in excess of $20 million per season.

 

Freshman Phenoms

 

The sun is setting on some amazing rookie performances. Obviously Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger have been rolling up giant numbers and grabbing the headlines, while Boston's Andrew Benintendi has also lived up to immense expectations. But how about the seasons of Pittsburgh's Josh Bell, Baltimore's Trey Mancini and Houston's Yuli Gurriel? Those guys haven't gotten nearly the same type of exposure from the national media, but savvy fantasy players know these names well.

 

Bell has quietly racked up 57 extra-base hits, including 25 homers, while Mancini has 54 extra-base hits, including 24 homers. Gurriel doesn't have the gaudy power numbers of Bell and Mancini, but he has rolled up an impressive .297 average with 41 doubles, 18 homers and 72 RBI through 135 games. He has been a huge asset at the hot corner for the contending Astros. Yet outside of Houston, and outside of fantasy circles, Gurriel is mostly unknown. All of them are tremendous long-term keeper products and the next wave of MLB's superstars.

 

National League Quick Hits: Charlie Blackmon is vying for another National League batting title at .328, and he has a seven-point lead over Justin Turner, and nine-point lead over Joey Votto. … Speaking of Votto, he helped deal the Brewers a crushing blow to their postseason hopes by going 2-for-4 with a double, home run, two runs scored and two RBI. He needs just one more RBI to give him his third-career 100-RBI season, and first since 2011. … The Cubs became the first defending World Champion to win their division since 2009 when the Phillies accomplished the feat. John Lackey pitched them to the title, winning his 12th game of the season with a quality start. He has won seven of his past nine decisions dating back to July 18, and the Cubs are 12-2 over his past 14 outings. … Robert Gsellman wrapped up his 2017 on a positive note, allowing just one run and six hits over six innings to improve to 8-7. … Ozzie Albies has back-to-back multi-hit performances, and he is hitting .286 (28-for-98) with 14 RBI in the month of September. … Bryce Harper collected his first hit in two games since returning from his knee injury. While he still has a little rust to knock off, he should be fine for the postseason. … Denard Span finished a homer short of the cycle in a 4-3 loss in Arizona. … Pablo Sandoval picked up a pair of doubles and two RBI. The veteran has hit his stride, albeit late, by going 11-for-27 (.407) over the past eight games.

 

American League Quick Hits: Danny Salazar allowed just one hit and one walk with nine strikeouts over 4 2/3 scoreless innings against Minnesota, throwing 48 of his 64 pitches for strikes. If it was an audition for a potential starting job in the postseason, Salazar passed with flying colors. … Carlos Correa cracked a pair of homers, giving his 23 overall on the season. He also drove in four runs while collecting four total hits. George Springer crushed his fourth-career grand slam in the 12-2 rout in Texas. Remember when the Astros couldn't beat the Rangers? … Matt Joyce collected three doubles in a 6-5 win over the Mariners, giving his 33 overall. … Nelson Cruz tucked one inside the left-field foul pole for his 38th homer in the fourth inning off of Kendall Graveman. He still has an outside chance of reaching 40 homers for the fourth consecutive season. … Xander Bogaerts finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored, a three-run homer and four RBI. He joined Hanley Ramirez in the power party. Ramirez cracked a solo clout, his 23rd of the season. … Rick Porcello has won seven of his past 10 decisions to give him 11 victories overall. It's a far cry from last season's Cy Young Award run, and he still has a 5.93 ERA in five September starts despite a 2-2 record. He has benefited from tremendous offensive support to mask his ongoing issues. It's hard to imagine he'll have a meaningful role in the postseason rotation.

 

Follow @danieledobish and @Rotoworld_BB on Twitter.




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