TDG’s Triple Play: Minnesota Twins!
The Triple Play is back for a fourth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Paul Monte and a rotating panel of writers. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Bailey Ober, Age: 25, Position: SP
Analysis by: Aaron Cumming
Bailey Ober was selected in the 12th round of the 2017 draft by the Minnesota Twins as a senior out of College of Charleston. Highly regarded amateurs typically don’t make it to their senior year in college, but the club saw enough in his 6’9 frame to take a chance on him. He was seen as organizational depth for the first few years of his career, until he snuck into MLB Pipeline’s top-30 team rankings this offseason at number 25. When the major league team needed starting pitcher help, his spot on the 40-man roster made him the obvious choice, and he’s largely held his own.
Bailey has four pitches: four-seamer, changeup, curveball, and slider. According to Fangraphs, the changeup is the only pitch to rate as above average. Those ratings might sell short Ober’s total package, though, because his repertoire plays up for 2 reasons: he has 60-grade control, and he has top-of-the-league extension.
His height allows him to extend 7’3 when releasing his pitches, a mark bested only by Tyler Glasnow and Logan Gilbert among MLB starters. Shortening the distance the ball has to travel gives less time for the hitters to react. This is the theory behind “perceived velocity.” His fastball sits at 92-93 MPH, but if it has to travel a foot less than the average pitcher’s fastball, then that makes it seem like a 95-96 MPH heater. In nearly 200 innings in the minors, he had a 28.4% K-BB%. The league average strikeout rate is barely above 24%, much less taking away the average walk rate of nearly 9%. This level of precision and results over a significant sample doesn’t happen by throwing an array of average pitches.
Always Ober The Plate
A stat that has been popularized recently, CSW%, measures the rate of pitches that result in a called strike or a whiff. These amount to all of the strikes that a batter does not make contact with, eliminating the fluky nature of a ball in play. The top five performers among qualified pitchers by this measure in 2021 so far are Jacob deGrom, Corbin Burnes, Shane Bieber, Tyler Glasnow, and Max Scherzer. Seeing those names at the top of the list is a quick way to verify that this is indeed an excellent measure of skill.
While we talked about his fastball playing up, the key to Ober’s success will be his secondary pitches. The CSW% for his curveball is a league-leading 50.8%, for his changeup, 23.3%; and for his slider, 33.8%. For reference, the CSW% for those same pitches from Max Scherzer, fifth overall in total CSW%, is 46.2% CB, 20.6% CH, and 33.6% SL. Now, I’m not saying that Ober and Scherzer are the same pitcher, but any time you are being compared to a three-time Cy Young Award winner, that’s a positive note.
Don’t Bail On Ober
In seven MLB starts this year, Ober has a disappointing 4.85 ERA, despite a 3.94 SIERA (ERA estimator), as a result of an unlucky 18.9% HR/FB rate. He won’t blow you away with strikeouts, but he should be a good ratios pitcher moving forward. He has tended to be a flyball pitcher, so home run problems can creep up every now and then, but this season’s results should represent the worst of it. If he can get just a bit more lucky, and maintain his control, he has the skills to be a solid contributor, and an arsenal that should age well.
Alex Kirilloff, Age: 23, Position: 1B/OF
Analysis by: Ben Sanders
Alex Kirilloff hit four home runs and two doubles over a four-game stretch from April 30 to May 3 this season. Then he injured his right wrist, missed a couple weeks, and hasn’t been the same since. Anyone who has rostered Kirilloff in dynasty for long probably wasn’t surprised. That stretch is a microcosm of his career so far — flashes of brilliance derailed by health problems.
Kirilloff’s encouraging 2016 rookie ball season was cut short by Tommy John surgery, which cost him all of 2017. He posted an excellent .348/.392/.578 slash line across two levels of A-ball in 2018, but his wrist woes began in 2019. He had two stints on the IL with wrist injuries and struggled to a .283/.341/.413 line, although not included in those numbers are the four home runs he hit in four straight Double-A playoff games.
Cut to the chase
Kirilloff’s approach at the plate is aggressive, to put it mildly. He swings at 55.5% of the pitches he sees. The league average is 46.9%. His chase rate of 34.9% is in the 10th percentile in MLB. His current walk rate is 5.5%, and the highest he posted at any level of the minors is 8.5%. OBP will never be his best format. He could benefit from a little more selectivity for sure, but that may not be the biggest reason for his mediocre .265/.307/.444 line. It might just be bad luck on batted balls.
Kirilloff had an unlucky start to his first MLB season, going 0-for-15 while crushing the ball. He was hitting just .214 when he went on the IL, despite a 96.5 average exit velocity and 63.3% hard-hit rate. Since his return, he’s posted an 89.6 average EV and 39.6% hard-hit rate.
Is the wrist to blame? Maybe. Wrist injuries are known to sap power, but Kirilloff isn’t Aaron Judge and was unlikely to sustain those early exit velocities anyway. If you look at his season as a whole, you get a 91 average EV and 44.1% hard-hit rate, leading to a .299 xBA and .565 xSLG. Those are the type of numbers I think he’s capable of over a full season.
Kirilloff does come with some injury risk, but players with his ability to hit for both average and power are rare enough that he’s worth a gamble. I would rank him in my top 100 dynasty players and wouldn’t hesitate to trade for him if I had the opportunity.
Prospect: Jose Miranda, Age: 23 Position: 2B/3B , Level: Triple-A
Analysis by: Paul Monte
Hey now, you’re an all-star
The All-Star break is here. The Futures Game, a Home Run Derby with a loaded field, the MLB draft, and of course the All-Star Game. The time when contenders are selling off their prospects for old vets to fortify their playoff run. The time when sellers try to find the next big thing to add to their team. The time when a quarter of your league is now thinking about fantasy football more than baseball. This is the time that good owners are letting go of the guys who they know they cannot sell and are adding prospects that have come out of nowhere. I’m not talking about the top 150 guys; I’m talking about guys that didn’t even break their team’s top-30 prospect list in the offseason.
Get your game on, go play
Twins 23-year-old infielder Jose Miranda is one of those guys. Drafted in the 2016 draft with the 73rd pick, the 6’2 right-hander from the Leadership Christian Academy in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico slowly climbed the minor league ranks while going unnoticed in fantasy leagues. That is no longer the case as he has been added in dozens of leagues that I am in, and Fantrax shows that he is one of the most added prospects over the last week. On June 29th, his 23rd birthday, he made his Triple-A debut. The debut caught the attention of prospect hounds as he managed to hit three Home Runs with six RBI and went 5-for-6 for the night. A night like that is going to get your name on the minor league updates that several sites around the internet post daily.
And all that glitters is gold
When you pull up his player page you’d expect to see some major flaw in his profile that has kept him off the fantasy radar for the last five years. There was nothing that stood out either way. He has followed the pattern that many players take of struggling in their first taste of a new level before figuring things out. He hit .216/.292/.353 in 2018 in High-A as a 20-year-old, but bounced back in 2019 to post a mediocre .248/.299/.364 line with eight home runs and just 54 K’s in 440 at-bats. With the 2020 minor league season canceled, he was able to find games in the Puerto Rican Winter League and represented Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series. He was promoted to Double-A to begin the 2021 season. Something changed, as he went on to hit .345/.408/.588 with 13 home runs and 17 walks with just 25 strikeouts in 194 at-bats. Fast forward to the three home run night in late June. He has since logged nine more games and has hit .350/.438/.675 at Triple-A. Those three home runs are still the only three that he has hit and if you take that game out his stats are much less appealing.
Only shooting stars break the mold
So, what do we do with a guy like Miranda? For me, he’s a pass even in my deepest league. Yes, I have a bit of FOMO. He wouldn’t be the first guy I passed on and watched become a productive player. If you have space and want to take a flyer, go for it. Josh Donaldson is signed through 2023 and Jorge Polanco through 2024 so it seems like there is no immediate path. Then again, Josh Donaldson has found his way to the IL multiple times the last few seasons and he is not getting younger. Whatever you decide, enjoy the four days off from setting your rosters and recharge for the home stretch of the 2021 fantasy baseball season.
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