TDG’S Triple Play: Minnesota Twins!
The Triple Play is back for a fifth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Phil Barrington and he is joined by a rotating panel of some of the best Dynasty Baseball writers in the business. 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!
Jorge Polanco, Age: 28, Position: 2B/SS
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Jorge, Jorge, Jorge de la junga (George, George, George of the Jungle)
Coming off a career year in 2021, where Jorge put up some eye-popping numbers at shortstop: 33 home runs, 195 Runs + RBI, 11 steals, and a .269/.323/.503 slash line, finishing comfortably in the top-50 in most fantasy leagues. Coming after a disappointing 2020 (and he wasn’t alone in having a subpar 2020), he rewarded the managers who took a risk and drafted him.
Jorge was nicknamed Chulo, or handsome boy, by his grandfather Maximo, who helped raise him in the Dominican Republic. Polanco was signed one day after his 16th birthday, and he has been teammates with German Max Kepler since they were 16-year-olds, rooming together after both signed international deals (and Kepler also signed an extension in February 2019). Unfortunately he also has a performance enhancing drug suspension on his record; 80-games back in 2018. Regardless of that suspension, he was signed to a five-year extension back in February 2019 (which can be extended to seven years based on a vesting option followed by a team option) and should continue to be a Twinkie for the foreseeable future.
¡Ten cuidado con ese árbol! (Watch out for that Tree!)
2022 has been a far cry from 2021, there is no doubt. Slashing a poor .245/.340/.389 with only seven home runs through 250 plate appearances (through this writing). He was drafted 75th overall on average in NFBC leagues, so his managers are definitely disappointing thus far. His strikeout rate is at a career high 22%. After a prior career high of 22 home runs before the 33 last season, it is readily apparent that 30+ home runs, especially with the dead(er) baseball of 2022 is not happening. A career BABIP of .305 means that his current .295 BABIP is not going to improve dramatically (though last season it was only .282), so where are we looking for improvements?
Fuerte como él puede ser (Strong as he can be)
His 2022 season is eerily close to his 2020 season through 250 plate appearances (maybe he is an “every other year” player? But that is not very scientific. So, let’s look at the last three seasons, through a similar number of games:
In 2021, he hit 24(!) Home runs after July 1. Maybe in 2020 he would have turned it around as the summer heated up in Minnesota. This season, can we see it happening again? Let us look at his baseball savant from the past two years:
We are still seeing a lot of (light) red, and look at that bright red 90 percentile walk rate? Yep, it’s the highest of his career at 13%. Polanco is doing better, if albeit slightly, in most of the categories.
Amigo para ti y para mi (A friend to you and me)
Is Polanco a buy now candidate? Is his current manager annoyed by the last of power, the low batting average, and only three steals? Who wouldn’t be? If so, now may be the time to pounce. Can he get hot again and get to 20 homers and 10+ steals? Looks very possible. Furthermore, the Twins are going to continue batting him in the three or four-hole in the order, so RBI are going to be plentiful.
Quick caveat for dynasty leagues; while Polanco qualified at shortstop and second base coming into this season, he will most likely lose shortstop eligibility as he has only appeared in three games at shortstop so far this season (two starts). So that should be factored in when thinking of adding him to your team. A back injury has put Polanco on the DL for the first time in his career (706 games), retroactive to June 13th, but it does not appear to be long lasting. Now may be the best time to inquire about him. I am sending out some feelers, and you may want to as well.
Jhoan Duran: Age 24, Position: SP/RP
Analysis by: Ryan Felix Fernandes
Duran Duran is The Rio-l Deal
“His name is Jhoan and his pitches dances out his hand,
Just like his splinker twisting through the zone with great command,
And when his four seamer climbs, he really shows you all he can,
Oh Jhoan, Jhoan pitches across the Twin Cities land.”
Sorry, but it is his last name so I had to do it! It was either that or go with, “He is on the hunt, he is after you, his splinker is alive, with a curve that is so divine, Jhoan is hungry like the wolf.” If Jhoan Duran doesn’t have either of those Duran Duran songs as his walkup music I need to get in contact with the Twin’s PR right now! Granted, when I looked up both songs they are about fifteen years older than Jhoan. Yes, you read that correctly my fellow Xennials… let that sink in for a second.
Tweets for days
Now stop looking up who Duran Duran is if you’re around Duran’s age and definitely stop counting in your head how old that makes me and let’s get back to what Jhoan brings to the table. If you are reading this you probably already know about the “splinker” he throws that has a 20 inch dive to the plate and he can get up to 98 mph with it. It seriously falls off a cliff when it comes to the plate. I don’t know how anyone can hit it but, an interesting tidbit I came across when looking more into Duran. I read that hitters are hitting .318 against that particular pitch but hitting .060 against everything else he throws. I blame Jeff Passan for jinxing Duran’s splinker with a tweet in which he replied to Buster Olney’s tweet that the Angels, Wander Franco, and Jhoan are must see TV in MLB this year back on May 24th and him admitting later on tweeting that he was a jinx.
“Seriously Passan!?!? You had to not only jinx Duran and the nastiest pitch in the majors, but you got Joe Maddon fired! (the best manager EVER for making my life complete with leading the Cubs to a World Series championship). You are also the reason why Wander (who is a national treasure and my starting SS on my fantasy team) has been on the IL for what seems like forever! My fantasy team is losing as much as the Angels were because of you!! Please don’t tweet anything about me because I can’t afford to get hurt or fired!”
Many apologies, but I had to get that out of my system…and am just kidding! I love his Elmo impression and he did call himself a jinx on a tweet later about it so I got to give him kudos because I’d never do that. Don’t blame me if you are relying on my fantasy baseball expertise. I told you before that I am the 26th person on the Dynasty Guru roster so I’m just here to give cool handshakes, ask if Taylor Case or Phil Barrington need a Gatorade, and spit sunflower seeds on the bench while all the other writers do the real work. Also, speaking of Twitter I can use some more followers so next time you send Passan an angry tweet about something, tell Jeff he can tweet how great I am so I can get some of his million followers and thanks for asking. Yes, that is @RyanFelixFerna1 on Twitter! Alright shameless plug for myself accomplished! I always forget to do that. C’mon I just got on there and have 16 followers including bots so give me a break……. and follow me.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming
I need to get back on track here because I am sure I lost half of you with that rant, but twitter does that. Duran stands 6 ‘5 and at 230 lbs he looks more like someone you’d see in an AEW wrestling ring (he and Anthony Bowens who happens to be an AEW wrestler have to be long lost brothers) throws with a high three-quarters slot delivery accompanied with a chest high leg kick. He has a four pitch arsenal with a pitch mix of a four seam fastball that he throws about half the time, the splinker (slider and split finger fastball combo) that he has thrown about a quarter of the time, his curve which some say is 12/6 about 20%, and uses his cutter sparingly at 5%. All of his pitches are graded above average by various scouts and websites.
After being signed by the Diamondback as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2014. Duran was groomed to be a starting pitcher and when the Twins acquired him in 2018 they continued to develop him as a starter. He started 80 of his 82 career minor league games, but after the cancellation of the 2020 season and some injuries in 2021 the Twins decided he would be better served as a reliever. His minor league stats were nothing that would statistically blow you away. They were actually pretty bad with a 5-15 record and an ERA over 4.00 and a WHIP of 1.39 in his last two minor league seasons, but an uptick in his Ks per 9 innings from 9.97 to 12.38 and a 70 grade for his fastball confirmed he did have elite stuff that can play in the majors as a reliever even if it was just a small sample size in 2021. It led to being the seventh rated prospect in the Twins organization before this season. Of course, Shelly Verougstraete (@ShellyV_643 on Twitter who doesn’t follow me…yet) from our site spotted Duran way back in May of 2020 in which she told us to all keep a spot open for Duran on our teams.
Never a second chance for a good first impression
Duran made a big impression on the entire Twins team with his stuff in spring training and the beginning of the 2022 season that has steadily moved him up the Twins bullpen hierarchy with his electric stuff that not only has produced six pitches out of the twelve pitches that have been recorded over 102 mph this season along with his splinker mentions on social media. He is also in the 97% percentile for whiff, 96% for chase rate, 98% in strikeouts, and 94% in xBA in all of MLB. That is definitely elite closer type stuff, but the Twins have not given Duran that title quite yet. Even though they traded away the presumed closer in Taylor Rogers to the Padres before the season and one of the pitchers they got back who had been presumed when the trade was made to be their closer Emiliiiooo (the Mighty Duck man) Pagan has struggled at times and been battling injuries since being acquired.
I think the Twins’ plan for the rest of the season is to keep Duran at the set up role because that has become more valuable than the closer spot in today’s MLB and it could be to also build Pagan’s value and other bullpen vets like Joe Smith in possible trade deadline deals if the Twins fall out of playoff contention. Even if those veterans are traded at the trade deadline this season manager Roco Baldelli seems to be keen on going with the closer by committee philosophy a la the Tampa Bay Rays which we all can agree as fantasy managers they are the worst!! It does make sense to have Duran get at least a year of major league experience under his belt before they give him that title. So if your fantasy league gives a decent amount of points for holds or if you feel your fantasy team needs a future closer that has the chance to be elite. Save a prayer that in an ordinary world that you can find a way to acquire Jhoan Duran (Duran) on your team. *cough Duran Duran song references cough* Yes, I am that guy that will beat a joke into the ground! And if he doesn’t become an elite closer don’t tweet me @Ryanfelixferna1 on Twitter. Unlike the professional and classy Passan I’ll talk sh*t back at you. So yeah…. follow me PLEASE!
Austin Martin, Age: 23, Position: Shortstop, Level: Double-A
Analysis by: Brian Shanks
The Making of Martin
Christopher Austin Martin was born on March 23, 1999 in Deland, Florida. In 2017 the Clevland Guardians (Indians) selected Austin out of high school in the 37th round, he declined and honored his scholarship to play for the Vanderbilt Commodores. As a college freshman Martin started 58 games batting .338/.452/.414 while playing six different positions. Hitting ability and patience showed out first but the speed was on display as well, he had 22 swipes that first year. Coming into his sophomore year he had a bit more stability as he played the majority of games at 3rd base. The hitting only gained ground and the average popped up to .392, also his batting eye stayed true with an on-base of .486. The Vanderbilt cafeteria food must have started working its wonders his sophomore year juicing his power numbers up as he crushed ten bombs to give him a much more attractive .605 slugging percentage. In addition to leading the SEC in batting average, he also led the Commodores to become the college World Series Champs in 2019.
Maturation of Martin
What could have been a massive Junior year for Austin Martin was cut short by the 2020 Pandemic. He started hot; in 16 games he hit .377 while adding three dingers and 11 RBI. Coined by many as the best pure hitter in the 2020 MLB draft and a potential number one overall pick, Martin slipped just a bit to number five and was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. At the beginning of the 2021 season, the Blue Jays sent Martin straight to Double-A ball, in my opinion the toughest and most relevant league to scout a player. Martin did more than hold his own in his first year of all-season ball with a stat line that was as follows: .270 Average, .414 on-base, .382 slugging and five home runs, 14 stolen bases in 330 at-bats. Half-way through the 2021 season the Blue Jays sent Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson to the Minnesota Twins for Jose Berrios, showcasing the future value that Austin Martin holds.
The Mendacity of Martin
As it stands today Martin is currently struggling in 245 at bats for Minnesota’s Double-A affiliate and the shine is beginning to dull on the bright future. His average has fallen to .235, his power is nowhere to be found, and he currently doesn’t have a defensive home. Well that is what you should tell current owners of Austin Martin so you can acquire him as fast as possible. What I am seeing is a player that is controlling the batter’s box with a .359 On-base percentage, only striking out at a 15 percent clip while navigating his way through Double-A. The lack of a defensive position actually excites me because of the eligibility that he can establish.
He is only 23 years old with a track record of putting the barrel on the ball and waiting for his pitch, quick hands and enough athleticism to play all around the diamond. His knack of getting on-base has allowed his to use his speed to add 22 stolen bases. With the up and down play and the injuries for Mr. Royce Lewis, I believe that Austin Martin is the Twins best prospect, and it’s going to start to show in the second half of 2022. I doubt we see Martin in the bigs this year but do not be surprised if he makes the opening day roster in 2023 or is at least up in the first half. There are risks, but Martin does have future batting title skills and plenty of speed to help you on the base paths. Martin is a perfect lead-off man for the Twinkies and will be a special player for years to come.