The Minnesota Twins' Young Talent Is Starting to Flash
The Minnesota Twins haven't had the chance to play meaningful games in August in a while now. The team is on pace for its fourth consecutive 90-loss season and they are 14 games out of first place. This performance may cost Ron Gardenhire, the second-longest-tenured manager in baseball, his job at the end of the season.
Still, this year is different for the Twins. The games are meaningful, but not because of the team's slot in the standings. Rather, the youth that will lead Minnesota to what they hope is a playoff run in the near future is at center stage. And, baby, their promise is on full display.
The team currently has three batters under the age of 25 on the big league roster. Each of them plans to figure into Minnesota's long-term plan. Let's look at each of them to see why Twins fans actually have a reason to tune in for another August game in last place.
Overall, Arcia's numbers this year are disappointing. After hitting .251/.304/.430 with a .322 weighted on-base average (wOBA) as a rookie, he has taken his numbers to .232/.307/.444 with a .331 wOBA this year. That's not the progress people were projecting for the 23-year-old. At the same time, within the season, Arcia has taken mammoth strides toward being an uber-talented corner outfielder.
Arcia battled through injuries in April and May that delayed what many were hoping would be a breakout season. Then, once he was back with the big club, things were beyond ugly. In the month of June, Arcia batted .169/.258/.301 with a .258 wOBA. Blurgh. He also had a 35.5 strikeout percentage, which is truly Ryan-Howard-esque. Things were not looking bright for my boy.
July was a tiny step forward. He amped his batting average and on-base percentage up to .240 and .345 respectively, but his slugging percentage stayed at .387. For a guy that slugged .542 in his 434 minor league games, that was short of expectations. But then something happened at the end of the month that may have led to his recent turn-around.
As the Pioneer Press's Mike Berardino pointed out, the birth of Arcia's son, Oswell Daniel, just-so-happened to coincide with his daddy's breakout.
Born 7/29/14: Oswell Daniel Arcia "@ParkerHageman: Arcia: 3/31-8/1: 224 PA, .219/.299/.383, 7 HR Since 8/1: 51 PA, .277/.333/.660, 5 HR"â€” Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) August 19, 2014
If having a child is the key to MLB success, Philip Rivers is the next Barry Bonds. Arcia may not be on P-Riv's level yet, but his success since his son's birth makes him a guy to keep an eye on for 2015.
In the month of August, Arcia is hitting .276/.333/.655. Dat slugging percentage, doe. In 63 plate appearances, Arcia has clubbed four doubles and six home runs to give him 13 total on the year. Now, the strikeouts are still a concern (31.7 percent in August), but Arcia is still the youngest position player on the team, and his power has to make your mouth froth if you're the Twins.
Did somebody mention power? Because Kennys Vargas has some serious pop in his stick.
We've only had the opportunity to see 82 plate appearances for the guy people have been comparing to David Ortiz, but he has lived up to the hype thus far. After another double and his fourth career bomb yesterday, Vargas is hitting .316/.354/.513 in his major league career. I think Twins fans will be able to live with that.
He's a switch-hitter, but he hasn't had a lot of chances to show what he has a rightie so far. He only has 31 plate appearances against lefties, converting that into seven hits (.233) and one hit-by-pitch with six strikeouts. All but one of his doubles and all of his jacks have come against righties, including a pair of extra-base hits against Indians ace Corey Kluber yesterday.
Is this success normal for Vargas based on his minor league track record? With regards to the batting average and on-base percentage, not really. In 97 games at Double-A New Britain this year prior to his call-up, Vargas hit .281/.360/.472. Obviously, that's still yummy, but it's below the marks he has posted so far in the big leagues, so he should come back down to Earth a bit. The power, however, is real, my friends.
Vargas participated in this year's Futures Game at his new stomping grounds of Target Field, and dude put on a show.
Watching Kennys Vargas take batting practice is unreal. Hit one from right side over batters eye. Hit the truck on Target Plaza hitting leftâ€” Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) July 13, 2014
In his aforementioned time at Double-A, Vargas had 17 home runs in 405 plate appearances. That ratio was 19 in 520 last ear at High-A Fort Myers. Now he's brought that to the Twins with some serious mammo bombs in his first 19 games. The reaction in that video of Twins play-by-play guy, Dick Bremer, of "Oh my," seems just about right. There was also this tater from a few days ago to whet your whistle.
Once you pair Vargas up with number two prospect Miguel Sano (who is missing the entire year due to Tommy John surgery), you've got some disgusting pop in the middle of the Twins order. Vargas probably won't sustain the high average, but the power is real, and it is delightful.
If Arcia and Vargas bring the thunder, Danny Santana brings the lightning. Santana's 12 stolen bases are tied for the fourth most among rookies, despite only having 285 plate appearances. This has helped him post a 1.03 nERD score, meaning he is 1.03 runs above an average major-leaguer if he were to record 27 plate appearances in a game. That's more than double what Billy Hamilton and Brock Holt have combined.
Through his first 68 major league games, Santana is hitting .315/.350/.461 with a .356 wOBA. This has helped put him in a category with some elite Twins greats.
Danny Santana's 84 hits is the most by a #MNTwins player through their first 68 career games since Kirby Puckett had 90 in 1984.â€” Ace of MLB Stats (@AceballStats) August 21, 2014
Oh. Obviously, any comparisons between the two are premature, but that's not to shortchange what Santana has done so far this year. His speed has helped him post 16 doubles and four triples, and his five dingers aren't bad for a guy who's listed as 160 pounds.
For Santana, this is far more unexpected than it was for Arcia or Vargas. His minor league numbers didn't indicate anything remotely close to this was imminent. In four minor-league seasons above rookie ball, Santana had never posted a slugging percentage above .410 or an on-base percentage above .333. Prior to his call-up this year, Santana was hitting .268/.311/.381 with a .313 wOBA at Triple-A Rochester. Not exactly the recipe for a stud lead-off guy.
Santana will obviously regress, but how much? Something working in Santana's favor is his high line-drive percentage of 25.3. That combined with his superb speed can help account for his .383 batting average on balls in play, although that will still come down before the end of the year. numberFire's rest-of-season projections have Santana at a .284 batting average, which seems about right. The Twins should take that and run with it.
Whether or not Santana is the shortstop of the Twins' future is still to-be-determined. He has been dumped in center field for most of the season because of Aaron Hicks' constant struggles, meaning he has only been able to play 157.2 innings at short. Having Santana in center (where he has a -2.7 ultimate zone rating - not terrible for a guy who had never played there before) has helped make him more valuable because of his position flexibility. Now hopefully the Twins can use the end of the season to determine whether or not he'll be legit starter for the future. Either way, his production this year has been outstanding, and he'd be in contention for A.L. Rookie of the Year if it weren't for that Jose Abreu and a host of tantalizing hurlers.
For the Twins, the present is grim, but the future appears bright. These three guys will all be entering their age-24 season next year, and the cavalry is coming from the minors. Even for a team 14 games below .500, there are reasons to tune in down the stretch with how these young pups are cranking out production.