What to do at Quarterback?

555

Well, that was obviously not the way that many of us neither predicted nor wanted the season to end but here we sit watching two teams play the Super Bowl in our stadium; such is life I suppose. We have to learn to move on quick in the NFL so even though the Super Bowl has yet to be played let’s move our focus to the offseason. I’ve debated how I want to tackle writing this stuff. Do I post it all in one big blurb? Or do I focus on position groups? I’ve decided to do a few separate posts focusing on certain positions and there is no better way to start it off than tackling the elephant in the room; the quarterback position.

What a problem we have, and to be honest even though, yes technically it is a good problem to have. I am sick of hearing how great of a problem we have. Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, and Sam Bradford are all Free Agents after this season which means as of now we don’t have a quarterback on our roster that has started a game in the NFL. It’s an interesting dilemma that we have for sure, mainly because a lot more goes into it than talent. Let’s take a look at all these guys and some other options as well.

Sam Bradford: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Year after year this man can’t catch a break. Injuries, horrible coaching, traded, it’s just one thing after another for the former number one pick and now many people are skeptical that he can be counted on due to his knees. He is the best pure passer of the three upcoming FA but his knee injury this year is still a mystery. I think Bradford is capable of being this team’s starter next year, but the knee thing scares me, more so than Teddy’s knee. It’s also hard to determine what Bradford will demand for money. All in all, I think Sam’s time with the Vikings is over which is sad. I would gladly take him back as a backup, but I doubt he wants that. And in typical Viking fashion, he’ll probably go somewhere and light it up and then we will get to play the “what if” game.

 

777

Case Keenum: There is not one person who could have predicted what he accomplished this season, besides maybe Case himself. Jumping in week 2, he led the Vikings to multiple victories and this team rallied behind him. I understand the fan base’s love for Keenum, I am with you, and you want to cheer for him. He is a great guy off the field and on the field…well on the field he is okay. I know that may not be what you guys want to hear, but it’s true. There were a few weeks where Case continued to progress but towards the end of the year he regressed and he consistently missed reads over and over again. I would love to have Case back next year, I truly would. But from a money standpoint, I just can’t justify it. Keenum’ s market rate right now is about $21 million a season or if you want to franchise tag him it’ll be about $23 million all of which is too much for me. I wish the best to Case wherever he may go next year, and yes that could be here. If he does return here it will most likely be on the franchise tag because I doubt Vikings commit long-term to him. We can bite the bullet on money this year, but next year we have guys like Diggs, Barr, Kendricks, Hunter, and Waynes that all need to be re-signed.

6666666

 

Teddy Bridgewater: Sometimes I dig myself a hole because of my blind love for this guy, but I have taken off the glasses in this situation and I am strictly looking at it from a GM perspective. Many signs, in my opinion, point to him being back next year as our starter. I’ll start with the most glaring and obvious one, he is young and cheap. Now obviously no one knows what Teddy’s market rate will be, but I can promise you it won’t be more than a one or two year deal worth about $12-14 million. Bringing him back at that rate will allow you to continue to bring in other FA and sign your own guys. Second, Zimmer has not been shy about his love for Teddy and the Vikings did not invest all that time into helping Teddy rehab just to let him walk out the door. I know there are some concerns with Teddy, and I agree with those concerns; I mean the guy practically lost his leg.  But he’s 25 years old, and he still has more potential than Bradford and Keenum. I do think that Teddy is the one back next year, basically, two years removed from football he will take a lot of reps in preseason and the team will move on from there.

Other: Now I suppose there are other options the Vikings can go. But all of it goes back to my argument against bringing Case back. If you choose to invest in a QB like Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum be prepared to let two of these guys go (Diggs, Barr, Kendricks, Hunter, and Waynes) unless of course, you are paying money for an elite quarterback like Drew Brees. And I would be fine with the Vikings bringing in a guy like Cousins if he indeed would sign for $23 millionish but anything above $26 million is only going to hinder us moving forward in my opinion.

I think the Vikings go into the offseason prepared to bring back one of their guys (my guess is Teddy), then draft a QB in the middle of the draft along with signing a vet in Free Agency. It’s all speculation now but, hey that’s what makes things fun!

Advertisements
Posted in Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings, NFL, Sam Bradford, Sports, Teddy Bridgewater, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Vikings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Twins are Walking to October

dozierwalkoff

The Twins have almost clinched a playoff spot

As I write this, the Twins are wrapping up a thrilling victory over American League leading Cleveland. With a magic number of just one and five games left to play, the Minnesota Twins are almost certainly headed towards a wild card game with the Yankees in New York.

It really is as crazy as it sounds: Never before in the history of Major League Baseball has a team lost more than 97 games and made the playoffs. For reference, the 113th World Series will be played this year. Just one year ago, the Twins finished 59-103 and a full NINE games worse than the second worst team. It’s also never happened that the worst team in the league has played playoff baseball the following year.

They’re certainly helped by the still-new playoff rules that allows a second wild card team from each league into the postseason. Because of this and their recent history, the Twins are easy to dismiss. It’s even debatable, as Jeff Sullivan wrote on Tuesday at Fangraphs, whether or not an effective playoff system should even allow a team like the Twins a chance. But the truth is: over the past two months, the Twins have been good. Really good. They won’t simply be an easy victory for the Yankees as many people expect them to be.

Since the start of August, the Twins have a run differential of +96. Over a full season, that would put them on pace for a +299 differential which would easily be tops in the league. It would have even blown away last years historically-good Chicago Cubs mark of +270. Obviously, they probably wouldn’t maintain that level of production over a full season. Teams get hot and cold over the course of the season, and the Twins certainly seem to be pretty hot right now.

Why they’ve been good:

The main reason for their success over the past few months has been an especially prolific offense. On the season, the Twins are currently third in the American League in runs scored behind just the Astros and Yankees, but they are currently tops in Major League Baseball since the start of August. If you’ve been tuning into the games, they’ve been incredibly fun to watch. When was the last time you saw a Twins team among the league leaders in homeruns over any period of time?

Their success probably comes down to many factors, but it’s been clear that the Twins have stepped into the batter’s box with a plan this year. They’ve been incredibly patient in their approach at the plate. The Twins rank third (but nearly tied with first and second) in the American League by walking in 9.6% of their plate appearances. Contributing to that stellar walk rate is an equally outstanding O-Swing%, or “chase” rate, which is second in the AL. Not only are they laying off pitches outside the zone, they really aren’t swinging that often at pitches in the zone either. Their Z-Swing%, the percentage of pitches in the zone they are swinging at, is also the second lowest. Overall, just the Red Sox and Dodgers swing at fewer pitches than the Twins.

Those statistics surprised me. Over the past couple of seasons, I seem to remember plenty of instances like Rosario falling over to swing at a pitch that otherwise would have hit him in the head. But as it turns out, the Twins were pretty patient last year too. They were among the league leaders in terms of lowest Swing% and Z-Swing% in 2016. This year, they’ve taken a step forward in O-Swing%, and it’s made a big difference. Here’s a chart comparing the past 3 seasons:

walkratetable

American League rankings are in parentheses

What we see here is a group of young players simply getting better at controlling the strike zone. Featuring the league’s youngest lineup, the Twins have given the most at-bats to players 25 and younger. As they’ve gotten more ABs under their belt, they’ve subtly improved their sense of what is a strike and what isn’t.

While a lot of it is a natural progression of a young player’s game, I do think new hitting coach James Rowson deserves a shout out here. A low swing rate doesn’t happen by accident; it’s intentional. It takes a focused and deliberate approach at the plate, and it’s working for the Twins hitters. The benefits of such a strategy is obvious. If you don’t swing at the bad pitches, the pitcher has to give you better ones. And if they don’t, they’re going to put you on base with a walk. It’s a good recipe for success, and is a huge reason the Twins have been so good at the plate.

How they can beat the Yankees:

When the Twins take on the Yankees in New York on Tuesday, they’ll likely face a tough pitcher in Luis Severino. By pretty much any measure, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the game. But his last start happens to have been against Minnesota, and the Twins used their patient approach to get to him. Severino was pulled after throwing 71 pitches to just 14 batters in three innings of work. The Twins were able to see more than five pitches per plate appearance against him, and the results were excellent: Those 14 batters were able to string together five hits and a walk to score three runs.

We all know about New York’s bullpen. In a one game playoff, they can throw all of their best relievers at the Twins and take away the final innings of the game. Having success against the starter and chasing him from the game early just might be the easiest path to victory for the Twins. With their patient and disciplined approach, they might be able to do just that.

Not only will the Twins be a bigger challenge than most will assume, I believe they are as well equipped as any team to handle New York’s tough pitching. If they win on Tuesday, don’t be surprised if it isn’t on the strength of their young lineup and their surprisingly good plate discipline.

Posted in Minnesota Twins, MLB, MLB Playoffs | Leave a comment

Vikings 53 Man Roster Prediction

speilman

After Thursday’s game comes one of the biggest days in the NFL, at least for NFL players. It’s cut day in the NFL, which will leave many players, left not knowing what their future holds. I just recently started becoming empathetic with these players, mainly because I’ve seen videos of players recording themselves being cut (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_NnJa6qwHo ), and seeing the effect it has not only on them as a player, but also for their family is a very somber feeling. I just think it’s something to remember for us as fans, at the end of the day these players are people too and losing a job for them is just as hard as it is for us.  Sorry for starting this article off with such a dismal tone, let’s just quickly switch gears here and get to my projections for the Vikings 53 man roster.

QB (3)

Who’s In– Sam Bradford, Case Kennum, Taylor Heinicke, Teddy Bridgewater (Teddy does not count against the active roster because he is currently on the PUP.. for now)

Who’s Out- Mitch Leidner

I struggled with the QB spot for a while, mainly because I am not so sure the Vikings will want to keep three QB’s on their roster. Sam Bradford is the starter, and Case Kennum and Taylor Heinicke have been battling it out all off season for that number two spot.  Mitch Leidner was just brought in for another arm during the preseason and he will probably take a good chunk of snaps in Thursday’s game but he was never destined to make the roster. Zimmer has stated that he would prefer to have three QB’s on the roster but if push comes to shove and he wants another talented player I think he would have no problem cutting Taylor Heinickie despite his comeback win vs. the 49ers on Sunday.

RB/FB (4)

Who’s In- Dalvin Cook, Jerick McKinnon, Latavius Murray, CJ Ham

Who’s Out- Bronson Hill, Terrell Newby

This is the first time in the last 10 years that Adrian Peterson hasn’t been on this list, but yet the position is still solid, there was no question that Cook, McKinnon, and Murray would be on the roster come opening day. The only real question is CJ Ham, will the Vikings decide to keep a FB or will they just try using a TE in I formation sets. My guess is they keep Ham and have him contribute on special teams.

WR (6)

Who’s In- Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright, Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley, Michael Floyd (Suspended for four games, does not count against active roster)

Who’s Out- Cayleb Jones, Isaac Fruechte, Moritz Boehringer, RJ Shelton

This group is pretty set in stone except for a few spots. Many people believe that it will either be Rodney Adams or Stacey Coley for the final WR spot. I happen to think it’s going to be both, I think they both do things well and both can contribute on special teams. Someone will need to go once Floyd returns though. Diggs and Thielen aren’t going anywhere and Treadwell is hoping to prove he is not a first round bust and has put in a lot of effort this season. Keep an eye on Jarius Wright, for some reason he has been forgotten and could be traded or cut,  I think that would be a mistake.

Cst 46904 Vikings training camp

TE (4)

Who’s In- Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Bucky Hodges, Kyle Carter

Who’s Out- Nick Truesdell, Josiah Price

I personally feel like this was probably the easiest group besides RB to decide. Rudolph is the starter and Morgan and Hodges have been the ones right behind him. I don’t think that they will carry four TE’s if they choose to keep a Fullback, but if they don’t maybe Kyle Carter would make the team; if not he could be a practice squad candidate.

OL (10)

Who’s In- Riley Reiff, Rashod Hill, Alex Boone, Jeremiah Sirles, Nick Easton, Pat Elflein, Joe Berger, Danny Isidora, Mike Remmers, Willie Beavers, 

Who’s Out- Aviante Collins, Austin Shepherd, Freddie Tagaloa, Zac Kerin, TJ Clemmings

As we learned last year, we need lots of depth on the O-line, and I think the Vikings carry a lot this year to make sure that what happened last year doesn’t happen again. The one promising thing I will say about this group is that a lot of them can play multiple positions which will only benefit us if someone goes down. A big portion of this year depends on this group and they need to stay healthy. If the Vikings target another o-lineman from another team I could see Sirles gone. 

o line

DL (8)

Who’s In- Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Linval Jospeh, Shamar Stephen, Jaleel Johnson, Tom Johnson, Everson Griffen, Tashawn Bower, Sharrif Floyd (Does not count against active roster)

Who’s Out- Ifeadi Odenigbo, Sam McCaskill, Datone Jones, Will Sutton, Dylan Bradley, Chunky Clements, Stephen Weatherly.

This group is filled with talent, and unfortunately, some guys are going to be cut who we just recently signed such as Will Sutton and Datone Jones. The guys behind them stepped up this off season and it’s hard to see the Vikings trying to sneak younger guys on to the practice squad that played well because another team will surely try to pick them up. One person to keep an eye on Thursday is Datone Jones, I believe he is a fringe player right now so Thursday could make or break him. And congratulate Tashawn Bower as he has absolutely deserved a roster spot, he went undrafted and made himself a name this offseason. Tom Johnson could also be a name to watch, he may be cut in order to add depth elsewhere and the younger guys such as Jaleel Johnson have proved they could step up if need be.

d line

LB (6)

Who’s In- Anthony Barr, Eric Wilson, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, Edmond Robinson, Elijah Lee

Who’s Out- Noor Davis, Emmanuel Lamur, Kentrell Brothers

I think the Emmanuel Lamur experiment is over he plays well on special teams but when you can go with younger cheaper guys with arguably more potential you have to go there. If he stays on the team, look for the Vikings to try and sneak Elijah Lee onto the practice squad.

CB(5)

Who’s In- Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander, Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, Marcus Sherels

Who’s Out- Sam Brown, Tre Roberson, Terrell Sinkfield, Horace Richardson, Jabari Price

Lack of depth will kill this group potentially, the hope is that they try to target someone who can come in and provide depth. If not this group will have to do. Someone to watch Thursday is Jabari Price, another solid game and he could move on the roster to help out on special teams and provide depth. Also, Antone Exum (currently listed as safety) continues to progress, and has had a solid off season, he could be someone that could help at CB and Safety.

S (4)

Who’s In- Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Jayron Kearse, Antone Exum

Who’s Out- Anthony Harris, Jack Tocho

Exum and Harris I believe are battling it out for that last spot while Smith, Sendejo, and Kearse are sitting comfortably. This position is pretty set.

Special Teams (3)

Who’s In- Kai Forbath, Taylor Symmank, Kevin McDermott

Who’s Out- Marshall Koehn, Ryan Quigley

I believe that if we hadn’t had Blair Walsh as our last kicker the Vikings may be tempted to take the stronger leg, but right now they need consistency so I bet they stick with Forbath. As for Punter, it seems like an even match, I always lean with the younger option. But Thursday will be a big test for both I would imagine. As for Kevin McDermott, he is the only long snapper so he will stay.

222

 

There it is my roster prediction. I bet I get about 45/53 right. All I know is I am glad I am not the person deciding the fate of these players as Thursday night will leave a lot of guys without a job.

Posted in Case Keenum, Dalvin Cook, Jarius Wright, Jayron Kearse, Jerrick McKinnon, Minnesota, Minnesota Vikings, NFL, Rookie, Teddy Bridgewater, Uncategorized, Vikings | Leave a comment

The Timberwolves and the Off-Season That Changed Everything

As the dust finally begins to settle on the wildest off-season in recent memory for the Minnesota Timberwolves, we may finally be able to begin to judge where this team is going in the coming seasons. Let’s do a quick recap of the big moves:

  • June 22- Timberwolves acquire Jimmy Butler and rights to draft Justin Patton (16th overall) in return for guards Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the rights to draft Lauri Markkanen (7th overall).
  • June 30- Timberwolves trade Ricky Rubio in return for the Utah Jazz 2018 first round draft pick.
  • July 10- Timberwolves sign forward Taj Gibson and guard Jeff Teague.
  • July 19- Timberwolves sign guard Jamal Crawford.

Throw in rumors of getting Paul Milsap for a while as well and the ongoing saga of whether the Wolves can somehow acquire Kyrie Irving AND still keep Andrew Wiggins? Wolves fans have had their fill of drama and intrigue this summer to be sure.

Regardless of how this turns out, we will look back at this off-season and view it as one of two options: The off-season that catapulted us into contender status, or the off-season where coach & president Tom Thibodeau got greedy and drove Minnesota back into obscurity as players start to leave due to not being able to get paid what they deem their worth.

In my opinion, if everything remains as is, the Wolves have absolutely hit a home run this off-season.

We’ve been waiting and waiting (and waiting) for Andrew Wiggins to get “it” and become a leader for this team. He is clearly unbelievably gifted at playing basketball, but I think we are getting to the point now where we can conclude that he doesn’t have that “it” factor that we attribute to legends like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan of years past. Signing Jimmy Butler should all but erase the need for Wiggins to take this step. He will step right into the primary leadership role of this team and allow Wiggins to take a back seat and simply just play basketball (a good comparison role-wise would be Klay Thompson on the Golden State Warriors). And if Butler can pass on any of his defensive prowess on to Wiggins, we could be in for a huge breakout year from the 4th year Canadian.

The loss of Ricky Rubio will hurt my soul forever, but Jeff Teague may honestly be a better fit for this team. While Ricky was at his best with the ball in his hands and making plays for his teammates, we have stumbled into enough star-power now where it may not be beneficial to have the ball in the hands of the point guard most of the time. Teague will likely initiate the offense most of the time, but he will often be called upon to get the ball to Butler, Towns, or Wiggins as quickly as possible and go set up in the corner to hit threes. With Rubio this was not an effective option. With Teague however, this is a much more viable option as he has been shooting 3-pointers at a 37.9% clip over the past two seasons (versus Rubio’s improved but still bad 31.6%). Teague is also a capable defender (2.4 defensive win shares added last year versus Rubio’s 1.7) and has been on successful playoff teams in the past, so he will be a great addition to an already outstanding-looking core.

Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford round out the big signings of the off-season, and I also believe they make for good fits in what the Wolves look to do next year.

Gibson will be the primary big man next to Towns as Gibson has completely bought-in to Thibodeau’s defensive philosophy and should be looking to pass that along to Towns. While this pushes Gorgui Dieng to the bench, I think Dieng will likely play more minutes and be the primary big man off the bench who can both defend capably and make an impact on offense.

Crawford will be the traditional scoring 6th man we’ve been lacking for a long time. I imagine him and Dieng running a LOT of pick-and-roll together (a lot like Dieng/LaVine last year) and running the 2nd unit through them. While he is not a game-changing defender by any means, he should be able to make a difference with his length and not be a hindrance.

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I did not at least address the Kyrie Irving to Minnesota rumors. I think it is a win just to have Minnesota in the conversation for his services as it exudes a level of promise that this team is going places. Just getting past the small-market, cold-weather reputation that Minnesota has is a HUGE step for future free agents.

With that being said, I am not on-board with trading for Irving at all.

He is undoubtedly an elite player in this league. He practically un-guardable and has a proven track record of coming up clutch on the biggest stage. But I imagine that we would in the end need to give up Wiggins to obtain him. While it is cute to see the Gorgui Dieng + the Utah pick for Kyrie rumors, I have a hard time believing that even Cleveland’s atrocious front office would pull the trigger on that deal. If it were Teague + Dieng or the pick, I’d be MUCH more interested. But as of now, we aren’t allowed to trade Teague (or Gibson or Crawford) until after the season has started (December officially). The trade would leave us with two scoring 6th men (not necessarily a bad problem to have, but no depth from whichever position we deal and too much money being spent on Teague. I’d be happy to re-visit this idea next off-season when Teague can be offered as a trade piece, but not before then.

In any case, the hype train for this team will be chugging along at full speed come October. If some people were targeting a 4th or 5th seed for us LAST year, I can only imagine what people will start predicting for us this coming season. While I for one just want a playoff appearance and then to figure out the rest later, one may convincingly argue that our contention window is now. It is unknown as to whether we will be able to retain everyone two years from now (when Butler’s contract is up). I think a lot of that will be determined by how well we finish each of the next two seasons, but we shall see.

Either way, this is going to be fun. October can’t come soon enough.

Posted in NBA, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Minnesota Viking Training Camp Battles

 

08^458324 43cgVIKE122115.jpg

CARLOS GONZALEZ, STAR TRIBUNE

This feels wonderful, football is back, and there is nothing more exciting than the renewed optimism that comes with the start of the NFL season. Our beloved Minnesota Vikings reported to camp on Wednesday; rookies reported this last weekend, and they are ready to put last year’s disastrous season behind them as they prepare to try and become the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. There are a lot of things that have changed though since we last saw this team play. For the first time in ten years the Vikings are preparing for a season without Adrian Peterson or Chad Greenway, most of the offensive line is new, which leaves a lot of training camp battles. I’ll break down a few of my favorite battles that I am looking forward to this year.

hkp 001 vikings rookie camp

Minnesota Vikings rookie running back Dalvin Cook smiles as he walks on the field for practice at Winter Park in Eden Prairie on Friday, May 5th, 2017. (Holly Peterson / Special to the Pioneer Press)

RB- Dalvin Cook vs. Jerrick McKinnon vs. Latavius Murray

This one should be a fun one for many fans to watch this upcoming training camp. You have three very talented RB’s who specialize in various skills. Rewind back to the NFL Draft, many experts expected Dalvin Cook to be gone in the first round, and with the Vikings not having a first round pick, no one anticipated the Vikings drafting the talented RB, not even the Vikings. But as he slipped into the 2nd round, the Vikings didn’t hesitate to jump up and grab him, and now the expectation amongst fans is for him to eventually take over and make us forget about Adrian Peterson. Along with Dalvin Cook is Jerrick McKinnon, someone who seems to be forgotten quite a bit but is still just as talented. Jerrick is a quick back who is very much underappreciated in the things he can do for this team. He can catch, play special teams, help out in the wildcat and before last year’s horrendous line he owned a very nice Yard per Carry average don’t be surprised if he steals some carries away from both of these guys. Which leads us to the last person in this battle; Latavius Murray, who was signed away from the Raiders this past offseason and was scheduled to be the feature guy here until it was reported that he needed ankle surgery, people then still anticipated he may be the guy, but then the Vikings drafted Dalvin Cook. Murray is already at a disadvantage because he missed so much time this offseason due to his surgery so he is in full catch up mode. Many anticipate that once Murray is healthy he will be the primary goal line back so he may not need to worry too much, but it’s the NFL and you can never be too sure.

Edmond+Robinson+Wild+Card+Round+Seattle+Seahawks+G7pz3C9Lbq9l

(Jan. 9, 2016 – Source: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)

WLB- Emmanuel Lamur vs. Ben Gedeon vs. Edmond Robinson

This one may not be as exciting for a lot of people for a few reasons, the first one being that these players aren’t really household names among fans, and second this position will primarily only play when the Vikings defense is in a base 4-3. This spot was once held by the dependable Chad Greenway who has since retired and now the Vikings will count on one of these three to step up. There are some other players that could compete for this job as well but as of now we will stick with these three. Emmaunel Lamur was brought in last year from the Bengals and has played with Zimmer from his days back in Cincy, last year Lamur really didn’t show much but also wasn’t given a lot of opportunity either, primarily stuck on special teams, Lamur provides solid depth and can come in to play occasionally but if I had to guess I’d say he sticks to a similar role to last year. Ben Gedeon was drafted this past year in the 4th round by the Vikings and is a typical Zimmer type player; he is big, physical, strong, and a hard downhill player, who plays well against the run. Unfortunately his youth could be a disadvantage to him to start the year and he may need time to adjust to the speed of the game. Lastly is Edmond Robinson, who is my favorite to win the job to start the year. Drafted in the 7th round back in 2015, Robinson has been waiting and developing into what should be a decent linebacker for the Vikings. He started two games his rookie season and played okay, but it can’t be held against him as he was still a rookie. Now with some experience on Special Teams and learning behind Greenway for two years Robinson could be poised to prove to his team that he is the one most capable of taking over the WLB position.

maxresdefault

K- Kai Forbath vs. Marshall Koehn

I know already what you’re probably thinking; “He is excited for a kicker battle?” Absolutely I am. For the past four years we’ve had Blair Walsh and things were off to a good start with him until…never mind I don’t want to bring it up. Anyway, here we are this year; we have two kickers with two complete opposite skill sets. Forbath can hit just about anything inside 40 yards. He is someone who is known for his accuracy when it comes to kicking and was 16/16 last year on FG’s for the Vikings. Flip to the other side of this battle and you have Koehn, someone with a very powerful leg and can kick the crap out of the ball, but not nearly as accurate as Forbath. As we know being a kicker may be one of the most scrutinized positions, mainly because the games come down to their ability or inability to kick a FG. Kai Forbath has certainly done nothing to cost him his job, but if Koehn can show the Vikings that he can be accurate from deep and consistently get touchbacks on kickoffs he may sneak in and be a cheaper, younger option for the Vikings.

There will obviously be a lot of battles this year and injuries can change a lot. But these three are my main one’s that I’ll be focused on because they all will be critical spots for us this year. Last year our inability to rush for one yard on 3rd and 1 killed us. Our missed FG’s and extra points killed us as well. And our depth at the WLB luckily didn’t come back to bite us last year but now with Greenway gone it certainly could this year. If these battles don’t interest you some other ones you could check out are

The backup QB- Case Keenum Vs. Taylor Heinicke

Kennum has the experience starting and could be a decent stop gap should something happen to Bradford. Heinicke has been groomed by the Vikings for a long time now, if he doesn’t show something this experiment will likely be over

Strong Saftey- Andrew Sendejo vs. Jayron Kearse

Sendejo has been the starter for a while but still hasn’t run away with the job he will need a solid camp to keep his job. Kearse has the prototypical body type for a hybrid safety but could prove to be an asset next to Harrison Smith, with one year under his belt he looks to capitalize on a decent rookie year.

COWBOYS_VIKINGS_FOOTBALL_42680485

ANDY CLAYTON-KING, ASSOCIATED PRESS

WR 3- Laquon Treadwell vs. Michael Floyd vs. Jarius Wright

Treadwell was supposed to have this spot secured a year ago, that didn’t happen but he has put the past behind him and has done everything right thus far this year. Floyd is just looking for another chance but with him being suspended for the first four games this year due to a DWI last fall he is already a severe underdog, Floyd needs a strong camp to prove to the Vikings he is even worth keeping around. His talent is unquestioned, but his off field issues could cost him. Then there is Jarius Wright, the forgotten talent and the perfect solider. He has done everything right, yet still plummets on the depth chart; many people forget just how good Wright can be when given the opportunity. I really like Wright and I hope he makes the team. If Treadwell fails to perform at Training Camp, Wright should step in and prove to everyone that he is still as reliable as he once was.

The time has come people, I know summer is coming to an end but we have a lot to look forward to as sports fans, I am eager to hear your thoughts on this upcoming season!!

Posted in Adrian Peterson, Andrew Sendejo, Case Keenum, chad greenway, Dalvin Cook, Jarius Wright, Jayron Kearse, Jerrick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings, NFL, Taylor Heinikie, Teddy Bridgewater, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Vikings | Leave a comment

Twins Acquire Starting Pitcher Jaime Garcia from the Atlanta Braves

The Twins added lefty Jaime Garcia and catcher Anthony Recker on Monday from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for pitching prospect Huascar Ynoa. The Braves also sent $100k in cash to help pay the nearly five million still owed to Garcia and Recker. The Twins will assume that debt. The Twins and Braves were reported to be close to a deal last week, but it fell through when the Braves became concerned with pitcher Nick Burdi’s health, the prospect originally in the trade. Jaime Garcia joins a pitching staff that desperately needs help. They currently have a team-ERA of 4.86 which places them 26th of 30 teams. Just the Tigers and Orioles have been worse in the American League. Ouch.

If the Twins want to continue to contend for a division title or a wild card spot, they need to give up fewer runs. Improving the starting rotation is the first step. After Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, and Adalberto Mejia, the Twin’s starting rotation falls off a cliff. Hughes and Santiago have been hurt and Gibson has just been bad. Bartolo Colon seems to be at the end of the line in his career, and players like Adam Wilk and Nik Tepesch shouldn’t be starting on a team contending for a playoff spot. The biggest need for the Twins is a fourth (and fifth) starter. Enter: Jaime Garcia.

Now 31 years old, Jaime Garcia owns a 3.65 ERA across 9 seasons. He began his career as a 22nd round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals where he came in third for rookie of the year behind Buster Posey and Jason Heyward. After an off-season trade to the Braves this winter, he’s pitched to a 4.30 ERA. He’s dealt with significant injuries in the past such as Tommy John surgery, shoulder issues, and thoracic outlet syndrome, but he seems to be healthy now. Working in the low 90’s, Garcia uses his fastball and change-up to generate a very solid 55.4% ground ball rate.

No, those numbers don’t shout ace. He isn’t Clayton Kershaw, and he isn’t going to suddenly make the Twins favorites in the AL, but he should make them better. Adding an arm like Garcia means the Twins don’t have to keep handing starts to players like Wilk or Turley. Instead, they have a reliable Major League-caliber arm to turn to.

As I mentioned at the start, the Twins also acquired catcher Anthony Recker in the deal. This seemed to be a strange addition as there seems to be a bit of a logjam of catchers in the Twins organization. Jason Castro and Chris Giminez have played well, but they also have J.R. Murphy and prospect Mitch Garver ready to go in AAA. Recker will almost certainly be sent to AAA. Where does that leave those two? Garver in particular, the Twins 21st ranked prospect by MLB.com, is 26 years old and killing AAA to the tune of .282/.387/.532 while playing left field and first base as well. Could this mean a promotion is coming for him?

Recker seems to be the fourth or fifth best backstop on the 40-man roster. Yes, the Twins now have FIVE catchers on the 40-man roster. To make room for Recker, Rule-5 draft pick Justin Haley was sent back to the Red Sox. That seems like a steep price for a catcher that the Twins just didn’t need. I expect one of the catchers to be moved in one way or another sometime very soon.

Heading the other way to the Braves in exchange is pitching prospect Huascar Ynoa, the younger brother of White Sox pitcher Michael Ynoa. Signed in 2014 out of the Dominican Republic for a sizable $800,000 bonus, Ynoa today isn’t considered one of the Twin’s top 20 prospects. This year, he owns an ERA in the mid-5’s and still hasn’t reached the low-A level. I’ve liked Ynoa as a prospect since he was signed, but he just hasn’t flashed his full potential quite yet. There’s certainly still time, he’s still just 19, and he has the talent. It’s that talent that appeals to the Braves. But even if things break his way, he’s still probably around four years away from a Major League debut, if he makes it to The Show. In other words, he’s not a player the Twins will be counting on as they make a push over the next few seasons.

The real value the Twins are giving the Braves is in the salaries they are absorbing, not the prospect they are giving them. As I mentioned earlier, Garcia and Recker are still owed nearly five million through the end of this year, and the Twins will foot the bill.

Wait. The Twins are throwing down five million to improve the roster in the short term when they really didn’t have to? Things really are different under the new management. The team’s willingness to take on those contracts should be a good sign of things to come. To be fair, the Pohlads have always said they are willing to expand the payroll to improve a good team, they just haven’t had good teams to improve recently. It seems they weren’t lying.

Because of the debt the Twins will take on, they didn’t have to sacrifice a better prospect to acquire the players. For instance, if the Braves were going to keep the contracts, the Twins may have had to give up something like a top 10 or 15 prospect. Garcia’s contract also expires at the end of the season, so the Twins are really only paying for a little over two months of play from him. If they had acquired someone with a longer contract, it would have cost them quite a bit more.

In my opinion, this was a very smart move for the Twins at this stage. (Last time I shared my opinion on this site, I said Grossman was the unsung hero of the team and Rosario was barely worth a roster spot. In the month since then, Grossman has looked like his usual AAA self, and Rosario has been tearing the cover off the ball. So maybe take my sports opinions with a grain of salt.)

Sporting the youngest lineup in the entire league, they are clearly a team on the rise, but they aren’t there quite yet. Their window of competitiveness is just now opening. The Twins shouldn’t be sending out their top prospects in trades yet, but they still need to bolster a roster that has the potential for a postseason berth. They were able to do both of those things on Monday. I’d love to see them make similar moves to improve a struggling bullpen, add another starter, or even add a right handed outfielder. It’s a low cost move that should help shore up the team’s biggest weakness. It won’t turn the Twins into World Series favorites, but it’s a start. Are they finished making moves, or will they roll with what they’ve got? After the past several seasons, trades like this and watching meaningful baseball at Target Field at least into August sure is refreshing.

Posted in Jaime Garcia, Minnesota Twins, Trade Deadline, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Robbie Grossman: The Minnesota Twins’ Most Underrated Player

robbiegrossman

Robbie Grossman hitting a single, probably.

(Before I begin my first post, I want to thank Matt and Eric for allowing me to join in their blog. Researching and writing about baseball is one of my biggest hobbies, and I’m happy to have a place to post it.)

I love playing MLB The Show. But as my bored roommates will tell you, there’s hardly any baseball being played. I’m usually simulating through the actual games in the franchise mode to get to the good stuff: the offseason. For me, the best part of the game is in the roster construction. I spend hours analyzing the roster, figuring out its weaknesses and its strengths, and how I might improve it. Since no one has offered me a General Manager position (yet), it’s the best I can do.

That doesn’t stop me from pretending that I, given the chance, could bring October baseball back to Minneapolis. Every offseason, I think about how I would handle the 25 man roster. Who gets offered arbitration? Do I trade Dozier? Which free agents should be targeted? Is Johan Santana available?

After finishing at the bottom of the league last year, there were many ways for the Twins to improve. One of the biggest moves I would have made was for a corner outfielder. I have little faith in Eddie Rosario at the plate, especially as a left fielder (Fun Fact: Rosario has one of the lowest on-base percentages, or OBP, of all time among left fielders with 1,000 plate appearances. Really. More on OBP later.), but I thought he’d make a serviceable fourth outfielder. As bad as he’s been, there’s another Twins outfielder I didn’t give consideration for much playing time at all. Even today, I tend to forget about him, but Robbie Grossman has been, quite easily, the best Twins hitter not named Sano.

Sure, he was pretty good last year, but I don’t think I was alone in thinking his success may have been a mirage. Up until that point, he had been a AAAA player at best. That’s why the Twins were able to pick him off waivers after all. We don’t need to look up the advanced defensive metrics to figure out that he was truly terrible defensively in the outfield. (I did it anyway: By Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR, he was dead last among outfielders with at least 600 innings. Yikes.) His best position, really, is DH, and I thought the Twins had better options there. I thought they should have let him go, or at least try to stash him in AAA. I’m glad they didn’t.

I think we tend to forget about Grossman because he’s valuable not for what he does, but what he doesn’t do. Ironically, his refusal to swing the bat has earned him a place in the lineup. Grossman swings at an MLB lowest 17% of pitches outside the zone, or O-Swing%, which fuels his also MLB best 17.1% walk rate. Plate discipline and a taking your walks is crucial for a high OBP, and since joining the Twins last summer, he’s been one of the best in the game by that measure.

Whew, a lot of numbers. Hang with me. If you need a break, enjoy this clip of Johan Santana striking out 17 Rangers’ hitters at The Dome.

But Austin, how can a guy hitting .253 with just six homeruns be of any value? Why is Robbie Grossman in Paul Molitor’s lineup nearly every day? There are two reasons. First: That on-base percentage is huge. Batting average is a bit of a misleading statistic; OBP is a much better measure of a hitter’s abilities and correlates more strongly with actual runs scored. Team OBP and team runs scored have a correlation of .897 compared to batting average’s .828. Think of it this way: If a player has an OBP of .300, you could say he has an “out percentage” of .700. If you have a higher OBP, your “out percentage” will be lower. Robbie Grossman simply creates fewer outs than other hitters. If we go back to Eddie Rosario, or the ‘anti-Grossman”, we can now understand why his historically bad OBP is so harmful. “A walk is as good as hit” isn’t completely true, but it’s close. Merely getting on base and avoiding outs is the most valuable thing a hitter can do at the plate.

Second: Remember that ugly defensive stat earlier? Robbie Grossman appears to have worked quite hard during the offseason to improve his abilities in the field. No, it’s not like you’re going to have to squint to tell which one is Buxton and which is Grossman on fly balls to right-center, but he’s improved to the point where he doesn’t hurt the team out there. His UZR now stands at a -3.1 which ranks 67th out of 114 outfielders with as many innings (Which is actually quite a bit better than Rosario’s -8.1, by the way). He’s come from worst in the game to merely slightly below average. Well done, Robbie.

To summarize, Robbie Grossman has kept it up at the plate while improving his defensive game to a respectable level. While he will still see majority of his playing time out of the DH spot, and he should, his improved defense affords Molitor the flexibility to give someone else a turn at DH or cover for injuries in the outfield.

I always love when I hear about a player putting in the work during the offseason to improve their game and you can see the results. Grossman is still not as exciting as Sano, or even Rosario if we’re honest. I’ll still probably find myself checking my phone or grabbing a snack when he’s at the plate. In fact, I can’t think of a baseball player that has ever been as boring as Robbie Grossman. But to the Twins surprising success this year, he has been as important as almost anyone.

Oh, and Johan Santana is still available, BTW. Last I checked, the Twins could use another starter. Or four…

Posted in Baseball, Eddie Rosario, Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins, MLB, Robbie Grossman, Uncategorized | 1 Comment