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Potential Twins Rosario Trade Logical

June 30, 2020 - 1 Comment

 

With the Minnesota Twins training this week for their 60-game schedule that begins in late July, it would be surprising if the front office isn’t thinking about trading left fielder Eddie Rosario for pitching help. “The wheels” are likely turning, a veteran baseball observer told Sports Headliners.

He said Rosario’s age, productive past and minimal contract, combined with high potential replacement candidates from Minnesota’s farm system, point toward the five-year veteran clearly being the most likely Twin who could be traded this summer. Rosario, who turns 29 in September, had a career season in 2019 in home runs (32) and RBI (109, sixth best in the American League).

While Rosario is in his peak years and has impressive traditional stats like a .279 lifetime batting average in the majors, other metrics are less desirable such as chasing pitches outside of the strike zone. At times observers have also questioned his hustle and fielding.

Rosario is in the final season of his contract and in 2020 is paid $7,750,000 per Spotrac.com. That’s not a lot by MLB standards for a hitter of his quality. A new deal might pay him a not so costly $13 million in 2021. That’s attractive to teams who could be looking for one more solid bat in the race for the 2020 playoffs and success in the postseason.

Minnesota’s minor league system has two hyped left field candidates to replace Rosario, if not this season, then perhaps next. Alex Kirilloff, a former first round draft choice in 2016, was ranked the 32nd best prospect in baseball by MLB.com earlier this year. Trevor Larnach, a first round selection in 2018, is also one of the most valued prospects in the Twins’ system. Both are left-handed hitters like Rosario.

In the short term, the Twins have other options in replacing Rosario. In parts of two seasons Jake Cave has impressed in the outfield and been okay with his hitting. Multi-positional veteran Marwin Gonzalez, who in 425 bats last year for the Twins drove in 55 runs, plays in the infield and outfield.

Minnesota’s 40-man roster announced earlier this week has just four left-handed pitchers. Devin Smeltzer and Rich Hill have MLB resumes both starting and relieving, while Taylor Rogers and Lewis Thorpe are bullpen specialists. The imbalance between left-handed and right-handed pitchers (four versus 18) could certainly figure into analysis for a Rosario trade.

Twins front office executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have multiple options in offering the attractive Rosario as trade bait. They might acquire an established pitcher of value in return for Rosario, with possibly a minor league prospect included, too. The Minnesota farm system isn’t deep in quality pitching prospects and another option could be asking for two of the better minor league pitchers from a rival franchise.

The organization certainly has incentive to further strengthen the roster of a team that won 101 games last season and added one of baseball’s best sluggers this winter in Josh Donaldson. Twins president Dave St. Peter has stated the 2020 World Series is the club’s goal.

Worth Noting

Hope the University of Minnesota takes the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the 60th anniversary of the school’s last national championship football team, the 1960 Golden Gophers.

It was welcome news for Bloomington, Minnesota native Lane Kiffin yesterday when he heard about Mississippi’s decision to remove the Confederate battle symbol from the state flag. Kiffin is the first-year head coach of the SEC’s Mississippi Rebels.

Minnehaha’s Chet Holmgren, per some authorities the No. 1 prep basketball player in the national class of 2021, lists his top seven college possibilities as Georgetown, Gonzaga, Memphis, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio State. If things follow the norm, Minnesota and Big Ten rivals Michigan and Ohio State won’t land the athletic 7-foot Holmgren whose father, David, was a Gopher reserve from 1984-1988.

Tyus Jones

Minnesota’s elite preps usually haven’t chosen the Gophers for several years now, with Amir Coffey and Daniel Oturu being exceptions. Dawson Garcia, Matthew Hurt, Tyus and Tre Jones, Gary Trent Jr. and Kerwin Walton are among star players who decided to play elsewhere, but not for Big Ten programs. (Wisconsin is the outlier here attracting both quality and role players from Minnesota for decades, but with the Holmgren family background it’s difficult to see Chet becoming a Badger).

With Minnesota coach Richard Pitino on the hot seat, it’s probable rival recruiters will suggest it should be an easy choice to play at their programs where the future leadership is more certain.

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph will for a second straight year be the ambassador for the 3M Open. The second-year PGA tournament will be July 23-26 at TPC Twin Cities and played without spectators. Today Rudolph will be at 3M headquarters in Maplewood helping with a tourney associated food drive.

When the Minnesota Wild play in the rescheduled Stanley Cup playoffs this summer, it will be interesting to see the development of forward Kevin Fiala who was dazzling opponents when the COVID-19 pandemic closed the NHL regular season in March. Fiala looks like a breakout star playing for interim head coach Dean Evason, whose experiences together date back to the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL.

Fiala was inconsistent in production and attitude with the Admirals. Evason, who coached the minor league Admirals for six seasons, saw a player with potential needing to mature. Fiala tied his NHL career high of 23 goals last season. In the last five games he had seven points including four goals.

Wally Langfellow, publisher of Minnesota Score magazine and also heard on Score Radio, is running for mayor of Robbinsdale. Langfellow has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1982.

 

Hometowners Loom Big for P.J. Fleck

June 25, 2020 - (0) comments

 

The 2021 University of Minnesota football recruiting class is looking like the best of the internet era for the Gophers, but there is still more potential.

Totino-Grace’s Joe Alt and Davon Townley from Minneapolis North could join others who have already made verbal commitments to the Gophers—and the hometowners would be significant additions to the class of 2021 that 247Sports ranks No. 15 in the nation.

Recruiting authority Ryan Burns told Sports Headliners a decision regarding college choice may come from Alt within the next 30 to 60 days. Burns, publisher of GopherIllustrated.com, said a summer timeline has been in place for awhile for the high school tight end who projects as a big time college offensive lineman and could finish his prep career as a four-star player.

Joe’s father John Alt was a great offensive tackle for Iowa but Burns thinks interest in the Hawkeyes might be cooling given the program’s already high count of offensive line prospects. But Notre Dame, where the family also has ties, could be even more competition for the Gophers. With the COVID-19 pandemic, though, a visit to the South Bend campus and meeting with the Fighting Irish coaches hasn’t been possible and might not be in place for awhile.

How that plays out Burns isn’t predicting but he acknowledged the importance of Alt becoming a Gopher could potentially be a “significant milestone.” Fleck and his staff have frequently been frustrated in efforts to land top players from the state of Minnesota, particularly offensive linemen who have instead chosen Nebraska, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. “I think that would represent a very serious win for P.J. Fleck,” Burns said about Alt committing to Minnesota.

The Gophers have lost two defensive linemen who once made verbal commitments including D’Marion Alexander from Texas who backed out just this week. Burns said social justice issues happening in Minnesota this spring prompted the change in plans. The departures puts a focus on Townley, a four-star defensive end.

Quality defensive linemen might play the most prized of all the positions in college football, with Burns believing “supply never meets demand.” Townley is an athletic basketball player turned football star, and Burns praises his skills including a “great first step” that is so important to pass rushers. While Penn State has offered a scholarship, Burns said Minnesota is in the lead for Townley who is related to former Gophers All-Big Ten wide receiver Tyler Johnson.

In the back and forth world of teenagers, players can decommit and recommit again. But Burns doesn’t see that happening with Albert Regis, the other defensive lineman the Gophers lost. He said the four-star Texas native wants to stay closer to home and Minnesota is too far away for him.

Better news for the Gophers among defensive linemen could come with the eventual commitment for the class of 2022 by Trey Bixby, a four-star defensive end from Ohio. Michigan State is among interested schools but Burns said the Gophers could have an edge because the family is originally from Minnesota and Bixby has a strong interest in the program. “He grew up a Gopher fan,” Burns added.

247Sports lists 16 verbal commits for the 2021 class including four-star cornerback Steven Ortiz from Arizona. Not only is Ortiz a talented player, but he has been a vocal leader with the recruiting class. His leadership among fellow recruits reminds Burns of former Gopher Carter Coughlin who while in high school in Eden Prairie was so enthusiastic about Minnesota. “He (Ortiz) is the best recruiting leader Minnesota has had since Carter Coughlin’s class (2016),” Burns said.

Ryan Burns

Burns expects the 2021 recruiting class to eventually total in the low 20s. He predicted Fleck is in no hurry to use up all his scholarships. A winning 2020 season on the field is predicted, and Minnesota could leverage that success to be a factor with hyped recruits.

Speaking of wide receivers, Burns doesn’t believe Eden Prairie native JD Spielman, who left Nebraska this spring, will transfer to Minnesota. The Gophers have an opening for playing time with Tyler Johnson gone and Spielman was one of the Big Ten’s more explosive receivers at Nebraska. Spielman’s next stop is unknown.

The Gophers do have one of the nation’s best wide receivers in junior Rashod Bateman. CollegeFootballNews.com this week ranked Bateman the No. 7 player in the Big Ten in its listing of the conference’s top 30 players. Minnesota quarterback Tyler Morgan is No. 9. Ohio State QB Justin Fields is No. 1.

Asked about possible breakthrough players among true freshmen from the class of 2020, Burns likes Florida wide receiver Douglas Emilien on offense. Another Florida native, defensive back Jalen Glaze, is his choice on defense, with the possibility for playing time at the nickel position or another spot in the secondary.

No Delay for Miguel Sano Arrival

Club president Dave St. Peter told Sports Headliners this afternoon there is no anticipated problem in arranging for Minnesota Twins players to report for training in Minneapolis by July 1, including slugger Miguel Sano who is in the Dominican Republic where he encountered a personal issue earlier this month.

“There is no concern about getting Miguel in here,” St. Peter said. “His case (alleged kidnapping) was dismissed today so there is no personal problem.”

The 6-foot-4 Sano encountered off-field issues in the past including a weight problem. Team officials monitored his 2020 offseason training and like the reports. “We expect Miguel to report in shape and ready to go,” St. Peter said.

The 27-year-old had a career season in 2019 for home runs, 34, and RBI, 79. St. Peter said the club doesn’t talk about projected future numbers but clearly there is an expectation of high performance this season and beyond.

After emerging as one of baseball’s better teams last year and adding quality players in the offseason, the Twins talked in spring training about the goal of reaching the 2020 World Series. “That goal remains in front of us today,” St. Peter said.

MLB teams begin the 60-game regular season July 23 or 24. All the Twins games will be on radio and TV. For the first time in 60 seasons the game can be heard in the metro area on both AM (WCCO) and FM (102.9 The Wolf). The addition of FM is expected to help attract a larger listening audience among young fans.

The club’s radio network will be over 80 stations, the second or third largest in MLB, St. Peter said. The radio voices will be Cory Provus and Dan Gladden. Justin Morneau and Bert Blyleven will work a package of games on TV with Dick Bremer, with other analysts expected to join play-by-play man Bremer.

 

Stay Tuned: Vikings and National Anthem

June 23, 2020 - 1 Comment

 

A sports industry authority, speaking anonymously, said he was told by someone inside the Minnesota Vikings organization the club is expecting some of its players to take a knee during the national anthem if games are played this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asked how many Vikings may participate in social justice protesting at games, the source said, “More than a couple for sure.” Kneeling players aren’t expected to be fined or disciplined.

With speculation even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might take a knee in protest over social wrongs and cultural practices, it seems certain there will be controversy at league games this fall with the possibility players from all 32 teams will protest by not standing for the Star Spangled Banner and presentation of the flag. Former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, now with the Washington Redskins, said via online stories he will “without a doubt” protest by taking a knee.

The Sports Headliners source predicted over 50 percent of Vikings season ticket holders will react negatively to players taking a knee in what those fans view as disrespect for America. He guessed “10 to 15 percent” could end their ticket commitment to the club.

In these controversial and changing times former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has received more acceptance of late than he ever did in 2016 when he chose not to stand for the national anthem while creating a firestorm of criticism. Former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, speaking on TMZ Sports last Sunday, compared Kaepernick and the late Pat Tillman, a U.S. Army hero who left the NFL after 9/11 to fight for his country. A national civil rights advocate, Kaepernick supporters contend he was blackballed from the NFL because of his views and willingness to sacrifice a football career for his cause.

That comparison by Favre, including the source it came from, may startle many Americans but there is no predicting who will say what next. A Saturday online story by the New York Post quoted Muhammad Ali’s son as critical of the Black Lives Matter organization and protesters who destroyed property.

Referring to the organization as “racist” for pitting different groups against one another, and describing looters as “devils,” Muhammad Ali Jr. said his famous father would have been disturbed by the violence in America since the brutal death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “Don’t bust up s–t, don’t trash the place,” he told The Post. “You can peacefully protest. …”

Ali, a Muslim like his father, made it clear in the article he is a supporter of law enforcement. “Not all the police are bad, there’s just a few. There’s a handful of police that are crooked, they should be locked up. I never had a bad scene with a cop. They’ve always been nice and protect me. I don’t have a problem with them.”

Worth Noting

Former Gopher basketball player and now Timberwolves executive John Thomas has a byline story in the current issue of Sports Illustrated about race in his hometown of Minneapolis and across the nation. “…People have a bunch of questions or biases about Black culture,” he told writer Chris Mannix. “Talk about them. Ask. The more we can humanize our approach, the more we can show empathy, the more we can have the right conversations, the better.”

The likelihood now of at least having a 60-game season is a good development for Minnesota Twins DH Nelson Cruz who turns 40 a week from Wednesday. It’s a short list of big leaguers who have ever played at a high level past the age of 40.

When Cruz hit .311 for the Twins last season it was his highest average in the big leagues since his .318 with the Texas Rangers in 2010. His 41 home runs with Minnesota was the third highest total of his MLB career that began in 2005. Known for his dedication in preparing his body and mind to play baseball, Cruz is an outlier but it’s unfortunate he and other big leaguers will see their playing time either reduced to less than half a season in 2020.

Falvey & Levine

The Twins value Cruz for his first season production at the plate in 2019 and also his extraordinary leadership in the clubhouse. The commitment of front office executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine is influenced, though, by Cruz’s age and the Dominican Republic native has only a one-year deal with the club. The next season or two will show whether Cruz can join a group that includes Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, David Ortiz and Ted Williams who could still terrorize pitchers in their early 40’s.

Cruz made national headlines Sunday night winning the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award as part of television’s ESPYS honors. The award, per a statement from the Twins, recognizes an athlete “whose continued, demonstrated leadership has created a measured positive impact on their community through sports.” Cruz has been praised for years in recognition for his charitable work in Latin America and the United States.

Other candidates for the award Cruz won included former Minnesota pro basketball stars Kevin Love and Maya Moore.

The National Football Foundation & College Football Hall of Fame recently announced candidates for the class of 2021 but no former Golden Gophers are on the ballot. Greg Eslinger meets the criteria and should be a candidate after one of the most honored careers for a lineman in Gopher history.

Eslinger won the prestigious Outland and Rimington awards in 2005 for his superb blocking as Minnesota’s center. He was named to two All-American teams in his junior season of 2004, and made six such teams in 2005.

Former national championship and Big Ten title coach Murray Warmath was at Minnesota for 18 seasons. He isn’t in the hall of fame because criteria for coaches includes a winning percentage of .600 or better. His winning percentage was .526.

New co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson on who is going to be calling the defense during games: “It’s up to the boss (head coach Mike Zimmer).”

 

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