The Minnesota Twins announced their 2018 Diamond Award winners late last week. The Diamond Awards are presented every year on the eve of TwinsFest at a banquet held at Target Field, and the upcoming presentation will be the 14th time they’ve been handed out.
Here are the awards, as voted on by the Twin Cities chapter of the BBWAA:
Calvin R. Griffith Award (Most Valuable Player): Eddie Rosario
Rosario built off a strong 2017 season by having a particularly good start to 2018 before the end of his season was waylaid by shoulder and quad issues. After hitting .290/.328/.507 in 2017, Rosario hit .311/.353/.537 in the first half before slumping to just .240/.262/.361 in the second half.
Joseph W. Haynes Award (Pitcher of the Year): Jose Berrios
Even with a bit of a late-season fade — 4.74 August ERA, 4.40 in September — Berrios took another step toward establishing himself as the cornerstone of the Twins rotation. Berrios posted a 3.84 ERA, a slight improvement on 2017’s 3.89, but added a strikeout per nine innings, kept his walk rate stable and dropped his WHIP while being selected to his first All-Star team.
Despite all these accolades, the workaholic righty will still open 2019 just 24 years old, with still more room to grow.
Bill Boni Award (Most Outstanding Rookie): Jake Cave
Cave was acquired by the Twins in Spring Training for minor-league pitcher Luis Gil, and after a slow start at Triple-A Rochester came up and provided some thunder to an offense desperate for it. With players like Brian Dozier and pretty much everyone other than Rosario and Eduardo Escobar off to slow starts, Cave provided a nice shot in the arm with 13 homers in just 309 plate appearances with a slash line of .269/.316/.481.
The jury is out on if he can handle a full-season worth of playing time — added defensive value or plate discipline would make him a slam-dunk everyday player — but after seeing the Twins give reps to replacement outfielders like Jordan Schafer, Logan Schafer and Clete Thomas in recent years, Cave’s emergence was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dreadful season.
Jim Kaat Award (Defensive Player of the Year): Max Kepler
It certainly bolstered his case when Byron Buxton went down more or less for the season in late May, but Kepler did a nice job in right field for a team that otherwise didn’t have a ton of defensive stability.
Defense can be hard to nail down from a value standpoint, but new defensive metrics released by Statcast called “Directional Outs Above Average” attempts to quantify how good a player is at going in each direction an outfielder can move.
By that measure, Kepler was 12th among outfielders with a plus-10 rating and had a zero or positive mark in each of the six directions listed.
Dick Siebert Award (Upper Midwest Player of the Year), Bob Allison Award (Heart, Hustle, Etc.): Joe Mauer
The Siebert Award is often up for discussion among writers since it’s more geographically-specific rather than Twins-specific. Non-Twins names who are also frequently mentioned are Jeremy Hellickson (Des Moines native), Tony Watson (Sioux City, Iowa) and a few others, but in this case, Mauer was kind of the easy pick with how the season ended and how it became clear he was at least seriously considering retirement. Not that the Siebert Award is some kind of magical send-off, but it’s a nice honor for a player who has meant a heck of a lot to the baseball in the area.
As for the Allison Award, it’s hard to imagine giving it to anyone else after this season.
Mike Augustin “Media Good Guy” Award, Charles O. Johnson Award (Most Improved): Kyle Gibson
Gibson took a massive jump forward on the field in his age-30 season, posting career-best marks in ERA (3.62) and strikeout rate (8.2 K/9) while making 30 starts for the first time since 2015.
Off the field, it’s hard to find a more accommodating player to chat with than the tall righty, whose wisdom about the game greatly exceeds his age. Gibson is affable, intelligent and easy to find — both in terms of height and accessibility — in a Twins clubhouse almost always filled with good players to chat with.
Kirby Puckett Award for Twins Alumni Community Service: Corey Koskie
Koskie not only keeps a presence on Twitter here but is also involved with numerous programs aimed at improving the communities around him. The site Linklete is one way Koskie gives back, as he gets athletes to write stories about shared experiences in sports.
The tagline for the site? “Connecting youth sports for good.”
If that wasn’t enough, Koskie’s twitter profile sums it up pretty well, too: “Live an extraordinary life so countless others do as well. Living our life to its fullest potential is not an opportunity, it is our responsibility.”
Herb Carneal Lifetime Achievement Award: Jack Morris
Morris winning the Carneal Award caps a whirlwind year for the St. Paul native, who was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July. The list of previous winners of this award is long and distinguished, and select company to be a part of:
- Herb Carneal (2006)
- Tom Mee (2007)
- Carl Pohlad (2008)
- Jerry Bell (2009)
- Bert Blyleven (2010)
- John Gordon (2011)
- Jim Rantz (2012)
- Tony Oliva (2013)
- Tom Kelly (2015)
- Rod Carew (2016)
- Rick Stelmaszek (2017)
Jim Rantz Award (Minor League Pitcher of the Year): Lewis Thorpe
Thorpe’s career in the minor leagues has been a wild one since signing with the Twins as a 16-year-old International free agent in 2012. The lefty missed all of 2015-16 with Tommy John surgery as well as a particularly difficult bout with mononucleosis before getting back on the mound for High-A Fort Myers in 2017.
Despite missing all that time, Thorpe was still two-plus years younger than his average Florida State League counterpart, and pitched well enough for a late-season look with Double-A Chattanooga before his season came to an end.
Thorpe opened 2018 with the Lookouts and even made four late-season appearances with Rochester before his season was capped at 129.2 innings. Overall, Thorpe posted a 3.54 ERA across both levels with 10.9 strikeouts and 2.5 walks per nine innings. He had a 1.24 WHIP and made 25 starts — far and away the most of any season he’s played in the minors.
He’s already on the 40-man roster as well, so he’ll likely surface at some point in the big leagues with the 2019 club. MLB.com currently lists him as the team’s No. 10 prospect.
Sherry Robertson Award (Minor League Player of the Year): Alex Kirilloff
Speaking of missing full seasons, Kirilloff didn’t miss a beat after missing the entire 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. After the Twins took Kirilloff in the first round of the 2016 draft, he got off to a strong start — .306/.341/.454 — with Rookie level Elizabethton before undergoing surgery.
The Twins still pushed Kirilloff to Low-A Cedar Rapids after a year away, and he responded by destroying the Midwest League to the tune of a .333/.391/.607 line in 65 games before being promoted to High-A Fort Myers.
Even after a year off, Kirilloff was still a full year younger than the average Midwest League player and nearly 2.5 years younger than the average FSL player. Kirilloff’s hot hitting continued in High-A with a .362/.393/.550 line, and for the year in 130 games, Kirilloff hit .348/.392/.578 with 20 homers, 101 RBIs and 44 doubles.
MLB.com currently lists Kirilloff as the team’s No. 2 prospect.
The Diamond Awards will take place on Jan. 24, 2019 beginning at 5:30 p.m. at The Depot in Minneapolis, and will be rebroadcast during most Twins rain delays during the 2019 season. The proceeds will benefit research and care for patients suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), ataxia, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Tickets are available here.
While the Twins haven’t formally hired a manager yet, things are getting hot and heavy in the process according to local and national reports.
Local reporter Darren Wolfson (1500 ESPN, KSTP) said on Monday that Tampa Bay Rays coach Rocco Baldelli was in town for a second interview and was reportedly impressive during the first one.
Baldelli, 37, was a super prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays in the early 2000s, but a rare disorder shortened his career. He joined the Rays as a roving minor-league instructor after retirement, and has been a first-base coach and major-league field coordinator for the Rays in recent years.
With no path to a managerial role in Tampa — Kevin Cash was just signed to an extension through the 2024 season — this would appear to be a good chance for Baldelli to take the next step in his post-playing career.
That’s even more true now with the Cincinnati Reds hiring David Bell and the Los Angeles Angels going with Brad Ausmus. Both teams were in the mix for his services.
Marc Topkin — the quintessential follow among Tampa Bay beat reporters — posted a story over the weekend for the Tampa Bay Times laying out the reasons why Baldelli is such a sought-after commodity. Most importantly, Baldelli is young, sharp and well versed in analytics as well as humble — all things Topkin says teams are seeking in leadership at this time.
National reporter Jon Heyman indicated over the weekend that Hensley Meulens and Joe Espada were out of the mix for the managerial job, but that it seemed likely Derek Shelton and James Rowson were still in, as is Cubs coach Brandon Hyde.
Based on nothing more than reading the situation, I’d rank the power rankings in this race as follows:
- Shelton (more or less a 1a)
- The field
Minor League Ball is in the process of releasing its top-20 prospect lists and the Twins are the first team John Sickels will be releasing.
Based on Sickels’ early drafts, he has assessed the following grades:
- A: 2
- A-: 0
- B+: 2
- B: 5
- B-: 10
- C+: 26
- C: Many
Without getting too deep into the weeds, who do you think are some of these players? Here’s our guess, but feel free to add yours in the comments or tweet it to me @Brandon_Warne:
- A: Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff (seems easy)
- B+: Brusdar Graterol, Trevor Larnach (maybe Gordon instead?)
- B: Brent Rooker, Nick Gordon, Wander Javier, Jorge Alcala, Akil Baddoo
The toughest omissions between B and B- were Stephen Gonsalves, Lewis Thorpe, Blayne Enlow, Lamonte Wade and Gilberto Celestino.