Busy week, and that doesn't even count college basketball kicking off on Friday (yay!). Speaking of, I should do like, a mini preview here of UMKC, the Gophers' opponent for a game I cannot attend. And then Louisiana-Monroe since that game is Sunday (and I am going). Man I have a lot of work to do.
UMKC: The Kangaroos are kind of interesting and not just because they are called the Kangaroos. They finished second in the WAC last season and return the Conference Player of the Year in Martez Harrison. They lose most everyone else, but Harrison is apparently good enough that the Roos are projected to finish fourth this year. They started last season with a bang, knocking of Missouri, but then did nothing after. Hopefully they avoid a big win to start the season this time.
Looking at Harrison, it looks like he does it correctly. He gets his 17.5 points per game mainly at the rim, on 3 pointers, and at the line. Although the shooting percentage isn't great at just 39%, he's at least taking good shots - on paper. Should be a fun guy to watch. He scored 26 against Missouri and 21 against Kansas StatePlus they have a dude named Shayok Shayok, and that's always fun.
LOUISIANA-MONROE: ULM also has a fun name, the Warhawks. And, like the Kangaroos, the Warhawks should finish near the top of their conference, in this case the Sun Belt. The Warhawks were a pretty good defensive team last season and they have most of the squad back so they should be annoying again. They play slow and they play tough, and that will certainly be a worthwhile early season test for the crappy Gophers.
Where ULM sucks is shooting, and boy do they suck. They're the suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked. As a team last year they hit under 30% from 3 and 46% from 2. They were alright on free throws, but that didn't matter because they never got to the line - dead last in terms of FTs per FGA, to be specific. Four guys took over 100 3pointers last season and they shot 24%, 35%, 39%, and 28%. So yeah, they're terrible.
So these are two games the Gophers definitely need to win and should win, but both will present some challenges. Probably. I don't know. Who knows what we're getting from this team this year?
Next, the Twins were busy! First they submitted the winning bid of $12.85 for the exclusive negotiating writes with Byung Ho Park of the Korean League. He's 29, so you're gonna get what you're gonna get, but he hit 105 home runs over the past two seasons and sources say that's a lot of home runs. He hit .343 last season, has an OPS of .951 over his career, and averaged 85 walks over the past four seasons. I mean, dude can hit in the Korean League. How does that translate, is the question. If you're cringing a bit because you can't help but think back on Tsuyoshi Nishioka you're not the only one. He put up a .346/.423/.482 line in Japan in 2010, signed with the Twins, and proceed to hit .215/.267/.236 over two seasons so yeah, I'm a bit wary of dudes changing leagues.
One positive data point is Jung Ho Kang of the Pirates who was a teammate of Park's. Kang put up a .356/.459/.739 line in Korea, then came over and hit .287/.355/.461 which is very solid. His homers dipped from 40 in the KBL to 15 in MLB, which is something to keep in mind with Park as well, but Kang should finish 2nd or 3rd in NL Rookie of the Year (behind Kris Bryant) and if the Twins can get similar from Park that's a nice pick up.
Although Park's last season was his best, he's OPSed over 1.000 each of the last three and his career numbers (.281/.387/.564) are very good and he's pretty consistently showed power where's Kang's 40 homers kind of came out of nowhere. If I was in the projection business, I'd probably peg him somewhere around his career numbers with a slight dip in OBP and SLG (maybe .280/.340/.520) with somewhere around 25 homers. I will take that all day.
Then the Twins traded Chris Herrmann to the Diamondbacks for Daniel Palka. Herrmann was sort of terrible so trading him is fine. Palka lands on most D-Backs prospect lists somewhere around 30, so he's probably a good return for Herrmann. He hit .280/.352/.532 last season at high A ball, with 29 homers and 24 steals - good numbers. He's another 1B and OF type with contact issues that seem to litter the Twins minor leagues, but hey, eventually one of them will work out and all they gave up was Herrmann. Groovy.
Finally, the Twins made my brother very angry and traded Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy, a much bigger deal of a trade the first one. Hicks famously had two brutal seasons breaking into the bigs, but last year seemed to be figuring things out and was almost a league average hitter. Given his above average defense and speed, it's a calculated gamble getting rid of him now, however, and I realize how absurd this is even before I type it, the Twins have too many options in the OF so it makes sense to move someone now if he has even a little bit of value, especially if they don't think Hicks is going to live up to his potential. Hopefully we don't have a Carlos Gomez 2.0 situation on our hands here.
Murphy was ranked the Yankees #6 prospect prior to 2014, and hit .277/.327/.406 last year, good enough for an OPS of .734, which would have ranked him ninth among all catchers with at least 400 PAs last season, and well above the .610 Kurt Suzuki, excuse me All-Star Kurt Suzuki, flailed his way to last year. Those numbers are pretty well in line with his minor league career stats, and despite the lack of power (he'll hit about 5-10 homers in a full season) they're serviceable enough considering it sounds like Murphy is an above average defensive catcher, though not a star.
Overall I hate trading Hicks, but the move makes sense in a lot of ways, and that's not even getting into how much money they would end up throwing at either Matt Wieters or some terrible old player like A.J. Pierzynski (who I love) in order to get a decent starting catcher since Suzuki sucks now. Let's just hope Murphy is that decent starting catcher.