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Recent under-the-radar hires could have a significant impact for the Twins

MINNEAPOLIS – The Twins made news headlines locally and nationally Tuesday when they extended manager Paul Molitor’s contract, and made it apparent that they were in the market for a new Major League pitching coach and probably a minor league pitching coordinator.

They also announced two hires that didn’t make the front-page headlines, but figure to have a significant impact on the fortunes of the franchise. Daniel Adler was officially announced as the Director of Baseball Operations, and Jeremy Zoll was named the Director Minor League Operations. These are two guys a background in analytics, and they’ll be tasked with building the systems that help power the Twins as an organization, from talent acquisition to player development and beyond.

The Twins also moved Brad Steil, the former minor league director, to a new position, Director of Pro Scouting. Derek Falvey said that move will give Steil a chance to acquire a skillset that he hasn’t had yet. And last but not least, the Twins promoted one of their summer operations interns, Ezra Wise, to Baseball Operations Assistant.  Wise and Steil had already been in the organization, and Adler actually started in his new role over the middle of the summer, replacing Jack Goin in the Twins front office. Zoll, a 2012 graduate of Haverford College, joins Minnesota after a few years working in the Dodgers organization.

“He came from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and we’re excited to have him, fortunate to have him,” Falvey said. “He comes highly recommended by the people that he’s worked with and around. He’s going to give us the opportunity to bring in some new ideas into what we’re doing developmentally, and he’s an excited add to our staff.”

Adler holds a JD/MBA from Harvard, has worked in baseball’s Labor Relations Department, and he’s also done analytics work for Boston Consulting Group, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Zoll was a catcher in college, and he’s also spent the past two years as the Dodgers’ Assistant Director of Player Development under Gabe Kapler. According to a press release from the Twins, Zoll “worked with Dodgers player development leaders regarding on-field philosophies and special programs, and aided the Research and Development department in the implementation of various initiatives.” That description strikes me the same way I think of the role on the Twins coaching staff of Jeff Pickler – who also came from the Dodgers organization: Bridge the gap between learning things through data and models and the like, and then find a way to put it into practice that makes sense for the people who actually have to do the work.  The primary difference is that Zoll will oversee the minor leagues, a crucial phase of development for any successful Major League player.

In theory, if an organization is even a few percentage points better at developing talent in the minor leagues, it should boast a big advantage over the competition. Developing players internally costs money, time and other resourches, but it’s likely a more cost-effective strategy than trying to reload a team on the free agent market every winter. Again, in theory, if a team can take Pitcher X, who has a 50% chance of being a productive big leaguer and a 5% chance of being a big-league star, and then maximize those chances, that’s a real edge. Mutliply that edge across dozens of pitchers throughout an organization year after year, and pretty soon that adds up to real wins and losses in the Majors.

This isn’t to suggest that any smart person with a baseball background will automatically be a successful hire. And I’m not even fully aware of the ways in which the Twins will use these guys in their new roles. It’s just to say that investing in “research and development” and hiring people with strong credentials – in research and baseball – could be a competitive advantage for the Twins.

The name “Molitor” is much more recognizable to baseball fans than Adler or Zoll, but in terms of wins and losses and creating a championship organization, the latter two could play a significant role behind the scenes.

  • Jordan Musser

    It is definitely starting to sound as if the Twins are building a strong team behind the scenes and have two smart guys at the helm and a great guy in Pauly leading the ship. What a turn around one season made. lets see what the next 3-5 years brings.

    • ogredragon

      my guess would be this was 2002 and we have the rest of the 2000’s to look forward to.. unfortunately they Twins never won a world series in that time. Ryan wasn’t willing to put away the plans and focus on the reality. The Dynamic duo did the same this this season, focused on the future and blew off an opportunity this season.

      • Jordan Musser

        That’s ok though Dragon. We didn’t have the top or backend of the rotation to go anywhere this year. Berrios belongs in the #2 spot on the rotation and it would be nice to add an elite #1 So Santana can be a #3 starter like he should be. That would be a nice 1-3 rotation and keep building that bullpen. We also didn’t have Sano and lost Buxton during the Yankee game which would have been huge losses if we were to somehow have beaten the yanks. I think Falvey and co want championships not just putting fans in seats.

        • ogredragon

          that is the whole Point. The Yankmees spent to advance. those bull pen pieces are the difference for them. We could just as well had them and a Verlander. With the offense the team is capable of, no telling how far they could go. These opportunities don’t just come every season. You can have the best team and never get a shot because timing, luck, injuries all matter etc etc etc… . A lot of people are saying wait til next year. They seem to forget the 2000’s where Ryan was waiting for the perfect time to go all in and win the series. Of course they never did and they had loads of talent. There is no perfect time. This opportunity is gone never to come again and there are no promised ones for tomorrow. Imagine if Sano doesn’t come back from his injury or that Buxton blew up a couple of discs when he hit the wall.

          • Jordan Musser

            You definitely have a point. The only thing is we didn’t have the assets to give like the Yankees. We are slowly building our minor league talent and once that comes to fruition then you can make those trades. But honestly what could we have traded this year for those closers? Remember those closers came from the White Sox as well which means we would have probably had to give even more than NY did. Same goes for Verlander in Det.

          • ogredragon

            they didn’t give up any of their top talents. They are too smart for that… we had plenty to trade, being only about 30% of prospects even make the MLB as part timers… you aren’t really trading much most of the time. Its gambling, you see the opportunity and spend some resources. but By then the Dynamic Duo had throw in the season in June. That waiting for a sure bet in baseball is a long wait for nothing. The Yankmees aren’t that much more than the Twins in Talent (They had nearly the same record ( twins even better at times)) until the trading season., but that is only one part of the scenario, Luck, timing, the vagaries of baseball, injuries and thousands of never quantified pieces go into making winning teams. . Chicago is on the Rise, Cleveland should stay strong and with Boston, the Yankmees, The Astros, Texas, Seattle, and teams we can’t see coming…and etc all improving them selves… we may not see another opportunity next year especially if they don’t gamble on it being the right season. Planning should never be the end of what you are doing, it should be the beginning and it needs to be fluid,. They didn’t adjust to the reality staring them in the face. . They failed this year.





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