Three Twins takeaways: All-Star Carlos Correa, Wallner’s next chance, Paddack’s big test

MINNEAPOLIS — Carlos Correa was announced Sunday as the Minnesota Twins’ lone All-Star Game representative, earning a spot on the American League team as a reserve.

It is the third All-Star honor of Correa’s career and his first with the Twins, having previously spent 2017 (as a starting shortstop) and 2021 (as a reserve) with the Houston Astros on the AL team.

“This is my home now here in Minnesota,” Correa said. “And to get my first All-Star Game here with this team is really special.”

Correa has slashed .305/.376/.508 with 11 homers, 18 doubles/triples and 45 RBIs in 71 games for an OPS+ of 147, which ranks eighth in the AL and is the second-best mark of his career behind an OPS+ of 155 in 2017. Add to that his usual stellar play at shortstop and Correa was my pick for the Twins’ first-half MVP. He led the team in Wins Above Replacement and Win Probability Added.

However, he faced extremely stiff competition among the AL shortstops, with starter Gunnar Henderson of the Baltimore Orioles and reserve Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals as no-brainer selections amid MVP-caliber first halves. Correa’s candidacy came down to the AL roster adding a third shortstop, making him the easy choice for that spot.

“This time will be extra special because it’s the first time I’m going as a father,” Correa said. “I’ll have my two boys with me. I’ve always seen it on TV when players go with their kids, and I think it’s the coolest thing ever. I told my wife before the season that I really wanted to make it so I could take the boys and hang out with them and meet some of their favorite players.”

About four hours before MLB officially announced Correa as an All-Star, he left Sunday’s walk-off win over the Astros after being hit in the right hand by a 96.2 mph fastball. According to the Twins, initial scans came back negative for fractures and Correa was diagnosed with a finger contusion, but he may undergo further testing.

“I’m going to play (Monday),” Correa said matter-of-factly after the match.

Assuming no other Twins are named as last-minute replacements, this would be the team’s first season (excluding 2020, when the Midsummer Classic was canceled) with just one All-Star player since 2018, when José Berriós went solo.

There’s no shortage of Twins with All-Star-caliber first-half prospects at their respective positions, including Willi Castro, Joe Ryan, Jose Miranda, Byron Buxton, Ryan Jeffers and Griffin Jax, so it’s still possible they could add a second player ahead of the July 16 game in Texas.

Matt Wallner’s Next Chance

Matt Wallner seemed so helpless at bat after being on the Opening Day roster that the Twins demoted him to Triple-A St. Paul after just three weeks and 25 at-bats of the season.

They wanted to give Wallner an extended chance to improve his swing mechanics and get a “full reset” mentally, and the 26-year-old slugger is now returning after the most brutal run of his career. After some initial struggles following the demotion, Wallner hit .331 with 14 homers in his final 33 games for the Saints and won the International League Player of the Month award for June.

“Wally has made real adjustments and real improvements,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s had some great at-bats. He’s swung the bat really well. He’s hit the ball well. He’s gotten on base. He’s taken everything that’s been thrown at him and gone to work. He’s looking good right now. And he’s earned his chance to get back to the big leagues.”

Called up Sunday as a corresponding move for Austin Martin, who is on the injured list with a right oblique strain, Wallner is likely to play regularly against right-handed pitchers as part of the corner outfield and designated hitter mix. It’s a chance for the Twins to add some left-handed thumper to the lineup in the absence of Edouard Julien and Alex Kirilloff.

It’s also a chance for Wallner to prove that his three bad weeks this season don’t cancel out his three good months for the Twins last season, or his three good years in the minors before that. He hit .249/.370/.507 with 14 homers in 76 games for the Twins last year, which ranks second on the team in OPS behind Royce Lewis, and he’s a career .267/.374/.515 hitter at Triple A.

Wallner strikes out a lot and often looks awkward in the outfield, but he has top-tier raw power and perhaps the best outfield throwing arm in baseball. Giving up a player with such game-changing ability for 25 ugly plate appearances would be a mistake in any situation, but especially when Wallner has shown he can perform against major-league pitchers before.

Now he just has to show it one more time and demonstrate that the adjustments made in the minors are sustainable and effective in reducing his swing-and-miss rate enough to consistently tap into his 30-homer power. Wallner is too good for Triple-A competition, and he’s had more major league success than most so-called “Quad-A” players, but the burden of proof is on him.

Chris Paddack’s Big Test

Chris Paddack is expected to come off the IL and rejoin the Twins’ rotation Monday night in Chicago against the White Sox after resting for two weeks due to fatigue in his right shoulder.

Substitute David Festa struggled in Paddack’s place, allowing 12 runs in 10 innings. However, Twins officials indicated that it had always been their plan to make just two starts for the rookie, allowing Paddack to rest midseason after returning from a second Tommy John surgery.

Paddack’s first 15 starts post-surgery were a mixed bag. He had a handful of encouraging outings, including a couple of legitimately impressive starts, but his velocity was wildly variable and he served up 13 homers in 78 1/3 innings en route to a bloated 5.20 ERA (and an only slightly better 4.69 xERA).

Below is a graph of Paddack’s average fastball velocity per game, which often fluctuated between 94 and 96 mph in one start and 90 to 92 mph in the next:

This will be a crucial period for Paddack, who has already thrown his most innings since 2021 and needs to show the Twins he can be counted on in the second half and potentially the playoffs. He’s also under contract for $7.5 million next season as part of an extension signed during his rehab in 2023, a risk the Twins were willing to take given his perceived upside.

Paddack is set to make two starts before the All-Star break, and after the break he’s likely to make one or two more starts before the July 30 trade deadline. If he looks good, the Twins might feel comfortable with their current rotation. If he struggles, they could pursue a veteran starter to bolster a rotation that ranks 24th in MLB with a 4.52 ERA.

Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober aren’t going anywhere, and rookie Simeon Woods Richardson has far exceeded expectations. But can the Twins count on Paddack (and Woods Richardson, given his limited track record) to hold up in August, September and October? And can they count on Festa and Louie Varland to be the next starters?

(Photo of Matt Wallner and Carlos Correa: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

Leave a Comment