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, earning a spot on the American League team as a reserve.

This is Correa’s third career All-Star title, and his first with the Twins, after previously making the American League team in 2017 (as a starting shortstop) and 2021 (as a reserve) with the Houston Astros.

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

Correa hit .305/.376/.508 with 11 homers, 18 doubles/triples and 45 RBIs in 71 games, posting a 147 OPS+ that ranked eighth in the AL and was the second-best mark of his career behind a 155 OPS+ in 2017. Add in his usual stellar shortstop play and Correa was my pick for the Twins’ first-half MVP, leading the team in wins above replacement and win probability added.

However, he faced extremely stiff competition among American League shortstops, with Baltimore Orioles starter Gunnar Henderson and Kansas City Royals backup Bobby Witt Jr. being obvious choices among MVP-caliber first-half players. Correa’s candidacy was limited to the fact that the American League roster had a third shortstop, making him the easy choice for that spot.

“This time it’s going to be even more special because it’s the first time I’m going as a dad,” Correa said. “My two sons will be there with me. I’ve always seen players on TV who go with their kids, and I think it’s the coolest thing ever. I told my wife before the season started that I really wanted to go so I could take the boys and spend time 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 game against the Astros after being hit in the right hand by a 96.2 mph fastball. Initial scans came back negative for fractures, and Correa was diagnosed with a finger contusion, according to the Twins, but he could undergo further testing.

“I will play (Monday),” Correa said after the game.

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

The Twins have no shortage of All-Star caliber players in the first half at their respective positions, including Willi Castro, Joe Ryan, Jose Miranda, Byron Buxton, Ryan Jeffers and Griffin Jax, so it’s always possible they’ll have a second player added in the days leading up to the July 16 game in Texas.

Matt Wallner’s Next Chance

Matt Wallner looked so helpless at the plate after making the Opening Day roster that the Twins demoted him to Triple-A St. Paul just three weeks and 25 at-bats into the season.

They wanted to give Wallner an extended chance to refine his swing mechanics and get back in shape mentally, and the 26-year-old slugger is now coming off the hottest stretch of his career. After some initial struggles after his demotion, Wallner hit .331 with 14 homers in his last 33 games for the Saints, and was voted the International League Player of the Month for June.

“Wally made some real adjustments and real progress,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He had some really good at-bats. He hit the ball really well. He made an impact. He got on base. He took everything we asked him to do to heart and he put in the work. He looks good right now. And he’s earned his chance to get back to the big leagues.”

Recalled Sunday to replace Austin Martin, who was placed on the injured list with a right oblique strain, Wallner is expected to play regularly against right-handed pitchers as part of the corner outfield/designated hitter combination. It’s a chance for the Twins to add some left-handed punch to the lineup in the absence of Edouard Julien and Alex Kirilloff.

It’s also Wallner’s chance to prove that his three bad weeks this season shouldn’t erase his three good months with the Twins last season, or his three good years in the minor leagues before that. He hit .249/.370/.507 with 14 homers in 76 games for the Twins last year, ranking second on the team in OPS behind Royce Lewis, and he has a career batting average of .267/.374/.515 in Triple-A.

Wallner is often struck out and often looks awkward in the outfield, but he has top-notch raw power and arguably the best throwing arm in the outfield in baseball. Giving up on a player with such game-changing skills because of a disappointing 25 at-bats would be a mistake in any situation, but especially when Wallner has already shown he can produce against major league pitchers.

Now he has to prove it again and show that the adjustments he made in the minor leagues are sustainable and effective in limiting his hit rate enough to consistently exploit his 30-homer power. Wallner is too good for Triple-A competition and has already 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 injured list and rejoin the Twins’ rotation Monday night in Chicago against the White Sox after spending two weeks off with a strained right shoulder.

Backup David Festa struggled in Paddack’s place, allowing 12 runs in 10 innings, but Twins officials said the plan was always for the rookie to make only two starts to give Paddack a midseason break while he returns from a second Tommy John surgery.

Paddack’s first 15 starts after surgery were mixed. He had some encouraging outings, including a couple of truly impressive starts, but his speed fluctuated wildly and he hit 13 home runs in 78 1/3 innings, giving him a 5.20 ERA (and a barely better 4.69 ERA).

Here’s a game-by-game graph of Paddack’s average fastball velocity, which often fluctuated from 94-96 mph in one start to 90-92 mph in the next:

It will be a crucial stretch for Paddack, who has already pitched his most innings since 2021 and must show the Twins he can be counted on in the second half of the season and perhaps even the playoffs. He is also under contract for $7.5 million next season as part of an extension signed while he rehabs in 2023, a risk the Twins were willing to take because of his perceived potential.

Paddack is expected to start two games before the All-Star break, and coming out of the break, he’ll likely start one or two more games before the July 30 trade deadline. If he looks healthy, the Twins could feel comfortable with their rotation as it is. If he struggles, they could look for a veteran starter to bolster a rotation that ranks 24th in the MLB with a 4.52 ERA.

Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, 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 provide depth for their next starters?

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

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