Three big points from the Twins game: All-Star Carlos Correa, Woolner’s next chance, and Paddack’s big test

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

This is Correa’s third All-Star honor, and his first with the Twins, after being named to the American League team in 2017 (as a starting center fielder) and 2021 (as a reserve) with the Houston Astros.

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

Correa hit .305/.376/.508 with 11 home runs, 18 doubles/triples and 45 RBIs in 71 games, posting a 147 OPS+ that ranks eighth in the American League and is the second-best mark of his career behind his 155 OPS+ in 2017. Add to that his usual stellar performance at shortstop and Correa was my pick for the Twins’ first-half MVP, leading the team in wins over replacements and The probability of winning has been added..

However, he faced stiff competition among MLS center fielders, with the first choice starting center fielder Gunnar Henderson of the Baltimore Orioles and reserve Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals, both in the middle of two MVP halves. Correa’s nomination came about because there was a third center fielder on the MLS roster, making him an easy choice for the position.

“This will be a very special time because it’s the first time I’ve been there as a father,” Correa said. “I’ll be taking my two sons with me. I’ve always seen it on TV when players go with their kids, and I feel like this is the coolest thing ever. I told my wife before the season that I really wanted to do this so I could take the boys and go 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 Astros win after being hit in the right hand by a 96.2 mph fastball. Initial tests were negative for fractures and Correa was diagnosed with a finger contusion, but he may undergo further testing, according to the Twins.

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

Assuming no other Twins players are named as last-minute replacements, this will be the team’s first season — ignoring 2020, when the midsummer classic was canceled — with just one All-Star since 2018, when Jose Berrios went solo.

There’s no shortage of Twins with All-Star-caliber first-rounders at their respective positions, including Willie Castro, Joe Ryan, Jose Miranda, Byron Buxton, Ryan Jeffers and Griffin Jacks, so they could still have a second-rounder added in the days leading up to the July 16 game at Texas.

Matt Wallner’s Next Chance

Matt Wallner looked so helpless in the outfield after being on the Opening Day roster that the Twins demoted him to the St. Paul Division III team after just three weeks and 25 strikeouts on the season.

They wanted to give Wallner an extended opportunity to improve his hitting mechanics and get a mental “reset,” and now the 26-year-old slugger is back after the worst performance of his career. After some initial struggles after the drop, Wallner hit .331 with 14 home runs in his final 33 games with the Saints, and won the International League Player of the Month award for June.

“Wally has made real adjustments and improvements,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s been great at hitting. He’s been hitting the bat really well. He’s been impacting the ball. He’s been getting on base. He’s taken everything he’s been challenged to do seriously and gone to work. He’s looking good now. He’s earned a chance to get back to the big leagues.”

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Wallner was called up Sunday as a replacement for Austin Martin, who went on the injured list with a strained right oblique muscle, and is expected to play regularly against right-handed pitchers as part of the outfield and designated hitter mix. It’s a chance for the Twins to add some left-handed hitting 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 shouldn’t erase his three good months with the Twins last season, or his three good years in the lower division before that. He batted .249/.370/.507 with 14 home runs in 76 games with the Twins last year, and ranked second on the team in OPS behind Royce Lewis, a player who batted .267/.374/.515 in Triple A.

Wallner hits a lot and often looks clumsy in the outfield, but he has raw power and arguably the best outfield arm in baseball. Giving up a player with such game-changing skills for 25 bad strikeouts would be a mistake in any situation, but especially when Wallner has shown he can produce against big-league pitchers.

Now he just needs to prove it again, and show that the adjustments made in the minor leagues are sustainable and effective in reducing his swing-and-miss rate enough to exploit his power to hit 30 home runs consistently. Walner is too good for third-tier competition and has already had more major-league success than most so-called “fourth-tier” players, but the burden of proof is on him.

Chris Paddack’s Big Test

Chris Paddack is expected to return from the injured list and join the Twins’ lineup Monday night in Chicago against the White Sox after being given a two-week break with a right shoulder strain.

Paddack’s replacement, David Festa, struggled for much of the game, allowing 12 runs in 10 innings, but Twins officials noted that their plan was always for the starter to start just two games as a way to give Paddack a midseason break after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery.

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Paddack’s first 15 starts after surgery were a mix of mixed results. He pitched a number of encouraging games, including some impressive starts, but his velocity was wildly inconsistent, and he hit 13 home runs in 78 1/3 innings on his way to an inflated 5.20 ERA (and a slightly better 4.69 ERA).

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

This will be a crucial period for Paddack, who has already played his most innings since 2021 and needs to show the Twins he can be counted on in the second half and possibly in the playoffs. He’s also tied to a $7.5 million contract next season as part of an extension he signed while rehabbing in 2023, a risk the Twins were willing to take because of his perceived potential.

Paddack is scheduled to start two games before the offseason, and after the offseason he will likely start another two or three before the trade deadline on July 30. If he plays well, the Twins could feel comfortable with their lineup as it is. If he struggles, they could look to a veteran to bolster a lineup that ranks 24th in MLB with a 4.52 earned run average.

Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan and Billy Oubre aren’t going anywhere, and rookie Simon Woods-Richardson has largely outperformed expectations. But can the Twins count on Paddack (and Woods-Richardson, given his limited record) to hold up in August, September and October? And can they count on Fiesta and Louie Farland as first-choice options?

(Matt Wallner and Carlos Correa photo: Bryce Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

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