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 place on the American League team as a reserve.

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

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

Correa has batted .305/.376/.508 with 11 homers, 18 doubles/triples and 45 RBIs in 71 games, posting a 147 OPS+ that ranks eighth in the AL and is the second-best mark of his career behind a 155 OPS+ in 2017. Toss in his usual stellar shortstop play and Correa was my pick as the Twins’ first-half MVP, leading the team in wins above replacement and Win Probability Added.

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

“This time will be extra special because it’s the first time I’ll go as a father,” Correa said. “I’ll have my two boys there with me. I’ve always seen it on TV when players go with their kids, and I feel like that’s the coolest thing ever. I told my wife before the season, 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 on the right hand by a 96.2 mph fastball. According to the Twins, initial scans were negative for fractures and Correa has been diagnosed with a finger contusion, but he may undergo further testing.

“I’ll be playing (Monday),” Correa said matter-of-factly after the game.

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

There is no shortage of Twins having All-Star-caliber first halves 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 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 being on 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 smooth out his swing mechanics and get a “full reset” mentally, and the 26-year-old slugger now returns following the most torrid run of his career. After some initial post-demotion struggles, Wallner hit .331 with 14 homers in his last 33 games for the Saints, and won International League player of the month for June.

“Wally’s made real adjustments and real improvements,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s had great at-bats. He’s been swinging the bat very well. He’s been impacting the ball. He’s been getting on base. All of the things he was challenged to do, he took it to heart and he went to work. He looks good right now. And he’s earned his opportunity to come back to the big leagues.”

Called up Sunday as the corresponding move for Austin Martin going on the injured list with a right oblique strain, Wallner figures 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 thump 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 wipe away his three good months for the Twins last season, or his three good years in the minors before that. He batted .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’s a career .267/.374/.515 hitter at Triple A.

Wallner strikes out a lot and often looks clumsy in the outfield, but he has top-of-the-scale raw power and arguably the best outfield throwing arm in baseball. Giving up on a player with those game-changing skills because of 25 ugly at-bats would be a mistake in any situation, but especially so when Wallner has previously shown he can produce versus big-league pitchers.

Now he just needs to show it again, and show that the adjustments made in the minors are sustainable and effective at limiting 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 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 IL and rejoin the Twins’ rotation Monday night in Chicago against the White Sox after getting a two-week break for right shoulder fatigue.

Fill-in David Festa mostly struggled in Paddack’s place, allowing 12 runs in 10 innings, but Twins officials indicated their plan was always for the rookie to make only two starts as a way to give Paddack a midseason breather as he returns from a second Tommy John surgery.

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

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

paddack velo

This will be a crucial stretch 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 possibly into the playoffs. He’s also under contract for $7.5 million next season as part of an extension signed while rehabbing in 2023, a risk the Twins were willing to take because of his perceived upside.

Paddack is lined up to make two starts before the All-Star break, and coming out of the break he’d likely make one or two more starts before the July 30 trade deadline. If he looks good, the Twins may feel comfortable with their rotation as is. If he struggles, they could pursue a veteran starter to boost a rotation that ranks 24th in MLB with a 4.52 ERA.

Pablo López, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober aren’t going anywhere, and rookie Simeon Woods Richardson has vastly outperformed expectations. But can the Twins count on Paddack (and on Woods Richardson, given his limited track record) holding up in August, September and October? And can they count on Festa and Louie Varland as the next-in-line starter depth?

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

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