It seems like Twins prospect Matt Wallner is simultaneously enjoying his time with the St. Paul Saints and trying to ensure that he spends as little time as possible with the Class AAA team going forward.
Wallner was sent down to St. Paul at the start of the week to make room for fellow outfielder Max Kepler, an established veteran returning from injury.
Performance-wise, Wallner had perhaps earned a chance to stay with the Twins — nine hits in 24 at bats, including a home run, and a 1.099 OPS — but there's only so much room on the roster (even one that collectively is No. 23 in batting average and No. 20 in OPS in the majors). In his final two games with the Twins over the weekend, he reached base in all eight plate appearances — six hits and two walks.
So Wallner went back to St. Paul ... and continued to destroy baseballs at an impressive clip. In his first two games, Wallner had six hits, including four for extra bases. All of the hits were clocked at 99.5 mph or more.
Perhaps just as impressive as the output and the velocity of the hits was the variety. Two of the hits by the left-handed batting Wallner came off left-handed pitchers, and two were struck to the left side of second base — including one of the two home runs.
I was a bit concerned because as I started to write about his first two games, Wallner's third started and he was 0-for-2. But he quickly rectified that with a two-run single and his third home run in three games as the Saints rallied for an 11-5 win over Buffalo on Thursday.
At the risk of being seduced by small sample sizes, Wallner's impact does stand in stark contrast to Kepler's meek production since returning from injury. He's just 1 for 14 with four strikeouts, though Kepler had homered three times in six games before getting hurt and had his OPS up near .800 before it dropped to its current .672.
Wallner is easy to root for, too. He's a local product from Forest Lake who was drafted by the Twins in the 39th round out of high school. Wallner instead went to Southern Mississippi and three years later was a first-round pick by the Twins in 2019.
The 6-foot-5 Wallner, now 25, has hit at every level and carries a nearly .900 career OPS in the minors. His recent run for St. Paul might be too good to ignore for much longer, regardless of the relative health of the big league club.
Wallner's defense? He had an impressive assist from right field during his stint with the Twins and, for an encore, robbed a Buffalo player of a home run Thursday.
Here are four more things to know about today:
*Learfield, a major player in college athletics multimedia rights — including the Gophers — is experiencing some economic turbulence. They recently made a debt payment that allowed it to buy "itself time to continue restructuring conversations with its lenders."
*Is there an economic bubble in sight — with media rights deals or otherwise — that might slow down franchise values? I talked about that on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast with the Star Tribune's Jeff Day.
*And if you don't get sick of me yapping five times a week on that podcast, you can hear me talking to WCCO's Jason Derusha about the Twins' situation with Bally Sports.
*Maybe the Suns losing to the Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs was the best thing that could have happened to Monty Williams? He was fired as Suns coach, only to land the richest contract in NBA history — six years, $78.5 million to coach the Pistons.