The 2017 Minnesota Twins were possibly the most surprising team in baseball. Following a mediocre 2016 campaign which saw them win just 59 games, they improved tremendously in 2017, winning 85 games and clinching a birth in the AL Wild Card game. With an improvement in their rotation in the offseason, the Twins could find themselves in playoff contention once again.
The key for Minnesota to have success this season will be good pitching. Their ace last season was Ervin Santana, who was in the AL Cy Young conversation for most of the season. Santana is 35, and you probably can’t expect him to have as good of a season as he did last year. The Twins probably knew this, so they went out and got two reliable arms to bolster their rotation and compliment Santana. The Twins first acquired Jake Odorizzi from the Tampa Bay Rays. Odorizzi will be 28 during the season, and has shown a lot of potential so far in his career. He has yet to really prove himself as a star, but the Twins don’t need him to be a star. They just need him to make outs and give them quality starts every time his number is called. Minnesota also signed one of the better pitchers on the market this season, former Cardinal Lance Lynn. Since winning 18 games in 2012, Lynn has proved that he is one of the most consistent pitchers in the league. It is reported that Lynn turned down more money than the 12 million he is getting from the Twins because he likes the culture in the Twin Cities, and that’s the type of guy I would want in the locker room. The x-factor of this rotation is Jose Berrios. After a shaky start in the majors in 2016, Berrios bounced back big time in 2017. At just 23 years old, Berrios has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez. If he can continue to build on his solid 2017 season, the Twins could have a future Cy Young Award winner in their rotation. What scares me about this team is their bullpen. They don’t have a ton of reliable arms, and their projected closer for the season is 41 year old Fernando Rodney. They did sign Addison Reed, who has been seen as a solid reliever, but when you look at his stats, they don’t exactly jump out at you. He has had the two best seasons of his career in 2016 & 2017, so maybe I am wrong about him. One last interesting thing about the pitching staff. Manager Paul Molitor has stated that the Twins will start the season with a four man rotation. This could prove to be a problem down the stretch, but if it works, why not keep it going.
Despite the additions to their pitching staff, the strength of this team is their offense. This lineup is young and very hungry, and it starts at the top with one of the most consistent players in baseball, Brian Dozier. Dozier has finished in the top 15 in AL MVP voting each of the last two seasons, and won a Gold Glove at 2nd base in 2017. Dozier’s power is what makes him a scary hitter, and he should continue to rake in what is a contract season in 2018. Dozier is complimented by a ton of flashy players. Probably the flashiest of those is Byron Buxton. Buxton was the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, and was starting to look like a bust after being called up in 2015. He started to come into his own in his first full season in 2017, hitting for a .253 average and stealing 29 bases. He isn’t the best hitter, but his defense is out of this world, and that is why he won an AL Gold Glove Award last season. Other flashy players in the Minnesota lineup include power hitter Miguel Sano, all around outfielder Eddie Rosario and former all-star backstop Jason Castro. The Twins also recently signed free agent Logan Morrison who is coming off of a career year in which he hit 38 home runs and drove in 85 runs. Finally, how can we forget about one of the greatest Twins of all time, Joe Mauer. Although Mauer is getting up there in age, the former MVP still has a reliable bat, and is the obvious leader of this young ball club.
Minnesota may struggle a bit with the four man rotation, but they have enough bats to make some noise this year. The AL wild card race looks like it will be a lot weaker than the NL, so the Twins have a real shot at returning to the postseason. I expect Minnesota to stay in contention for most of the season, but can’t see them getting anything more than the 2nd wild card spot again. I don’t think this team is capable of outlasting the Indians in the AL Central, but if they can make it back to the playoffs, anything is possible.