Minnesota (101-61) finished in 1st place in the AL Central 8 games ahead of 2nd Cleveland last season. They were 28½ games ahead of 3rd place Chicago, 42 games ahead of 4th place Kansas City and a whopping 53½ games ahead of last-place Detroit. Minnesota got swept by the NY Yankees in the Divisional Series of the Playoffs 3-0 and sent home early. It was not a shock losing to the mighty Yanks but it was how easily they lost by the scores of 10-4, 8-2 & 5-1.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
OF Max Kepler (Max set career-highs with .855 OPS, a .252 batting average, 36 home runs, 90 rbi’s, 132 hits and 98 runs scored while playing in just 134 games. Who knows why it took five years for it to comes together for Max, but in 2020 we will see if it was just a year where everything went right or he is just that good he and maintains those stats this season)
SS Jorge Polanco (Jorge set a career-high with 153 games played, 631 at-bats, 186 hits, 40 doubles, 7 triples, 22 home runs, 79 rbi’s and 60 walks last season. So it is no wonder that he was the starting SS for the American League for the first time in his career)
DH Nelson Cruz (Do you believe this will be Nelson’s 16th season in the majors? He is 39 years old! And the guy hit .311 last season!! I want to know what kind of vitamins he is taking. He had one of his best seasons to date batting .311 with 41 home runs, 108 rbi’s, 141 hits and scored 81 runs in 120 games played and 454 at-bats. All I can say is WOW!!!)
3B Josh Donaldson (Josh was one of the most sought after free agents in the offseason from Atlanta and he landed with the Twins. Actually 2018 was horrible due to injuries when he only played in 52 games with Cleveland & Toronto after tearing it up from 2015 through 2017 with Toronto. But after signing in Atlanta in 2019 completely healthy he smashed 37 home runs with 94 rbi’s while scoring 96 runs and walking 100 times. He now brings his talents to the Twin Cities. When healthy he is still one of the best at his position)
OF Eddie Rosario (The Twins won 101 games last season and had several players have career-high numbers last season and Eddie was one of them. With 562 at-bats, 91 runs scored, 32 home runs and 109 rbi’s, he reached his best numbers yet. The weird part is for the second straight year he “fell apart is a strong term”, but his numbers declined in the second half. He had 20 HR’s in the first half and just 12 after the All-Star break. Not sure why but it is worth noting that it happened two straight years)
C Mitch Garver (Minnesota had a plan in order to keep their catcher fresh all season long and that is why Mitch Garver only played in 93 games last season. Back to that in a minute. Mitch hit .273 with 31 home runs, 67 rbi’s, 85 hits and scored 70 runs and improved defensively in his second season as a “full-time” catcher. I am not buying the keep the catcher fresh theory. The other catcher, Jason Castro was not bad but had nowhere near the season that Mitch had, so for me this is a no brainer. Mitch is The Guy and like most catchers, you just give him a day off now and then. I am not setting those 31 dingers on the bench more than I have to)
2B Luis Arraez (Luis started out in Double-A last year and now he is the starting second baseman for a team trying to reach the World Series. He only spent three days in Triple-A before getting called up and was certainly expecting it to be just a short stay but he played so well they had no choice but to keep playing him. Luis put the ball into play. He only struck out 29 times in 329 at-bats making him one of the better contact hitters in the league. He hit .334 with 4 home runs with 28 rbi’s, collecting 109 hits and scoring 54 runs. His stats are not outstanding but when you put the ball into play, that will eventually come. The Twins may have found themselves a gem)
1B Miguel Sano (Miguel bounced back from a horrible 2018 where he hit just .199 and was sent down to the minor leagues. That had to kill him after bashing 71 home runs in his first three seasons. Last season did not start well when he missed the first of the season cutting his heel in a freak accident. Determined to make up for that and last year, he returned in shape and more focused than ever and hit 34 home runs, driving in 79 runs, batting .247 with 94 hits and scoring 76 runs in just 105 games reclaiming his status as a potential elite power hitter that he once had)
OF Byron Buxton (Byron is listed as a starting outfielder for the Twins, but I hope they have a plan B. He is already listed as questionable to start the season and last year played in 87 games and only 28 in 2018. I can see why they want him in the lineup. He is considered by many the fastest player in the major leagues. If he plays a full season there is no reason why he cannot steal 40-50 bases and track down every ball in center field. He hit .262 last year with 10 home runs and 46 rbi’s with 48 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. He learns to get on base more, like take more walks, he would be a nightmare for pitchers to hold on base. I just pray for his health. He would be an exciting player to watch)
RHP Jose Berrios (Jose made his 2nd consecutive All-Star game but his season could have gone much better. Overall he was 14-8 with a career-best 3.68 era but the second half of the season did go as planned. HIs era before the break was 3.00 and 4.64 after the break. His last 8 starts were even worse at 5.83. By the time he reached the playoffs, he was running on fumes. It was the most innings he had ever pitched and was just worn out. The Twins may want to, as many teams do nowadays, manage his innings especially if it appears the Twins are a lock for the postseason)
RHP Jake Odorizzi (Jake had the best season of his career last year. He went 15-7 with a 3.51 era striking out 178 men in just 159 innings pitched while allowing just 139 hits. That is a pretty good ratio. He had a history of giving of the longball but this season did a great job allowing just 16 home runs which are his career-best per nine innings)
RHP Kenta Maeda (Listen, any guy that was in the Dodgers starting rotation last season can’t be that bad can they? Of course not! There is nothing great about Kenta, but he remains an above-average MLB pitcher, something many rotations sorely lack. He was 10-8 with a slightly high 4.04 era. He did strike out 169 guys in just 153.2 innings while allowing just 114 hits. He had 26 starts and worked some out of the pen recording 3 saves and 4 holds with no blown saves. Kenta is a very valuable asset to any pitching staff and I am sure the Twins are thrilled to have him)
RHP Homer Bailey (After spending his entire career with the Reds and taking a beating in his final season going 1-14, he bounced back last year between Kansas City & Oakland going 13-9 with a 4.57 era. It is almost unexplainable his won-loss record in 2018 and I am not even going to try. He still gave up a hit an inning last year and that is not good. That means he needs to pitch out of jams more than he would like. I am not convinced he is the Homer Bailey of old and if the Twins want to repeat as division champs, they better keep a close watch on him)
Jhoulys Chacin (Minnesota makes the 9th (if you count Milwaukee twice) team in the last 7 years that Chacin has played for) but he keeps ending up on starting rotations of winning teams, how does that happen? Believe it or not, he was the Brewer’s opening day starter last year and that was based on his 15-8 season in 2018, so it is not as far fetched as it first sounds. He has had some decent seasons, but it is not like he is some prized free agent out there with teams trying to outbid one another for him. Last season he was just 3-12 between Boston & Milwaukee with a 6.01 era in 24 starts. The one thing about Jhoulys is he is one of those pitchers with the ability to bounce back time and time again and the Twins are counting on that. He is the type of guy that you cannot help but root for)
Michael Pineda when he returns from his 60-day suspension will likely return to the starting rotation.
CLOSER – LHP Taylor Rogers (I am not sure Minnesota knew who their closer was going to be going into the 2019 season, but clearly Rogers emerged as the clear cut guy to close out games. He finished with 30 saves but did have 6 blown saves. He was used in an unusual way though. Let me explain. First of all, he did have 10 holds as well. He was just not a bring him in the 9th inning type of closer. He actually entered the game
30 times before the 9th inning and 12 of his saves were earned having to get more than three outs. That is truly having to earn a save. Whether that is good in the long run for a closer, only time will tell. I don’t have the answer to that. But in the meantime, if it is not broke, don’t try to fix it)
I like the makeup of this team. I think they have one of the most underrated pitching staffs in baseball. The only team that even has a chance of giving them any competition in their division is Cleveland and I highly doubt that.
There are plenty of wins on the table just waiting to be had right in the division. Adding Josh Donaldson certainly does not hurt at all and the pitching staff is only going to get better. Berrios will not have a second half like he did last season.
I am actually very confident this team will crack the century mark again. I am making this maybe my best future bet of the baseball season in 2020. Lock it in! This on flys over the total.