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AL Central Preview: Minnesota Twins Edition

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Say hello to the Indians’ AL Central rivals for the 2019 season

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins - Game One Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

We’ve covered 3 AL Central teams thus far, and all of them have been varying degrees of bad. But the Minnesota Twins buck that trend. Most folks have picked the Cleveland Indians to win the AL Central, and they’re right to do so. But the Twins are the only other team in the division who will rise to challenge the Tribe in 2019. How are they going to do it?

Key offseason transactions

Acquisitions

  • Acquired 1B C.J. Cron off waivers from Tampa Bay
  • Signed 2B Jonathan Schoop
  • Signed DH Nelson Cruz
  • Signed RHP Blake Parker
  • Signed LHP Martin Perez
  • Signed SS Marwin Gonzalez

Departures/Injuries

  • CF Robbie Grossman became free agent (signed with Oakland Athletics)
  • 1B Joe Mauer retired

The Twins went out and had a field day this winter. No one acquisition was monumental, but the sum of all of the moves that the Twins make add up to a very strong offseason. C.J. Cron just hit 30 home runs with Tampa Bay in 2018. Jonathan Schoop had a down year in 2018, but he was an absolute monster at the plate in 2017 and hit 32 home runs. Nelson Cruz, despite being 38 this season, still has the power to hit 30+ home runs (as evidenced by every season since 2014). Blake Parker was a rock for the Angels’ bullpen in the last two seasons and is still striking out more than a batter per inning. Martin Perez had some struggles last year, but he could work in both the bullpen and the rotation depending on the needs of the Twins. And finally, Marwin Gonzalez, part of the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros, has a chance to bounce back after a down, but not bad, 2018.

In short, the Twins made some really good moves this winter and their team is better for it.

Lineup

The four position players from above can come in and compliment the remainder of the Twins’ lineup. And there are a lot of players from last year’s squad that look to make an impact in 2019.

Eddie Rosario has been one of the offensive leaders for the Twins over the past two seasons, and as he enters his age 27 season, there’s every r/ason to believe that he can continue to do so. The corner outfielder hit well in 2018 with a .288/.323/.479 slash line (wRC+ 113), and he has some pop in his bat as evidenced by his 51 home runs over the last two seasons.

Minnesota’s resident Bond villain, Max Kepler, while he may not hit for average, can still blast 20 home runs a year and provide the Twins with some health and stability in right field.

Jorge Polanco is currently out with arm fatigue, but he’ll be back. When he comes back, he brings a strong offensive talent back to the lineup. He took a step forward in 2018 and had the best year of his career to date, slashing .288/.345/.427 (wRC+ 110).

And finally, Byron Buxton spent a good chunk of 2018 in the minors and another chunk of the year on the DL. It’s been challenging for Buxton to get into a groove at the major league level, but he has shown flashes of brilliance over the past few seasons and the hope for the Twins is that 2019 will be the season that Buxton puts it all together. And it’s mainly the offense that Buxton needs to work on; we already know that he’s an incredible centerfielder.

Pitching

If there’s a section of the Twins’ roster that will hold the team back, it’s the rotation. Jose Berrios is a solid starting pitcher and he proved it last season. He was just shy of 200 innings (192.1), but in that time he allowed 82 runs while walking 61 and striking out 202 (ERA+ 114). Kyle Gibson also had his best season to date, going 196.2 innings and allowing just 79 earned runs while walking 79 and striking out 179 (ERA+ 121). After those two, however, there’s a pretty significant drop-off. Jake Odorizzi can eat 150+ innings, but he’s going to give up a lot of runs and he’s going to struggle to strike hitters out. Michael Pineda, who is just about two years removed from Tommy John surgery, is an unknown for the Twins. Martin Perez will round out the rotation, but as mentioned above, he’s coming off a dreadful season and it’s not clear whether or not he’ll be effective.

On the bullpen side of things, Taylor Rogers returns with his sub-1.000 WHIP and his ability to keep the ball in the yard (0.4 HR/9 in 2018). Trevor May, who underwent his own Tommy John surgery in 2017, was back in a limited capacity last year and he looked great in that small 25.1 inning sample size (9 earned runs while walking 5 and striking out 36, ERA+ 138). Ryne Harper, a control righty, is breaking camp with the Twins this season and will bring his precision style of pitching to the bullpen; he doesn’t give up hardly any home runs (0.3 HR/9) while he’s striking out a ton of hitters in the process (11.9 K/9), And again, Blake Parker comes over from Los Angeles and has a good shot to be the closer for the Twins.

Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios can handle hitters for two days during the week and the bullpen can pick up the slack on the next three.

Summary

Competition is good. In baseball. In toothpaste. In life. Everywhere. The fact that the Minnesota Twins quietly pulled off a very productive offseason should make Cleveland fans happy. They aren’t just going to roll over when the Tribe comes to town; instead, they’re going to fight and try to snatch the AL Central crown from the Indians. Cleveland, in response, will need to step up and stay competitive throughout the season. I still feel that the Indians will have the edge thanks in large part to Cleveland’s superior rotation. However, the Twins have a lot of heavy hitters (literally) in their lineup, whereas the Tribe’s lineup is incredibly top-heavy. It won’t be a surprise if the Twins out-slug the Indians. And while it is unlikely, it also won’t be a huge surprise if enough things break the right way for Minnesota and the Twins end up on top of the AL Central at the end of the season.

Poll

Where will the Twins finish in the AL Central this season?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    First place
    (39 votes)
  • 54%
    Second place
    (49 votes)
  • 2%
    Third place
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Fourth place
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Fifth place
    (0 votes)
90 votes total Vote Now