Posted on March 27, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Minnesota Twins were one of the biggest surprises in baseball last year, earning a wild-card spot. They have followed that up with a few notable moves this offseason to complement a young, talented roster. Will those moves help the Twins beat out the Indians at the top of the AL Central or will Minnesota once again be fighting just to get a wild-card spot?
The Twins made the playoffs last year despite a subpar pitching staff. But they’ve done well to address that over the winter, trading for Jake Odorizzi and then signing Lance Lynn. Both are proven frontline starters who should make Minnesota’s rotation significantly better in 2018. Having both Odorizzi and Lynn will make it easier for the Twins to survive the absence of ace Ervin Santana, who will miss at least the first month of the season after offseason surgery.
In addition to the trio of Santana, Odorizzi, and Lynn, the Twins have a rising star in Jose Berrios. After winning 14 games last season, Berrios could be poised for another big year, as he has talent to become Minnesota’s ace. The Twins also have veteran Kyle Gibson to round out their rotation.
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Meanwhile, youngsters like Adalberto Mejia, Fernando Romero, and Stephen Gonsalves will help provide depth. Mejia made 21 starts for the Twins last season while Romero and Gonsalves are both top-100 prospects who should be major league ready the second half of the season.
The Twins also spent the winter trying to upgrade a problematic bullpen. Minnesota signed Fernando Rodney to be the team’s closer and Addison Reed to be their top setup man. Despite an uninspired 4.23 ERA with the Diamondbacks last year, Rodney still converted 39 of 45 save opportunities. Reed, meanwhile, is coming off the best two seasons of his career and has experience as a closer if Rodney struggles.
In addition to Rodney and Reed, Trevor Hildenberger established himself as a solid relief option last season. The Twins also have Zach Duke and Taylor Rogers as reliable lefties coming out of the bullpen. If veterans Phil Hughes and Ryan Pressly can prove to be trustworthy relievers, the Twins could have a rock solid bullpen that’s at least middle-of-the-pack in the American League.
The Twins were far better offensively last season than people realized, and they have a chance to be just as good this year. Miguel Sano, Brian Dozier, and Eddie Rosario all had big seasons in the middle of the order last season, and there’s no reason to expect a drop off in performance from any of them. That group will be joined by Logan Morrison, who adds plenty of power to Minnesota’s lineup after hitting 38 home runs last season.
Minnesota’s lineup is also littered with young players who have started to establish themselves in the majors. Byron Buxton, once the top prospect in all of baseball, had an excellent second half in 2017 and could start to perform up to his amazing potential. Right fielder Max Kepler is another player to watch, as he’s been quite consistent over the past two seasons. It’s also important not to overlook the impact veterans like Joe Mauer and Jason Castro could have as complementary players.
On paper, the Twins appear noticeably better than the team that won 85 games last season. Both the rotation and bullpen are stronger than a year ago, while the lineup has great upside if players like Buxton and Kepler continue to emerge. Look for the Twins to finish 93-69 this season, which may not be enough to catch the Indians, but it should get them back in the Wild Card Playoff.