Posted on March 19, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
After pushing hard for several years, the Minnesota Twins finally made it to the top of the AL Central last season. Of course, winning 101 games didn’t mean much after getting swept in the ALDS. Now the Twins will look to improve upon their October success, except now they’ll have a target on their back and will be the favorites to win their division. Can Minnesota repeat as AL Central champs and make some noise in October or was last season’s success an aberration?
The Twins did a nice job of improving an already strong starting rotation this winter. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi are back after each posted an ERA under 3.70 last season. Michael Pineda, who was an underrated part of the team’s success in 2019, will also return once his suspension is up. Minnesota also added Kenta Maeda and Homer Bailey to fill out a balanced rotation with five proven starters.
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In fairness, Bailey is a bit of a question mark given his age and several injury-plagued seasons before making 31 starts last season. However, the Twins should have ample depth to survive Pineda’s early-season absence and any potential injuries. Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer both impressed in limited action last season. Plus, they aren’t the only young arms who should be ready if called upon this year.
Minnesota will also bring back the makings of a solid bullpen. Taylor Rogers has been a trustworthy reliever for the past few seasons and transitioned well to the closer’s role in 2019. Trevor May and Tyler Duffey also return as proven setup men. All three had an ERA under 3.00 last year and should once again be a formidable trio late in games. Just in case, the Twins reinforced their contingent of setup men with veterans Tyler Clippard and Sergio Romo. Neither is an 8th- or 9th-inning guy anymore, but the added depth should come in handy.
Even before the additions of Clippard and Romo, the Twins were in good shape. Zack Little and Cody Stashak both impressed in limited action as rookies in 2019. Also, once Pineda returns, there should be some spillover from the rotation into the bullpen, improving the depth of Minnesota’s relief corps even more.
To the surprise of many, the Twins had the most home runs and the second-most runs in the majors in 2019. Believe it or not, there’s no reason to expect that to change in 2020. The heavy hitters like Nelson Cruz, Eddie Rosario, and Max Kepler are all back. Minnesota also doubled down on the power in their lineup by signing Josh Donaldson. If the aging third baseman can replicate last year’s campaign with the Braves, the Twins could hit even more runs this season.
Of course, it doesn’t stop there. The middle infield tandem of Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez were both outstanding last season. Miguel Sano, who will switch over to first base, and catcher Mitch Garver were also reliable contributors. Also, Byron Buxton finally had a breakout season and may only be scratching the surface of his potential. It also doesn’t hurt to have Marwin Gonzalez and Willians Astudillo as capable backups at several positions. Shortstop prospect Nick Gordon is also coming through the ranks and could become a factor at some point this season.
Despite winning 101 games last year, the Twins have a more modest 92.5-win projection for 2020. Unfortunately, that number may need to be readjusted if the coronavirus pandemic causes MLB to reduce its schedule. In any event, it’ll be tough for everyone in Minnesota’s lineup to replicate last year’s numbers. But there is more than enough depth in the lineup for the Twins to be one of the best offensive teams in the American League this season. The Twins also have a pitching staff that’s as good or better than last year. Look for the Twins to surpass any win projection and take home their second straight division crown in 2020