2018 Minnesota Twins preview

2018 MLB preview: Minnesota Twins

2017: 85-77

Last postseason appearance: 2017

Last World Series title: 1991

2017 Recap

In 2016, the Twins finished with the worst record in baseball, winning just 59 regular season games. Last year, they became the second team in MLB history to have the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft and make the playoffs in the same year. Although they fell to the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game, Minnesota was the first franchise to lose 100 games and then go to the playoffs in the following year.

So how in the world does a team, with virtually the same roster, do a complete turnaround and win 26 more games? Well, to start, they learned how to field.

In 2016, Minnesota racked up 126 errors, the second most in the MLB. Miguel Sano, who played just 80 games in the field, had 18 errors, and Jorge Polanco had 15 in just 61 games. A year later, and the Twins made 48 less errors. Sano cut his errors in half, and Byron Buxton was the best defensive centerfielder in baseball. Here is a table to back that up.

Byron Buxton’s 2017 Defensive Ranks

STATISTIC RANK AMONG CF’S
DEFENSIVE WAR 1st (3rd OVERALL)
DEFENSIVE RUNS SAVED 1st (3rd OVERALL)
REVIZED ZONE RATING 1st (1st OVERALL)
OUT OF ZONE PLAYS 1st (5th OVERALL)
RANGE RUNS 1st (2nd OVERALL)
PLUS MINUS RUNS SAVED 1st (3rd OVERALL)
TOTAL ZONE RUNS 1st (1st OVERALL)

 

Minnesota’s 2016 team finished 11th in the AL in batting average and 11th in OBP. In 2017, they finished fourth in both categories. Eddie Rosario had a career year, hitting .290 (.332 at home) with 27 home runs. Sano raised his average by nearly 30 points, while also hitting 28 home runs with an OBP of .352.

2018 Minnesota Twins preview

Byron Buxton is one of the best defenders in the game. (Photo from Twinkie Town)

Their two big-name players, Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier, also played well. Dozier, after 42 home runs in 2016, finished 2017 with 34 home runs, 106 RBIs and a career best .359 OBP. He also ranked 10th in runs scored.

Joe Mauer, one of the best Twins of all time (fourth in WAR), hit .305 with an OBP of .384. The craziest stat was Mauer’s average after going 0-2 in the count. In 88 at-bats, Mauer hit a ridiculous .341.

Here is a table to illustrate the differences between the Twins offense in 2016 and 2017.

2016 vs. 2017 Minnesota Twins offensive ranks

STATISTIC 2016 AL RANK 2017 AL RANK
RUNS 9th 3rd
SLUGGING PERCENTGAE 9th 6th
BATTING AVERAGE 11th 4th
OBP 11th 4th
RUNS WITH MEN IN SCORING POSITION AND TWO OUTS 14th 3rd
BATTING AVERAGE WITH RUNNERS ON 13th 4th
BATTING AVERAGE WITH BASED LOADED 15th 2nd

 

2018: Around the Diamond

Minnesota will sport a practically identical team from last season. Jason Castro will remain behind the plate, while Joe Mauer, who will enter the last year of his eight-year deal, will hold down first base. Kennys Vargas will get some time when the old 34-year-old Mauer needs a rest.

Up the middle is Brian Dozier at second, and Jorge Polanco, who hit 13 home runs and stole 13 bases in 2017, will play shortstop. Miguel Sano will man the hot corner, and DH, with this current lineup, could vary between Vargas, Eduardo Escobar or Robbie Grossman.

Eddie Rosario will play left, and Max Kepler will most likely start out in right, although Grossman has a shot. Kepler hit 19 home runs in 2017. Their best defender, Byron Buxton, who won a Gold Glove, as well as the Wilson Overall Defensive Player of the Year, should improve as a hitter. He finished seventh in steals and joined Jose Altuve and Whit Merrifield as the only players to hit at least 16 home runs and steal 29 bases. Buxton will need to get on base more in 2018, but he is coming off a great second half in 2017, as he hit .300 with 11 home runs.

On the Bump

In December, the Twins signed Michael Pineda, who had elbow surgery last July and has just started throwing. He will hopefully have a positive impact on the team in 2019.

With that said, the rotation remains the same. Ervin Santana, who finished second in innings, ninth in WHIP and tied Corey Kluber with the most complete games and shutouts in the MLB, will be the ace. He was seventh in Cy Young voting, going 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA.

Santana was the only Twins pitcher to throw over 200 innings, which will hopefully change in 2018. Jose Berrios, the former first-round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, had a solid season at age 23. He went 14-8 with a 1.23 WHIP. He is a bit wild as he was third in hit batters and needs to pitch better on the road. At home, Berrios was terrific, posting a 2.41 ERA, but on the road, his ERA sky-rocketed to 5.41.

Kyle Gibson, who has had a 5.07 ERA in back-to-back years, will follow Santana and Berrios. Adalberto Mejia looks to be in line for the fourth starter. The last spot could go to the 25-year-old Aaron Slegers, or the veteran Phil Hughes. In Triple-A during the 2017 season, Slegers went 15-4 with a 3.40 ERA.

The one thing Minnesota did was revamp the back-end of the bullpen. The Twins signed Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney, two veterans who Minnesota hopes will finish games in 2018.

The Future

The Twins best prospect has to be the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft, shortstop Royce Lewis. Lewis, the top ranked high school position player in 2017, is obviously still just a kid, but has posted solid numbers as a pro. In Rookie Ball, over 36 games, Lewis had a .390 OBP, and in A ball, he had a .296 batting average. 2018 will be Lewis’ first full season as a pro, which is exciting for everyone involved.

2018 Minnesota Twins preview

The No. 1 pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Royce Lewis (Photo from Star Tribune)

Their top pitching prospect, Fernando Romero, has spent a lot of time on the DL over the past few years, but could see big league action in 2018. Last year, in Double-A, Romero won 11 games and finished with a 3.53 ERA in 125 innings. His fastball can reach triple digits, so let’s hope Twins fans can see this guy on the big stage at some point this season.

Minnesota also has pitcher Stephen Gonsalves, who could also see time with the MLB team in 2018. Gonsalves was tremendous in 2017 at the Double-A level, posting a 2.68 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP in 87.1 innings. MLB.com claims he “has the ceiling of a solid mid-rotation starter.”

Don’t forget about Tom Gordon’s son, and Dee Gordon’s brother, second baseman/shortstop Nick Gordon. Gordon hasn’t progressed like other first-round players in his draft like Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto or Trea Turner, but the former fifth overall pick looks to be a solid everyday player at some point. Last season in Double-A, Gordon hit .270/.341/.408 with nine home runs and 13 steals.

2018 Prediction: 82-80

Minnesota is linked in rumors to Chris Archer, so if they trade for him, that could shake things up. However, in the AL, you have to think that Boston, New York, Cleveland and Houston have four of the five playoff spots locked up. That means only one spot is up for grabs, and although they made it in 2017, Minnesota will fall just short in 2018. The pitching isn’t deep, and the lineup will not perform as well as they did in 2017.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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Eddie Rosario 2018

Eddie Rosario’s outlook for the 2018 MLB season

Background

Eddie Rosario 2018

Eddie Rosario began 2015 with Triple-A Rochester, and was given a call to the majors in May. (Photo by Paul Sancya)

Eddie Rosario was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft by the Minnesota Twins. The Puerto Rican international began his professional career in rookie ball, where he would spend two seasons, batting a combined .318 with 26 home runs, 105 runs scored, 86 RBIs and 39 stolen bases in 118 games.

The Twins felt no need to rush Rosario through the ranks, as he spent nearly the entire 2012 season with the Single-A Twins affiliate, the Beloit Snappers. Rosario continued to impress, batting .296 with 12 home runs, 60 runs scored, 70 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 95 games. Rosario’s combination of speed, power and plate discipline had begun to show.

His 2013 campaign was split between High and Double-A, where he would bat a combined .302 with 10 home runs, 80 runs scored, 70 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 122 games. Unfortunately, the then 21-year-old Rosario was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a banned substance.

Rosario’s 2014 season began in May. After bouncing around between High and Double-A, Rosario recorded an underwhelming .243 batting average with eight home runs, 45 runs scored, 40 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 87 games. Adversity struck Rosario hard at an inopportune time, as he seemed nearly inches away from an MLB call-up before the suspension and his struggles in 2014.

Rosario began 2015 with Triple-A Rochester, and was given a call to the majors in May after batting a measly .242 with three home runs, 11 runs scored, 12 RBIs and one stolen base in 23 games. In his first major league action, the then 23-year-old Rosario batted .267 with 13 home runs, 60 runs scored, 50 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 122 games and was voted sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Even though he had a solid 2015 season, he struggled at the start of the 2016 season. The Twins sent him back to Triple-A, where he would bat .319 with seven home runs, 14 doubles, 26 runs scored, 25 RBIs and five stolen bases in 41 games.

Rosario was re-called to the MLB in July and remained with the team. In his second year of major league action, he batted .269 with 10 home runs, 52 runs scored, 32 RBIs and five stolen bases in 92 games. Although Rosario was already an everyday player, it was clear that at this point in his career, he had not yet fulfilled his potential just yet.

2017 season

The 2017 MLB season served as Rosario’s breakout campaign. To begin the year, Rosario was being displaced up and down the lineup, as he spent over 20 games in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth batting positions in the order to end the year.

In the first half of the season, Rosario batted .287 with 10 home runs, 37 runs scored, 26 RBIs and four stolen bases in 81 games. To this point, Rosario was one of the Twins’ most reliable players, but his second half propelled his worth to new heights.

In 70 games after the All-Star break, Rosario batted .292 with 17 home runs, 42 runs scored, 52 RBIs and five stolen bases. Rosario became a major catalyst in the Twins lineup, finishing the year with an offensive WAR of 2.7, which was good enough for third on the team behind only Brian Dozier (4.9) and Miguel Sano (3.1).

In 2017, Rosario slashed .290/.328/.507 with 27 home runs, 79 runs scored, 78 RBIs and nine stolen bases. He failed to receive an MVP vote, but his contributions to the Minnesota Twins were duly noted.

2018 outlook

Eddie Rosario 2018

Eddie Rosario will be just 26-years-old at the start of next season. (Photo by Wikipedia.com)

Rosario’s 2018 outlook is interesting. Up until 2017, Rosario had failed to put together a complete season where he would live up to expectations, as he set the bar high for himself in the minors.

His lack of track record is nerve racking, as this was his first major league season where he would play in over 125 games, hit over 13 home runs and strikeout under 24 percent of the time. His home run to fly ball rate measured 16.4 percent, which doesn’t seem sustainable, as he has never before had a major league season with a HR/FB rate of over 12 percent.

A positive sign for Rosario moving forward is his consistent batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, which has measured in at over .312 in all three of his MLB seasons, which ranks above average in terms of MLB batters. Rosario will be given all the opportunity in the world in 2018, as he will presumably bat in the heart of the Twins lineup, surrounded by the aforementioned Dozier and Sano.

His fantasy ceiling seems to be reached. However, if he can repeat his 2017 campaign, he will be an incredibly valuable fantasy asset moving forward, as he will be just 26-years-old at the start of next season.

 

Featured Image by MinorLeagueBaseball.com

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The Minnesota Twins proved the MLB is the best sport

MLB> NFL, NBA

Before the start of the NFL season, we already knew a few teams that had no shot at winning the Super Bowl, never mind clinching a spot in the postseason. Once the season began, the Bears, 49ers and Browns all had virtually no chance of making the playoffs.

The NBA is even worse. Due to the super teams, only a handful of squads have an opportunity to reach the Finals. According to ESPN’s NBA Basketball Power Index, the Lakers, Kings, Suns, Pacers, Knicks, Nets, Hawks and Bulls have less than a five percent chance to make the postseason. Keep in mind the season has not even started, and eight teams are already considered irrelevant. Another 12 or so teams, who could make the playoffs, have little to no chance at winning the championship.

2016 was a year to forget for Joe Mauer and the Twins (AaronGleeman.com)

In 2016, with a record of 59-103, the Minnesota Twins finished with the worst record in baseball. Today, the Twins will be playing the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card game. Minnesota became the second team in MLB history to have the number one pick in the MLB Draft and make the playoffs in the same year.

The 2008 Rays, who competed in the World Series, were the only other team to accomplish this outlandish feat. The Twins are also the first team to lose 100 games and then go to the playoffs the next year.

Imagine if the Nets or Browns made the playoffs this year. Except, what the Twins did is even crazier because in the NBA, 53.3 percent of teams make the postseason, and in the NFL, 37.5 percent make it. Only 33 percent of the 30 MLB teams get the chance to compete in October.

A 59-win team just made the playoffs the next year, with essentially the same exact roster. America’s pastime allows all 30 franchises to have a shot at reaching the postseason, while the other major sports can eliminate teams before the first game. So how exactly did the Twins manage to do this?

They learned how to field

At the end of the 2016 MLB season, the Minnesota Twins tallied 126 errors, which was good for worst in the league. In just 80 games on the field, Miguel Sano led the team with 18 errors. In 60 games, Jorge Polanco was right behind Sano, racking up 15.

This season, Minnesota finished first in the AL in fielding percentage. They made 48 less errors than in 2016. In 88 games, Sano cut his errors in half. Max Kepler and Byron Buxton both finished in the top five in total zone runs for their positions. According to Baseball Reference’s definition, total zone runs is “the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made.”

The best defensive centerfielder, Byron Buxton (Star Tribune)

A major factor for the Twins having the opportunity to play the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS is Byron Buxton. Defensively, nobody is better in centerfield than the 23-year-old from Georgia.

The former number two overall pick in the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft, Buxton led all centerfielders in total zone runs, and finished third in defensive runs saved (DRS), which is, “how many runs a player saved or hurt his team in the field compared to the average player at his position” (Fangraphs). Buxton’s 24 DRS was the most among centerfielders. The Twins 2016 leader in DRS was Joe Mauer, with six.

Nobody covers more ground than this kid. Buxton’s .951 Revised Zone Rating, or “the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out” was the best in the majors (Hardball Times). He also ranked top five in out of zone plays, OOZ, which measure the number of plays a fielder makes on balls that were considered out of his zone.

Byron Buxton’s 2017 Defensive Ranks

STATISTIC RANK AMONG CF’S
DEFENSIVE WAR 1ST (3RD OVERALL)
DEFENSIVE RUNS SAVED 1ST (3RD OVERALL)
REVIZED ZONE RATING 1ST (1ST OVERALL)
OUT OF ZONE PLAYS 2ND (5TH OVERALL)
RANGE RUNS 1ST (2ND OVERALL)
PLUS MINUS RUNS SAVED 1ST (3RD OVERALL)
TOTAL ZONE RUNS 1ST (1ST OVERALL)

 

They hit for a better averagE

Last year’s Twins team really wasn’t that bad on offense. For all AL teams, they finished fifth in steals, fifth in walks, fourth in doubles, eighth in homers and first in triples. The problems stemmed from their averages, as well as an inability to score with runners on.

Minnesota finished 11th in batting average in and 11th in on base percentage in 2016. In 2017, the Twins finished fourth in both of those categories. Miguel Sano, who finished last year with a .236 batting average, ended the year at .264. The legend, Joe Mauer, had a rough 2016 and only hit .261. This year, Mauer led Minnesota with a .305 batting average. Buxton’s average also rose nearly 30 points.

Eddie Rosario took the biggest leap of all the Twins. In 2016, Rosario hit .269 with only 10 home runs and 32 RBIs. His breakout 2017 stat line included a .290 average, 27 home runs and 78 RBIs.

2016-2017 Minnesota Twins Offensive Ranks

 

STATISTIC 2016 AL RANK 2017 AL RANK
RUNS 9TH 3RD
SLUGGING PERCENTGAE 9TH 6TH
BATTING AVERAGE 11TH 4TH
OBP 11TH 4TH
RUNS WITH MEN IN SCORING POSITION AND TWO OUTS 14TH 3RD
BATTING AVERAGE WITH RUNNERS ON 13TH 4TH
BATTING AVERAGE WITH BASED LOADED 15TH 2ND

 

The Pitching improved

The 2016 Twins finished dead last in the AL in hits allowed, runs allowed, home runs allowed, earned runs, shutouts and saves. In regards to saves, the Twins only had 26 of them, and converted a save 56.6 percent of the time. It’s pretty hard to be worse than that.

5 complete games, 3 shoutouts for Ervin Santana (Sporting News)

This year’s Twins pitchers weren’t great, but they were much better. After posting a 5.08 ERA in 2016, they bounced back with a 4.59 ERA, which isn’t great, but they were able to knock off about half a run per game. The bullpen racked up 40 saves, and converted 66.7 percent of them.

Ervin Santana was the Twins’ best pitcher in 2017. He finished the year 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA. He was the only Twins pitcher to throw over 200 innings. The Twins finished second in the AL in complete games and shutouts. Santana ranked first in the league with five complete games, and also first in shutouts with three.

The Magical Run continues

With virtually the same roster, the Minnesota Twins were able to win 27 more games than they did in 2016. The MLB is the only sport in which the worst team of the previous year can make a run at the postseason with the same players. In a power surge year, the Twins only hit six more home runs this year than in 2016. The pitching was pretty similar both years, and the only thing that changed offensively was timely hitting.

Minnesota, who started the year 22nd in payroll, have a tough task going up against the New York Yankees, who currently rank second in payroll. Fortunately, this is the MLB, and anything can happen in a one game playoff. Ervin Santana will be on the bump, facing Luis Severino. Whether Minnesota wins or loses, their season was an absolute success, and proved that every team has a shot in the MLB. It is fair to say that coach Paul Molitor will be earning a few votes for AL Manager of the Year.

 

Featured image by MPR News

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AL Central Weekly: 4/18-4/24

  1. Melky Cabrera has been a huge piece to the White Sox offense. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

    Chicago White Sox, 13-6

The White Sox won two out of four from the Angels and then swept the rangers for five wins this week. Chicago is playing really good baseball and is at the top of the American League Central. Melky Cabrera hit .333 for the week to lead the offense. His two home runs were second on the team behind Todd Frazier who had three home runs this week. Mat Latos has continued his bounce back season and improved to 4-0 with a 0.74 ERA. Chris Sale is also 4-0, but has a 1.80 ERA.

Upcoming games: at Blue Jays (3 games), at Orioles (4 games)

Wade Davis is the best pitcher in one of the best bullpens in the league. Photocourtesy foxsports.com.

2. Kansas City Royals, 12-6

Kansas City took two out of three from the Tigers and Orioles this past week. Mike Moustakas has heated up hitting .375 and two home runs this week. Jerrod Dyson added a .368 average and two stolen bases to bolster the offense. Wade Davis picked up two saves in the last seven days to continue to lead one of the best bullpens in baseball. Yordano Ventura had two starts and two wins for a weak starting rotation.

Upcoming games: at Angels (3 games), at Mariners (3 games)

Francisco Lindor has turned into an offensive star for the Indians. Photo courtesy ohio.com.

3. Cleveland Indians, 9-7

The Indians lost two out of three to the Mariners, but then swept the Tigers. Francisco Lindor hit .409 and added 5 walks for the offense. Carlos Carrasco has had a great start to the season and this week went 1-0 in two starts with a 1.00 ERA. The bullpen has pitched really well, which includes great efforts from Joba Chamberlain, Ross Detwiler, Jeff Manship and Zach McAlister.

Upcoming games: at Twins (3 games), at Phillies (3 games)

Ian Kinsler has used his heady play to keep the Tigers competitive. Photo courtesy zimbio.com.

4. Detroit Tigers, 8-9

Detroit lost two out of three to the Royals and then got swept by the Indians in a rough week. Ian Kinsler was far and above the best player at the plate for the Tigers. He hit .320 with two RBI. Jordan Zimmerman got the only win for the Tigers with 6.1 innings pitched and no runs allowed.

Upcoming games: vs. Athletics (4 games), at Twins (3 games)

Byung Ho Park hit .455 for the Twins this week. Photo courtesy wtsp.com.

5. Minnesota Twins, 5-14

After taking two out of four from the Brewers, the Twins were swept by the Nationals. The Twins had a great offensive week with Byung Ho Park, Kurt Suzuki, Eduardo Nunez, Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario all hitting above .300. Ricky Nolasco had one of the two wins for the Twins this week with a 1.42 ERA.

Upcoming games: vs. Indians (3 games), vs. Tigers (3 games)

Todd Frazier has increased his power numbers this week. Photo courtesy gettyimages.com.

Player of the Week: Todd Frazier, 3B, White Sox

Frazier hit .292 with three home runs this week to get his season back on track.