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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Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (May 14th – May 20th)

With about a quarter of the MLB season in the books, it is time to continue our fantasy baseball weekly update. We will continue to notify owners about which players are hot, or cold, and whether they will remain trending in that direction. Previous weekly fantasy baseball updates can be found at thegamehaus.com/fantasy.

 

Who’s Hot

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Corey Dickerson has shown flashes of what we all saw two years ago in Colorado. (Photo by MLB.com)

 

Corey Dickerson, Outfielder, Tampa Bay Rays

 

Last seven: .448 BA, 10 R, 5 HR and 9 RBI

 

Dickerson entered 2017 with moderate expectations, as his batting average had regressed from .304 in 2015 to .245 in 2016. He has found himself batting primarily in the two-hole this season, which is a prime spot for fantasy production.

The 28-year-old is scorching hot. He is batting .347 with 11 home runs, 30 runs scored and 22 RBIs in 43 games played. He has improved his walk and strikeout rates, which show he has progressed as a hitter from his days in Colorado.

Dickerson’s performance in 2017 has been astounding so far. However, a bit of regression is in order, as he is sporting a career high ISO of .295, BABIP of .393 and HR/FB rate of 22 percent, which are all unsustainable.

 

 

Jose Berrios, Starting Pitcher, Minnesota Twins

 

Last three: 2-0 W-L, 0.59 ERA, 0.39 WHIP, 15 1/3 IP and 15/2 K/BB

 

Berrios has been immaculate, as he is currently sporting a sub-one ERA and WHIP. The former first-round pick was called up in 2016, but did not find nearly as much success then as he has now.

Through his first 14 major-league starts, Berrios went 3-7 with an 8.02 ERA and 1.87 WHIP. His early struggles could have been due to many things, although I will focus on his .344 BABIP and 16.2 percent HR/FB rate, which were both insanely high and bound to readjust themselves.

So far this year, Berrios has yet to give up a home run, has a BABIP of .118, and an xFIP of 4.17. I understand that Berrios is a top prospect with great potential, but these analytics scream regression. In keeper and dynasty formats, it will be worth holding onto the 22-year-old, although in redraft formats, I would sell as soon as possible.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Avisail Garcia is finally proving his worth in 2017. (Photo by Seth Wenig AP Photo)

Avisail Garcia, Outfielder, Chicago White Sox

 

Last seven: .400 BA, 6 R, 2 HR and 9 RBI

 

Garcia has been one of the league’s hottest hitters this season. He is currently batting .350 with 26 runs scored, eight home runs and 34 RBIs.

The 25-year old has been a hype train due to his minor league success, as he batted .291 with 46 home runs in 586 minor league games. Garcia’s BABIP of .409 and ISO of .253 seem blatantly unsustainable, although his improved walk, strikeout and contact rates show that he has truly progressed as a player.

Garcia will not continue this level of production all season, so using him as trade bait could be a better investment.

 

Lance McCullers, Starting Pitcher, Houston Astros

 

Last three: 2-0 W-L, 0.00 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 19 IP and 14/4 K/BB

 

McCullers has continued his major league success from one year to the next since entering the league in 2015. He has a career ERA of 3.10, WHIP of 1.28 and K/9 of 10.17. His astounding numbers have continued in 2017, as he has an ERA of 2.65 and WHIP of 1.09.

The 23-year-old is quietly becoming one of the league’s premier pitchers. He sports an xFIP of 2.70 and HR/FB rate of 19.2 percent, which both suggest that even more progression is in order. Also, his BABIP of .285 seems fairly sustainable, as his career BABIP is .315.

Now may be the time to grab McCullers before he progresses into a top ten starting pitcher.

 

Who’s Cold

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Odubel Herrera is a low-end 20/20 threat. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports).

Odubel Herrera, Outfielder, Philadelphia Phillies

 

Last seven: .154 BA, 0 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI and 1 SB

 

Herrera has struggled mightily this year, batting .236 with three home runs, 15 runs scored, 13 RBIs and four stolen bases. His walk and strikeout rates have regressed by about four percent each, which is disconcerting.

The 25-year-old is coming off of a 2016 campaign where he hit 15 home runs, stole 25 bases and batted .286. His career BABIP is an astounding .358, although his current BABIP is only .301, which suggests some progression is in order.

Herrera could make a good buy low target in all formats, as he is a career .284 hitter with low end 20/20 potential.

 

Julio Teheran, Starting Pitcher, Atlanta Braves

 

Last three: 1-2, 8.36 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 14 IP and 9/5 K/BB

 

The Braves ace has been atrocious so far this year. He sports an ERA of 5.47 and WHIP of 1.52. The major cause for alarm is Teheran’s lack of control, as his walk rate has been inflated from its career mark of 2.50 walks per nine innings to his 2017 mark of 4.20.

Another red flag with Teheran is that his HR/FB ratio and BABIP are right around his career averages. Also, his xFIP of 5.54 suggest that he may see even more regression this season.

On the bright side, the 26-year-old has a career ERA of 3.50 and WHIP of 1.18, although something must be wrong with Teheran, as his control issues have caused him to become one of the most unsuccessful arms in 2017.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Yangervis Solarte started the year on fire, but has cooled off significantly since. (Photo by MLB.com)

Yangervis Solarte, Second Baseman/Third Baseman, San Diego Padres

 

Last seven: .130 BA, 1 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI and 0 SB

 

Solarte was off to a hot start this season, but has cooled off significantly in the recent weeks. He is currently batting .226 with three home runs, 15 runs scored and 21 RBIs.

The 29-year-old has dropped his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate from last season. Also, his BABIP of .237 suggests there is even more room for more progression, as his career BABIP is .280. Solarte bats in the heart of the Padres order, which even as the league’s worst offense, still increases his fantasy value compared to most second baseman.

This is a prime buy low period for Solarte, who is a versatile infielder with high RBI upside.

 

Masahiro Tanaka, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees

 

Last three: 1-2 W-L, 13.11 ERA, 2.66 WHIP, 11 2/3 IP and 13/5 K/BB

 

The Yankees’ All Star has been far from his old self so far this year. He currently has a 6.56 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 48 innings pitched. His major struggle has been allowing walks, as his current walk rate is 2.81 per nine innings, which is very poor compared to his career rate of 1.66. Also, his strikeout rate has declined by about one per nine innings.

There is a silver lining for the 28-year-old, as his HR/FB rate of 24.5 percent, and BABIP of .329, are not nearly sustainable, and should return to their previous career marks in time. Tanaka is sure to improve his performance this season, although he has blatantly regressed, as his xFIP has risen to 4.42 from his career mark of 3.43, and his 2016 mark of 3.61.

 

(Featured Image by SI.com)

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AL Central Weekly: 5/2-5/8

  1. Adam Eaton has been great at the top of the order for the White Sox. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

    Chicago White Sox, 22-10

The White Sox dropped two out of their first three games of the week to the Red Sox, but swept the Twins to maintain the best record in the American League. Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton both had good weeks at the plate with .333 averages, but Chicago really needs Todd Frazier to get his .194 average on the season up. Frazier does have eight home runs to lead the team. Jose Quintana picked up two saves on the week, while David Robertson finished with two saves to secure a great week for the White Sox.

Upcoming Games: at Texas (3 games), at New York Yankees (3 games)

Francisco Lindor has been producing from the shortstop position in the Indians lineup. Photo courtesy baseballfam.com.

2. Cleveland Indians, 15-13

Cleveland leads the tightly competitive battle for second place in the AL Central following an impressive week. The Indians swept the Tigers and then took two out of three from the Royals to stake their second-place claim. Offensively the Indians were led by their two shortstops, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, who both hit over .400 on the week. Michael Brantley has returned in a big way by hitting .389 in his first full week of action. The bullpen has been the unsung hero for this team, but Corey Kluber also helped the team out by picking up a win in his one start on the week, with no earned runs allowed.

Upcoming Games: at Houston (3 games), vs. Minnesota (3 games)

Ian Kennedy has been a solid starter for the Royals this season. Photo courtesy kansascity.com.

3. Kansas City Royals, 15-15

The Royals continued to struggle early on this season by losing two out of three to the Indians and Nationals. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar all had good weeks by hitting over .350, with Hosmer adding six RBI. Ian Kennedy picked up another win by allowing no runs, which brings his season record to 4-2. The rest of the starters will need to be better next week for the Royals to make a push to the top of the standings.

Upcoming Games: at New York Yankees (4 games), vs. Atlanta (3 games)

Nick Castellanos heated up for the Tigers this week. Photo courtesy zimbio.com.

4. Detroit Tigers, 14-16

Detroit surely is glad that the week is over, as they failed to win a game in the past seven days. Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera were the only ones on the Tigers who hit above .300, while the next highest average on the team was .269. Castellanos had a .429 average and six RBI to be the ultimate offensive force. Buck Farmer, Blaine Hardy and Drew VerHagen each had good weeks in relief by not giving up any earned runs, but the rest of the pitching staff had terrible weeks, to cement them in fourth place.

Upcoming Games: at Washington (3 games), at Baltimore (3 games)

5. Minnesota Twins, 8-23

After starting the week with a win, the Twins lost five straight to end the week. Brian Dozier hit .545 and had six RBI in only four games. Jose Berrios got the only win of the week for the Twins, while Brandon Kintzler and Trevor May didn’t give up any runs in relief.

Upcoming Games: vs. Baltimore (3 games), at Cleveland (3 games)

Brian Dozier is the player of the week in the American League Central. Photo courtesy aarongleeman.com.

Player of the Week: Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins

The Twins may not be having the best of seasons, but Brian Dozier had a great week for only playing in four games. His six RBI and .545 batting average were huge for the twins this past week.