The Minnesota Twins are trying to win the division for the third consecutive time in 2021. They won a tight race at the end of last season, just beating out the Twins and White Sox by a game apiece. Looking forward to 2021, the Twins know they have to continue to improve to keep up with the White Sox. They have to make up for the loss of Jake Odorizzi in their starting pitching. Moreover, here is the projected rotation for the Twins in 2021.
1.) Kenta Maeda
Kenta Maeda established himself as the ace of the Twins in 2020. To say that the righty had a career year in 2020 would be a massive understatement. Furthermore, Maeda’s WHIP of 0.75 was the second-best WHIP for a season in MLB history. While this was during a 60 game season, it was still remarkable. He did a tremendous job of limiting his walks, shown by his 4% BB percentage. He did all that while striking out over 10 batters per nine innings.
Looking ahead at 2021, Maeda should continue to rely on his slider and changeup. One thing he changed in 2020 was that he threw his slider and changeup more often than he threw his 4-seam. If he can continue to catch batters off guard with the offspeed pitches and mix in the fastballs when needed, Maeda can continue to dominate for the Twins.
2.) Jose Berrios
The Twins are hoping that Jose Berrios can take that next step into being an elite pitcher. After two all-star seasons in 2018 and 2019, Berrios took a bit of a dip in production in 2020. The biggest issue with Berrios in 2020 was his control. After only walking 2.3 batters per nine innings in 2019, Berrios posted a 3.7 BB/9 in 2020. That was not quite what the Twins were expecting from Berrios as they are hoping he can take the next step as he begins to enter his prime.
In 2021, Berrios needs to improve his control if he wants to become the elite pitcher Twins fans are hoping for. If Berrios can find one pitch that he can rely on, that may be the key to his success. Throughout his career, Berrios has mixed up his 4-seam, sinker and curveball fairly evenly. However, if he can find one that he can command with, that may be what helps him take the next step.
3.) Michael Pineda
If Michael Pineda can stay healthy, he can be a very solid number three starter for the Twins. One thing that Pineda has been consistent with his entire career is his ability to limit the walks. Moreover, Pineda has finished in the top six percent of the league in walks percentage three times in his career.
In 2021, if Pineda can continue to limit the walks he can be a great arm for the Twins. When in a tough race for the division against the lethal offense of the White Sox, limiting the walks will be critical for Pineda. One thing that he did in 2019 and 2020 was he stuck to the 4-seam, changeup and slider. Keeping it simple has paid off for Pineda as 2019 and 2020 were his two best seasons.
4.) J.A. Happ
The Twins signed 38-year-old J.A. Happ for $8 million this offseason. After a solid season with the Yankees, Minnesota will hope that Happ can continue to serve as a solid back part of their rotation in 2021. Happ did a great job of limiting base runners last year posting a 1.054 WHIP. His ERA was very solid too, sitting at 3.47. One of the main reasons for Happ’s succession last season was because he recorded his best H/9 of his career at 6.8.
After losing Odorizzi, Happ was a good signing for the Twins. Furthermore, the Twins are going to need to make up the production that Odorizzi brought to the table last season. The Twins are trying as hard as they can to squeeze the last few years of production out of Happ. If they can get another good year of production, Happ will be a very good fourth arm in the rotation.
5.) Matt Shoemaker
Matt Shoemaker will probably open up as the fifth starter for the Twins. Shoemaker has had a career riddled with injuries, however, in his last two seasons he was very productive when he was able to play. He recorded a 0.872 WHIP in his five starts in 2019 and a 1.081 WHIP in 2020.
In 2021, the Twins believe they could take the improvement in Shoemaker and use him as a valuable piece as their fifth starter. Seeing Shoemaker’s production over the last two seasons in his limited starts, the Twins believe taking a chance at him is their best option as their fifth starter. If he continues to do well, expect Shoemaker to be a regular starter for the twins barring injury.