Minnesota Twins 2018 Season Preview
The Minnesota Twins were one of the biggest surprises of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, completing the year by grabbing one of the two Wild Card spots in the American League postseason. With one of the youngest teams in baseball, constructed by a front office lead by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, what will they do for an encore this year, considering they’re not going to be sneaking up on anyone this year?
Interestingly enough, the Twins were able to make the postseason despite having a collective team ERA that was in the bottom half of the majors last season; their 4.59 ERA was ninth in the American League, and 19th in the entire league. New ace Jose Berrios was called up to the majors last May, and while he was 9-1 in his 11 home starts last year, he was 5-7 on the road of 5.17. Ervin Santana was fantastic over the first half of the season, but slowed down significantly over the second half. However, he’ll be out at least the first month of this season after undergoing surgery on his finger.
Big name free agent pitchers
Given those questions at the top of their rotation, the Twins actively pursued several big name free agent pitchers, including Yu Darvish, Shohei Ohtani and Jake Arrieta, among others. Obviously, they fell short in those pursuits, leading them to pull off the deal to acquire Jake Odorizzi from the Tampa Bay Rays. Odorizzi had a sub-par year in 2017 himself, with a 4.50 ERA, but the Twins are hoping that a change of scenery will bring about the success he had in 2015 and 2016, when he looked like one of the more promising young players in Tampa.
Minnesota also signed Lance Lynn, formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals, in the off-season. He’ll be another welcome addition to the rotation, especially as he rounds back into form after missing the 2016 season having undergone Tommy John surgery.
Franchise record 28 different pitchers
Minnesota’s pitching questions aren’t just about the front-end of the staff, either. Minnesota used a franchise-record 28 different pitchers in relief situations last season, but one year later, only 11 of those guys still remain. Both of the Twins key closers from last year Brandon Knitzler and Matt Belisle are gone. Instead, the Twins acquired the well-traveled Addison Reed. That deal came only weeks after the Twins also signed left-handed reliever Zach Duke, as well as Fernando Rodney.
It will likely be between Reed and Rodney for the team’s closer spot, and most fans are hoping it’ll end up being the former, considering Rodney is already 41 years old, and had a 4.23 ERA and 26 walks as a closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year.
The Young Studs
On offense, things look a bit more settled, especially being headlined by young studs Braxton Berrios and Miguel Sano. Buxton, in particular, continually tantalizes with his ability to be the next great superstar for the Minnesota Twins. For all the accolades that other young hitters in the MLB receive, Berrios might be the most athletically gifted of them all. He just seems like one of those professional athletes whose physical tools seem to be ahead of his actual game.
His slash line of .253/.314/.413, along with 16 home runs, were solid numbers, but far from spectacular. However, he did go 29 for 30 in stealing bases last year, and he uses his spectacular speed on defense, showing off an elite glove. If his improvements at the plate from the second half of the season continue to progress, he will certainly take one step closer to fulfilling the hype around him.
Meanwhile, Sano is coming off a miserable 2017 season of his own, and is looking to rebound strong this year. Between the injuries to his hand and shin, the latter of which required offseason surgery, he basically didn’t play for the team last year. However, he’s shown signs of progressing nicely during spring training, albeit with some level of rust having missed nearly all of last year.
Last year’s success = ?
Whether Twins fans view this season as a natural progression of last year’s success, or whether they understand that all of these moves and players are part of a process continuum will be one of the defining story lines of this season in general.