Minnesota Twins 2019 season preview

Jake Cave

          The Twins took advantage of a weak American League in 2017, sneaking into the playoffs with just 85 wins. They fell in 2018, winning 78 games, but still finished second in a weak AL Central. The Twins took a good opportunity to spend and used it, improving their lineup. The Twins enter 2019 as my sleeper team in the league.

           Offseason additions: DH Nelson Cruz, UT Marwin Gonzalez, 1B CJ Cron, 2B Jonathan Schoop, RHP Blake Parker, INF Ronald Torreyes, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Mike Morin, LHP Justin Nicolino, 1B Lucas Duda, INF Adam Rosales, C Tomas Telis

            Offseason subtractions: RHP Ervin Santana, 1B Joe Mauer, 1B Logan Morrison, OF Robbie Grossman, 2B Logan Forsythe, LHP Zach Duke, C Bobby Wilson

Ervin Santana rebounded poorly after a great 2017, and left in free agency. But, Jose Berrios emerged as the new ace. Berrios posted a 3.84 ERA with 202 strikeouts in 192.1 innings. At age 30, Kyle Gibson had a breakout season, with a 3.62 ERA in 196.2 innings. The rest of the rotation is murky. Jake Odorizzi should be a definite, but struggled with a 4.49 ERA in 32 starts last year. Fernando Romero struggled in his MLB debut last year, but the 23 year old was one of their top prospects before his call-up. Michael Pineda, coming off of Tommy John surgery, is a sleeper pitcher. At time in 2017 he looked dominant, but missed all of 2018 because of TJ. Adalberto Mejia was decent for Minny in 2017, and was very good at MLB and AAA last season, and could be the spot starter. Lefty Martin Perez, signed from Texas, has an injury history and struggled bad in 2018.

After Fernando Rodney was traded to Oakland midseason, the back of the bullpen got wild. Taylor Rogers excelled, with a good slider and a 2.63 ERA, leading the team. He pitched in 72 games, one less than Trevor Hildenberger, who was strong in his rookie 2017 but was overused and struggled in 2018. Those two combined for nine saves. Trevor May also made three saves after returning from Tommy John, and had a 3.20 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 25.1 innings. Blake Parker comes over from the Angels, where he had a 2.90 ERA and 22 strikeouts over two seasons. The closer role is up for grabs between those four. Addison Reed is also a candidate. He didn\’t make any saves last year, but has 125 in an eight year career. Matt Magill had a 3.81 ERA in 40 games last year. Three lefties, Mejia, Perez, and Gabriel Moya, compete for the final spot.

Catching is an interesting position for the Twins. There is three strong candidates for the job, and a trade could be made. Mitch Garver had a decent first season, both average at his position offensively and defensively. Jason Castro missed virtually the entire 2018, but is the most experienced catcher available. Willians Astudillo is an interesting player. He came to the team in September, and as a 26 year old first year player (though not an official rookie), he hit .355 with three home runs in 93 at bats. Astudillo can play third base, an with Miguel Sano\’s absence, he could see time there.

Miguel Sano had a very disappointing 2018 that saw him go way back to Single-A. He will miss the first month of 2019. Astudillo played six games at third base last year, and will compete for a back-up role. Marwin Gonzalez, a utility man signed from Houston, will figure to get most of the time there before moving to a super utility role when Sano returns. Joe Mauer retiring left the Twins with a hole at first place. They quickly covered it up, claiming CJ Cron off waivers from Tampa. Cron hit 30 home runs last year. At second base, Jonathan Schoop was signed to a one year deal. Schoop struggled, and just hit 21 home runs in 2018, but hit 32 in 2017. Shortstop Jorge Polanco was good after returning from a PED suspension. Backup infielders Ehire Adrianza and Ronald Torreyes are also in the mix.

The Twins have a very crowded infield. But, their outfield is easily set. Well, that is if Byron Buxton plays well. The former top prospect in baseball played more in AAA than in the MLB last year, and injuries had him play in 63 games combined between the two. Eddie Rosario delivered another great season, hitting .288 with 24 home runs and a .803 OPS. Max Kepler walks a lot, which saved a weak .224 batting average. He has 20 home run power, hitting exactly that last campaign.

The Twins signed the best power hitter on the market in Nelson Cruz. Cruz hit 37 home runs last year, and has hit at least that since 2014, hitting 40 or more three times. He hasn\’t hit less than 22 home runs since 2008, before he was a full time starter. His defensive abilities limit him to DH. Two Yankees cast-offs, Tyler Austin and Jake Cave, were pleasant surprises for Minnesota last year, combining for 22 home runs. Of all players that hit at least 10 home runs last year, Cave\’s 421 ft. average home run distance led the AL. He is the 4th outfielder, and Austin can play the corner spots and first base. The final two spots go to the backup catcher, and either Adrianza or Torreyes.

3B Marwin Gonzalez
LF Eddie Rosario
DH Nelson Cruz
1B CJ Cron
RF Max Kepler
2B Jonathan Schoop
SS Jorge Polanco
CF Byron Buxton
C Jason Castro

Jose Berrios (R)
Kyle Gibson (R)
Jake Odorizzi (R)
Michael Pineda (R)
Fernando Romero (R)

Blake Parker (R)
Taylor Rogers (L)
Trevor May (R)
Trevor Hildenberger (R)
Addison Reed (R)
Matt Magill (R)
Adalberto Mejia (L)

1B/OF Tyler Austin
C Mitch Garver
OF Jake Cave
INF Ronald Torreyes

                     Steal of the Decade
It is amazing how much of the Twins roster is homegrown talent. Eddie Rosario, Jose Berrios, Max Kepler, Taylor Rogers, Kyle Gibson, Trevor Hildenberger, Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco are all homegrown. They don\’t have any players in their core that weren\’t homegrown. And any players that weren\’t homegrown, were signed, which is mainly the new guys. There is really only one impactful player on their roster that was acquired via trade. Last Spring Training, outfielder Jake Cave went from the Yankees to the Twins for pitcher Luis Gil. Gil is still a lottery ticket in the Yankees system. Cave had hit 20 home runs in AA and AAA in 2017, and was blocked in the Yankees organization. He was DFA\’d, and then traded. In his rookie season, Cave crushed the ball, hitting 13 home runs when he was supposed to be a fourth outfielder, but played center while Byron Buxton was gone. Cave hit the ball far, with an average home run distance of 421 ft, and had the second lowest soft hit rate of players with at least 300 Plate Appearances.

The Twins did a great job adding this offseason. The Tigers, Royals and White Sox are all in the beginning stages of a rebuild, and the Indians did more losing than gaining this offseason. Minnesota, if not a wild card berth, could compete for the AL Central title this season.

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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