Status: Living somewhere near .500
In the polarised American League, the Minnesota Twins are a rarity, occupying the midpoint between completely terrible and 100-win good. A run at the second wildcard is not impossible.
Joe Mauer’s retirement sees a new era beginning for the Twins. After a disappointing 78-win season in 2018, they were busy this winter, signing multiple Major League free agents as they look to chase down the Cleveland Indians in a weak American League Central.
Utility man Marwin Gonzalez was the highlight on a bargain, two-year deal. Gonzalez can play any position and will slot in all over the place this season. He’s another solid offensive weapon in a line-up that should be deep.
DH Nelson Cruz provides the big bat in the middle of the order they were looking for. Cruz is a value deal too – his presence means Miguel Sano will have to play third, with waiver claim C.J. Cron likely to get a lot of time at first.
Ronald Torreyes and Jonathan Schoop arrived as free agents, providing middle infield options alongside Jorge Polanco and Ehire Adrianza. Polanco and Schoop will likely start up the middle – Polanco signed a seven-year extension this offseason. Max Kepler has also been tied down long-term.
Minnesota are banking on a bouneback from Schoop, who will be a trade asset if they are not competing in July.
Veteran left-hander Martin Perez was brought in, joining a group of starters behind Jose Berrios who will be around league average. Perez, like Schoop, needs to improve on his 2018 or he could quickly find himself as the mop-up guy.
Journeyman reliever Blake Parker was the big bullpen addition. He is joined by non-roster invitee, Mike Morin, who will compete for a relief job. The Twins’ bullpen projects to be a real weakness this year.
Lucas Duda will get a chance to win a roster spot in Spring Training. The slugger is an option to provide power off the bench.
What to watch
Byron Buxton has been mismanaged by the Twins so far, too frequently flipped between minors and Majors, and yet to show much of his potential aside from the second half of 2017. Buxton being good is integral to Minnesota’s success. He could be an elite talent on both sides of the ball – there’s a long, long way to go for that, but there’s still hope.
Miguel Sano is in a similar spot to Buxton. The former top-10 prospect played 28 games in the minor leagues last season and struggled mightily in the Majors. Like Buxton too, though, he flourished in 2017 for a 124 wRC+. Projections differ greatly Sano on this year, which version Minnesota changes their ceiling significantly.
The third in this section is another who broke out in 2017. Eddie Rosario kept it going in 2018, though, posting a .803 OPS for a 3.6 bWAR. Rosario might not have much more room to grow, but he is an extension candidate and one of the few survivors from last season along with recently extended Kepler.
The Twins should be in and around the second wildcard. If they play to their ceiling, they can definitely compete with the Indians, but it relies on Sano, Buxton and Schoop playing like their 2017 editions.
It’s been an effective offseason, adding depth to a line-up that should be solid. There are unlikely to be any needle-moving arrivals from the farm this season. They are a high-floor team, who could be very active midseason if they are competitive.