Play Ball! A look at the Twins upcoming season
Baseball is back, ladies and gentlemen! If you are a Minnesota Twins fan, you know how hard it was to watch the Twinkies lose 103 games. While they did lose the most games in the league last year, Minnesota has shown steps to improvement and it makes me and hopefully other Twins fans optimistic too. It started with Jim Pohlad relieving GM Terry Ryan of his duties. From there, Thad Levine and Derek Falvey would take over the front office for the franchise that needed a turn around quick.
In November, the Twins made that first move by signing veteran catcher Jason Castro to fill the void Kurt Suzuki left. Castro makes a good veteran presence in the locker room filled with a bunch of young players. Being one of the better defensive catchers in the league, he helps a team ranked 29th out of 30 teams in fielding percentage. Another thing the front office has done during the offseason is bring in two veteran relief pitchers - Craig Breslow and Ryan Vogelsong. Breslow, who played for the Twins from 2008-2009, is a solid reliever and if he can prove he still has the arm and the accuracy, which is what he is known for, he will make the Twins opening day roster over some of the young guns in the bullpen. The 39 year old Ryan Vogelsong has been in both the starting rotation and the bullpen. He signed a minor league contract with the Twins and could be a huge asset for either another leader in the club house or an arm on the mound. At the moment, the two vets are singed to a minor league contract and are joining the Twins for Spring Training. They've shown they have what it takes with a combined 3 World Series rings, one for Breslow with the Red Sox and two for Vogelsong with the Giants.
Miguel Sano didn't have a great year last year in the field. He switched between third base and right field. His fielding percentage was significantly better in right field than it was at the hot corner. It now seems that he will be going back to third base because Trevor Plouffe is now in California with the A's. Sano progressively got better in the field as the season went on and if he can get his errors under control during Spring Training, he will be an incredibly valuable part of the Twins by being a complete two way player. At the plate, he seems to just get stronger and stronger going from 18 HR and 52 RBI in 2015 to 25 HR and 66 RBI this last year. Sano and Dozier are a great power duo in the Twins line up and Dozier mentoring the locker room is huge for player development.
The development of young players from last year to this year is especially important. Guys like Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, John Ryan Murphy, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, and Kennys Vargas are the future of the Twins and they are all guys who struggled in prior years. With the exception of Buxton being in talks of the Rookie of the Year award a few years back, and Max Kepler coming in clutch in important games last year, they seem to be the bright spots of the Twins as of right now. Of course, being mentored by Torii Hunter sure helps. Nonetheless, they all have shown glimpses of potential stardom and I'm excited to see what they bring to the table this year
Between the young lineup and the veteran pitching staff with Ervin Santana and (somewhat) recently acquired Hector Santiago, the Twins will have a better year this year but will be a good amount of games away from the playoffs. It will be hard to compete with the Royals and the Indians (who blew a 3-1 lead in the World Series to the Cubs) to bring a division title back to the Twin Cities. My prediction: the Minnesota Twins end up 4th in the AL Central going 73-89. Much better than last year.