Minnesota Twins Preview
With the fifth and final team in the AL Central, I will be previewing the Minnesota Twins. After a surprising and solid campaign in 2015, 2016 was a much different story. They finished last in the American League with a record of 59-103, and after doing little outside of the organization to improve this team, the hope is that they will be able to do it internally. That, however, isn't all that encouraging, as the Twins farm system consistently ranks between 14 and 22 in the MLB. In other words, it might be a long few years up north.
PROJECTED ROTATION: Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes, Jose Berrios, Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson
The Twins rotation was awful last year, unlike the year before, and outside of Ervin Santana all of the main six candidates had an ERA over five. Phil Hughes was the ace going into last year, so I have him making the rotation along with Jose Berrios who is going to be a rookie this year. After that, it gets really dim and Hector Santiago is the biggest name left, so he makes the cut. Kyle Gibson was their second most consistent pitcher, so I am giving him the nod over Tyler Duffey. Duffey will likely be the long man in the bullpen, and don't sleep on prospect Fernando Romero or non-roster invitee Ryan Vogelsong.
BULLPEN: Glen Perkins, Brandon Kintzler, Taylor Rogers, Ryan Pressly, Michael Tonkin, Buddy Boshers, JT Chargois, Tyler Duffey
This is a mess too, as last year's closer Glen Perkins should come back and help Brandon Kintzler stabilize the back end of the bullpen. After that, it gets tricky, and the middle relief battle is going to be one of the wildest in all of baseball. Tyler Duffey is also the clear long reliever if they choose to go that way, but for middle relief you have the five listed above, along with other viable options like Pat Light, Ryan O'Rourke, Trevor May and non-roster invitees Nick Tepesch and Ryan Vogelsong. JT Chargois is the name to watch as the is the only one on this list who still has top prospect status.
CATCHERS: Jason Castro, John Ryan Murphy
I'm not sure if John Ryan Murphy is who the Twins believe as the catcher of the future, but right now he will be backup to the longtime backstop of the Houston Astros, Jason Castro. Castro comes in to replace Kurt Suzuki and hopefully he will be able to help figure out this dismal pitching staff and get them straightened up. Depth here isn't the greatest, but they do have journeyman Chris Gimenez as a potential third option behind the plate.
INFIELDERS: Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Byungho Park, Eduardo Escobar
Longtime Twin Joe Mauer is the clear leader of this franchise at the moment, and he will be at first base as long as he wants to be. New star Brian Dozier on the other hand has been among the biggest names floating in trade rumors, but at this moment he remains a Twin. Youngsters Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano form the left side of the infield, but Sano needs to start producing again to justify letting Trevor Plouffe go. The rest of the infield is uncertain, although Eduardo Escobar has been a pretty steady backup, and Park is making a lot of money to not make the roster. Park will be battling Kennys Vargas and non-roster invitee Ben Paulsen for the DH job. Keep an eye on Twins #2 prospect Nick Gordon, as he will be making a push too.
OUTFIELDERS: Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Robbie Grossman
The success of the outfield is tied to former top prospect Byron Buxton, but last year Max Kepler was the best outfielder on the team. Kepler was third on the team in home runs and RBI's despite not playing a full season. Eddie Rosario is a solid left fielder, but he isn't a long term solution at the moment, and Robbie Grossman is capable of playing all three outfield spots and was the leadoff hitter for a few stints last season. Utility man Danny Santana is essentially competing with the pitching staff to show that he deserves a spot on the roster over them.
LINEUP: Buxton (CF), Dozier (2B), Mauer (1B), Sano (3B), Kepler (RF), Park (DH), Rosario (LF), Castro (C), Polanco (SS)
PREDICTION: I put Buxton at leadoff and Sano at cleanup because I believe the Twins' offense goes as far as those guys go. Dozier will hit his home runs and likely get traded to the Cardinals or elsewhere, but those former high level prospects need to be on their A game for the Twins to make any noise in 2017. Joe Mauer will be Joe Mauer and the rest of these guys are average at best, but this offense relies on those two guys. Despite potential offensive decency, I still don't believe the Twins are even close to being ready as far as pitching is concerned. Even with a bounce back year from Phil Hughes and a solid first season from Jose Berrios, the Twins don't have enough in their rotation, and the bullpen is a mess. I think they win between 60 and 70 this year, likely closer to 60. I'll go with 64 wins and last place.