2015 MLB Team Season Previews – Twins
While the Twins were for years a resourceful small-market ballclub in the mold of the Oakland Athletics, recent seasons have seen this franchise slump.
MLB Lines & Matchup Insight
2015 MLB Team Previews – Minnesota Twins
AL Central Odds: +1800
AL Championship Odds: 50/1
World Series Odds: 100/1
Last year’s 70-win total was Minnesota’s highest since 2010 and while there is hope on the horizon for a beleaguered fanbase, it won’t be an immediate fix.
They have long struggled with pitching in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Ace Phil Hughes was a nice story from last season; the Twins grabbed Hughes away from the Yankees for a paltry three-year deal worth only $24 million (Note: being baseball, the qualifier “only” is required).
Nobody much knew what the club would get with Hughes, but he pitched so well (209 innings and a 3.52 ERA) that this offseason, the Twins ripped up the bargain-basement deal of 2014 and replaced it with a five-year contract.
Hughes will again anchor a pitching rotation with question marks. Minnesota had the highest staff ERA in the majors last year (5.06) despite its ace’s strong work. For instance, Ricky Nolasco, who inked a four-year, $49 million deal in ’14, was one of the worst starters in MLB (6-12, 5.38 ERA).
To have any kind of functional pitching, the Twins need a repeat performance from Hughes, a rebound campaign from Nolasco and a healthy Ervin Santana, who is slated to be the No. 2 man in the starting rotation.
Yet, it’s not entirely doom and gloom in the Twin Cities. Second baseman Brian Dozier had a breakout performance at age 27, swatting 23 home runs to go with 71 RBI and 21 stolen bases.
That’s excellent production from a usually rather impotent offensive position on the diamond.
Veteran Torii Hunter also makes his return to Minnesota and the Twins’ outfield after years spent in Orange County and Detroit. Hunter was a superstar when the Twins made their home in the Metrodome and he is proof that an old dog can still hunt.
The 39-year old hit .286 and drove in 83 runs a year ago, so he should add production to Minnesota’s outfield while also mentoring the ample youth on its roster. Hunter is a great clubhouse guy to have and it is a nice story that he is returning to Minneapolis to finish his career.
To pair with Old Man Hunter, there is tantalizing youth both currently on Minnesota’s roster, and on its way. Right fielder Oswaldo Arcia joined Mike Trout and Marcell Ozuna as the only players age 23 or younger to hit 20 or more homers in 2014.
Minny will also get a full season from DH Kennys Vargas, a massive Puerto Rican who has excessive power potential. We haven’t yet mentioned Byron Buxton a 21-year old impact player in the minors who, despite injuries, should shine for the big club sooner rather than later.
The Twins have another stud in the farm system in 3B Miguel Sano, who has plenty of ropey power in his 6″3, 185-lb frame.
The three-bagger currently keeping his seat warm, Trevor Plouffe, proved he can hit last season, knocking in 80 RBI. Behind the plate, veteran Kurt Suzuki is as reliable a signal-caller as you’ll find.
Minnesota’s bullpen is adequate, with the gem being underrated closer Glen Perkins, who has racked up 70 saves over the past two years. One wonders how many more it would be if Minnesota were in position to win more games (the Twins went 66-96 in 2013 and 70-92 last year).
Still, it’s an uphill slog for the Twins because they play in a division where the teams are either stacked (Detroit Tigers); improving and resourceful (Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians) or reigning World Series participants (Kansas City).
In a few years, the Twins should be a real force, but there is further patience required in the back end of the AL Central division.
2015 Prediction: 75-87, fifth in AL Central
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