The Minnesota Twins had a disappointing season in 2018 in comparison to their 2017 wildcard appearance. While they finished second in the AL Central, they still finished below .500 at 78-84. The good news is that if the youth holds up, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano leading the way, the Twins can be right back into postseason contention.

New manager Rocco Baldelli brings a fresh, and really fresh as becoming the youngest manager in the league, face to the organization. He was a first base coach and newly created major league field coordinator for the Kevin Cash-led Rays. He can bring a new look for this team, and he could immensely help the youth develop, especially Buxton because Baldelli is a former outfielder.

The Twins made some good moves in the offseason by acquiring the ageless wonder Nelson Cruz, claiming C.J. Cron off of waivers, and stealing Jonathan Schoop in free agency. While they made some good acquisitions, nothing will impact them more than the departure of Joe Mauer.

Joe Mauer was a staple in Minnesota, and he was beloved by everyone. The entire baseball world was saddened when he announced his retirement on November 9, 2018. The Minnesota Twins also declared that they will retire his number 7 on June 15, 2019, when they play the division rival Kansas City Royals.

Byron Buxton is one of a few players to keep your eye on this season. He struggled last season being in and out of the majors, 28 games in MLB and 35 games in AAA, and even when he was in the majors, he wasn’t the same Buxton from the season before. In 2017, he hit .253/.314/.413 in 140 games, but in 2018, he hit .153/.183/.200 in 28 games. The good news, however, is his numbers were pretty good in AAA posting a 122 wRC+ (100 is the league average).  Thankfully his defense could keep him in the majors if he goes through a slump, he did win Wilson’s Defensive Player of the Year and Rawlings’ Platinum Glove in 2017 after all.

The other young star on this team is Miguel Sano. He, like the team, wasn’t as good as he was in 2017. He hit .199/.281/.398 with 13 home runs in 71 games in 2018. He is the slugger of the future for this club. If he can stay consistently around the 30 home run mark, which he hasn’t hit yet but has got close to, he will always have a roster spot on this team. He’s also only 25 years old, so he has plenty of time to develop into an all-star.

The real slugger on this team is the ageless wonder Nelson Cruz. He has had over 35 home runs in every season since he left the Texas Rangers in 2013. The one downfall to him is that he also has a high strikeout percentage with his career average being 22.4%. That is a very high percentage, but it’s something you will have to swallow if you want the runs he will provide. The designated hitter was acquired in free agency under a one-year, twelve million dollar contract. The 38-year old isn’t a part of the future, unless he gets even better, but he is a part of the win now mentality. Another thing he can do is mentor C.J. Cron and Miguel Sano, the future sluggers for this team.

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The other ‘big name’ free agent the Minnesota Twins got was second baseman Jonathan Schoop. He is back in the American League after being traded to Milwaukee from Baltimore. He is a solid defender and a good bat in the lineup, and the fans have taken notice as he was an all-star in 2017. He is only 27 and is on a one-year deal, so if the Twins want, they can keep him for the future or scrap him if they want the money to go towards another player that they see better.

Now onto the players on the mound. The starting rotation doesn’t wow me, but it’s solid enough that if they play as a cohesive unit, they can be consistent enough to get the Twins into the playoffs. The bullpen needs to be strong in the games the starters aren’t. They need to protect the leads that they have, and maintain the deficits so the offense can try to get back into it.

One of the pitchers I have my eye on is Kyle Gibson, the presumed to be ace for this year. He had a 3.62 ERA, lowering it from the year before when it was a 5.07, and a K/9 of 8.19. While the numbers don’t scream ace, if he can keep his ERA low, keeps his BB/9 low, and raise his K/9 a little higher, he could be a solid pitcher in this critical Twins rotation.

Blake Parker, the Twins’ free agency pick up, had a good year in Los Angeles with the Angels. His xFIP was 4.04 and his left on base percentage was 89.4%. He is a good addition to the bullpen as he gets runners out and leaves them on base. If he can lower his HR/9 to under 1.00 and can keep people off base, he can lead this bullpen to success.

This team is very difficult to predict their season. They have all f the pieces in the lineup, but the rotation and bullpen can hold them back from making a run for the division, which had two 100- loss teams in it last year. I believe that the only thing that will stop the Twins from competing in October is themselves, or injuries. They added good pieces into their lineup with Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, and Jonathan Schoop, and if Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton can return to 2017 form, this lineup will not only be scary this year, but scary to face for year to come.

Team Projection: 85-77

Team MVP: Byron Buxton

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