With Josh Donaldson in the Fold, Can the Twins Compete for the AL Pennant?

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Josh Donaldson #20 of the Atlanta Braves rounds third base after hitting a two-run homer in the sixth inning against the New York Mets at SunTrust Park on June 19, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images)

The latest news to break during this wild week in Major League Baseball was that the Josh Donaldson sweepstakes have finally ended, as the Minnesota Twins landed the star third baseman.

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand was the first to report that the Twins and Donaldson had agreed to a four-year, $92 million deal.

What will the addition of Donaldson mean for the Twins, and for the AL Central and American League as a whole? Donaldson will upgrade a lineup that was already the strength of the ballclub; the Twins set the Major League record for most home runs hit by a single team with 307 in 2019. Miguel Sanó, who has played mostly third base to this point in his career, will likely slide across the diamond to first base, with Donaldson assuming third base duties. 

Donaldson will slot right into the middle of a powerful Twins lineup. With the 2015 AL MVP in the fold, their order will look something like this, with each player’s 2019 OPS in parentheses:

Max Kepler RF (.855)

Jorge Polanco SS (.841)

Nelson Cruz DH (1.031)

Josh Donaldson 3B (.900)

Eddie Rosario LF (.800)

Miguel Sanó 1B (.923)

Luis Arraez 2B (.838)

Mitch Garver C (.995)

Byron Buxton CF (.827)

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This group is set to become one of the most feared and complete lineups in all of baseball. A versatile and powerful outfield group is led by Max Kepler, who had a breakout 2019 season in which he mashed 36 homers. Eddie Rosario is a solid young hitter who recorded 32 long balls in ‘19, and Byron Buxton is a speedy center-fielder who may at long last be tapping into his massive potential.

Nelson Cruz and Donaldson combine to form a middle of the order that will crush homers and drive in plenty of runs. The infield is rounded out by Jorge Polanco, whose breakthrough 2019 campaign saw him start for the AL in the All-Star Game. Arraez had a fantastic rookie season in ‘19, as he slashed .334/.339/.439/.838, and Sanó set a career-high with 34 homers last season. Catcher Mitch Garver was spectacular in ‘19 as well, as he totaled 31 homers in just 93 games played.

Not only is this Twins offense loaded, it is deep as well. Experienced veteran Marwin Gonzalez will be a prime bench option, and will earn his fair share of starts when the pitching matchup is in his favor. Some other potential bench bats include backup catcher Alex Avila, Willians Astudillo, and Ehire Adrianza.

However, the only question that really matters is this: can the Minnesota Twins repeat as AL Central Champions and challenge the likes of the New York Yankees and Houston Astros in a top-heavy American League? 

Obviously, the answer is complicated. We can only speculate and predict as of now, because Spring Training has not even begun. Despite their suspect pitching staff, the Twins will likely be among the small group of AL clubs that can even dream about competing with the mighty Yankees or Astros. The Twins did make an effort to improve their pitching core this offseason, by means of adding veteran starters Homer Bailey and Rich Hill. These two will round out a rotation led by the young José Berríos and Jake Odorizzi, whom Minnesota re-signed in November.

The fact of the matter is that the Twins are actively pouring their resources into fielding a championship ballclub, which is truly all that a fan could ask for. The Twins will once again be a force to be reckoned with in ‘19, and will certainly be a darkhorse World Series contender.

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