Although you probably wouldn’t be able to guess based on the amount of attention they receive, the Minnesota Twins have improved their record each of the last three seasons, and in 2015 finished with their first winning record in five years. They finished last season with an 83-79 record, but now must take one last step towards being playoff contenders.
Management has spent money freely the last few years on free agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana, but their crop of young fielders is what will push them forward. Top prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton spent time at the major league level last season, as did Eddie Rosario, the left fielder of the future.
Going around the field the Twins have a blend of youth and experience, with the most intriguing player being Byung Ho Park, a 29-year-old rookie first basemen who the Twins signed from South Korea during the off-season. Park hopes to add power to a lineup that otherwise will rely on Sano and Brian Dozier.
Other than Park, the Twins return with a nearly identical roster to last year’s, and with manager Paul Molitor now in his second season, the pressure will only increase, as it should. As the Twins have climbed their way up from the bottom of the American League Central standings the last few years, all talk has centered around one of baseball’s best farm systems, one that must now prove to be capable of creating the superstar talent it has promised.
Buxton is the one who perhaps has the most to prove as his .209 batting average last season doesn’t reflect the Mike Trout comparisons he’s received. Sano on the otherhand could have more power than any player to wear a Twins uniform, and if he becomes more disciplined at the plate, he could become a consistent Triple Crown threat and MVP contender.
Pitching is the one noticeable weak link for the Twins, and also the area that will dictate their level of success. Their pitching rotation once again lacks a true number one starter, limiting their ceiling at the moment.
A playoff run may be asking too much from a team with this makeup, but the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets making it to the World Series last year showed us that anything is possible in baseball.
2016 hasn’t started as the Twins hoped, losing their first four games of the year, but with a 162-game schedule there’s time for things to change. Clearly the hype-train shouldn’t pull out of the station just yet, but no one should be surprised if the Twins improve as the season goes on and the team’s future stars begin to act like ones.