Publish date:

2 TWINS

Author:

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP MINNESOTA

Last season was a bit of a magical year in which everything went right. The biggest breakthrough was Byron Buxton. You started hearing Willie Mays comparisons last season, and you know what? They weren't totally crazy: He's got every tool out there, and he's putting it all together. He and Billy Hamilton need to have a footrace to see who's the fastest guy in the game.... One guy I'm concerned about is Miguel Sanó. He's not moving well at all—he looks like Mo Vaughn at the end of his career. He's been dealing with off-field stuff and coming off an injury; there are big-time red flags.... This is a good offense. Brian Dozier is as consistent as they come, and Logan Morrison was a really smart signing. Now he and Joe Mauer can split first base and DH, and that will do wonders for both; they'll get very good production from both positions.... The rotation is a little short. They need José Berrios to emerge as the ace. His curveball has always been elite, but he was struggling with his confidence going into the season. The World Baseball Classic did wonders for him in that area. Jake Odorizzi was a nice addition, and Kyle Gibson has his arm strength back after some injuries, but they need another frontline starter if they want to make a run at a wild-card spot.

THE PAYOFF PITCH

The Twins made the playoffs for the first time since 2010 by upgrading a porous defense with young talent. Byron Buxton, 24, and Max Kepler, 25, helped Minnesota move from last in the AL in turning balls in play into outs to seventh. Now the team has to fix the other part of the run-prevention equation: keeping balls out of play. The Twins were 14th in the league in strikeout rate, the seventh straight season they've been 13th or worse. Adding Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi, who struck out 21% of the batters he faced last year, will help. The emergence of lefty Adalberto Mejía (19% as a rookie) should also push the team's whiff rate higher. If the pitchers can produce even an average strikeout rate, the team—with its solid defense—could be back in the postseason.

OVER / UNDER

78.5

A pitching staff with a dismal 4.59 ERA didn't stop the team from winning 85 last year. If Berrios emerges as an ace, the Twins will flirt with 90 wins.

THE LINEUP

1. SECOND BASE

Brian Dozier

.257 BA/30 HR/15 SB

2. FIRST BASE

Joe Mauer

.367 OBP/.411 SLG/10 HR

3. THIRD BASE

Miguel Sanó

.249 BA/.509 SLG/29 HR

4. DH

Logan Morrison

.252 BA/.464 SLG/21 HR

5. LEFTFIELD

Eddie Rosario

.272 BA/22 HR/9 SB

FANTASY BREAKOUT

6. CENTERFIELD

Byron Buxton

.251 BA/20 HR/24 SB

Buxton, 24, hit .300/.347/.546 with 11 homers and 13 steals in the second half.

7. RIGHTFIELD

Max Kepler

.257 BA/17 HR/7 SB

8. SHORTSTOP

Eduardo Escobar

.263 BA/9 HR/2 SB

9. CATCHER

Jason Castro

.230 BA/.314 OBP/10 HR

THE STAFF

1. RH STARTER

Ervin Santana

9 W/4.82 ERA/1.37 WHP

2. RH STARTER

José Berrios

10 W/4.58 ERA/1.33 WHP

3. RH STARTER

Jake Odorizzi

8 W/5.07 ERA/1.40 WHP

4. RH STARTER

Kyle Gibson

10 W/4.58 ERA/1.43 WHP

CLOSER

Fernando Rodney

30 SV/4.29 ERA/8.7 K9

THE SKIPPER

Paul Molitor