The final AL Central team we preview in our monthlong series looking at all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2016 season is the Minnesota Twins, who came in second place in the division last season.
With their first winning season since 2010, the Twins finished in second place in the AL Central last season, but were still 12 games back of the division champion Royals. The Twins didn’t do much during the offseason, with their only big free-agent signing coming in the form of DH Byung-ho Park, who is making his debut in Major League Baseball this season, coming over from the Korea Baseball Organization. where he won two MVP awards. Whether Park can make the transition to the American game is one question the Twins face heading into 2016. Another question is how will young OFs Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, who is making the transition from third base, do in their first full season in the majors? And will veteran 1B Joe Mauer continue his offensive decline as he enters his 13th major league season? The starting rotation is also questionable without a bona fide ace on the roster, with SP Phil Hughes currently slotted into that role on the depth chart.
The Twins’ offense finished in the bottom half of the American League last season, with a .247 average, 156 home runs and 661 RBI. Among their regular starters, Sano led the team with a .269 average despite playing in just 80 games after being called up from the minors. When that is the highest average on the team, there’s little surprise they ranked second-to-last in the league in that stat category. They did better in the power department, with three 20-homer guys, with 2B Brian Dozier leading the squad with 28 home runs, but he hit just .236 and had as many strikeouts as hits — 148 each. Mauer’s average continued its decline, dropping to .265 last season, but the 158 games he played was the most of his career, which helped him hit 10 home runs, up significantly from the 4 he hits the previous season. The team’s 4.07 ERA was the sixth worst in the AL and their pitching staff struck out the fewest batters in the league, at 1,046. Hughes posted a 4.40 ERA and struck out just 94 batters in 155.1 innings last season. SP Kyle Gibson led the rotation with a 3.84 ERA in 32 starts. Even closer Glen Perkins didn’t have a great season, with a 3.32 ERA, which is high for a reliever.
The key to the Twins’ offense is going to be getting good sophomore seasons from the likes of Buxton and Sano. Buxton’s speed is his best asset on offense, so if he can steal bases and help produce runs, that would help with the team’s lack of power. Sano, on the other hand, is known for his power — he hit 33 home runs last year total between the majors and minors. So if he can put up those numbers in a full season at the major league level, that would definitely help the team score more and win more games. Park had 210 home runs and a .281 average in nine seasons in the Korean League. He’ll have to translate those numbers to the majors to give the Twins the help they wanted out of him when they signed the 29-year-old. The pitching likely won’t see much improvement, with the only addition being Kennedy and his career 3.98 ERA.
The Twins won 83 games last season, but that seems to be higher than you would expect from the way the team performed. With the roster this season largely the same as last season, I’m not expecting much of the same as 2015, but I think the Twins may end the season with a worse record this season as other teams in the division, including the Tigers, improved over the offseason.