The final AL Central team we preview in our monthlong series looking at all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the Minnesota Twins, who came in second place in the division last season.
The Twins were a surprising team last year, winning 85 games and getting an American League Wild Card after losing 103 games in 2016. And they made a number of moves this winter to improve the team, including most recently signing SP Lance Lynn. Earlier in the offseason, they traded for SP Jake Odorizzi and signed DH Logan Morrison and RPs Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney. They also signed SP Michael PIneda to a two-year deal, but that is a signing geared toward 2019 as he will miss most — if not all — of this season as he recovers from the Tommy John surgery he had in July. 1B Joe Mauer returns as the veteran leader in his 15th season with the team.
The Twins hit .260 last season, which placed them in the top 10 in Major League Baseball, but their 206 home runs were middle-of-the-pack, and their .768 OPS was in the top half of the league. 2B Brian Dozier hit .271 with 34 home runs and an .856 OPS. 3B Miguel Sano hit .264 with 28 home runs in 114 games, and OF Eddie Rosario added 27 homers with a .290 average. OF Byron Buxton hit 16 home runs and stole 29 bases. Mauer hit .305 with 7 home runs. OF Max Kepler had 19 long balls. Morrison hit a career-best 38 home runs with the Rays, with a .246 average.
On the mound, the Twins’ 4.59 ERA put them in the bottom half of the league and their 1,166 strikeouts were the second-fewest in the majors. The bullpen recorded 42 games, which was above the league average. SP Ervin Santana posted a 3.28 ERA with 167 strikeouts in 211.1 innings over 33 starts last season. SP Jose Berrios posted a 3.89 ERA in 26 games — 25 starts — and struck out 139 in 145.2 innings, and SP Kyle Gibson struggled with a 5.07 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 158 innings over 29 starts. Odorizzi put up a 4.14 ERA in 28 starts with the Rays; he had 127 strikeouts in 143.1 innings. Lynn posted a respectable 3.43 ERA with the Cardinals, striking out 153 batters in 186.1 innings over 33 starts. Rodney recorded 39 saves with the Diamondbacks last season and put up a 4.23 ERA while striking out 65 in 55.1 innings, and Reed posted a 2.84 ERA with 19 saves for the Mets and Red Sox; he also had 76 strikeouts in 76 innings.
The Twins’ hitting was fine last season, and adding Morrison will provide a boost if he can even come close to the power he showed last season. it’s a largely young offense, which offers room for improvement if they can take their games to the next level. Signing Lynn and trading for Odorizzi provides needed depth in the rotation with Satana sidelined for up to 12 weeks with a finger injury, potentially leaving him out of action until May. Rodney is expected to begin the season as closer, but Reed could step into the ninth-inning role if Rodney struggles.
The Twins added to the team, trying to fill some holes they had last season, but the additions probably aren’t enough for the Twins to overtake the Indians as the best team in the division. They’ll certainly compete again for one of the Wild Cards in the AL, and I think they’ll get it, but if they do I’m not sure they’re good enough for a deep postseason run.