The Minnesota Twins were once perennial contenders. From 2001 through 2010, the Twins were in divisional contention or in the playoffs every year. Like many teams, their window closes, players retired, were traded away, or signed elsewhere. The Twins wanted to rebuild and come back strong because they recently opened their beautiful new stadium, Target Field. Coming into 2015, there were a lot of questions, but the team played better than expected and remained in contention through much of the season. They finished the season with an 83-79 record. With some smart off-season moves and the development of their young players, one could be excused for thinking them potentially as contenders in 2016.
The Minnesota Twins 2017 Rebuild
This was completely opposite of what happened as they wound up not only be the worst team in the American League, but quite possibly the worst team in all of baseball. It was in fact the worst team record wise since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961.
A proper rebuilding effort should take between three to five years and if that is the case, the Twins management has been severely lacking. 2016 was definitely a disaster minus a few bright spots like Max Kepler. The current state of Major League Baseball allows for teams to go from last place to first in a matter of a couple seasons. This could be the case the Twins, but management needs a plan.
Rebuild the Pitching Staff
The key to the Twins rebounding big in 2017 is going to be their pitching staff which was dreadful. None of their starters could even break a .500 record on the season. While some of that can be attributed to their lackluster offense, these pitchers earned run averages weren’t especially grand either. They have young pitching prospects which the team thought could make a positive impact. Pitchers like Jose Berrios J.T. Chargois, Taylor Rogers, and Tyler Duffey. None of these pitchers met expectations and all of them suffered. Then there were veteran players like Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco, and Ervin Santana who also helped very little. Nolasco has been a disappointment since day one as a Twin, Phil Hughes showed promise coming to Minnesota, but he struggled throughout the season and was injured. Of course Santana had issues with PED use which caused him to be suspended for a large portion of the season.
While Hughes may prove effective again if healthy, the team needs leadership with their staff. Picking up a couple veteran starters who are still in their prime or close to it would help this team. Allow the younger pitchers more time to develop in the back of a rotation or possibly find a superior position in the bullpen.
Finding the Right Pieces to Strengthen their Youthful Lineup
Again, Kepler showed some sparks of greatness and Miguel Sano also shined at times. Both hitters are only 23 and will hopefully improve their batting average as they become more accustomed to Major League pitchers. Shortstop Jorge Polanco could be their future at that position as well. Then there is the beast in the lineup known as Brian Dozier, he hit 42 home runs and drove in 99 RBIs with an acceptable average of .268. With him heading towards his 30’s, you know his production will slowly fade from here on out, but you may have a couple really good seasons left to make use of. Other players like Eduardo Nunez, Trevor Plouffe, and Joe Mauer had decent seasons as well. However, the poor pitching and failure to take advantage of runners in scoring position or even getting on base consistently is a real problem.
The Twins have to find a solid leader behind the plate. Catchers like Kurt Suzuki and John Ryan Murphy may be quality backups, but you need someone who can coach both young and old pitchers behind the plate and show leadership when required. Maybe Juan Centeno is the future, but that’s not a guarantee. While Joe Mauer is very popular, his lack of power at first base is a problem. Adding another solid power bat into this lineup could drastically improve its production and give protection to the likes of Dozier.
The Future of the Twins
When it comes to the the Twins, there is hope. They have a strong core of young talent on offense, some rising stars coming out of their minor league system, a beautiful home field to play in, loyal and knowledgeable fans, and a history of being competitive. If this team works hard to rebuild the starting rotation from the ground up, fill in holes in their bullpen, find a leader and dependable catcher, and acquire another solid bat. There is no reason they wouldn’t be able to compete in the American League Central in 2017.