For the Minnesota Twins, it has felt like a long time since their last appearance in the post season. The club has managed only two seasons of 70 wins or more since their 94 win 2010 campaign. Their 2017 is wide open in terms of possibilities. With many young players looking to improve after settling in at the big league level, like Miguel Sano and Max Kepler, the Twins have nowhere to go but up. This Minnesota Twins 2017 season preview will cover the club’s young talent, pitching outlook and potential trades in the near future.
Minnesota Twins 2017 Season Preview
Young MLB Talent and Incoming Prospects
The farm system stood among the top three just a couple of years ago. Thinned out a bit due to graduations, the farm is still mid-table with seven of their top ten prospects’ ETAs at 2018 or sooner. Among those who have graduated in the last couple of years are: Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Jose Berrios, Trevor May, and Taylor Rogers, making up about a third of their roster.
A big reason why Minnesota suffered such a bad 2016 was that the production from the youngsters failed to show up. A lengthy loss column is bound to happen when a roster leans so heavily on young players who are hardly settled into the premier level of the game. Because of this, pay especially close attention to Buxton, Kepler and Sano for a big step forward this coming season.
Buxton showed glimpses of his widely praised skill-set throughout an up-and-down 2016. He seemingly figured it out in September, hitting .287 with nine home runs. Watch for him to build upon this late success.
Kepler is slated to be the everyday right fielder in 2017. He hit a disappointing .235/.309/.424, however his 20 doubles and 17 home runs are a bright spot. The opportunity for regular at-bats will give him a chance to grow and improve.
Right field was a disaster for Sano. With the Twins getting rid of Trevor Plouffe, Sano will be back at his natural position at third base. Playing comfortably at third will hopefully allow Sano to return to his 2015 rookie performance that put him third in the running for AL Rookie of the Year.
Last season’s rotation was arguably the worst performing staff in the league. The only pitcher who gave the Twins a chance to win everyday was Ervin Santana. The staff ace logged 181.1 innings of work at a 3.38 ERA. Following Santana is late 2016 acquisition Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, and Jose Berrios. Tyler Duffey and Trevor May sit on the outside looking in on a potentially open fifth rotation spot.
Expect Jose Berrios to be given every opportunity to remain in the big league rotation. The Twins’ top pitching prospect exceeded rookie status last season at just 22, while pitching to a 6.20 FIP. He was hit hard, and he walked seemingly everyone that stepped to the plate. Despite this poor showing, Berrios is an exciting, young talent that shut down minor league batters at every level. If he can reclaim his above-average command and high strike out numbers he carried throughout the minors, he will be a solid anchor to a rotation that under-performed in 2016.
In dealing with the woes of the 2016 rotation and bullpen, the Twins brought in Jason Castro on a three year, $24.5 million contract. He will be charged with reeling in Rogers and May, as well as helping to establish Berrios, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, and a handful of other pitchers set to soon arrive. Castro is not an offensive threat by any means, save for some limited power, but he is consistently among the best in pitch framing and offers league-average defense. The rotation could come around this coming season. If not now, then soon.
Brian Dozier’s Future
Perhaps it was because of his team’s overall performance that Brian Dozier quietly put together a season worthy of a few MVP votes. Dozier’s production was worth 6.5 WAR and kick started whispers of an off season trade that never happened. A deal would make sense, as Dozier’s lock-down on second base displaced Polanco. Minnesota shoved Polanco into the shortstop position and did not do so well.
The Twins would love to collect the prospects that Dozier would bring in coming off a career year. They would love to play Polanco at his natural position again. No team in the market for a Dozier-type was willing to pay the price. The Twins wisely held their ground and kept him around. The problem with this rumor is that there was never a strong market for a deal to be made.
For a deal to happen at this point, it’s likely to be well ahead of the deadline. The Twins would like to avoid the log-jam of talent many expect at this year’s deadline. Minnesota would also have to see themselves out of contention quickly and have located a suitor who managed to surpass preseason expectations at a similar pace. Dozier’s future may be up in the air, but the likelihood of a deal is not so high.