Minnesota Twins 2019: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

How will things shape up in the AL Central?

In almost every way imaginable, 2019 will mark the dawn of a new era in Minnesota. New manager Rocco Baldelli takes over a team missing the on-field and off-field cornerstones of its last half-decade. The front office tandem of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine has a hand-picked skipper, a new-age coaching staff and a roster they’ve begun to reshape in a manner more affirmatively characteristic of their approach to the game. 


Joe Mauer’s retirement and various expiring contracts left the team tremendous payroll flexibility, and they used it to collect players whose price tags made them undesirable to other teams, despite good talent. Betting on talent, in the absence of consistent production, will define 2019 and could set the direction of the franchise in years to come.

 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Twins

Minnesota Twins logo“Of the four losing teams in the Central, these guys are the only ones who might even sniff contention. They really overachieved a couple of years ago, but it was still shocking to see three of their young core players fall back in such a big way — Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler. All three had a lot of swing-and-miss in their game, but you hoped they’d outgrow that and make the most of their tools. Instead, they all regressed, got hurt or both — and they acquired another guy like that in Jonathan Schoop. So clearly this is a boom-or-bust offense, and I’d bet on bust. The biggest cause for hope is the weakness of their division rivals, and the relative strength of their rotation. Jose Berrios is coming into his own, Jake Odorizzi’s a good bounce-back candidate, and Michael Pineda is a sleeper coming back from Tommy John surgery in his walk year. Trevor May looked really strong in his return from Tommy John surgery, and Taylor Rogers has a live arm; he’s quietly been one of the best lefty relievers in baseball.”


Beyond the Box Score

Fernando Mania After an 11-start rookie season in which he looked first brilliant, then unplayable, Fernando Romero enters the season as a key X-factor for the team, and very much in limbo. His fastball sits comfortably in the mid-90s, and his slider can be devastating. He’s had little success developing a third pitch, though, and might sooner find a permanent foothold if moved to the bullpen.


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SEC to AL Central Wes Johnson is the first collegiate pitching coach in recent memory to make the jump directly from the NCAA to an MLB pitching coach job, after the Twins lured him away from the University of Arkansas. Johnson’s reputation as a new-age guru of velocity training and pitch design makes it clear what the team is trying to do by bringing him aboard.


A Day in the Sun Joe Mauer’s No. 7 will be retired this summer at Target Field, a well-earned honor for a native son and a dedicated member of both the organization and the community. Mauer’s Hall of Fame candidacy will wait, but the Twins chose to waste no time before giving their icon a place alongside franchise legends.


News Flash Nick Gordon has been slow to make adjustments at each level of the minor leagues, but he’s generally gotten his bearings and ended up controlling the strike zone well, while generating more pop than his extraordinarily slender frame would suggest. This season will be critical, however, for both Gordon and the Twins, as the team might need their former first-round pick at either middle-infield spot, and Gordon needs to get big league experience under his belt.


Unpaid Vacation Byron Buxton and the team are at odds this winter, after the organization elected not to recall him from Triple-A Rochester in September. If they had done so, Buxton would have reached three full seasons of service time, making him a free agent after 2021. Instead, Minnesota controls him through 2022 — though first, he’ll have to prove that he’s a good enough hitter to make that relevant.


A Monetary Muddle The Twins stood on the doorstep of contraction 15 years ago. Their position was that a new stadium would be needed to save them, to make them competitively viable in the long run. They got that, and they got a boost from the rising tide of skyrocketing national revenues for all 30 teams, but they haven’t made any material change in spending habits. They still figure to spend less than 85 percent of the league-average payroll in 2019, and have done so in every season since the opening of Target Field, save 2010.


Projected Lineup

 

LINEUP

SS  Jorge Polanco (S)
3B Miguel Sano (R)
LF  Eddie Rosario (L)
DH Nelson Cruz (R)
RF  Max Kepler (L)
1B  C.J. Cron (R) 
2B  Jonathan Schoop (R) 
C    Jason Castro (L)
CF  Byron Buxton (R) 

 

BENCH

C/1B  Mitch Garver (R) 
INF     Ehire Adrianza (S)
OF      Jake Cave (L)
INF     Ronald Torreyes (R)

 

ROTATION

RHP   Jose Berrios
RHP   Kyle Gibson
RHP   Jake Odorizzi
RHP   Michael Pineda
LHP   Stephen Gonsalves

 

BULLPEN

RHP  Trevor May (C)
RHP  Addison Reed
RHP  Trevor Hildenberger
LHP  Taylor Rogers
RHP  Matt Magill
LHP  Gabriel Moya
LHP  Martin Perez
RHP  Blake Parker

 

2019 PREDICTION

2nd AL Central 

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