Minnesota Twins 2020: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

How will things shape up in the AL Central?

It ended with Yankee-fueled heartbreak, but the Twins’ 2019 season was a thrilling and unexpected triumph. They won 101 games, took home their first division title since 2010 and turned the bleachers and shrubbery beyond the walls of Target Field into their own personal target practice, launching a historic number of home runs and earning the moniker “The Bomba Squad.”

 

Now, sophomore skipper Rocco Baldelli faces the challenge of recapturing that magic, even with many of the names on the lineup card due to come back to earth and many of the faces in the clubhouse swapped out for new ones. The newest being slugging third baseman Josh Donaldson, who the Twins signed to a four-year, $92 million deal on Jan. 22.

 

Minnesota also acquired starting pitcher Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers just a few days before pitchers and catchers were set to report to spring training. The Twins sent top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol, outfield prospect Luke Raley, and the 67th pick in this year's draft, for Maeda, who will immediately fill a hole in the rotation. Minnesota initially was trying to acquire Maeda as part of a three-team deal with Los Angeles and Boston that was headlined by Mookie Betts and David Price, but that proposed transaction fell through and the Dodgers ended up agreeing to separate deals with the Red Sox and the Twins.

 

Long ago, Bill James advanced the theory of the Plexiglass Principle — the idea that a team that makes a major advancement from one season to the next will inevitably come back to the field somewhat in the third season. The Twins, however, do enough things well to harbor hope that they will be the latest exception to that rule.

 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Twins

Baltimore Orioles logo“They’re losing a lot of innings with Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez leaving and Michael Pineda starting the year with a suspension. Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios are solid, but Berrios didn’t look right at the end of the year. I’m glad they brought back Sergio Romo; he helps their young guys like Taylor Rogers, Randy Dobnak and Tyler Duffey. I can’t figure out Trevor May, though; it felt like he’d blow guys away with the first two pitches to get ahead, then go to his off-speed and get crushed. They won’t hit 300 home runs again — the odds are always against that — but Nelson Cruz is ageless and he crushes this division, and Max Kepler doesn’t miss a mistake in the zone. Eddie Rosario’s one of the best players in the division, but I need to see it for another year from Jorge Polanco. Mitch Garver is a super-analytics guy, and his power shocked everyone, but I don’t know how many pitches he’ll really get to see anymore. Luis Arraez can roll out of bed and hit; he’s going to be a nice player for a long time.” [Editor's note: This scouting report was turned in prior to the Twins signing free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson in late January and the trade in early February that brought Kenta Maeda over from the Los Angeles Dodgers.]

 

Beyond the Box Score

 

A Weighty Wait Re-signing Michael Pineda gave the Twins stability in the middle of their rotation, but that reinforcement won’t come until May. Pineda was suspended in September for using a dietary supplement that contained a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs, and although his suspension was reduced on appeal, it will last for the first month of the season. In the meantime, the team needs reliable innings from at least one of its 2019 rookie starters, Devin Smeltzer and Randy Dobnak.

 

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Name Game Keeping tabs on who is coaching, instructing minor leaguers and working in the front office for MLB teams has become nearly as important as knowing who’s pitching the eighth inning or batting sixth against left-handed starters. The Twins have expanded their front office as rapidly and as impressively as any club over the last few years, and they continue to hire big names from the collegiate ranks as key instructors for developing talent.

 

The Three-Batter Minimum Every team will have to adapt to the rule requiring a relief pitcher to either face at least three batters or complete an inning before being removed. The Twins will have less of a hard time than most, however. Taylor Rogers often served as a multi-inning closer in 2019, and Trevor May and Tyler Duffey each draw on their backgrounds as starting pitchers to handle that usage well. Tyler Clippard, who is almost immune to platoon splits due to his funky changeup, makes an especially nice addition to that mix.

 

A Small, Green Space Depending on the season, Target Field ranks anywhere from the most to the fifth-most environmentally conscious ballpark in the majors. It also sits on the smallest footprint of any active stadium. With the field below street level, the light rail line running right up to the left-field gate, and the subtly inset lights on the roof of the upper deck, the stadium is perhaps the most underrated retro ballpark in a league full of them. It evokes the Polo Grounds and old Metropolitan Stadium in equal, loving measure.

 

Projected Lineup

 

LINEUP

SS    Jorge Polanco (S)

3B    Josh Donaldson (R)

DH    Nelson Cruz (R)

RF    Max Kepler (L)

3B    Miguel Sano (R)

LF    Eddie Rosario (L)

C      Mitch Garver (R)

2B    Luis Arraez (L)

CF    Byron Buxton (R)

 

BENCH

UT  Marwin Gonzalez (S)

C    Alex Avila (L)

UT  Ehire Adrianza (S)

OF  Jake Cave (L)

 

ROTATION

RHP    Jose Berrios

RHP    Jake Odorizzi

RHP    Kenta Maeda

RHP    Homer Bailey

RHP    Randy Dobnak

 

BULLPEN

LHP    Taylor Rogers (C)

RHP    Sergio Romo

RHP    Tyler Duffey

RHP    Trevor May

RHP    Tyler Clippard

RHP    Zack Littell

RHP    Cody Stashak

LHP    Devin Smeltzer

 

Note: RHP Michael Pineda is suspended the first 39 games of the season after testing positive last season for a banned diuretic. He served the first 21 games (which was reduced on appeal from the standard 80 games) at the end of the 2019 season. LHP Rich Hill is expected to start the season on the injured list after undergoing left elbow surgery this offseason. He could return to the mound in June or July.

 

2020 Prediction: 1st in AL Central

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