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Minnesota Twins 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Minnesota Twins 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Minnesota Twins 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

The Twins have serious competition in the AL Central this season, but that's been true in each of the last two seasons, and they've still won relatively handily. They are a model franchise of the modern game, with a creative and aggressive front office, state-of-the-art coaches and player development, and a deep roster. Their next challenge will be to successfully convert some of their solid core pieces into the stars they hoped they would be.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Twins

"They always fall short in October, but I don't care — this team is a World Series contender. Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios are a good top two, and Michael Pineda has finally figured it out. They're a little thin after that, but Derek Falvey knows pitching, that's his reputation. I'm still a believer in Byron Buxton at 27; his defense is so great that it's a high floor, and he really came into his power last year. They invested a lot in Josh Donaldson, but he's 35 now and you never know if he'll play a full season; if he does, he could be the difference-maker in this division. I like them penciling in Alex Kirilloff as a starter in the outfielder; he'll hit for both average and power for a long time. Mitch Garver played over his head in 2019, but I still like him a lot as part of a tandem with Ryan Jeffers. Luis Arraez is a lot of fun over at second base; he can hit any pitch, and he never strikes out. They've got some work to do in the bullpen without Trevor May and Matt Wisler, but this is a group that usually figures out a way."

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Beyond the Box Score

A Blessing forthe Twins For the first time, the St. Paul Saints are not only an affiliated minor-league team, but also one under the aegis of their neighbors just a few miles to the west. The Twins will benefit logistically from having their Triple-A team in closer proximity than any other team in the league, and from the opportunity to get fans excited about top prospects by showcasing them nearby. Fans, for their part, will get to see young talent sooner, in a lovely new ballpark in St. Paul's Lowertown.

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2021 Athlon Sports Baseball Preview

No payoff in the playoffs

Despite their consecutive division titles (and three trips to the postseason in the last four years), the Twins failed to advance or even earn their first playoff win since 2004. Their October futility has reached record proportions, and even if they return there in 2021, fans will take little solace, unless that streak is finally snapped.


Banding together Perhaps more than any other team in baseball, the Twins handled the pandemic and its economic ramifications with grace and humanity. Unlike other clubs, the team made an early pledge to pay its inactive minor leaguers for the full lost season; refused to lay off front-office staff or scouts; and prioritized health and safety throughout the organization. It might turn out to yield a competitive advantage, but if nothing else, the franchise behaved admirably in a tragic year.


Central question The Twins eked out a narrow division championship over Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox, but Chicago's ascendance and active offseason will push Minnesota to continue playing at a high level. It's likely that the rejiggered schedule of 2020 inflated the Twins' winning percentage, in a season during which they didn't play their best baseball. In both respects, 2021 will be a tougher challenge.


Staying put The leadership of president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine has been instrumental in turning the Twins from an inconsistent, old-fashioned organization into a budding powerhouse on the cutting edge of the game's various advances. The franchise survived a minor scare during early December, when the Phillies (Levine's hometown team) tried to lure the GM away, offering him the chance to run a higher-powered, bigger-market franchise on his own. That Levine turned them down speaks to his comfort level, and to the culture the Twins have created in a relatively short time.

Projected Lineup

LINEUP

RF    Max Kepler (L)

SS    Jorge Polanco (S)

3B    Josh Donaldson (R)

DH   Nelson Cruz (R)

3B    Miguel Sano (R)

LF    Alex Kirilloff (L)

CF    Byron Buxton (R)

C     Mitch Garver (R)

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SS    Andrelton Simmons (R)

BENCH

INF  Luis Arraez (L)

C     Ryan Jeffers (R)

OF   Brent Rooker (R)

OF   Jake Cave (L)

ROTATION

RHP    Kenta Maeda

RHP    Jose Berrios

RHP    Michael Pineda

LHP    J.A. Happ

RHP    Randy Dobnak

BULLPEN

LHP    Taylor Rogers (C)

RHP    Alex Colome

RHP    Tyler Duffey

RHP    Jorge Alcala

RHP    Hansel Robles

RHP    Cody Stashak

LHP    Caleb Thielbar

RHP    Matt Shoemaker

2021 Prediction: 2nd in AL Central

(Jose Berrios photo courtesy of @Twins)