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Minnesota Twins 2022: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

Byron Buxton and the Twins look to turn things around after going from first to worst in the AL Central in 2021

From worst to first is a common theme in sports. From first to worst, not so much. That's what the Twins did in 2021. After two years of ruling the AL Central, they slid to the bottom of the division in a nightmare 2021 season. The question is, are they going to stay there in 2022?

Much will depend on the pitching staff. No. 1 starter José Berríos was traded, Michael Pineda filed for free agency and Kenta Maeda is lost for the season with Tommy John surgery. In the bullpen, they used 29 different pitchers. Out of their top three closers, Alex Colomé walked via free agency, Hansel Robles was traded and Taylor Rogers missed much of the year with an injury to his left middle finger. Minnesota added Sonny Gray after the lockout, but the rest of the staff is largely unproven.

The days of the Bomba Squad, when the Twins led the big leagues with 307 homers in 2019, are over, but this is still a solid offense. It might be better than that if the talented but fragile Byron Buxton, who signed a seven-year, $100 million extension before the lockout, can manage to play more than the 100 games he's appeared in over the last two years. But if the Twins can't strengthen their pitching, it's hard to see them challenging for the AL Central title.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Twins

Minnesota Twins Logo 2017

"It wouldn't surprise me if they finished last again. There's no starting pitching, or even much of a bullpen beyond Taylor Rogers, that they can bank on to get them through*. Even if the offense comes back and gives them five runs a game, they'll give up more than that. I'd feel better if I'd seen much from their young pitchers, but I can't circle any of them and say, 'That's a guy to be excited about.' Bailey Ober has some promise; he's got a good pitch mix, but like Griffin Jax (and really the entire staff), he gave up too many home runs. They still hit a lot of homers, but some of their homegrown guys like Max Kepler and Miguel Sanó have sort of stalled out. Luis Arráez is a great contact hitter, but good staffs can pitch to him; he torches the weaker-pitching teams. I'm glad they extended Byron Buxton — yes, he's always hurt, but they've got to keep trying with him because he's a top-10 player in the league when he's healthy. It's really hard to get him out when he's rolling, and he applies pressure on you on offense, defense and on the bases. He's the reason to come to the ballpark to watch this team."

*Note: Scouting report was submitted before Twins acquired Sonny Gray, Chris Archer, and Chris Paddack

Beyond the Box Score

Smiles all around On Sept. 5, a lot of things went the Twins' way. Not only did they beat the Rays 6–5 at Tropicana Field, but manager Rocco Baldelli also left the game in the eighth inning to catch a flight back to Minneapolis where his wife was about to give birth. Veteran coach Bill Evers, who retired after the season following 46 years in baseball, replaced Baldelli for the remainder of that game and the four-game series in Cleveland that followed. "All in all, a good day," Evers told reporters after the game. "Roc can have a nice flight home. Put a smile on his face and everybody is happy."

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COVID cloud By mid-April there were hints that the 2021 season might not go the way the Twins expected. On a West Coast trip to play the Angels and A's, the Twins had three games postponed because of a COVID outbreak on the team. They were 6–7 before the outbreak but lost eight of the last 11 games in April to finish the month at 9–15, six games out of first place.

RIP The Twins lost bench coach Mike Bell, 46, to kidney cancer on March 26. Bell joined the Twins before the 2020 season after a long stay in player development with Arizona. He was the bench coach when the Twins won their second straight AL Central title. Bell's brother, David, is manager of the Reds. Bell's father, Buddy, played 18 years in the big leagues and managed Detroit, Colorado and the Royals. Gus Bell, Mike's grandfather, played 15 years in the big leagues. "We all need people in our lives like Mike Bell, an amazing, amazing, lovely, thoughtful, beautiful human being," said Baldelli. "We're going to miss him."

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Walk (off) this way The Twins had nine walk-off wins last season, five of them generated by the bat of Jorge Polanco. In a four-day span from Aug. 15 through Aug. 18, Polanco beat the Rays with a walk-off sacrifice fly and beat Cleveland twice with a walk-off double and single. Polanco's other walk-off hits came on May 18 against the White Sox and July 11 against the Tigers.

Wait is over In December, Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat were elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown by the Golden Days Era Committee. Oliva played his entire 15-year-career with the Twins, while Kaat spent 15 of his 25 years in the big leagues with Minnesota. Oliva and Kaat first appeared on the Golden Era ballot in 2011. "In our view, both Tony and Jim have been Hall of Famers for a long, long time, but this news gives us all an excuse to throw a really big party in Cooperstown in July," said Twins president and CEO Dave St. Peter.

Projected Lineup

LINEUP

DH   Luis Arráez (L)
CF    Byron Buxton (R)
SS    Carlos Correa (L)
2B    Jorge Polanco (S)
RF    Max Kepler (L)
1B    Miguel Sanó (R)
LF    Alex Kirilloff (L)
C     Gary Sánchez (R)
SS    Gio Urshela (R)

BENCH

INF  Nick Gordon (L)
C     Ryan Jeffers (R)
OF   Jake Cave (L)
OF   Kyle Garlick (R)

ROTATION

RHP    Sonny Gray
RHP    Bailey Ober
RHP    Dylan Bundy
RHP    Chris Archer
RHP    Joe Ryan

BULLPEN

LHP    Emilio Pagan (C)
RHP    Caleb Thielbar
RHP    Tyler Duffey
RHP    Jorge Alcalá
LHP    Danny Coulombe
RHP    Jharel Cotton
RHP    Ralph Garza
RHP    Chris Paddack

2022 Prediction: 2nd in AL Central