It seems like Opening Day is just around the corner.
It is, actually.
Can you believe that another baseball season is almost upon us?
While we are still one month away, it’s never too early, or too late, to look ahead at the upcoming baseball season.
I should warn you that while I do like the Minnesota Twins, I have been extremely disappointed with them going on four years now – so disappointed to the point where I don’t consider myself a fan of the team.
Can you blame me? Would you like to spend $35 on tickets, $6 on a pop and $5.50 for a hot dog? Not to mention, $10 for parking?
For some people, that’s a whole days’ pay!
Anyway, I might jump back on the bandwagon this season.
The Twins have a new manager in Paul Molitor and some exciting prospects, but who knows if they’ll get called up during the season.
With that being said, let’s take a look at what the Twins roster is compiled of and what they have to do in order to avoid losing 90 games for the fifth season in a row.
Starting pitching is something a team needs if it wants to experience any success. The Twins ranked fifth in the American League last season in runs scored with 715. The problem was their staff allowed 777 runs. That was good for last in the American League. If you divide 777 by 162, it comes out to nearly 4.8 runs per game! The average was 670 runs, good for 4.1 runs per game. Not even the 1928 New York Yankees could make up for that kind of lack-luster pitching. OK, I’m sure they could, but you get my point.
The one pitcher I really enjoyed watching was Phil Hughes. I like pitchers who work quickly on the mound, throw strikes and keep the game moving. Hughes did all of that last season. He walked 16 batters last season in 209 and 2/3 innings. He struck out 186 batters, giving him a strikeout-walk ratio of 11.6-to-1. The rest of the pitching staff was pretty ho-hum. The bullpen was awful and the starters were very inconsistent.
The batting lineup was solid, which is something Twins’ fans aren’t used to seeing. I really like Oswaldo Arica, Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas. Joe Mauer was disappointing, again, but I think fans are starting to get over it and expect it from him now.
Enough about last year, though.
I don’t see the Twins losing 90-plus games this season.
The Twins picked up Ervin Santana in the offseason to “stabilize” the rotation. In my opinion, it takes more than one pitcher to steady a terrible rotation. Hopefully, Kyle Gibson takes a step forward after winning 13 games last season and Ricky Nolasco can last longer than one inning without imploding like he did time after time last season. Alex Meyer is one of the Twins’ top pitching prospects and a lot of Twins’ sources are saying he will be in the rotation once the team breaks spring training to head north for the regular season. In other pitching news, the Twins believe Mike Pelfrey could be an extremely effective relief pitcher if he would just accept that he isn’t a very good starting pitcher. I agree with this train of thought. Pelfrey can throw the ball in the mid-90s. He would be very valuable in the sixth, seventh, or even eighth inning of a game. Plus, he might get a few more years out of his career. Trust me Pelfrey, starters don’t end the season with a 7.99 earned run average. Two pitchers to watch for are Michael Tonkin and Aaron Thompson. Who knows if both pitchers will be on the roster when Opening Day arrives, but I think both could add something to a bullpen that was pretty lame last season. Tonkin is a hard-throwing right-hander and Thompson was an effective lefty in limited action last season. I think both could be valuable.
On the offensive side, the Twins are loaded with “potential.” At this point, sadly that’s all it is. Byron Buxton is still the No. 2 prospect in baseball, according to ESPN’s Keith Law, and Miguel Sano looks like a monster. I think Sano could be special. I could be jumping into a hornet’s nest because I haven’t even seen Sano play, but I think he could become worth the price of a $35 ticket in the near future. I’m still iffy on Buxton because of his nagging injuries and nagging injuries always hinder any player’s performance. While Sano had Tommy John surgery last year, I’m not worried because he can’t field any way and the American League still uses the designated hitter. But that could create another problem. Vargas was a nice surprise last season. The 24-year old clubbed nine home runs and drove in 38 runs in just 215 at-bats last season. Vargas is listed at 6-foot 5 and 289-pounds, and he isn’t a good fielder. He was regularly used as the DH last season. To make matters more difficult, Sano has never been a good fielder and if he proves unable to play third base, the Twins are going to be handcuffed because they might not be able to have both players in the lineup at the same time. Good thing I don’t have to figure out that problem. Arica had a solid season, despite missing significant time with an injury. He managed to crush 20 home runs in just 372 at-bats, but he also struck 127 times. Torii Hunter is back with the Twins. He never seems to age, does he? He batted .283 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI last season, and played almost every day for the Detroit Tigers. While his fielding ability has diminished over the years, his swagger and charisma haven’t missed a beat. He is still the same old Torii.
The Kansas City Royals are everyone’s favorite to win the Central Division, and rightfully so. They made a remarkable run to the World Series in 2014, and nearly won the darn thing.
My prediction is that the Twins will finish in third place, behind Kansas City and Cleveland, but ahead of much-hated Detroit and Chicago.
I have the Twins winning between 82-86 games this season, which would be a win increase of 12-16 from 2014.
I think the offense might take a step back this season, but I believe the pitching will be better because it can’t be much worse, right?
We are still one month away, but it’s about that time of year.