Minnesota Twins 2020: Reasons for optimism

What happened in 2019?
They set a new MLB record of 307 home runs while transforming from a 78-win to 101-win team in the space of one season.

The Twins led the AL Central for most of the year, but were always threatened by the preseason favourites from Cleveland, and only clinched the division title in the final week of the season.

It was a full team effort, with eight players going deep at least 20 times. Eddie Rosario produced his first-ever 30-home run, 100-RBI season, and Max Kepler broke out with 4.0 WAR.

With a slash line .338/.409/.590 at the end of May, shortstop Jorge Polanco was producing at an MVP-calibre level. Although it proved unsustainable, the 26-year-old finished with 22 dingers and 107 runs.

Veteran slugger Nelson Cruz showed that age is no barrier with his 41-home run, 108-RBI season. The 38-year-old set a career-high with 1.031 OPS.

And of course, no article on the Minnesota Twins is complete without mentioning Willians Astudillo. He played everywhere except shortstop and centre field, and in 204 plate appearances, only struck out eight times. EIGHT! I saw Edwin Encarnacion strike out five times in the first London Series game.

Unfortunately, the season finished with disappointment in inevitable fashion in the AL Division Series against the Yankees. Recent history hadn’t been kind to Minnesota as, since 2003, the Twins had an atrocious 2-13 postseason record against New York. This is now 2-16 after they were emphatically swept by the Yankees, who outscored them 23-7 over the three-game series.

Moves & shakes
OUT: Martin Perez, Sam Dyson, Jonathan Schoop, Kyle Gibson, Jason Castro, Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, C.J Cron, Brusdar Graterol
IN: Matt Wisler, Alex Avila, Tyler Clippard, Rich Hill, Homer Bailey, Josh Donaldson, Kenta Maeda

One to watch
Luis Arraez – We are indebted to @TwinsFansUK for the suggestion. Follow them on Twitter.

Embed from Getty Images

Prior to last season, the 22-year-old languished outside the Twins top-12 prospects. He had a reputation of good contact skills but no power. Fast-forward 12 months and the Venezuelan is expected to be the Twins starting second baseman. Among players with at least 350 plate appearances last season, Arraez was second in the AL with .334 AVG and fourth with .399 OBP. Is it too much to expect 100 runs in his first full season?

Five reasons for optimism in 2020

(1) Twins were the only team with five players hitting more than 30 home runs last season, and they have just added Josh Donaldson. The veteran has a career 1.283 OPS at Target Field. Opposing pitchers will see their ERA destroyed.

(2) Miguel Sano will benefit from the addition of Donaldson. The 26-year-old enjoyed his first 30-homer season, with a career-high .923 OPS, but offers so much more. As he will now be relieved of third base duties, maybe Sano can reach 500 plate appearances in a season for the first time.

(3) With Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff at the top of their prospect list, the Twins have two of the most exciting hitters in the minors who are on the verge of their big league promotion.

(4) The underrated pitching staff overperformed, but have been strengthened by the veteran additions of Tyler Clippard, Homer Bailey, Rich Hill and, most recently, Kenta Maeda.

(5) Despite the power potential of Cruz, Sano, Rosario, Donaldson and Kepler, the most prolific slugger on a per plate appearance basis was catcher Mitch Garver. No one else in the game reached 30 homers with as few opportunities.

Photo courtesy of Icon Sportswire, Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Gavin is one of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @_tramps

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