Minnesota Twins 2017 Team Preview

2016 Recap: 59-103, Last in the AL Central. After an 83 win season in 2015, there was some real buzz around the young Twins entering 2016 that they could make a run at the Wild Card or even the division. Those dreams were quickly crushed as the Twins got off to an 0-9 start and were never able to recover finishing with the worst record in the Majors last season. The good news for Twins fans is that things really cannot get any worse this year and there were signs from a few of their young players over the course of 2016 that may signal light at the end of the tunnel. They also have All Star second baseman Brian Dozier fresh off a career year that saw him blast 42 home runs to ease some of the pain.

Offseason Moves:

Significant Additions: C Jason Castro, RHP Matt Belisle, LHP Craig Breslow

Significant Subtractions: C Kurt Suzuki, 3B Trevor Plouffe, OF Robbie Grossman

Projected Lineup and Breakdown:

  1. 2B Brian Dozier
  2. SS Jorge Polanco
  3. 1B Joe Mauer
  4. 3B Miguel Sano
  5. RF Max Kepler
  6. DH Kennys Vargas
  7. C Jason Castro
  8. CF Byron Buxton
  9. LF Eddie Rosario

There’s a lot of young talent in this Twins lineup, but there is also a lot variance with these young hitters. Byron Buxton and Kennys Vargas have already been demoted during their young careers. Young slugger Miguel Sano has had a hard time staying healthy to this point in his career and Max Kepler was very streaky as a rookie. One thing these four have in common? They can all hit the longball when they’re locked in. Sano had 48 extra base hits in just 116 games last season. Vargas had a .500 slugging percentage in limited time during 2016, while both Kepler and Buxton each logged an 8 homer month during their rookie seasons. If this group of young sluggers can click along with Brian Dozier’s elite power this could turn into a really fun lineup to watch on a nightly basis. If the Twins are going to make it back over .500, it will have to be with this group of players as there are no real reinforcements on the way as the Twins top two hitting prospects (Nick Gordon, Alex Kirilloff) aren’t expected to be ready until at least 2019.

Projected Rotation, Bullpen, and Breakdown:

Rotation-

  • RHP Ervin Santana
  • LHP Hector Santiago
  • RHP Kyle Gibson
  • RHP Phil Hughes
  • RHP Jose Berrios

Bullpen-

  • RHP Brandon Kintzler – Closer
  • RHP Ryan Pressly
  • RHP Matt Belisle
  • LHP Taylor Rogers
  • LHP Craig Breslow

Hide your eyes kids. This is one of the uglier pitching staffs in all of Major League Baseball. Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes are solid veterans, but are much better suited to be at the back end of a rotation. Hector Santiago has spent the majority of his big league career walking opposing batters, while Kyle Gibson never lived up to the hype turning into one of the more homer prone starters in the A.L. The only potential saving grace for this rotation would be second year starter Jose Berrios. Berrios was really bad as a rookie (8.02 ERA in 14 starts), but Berrios was one of top rated pitching prospects in all of baseball over the last few seasons and it is way too early to give up on someone with his pedigree. Walks ruined Berrios last year as he never really found the zone consistently, if Berrios shows a better walk rate to start the season he could be someone to watch as the year goes along. There is no real hope in the bullpen for the Twins either. Craig Breslow is a great story, but it’s hard to expect him to become an All Star all of the sudden. Brandon Kintzler is a nice pitcher, but there is no scenario where he should be your shut down late inning reliever. The Twins will need former closer Glen Perkins to return from shoulder surgery to avoid this group being a total disaster.

Fantasy Analysis:

Stud: 2B Brian Dozier. Dozier had established himself as one of the better fantasy options at second base entering the 2016 season. Well 2016 happened and now you could argue he’s number two among second basemen behind Houston’s Jose Altuve. Dozier crushed 42 long balls last season and chipped in 18 stolen bases. It’s hard to find that kind of production regardless of position. Take Dozier in the early rounds of your draft and safely expect 30+ homers and double digit steals in 2017.

Sleeper: OF Max Kepler. Kepler had an up and down rookie season capped off by a terrible September (.207/.255/.283) and maybe that final month is what has his price low this draft season as he is currently going outside the top 50 outfielders. Throughout his minor league career Kepler always showed the ability to hit for average and power while chipping in a few steals each stop along the way. Kepler showed those same abilities during a red hot July and I expect him to be much more like the July Kepler than the September Kepler in 2017.

Bust: RP Brandon Kintzler. Kintzler is a nice pitcher and the Twins do not have an obvious replacement for him unless former closer Glen Perkins can make it back this year, but I just struggle to see someone who doesn’t get a lot of swings and misses like Kintzler (5.8 K/9 Innings) succeeding long term in high leverage situations. Do not rely heavy on him for saves this season.

2017 Record Prediction: The Twins will be better this year! Although that isn’t saying much they should benefit from their division rival White Sox rebuilding as well as the potential rebuild that could happen in both Detroit and Kansas City. Brian Dozier trade rumors will happen all season long, but in the end I think he stays put. 68-94. Fourth in the AL Central.

-Randy Haines

Check out our other 2017 team previews here.

Photo credit: AP Photo

Statistics are courtesy of Baseball reference and Fangraphs

Projected rosters are courtesy of rosterresource.com and accurate as of 3/17

Fantasy ADP data courtesy of STATS.com and The NFBC

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