April 3, 2016

So this is it: Where will the Twins finish in 2016?

The Twins wrapped up Spring Training with a loss on Friday to the Nationals and an 8-8 tie against the same team on Saturday to finish 19-11-2 before the regular season begins Monday at Baltimore.

For my money, it was a good spring. The projected lineup hit well, showing that players like Miguel Sano is no fluke and that newcomer Byung Ho Park can hit major league pitching. Twins starters also had a decent spring, with Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone and Ervin Santana all pitching with veteran savvy and solidifying their places in the rotation.

If there’s any concern for the Twins this season, look no further than the fifth man in the rotation and the bullpen. Ricky Nolasco certainly outdueled Tyler Duffey for that fifth spot this spring, but then he got hit hard by the Nationals on Saturday (five earned runs in four innings), raising questions about his ability to succeed this year. Nolasco has struggled with the Twins, winning only 11 games in two seasons. He also has been the subject of trade talks. The Twins really need him to get it together or expect Duffey (5-1 last season), or top rated pitching prospect Jose Berrios to get the call from Triple-A Rochester.

Let’s face it: The bullpen had an uneven spring. They started slow and eventually improved to mediocre. The good news? It was spring training. The bad news? Middle relief got hit pretty hard. Casey Fien, Michael Tonkin and Aaron Thompson finished with spring ERAs 6.00 or higher. Let’s hope that Friday night’s loss to the Nationals is not a sign of things to come. Hughes gave up three runs in his final spring start, but the bullpen couldn’t hold the game, finally surrendering a run in the eighth to lose, 4-3.

Despite some weaknesses, the Twins still won 19 games this spring. I’m a fan, of course, but I think they can improve on last season’s 83 wins and once again contend for a playoff spot.

Some other predictions for the Twins:

-USA Today:

Welcome to hell – both for prognosticators and five teams with legitimate playoff hopes. This is baseball’s deepest division, with five teams capable of winning it – and almost as many that could finish last. (Still, they pick the Twins to finish last at 80-82.)

 

-SB Nation:

The Twins were a below-average run machine last year (91 wRC+, tied with the Padres), but there’s enough youth and ceiling to make the lineup an asset that can support a liability. It’s just a complicated cocktail with a hundred ingredients, and you’re not sure if Target is going to carry them all. They can do it. But don’t expect them to do it. (Another prediction where the Twins finish last, but also might win the division.)

 

-Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Not much love from the hometown newspaper, except for columnist Jim Souhan, who predicts 87 wins. “For the first time in three seasons, the Twins didn’t make a big move in free agency. Their key moves occurred last summer, when they called up Sano, Buxton and Eddie Rosario and traded for Kevin Jepsen. Full seasons from them and Ervin Santana should allow the Twins to make another significant jump, and Jose Berrios’ arrival will give them better pitching depth than they have had in years.”

 

-Bleacher Report:

Predicting a step back for a Minnesota Twins team that surprised with an 83-79 record last year may seem odd considering the wealth of young talent on the roster, but the Twins played over their heads, and a 30-19 start helped mask a 53-60 finish.

Byung Ho Park and a healthy Byron Buxton could make a significant impact offensively, and the eventual arrival of Jose Berrios will help the rotation immensely, but the Twins still look to be a year away from making a serious push.

 

-New York Times:

Below the Royals in the American League’s Central division is a cluster of teams that all have reasons to believe they can contend. But the one that just might challenge for a wild card is the Minnesota Twins, who are too polite to acknowledge how good they could be.

Catapulted by young talent — some of which had never before reached the majors — the Houston Astros, the Chicago Cubs and the Mets lifted themselves from losing records in 2014 to the postseason in 2015. The Twins seem capable of the same trick, especially if center fielder Byron Buxton, who hit just .209 in 46 games last season, and Byung-ho Park, a designated hitter signed from South Korea, have the same impact the slugger Miguel Sano did last summer.

Now, that’s my kind of prediction.

Lastly, I’d like to thank Brad Fitzgerald for his work in developing this website. Check out his work at Apt Design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.