The 2015 Minnesota Twins are no more: they were eliminated on Saturday, one day before the last games of the season. That’s a heartbreaking way to end a season, but things aren’t feeling so down in the Twin Cities right now. That’s because this team is giving fans reason to hope that things will go a bit differently in 2016, 2017 and beyond. But before we discuss the future, let’s talk about the past. Here’s what we learned from the Minnesota Twins’ 2015 campaign.
Team: Minnesota Twins
Date eliminated: October 3
Record when eliminated: 83-78, .516
Games back when eliminated: 11.0 division, 3.0 Wild Card
What went wrong?
The biggest letdown for the Twins was center fielder Byron Buxton, the 21-year-old phenom that was supposed to be their savior. In 46 games for the big-league squad this year, Buxton batted a paltry .209/.250/.326. That’s a huge disappointment for a guy that batted .305/.376/.500 during his minor league games this year. It’s troubling that Buxton took such a huge step back when he reached the majors, but it’s too early to worry. He hit .400 in 13 games at the Triple-A level this year, which is promising. At 21, Buxton still has time to figure things out.
Did anything go right?
Of course! After all, this Minnesota team did contend until right up to the end of the season. Getting eliminated in your second-to-last game is tough, but it’s a lot less tough when preseason predictions pegged your squad as sub-.500 also-rans. This team defied expectations and made a pretty good run of it in 2015.
Their hitting was a bit above average and their pitching was a little worse than average, but they were expertly managed by franchise hero Paul Molitor in his first year at the helm. Rookie power hitter Miguel Sano had the breakout season that everyone thought Buxton would have, hitting a respectable .269/.385/.530 with 18 home runs and 52 RBI in only 80 games. At 22, he’s expected to get better and profiles as a guy who solidifies a middle of the lineup. If Buxton can rebound and Sano can continue to improve, then this year’s surprising season could turn out to be much more than a fluke – which brings us to our next section.
Will they get ‘em next year?
The Twins put together a very respectable 2015 campaign despite subpar seasons from some of their most important players, including promising center fielder Byron Buxton who scouts have been enamored with for years. If Buxton bounces back and a few other improvements are made, this lineup could be worlds better next season.
One key will be right fielder and clubhouse leader Torii Hunter, who is on the wrong side of 40 and still under contract. He’s weighing retirement, and it will be a big break for the Twins if he decides to hang ‘em up. If Hunter retires, it will add a significant chunk to the more than $30 million (give or take, depending on how it goes with the eight guys who are due for arbitration) that the Twins already have to spend next season.
We’re bearish on the Twins. They’re a team on the upswing. Smart money management (how about signing a pitcher?) and a rebound from Buxton are all they need to make the playoffs next year.