The Minnesota Twins have been rebuilding for several years now, but they actually broke out and finished above .500 in 2015. With that said, the Twins had a reasonably quiet off-season and haven't shown many signs of fully moving their team into 'win now' mode. They did make a nice move by signing Korean power hitter Byung-ho Park and trading somewhat failed prospect Aaron Hicks for catcher John Ryan Murphy. A wildcard the Twins need to worry about this season is Joe Mauer as he has had multiple unproductive seasons at this point with very little upside at a position that truly needs offensive production. Additionally, Byron Buxton will be on display as he has spent more time than he would have liked to spend at the top of the prospect list without really panning out much yet. Overall, the team looks fairly similar to how it did in 2015, but there are a lot of unknowns so it is a difficult team to project for 2016.
Byung-ho Park, John-Ryan Murphy, Fernando Abad, Matt Belisle, John Hicks, Juan Centeno, Buck Britton, Wilfredo Tovar, Ryan Sweeney, Darin Mastroianni, Joe Benson, Daniel Palka, Mike Strong, Brandon Kintzler, Buddy Boshers, Dan Runzler
Torii Hunter, Mike Pelfrey, Aaron Hicks, Josmil Pinto, Shane Robinson, Blaine Boyer, Neal Cotts, Brian Duensing, Eric Fryer, AJ Achter, Chris Herrmann
Biggest Strength - Brand New Power In Lineup
One thing the Twins did this off-season that is fairly exciting was sign Korean first baseman Byung-ho Park. Park perennially hit 50 homers a year over in Korea and will now test the waters in MLB. The Twins will have the luxury of pairing his nice looking bat with homegrown Miguel Sano, who fans got to see hit very effectively at the big league level last season. These two guys will likely be the best two hitters on this team, especially in terms of power hitting and they will be a ton of fun to watch. One thing the lineup does lack is a legitimate leadoff hitter. Either Byron Buxton needs to finally step up and take that spot or someone like Joe Mauer or Brian Dozier might have to do it. The good news is that regardless of who they decide to make the table setters, the thumpers in the middle of the lineup appear to be much better this year in Minnesota than they have been in recent years.
Biggest Weakness - Top End Of The Starting Rotation
Ervin Santana looks like he will get the opening day start for the Twins, and that means they will probably have one of the worst starters to open the season in the league. Minnesota are also choosing to fill their rotation with the likes of Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, Tommy Milone and Ricky Nolasco. This is a list of what might be the worst starting rotation in the American League and will be vastly improved when they get a couple of good looking farm hands up on their team. It's a shame they are putting themselves in a position to get in a hole early because of questionable decisions about filling the starting pitching rotation.
Something To Keep An Eye On - Tyler Duffey And Jose Berrios
Most people know about the Jose Berrios hype, but Tyler Duffey is a bit more under the radar and might be just as good. The truth is that both of these guys are set to make a huge impact this season in MLB. One thing that also feels like fact is that the pitching rotation will look a lot better at the end of the year than it will at the begining. Berrios might be the most hyped pitching prospect coming into this season, and though many thought he had a shot to make the Opening Day roster, he will start in AAA. Berrios does not have a weakness in his game and looks close to elite at striking guys out, not walking batters, and preventing runs in general, but hasn't tested himself agains big leaguers yet. The same can be said about the tools possessed by Tyler Duffey. He actually got the chance to pitch in the MLB last year, where he did well, striking out almost a batter an inning and securing a 3.10 ERA in 81 innings. Both will get the call early and it should be expected that they stay up for good as they are probably the two best pitchers in the organization right now.
Projected Lineup… Lefties*… Switch Hitters^
- Joe Mauer* - 1B
- Brian Dozier - 2B
- Miguel Sano - RF
- Trevor Plouffe - 3B
- Byung-ho Park - DH
- Eddie Rosario* - LF
- Kurt Suzuki - C
- Eduardo Escobar^ - SS
- Byron Buxton - CF
John Ryan Murphy, Eduardo Nunez, Danny Santana^, Oswaldo Arcia*
Projected Rotation… Lefties*
- Ervin Santana
- Kyle Gibson
- Phil Hughes
- Tommy Milone*
- Ricky Nolasco
Glen Perkins* - Closer, Kevin Jepsen, Trevor May, Casey Fien, Fernando Abad*, Matt Belisle, Michael Tonkin
Fantasy Bargain - Trevor Plouffe
Plouffe has been quietly competent as a third baseman and has handled the bat well while doing so. Last year he was actually the #10 overall third baseman. This year, third base is one of the problem fantasy positions along with most of the infield. Trevor is a great late round third base pick-up who should provide above average power and average on base skills. He has been very consistent from year to year in the majors each of the past five years hitting somewhere between 14 and 24 homers in any given year. He actually usually hit over 20 homers when given the opportunity to get 600 plate appearances combined in the minors and majors throughout his professional career. Overall, this is a guy you should have no problem having on your roster. He could save you in a draft when you realize all the good third baseman are gone in the top 100 players taken.
Overrated Fantasy Option - Eddie Rosario
Many people picked up Rosario last season while he was eligible at middle infield and got some home runs out of him. While this might suggest that he will be a valuable asset going forward, you have to dig a little deeper to realize that this is far from the case. First of all, Rosario is only eligible as an outfielder this year, the deepest fantasy position. Also, Rosario appears to top out at around 15 steals and homers if he gets full playing time - perhaps he can get those up to 20 if he really improves a lot. While a potential 20/20 outfielder sounds like a really valuable asset, Rosario is actually one of the worst in the league when it comes to walking and on base skills in general. Take away a chance for 20 steals and you have a Chris Carter type with half the power. Scary when you think of it like that isn't it? Draft better outfielders at the end of your draft (Domingo Santana, Joey Rickard, Jabari Blash, Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, Keon Broxton).
The Twins will be interesting to watch this year. It's hard to tell what we will get out of guys like Byron Buxton, Joe Mauer and Byung-ho Park and those three will make a huge difference on this team. Unfortunately, this could be the year the Twins decide to start to leave Joe Mauer by the wayside in favor of someone like Kennys Vargas. If Jose Berrios and Tyler Duffey get the call sooner rather than later, it could mean a lot more wins for this team as well. Overall, it looks like the team will finish a few games ahead of where they were last year and grab around 87 wins this season. This is probably not enough to get the AL Central title, but might be enough to contend for a wild card.