Twins March Forward
The slow transformation of the Twins, begun in 2019, continues. The roster has been dramatically reshaped since GM Doug Graff took over. Last season’s 84 wins and 3rd place finish showed some incremental growth, and the front office expects the team to close the gap between Minnesota and the playoffs.
The roster is basically set, with the following outlook:
Jose Berrios- Lots of talent, flashes of brilliance but terribly inconsistent. After signing a $57,000,000 extension the team expects him to step up.
Huascar Ynoa- Still only 23 years old, Ynoa is the future rotation anchor. The potential is there and the hope is he will start pitching deeper into games.
Kohl Stewart- Seems like a lifetime since Stewart’s 14-5, 2.88 ERA/1.06 WHIP 2018 season. Since then, Stewart has been plagued by injuries, pitching in a total of 55 games the last 3 seasons. Suffering a partially torn UCL in 2019 and a torn labrum in 2021. Finally healthy, Stewart will slot into the 3rd spot of the rotation.
Luis Gill- An unheralded rookie, Gill will get a shot at the rotation in spring training.
Brandon Finnegan- A disappointing 2021 season, Finnegan enters the 2022 season in the final year of his contract. The future will be in his hands.
Minnesota has a very strong back end of the bullpen. Set up will be handled by Jorge Fajardo (12.3K/9) and Jose Nova (9.7K/9). International Free Agent signing Julian Lopez joins the bullpen after inking a $20,000,000+ 2 year contract. Of course, the Twins bullpen features, arguably, the best closer in the game today- Jung-ho Chang (41 SV/1.34 ERA/0.75 WHIP/15K/9). The balance of the bullpen is likely to be filled with young, talented relievers Stu Bliss, Henry Hirsch, Luis Romano and Mike Minor.
Last season, the Twins infield was a mixed bag. Overall, the defense improved dramatically over the 2020 season, but there were some offensive concerns.
1B/DH- Amaurys Minier burst on to the scene as a poor fielding, power hitting 3B in 2019. 2020 showed the offensive potential was real with a 43 HR/117 RBI campaign. 2021 was expected to be just as strong, with Minier moved to DH/1B rotation. However, there was a dramatic loss of production, as he fell to 23 HR/86 RBI. No one has been able to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but expectations are certainly much higher for 2022.
1B- Leurys Vargas was picked up in a trade with Seattle prior to the 2021 season. The slick fielding 1B hit 31 Hr/82 RBI in just 121 starts (mainly against RHP). Vargas definitely solidified the infield defense and was awarded the 2021 Gold Glove. the expectation is he will remain the 1B primarily against RHP.
2B- Luis Carpio was acquired from the Yankees midway through the 2021 season. The Twins had their eye on Carpio for quite some time based on his strong offensive numbers in limited playtime. Unfortunately, Carpio disappointed with lackluster production. He will be given the opportunity to prove the trade was not a mistake.
SS- Nick Gordon is the face of the Minnesota Twins. 17 HR/.312 BA with solid defense, Gordon was signed to a $98,000,000 extension just prior to last season. He’s worth every penny.
3B- Tony Dudley started last season (as a rookie) in a platoon with Dawel Lugo. Lugo failed to hit, and Dudley took over as the full-time 3b, at one point getting his BA over .290. Unfortunately, he slumped at the end of the season and finished with a .270/.316/.405 slash line. Average defensively, Dudley will start 2022 in a platoon with FA signing Colin Moran. The hot hand will get the AB’s.
C- Francisco Mejia was acquired from Colorado prior to the 2021 season and was a very pleasant surprise. On the IL for 5 weeks, due to a sprained thumb, Mejia slashed .301/.337/.471 while providing superb defense. He threw out 31% of runners attempting to steal and is a team leader in the clubhouse. The durable Mejia will be very valuable this coming season.
Inf Bench will be filled with C Stuart Turner, Inf Nelson Molina
The front office believes the future of the Twins outfield lies with 2016 4th round pick RF Desi Godfrey. a top prospect, the 24 year old finally got extended play time during the 2021 campaign, and he did not disappoint. Over 68 games, the lefty swinger hit 16 HR’s, driving in 50 runs while hitting .313. A roster crunch kept him from playing more, but Godfrey will be the every day RF in 2022. In left field, Rule 5 pick Artie Cochran will be given the opportunity to turn his potential into reality. CF will be patrolled by Magnerus Sierra. On the bench will be veteran Eddie Rosario and either CF Gus Manley or corner OF Tomas Martinez.
It is important that the Twins show signs of progress. GM Graff defines progress as a winning record, competitive throughout the season for a playoff spot, and growth among the young team, particularly with Godfrey, Ynoa, Berrios and Cochran and improved performance from Minier, Carpio and Finnegan.