Where will the Minnesota Twins end up this year?
As we turn the corner to February pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting to Fort Myers, Florida to begin the marathon of useless predictive speculation that amounts to the Grapefruit League season. Even more meaningless than spring training is the projection season that precedes it, in which every major website and analyst provides their take on the record of each team, as well as taking a futile stab at individual player performance.
The 2016 iteration of the Minnesota Twins prove to be an interesting team which varies in its potential achievements. Some websites have the Twins making strides from their 83-79 2015 seasons, while other, such as Fangraphs, have them finishing with the worst record in the American League.
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I used to study the projections, reading them greedily as if they possessed a predictive certainty enabling me access to player outcomes well ahead of the beginning of the season. Then Danny Santana happened, Kennys Vargas happened, and Tyler Duffey happened.
In 2014 Santana came up to the big leagues and hit .319 in 101 games, showing good speed on the base paths, in spite of a poor OBP relative to his batting average. Santana was the owner of a whopping .405 BaBIP in his first season of play. We all knew his performance behind the plate would be in line for regression going into 2015. Noone could have possibly predicted just how awful that would look, when in 2015 Santana managed a .251/.241/.291 batting line in 91 games with a .290 BaBIP – Yikes.
Next there was Vargas, who was dubbed the next David Ortiz after putting up a promising .274/.316/.456 line in 53 games with the Twins in 2014. Similarly, Vargas benefited from an inflated .340 BaBIP. In 2015 he looked completely lost at the plate, offering a .240/.277/.349 line which had him taking his impressive batting practice sessions to AA Chattanooga by the end of the season, in spite of a similarly healthy .319 BaBIP.
Finally there was Duffey. The Twins 2012 5th rounder made his big league debut at the Rogers Center in Toronto on August 5th and got lit up for 6 ER in 5 IP. In his remaining 9 starts Duffey put together an incredible run, (only surrendering more than 2 ER once (3 ER VS White Sox on August on September 1st) which included 7 quality starts. I remember the day and after Duffey’s first start in Canada, cursing Terry Ryan for not giving Taylor Rodgers his first opportunity in the big leagues. Now on the cusp of spring training, will Duffey be this year’s Danny Santana?
The only certainty of the 2016 Minnesota Twins is the impossibility of projecting them accurately. They could just as easily finish with a record over .500 as they could last in the division. While this may sound like a pithy cliché, therein lies the beauty in watching this team in 2016, you don’t know what you’re going to get, and that is usually when baseball is at its most interesting.