The 2001 Minnesota Twins
When the Twins selected Joe Mauer first overall in 2001, they were sitting in first place in the AL Central, with a 37-19 record, a .661 winning percentage. That team would finish the season in third place in the AL Central, with an 85-77 record. That may sound like a disappointing finish, but there are some very interesting comparable pieces between that team and the 2017 Twins roster.
The Twins did make two moves that season at the trade deadline, but they were from positions of strength to add to positions of need for the roster. Mark Redman was traded to the Detroit Tigers for reliever Todd Jones, and outfielder Matt Lawton was traded to the New York Mets for starting pitcher Rick Reed.
Lawton was the Twins’ All Star representative the season before, with a .305/.405/.460 season with 44 doubles, 13 home runs, and 23 steals, but by the trade deadline, the Twins had seen that they needed an arm that could soak up some innings (though Reed failed badly at that) and that they had a host of young outfielders ready to take over in right field in Brian Buchanan, Bobby Kielty, Chad Allen, and Dustan Mohr.
The fun comparisons for the two squads actually start with the youth in the lineup. Before he was traded, Lawton was the oldest regular in the lineup in his age 29 season. Five of the regular members of the lineup were 25 or under!
These weren’t just young players playing out the string either. This was an outfield that had Lawton, Torii Hunter, and Jacque Jones, an infield with Doug Mientkiewicz, Cristian Guzman, and Corey Koskie, A.J. Pierzynski catching, and some guy named David Ortiz as the primary DH.
While there wasn’t a guy with Ervin Santana’s age and experience to lead a young rotation, Brad Radke was already in his 7th season by 2001, having thrown 1300+ innings as a Twin before the 2001 season. The rest of that 2001 rotation was made of young starters.
The bullpen was the place where there were 30+ year-old veterans on the team, and, just like the 2017 team, that’s where the biggest needs were. The team did bring up a bunch of young arms to give them time, guys like J.C. Romero and Juan Rincon, who would become key relievers during the Twins’ run of AL Central play in the 2000s, and there was also some lefty by the name of Santana.
So to this year’s team…