Minnesota Twins Opening Day Projection: Starting Lineup
Shortstop: Jorge Polanco
For the better part of a decade, the Twins have had extreme instability at the position of shortstop. If this prediction holds true, 2018 will be the second time that the previous years Opening Day shortstop returned to start the following Opening Day. While there is a lot of buzz around the young shortstops coming up through the Twins minors, the Young shortstop in the majors is doing some impressive things himself.
Over the whole of Polanco’s season, he hit .256/.313/.410 and also added 13 home runs and 30 doubles. Polanco really found a rhythm at the plate in the second half of the season and had an incredible month of August where he hit .373/.413/.686 and 6 home runs as well as a 10 game hitting streak. There were also a lot of questions surrounding Polanco’s defense entering the season but he was able to play his position well in 2017.
Polanco will be looking to build on a breakout 2017 as we enter 2018. He truly looks to have the ability to be a consistent plus offensively at shortstop. Polanco earned the trust of Paul Molitor enough to be placed in the middle of the lineup often when Sano went down with injury in August. The hope would be some of the Polanco from 2017’s second half would be present over the whole of 2018 season. If he does that and continues to field his position the way he did in 2017, he will continue to fend off the cries for Nick Gordon that could creep up if Polanco starts out slow this season.
Left Field: Eddie Rosario
2017 felt like the season where we were all waiting for Eddie Rosario to fail. Ok, so that may sound harsh, but we had grown to know a strikeout prone, free-swinging outfielder, from previous seasons. In 2017 it was somewhat awing to see him continue to succeed week after week and month after month. Because of that success, Rosario will be expected to be a big part of the Twins lineup in 2018.
In 2017, Rosario slashed .290/.328/.507 and was able to add 27 home runs and 33 doubles. June was the month where things clearly started to click differently for Rosario as his average jumped from the .260’s up to .290 and above for most of the summer. Defensive metrics might not treat Rosario well, but his ability to play centerfield is a definite plus as he slides over to left field.
As we enter 2018, Rosario will be expected to continue the trends with his bat that he began to exhibit in 2017. It is hard to know what exactly changed that trend for Rosario, but he does seem to be swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone less. When he does swing at those pitches he is making more regular contact with his overall contact rate also increasing as a result. Whatever is going on in the process, the hope is that it continues to produce good and maybe even a little better results in 2018.