Minnesota Twins: Ranking the Eight AL Playoff Contenders
By Otto Johnson
Playoff Contender No. 8: Toronto Blue Jays (Chance they play the Minnesota Twins first round: 5%)
Overall Grade: 3
The Toronto Blue Jays were the last team into the playoffs for a reason: they’re VERY young. The average age of their starting nine is 25 years old. They’re going to be a force in a couple years, but for now they’re pretty green, including with their manager, who’s working his second full season on the job.
Hyun Jin-Ryu is a legitimate ace, but the rotation behind him is questionable at best. Taijuan Walker has looked good since coming over with a 1.54 ERA, but his FIP of 4.60 suggests trouble. No one else looks ready for a postseason start. In the bullpen, it’s the same. There are good options, but very few of them.
There’s very little postseason experience on this roster and the depth of this team is lacking. I think they should be proud of this season, but whichever first place team faces them should have a relatively easy time.
Playoff Contender No. 7: Houston Astros (Chance they play the Minnesota Twins first round: 30%)
Overall Grade: 3.5
The Astros spent their first year post-cheating scandal struggling with injuries and ineffectiveness, but pitching has carried this team to the postseason. The lineup has been awful all year outside of Michael Brantley, George Springer, and Kyle Tucker, though none of those three have been great.
The only hope the Astros have is their pitching. Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. have been very good in 2020 and have 27 playoff games and 20 playoff starts between them. On top of that, Framber Valdez has emerged as an ace in the absence of Justin Verlander, and that bullpen is good.
The bench is rough, and that hitting has to pull something together. The pitching alone isn’t good enough to win a World Series. To finish it all off, A.J. Hinch is no longer the manager, Dusty Baker is, and his 23-32 playoff record (among other playoff struggles) makes him a really tough man for the job.
Playoff Contender No. 6: Oakland Athletics (Chance they play the Minnesota Twins first round: 5%)
Overall Grade: 3.5
Yes, the Oakland Athletics are currently the No. 2 team in the American League, but there really isn’t much to be worried about outside of the bullpen. The rotation has a decent starter trio in Chris Bassitt, Jesus Luzardo, and Sean Manea, but none of those guys are aces.
When Matt Chapman went down, the A’s lost their best player and team leader, and it’s hurt them even more than expected. They’re seventh in the AL in runs, fourteenth in batting average, twelfth in slugging, but fifth in walks. This team doesn’t score a lot.
Luckily for the A’s, the bullpen is excellent. Five different relievers have ERAs below 3.00 and their FIPs back it up. In addition, the A’s never look great statistically, but they fight hard. They won’t be an easy out, but this team isn’t a World Series contender.
Playoff Contender No. 5: Cleveland Indians (Chance they play the Minnesota Twins first round: 25%)
Overall Grade: 3.75
Cleveland is one of the tougher opponents the Twins might face in the playoffs, despite the Minnesota Twins going 7-3 against them during the regular season. The secret? The rotation and the streaky lineup.
This rotation gets the only 5 that we will hand out to a group of starters for a reason. Shane Bieber is a lock for the AL Cy Young and has a outside shot at the AL MVP. after that, Aaron Civale, Carlos Carrasco, and Zach Plesac offer a DANGEROUS playoff rotation.
The bullpen is solid too, with several late inning options that can hold a lead the starters give them, and though Terry Francona might not be fully into it, Sandy Alomar has done a very solid job and their shouldn’t be too much of a let down there.
The real question here is the lineup: It’s the most top-heavy in baseball, with Jose Ramirez is great, and Francisco Lindor and Cesar Hernandez are doing fine, but Franmil Reyes is now ice cold and the rest of the lineup is unwatchable. If this lineup pulls it together, they could be a tough out.