The Minnesota Twins train looks to be chugging along at full speed as spring training gets into full swing. The team looks well prepared to fight for a division title, but things could get in the way of that. Let’s go into spring training with our eyes wide open, so here are 5 possible issues that could pull the Twins off track.
Minnesota Twins Issue No. 1: Speed
The Twins ranked dead last in stolen bases last year in all MLB, which is a serious issue when he ability to play small ball is required to win in some very close games. The Twins are a faster team when Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are healthy, but the infield isn’t very fast (unless Nick Gordon makes it as the depth guy).
This facet of Twins game isn’t great and should definitely not be considered the biggest weakness of their offense, and one that the team will really struggle with as the season goes. Hopefully the team finds a little bit of speed before the season really gets going.
Minnesota Twins Issue No. 2: A Streaky Offense
As we saw throughout 2020, and especially the playoffs last year, the Twins power surge short-circuited at times. When the Twins aren’t knocking the ball around, which happened far more often than we would have liked in 2020, things can get ugly.
To make matters worse, the Twins will be dealing with supposedly less hitter-friendly baseballs in 2021, making for fewer runs coming from homers. If the pitching repeats it’s performance from last year, the team will at least be good, but a streaky offense doesn’t help.
Minnesota Twins Issue No. 3: Veteran Pitchers Regress
On paper, this is the best Twins rotation we’ve seen in quite some time. But nothing is guaranteed. We’ve seen Michael Pineda and Jose Berrios show some inconsistency, and there’s no guarantee that Kenta Maeda pitches like a Cy Young contender again. There’s also questions about Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ.
If either pitcher shows age is catching up with them, starting pitching could be a concern. The Twins’ rotation has one of the highest ceilings in baseball if everyone pitches like they can. Unfortunately, the floor is just as low, as the Twins could have five starters with an ERA between 4.00 and 5.00, which simply isn’t acceptable for a contender.
Minnesota Twins Issue No. 4: The Bullpen Fades
Manager Rocco Baldelli loves his analytics, which converts to an affinity for his bullpen, especially with the way the MLB is going. The bullpen showed symptoms of overuse in a shortened 2020 season, especially with all the bullpen. Now that Trevor May, Matt Wisler, Tyler Clippard, and Sergio Romo are all gone, there are some big questions.
Who takes all those innings? Will Alex Colome remain successful? Does Hansel Robles bounce back? Does the group at the top take a step back? A 162 game schedule and a lot of turnover gives reason for pause.
Minnesota Twins Issue No. 1: Injuries
Yes, this can be applied to any team, but the Twins injury history is too extensive to be overlooked. Byron Buxton and Josh Donaldson have a proven history of missing large chunks of time to extended IL visits, while Jorge Polanco, Andrelton Simmons, Luis Arraez all have dealt with nagging foot, knee and ankle issues.
Throw in Max Kepler, Matt Shoemaker, J.A. Happ and Miguel Sano as other people who have missed time in the past, and it’s easy to see why just a few significant injuries could derail the Twins train.
All things aside, I am excited and optimistic as the 2021 season approaches. I fully expect the Twins to be a major factor in the playoff race. With the ebbs and flows of the season I’d expect Minnesota to overcome these adversities to contend to be AL Central Champs again. “Know thy weaknesses” is a popular phrase and that is my goal with today’s points.