Minnesota Twins: 5 Things to Look Forward to in September
By Greg Simbeck
During the dog days of summer, when your team is out of the pennant race, it is easy for a baseball fan to become discouraged and start looking ahead for next year. If you’re a Minnesota Twins fan, of almost any age, you’re used to this by now.
As a loyal Twins fan myself, I will instead choose to focus on things to look forward to in the last month of the season. It may not be as exciting as watching a competitor down the stretch, but there are still some positives that we can follow in this season as well. Here are 5 of the most positive things that I am focusing on as 2021 winds to a close.
Minnesota Twins Things to Look Forward to No. 1: Bailey Ober the Superb
One of the few advantages of being a fan of a non-contending team is getting a chance to get an early look at some of your team’s prospects, especially the lower-end players. Starting pitcher Bailey Ober is the perfect example of this.
Ober wasn’t viewed as one of the Minnesota Twins’ premier pitching prospects prior to his call up, and after his first eight starts, it looked like he wouldn’t have much of a future with this team. Since then, he has pitched well enough to earn a rotation spot for 2022 and is the only pitcher on the roster with a claim as the Opening Day starter.
In his last eight starts, he is sporting a 2.81 ERA with a 40-6 strikeout to walk ratio and the Twins have won in five of his past six starts. The 6-foot-9 right-hander has regained his blistering fastball after being sidelined last year due to the pandemic, and the Twins’ patient hope and belief in him appears to have paid off big time.
Barring a late-season collapse, the future looks very bright for Bailey. Hopefully his effectiveness this year could be a jumping off point for next year as Ober looks to become a key figure in the Twins’ attempt to rebuild their starting rotation.
Minnesota Twins Things to Look Forward to No. 2: The Continued Excellence of Jorge Polanco
Much has already been written about the outstanding second half play of Jorge Polanco in 2021. After being hampered with ankle injuries the past two seasons and a somewhat rough transition to a new position, Polanco has been absolutely on fire since the middle of April.
The slash line for the 2022 Minnesota Twins MVP for that time period is .290/.351/.533, numbers that couple nicely with the 20 homers he’s added during that time. Polanco also ranks third in the American League in Win Probability Added with 3.47 and leads the team in homers, RBI, and steals.
Jorge has now cemented himself as a Twins fixture at second base for many years to come, and one of the best parts of an otherwise lost season will be watching him continue to show exactly why he’s such a key cornerstone.
Minnesota Twins Things to Look Forward to No. 3: The Mercurial Byron Buxton
It seems like so long ago when we were shouting in unison that Byron Buxton was the best player in baseball. We were dizzy with excitement over the AL Player of the Month’s stats in April. This was finally the year that Buxton was going to put it all together and take his place on the throne of baseball royalty.
Then something familiar happened on the way to the trophy stand. The dreaded injury bug grabbed hold of Byron and turned a possible MVP year into just another season in the what-if category. On top of all that, Buxton and the Twins have been unable to agree on a contract extension, putting his future with the team very much in doubt.
I am extremely hopeful that he will rebound in September with another outstanding month, an outcome that will help restart fan interest and spark renewed contract talks. He has already thrilled us with his defensive wizardry since he has come back, and hopefully his home run swing is not too far behind. Here’s to a healthy month for Byron and a long tenure with the Twins.
Minnesota Twins Things to Look Forward to No. 4: Say it Is So Joe
Another new pitching prospect joining Ober on this things to watch list after his Twins debut is Joe Ryan. Ryan came to the Minnesota Twins in the Nelson Cruz trade, and is considered the sixth ranked prospect in the Twins’ system.
Joe gained a lot of poise helping to pitch Team USA to a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics and that poise was certainly visible in his first start with the Twins on Tuesday night. He was excellent in the first two innings before a tough third inning saw him give up three runs on three hits and a walk. Ryan buckled down and put together two more shutout innings after that
Ryan showed good composure and solid command of his four pitches (fastball, slow curveball, slider and changeup) throughout the minors and his first major league start was very encouraging. He should have the rest of September to build off of that start and secure a spot in the 2022 rotation.
Minnesota Twins Things to Look Forward to No. 5: We Want Jose
The last thing I am looking forward to in September is the possible major league debut of infielder Jose Miranda. Miranda has absolutely lit up Double-A and Triple-A ball this year to the tune of a .336 average, 25 dingers, and 75 RBI.
He’s clearly shown all that he can at the minor league level. I would love for Jose to get a chance to knock some balls over the fences at Target Field and bring some added excitement to an otherwise disappointing season.
In conclusion, take heart Minnesota Twins fans. As easy as it is to think about what-ifs or to pine for next year, let’s all enjoy the final month of the season and the talent we have on the current roster. It’s still baseball after all, and hope springs eternal.