Minnesota Twins: A Twins Fan’s Guide on who to root for to end 2021

Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Nelson Cruz reacts after hitting a solo home run against the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning at Fenway Park. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Nelson Cruz reacts after hitting a solo home run against the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning at Fenway Park. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Minnesota Twins
Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Eduardo Escobar celebrates his solo home run in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

Division Contenders for Minnesota Twins Fans to Root For

These are teams that haven’t quite locked down their divisions but look like solid bets to do so. I’ll get this out of the way as well: Yes, the Astros are on here. Yes, I’m making a positive case for them. Yes, I think they still cheated. No, I won’t personally be rooting for them, but they’re going to the playoffs, so I’m gonna talk about them.

Houston Astros (85-60, First in the AL West)

In what will be the final season of the current version of the Houston Astros, the team will be making one last World Series push. Martin Maldonado, Carlos Correa, Zack Greinke, and Justin Verlander will all be free agents this year (with all for likely heading elsewhere next year), so this could be their last real chance in the title window.

With an offense built around Correa, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, and Yuli Gurriel, this team is in the Top 3 in the AL in every offensive category outside of steals (13th), triples (13th), and homers (6th). If you like former Minnesota Twins, the Astros also offer Jason Castro, Marwin Gonzalez, Ryan Pressly, and Jake Odorizzi, so there’s likeable guys on this team too.

The lineup is the selling point, but Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr, Luis Garcis, Jose Urquidy, and Framber Valdez form one of the best rotations in baseball. Their bullpen is also very good, with Pressly and Kendall Graveman leading a very deep group. Even if you hate the Astros, you can at least root for Pressly, Castro, and Odorizzi to find success.

Atlanta Braves (76-68, First in the NL East)

Now for the more fun division leaders. The Braves have had an incredibly tough time with the injury bug, losing their best player (Ronald Acuna Jr.) and arguably their best pitcher (Mike Soroka) to season ending injuries. Marcell Ozuna is on the restricted list. This team has dealt with it all in stride and looks poised to hold of the Phillies and Mets and return to the postseason.

The infield is excellent, with reigning MVP Freddie Freeman being joined by Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, and breakout star Austin Riley. If Guillermo Heredia, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall, and Joc Pederson produce anything positive from the outfield, that’s a good lineup.

As for the rotation, led by Max Fried and Charlie Morton, they’re in great shape, as those two could easily be joined by Ian Anderson or former Twins prospect Huascar Ynoa in a playoff rotation. Will Smith and Luke Jackson lead a filthy bullpen, and if you needed one more reason to support them, Eddie Rosario is their fifth outfielder and Ehire Adrianza is their utility man. How about that?

Milwaukee Brewers (89-57, First in the NL Central)

I considered putting this team with the heavyweights because barring an epic collapse, this Brewers team is going to take NL Central comfortably, and while I don’t normally condone cheering for Wisconsin teams, this Brewers team has a lot to like (including former Minnesota Twins fan favorite Eduardo Escobar).

The lineup isn’t great, with shortstop Willy Adames doing most of the heavy lifting, but Avisail Garcia, Christian Yelich, Kolten Wong, Rowdy Tellez, and Omar Narvaez can all help out. This team’s real strength is their pitching.

Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff are legitimate aces, with Freddy Peralta’s breakout putting him right up there too. Adrian Houser, Eric Lauer, and Brett Anderson follow up that trio as excellent back-end options all being backed up by baseball’s best bullpen with baseball’s best closer. If the lineup gets hot, a small-market World Series title could be possible.