Minnesota Twins: Breaking Down the Promising 2022 Defensive Outlook

Minnesota Twins shortstop Carlos Correa dives for a ground ball hit by Boston Red Sox center fielder Enrique Hernandez. (Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)
Minnesota Twins shortstop Carlos Correa dives for a ground ball hit by Boston Red Sox center fielder Enrique Hernandez. (Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports) /

Following a busy offseason for the Minnesota Twins front office, most fans will be busy boasting about the offensive additions, specifically Carlos Correa, or debating if a somewhat revamped rotation can keep the team in enough games to make a playoff push. But, the new faces in Minneapolis should help in another area, one that severely hurt the club in 2021; defense.

Last year, the Twins were one of the worst teams in baseball out in the field. They ranked 19th in defensive efficiency, 27th in ultimate zone rating, and, according to Fangraphs, they were the 28th-ranked defensive team in the league. For those who like traditional stats, it’s not much better. The team’s .982 fielding percentage was third-worst in baseball.

The quality of pitching was the biggest reason for the Twins’ 2021 4.83 ERA, but the lack of help behind them didn’t do the club any favors. After all the offseason acquisitions however, I feel confident that the defense will be considerably better this season.

The Minnesota Twins’ offseason moves have made the defense so much better.

I’ll start with the obvious, Correa. The 27-year-old who signed a three-year, $105.3 million deal is a defensive stud. Throughout his 752 career games, as per Baseball-Reference, Correa has amassed an 11.5 WAR, just with his glove. Last year alone, he produced a 2.9 defensive WAR, which topped all of baseball among all positions, and earned him his first Gold and Platinum Glove of his career.

Of course, he’ll be replacing Andrelton Simmons, who’s earned a living from making highlight-reel plays and is considered one of the best defenders at shortstop of all time. While he’s still one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball (2.3 defensive WAR in 2021), he’s 32 and hasn’t stacked up to Correa these past few seasons.

Third base looks to be shored up as well. Fangraphs rated the Twins’ defensive production from the hot corner the worst in the league, slapping them with 9 runs below average. Most of that can be blamed on an aging Josh Donaldson.

From 2013 to 2020, the veteran slugger was worth 39.1 runs above average on defense and was considered one of the better defenders at his position. It seems age caught up with him in 2021 though, as he fell off a cliff, costing the Twins 8.5 runs in just 92 games at third base. The Twins needed an upgrade, and Donaldson was shipped to the New York Yankees in a blockbuster that brought back third baseman Gio Urshela.

He’s no defensive wizard either, as Baseball-Reference gave him a meager -0.1 defensive WAR last year. With that being said, he’s still in his prime at 30-years-old, and Fangraphs has rated him as an above-average fielder the last two seasons. An average defensive season from Urshela would be enough of an improvement from a year ago.

Even while replacing Donaldson, the deal with the Yankees might seem like a net loss on the defensive side. The Twins gave up Mitch Garver, who’s been steady with the glove, and received Gary Sanchez, a known liability in the field.

If things go as planned though, Ryan Jeffers will be the everyday catcher, with Sanchez getting most of his at-bats as the designated hitter, keeping him off the field as much as possible. That’s a huge plus for the Twins.

Jeffers has the ability to fill the hole left by Garver as well. In 84 games behind the plate in ‘21, he doubled Garver’s dWAR (0.6 to 0.3), and scouts have always graded him as a superb fielder, awarding him a 55 fielding grade on the 20-80 scale back when he was a prospect.

Further, a full season (hopefully) from the sure-handed Byron Buxton is like an acquisition of its own. With the rotation in the state that it is, it was imperative that the Minnesota Twins upgraded the defense to try and disguise the shaky pitching staff. It’s fair to say they accomplished this. Now we’ll wait and see if it was enough.

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