3 important changes Minnesota Twins need to make right now
By Eric Cole
A new voice at hitting coach may not be the worst idea
When the Twins hired David Popkins as their hitting coach in November 2021, the hope was that he would be able to be both a leader and a voice that could translate the data-driven guidance from the front office to real, useful advice that would help the Twins hitters, especially the young guys.
There were some promising signs last season, but there were also signs that regression under Popkins was underway. After ranking fourth in the league as a team with a 114 wRC+ in the first half of 2022, the team dropped to 21st in the second half with a 97 wRC+. Now, we are into the month of May and the offense currently sports a 92 wRC+ and has accumulated just 2.8 fWAR. The team's .220 batting average is dead last in the league which is decidedly not great.
Look, at the end of the day, it is up to the players to perform and the better solutions would be "sign better hitters" and "have the team's players play better", but something is clearly not right with the Twins offense. The impact of a hitting coach can be overstated, but it also doesn't seem like Popkins is having the magic effect the Twins were hoping for.
It would matter a great deal as to who the Twins replaced Popkins with, but a new voice seems like a good idea.
Adding quality bullpen depth needs to be a priority
The Twins bullpen has gotten some good work out Griffin Jax and Jorge Lopez in 2023 and Jhoan Duran has put up some quality results despite some spooky peripherals (in particular his walk rate) thanks to his ability to miss bats and some good fortune. It has also helped that the Twins' starting rotation has been so good and leads the leagues among all other rotations with 197.2 innings.
However, that isn't going to be a sustainable model for success especially if Rocco Baldelli keeps going to the well that is Emilio Pagan and his issues with giving up home runs return. The bullpen needs some quality arms that can give Minnesota's top guys a break. A baseball season is long and relying on the starters to keep eating big chunks of innings to things manageable isn't all that likely, especially in the second half.
There is some hope that the Twins have some internal options that could turn into the help they need. Brett Headrick pitched very well in his short stint in the big leagues earlier this year and throwing with his left arm certainly doesn't hurt his case, but it looks like Minnesota is trying to keep him at starter in the minor leagues for now. Brock Stewart has been missing bats and hasn't given up an earned run since he was called up, but his walk rate so far has been asking for trouble.
Fortunately for the Twins, relievers are among the easier sorts of players to acquire/transform. They need to figure things out soon, though, as their 15th ranked bullpen might start slipping down the rankings and cost them some winnable games if they don't find some reinforcements.