To say there are hefty expectations on the Minnesota Twins pitching staff this season is almost underselling things. After how abysmal things were last year, for a variety of reasons, the Twins enter the 2023 season with hopes resting on the five arms of the starting rotation who all have a fair amount of heavy lifting to do.
Last season Twins starters barely managed to get through an average of five innings per game, which put an unbearable and untenable strain on everything. The bullpen, which was also not good, needed to be called upon much earlier than expected and the unit's weaknesses were quickly exposed and exploited.
Injuries didn't help matter either, nor did Rocco Baldelli's management, both of which culminated in the Twins playing a must-win series against Cleveland in September with Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer, and Josh Winder on the mound.
As the kid's say, Big Yikes.
Needless to say, the Twins took a big swing this offseason to try and jump start the rotation, and it's already paying off on paper.
Twins starter Pablo Lopez named Cy Young dark horse by MLB.com
Obviously, nothing will determine if the Twins are able to turn things around other than what the starting rotation does during the regular season. But as Opening Day approaches, the Twins are already getting graced with positive predictions from major outlets.
MLB.com released a list of potential Cy Young candidates and had new Twins starter Pablo Lopez among potential dark horses to keep an eye on.
It's a good feeling to see the Lopez trade already paying off, if only on paper at this point. The reputation boost is a positive sign, and the Spring Training hype seems to be a good omen of things to come.
Minnesota will need it, too.
The price paid for acquiring Lopez was Luis Arraez, the AL batting champion and All-Star slugger who left a pretty big hole in the lineup when he was shipped to the Marlins. Minnesota is widely considered the winner of the deal -- especially considering they received top prospect Jose Salas as part of the trade -- but flipping Arraez for a Cy Young winner is a hard deal to argue wasn't worth the price paid.
It's early, and a Cy Young prediction is hardly a Cy Young trophy (especially considering Lopez is simply a dark horse candidate) but things are already looking up for a Twins pitching staff that desperately needs to have a bounce-back season.