While we deal with an unpredictable Minnesota winter, our hometown Twins are playing baseball once again in beautiful southwest Florida. Here is your guide to their 2018 Spring Training as the Twinkies look to make the playoffs a second consecutive year.
As sports team rosters expectedly ebb and flow, the 2018 Twins will be slightly different than their 2017 counterparts. Some beloved players have moved on, such as Bartolo Colon and Chris Gimenez, but the new arrivals are something to be excited about. In addition to the recent trade for impact starter Jake Odorizzi, the front office also spent the offseason accumulating bullpen arms: They inked contracts with Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, and Zach Duke. The plethora of new pitchers in the Twins clubhouse will be a welcome sign for a team that struggled on the mound last season.
Questions surround third baseman Miguel Sano, who arrived at camp last week. Sano, who missed the last two months of the 2017 season with a leg injury, is still recovering from surgery. However, that pales in comparison to another issue: Sano was accused of sexual assault and the incident is still being investigated by Major League Baseball. Under the league’s domestic violence policy, Sano could face a long suspension if their investigation proves fruitful. With Sano’s status still unclear, the Twins may need a contingency plan for replacing their young All-Star. Continued reliance on backup infielder Eduardo Escobar playing third base could backfire, as he projects to be a league average player this season. Sano, if he stays healthy and avoids a long suspension, projects to be worth an All-Star caliber 3 wins-above-replacement (zWAR).
If they hope to make a run deep into the playoffs, the Twins must make a couple more bold moves to round out their team. Odorizzi is a great addition to the starting rotation, but that rotation desperately needs a top-line starter to legitimize the Twins as a contender.
Ervin Santana, the team’s consensus ace, is out for at least a couple months after surgery on his finger. Jose Berrios, while a decent number-two starter last season, is still young and unproven. While Jake Arrieta would be a fantastic arm to have in Minneapolis, a more affordable option like Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn would fit like a glove in the culture and spending habits of the Twins. Keep in mind that Odorizzi and Cobb were teammates for several years on the Tampa Bay Rays, so the Twins might have the upper hand in courting that particular free agent.
A top-of-the-rotation addition would make the Twins’ starting staff, not just good but excellent on Opening Day, once Santana is healthy. A front four of Santana, a top available free agent, Odorizzi, and Berrios would terrify hitters across the American League.
There is a fresh optimism among the Twins and their fans this spring. Last year’s surprise playoff run was historic, being the first team ever to make this postseason one year removed from losing 100 games in dead last. If position players like Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario continue their breakout from the second half of last season, if the new pitchers contribute to expectations, and if Sano stays healthy, this could be the Twins season to win it all. With this year potentially being hometown hero Joe Mauer’s last, what a way for Minnesota to give him the send-off he deserves.