Minnesota Twins have record setting year



In March 2018, the Minnesota Twins didn’t have much to prove. Besides making deals with veteran power-hitters Nelson Cruz and CJ Cron, the Twins seemed like a team with potential that had no chance at capitalizing on it. With Rocco Baldelli in his first year as Minnesota’s manager, no one was certain what the Twins would look like in regular-season play. But Baldelli wasn’t hired to watch the Twins fall short of a playoff appearance. His goal was to pick up where the Twins left off at the end of the 2017 regular season when they made the AL Wild Card game.

The Twins certainly had an uphill battle. The Cleveland Indians were coming off a season where they posted an impressive 91-71 record and a Division Championship. The Indians were on track to have another impressive year and forecast to win the division for the fourth year in a row. But early in the season, everyone turned their eyes to the Minnesota Twins.

Led by the young talent of Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario as well as veteran Nelson Cruz, the Twins entered the All-Star break with a 56-33 record. Shortstop Jorge Polanco and pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios were selected to play in the 2019 All-Star game. CJ Cron, Eddie Rosario, and Nelson Cruz also finished as top players in their respected positions.

Led by the young talent of Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario as well as veteran Nelson Cruz, the Twins entered the All-Star break with a 56-33 record.

But Minnesota’s best days were yet to come. Despite a slow start after the All-Star break and a powerful Cleveland team taking the lead for less than a week, the Twins pushed forward obtaining a 101-61 record at the end of the regular season. The Twins record would fall one game shy of a franchise record. However, the biggest achievement of Minnesota’s 2019 campaign was their impressive 307 total home runs. This crushed the New York Yankees 267 homerun record from just a year before. The Dodgers, Astros, and Yankees would also break the previous record, but fall short of the Twins 307 mark.

Despite an upsetting sweep by the Yankees in the ALDS, there are many positives for Twins fans going forward. First, let’s start with the outfield. Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario both had outstanding years. Both Kepler and Rosario hit over 30 home runs and batted in 90 runs. But arguably the biggest improvement came from centerfielder Byron Buxton. Despite a season-ending injury after the All-Star break, Buxton proved that he can be an everyday player who hits for average and occasional power. Buxton’s speed and defensive ability were never in question. However, his 2019 season proved he can be disciplined and make veteran decisions at the plate.

The infield also showed major improvements. Miguel Sano showed that injuries would not hold his power back. Sano would finish with 34 home runs and 79 RBIs. Minnesota’s newly acquired first baseman CJ Cron also proved he can be a leader and a consistent player in the Twins lineup. Cron had big shoes to fill as he took over for fan-favorite Joe Mauer. But Cron adapted nicely into Baldelli’s scheme. At shortstop, All-Star Jorge Polanco put up an all-around impressive year. Polanco would finish with a .295 batting average, 22 home runs, and 79 RBIs. Polanco also proved he can be a leader in the Twins dugout. His plate appearances also demonstrated that he is a top batter at his position.

In the offseason, the Twins also made a deal with the second baseman Jonathan Schoop. Like Cron, Schoop had big shoes to fill as he was taking over for Brian Dozier. Schoop put together a productive year as he hit .256 and 23 home runs. However, one of the biggest surprises for the Twins was second baseman Luis Arraez’s ascent to major league baseball. The 22-year-old would end up batting an outstanding .334. Arraez also showed he has the ability to be an everyday starter at second base. The Twins also found a productive use for Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, and Willians Astudillo. Gonzalez, Adrianza, and Astudillo would show their ability to play multiple positions while maintaining professional at-bats.

Behind the plate, Mitch Garver became one of the Twin’s best players. Garver broke Minnesota’s single-season record for home runs from a catch with 31. Mitch Garver also demonstrated the importance of a smart, dedicated catcher. Garver’s work ethic helped the Twins pitching staff get out of jams throughout the year. Jason Castro also showed his defensive ability multiple times during the season. Together, Garver and Castro made a dynamic duo behind home plate.

Probably the best part of the Twins campaign was the addition of designated hitter Nelson Cruz. Cruz was the biggest leader in the clubhouse and inspired younger players to take every pitch like it was their last. His approach as well as his .311 batting average, 41 home runs, and 108 RBIs proved to be vital in the Twins campaign.

The Twins pitching staff also showed improvement. Despite a poor performance in the playoffs, the Twins bullpen was one of the best in the MLB during August and September. Tyler Duffy, Trevor May, and Zack Littell were outstanding during the regular season. The addition of Sergio Romo was also a win for the Twins. As for the starters, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi put up promising numbers. Both Berrios and Odorizzi finished with ERAs in the 3.60 range. Despite an unfortunate suspension, Michael Pineda put up good numbers, especially late in the season.

Going into the 2019-2020 offseason, the Twins have many questions to answer. Most notably, can they maintain their solid record? And can they find an ace who will deliver consistent wins for the team? Despite all the criticism going into the year, Minnesota showed they are a team that will win games with style and power. There is little reason to suspect 2020 will be any different.