Despite the loss in the AL Wild Card game to the Yankees, Minnesota has a lot to be proud of. They went from a 103 loss season in 2016, to a 85 win season in 2017. This season was no fluke, Minnesota will be back in the postseason, and it all has to do with their young talent.
Let’s start with arguably their top young player in Byron Buxton. His first half is something to write off, where he hit .216 with 5 home runs. He tore it up in the 2nd half, contributing a plus bat with excellent defense to propel them into the Wild Card Game. Buxton’s .300 average combined with 11 home runs and 13 steals is something to take note off. If he can carry that 2nd half into next year, he will be a weapon in a surprisingly stunning Minnesota offense.
Joe Mauer may not be behind the plate, but he is still the veteran that keeps the team together. He enjoyed a nice bounce back season, batting .305 with 7 home runs and 71 Rbi. This guy is deadly when healthy, with excellent contact skills and a knowledge of the strike zone. The home town kid is heading into his age 35 season into 2018, but making the switch to 1st base has extended his career.
The Biggest surprise this season in the AL? That award could go to Eddie Rosario. After only hitting 10 home runs in 92 games in 2016, Rosario busted out to crush 27 this year to go with a .290 average. This guy gave protection to Dozier and Mauer all year. Dozier, Mauer, Buxton, and Rosario make up a great four offensive players for a team that desperately needed it.
Speaking of Dozier, he continued to show why he is so underrated. Dozier has 3 straight seasons of 28 home runs or more and hit 34 for the Twins in 2017 while getting 93 Rbi, Mostly from the leadoff spot. Dozier also adds a little speed in his game, swiping 16 bags. He has been swatting balls out of the ballpark since 2012 for the Twins, and that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Looking at raw power, there are few that can match what Miguel Sano brings to the table. After hitting 25 home runs in 114 games in 2016, Sano went on to hit 28 home runs in 116 games this year. A healthy season from Sano could lead to a 40+ homer kind of season, he has that raw power. Strikeouts are certainly a concern, but like Judge, as long as he’s hitting for power, the Twins can deal with it.
Looking at the starting rotation, you have to give props to Berrios for having a fantastic year after a disastrous 2016 campaign. He won 14 games with an ERA at 3.89. He dropped his walk rate from 5.4 per 9 to 3.0 per 9, while also dropping his HR/9 from a high 1.9 to a low 0.9. Berrios made great strides in 2017 and we might be seeing an ace blossoming in Minnesota.
The other reason the Twins made it this far? Ervin Santana having another good year. He had 3.38 ERA in 2016, and a 3.28 ERA this year. He won 16 of the Twins 85 wins. Santana is an underrated pitcher who has been pitching since 2005 and has a respectable 4.02 career ERA.
The biggest thing for the Twins? They aren’t losing any key players in 2018. Their young players have gotten a taste of the Postseason and you know they will be hungry for more. Buxton and Berrios should continue to blossom and hope seems high in Minnesota for the first time in a long time.