5 Non-Twins Who Could Decide the Twins' Season
Image courtesy of © Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY SportsAll eyes are on Jose Berrios as a dark horse Cy Young candidate, Jose Donaldson’s first season as a Twin, and Byron Buxton’s return to the outfield. While the former Bomba Squad seems to have all the pieces needed for a deep run in an expanded postseason, there are a few speed bumps along the way who could alter the course for the Twins. Here are five non-Twins who could help decide the fate of the 2020 season.
1. Yasmani Grandal
After losing Alex Avila to the Twins, the Chicago White Sox signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the All-Star catcher. Previously, Grandal had spent a year in Milwaukee as a Brewer. The Twins played two close series against the Brewers in 2019, with Minnesota taking two of four games. Grandal shined in both series and drove in four runs, including a monstrous three-run home run off of Ryne Harper.
This year will be Grandal’s first appearance in the American League, and he looks to continue to do damage on the Twins. Grandal is one of the most disciplined players in the league and led the NL last season in walk percentage. Aside from his offensive prowess, according to Statcast, Grandal’s called strike percent on borderline takes is rated the second best in baseball. Keep a close eye on Grandal this season, both behind and at the plate.
2. Dawel Lugo
This Detroit Tigers’ infielder is on no one’s radar. Last season, he finished with a .245 BA, six HR, and a -0.5 WAR. His .976 fielding percentage is average at best, and after two seasons in the majors, Lugo has not made a big enough impact to even be in the everyday lineup for the Tigers. Therefore, why is he so important and could be so detrimental for the Twins?
Despite his seemingly unimpressive stats, Lugo absolutely rakes against the Twins. Last season, Lugo had a .396 BA against the Twins, with 19 hits, six doubles, and five RBI in 13 games. Alternatively, Lugo only hit .118 off of the Cleveland Indians in a similar number of at bats. Last season, the key to the Twins’ success in the AL Central was their dominance against the Tigers, White Sox, and Royals. The Indians losing critical games against weaker division rivals turned out to be their downfall in winning a playoff spot. In order for the Twins to clinch a division title in 2020, they must continue this trend of dominating their weaker divisional opponents. A stronger White Sox will prove to be a bigger challenge this season, so it is even more important that the Twins take every victory against Detroit than last year. Unfortunately, Lugo can throw a wrench into this.
3. Mike Clevinger
Although the Indians traded their ace Corey Kluber in the offseason, a new ace has emerged in the form of Mike Clevinger. Clevinger had a devastatingly dominant season last year, and he shows no sign of stopping.
The team that has the highest career batting average against Clevinger is the Detroit Tigers, with a measly .212 BA. In fact, the only other team with a batting average above .200 in the AL Central is the Twins. With an average of six innings per game, each team essentially only has three innings to score whenever Clevinger takes the mound. The Twins will have to heavily capitalize on these late innings to capture Clevinger-led games.
4. Alex Colome
Alex Colome was one of the best closers in baseball last year and will play a big factor in the White Sox’s success this season. A key late-inning comeback or victory is always difficult against Colome, but when each divisional game is significantly more valuable in 2020, Colome will prove to be much more than just a difficult opponent,
In 2019, Colome had 30 saves in 63 appearances, with Twins batters hitting only .174 against him. Colome only allowed 11 runs total from AL Central teams last season, with 7 those from the Detroit Tigers. In every situation, Colombe has proven to be a reliable closer. With no one on base, batters had a .187 batting average against him. However, with the bases loaded, batters had an even less advantageous .143 batting average against him. It’s no question that the White Sox have a stronger rotation this season with Dallas Keuchel in the mix. Therefore, the Twins may have to depend on more late inning comebacks to snatch a victory against Chicago, which always proves to be a challenge with Colome in the bullpen.
5. Trevor Bauer
Will there ever be a day where Trevor Bauer’s name is no longer synonymous with Max Kepler? I hope not. Contrary to the players above, Bauer can positively affect the trajectory of the Twins this season. The Twins could capitalize on games against the Reds with Bauer on the mound and Kepler in the lineup. Nothing more needs to be said beyond this.
Which players are you the most worried about this season but didn't make the list? Comment below!
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