Can Minnesota Follow Houston's Blueprint?
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA Today Sports2012 MLB Draft
Things went dark in Minnesota from 2011-2014 with four straight 90-loss seasons. This wasn’t quite the stretch of futility faced by Astros faithful but it certainly wasn’t easy for Twins Territory. Both teams were “rewarded” for their poor play by sitting with the first two picks of the 2012 MLB Draft. Byron Buxton was the name getting the most hype but in the days leading up to the draft another option emerged, Carlos Correa.
The Astros were rumored to be looking at Houston native Mark Appel with the first pick but they decided to cut a deal with Correa. He signed for less than slot value and then the team could use money on other picks later in the draft. In fact, they used some of the savings to draft Lance McCullers Jr., the pitcher who closed out Game 7 of the ALCS.
The Twins took Buxton, the player many thought was the best in the draft. However, Minnesota was also lucky enough to snag Jose Berrios with their supplemental- round pick. Fans saw the impact of both of these young players in 2017 and there is still room for improvement in the coming years.
Houston’s Young Core, Veteran Leadership
Houston’s core is a young group of players who have grown up playing with each other at the big league level. Players like Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman and Lance McCullers Jr. all played crucial roles in leading the Astros to the pennant. However, the Astros have other, veteran, players in place to supplement their young core.
Veteran second baseman Jose Altuve is the heart and soul of the Houston line-up. He’s been with the club through the ups and the downs. Other players like Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Dallas Keuchel have each found their place in Houston. It’s also hard not to overlook what the acquisition of Justin Verlander meant to this squad.
Minnesota’s Young Core, Veteran Leadership
The Twins saw their own young core take some big strides this season. Miguel Sano was selected to his first All-Star Game. Byron Buxton played Gold Glove caliber defense and seemed to figure things out at the plate. Jose Berrios was strong in the rotation while other players like Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario added value to the team. There was a learning curve at the big league level but each player could be part of the team’s road to the pennant.
Minnesota has their own veteran second baseman, Brian Dozier, who has lived through the losing. Joe Mauer has been an important part of the franchise over the last decade. Ervin Santana had an All-Star season while anchoring the pitching staff. However, all three players’ contracts expire at the end of next season so the future is uncertain. Veterans provide value but will Minnesota find the right pieces to help the club to take the next step?
Minnesota surprised the baseball world by making the playoffs on the heels of a 100-loss season. The Astros and the Yankees, the ALCS foes, both look poised to challenge for the pennant in the years to come. The Twins will need their young core, a group of veterans, and a little luck to follow in the Astros’ footsteps.
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