Ranking the Twins Postseason Opponents and their Chances
Image courtesy of © Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsIt’s a bit unfortunate that 2020 has dealt the world the hand it has. On the sports front, and baseball in particular, the year has looked nothing like a traditional schedule. With Minnesota putting together arguably the most talented roster in franchise history, it’s unfortunate we didn’t get to see it perform over a full 162-game slate. What still matters however, is that all that talent is at the disposal of Rocco Baldelli when the games become win-or-go-home.
The most likely opponents for the Twins in the Wild Card round of the Postseason look to be the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, or Cleveland Indians. We know the field at this point, and there’s no reason Minnesota can’t be excited about facing any of these teams. In reverse order though, here’s how I’ll argue the stack up, from easiest to toughest.
7. Toronto Blue Jays (Batting 18th Pitching 18th Fielding 18th)
Somewhat of a surprise team, the Blue Jays have competed in what has been an up and down AL East this season. New York looked like a minor league team depending on which lineup you caught them with, and the Red Sox took ownership of the Orioles doldrums positioning. Toronto doesn’t do anything all that well, but they don’t have any glaring problem areas either. Bo Bichette is a stud, and right now Teoscar Hernandez has assumed the production intended for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Hyun-Jin Ryu has looked the part of the ace he was hoped to be, but they haven’t got much help on the pitching front elsewhere. Ken Giles isn’t coming back either, and the bullpen is plenty beatable.
6. Houston Astros (Batting 22nd Pitching 11th Fielding 28th)
What a difference a year makes. Houston was probably always going to be seen as tough despite the fallout from their cheating scandal due to the number of weapons that can hurt you. Their problem is that many of them have been a shell of themselves, and the pitching isn’t there either. Gerrit Cole is gone and Justin Verlander is done. George Springer and Michael Brantley have hit, but Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa have been awful. You can’t let this team beat you, they have the talent to do so, but it isn’t the scary Astros anymore.
5. Oakland Athletics (Batting 10th Pitching 8th Fielding 3rd)
Taking the Athletics down a notch was the massive loss of Matt Chapman. He’s a superstar and arguably the best defender in baseball at third base. There’s still thump in their lineup with Matt Olson and Marcus Semien, but one through nine isn’t where they’ll beat you. This team can pitch in the rotation and the bullpen, while converting outs at a high clip defensively. Oakland isn’t a team to take lightly but the +53-run differential and overall win tally seems to be aided by a very mediocre AL West.
4. Cleveland Indians (Batting 16th Pitching 1st Fielding 2nd)
By now Twins fans have seen enough of the Indians to know what expectations are. The club can once again pitch, shocker, but they still can’t hit. Jose Ramirez has looked like an AL MVP candidate, but the middle of the order still features a black hole in Carlos Santana. The outfield production is atrocious, and they’ll rely on beating teams in low-scoring affairs. This isn’t a group you want to see in October. Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and company can shut down any lineup. That said, there’s warts here and Minnesota has already handled them to the tune of a 7-3 record in 2020.
3. Chicago White Sox (Batting 1st Pitching 9th Fielding 9th)
The rivalry has certainly been renewed, and it doesn’t matter who wins the division, the Southsiders will be coming for Minnesota plenty in the years ahead. The Twins split the season series with Chicago, and while a couple of those contests were lopsided, Rick Renteria’s club has the bats to do plenty of damage on their own. I think this unit is still a year away from settling into their own, but a series going up and down that lineup on a nightly basis would be as tense as it gets. Lucas Giolito is not an arm that has owned the Twins, and the rotation is barren behind him and Keuchel. Still though, it’s the bats that make this club worthy of a no-fly zone.
2. New York Yankees (Batting 7th Pitching 14th Fielding 13th)
Going on season numbers for the Yankees are relatively hollow considering the amount of time they were without key players. Now a healthy Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have returned, and all bets are off. Gerrit Cole is an ace in every sense of the word, and Masahiro Tanaka is plenty consistent in his own right. I actually don’t think New York’s rotation is that much better than Minnesota’s but turning to Cole twice in a short series could be the trump card. There are questions as to whether Judge and Stanton have enough at bats to feel comfortable, but both are capable of going off at any time. Throw in Luke Voit and D.J. LeMahieu and you’ve once again got an opponent to avoid.
1. Tampa Bay Rays (Batting 11th Pitching 10th Fielding 8th)
Maybe I’m overrating the Rays a bit given the opportunities they had against a more lackluster Yankees lineup, but this feels like the most complete team in the American League. Kevin Cash has this club clicking on all cylinders, and most of the names are guys a national landscape would gloss over. Brandon Lowe is a superstar, while Willy Adames has finally started living up to his potential. Tyler Glasnow is a problem on the mound and Nick Anderson may be the best reliever in baseball. Up and down this roster is a group of guys that constantly embody next man up, and anyone is capable of producing on a nightly basis. It’d be a fun narrative series for the Twins, but not one I’d want to willingly sign up for.
*Overall ranks based on Fangraphs fWAR totals
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