Three Twins Breakout Candidates For 2018
Image courtesy of Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsMax Kepler, OF
Tom wrote about Kepler’s possible breakout potential and I tend to agree with him. Over the last three seasons, Kepler has played 263 big league games while hitting .239/.310/.422 with 36 home runs and 52 doubles. For multiple years, Kepler was considered one of the team’s best prospects. In his last full minor league season, he compiled a .947 OPS on his way to winning the 2015 Southern League MVP.
Left-handed pitchers have been the problem for Kepler in the big leagues. His OPS against righties is over .800 while being limited to .520 versus lefties. During the 2015 season, he combined for an .863 OPS against lefties. If Kepler can solve his lefty conundrum, the rest of the AL better watch out.
Trevor Hildenberger, RP
Hildenberger, the side-winding relief pitcher, made his MLB debut in 2017. In 37 games (42.0 IP), he posted a 3.21 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP and a 44 to 6 strikeout to walk ratio. Leading into the season, it looked like he was ready to join the big league team after winning back-to-back awards as the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. There are some areas of improvement.
Throughout his minor league career, he averaged a 1.57 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP and a 10.5 SO/9. Hildenberger’s experience and deceptiveness have him poised to be a dominant late-inning relief pitcher. Even if Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed are getting the eighth and ninth, Hildenberger can be relied on for more than three outs after a starter has been removed.
Jose Berrios, SP
As a 23-year old, Berrios hasn’t seen everything click yet at the big league level. However, he’s shown flashes of the brilliance that made him one of the team’s top prospects. During his five minor league seasons, Berrios averaged 9.6 SO/9 and that number has dipped to 8.3 through his first two big league seasons. There were always questions surrounding his size and whether or not his strikeouts would translate to baseball’s highest level.
When I wrote about Twins players’ resolutions, I though Berrios should focus on increasing his strikeout rate in 2018. Berrios has another gear to hit and 2018 might be the year for him to take the next step. If Minnesota wants to make it back to the postseason, Berrios needs to decrease his walks and command the strike zone.
What players do you think have the chance to take the next step in 2018? Will Kepler, Hildenberger, and Berrios be key to the 2018 Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- h2oface, HitInAPinch, Tom Froemming and 1 other like this