Mailbag: Buxton’s Leash, Likely Lineup, Ticket Sales
Image courtesy of Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Ideally, Byron Buxton’s leash won’t have to be tested this season. Last week, I identified Buxton’s emergence as one of the keys to the 2019 club. It’s easy to be discouraged after his 2018 season. Buxton rebuilt his body this off-season by adding 21 pounds of muscle. The extra weight can hopefully increase his durability and keep him on the field when he is bouncing off the outfield grass and crashing into centerfield walls.
Even if Buxton’s bat struggles again, he continues to provide value through his defense and base running abilities. I believe the team will bat him near the bottom of the order to keep some of the pressure off him. He needs to figure it out at the big-league level, so I think the team is going to sink or swim with Buxton in the line-up this year.
Minnesota will likely use a few different players at first base this season and the starter could be tied to the player with the hottest bat. Each of the most likely first base options were added to the roster in the last year. C.J. Cron was claimed off waivers this off-season despite a 30-home run campaign in 2018. Tyler Austin saw some action for the Twins last year after being traded from the Yankees. Miguel Sano and Mitch Garver are also possibilities to see time at first. If I’m picking the Opening Day starter now, Cron would be my pick.
As far as a replacement for Robbie Grossman, Jake Cave seems like he already started to do that last year. Cave played in 91 big league games and racked up over 300 plate appearances. He hit .269/.316/.481 with 32 extra-base hits. The club also used him at all three outfield positions, so it seems likely for him to continue to be used in a fourth outfielder role.
If the Twins are done adding players, there seems to be a pretty clear starting situation for the Twins. No one knows how Rocco Baldelli is going to approach lineup construction, but Minnesota has nine players that should be regulars.
Here’s how I would construct the Opening Day lineup:
1. Jorge Polanco- SS
2. Eddie Rosario- LF
3. Nelson Cruz- DH
4. Miguel Sano- 3B
5. CJ Cron- 1B
6. Jonathan Schoop- 2B
7. Max Kepler- RF
8. Jason Castro- C
9. Byron Buxton- CF
As I mentioned before, Tyler Austin will probably get some at-bats at first base. The second half of the lineup could be altered depending on who has the hot hand. Buxton might start the year at the bottom of the order, but it will be key for him to be batting near the top by season’s end.
This is certainly an intriguing question. In three of the last four seasons, Manny Machado has posted a WAR greater than 6.0. For the Twins, you also need to consider the players he would be replacing. Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco are currently penciled in to play on Machado’s side of the infield. As Thieres Rabelo wrote about last week, Polanco might be as potent on offense as Machado.
Polanco could slide over to second base but then he would be taking Jonathan Schoop’s spot in the line-up. Schoop was only worth 0.5 WAR last season and his career high WAR total was 3.8 back in 2017. That being said, Machado is one of the best players in the game. Over the course of 162 games, he could add 2-3 wins to the club. This might all be purely hypothetical because it sounds like the front office isn’t adding Machado or Bryce Harper.
Season ticket sales are usually tied to the team’s performance in the previous season. Last year, the Twins were coming off a playoff appearance and their young players seemed poised to take the next step. The club also had veteran stars like Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier that can help to drive sales. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano were a disappointment in 2018 and Mauer and Dozier are no longer with the club. Also, the team didn’t make the playoffs.
Nothing drives ticket sales like having a consistently winning product on the field. Season ticket data won’t be released until later in the year. It seems likely that sales will be down, and the demand will be low for the current team. However, winning cures everything.
TwinsFest is a wonderful weekend of events and activities for the entire family. Yes, the organization covers the traveling cost for players to attend. While the players are in town, the club usually completes some of the players' physicals so they can save time when players get to Florida.
Twins President Dave St. Peter has done a good job of building relationships with former players. Luckily, the dates for the event are almost always the last weekend in January. This can make it easy for players to plan their attendance at the event. That being said, a lot of fans want to get autographs from the newer players and the former players aren’t as big of a draw. (Ask Corey Koskie about that.)
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