2020 Minnesota Twins: Ten Questions
Image courtesy of Sam Navarro, USA TodayI’ve got ten questions about players for you to consider. I’m not going to talk about the team topics like will the Twins win the World Series? The odds certainly favor the L.A. Dodgers to win the 2020 World Series, but the Twins should in no way feel intimidated. For them to reach that lofty goal, the offense will have to remain a strength. Today’s ten questions will relate to an offense that set the MLB record for home runs in 2019, and then added Josh Donaldson.
Question #1: How will Mitch Garver perform after his breakout, Silver Slugging 2019 season?
With his approach and eye at the plate, his still stance and his quick bat and elite power, Garver should continue to put up strong numbers with the bat.
Question #2: If there is an 82 game season, how many games will Garver catch?
In 2019, Garver caught 82 games despite missing about three weeks with an injury. He probably would have caught about ten of the 16 games played during that stretch.So, that about 92 games caught had he stayed healthy. Garver and the Twins front office supported the plan for rest. At that same pace, he would catch about 46 games of an 82-game season. However, you have to wonder if, because of the potentially shortened season, if he won’t get a few extra starts, maybe 50 or 55?
Question #3: How will Miguel Sano transition defensively to first base?
Listen, we all know he’s not going to be Joe Mauer over there. He won’t immediately look like Doug Mientkiewicz or Kent Hrbek or even Justin Morneau at first base. But expect that he will be adequate. We will find ourselves shaking our head, wondering what he was thinking, but those types of plays will be more about lack of playing time at the position. More important, Rocco Baldelli went out of his way during spring training to credit Sano for the work that he was putting in and the effort he was giving to be a good defensive first baseman.
Question #4: Can Luis Arraez avoid a sophomore slump?
So, if you’re expecting Arraez to his .330 and consider anything less than that a sophomore slump than the odds would tell us that you will probably be disappointed. Arraez has a great eye at the plate, and an approach that isn’t passive. He’s got great bat control. All those things create the comparisons to players like Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn. So expectations are high, and we need to temper them, but Arraez will always have the potential to hit over .300.
Question #5: Will Jorge Polanco get to another All-Star Game in 2020?
Well, there probably won’t be an All-Star Game in 2020, so the answer to this one is easy. No. But at the end of the season, will Polanco be a Top 3 shortstop in the American League? Will he be a strong candidate to start another ASG in 2021? Truthfully, it’s going to be tough, even if Polanco remains as good as he was in 2019, or even improves a little. Francisco Lindor is the definition of an All-Star. Xander Boegaerts is a star for the Red Sox. Marcus Semien of the A’s finished third in MVP voting in the AL last year. The Yankees are moving Gleyber Torres to shortstop from second base. Carlos Correa is a star. Tim Anderson doesn’t like to walk, but he won the AL batting title in 2019. Bo Bichette has incredible potential and had a strong showing in 2019. Adalberto Mondesi is very talented. Niko Goodrum will get a lot more playing time at shortstop in 2020. In short, Jorge Polanco is going to have to be really, really good to maintain All-Star status. That said, he’s got the talent to fit into that group just fine.
Question #6: Can Eddie Rosario take another step forward as a player?
For all his faults, and they have been written about over and over and over again, Rosario is an immensely talented player. You can’t be a bad player and still end the year hitting 32 home runs and driving in 109 RBI. He has his mental lapses at times, but he’s also capable of a game-winning strike from the Green Monster to home plate. Add in the fact that he played most of the second half of 2019 with an injured ankle and there is potential for Rosario to be even better in 2020 and going forward. Any improvement in his plate discipline and he could be great.
Question #7: Can Byron Buxton stay healthy?
I don’t know. None of us know. No one wants the “Injury Prone” tag attached to him, and all of Buxton’s injuries have been through playing the game. But it is important because he is a difference-maker when he is in the lineup. Obviously he is an elite defender. We all know that. But when his 2019 season ended, he had an OPS over .800. At the All-Star break, many argued that he was the most valuable Twins player, on a roster filled with immense talent.
Question #8: What can Max Kepler do for an encore to his 2019 breakout?
After three seasons of hitting between .230 and .240 with 18-20 home runs, Kepler signed an extension and went out and proved the Twins were wise. He still didn’t hit for average, but despite not hitting over the season’s final three weeks, he hit 36 home runs. There were some mechanical and technical adjustments that he made to his swing and his approach. Maybe it was hitting in the leadoff position. Kepler’s demeanor and personality would indicate that the improvements should stick.
Question #9: Can Nelson Cruz continue to kick Father Time’s butt?
On July 1st, shortly before the 2020 season could potentially begin, Nelson Cruz will celebrate his 40th birthday. A week before that, we will learn if he won the 2020 Mohammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at the ESPYs. In 2019, at 39 years old, Cruz put together, arguably, the best season of his career. He hit .311/.392/.639 (1.031) with 26 doubles and 41 homers in just 120 games. This spring, he was 10-for-23 with two doubles and three home runs. He also overcame a complete tear of a ligament in his wrist. Forget Father Time, Cruz is beating the fathers of medical science. Then again, Father Time is ultimately undefeated.
Question #10: Will Josh Donaldson continue to crush pitches at Target Field?
In 22 career games at Target Field, Donaldson has hit .373/.464/.819 (1.283) with seven doubles and 10 home runs. In 43 total games against the Twins, he has hit .395/.487/.852 (1.339) with 17 doubles and 19 home runs. The 19 homers are the most he’s hit against any team, four more than against any other team, despite playing in the AL East! The 2015 AL MVP is just a flat-out great overall hitter. He doesn’t swing outside the strike zone often and his approach is basically to crush any strikes, and he’s certainly done that. Some of his success at Target Field could be credited to him liking the batter’s eye in center field, and certainly some of it can be credited to getting to hit off of Twins pitchers.
There you have it. Ten Questions about ten Twins hitters. How would you answer each of them?
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