Astros-Twins ALDS Preview: Which Lineup Has the Edge?
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Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers vs. Martin Maldonado and Dustin Garneau
Catching depth will be critical in a three-game series with no off-days. Houston’s Martin Maldonado will likely start two of the three games and he compiled a .727 OPS this year with a 98 OPS+. It’s going to be interesting to see how Rocco Baldelli uses his catching duo. Mitch Garver has struggled throughout the season to replicate his breakout 2020 campaign. Ryan Jeffers might be better than advertised on both sides of the ball and he ended the regular season with a .791 OPS and a 118 OPS+. If he starts two of the three games, the Twins have the advantage.
Miguel Sano vs. Yuli Gurriel
Twins fans are aware of Sano’s up and downs throughout the 2020 season. He is a very streaky hitter and he has been for his entire career. Over the team’s final 11 games, Sano hit .095/.116/.238 with 22 strikeouts in 42 at-bats. Back in 2019, Gurriel posted an .884 OPS on his way to hitting 31 home runs and 40 doubles. He’s 36-years old this season and he posted a career worst .658 OPS and a 76 OPS+. Twins fans will have to hope Sano can find one of his hot streaks as the postseason begins.
Luis Arraez vs. Jose Altuve
It’s no secret that Luis Arraez is playing through a knee injury, but he came back from the IL this weekend with a flurry by collecting three doubles in one game. Even with some early season struggles, he ended the year with a .321 batting average and a .765 OPS. In the wake of the Astros cheating scandal, Jose Altuve struggled this season for the first time in his career. In 48 games, he hit .219/.286/.344 with a 71 OPS+. His career track record is so much better even with the cheating allegations. Will he be able to turn it on for October?
Josh Donaldson or Marwin Gonzalez vs. Alex Bregman
Josh Donaldson left a game against the Reds on Friday with a calf injury and he hasn’t been back on the field yet. He was limited to 28 games this season because of this reoccurring injury but he was still able to post an .842 OPS and a 131 OPS+. Alex Bregman has been in the MVP conversation in each of the last two seasons, but he lost over 200 points from his OPS this year compared to 2019. Donaldson will likely be a game-time decision and the back-up option is Marwin Gonzalez. Maybe Gonzalez can have something to prove to his old team, but Donaldson’s injury gives the edge to Houston.
Jorge Polanco vs. Carlos Correa
After making the All-Star team last season, Jorge Polanco struggled at the plate in 2020. His OPS dipped from .841 to .658 and his OPS+ also dropped by nearly 40 points. Correa posted a career worst .709 OPS which was a drop of over 200 points. He still got on base 32.6% of the time, but he was lacking in the power department. Like many other Houston hitters, fans have to wonder how much he was benefiting from their in-game video systems. Looking at the numbers, this is a close match-up and Houston gets the slight edge.
Eddie Rosario vs. Kyle Tucker
Eddie Rosario did about what fans expect from him every season. He’s posted an OPS around .800 for three consecutive years and he gets on base roughly 31% of the time. His 19 walks in 57 games nearly matched his 22 walks from 137 games last year, but it remains to be seen if that patience will carry over into the postseason. Twins fans may not know about Kyle Tucker, but he might have been a savior for the Astros offense in 2020. As a 23-year old, he compiled an .837 OPS and a 123 OPS+ while leading the AL with six triples. Twins fans can hope he has some October growing pains, but Houston still has the advantage.
Byron Buxton or Jake Cave vs. George Springer
Much like with Donaldson, there are questions surrounding Byron Buxton’s health heading into October. He was hit in the head with a fastball over the weekend and he was suffering from mild concussion like symptoms. If Buxton remains out, Jake Cave is the next man up and he has a tough time comparing to Houston’s center fielder. George Springer posted an OPS of nearly .900 and an OPS+ of 140 while watching other key Astros hitters take a step back at the plate. If Buxton is healthy, this is a much tougher match-up.
Max Kepler vs. Josh Reddick
Max Kepler wasn’t able to reproduce his 2019 numbers, but his 2020 slash line of .228/.321/.439 is very close to his career averages. Also, he was able to post an OPS+ of over 100 for the second consecutive season. Reddick is in his 12th big league season and age might be catching up to him. After posting a career high .847 OPS back in 2017, his OPS has dropped in recent years and he finished 2020 with a .693 OPS. Even with Kepler’s struggles this season, he gets the edge over Reddick.
Nelson Cruz vs. Michael Brantley
Twins fans saw what Nelson Cruz meant to this team as he carried much of the offensive load during the early part of the season. Even though he turned 40 before the season’s first game, his 169 OPS+ was a point higher than his first season in a Twins uniform. Michael Brantley did what the Astros asked of him as he posted an OPS+ of over 120 for the third straight season. His 15 doubles were the most on the team, but Cruz is clearly the better hitter this season.
Minnesota’s key injuries to Donaldson and Buxton can certainly make this lineup battle a little closer. Even with their offensive struggles this season, Houston gets the slight edge heading into the series.
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