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Ranking Minnesota’s Top-5 Indispensable Players

Jose Berrios is key to the Twins success this season, but the club’s starting pitching depth is stronger than it has been in ages. Looking up and down the roster, there are impact players at every position. This can make it tough to differentiate the team’s most vital players. Who would get your vote as the team’s most indispensable player?
Image courtesy of © Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Recently MLB.com ran through their most indispensable players for every MLB club and Jose Berrios was that writer’s choice for the Twins. However, Minnesota’s pitching depth might be stronger than ever, and this could lead Twins fans to have a different selection for the top spot.

5. Nelson Cruz, DH
Cruz produced on and off the field for the Twins last season. His leadership might be unmatched among top-tier talent in the big-leagues. He helped to alter Miguel Sano’s approach last season and he will have a lasting impact on the Twins roster long after his last appearance in a Minnesota jersey.

4. Bryon Buxton, CF
No one can deny the impact Buxton has on both sides of the ball. When running on all cylinders, he is the true definition of a five-tool player. He can impact the game in ways few players have the skills to reach. He needs to prove he can stay healthy and a shortened season gives him the opportunity to prove his full value.

3. Josh Donaldson, 3B
He’s the only player on the roster with an MVP in his closet and his defense is going to alter the Twins entire approach on one side of the ball. Minnesota won over 100-games without Donaldson last season so his addition will likely help to deter some of the expected regression from other young Twins players. MLB.com picked him as a dark-horse candidate for the AL MVP and this might not be that big of a stretch when you consider how good the Twins should be during the 2020 season.

2. Jose Berrios, SP
Since he joined the Twins rotation, Jose Berrios has had the highest upside of any Twins starting pitcher since Francisco Liriano. If the Twins are going to meet their goals this season, Berrios will have a large part in making that happen. He has traditionally struggled through a late season slump, but that should be less of an issue in a shortened season. Even with Jake Odorizzi and Kenta Maeda, he is the ace of the staff on a team expected to contend for the pennant in the American League.

1. Jorge Polanco, SS
Think about the rest of the Twins line-up. There are players available to fill-in at nearly every other position, but shortstop continues to be a tough spot for the Twins. Polanco was the AL’s starting shortstop in last year’s All-Star Game, and he might still have room to meet his potential. If Polanco wasn’t available, the Twins would like turn over a pivotal position to the likes of Ehire Adrianza. He is more than capable of handling the position but the certainly isn’t up to the caliber of Polanco.

How would you rank the top-5 players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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17 Comments

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SoylentWill
Jul 23 2020 06:00 AM
Good read as always. I don't particularly care to rank the top 5, but considering conyract status I'd think about slotting in Kepler and Sano for Cruz and Berrios, unless Berrios is extended of course.
    • Channing1964 likes this

Drop Buxton and give me Garver

    • IndianaTwin and TwinsFan268 like this

I'd move Buxton up. When he's right, he's insanely impactful and changes the whole team. When he's out, we lose in so many different areas and he's just not replaceable on this roster. Kepler has stepped up in CF, but it's not his best position. No one has his kind of speed and the guy can basically do anything. Everyone else is more replaceable.

 

I mostly agree with the list, but I think I would put Garver in over Cruz: DH is just inherently more replaceable, and Garver's hitting at catcher is a weapon many clubs just don't have, and while Avila and La Tortuga could hold things together for a while, neither offers the kind of top-end production that Garver brings. We have hitters in the high minors that could step in as a DH and might really bring it...plus at Cruz's age you just never know if some of the hitting skill might start to fade out.

    • birdwatcher and Minny505 like this
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Doctor Gast
Jul 23 2020 07:29 AM

I`d put Donaldson on top because of his bat & glove together w/ intangible his leadership. I`d also like Kepler & Garver on the list so I`d have to drop Cruz & maybe Berrios (due only because he`s in 1/5 of the games). I`d rate Buxton towards the top because he has the capability of really impact a game if he proves healthy 

    • Minny505 likes this

I agree that Garver is a guy I'd include on my list... 

 

I think I'd also replace Buxton with Kepler... They have played without Buxton before and Kepler steps in... 

Interesting.

 

I would put Buxton at #1. Reason is simple, look at their record last year when he played versus when he didn't. Don't recall the numbers, but remember it was night and day. He also does things that no one else on this team can even think of doing.

 

Would also include Kepler because of both his bat and defensive abilities and very solid play in center. Agree with Seth that Garver deserves a spot in this group.  

    • Minny505 and dex8425 like this
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TouchEmAllGuy
Jul 23 2020 08:25 AM

Garver should be top 3, IMO.

Rosario's energy is really important to this team.

 

I was going to question Cruz at #5 because he didn't play a single inning of defense last year. But with the 2020 DH rules, that's a huge boost.

 

One of my favorite thing about this team is that it's so even. There's not one obvious star. 

    • Minny505 likes this

1. Buxton - The 2019 Twins were a much better team when he was on the field.

2. Berrios - He has the stuff and experience to face the best hitters in the league. 

3. Donaldson - They're paying him because he'll anchor the IF.

4. Polanco - There are enough bats to cover him on offense. Too thin after Adrianza.

5. Garver - Confident and a great swing. Big drop to #3 catcher.

 

Cruz and Kepler are close behind.

 

I don't want to lose any of them.

    • LA VIkes Fan and Minny505 like this

Buxton has the highest ceiling of anybody on the team. His (healthy) presence changes the team so much. 

 

But this discussion shows just how deep the team is. No 8 war guys, but a bunch of 4-5 War guys. 

    • Minny505 likes this

I'd put Donaldson & Buxton at 1/2. Losing one of them is likely a 3-4 win drop in production (over 162) with whoever replaces them.

Losing Polanco, Kepler, or Berrios would probably be a 2-3 win drop (maybe I overestimate Adrianza), so they are on that next tier. I might put Rich Hill in that category as well.

And while Cruz's production is replaceable with just a 1-2 win drop off, what he brings to the clubhouse and dugout is difficult to quantify. I'd give him another win or two for that leadership.

So, my list would be:
1-Donaldson
2-Buxton
3-Polanco
4-Kepler
5-Cruz

With Berrios and Hill being honorable mentions.

I love that the biggest debate is about last year's #9 hitter.

Depth: there are 6 guys on the team who have received MVP votes. Last year, there were five. Cruz, Polanco, Rosie, Kepler and Donaldson.

 

However, Buxton received mvp votes in '17 with an OPS+ of 93. Just let that sink in. He was a 5 War player who hit worse than the league average hitter.

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IndianaTwin
Jul 23 2020 05:22 PM

I'd argue that the drop from No. 1 to No. 2 is bigger at catcher than at any other position, save perhaps shortstop. Then, take into account that you need two catchers and that the drop from No. 2 to No. 3 is also huge, I have to go with Garver. 

Buxton? The part-time #9 hitter with the 87 career OPS+? The Twins finished 35-19 without him last year. I’d rather have him...maybe he could realize one (partial) season where he is actually the player so many here perceive him to be...pick up the slack if one of the guys who carried the team last year drops off this year. But for now, I bump Buxton for Garver.

Interesting.
 
I would put Buxton at #1. Reason is simple, look at their record last year when he played versus when he didn't. Don't recall the numbers, but remember it was night and day. He also does things that no one else on this team can even think of doing.
 
Would also include Kepler because of both his bat and defensive abilities and very solid play in center. Agree with Seth that Garver deserves a spot in this group.


Not really. The Twins finished 35-19 without Buxton down the stretch last year. That was about .650 baseball for almost as many games as the entire 2020 season will consist of.

 

Buxton? The part-time #9 hitter with the 87 career OPS+? The Twins finished 35-19 without him last year. I’d rather have him...maybe he could realize one (partial) season where he is actually the player so many here perceive him to be...pick up the slack if one of the guys who carried the team last year drops off this year. But for now, I bump Buxton for Garver.

 

No, the only true CF on the team and the guy who had a 114 OPS+ last year. The best defensive player in all of baseball. That guy. 

 

Garver should be on this list (as I stated before) because elite offense at catcher is really rare, especially with a guy who is still a quality player defensively (and Garver appears to have put himself there).

 

But Cruz, as great as he was, is more replaceable: he's a DH.

Kepler, who had the bust out season we were all waiting for, plays a position where the Twins have depth .

 

That's why for me it's Polanco, Buxton, Garver as the 3 most irreplaceable Twins: great production at critical positions where there's not an ideal replacement option. Then it's Berrios as the best pitcher on the team on a roster where the Twin's strength is depth over high end production; we can fill in for him, but there's almost certainly a significant drop off. Last spot is probably Donaldson because a) no ideal replacement, B) elite production & defense, and c) psychological deflation if the big FA signing goes down.


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