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Ranking the 3 Most Important Twins Players for 2021

A new year brings new focus to what will become the 2021 version of the Minnesota Twins. While the Twins haven’t made many moves so far, there are plenty that peg them to be one of the American League’s best teams. For that to happen, Minnesota is going to need these three players to be performing at their peak.
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
3. Jose Berrios- SP
Berrios is in an interesting place entering the 2021 season. He has worked his way through the arbitration process by betting on himself to improve instead of taking a team-friendly extension to stay in Minnesota. Now he has two years left until free agency unless the Twins are able to work out an extension this winter. This type of deal would likely need to be north of $100 million and that might not be something the team wants to consider after a season where revenues were limited.

As far as the Twins rotation, Berrios doesn’t have to feel the pressure of being the team’s ace with Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda helping to solidify the rotation’s front half. Berrios might still have another level to reach as a starting pitcher and that can be scary to think about. Through their age-26 seasons, Berrios has better numbers than Trevor Bauer, this year’s top free agent starter. Bauer took a dramatic step forward in his age-27 season and Twins fans can hope Berrios follows a similar path.

2. Josh Donaldson- 3B
Donaldson was signed last winter to help Minnesota to take the next step while their window of contention is open. His first season in a Twins uniform was a disappointment as he played in less than half of the team’s games while dealing with calf injuries that have plagued his career. When he was on the field, he posted an OPS higher than his career average with a 24 to 18 strikeout to walk ratio, but Twins fans clearly wanted more from the highest paid free agent in franchise history.

The Twins signed Donaldson, because he was coming off a tremendous season in Atlanta where he played over 155 games and posted a .900 OPS with 37 home runs and 33 doubles. Minnesota would love to get that kind of production from the former MVP, but he will be 35 this year and there’s a chance of regression as he continues to age. There is organizational depth at third base, but the Twins need Donaldson on the field and performing at his highest level for the majority of 2021.

1. Byron Buxton- CF
There’s no question that Buxton can alter the game on both sides of the ball, but he has been limited to fewer than 95 games in all but one big-league season. Last year, Buxton hit .254/.267/.577 with 13 home runs and three doubles across 39 games. While he posted a career high OPS, he struck out 26.7% of the time in his 135 plate appearances. The flashes of greatness have been evident, yet the Twins fans are waiting for him to put it all together for an entire season.

Like Berrios, Buxton has only two years of team control remaining, and one has to wonder if the team would consider an extension with their center fielder. The organization’s other options in center can fill-in for Buxton on a short-term basis, but they simply can’t match everything he brings to the diamond.He might be the best five-tool player in Twins history, and he is just entering the prime of his career. If Buxton is on the field for over 120 games in 2021, he has the chance to be in the American League MVP discussion.

What three players do you think are most important for Minnesota in 2021? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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12 Comments

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Channing1964
Jan 04 2021 05:37 AM
I would have said Rosario, Sano, and Pineda. Berrios is what he is...a #3 starter. Donaldson is going to make an impact that we, as fans will not see immediately. In the Clubhouse. Buxton will be fine despite his durability issues. It looked like to me he is determined to make the Falvines pay for disrespecting him in 2018 over the service time issues. Now you are gonna non tender Rosario...who is a close longtime teammate of Buxton ....? Byron, and Berrios are gone as soon as they can go. Sano has to step up and take Cruz's place because our FO is too smart to see we need Nelson for at least two more years. Who is the left handed bat to replace Rosario? Pineda has been the most reliable starter for two years. Has any team ever handed over like 4 prominent 25 man roles to unproven rookies before? Yep. Have they ever won? Nope. Those boy wonder front office dudes are pretty sure of themselves aren't they?
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Channing1964
Jan 04 2021 05:39 AM
Do not deluge my inbox with diatribes about how great Derek Falvey is. Wait until we see what happens. They have a five year deal. Stfu

With James Rowson leaving for Miami last season, Sano took a giant step in the wrong direction. Improve or get traded season for him?

 

I would have said Rosario, Sano, and Pineda. Berrios is what he is...a #3 starter. Donaldson is going to make an impact that we, as fans will not see immediately. In the Clubhouse. Buxton will be fine despite his durability issues. It looked like to me he is determined to make the Falvines pay for disrespecting him in 2018 over the service time issues. Now you are gonna non tender Rosario...who is a close longtime teammate of Buxton ....? Byron, and Berrios are gone as soon as they can go. Sano has to step up and take Cruz's place because our FO is too smart to see we need Nelson for at least two more years. Who is the left handed bat to replace Rosario? Pineda has been the most reliable starter for two years. Has any team ever handed over like 4 prominent 25 man roles to unproven rookies before? Yep. Have they ever won? Nope. Those boy wonder front office dudes are pretty sure of themselves aren't they?

Looks like I'm going to have to post similar things in a lot of posts today. Nelson Cruz is not going to sign anywhere until the league announces if the NL will have a DH. All of his leverage hangs on that decision. The Twins will pay him 10-12 per year now because nobody else is bidding on him. If the NL gets the DH he will have multiple suiters and can demand 15-17 mil per year. Why would the Twins sign him to a deal for more than they have to and why would he accept a lower deal without knowing he has to?

 

Why is the assumption that since no team in the league outside of the just sold Mets has spent any money on the FA market the Twins are somehow being "sure of themselves?" The Padres spent in trades, sure. So 2 teams have spent any real money so far, but somehow the Twins are being ridiculous? Cruz won't sign until the NL announcement is made and no other bats will move until DJ LeMahieu or JT Realmuto sign. The Twins aren't signing those guys so they are waiting the market out like every other team not looking at those guys is doing. Welcome to the business world.

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Major League Ready
Jan 04 2021 09:45 AM

In 2019 the Twins had a lot of guys with potential that had not been realized. Kepler / Polanco and Garver all stepped up a level. Sano was also great although he had already shown this level of productivity as a rookie but only played in 80 games. Buxton was quite good too but he only played in 87 games. Arreaz also appeared on the scene. The FO filled in some roles with FAs.

 

I like our odds a lot better in 2021 than I did in 2019. The guys that really produced are still here. However, now they have proven they can produce at a level we had not seen from these players 2019. Before anyone says what about Rosario, he was 11th in WAR among position players. The difference is they are coming off a poor year but a lot of great players did not produce during the shortened season.

 

The 2021 team needs to be rounded out. That starts with one more good SP. Then, a SS or a high caliber utility man like Hernandez. Another RP would be a plus and there are quite a few of them available. I am not sure how much they will spend but Odorizzi, Hernandez and a good RP should be viable.

    • TiberTwins and chpettit19 like this

If I were to choose 3 players, I would choose Maeda, Garver and Rogers. Maeda was great in 2020 but now the league knows more about him so it is imperative that he maintains his high level of success. It may help that the West and East teams have not seen him. Garver was a bust last year and needs to bounce back to decency to settle the catching position. Rogers was less than what we need at the closer position and, if we don't get Hand or Colombe, will be counted on to bounce back. Right behind them would be Sano (if he is still here) and Donaldson to stay healthy.

I can't disagree with your top 3 Cody. But I'm surprised you were able to keep it at just 3!

Cruz is obviously not listed because he's a FA. Buuut...since he WAS brought up...he could be a key for several dominos to fall. He will not be disrespected by the Twins, but I do feel he will be back at around $13M to a max of $15. I lean to the $13M mark due to age, expectation, and limited number of teams who would have actual need and interest even if the DH was made universal. There just won't be 29 other teams chomping at the bit.

But I digress.

3] I am a huge believer in Berrios, even if he never finds that extra gear of consistency. He is a gamer, a performer, and at worst a legitimate #2 most days. I fully believe there is another level of consistency available in him, even if he never fully reaches that #1 SP level. I'm still hoping for an extension.

2] I don't care if it's Pilates, yoga, or some other new form of stretching/conditioning approach, finding SOMETHING to let his calves stay healthy is very important. The guy is a stud in the field and at the plate and seems to bring a fire and energy to the team as well as experience and a leadership voice.

1] At some point supreme ability, hard work, experience and just a bit of good karma has to give Buxton a bit of a break doesn't it? I keep forgetting at times he just turned 27! He's built up his body. He's learned not to beat up that body in the field. He's absolutely flashed how good he is/can be when in the lineup. And he's really just entering his prime years physically now.

2020 was so weird in so many ways. The Twins remained one of the top teams last year and can easily be again. And while there is no room and gloom meant to be presented here, I think a second 3 could be easily presented.

6] Polanco: We know how good his offense is, and the defense is OK. Can he get himself fully healthy again? Even IF the Twins bring a SS on board this off-season, it doesn't diminish his potential as an everyday 10th man option.

5] Kepler: He really broke out in 2019 and STILL it appeared he had another level he might hit. 2020 was weird for a lot of players not on the Twins. So can he rebound and be the 2019 version of himself, even without further improvement? Because the 2019 version was outstanding. Personally, I think it's time he slides down in the order.

4] Sano: We have seen glimpses of what he can do. No, that's not entirely fair. Healthy and better conditioned and what appears to be an even better, more mature attitude, I think we've seen great stretches of what he can do. Based on 2019 and his full acceptance to 1B in 2020, I have to wonder if he is yet another "victim" of a weird season. With or without Cruz on board, can he put 2020 behind him and continue to grow as a ballplayer?

Again, not being negative. Only pointing out how good this team is, but all the potential to be even better for 2021 and beyond.
    • chpettit19, arby58, Doctor Gast and 1 other like this
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Physics Guy
Jan 04 2021 09:21 PM

 

Do not deluge my inbox with diatribes about how great Derek Falvey is. Wait until we see what happens. They have a five year deal. Stfu

Geez man, you seem a bit tense about the Twins' inactivity thus far.It's early yet and only the Padres have done anything significant. The top 4 FA haven't signed and the market starts at the top.Everyone waits to see what happens at the top before signing. You can blame MLB for the Cruz situation. Until they decide on DH in the NL, he's sitting tight. He has no leverage unless NL teams come into play.

 

Here are my comments on a few items from your first post. Yes, it is possible Berrios and Buxton are gone when they become FA. If they are worth it, I have confidence the Twins will offer a market contract. It's not like they haven't tried to extend Berrios.

 

If you think they can't replace Rosario, I'm probably wasting my time here. He is a slightly above average corner OF and the Twins have plenty of depth there. I'd argue a platoon of Cave/Rooker could produce similar results and I suspect Kirilloff is ultimately the replacement. He has higher upside than Rosario and the platoon combo. Putting Arraez/Polanco at leadoff and Kepler in Rosario's spot in the lineup also takes care of Rosario's spot in the lineup. 

 

So Pineda is the most reliable starter the last two years?Sitting for 60 games is reliable?Here are the stats from the last two years:

Pineda - 172 IP, 3.92 ERA, 165 K

Berrios - 263.1 IP, 3.76 ERA, 263

Berrios will be 27 this year, Pineda 32.

 

Lastly, a straight two-year contract for Cruz scares the hell out of me.I'd offer him no more than 1 year at 15M.If he doesn't take it move on.I'd actually prefer the Twins go after LeMahieu at something like 5/80M.He could spell three positions where he potentially have health issues (1B, 2B, 3B) and could take a significant number of AB at DH.He could be the super utility guy we hoped Marwin would be.I get the feeling the Twins are waiting to see what the market does before investing.I suspect they are one of the few buyers on the market. 

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Doctor Gast
Jan 05 2021 06:39 AM

How valuable Buxton & Donaldson are, shows up when. they aren't in the line up. Largely due to their def., the stats & record shows this. , The stats & records doesn't only show their prowess & ability to cover ground but also the poor quality of substitution at CF & SS not able to take up the slack when they're missing. Here I'm advocating again the importance of someone to be able more adequately sub Buxton & an upgrade at SS

I would have said Rosario, Sano, and Pineda. Berrios is what he is...a #3 starter. Donaldson is going to make an impact that we, as fans will not see immediately. In the Clubhouse. Buxton will be fine despite his durability issues. It looked like to me he is determined to make the Falvines pay for disrespecting him in 2018 over the service time issues. Now you are gonna non tender Rosario...who is a close longtime teammate of Buxton ....? Byron, and Berrios are gone as soon as they can go. Sano has to step up and take Cruz's place because our FO is too smart to see we need Nelson for at least two more years. Who is the left handed bat to replace Rosario? Pineda has been the most reliable starter for two years. Has any team ever handed over like 4 prominent 25 man roles to unproven rookies before? Yep. Have they ever won? Nope. Those boy wonder front office dudes are pretty sure of themselves aren't they?


Rosario was let go and I don’t expect he’ll be back with Kiriloff taking over. I like Pineda but he gets suspended and injured too often and Maeda was much better. Look at Berrios’ numbers—he’s a clear #2 starter with the stuff to be a 1-2. Sano will never replace Cruz...he’s much too undisciplined. Any guesses what his issue will be this ST? Over weight? Visa problem? Avoidable accident? Lack of off season conditioning? Legal problems? I’d make Buxton happy and risk Sano becoming the next Ortiz.

I have Arraez as number one. Kiriloff two. Donaldson three.I want to see Arraez really shine with his hits and on base to lead the team from the bases.Kiriloff needs to meet expectations and take that left field opening.Donaldson has to earn his big salary and give us the veteran push. 

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Physics Guy
Jan 05 2021 11:10 AM

I think Cody was pretty spot-on with his original analysis. I see most "important" as meaning players we have concerns about and need to perform at a level they are capable of. 

 

#1 would definitely be Buxton for me. I don't know the exact numbers, but the Twins are a different team when he plays. I think it was something like a .700 club with him and .500 without.

 

#2 for me would also be Donaldson. We need him to play 130-140 games at 3B. His defense and patience/production in the lineup would be pretty hard to replace. 

 

#3 is where I would diverge from Cody. While Berrios is definitely important to the Twins success, I have little doubt he will perform at least at the level of his last three seasons. I would say either Polanco or Arraez would be #3 for me, mainly due to health. If the Twins do not sign a clear upgrade over Adrianza at Util, Polanco being able to play a healthy 140-150 games at SS is crucial to the Twins success. The same can essentially be said for Arraez at 2B. If he can play 140-150 healthy games at 2B, he should be our full-time lead-off hitter. Neither player currently has a likely replacement on the roster. The LF and DH spots don't concern me as much as they have many options on the 40-man to fill those if needed.

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