The Twins Are on, but What’s Changed?
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsThe only constant we have been given in 2020 is change. There’s no level of expected consistency, and we can ultimately bank on a new set of perceived norms on what feels like an hourly basis. While that all is true relative to the world around us, the Minnesota Twins have dealt with a vast amount of change as well.
Once the dust settled on the ugly public labor negotiations, and teams reconvened at their home ballparks 9 days ago, we began barreling towards a 2020 Major League Baseball season. There are new rules (universal DH, international rules for extra innings), an adjusted calendar, and an all-out sprint to the finish. Specifically, for Rocco Baldelli’s club though, what has changed?
Maybe most importantly is that the Twins will have Rich Hill on the mound to begin the season. Rehabbing from offseason surgery, he was not slated to be back until early July. With the season having yet to get underway, Hill will be in the rotation at the outset. That likely eliminates someone such as Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, or Jhoulys Chacin from that opportunity, but make no mistake, Hill is elite.
Although it’s velocity that often draws the focus in today’s game, Hill works around that being his lone deficiency. When healthy, he’s been among the most dominant starters in the game. He came to the Twins wanting to win a World Series, and now he’ll have opportunity to contribute out of the gate. He’s made at least 12 starts in every season since 2015, and that’s about the runway he’ll have leading up to the Postseason.
Over the winter Derek Falvey and Thad Levine landed a big fish in signing Josh Donaldson. With him on the roster Minnesota’s plan was to move Miguel Sano across the diamond to first base. That remains the goal but may not be the reality for Opening Day. Despite being asymptomatic, Sano has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently on the IL awaiting two negatives tests before being eligible to return to action.
Sano looks primed for a huge year, and a slugger with his power could make a lot of hay in a shortened sprint of a season. Unfortunately, with just 14 days left until Opening Day it’s becoming increasingly less likely he’ll be in the lineup. Minnesota could turn to Marwin Gonzalez or even give Brent Rooker a look out of the gate.
When the Spring Training festivities were shut down there remained question as to whether or not Byron Buxton would be ready to go. He was slow playing a rehab process and looking to get back to 100% health. Now multiple months removed, he’s as healthy as he’s even been, a 2nd time father, and ready to rock.
As Nick Nelson recently outlined Buxton’s elite athleticism and tools could be a massive source of excitement in a nightly sprint of a season. Health has always been the bugaboo for the Twins talented outfielder, but his bat has begun to come around, and he should be expected to contribute in a big way for 2020.
There was a decent expectation that Minnesota would make a move at the trade deadline. That now falls on August 31 and will provide a bit more clarity for the front office prior to a move. Michael Pineda ha 36 games left on his suspension giving him 24 games to contribute. With Hill being in the mix from the get-go, and Kenta Maeda helping to bolster the quality of the group as a whole, what kind of an arm the Twins covet could be up in the air.
Obviously, all of this comes with the uncertainty that we have no idea what health or production will look like, but the additional evaluation process certainly can’t hurt the Twins. There’s going to be little opportunity to run away with a division in this type of season structure but making sure you’re ready to fire your best bullet each night of the Postseason is a must. Falvey and Levine have built a winner here but adding a key piece that could put them over the top would be a nice venture.
Should we get to Opening Day and should the season commence, it will all boil down to baseball as usual. There won’t be fans, and there’s going to be an extreme amount of oddities surrounding the year as a whole, but the Minnesota Twins are well positioned to defend their 2019 Division Championship just as they were in March before everything went sideways. Lots has changed, but that certainly remains the same.
MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
- ToddlerHarmon likes this