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Recent Blogs


Three Twins Breakout Candidates For 2018

During every season, there are players who figure something out and take the next step. It can be a pitcher finally gaining command of a third pitch. It could be a hitter making an adjustment at the plate. In 2017, Twins fans saw Byron Buxton put things together on both sides of the ball. He won numerous postseason awards for his defensive prowess and his bat started to come around in the second half.

A couple of weeks ago, I identified three prospects to watch in 2018. At the big league level, what players have the chance to rise above the crowd in 2018? Here are three possibilities…
Image courtesy of Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Max Kepler, OF
Tom wrote about Kepler’s possible breakout potential and I tend to agree with him. Over the last three seasons, Kepler has played 263 big league games while hitting .239/.310/.422 with 36 home runs and 52 doubles. For multiple years, Kepler was considered one of the team’s best prospects. In his last full minor league season, he compiled a .947 OPS on his way to winning the 2015 Southern League MVP.

Left-handed pitchers have been the problem for Kepler in the big leagues. His OPS against righties is over .800 while being limited to .520 versus lefties. During the 2015 season, he combined for an .863 OPS against lefties. If Kepler can solve his lefty conundrum, the rest of the AL better watch out.

Trevor Hildenberger, RP
Hildenberger, the side-winding relief pitcher, made his MLB debut in 2017. In 37 games (42.0 IP), he posted a 3.21 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP and a 44 to 6 strikeout to walk ratio. Leading into the season, it looked like he was ready to join the big league team after winning back-to-back awards as the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. There are some areas of improvement.

Throughout his minor league career, he averaged a 1.57 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP and a 10.5 SO/9. Hildenberger’s experience and deceptiveness have him poised to be a dominant late-inning relief pitcher. Even if Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed are getting the eighth and ninth, Hildenberger can be relied on for more than three outs after a starter has been removed.

Jose Berrios, SP
As a 23-year old, Berrios hasn’t seen everything click yet at the big league level. However, he’s shown flashes of the brilliance that made him one of the team’s top prospects. During his five minor league seasons, Berrios averaged 9.6 SO/9 and that number has dipped to 8.3 through his first two big league seasons. There were always questions surrounding his size and whether or not his strikeouts would translate to baseball’s highest level.

When I wrote about Twins players’ resolutions, I though Berrios should focus on increasing his strikeout rate in 2018. Berrios has another gear to hit and 2018 might be the year for him to take the next step. If Minnesota wants to make it back to the postseason, Berrios needs to decrease his walks and command the strike zone.

What players do you think have the chance to take the next step in 2018? Will Kepler, Hildenberger, and Berrios be key to the 2018 Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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38 Comments

It appears that there could be lots of breakouts next year, and if the veterans also play well it could be a breakout season. 

 

Joe Maier (does he count?), JT Chagrois, and Kepler

 

Shame you have to take all that abise, er, I meant abuse, of course.... just because "i" is right next to "u" on the keyboard, eh? At least they spared you on J.T. Chargois. And they totally gave the other guy a pass on Gonsaleves [sic].

 

    • ashbury likes this

I've completely given up on hoping that The Tease (Kyle Gibson) will take the long-hoped for "step forward". I've been burned too many times. I'd love for it to happen, I'm rooting for him...but I expect nothing other than being a back of the rotation innings eater at this point.

 

Kepler and Berrios are both good choices. It's so hard to tell with relievers, but Rogers is a guy I'll be watching this year. I'd consider Granite, but I don't know if he makes the roster at the start of the season, absent a trade of Grossman. (there's a real possibility we'll start the season with a 3-man bench and 13 goddamn pitchers, so there's going to be a huge roster crunch for position guys)

 

I've completely given up on hoping that The Tease (Kyle Gibson) will take the long-hoped for "step forward". I've been burned too many times.

 

I agree, though if we let Gibson go I predict he signs with St. Louis and becomes an ace. And I'm already annoyed by that. 

Photo
birdwatcher
Jan 19 2018 12:25 PM

 

where he also owns Maier Chev.

 

 

and is Chagrois pronounced Jaguar?

A great list, but really, I'm not so sure Hildenberger didn't "break out" second half of last season.

 

A full season from Buxton and Polanco would be HUGE. As well as the next step for Berrios and Kepler. 

 

I know that's cheating...but I'm sticking with 4 instead of 3. 

 

Honestly, I'm expecting bigger and better seasons from all 4 of these guys.

Thank you for the article. If I had to quibble, I'd suggest that your choices were not breakout stars but were "logical next step" players.

I am looking forward to revisiting this exact topic on, say, August 1st. I know I will be surprised.
    • Vanimal46, gagu and Nine of twelve like this
The obvious candidate is Kepler. I think he'll have a good year.

I think Gibson finally turned a corner in the second half, and will put together a good season.

Garver is another candidate, assuming he gets a good number of innings as the second catcher/DH/1B.

As far as Hildenberger goes, I think he already "broke out." He was the team's best reliever last year, IMO, and it wasn't really close. I think what we saw out of him is about as good as it'll get....which is pretty good.

Maybe a guy like Chagrois gets healthy and puts some things together in a role similar to Presley's last year,

My top breakout candidate that I haven't seen mentioned much: Duffey. That hammer has already proven to be an asset, just needs to find consistency. I think that'll come. If he can put it together, Duffey, May, Hildenberger, Rodgers, and Rodney could make a high quality group to lead into Reed in the back end.

I've completely given up on hoping that The Tease (Kyle Gibson) will take the long-hoped for "step forward". I've been burned too many times. I'd love for it to happen, I'm rooting for him...but I expect nothing other than being a back of the rotation innings eater at this point.

Kepler and Berrios are both good choices. It's so hard to tell with relievers, but Rogers is a guy I'll be watching this year. I'd consider Granite, but I don't know if he makes the roster at the start of the season, absent a trade of Grossman. (there's a real possibility we'll start the season with a 3-man bench and 13 goddamn pitchers, so there's going to be a huge roster crunch for position guys)


Gibson was pretty excellent for an extended period of time last year. I think we saw that step forward.

Also, I don't think he ever really "teased" anyone prior to that. He was just bad.

Just my opinion on the matter.

Gibson was pretty excellent for an extended period of time last year. I think we saw that step forward.

Also, I don't think he ever really "teased" anyone prior to that. He was just bad.

Just my opinion on the matter.


He combined for a 3.90 FIP over 373 innings across '14 and '15. He definitely teased us a few times over those two seasons.

Oh, love me some very early spring optimism! :-D

 

 

    • caninatl04 likes this
My top three would be P. Jones, B. Smith, and D. Toles. Now some may question whether these names appear on either the Twins MiLB or MLB payrolls. I have no idea, but with the spelling Police out in full force, I considered this much safer than someone like Hosae Berriohs .
Will somebody teach Phil Hughes a knuckle ball already?

Trevor May. Byron Buxton. Berrios. Same as last year. And the year before... fool me once...

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