Top-Tier Talent: Already in Minnesota?
Image courtesy of © Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsRich Hill
Plenty has been discussed when it comes to Rich Hill and how good he can be when he’s on the mound. Since 2015, Hill has amassed a 2.91 ERA and an 11.2 K/9 and ranks in the top 10 in several major categories in that same span of time for all of the MLB. The obvious issue is Hill’s health, as he’s put together these numbers in a bit over 500 innings and is returning from elbow surgery. Not only is Hill’s health always in question, but his effectiveness upon his return is far from a sure thing.
The fact remains however that on a pure performance basis, Hill is capable of more than anything any other Twins starter has achieved. If firing on all cylinders, he could be in the conversation for the Twins #1 starter, and we’ve currently got him pencilled in as the #5. At just a $3m base deal (with incentives), Hill is a potentially season altering ceiling play.
Kepler has had comparisons drawn between him and Christian Yelich in the past at TwinsDaily. Both lefty corner OFs, both increased how hard they impacted the ball and had breakouts in their age 26 seasons. Yelich may be a more well rounded hitter at this time, but Kepler is a few short strides from becoming a superstar himself.
Kepler can get too aggressive and swing at pitches out of the zone resulting in poor contact at times. His career batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .253 also reflects that his pull happy ways may limit his batting average. The adjustments he’s made in his career however suggest he could develop his approach and pull-happiness as he matures more which isn’t uncommon in good hitters. He’s already one of the best all around players on the Twins, at times carrying the team in 2019. Another adjustment or two could transform him into a downright elite player for a team that would become even more formidable as a result.
The most obvious option when you think of ceiling on the Twins, Buxton’s career has had its fair share of ups and downs. He has always been in contention for one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, but just as his offense appeared to be on the ascent in 2019 it was cut short by labrum surgery. He was on pace for over 5 fWAR, surpassing the next most valuable Twins player with ease.
We’ve seen how game changing Buxton can be when he’s on. He’s a transcendent talent with physical tools that simply dominate the opposition when challenged. Injury and mechanics stand in the way of being mentioned with Christian Yelich and Mike Trout. Make no mistake, this is no over exaggeration. On a team full of young stars with bright futures, nobody’s has the possibility to shine as bright as Buxton’s regardless of the roadblocks his career has had to this point.
The scary thing about the Twins is that for all of their 2019 success and bright future, they still lack that true top of the MLB talent. In 2019, 18 players amassed 6+ fWAR which is where you find your Verlanders, Betts, Rendons etc. (Ignore Lance Lynn please). Make no mistake, players like Cruz, Donaldson, etc. are proven studs at what they do. Having a player in the true top tier of all of the MLB however would simply elevate the Minnesota Twins to heights beyond our wildest imagination, and the best part is they have several candidates to make that leap. Do you agree that the Twins already have a player that can take this next step? Is it somebody not on this list?
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