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Article: Three Twins Breakout Candidates For 2018

max kepler trevor hildenberger jose berrios fernando rodney addison reed
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#1 Cody Christie

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 08:30 PM

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…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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Posted 17 January 2018 - 08:54 PM

I can't believe I'm typing this, but I'm kinda psyched to see the Twins bullpen!

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#3 mikelink45


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Posted 17 January 2018 - 09:22 PM

Those are three good choices.I especially want to see Berrios take the next step.Kepler would be great, but I did not see enough to make me think he is ready for the next level. 


I felt like Hildenberger already broke out.I just hope the Twins continue to let him accomplish what he is capable of. 

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#4 Riverbrian


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Posted 17 January 2018 - 09:34 PM

I'm hoping for Berrios, Gibson and Gonsalves. 

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#5 theJemmer


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Posted 17 January 2018 - 09:35 PM

I'd love to read that Max reworked his swing during the off-season to elevate more.
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#6 Don Walcott

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 10:36 PM

I want to see Polanco hit .300/.350/.450 while playing decent SS. That would be huge for this team.
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#7 Twodogs


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Posted 17 January 2018 - 10:54 PM

How about Byron Buxton breaking out with his bat. He is already the heart and soul of the defense, but it would be awesome to see him hit .290/.330/.470 for a whole season!!!

Edited by Twodogs, 17 January 2018 - 10:55 PM.

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#8 Twodogs


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Posted 17 January 2018 - 10:56 PM

I'd also like to see Max Kepler put it all together.
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#9 TNTwinsFan



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Posted 18 January 2018 - 12:37 AM

Buxton, Polanco, Kepler
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#10 gman


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Posted 18 January 2018 - 04:41 AM

Sano.I'd like to see him be that 40+ homer, 120+ RBI guy. Put the monster in the lineup.

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#11 rv78


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Posted 18 January 2018 - 07:14 AM

If Sano, Buxton, Kepler can all improve at the plate over last year it will be HUUUGE! Less K's and more contact for all 3 of them please!

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#12 strumdatjaguar


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Posted 18 January 2018 - 08:43 AM

The three you mentioned are more likely breakout stars. The Twins will excel if there is a real surprise among two of the following:Garver, Gibson, Busenitz, (Circle me) AdalBERTo Mejia.

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#13 Oldgoat_MN


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Posted 18 January 2018 - 09:15 AM

Berrios, Mejia & Gibson would get us to the playoffs.:)

Edited by Oldgoat_MN, 18 January 2018 - 09:19 AM.

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#14 bobs


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Posted 18 January 2018 - 09:33 AM

The theoretical upside of this lineup is immense.I feel like Rosario is who he is going to be.None of Polanco, Buxton, Kepler, Sano have reached their potential.Maybe they won't but if they do......

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#15 bobs


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Posted 18 January 2018 - 09:36 AM

On the pitching side, I agree that we've seen what Hildenberger can be.I like the bullpen additions.There's enough organizational depth there that the bullpen should be fine/solid.If Gibson can just settle for a happy medium btw the two halves of last season, he's a solid back of the rotation guy.I think we should expect Erv to regress slightly to the mean of his career, which still makes him a solid #2 type starter.Berrios and Mejia are the two guys who, if they can continue to progress, can make this rotation much more formidable.

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#16 Physics Guy

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 11:25 AM

Good list Cody.It would be great for Kepler to breakout and find a way to reach .700 OPS vs lefties.Berrios already had a breakout last year and taking another step above that would be great.Hildy also had an excellent "break-in" this past year and improvement above that would really make for a solid back end to the bullpen.  


My "breakouts" for 2018 would just be for Gibson, Polanco and Buxton to continue what they did the second half of 2017.I also would like to see Mejia get to around a 4.00 ERA and show consistency.

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#17 nicksaviking


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Posted 18 January 2018 - 11:40 AM

I don't know that Hildenberger improves much, he was pretty dang good last year. I think Busenitz has a shot to do more though; I think he's got the stuff to miss way more bats than he did last year. 


I'll also jump onto the Gibson bandwagon, his new approach at the end of last year really seemed to pay off. I think his strikeout numbers are going to rise quite a bit making him a much more complete pitcher.


Also Brent Rooker of course.

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#18 theBOMisthebomb


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Posted 18 January 2018 - 01:13 PM

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


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Posted 18 January 2018 - 01:15 PM

Busenitz,Curtiss,Gonsaleves,Slegers,Garver.I think all these guys will play a big part of the 2018 season.  

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#20 Doomtints


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Posted 18 January 2018 - 01:54 PM

I'm not sure about Kepler, but yeah 2018 is the year for him to start rocking if he can.

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