As spring training gets underway, I've got nine red-hot (or at least moderately warm) takes on the 2019 season.Some of these prognostications are positive, others are negative. Some represent my heartfelt beliefs, others are just plausible scenarios I wanted to put forth. The idea is to spark conversation and get your minds churning about the possibilities of this year's Twins team.
Let's get to it.
1: Byron Buxton will be an All-Star despite a sub-.250 average at the break.
Contact issues and sub par plate discipline continue to suppress his batting average, but a fired-up Buxton comes back swinging and running harder than ever. His regular presence on defensive highlight reels, plus a gaudy SB total and double-digit homers by the break, help earn him his first (but not last) All-Star appearance.
2: Miguel Sano will strike out 200 times.
The only thing making this a hot take is Sano getting enough plate appearances to reach the mark. If he strikes out at his typical 36% rate, the slugger will need about 550 plate appearances to eclipse 200 Ks, a feat achieved only 13 times in MLB history. Up to this point Sano hasn't accrued even 500 PAs for the Twins in a season, but I think his offseason commitment pays off and keeps him on the field, where his profile as an all-or-nothing hitter becomes more pronounced.
3: Fernando Romero will end the year with an iron grip on the closer role.
He won't be awarded the gig from the start, as his manager leans toward more experienced options out of camp, but Romero's ferocious stuff and demeanor out of the bullpen help him quickly emerge in the late innings. After a few others scuffle in the ninth, Romero gets his shot and develops a rep as a lights-out bulldog.
4: Lewis Thorpe will make 10-plus starts (or "primaries") for the Twins.
Shifting Romero and Adalberto Mejia to the bullpen leaves the Twins short on rotation depth. That leads to guys like Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves and Zack Littell getting overexposed, but Thorpe is the one who keeps earning more chances, in large part because he comes in and pounds the zone.
5: Jake Cave will endure a nightmarish sophomore slump.
I think Cave has a nice career ahead of him, but he looks like the classic regression candidate coming off an outstanding rookie campaign. His performance was propped up by a .363 BABIP, and nearly one out of four fly balls clearing the fence. In 2019, pitchers adjust and Cave's contact problems (33% K-rate in 2018) come to a head. He spends more time in Rochester than Minnesota. But as a silver lining, this creates opportunity for LaMonte Wade or Michael Reed.
6: Rocco Baldelli will be a top three finisher for AL Manager of the Year.
In his first year at the helm, Baldelli sees the Twins add several wins, contending with Cleveland in the division up until the very end. The team's improved morale and looser play under the first-year skipper creates plenty of buzz, while his sharpness and engaging manner endear him to the ball writers that vote on MOTY.
7: The soft underbelly of the bullpen will be a crippling weakness early on.
Although the unit's back-end proves strong with a high-powered trio of Romero, Trevor May and Taylor Rogers, the rest of the relief corps struggles routinely. Injuries and lingering performance issues lead to turmoil in the middle innings for much of the first half.
8: The Twins will acquire two significant arms during the course of the season.
Despite the bullpen stumbles, Minnesota hangs around .500 for the first few months, keeping pace with a slow-starting Cleveland team in the Central. Having preserved trade capital and financial flexibility during a quiet offseason, the front office strikes aggressively to acquire a big-name reliever well ahead of the deadline. Then, in late July, they acquire a high-caliber starter with multiple years of control.
9: Alex Kirilloff will debut for the Twins in September.
He spends most of his summer tearing it up in Double-A, and in the final month, Kirilloff joins the Twins – not just for the experience, a la Max Kepler in 2015, but to help out. The 21-year-old appears frequently throughout the final month as the Twins push fiercely to overcome the Indians but ultimately come up a bit short.
To close out, I'll leave you with some of my favorite fan-submitted takes from Twitter. Chime in with your own in the comments section!
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