If anything is not going to work all that well this year, would the Twins be prepared to handle it?First of all, I think it’s important to state that I don’t think things are going to head the wrong way. This already good team only became stronger and is, in theory, bound to have another positive year. But maybe it’s important to imagine what alternative routes a team can take when facing unexpected adversities.
Injuries are almost one-hundred percent impossible to foresee. So, there’s nothing a club and a player can do to completely avoid them. But, yeah, they’re the biggest risk for any team (ask the Yankees right now). Even last year, such a successful one for Minnesota, a number of key-players spent time sidelined, like Byron Buxton, Nelson Cruz, Mitch Garver, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sanó, to name a few. But due to the impossibility of predicting injuries, let’s talk about things that could go wrong productivity-wise – like in 2018.
The Twins rotation looks stable, with the returns of Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda, as well as with the signings of Rich Hill and Homer Bailey and the trade for Kenta Maeda. At the same time, most people logically consider it the potential Achilles heel of this group. That’s why we chose to focus on it in this article. Here are some things that could get in the way of starting pitching success for the Twins:
- José Berríos is definitely the Twins best starter. But last year he did show some signs for concern. Patrick Wozniak wrote about the problems he’s encountered as of late, including the decrease in his velocity and late-season struggles.
- Although Hill represents a potentially huge upside, especially for October baseball, there’s very little evidence that his health will not be an obstacle for that. By the time of his signing, a lot of people even wondered if he would be able to pitch at all, given his age and injury track record.
- Bailey has had a really rough last five and a half years in the majors. He’s dealt with several health issues, which ended up leading to to surgeries, including a Tommy John Surgery in 2015. Ever since, he’s never been the same good pitcher he was before 2013. In the four seasons before last year he had pitched 231 2/3 innings, with a 6.25 ERA and a 5.13 FIP. How he could represent an improvement over what the Twins got from Martín Pérez or Kyle Gibson last year is still uncertain.
- Maeda’s career splits between home and away games is considerable. His ERA as a starter goes from 3.16 pitching at Dodger Stadium to 4.70 away from it. He also displayed increases in his FIP (3.46 to 4.06) and OPS (.634 to .718) splits. Moving from the seventh most pitcher-friendly ballpark in baseball to the thirteenth in the same category (not to mention the colder weather) may cause him some trouble.
In my opinion, yes. Should elements of this very unlikely catastrophe take place, the Twins this year have a much greater rotation depth than two years ago. Randy Dobnak is a prime candidate to have a good year, especially because of the early absences of both Pineda and Hill. Besides him, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe and Sean Poppen are also in pursuit of their big break and have shown good signs last year.
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