It always had to be this way. This was the only plausible outcome. As the Twins look towards a resurgence, the talent had to rise to the occasion. For a pair of Minnesota mashers, it’s starting to happen.
Coming into the 2021 season Rocco Baldelli’s club had won two straight AL Central division titles while also having heightened expectations for the year ahead. There wasn’t supposed to be a slide, and the roster as constructed should’ve been among the best in baseball. The results haven’t followed that narrative, but there’s never been a doubt when it comes to what this team is capable of.
The reality for Minnesota is that regression struck for so many at roughly the same time. April was not a good month, and to be frank, May hasn’t been that great either. Combined with injuries and a slight covid scare, suggesting nothing has gone right would be putting it kindly. Now faced with a stretch of winnable games and opportunity for a turnaround, having a resurgence from a few guys at once would be nice.
Enter Miguel Sano and Mitch Garver.
Sano has long been a lightning rod of criticism for Twins fans. He’s a prolific power hitter that, at his best, remains an on-base and slugging machine. If he’s not hitting the fastball though, he’s a check swinging mess and the value tanks. After discussion surrounding a demotion cropped up, an eventual benching took place following the May 8 contest. We’ve seen this before with the Dominican, and he’s responded by righting the ship. Once again, that’s playing out before our eyes.
In 13 games since being put on the pine, Sano has reinvigorated his season. Across 51 plate appearances he has a .261/.333/.717 slash line to go with nine extra base hits, six of which have left the yard. The 16 strikeouts are still high, and you’d like to see more than four walks, but it’s apparent his process is back to a better place. Earlier this season Sano was leading the league in free passes, and it was a timing issue that had him failing to produce the bigger results. Now the timing is there, and while the discipline may have slid a bit, dreaming on a more perfect combination gives the Twins their middle of the order threat back.
Funny enough, a teammate of Sano’s also finds himself in a similar situation. Although Mitch Garver was never benched this season, he’s dealt with plenty of maladies along with an inability to crush the fastball as has become his calling card. With just a .644 OPS through April, a flipped script was necessary come May. Across 56 plate appearances this month Garver owns a .261/.393/.500 slash line with five extra base hits including three dingers. I think it’s a bit far-fetched to assume Mitch is the backstop with a near 1.000 OPS that he was in 2019, but anything north of .850 in that regard makes him among the best hitting catchers in baseball.
When Garver is right, he’s barreling the ball, but more importantly he’s working counts and taking walks. Garver has always excelled as a hitter due to his ability to be patient and find his pitch. The 43/13 K/BB is still out of whack, but in May it’s been an exceptional 16/10 K/BB and that will play all year long.
It’s hard to fathom a complete turnaround for Minnesota. The hole they dug themselves out of the gate has been immense. That said, if the expectation was for this team to be great coming into the year, all of those pieces are still in place. Getting guys back to a median level of expectations will bear fruit, and given the quality of competition within the division, a run is hardly unfathomable.
Mitch Garver and Miguel Sano have begun to turn their tide, now the Twins need others to continue following suit.