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3 Reasons to Believe in These Twins

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The Twins have navigated through a demanding schedule in April. There’s a considerable buzz surrounding the club as they sit in first place in the American League Central. Here are three reasons to believe in the 2022 Twins. 

1. The Central looks weak
Sooner or later, the White Sox will find their stride. They’re missing key pieces from a roster that won 93 games and the division in 2021. Third baseman Yoán Moncada is progressing toward a return from an oblique injury. Lance Lynn, who threw 157 outstanding innings for an excellent rotation last year, is hoping to return in late May from knee surgery. 2020 Silver Slugger winner Eloy Jiménez likely won’t be back until the summer months, but he’s on the mend. The cavalry is coming. 

Even then, the White Sox have evident flaws. Their defense is the worst in the American League by Outs Above Average, and Defensive Runs Saved. Bullpen stalwarts Liam Hendriks and Aaron Bummer are struggling to get outs in the late innings. Without Lynn, the rotation is thin. Dallas Keuchel has been terrible, while Vince Velasquez can’t keep runners off base. The White Sox’s depth is far from what it was in 2021, and they’re digging a hole early. 

The Tigers and their fans hoped the team would produce a hot start, burying the rebuild in the rearview. The opposite is happening. The Tigers have lost 12 of their first 18 games with a weak offense and equally lousy defense. Desperately needing a run, the Tigers must go to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers this weekend. It’s too early to call a season doomed, but things are rough in the Motor City. 

The Guardians made some noise early, pairing good offensive production with their outstanding pitching. They’ve crashed back to earth since that solid 7-5 start. They’re struggling to score runs, an expected trend when their only hitters with track records are superstar José Ramírez and streaky slugger Franmil Reyes. It’s possible Cleveland surprises, but their ceiling feels limited. 

The Royals could present challenges for the competitive teams in the division. They've already won series' against the Twins and White Sox, and they're always tricky at Kauffman. I'd be surprised if they won more than 75 games, but I wouldn't completely write them off as a walk-in-the-park matchup.  

2. They have a competent starting rotation
It’s unlikely Twins starters will continue to pitch as well as they have, but the perception of the rotation has changed considerably since Opening Day. Joe Ryan is better than he was last September. Chris Paddack is, too. The Twins will get their projected No. 1 starter, Sonny Gray, back in short order (hamstring). The Twins' rotation is taking shape. 

Dylan Bundy won’t post a sub-1 ERA this year, but he may finish as a solid No. 4 starter in a competitive rotation. That’s not insignificant, especially considering his 6.06 ERA and 5.51 FIP from a year ago. Bundy’s presence as a five-inning, three runs or less starter is potentially a massive development for the Twins. Bailey Ober had been rock-solid before his groin injury, and Paddack has pitched like a No. 3. 

There’s a real chance the Twins will have at least an average starting rotation by the trade deadline. That outcome felt like a long shot less than a month ago, so I’m still setting the expectations relatively low. If the Twins have a winning team and are within striking distance of the playoffs, I’d expect them to make that move for an impact starter. They’ll need him if October becomes a reality. 

3. They have depth, with more on the way
In the preseason, the 2021 Twins looked to have substantial depth in all roster areas. That couldn’t have been further from the outcome. The Twins quickly learned they lacked viable backups at almost every position, especially in the rotation. Injuries hampered the young starting pitchers in the minors, though, which hasn’t been the case early this year. Fingers crossed. 

Royce Lewis is performing exceptionally well in St.Paul. José Miranda was in serious consideration for an Opening Day roster spot after a terrific Minor League season in 2021. Beyond them, Spencer Steer, an underrated versatile infielder, is raking at Double-A Wichita. The Twins have desirable depth in the infield. A healthy Alex Kirilloff would go a long way in the outfield, sending Trevor Larnach down the depth chart. 

The most important storyline for the 2022 Twins remains with the young starters. Simeon Woods Richardson has yet to allow a run through 21 ⅔ innings for Wichita. Matt Canterino is back on track after a shaky start, and his stuff looks pristine. Jordan Balazovic is still on the injured list with a knee strain, but he is still their best pitching prospect. There look to be reinforcements in both the rotation and bullpen. 

The Twins have a long way to go, and it’s wise to watch with a skeptical eye, but it’s hard not to get excited about where they could go this year. 

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If the pitching holds I think this offense can be pretty good with Buxton, Polanco, Correa, Arraez, Urshella likely being the most consistent hitters and Kepler, Sanchez, Sano, Jeffers, Gordon if they heat up having an impact as well.  

Agree the Central looks surprisingly weak with the young pitching not working out for KC and Detroit to this point.  Cleveland should hang in there at around 500 for sure maybe better if their bats ever get going.

Twins need a stronger pen and if they fix that issue they should be really tough to beat this year.

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The central is weak, and I personally am not surprised by that.  I felt the Sox out performed last year, in a weak division.  They have been a terrible defensive team for years, and have done nothing to help that.  They can have a good offense, but their defense is always going to be an issue.  Also, their pitching is thin.  They were counting on aging pitchers to do what they had been doing, but have little depth.  

Detroit did better than expected last year with some young guys out performing expectations, and vets having good years.  Their break out rookies, ie Badoo, has not performed anywhere close to last year so far.  Baez has been hurt, but the rest of the line up has not done much either. They have the pieces and could break out but so far they have not been impressing. 

Cleveland has no offense and doubt they will. 

KC if their young talent comes around could be a challenge, but they are counting on a lot of young guys.  

I fully agree we have depth, and most importantly at the pitching position.  That will go a long way over the season.  

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I agree but I do wonder a a little about our MLB ready depth. There isn't anyone burning up AAA except for Lewis, who will stay in AAA to be ready to replace Correa at SS. We're having a hard time finding an everyday LF, and Laranch seems to be our only real hope unless Kirilloff re-appears. On the SP side, the only real go to at AAA is Smeltzer, who doesn't seem like he is more than a #5 SP/long reliever. I know we have pitching depth at the MLB level in Winder and some AA guys but it's a long way from AA to the majors.  

I agree that we have more depth than last year. I don't think we have a lot of depth overall. I think the Twins success this year is heavily dependent on continuing good health. 

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Very solid assessment. If the Twins want to get really serious about playing in October and doing something when they get there I would still have daily conversations with Oakland before the deadline arrives and the price becomes exorbitant, Otherwise their greatest weakness remains the worst manager on the planet. If he flushes 16 wins as he did in 2021 get the butter because they are toast.


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Our biggest flaw at this point is the bullpen and a lack of trustworthy, power arms to finish off games. It's already bitten us in the butt a few times early, but thankfully we were able to shake those games off and not let them crater our season like the Colome games early last season.

Deploying Caleb Thielbar as our #1 lefty out of the pen is extraordinarily risky, and I understand that his stuff has still been as good as it was last year, but his ability to locate and make important pitches has been absent in the early going. Duffey and Stashak haven't resembled the pitchers they were in 2019 and 2020, and I think they're best left for medium-low leverage spots rather than the late innings of a close game. Griffin Jax looks like this year's Matt Wisler, which could be a fantastic development for this team, but it's difficult to trust this early on. Alcala, who we were really counting on to get some big outs for us this year is out for the foreseeable future and maybe even the entire season.

At this point, the only relievers I trust to get big outs late in games right now are Duran, Joe Smith, and maybe Pagan. However, I wonder if some bullpen reinforcements are on the way. I know that it's early, but is it ever too early to start looking at reinforcements? While Matt Canterino, Ronny Henriquez, and SWR are all looked at as starting pitching prospects (and we don't want to damage their longterm outlook and value by forcing them into relief roles), I think there would be some value in calling one of them up to the big league club fairly soon. Canterino has incredible stuff, and we're likely to watch his workload closely. I would rather he uses his electric club to help the big league club than 3-inning starts every 5th or 6th day at AA. Further, Henriquez lacks prototypical size for a SP, so he may be best destined for the bullpen anyway Why not give him a taste at the big league level? And SWR is tearing it up at AAA, and while there is certainly value in keeping him stretched out as a starter for when we need him later in the year, he could be immensely valuable in the bullpen in August if we want to watch his innings as the year progresses. 

This team looks ready to compete, and I think we have the resources to plug some of our biggest needs from the inside, chiefly by deploying Canterino and Henriquez as flamethrowers in the major league pen. 

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1 hour ago, Richmond Dude said:

Great write-up, solid reasoning.

Sums it well. Good piece Nash, and agree there are reasons for optimism. SP is key, and keeping Buck healthy, two fragile propositions. But if it holds for, Twins could Win. A lot. And that is a fun thing to think about on this dreary autumnal afternoon.

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Excellent article.  Good mix of players.  Some are over performing, some are underperforming, and some not performing at all.  At this point I'm more worried about the manager.  If the team fails this year it will be on Baldelli.  Truly one of poorest managers in the game.  We are winning in spite of his poor judgement, poor bullpen handling, extremely poor in game management and adjustments, lineups, strategies, and his over reliance of metrics.

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The defense has been quite consistent. We see nearly every regular play being made cleanly right now, but are also watching a number of outstanding plays result in outs. Correa, Buxton, and Polanco have made it tough on players' batting averages. The Twins are also getting strong defense from many others and the more you watch Kepler, the more you realize his simple routes and athleticism shines. For me, right now, the defense has been a big step up from last year and converting batted balls into outs is huge for any pitcher.

Nash hits it by highlighting depth. It seems every player on the roster has made positive contributions. I'm liking the clear improvement in Gordon and Celestino both in the field and at the plate. The nature of professional sports requires strong depth for successful teams.

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