The Twins roster isn’t this bad. Heck, the team entered play on Monday half of a game ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central standings. Yes, this is the same Tigers squad that has lost 98 or more games in each of the last three full seasons. Detroit is trotting out plenty of replacement level players and prospects as a club that is clearly rebuilding. Yet, the Twins find themselves playing catch up in the division with nearly half the season finished.
Minnesota’s failings have been well documented at Twins Daily. So far, the pitching staff has been arguably the worst in team history, but an influx of younger pitchers in the second half might help to boost the team. Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ have not worked out as planned but adding in other players like Bailey Ober and top prospect Jordan Balazovic might bring some excitement to a non-contending team. Unfortunately, many prospects will be on an innings limit due to the lack of a 2020 minor league season and Jhoan Duran, the team’s other top prospect, recently landed on the IL.
From a draft standpoint, it helps to for the Twins to continue to be bad, because that results in a higher draft pick during the 2022 MLB Draft. Minnesota will likely deal away players on expiring contracts like Nelson Cruz, Michael Pineda, and Andrelton Simmons and this might result in the team being even worse after the trade deadline. However, the players replacing these veterans will also likely have something to prove.
So, what parts can improve as the season progresses? Byron Buxton has been the team’s best player when he has been on the field. In Monday’s update of the All-Star Game fan vote, he is still in the top-3 among AL outfielders and that lines him up to be in a starting role. If he continues to play this way, he can insert himself back into the MVP conversation.
Buxton isn’t the only position where the Twins can see some accidental improvement. Max Kepler recently returned from injury, and he can help improve a right field group that has accumulated the sixth lowest AL WAR total. Before his gruesome injury, Mitch Garver seemed to be swinging the bat like the 2019 version of himself. He can add even more offensive depth when he returns.
Minnesota has been underperforming throughout the 2021 season and there is too much talent on the roster for the team to play at such a low level. Entering play on Monday night, Baseball Prospectus has the Twins projected to finish the season at 83-79, which is quite the turnaround. Cleveland and Chicago are projected to finish at 87-75, which certainly puts the Twins in the conversation for the division by season’s end.
Before the All-Star Game, the Twins have 25 straight games against the AL Central, which means the team has their fate in their own hands. Minnesota has a chance to improve, and it may be an accident waiting to happen.
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