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  • This Twins Team Is Better Than the 2019 Squad


    Ted Schwerzler

    Remember just a few years ago when the Minnesota Twins put together one of the best seasons in franchise history? They won 101 games and hit the most home runs any team has ever compiled during a single season. That was all fun, but the 2023 team looks even better.

     

    Image courtesy of © Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have been hard at work this offseason to supplement a Twins team coming off a second straight losing season. Rocco Baldelli would undoubtedly like to take Minnesota back to the postseason, and doing so in 2023 seems like a must. He gets Carlos Correa back for the long haul and has also seen Joey Gallo, Christian Vazquez, and Kyle Farmer be added.

    Winning 101 games didn’t happen by accident, and blasting as many home runs as the Bomba Squad did is something we won’t likely see again. I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that we’ll see franchise record-level results in 2023, but that doesn’t need to take place for this iteration of the Twins to be better.

    Put simply, the roster as it stands now is more talented than what we saw in 2019. Going position by position, there is a lot to like.

    Catcher
    Gone are Jason Castro and Mitch Garver. Instead, Vazquez has been inserted alongside Ryan Jeffers. Garver was arguably among the best catchers in baseball during his torrid 2019. He won a Silver Slugger and posted a ridiculous .995 OPS. He was coming off just a 104 OPS+ the year prior, and that should be a bar the current tandem can clear. Jeffers has shown an ability to drive the ball and has an exciting offensive profile, but he needs to stay healthy. Vazquez isn’t a juggernaut at the plate, but he’s certainly not a slouch.

    Infield
    C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop represented an average veteran presence. Marwin Gonzalez was expected to produce coming off of inflated numbers from the Astros cheating scandal, and Jorge Polanco remained at shortstop following a PED suspension. It was a good-not-great collection on Opening Day. We have seen Jose Miranda break out at the minor league level, showing well in his rookie season. Now at third base, he’ll be next to Correa, with Polanco on the other side of the diamond. It appears Minnesota is all in on Alex Kirilloff at first base, and that is a welcomed sight if it means he’s healthy. There is substantially more upside with a superstar shortstop and some actual top prospects filling out the dirt. They’ll need to play better defense, but this collection should rake.

    Outfield
    Byron Buxton and Max Kepler remain the same, but Eddie Rosario and Jake Cave are gone. It’s pretty hard to be disappointed about additions like Joey Gallo and Trevor Larnach. Kepler may be moved at some point, but both the free agent and former top prospect bring plenty to the table. Gallo’s bat may be his calling card, but he’s an excellent defender at all three spots. We saw Larnach show off his arm from left field last year, and there has never been a question about the bat. Grabbing defensive insurance in the form of Michael A. Taylor certainly doesn’t hurt either. Buxton will need to stay healthy, as has always been the issue, but this could be among the better units in baseball.

    Rotation
    Jose Berrios in 2019 may be better than anything the Twins currently have. However, gone are Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, and Kyle Gibson. Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, and Pablo Lopez should represent a much higher water level than that group. Mahle may be the best bet to look like an ace, and Lopez was acquired to raise the water level for the group as a whole. We don’t know how Maeda will fare following elbow surgery, but he’s at least back to 100%. The Twins also have good internal depth behind the initial starting rotation, and that’s a good thing, given the need for spot starts along the way.

    Bullpen
    Trevor May and Taylor Rogers were the best arms in the pen of yesteryear. Now Pete Maki is working with Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, and Griffin Jax. It’s hard to overstate how good Caleb Thielbar has been and how good Jovani Moran could be. Ryne Harper was a nice success story in 2019, but Blake Parker and Trevor Hildenberger types didn’t leave much room for error. Minnesota can’t allow Emilio Pagan to sink them again, but there should be capable arms to bridge and close out games.

    As a whole, it’s almost a sweep when it comes to groupings that look better in 2023 than in 2019. What the 2019 squad did was perform on the field, and that remains to be seen from this contingent. They’ll need to stay healthy, and they must go out there and prove it, but Baldelli should be excited by the look of his roster.

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    This team is setup as better talent than the 2019 team.

    Which is exciting.

    Everything about baseball is about health.

    My prediction, if the Twins regress to the norm for days missed to injury, this team runs away with the Division.  Not that this is a high bar, but after the past 2 seasons this is euphoric. 💪

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    I can't believe someone looked at this roster and then said to themselves "this is a 100 win team." Insane. Absolutely insane. This might not be a .500 team. We will see what it looks like when ST arrives but right now the biggest thing this team has going for it is that we play in - by far - the worst division in baseball. 

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    It’s pretty hard to be disappointed about additions like Joey Gallo and Trevor Larnach."

    Ummmm.... er..... not that hard?

    I feel pretty good about the prediction that 2019 Eddie >>>> 2023 Gallo  (much less 2019 Kepler >>> 2023 Kepler or Gallo) ... Larnach.... a wild card to be sure but certainly has not proved it enough to count on him yet.

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    30 minutes ago, gunnarthor said:

    I can't believe someone looked at this roster and then said to themselves "this is a 100 win team." Insane. Absolutely insane. This might not be a .500 team. We will see what it looks like when ST arrives but right now the biggest thing this team has going for it is that we play in - by far - the worst division in baseball. 

    The 2019 team had multiple guys with career years. This could be a first to third place team. I would still pick Cleveland/Chicago as the favorites.

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    Just a weird article and not sure the point of it.

    Catcher: "He was coming off just a 104 OPS+ the year prior, and that should be a bar the current tandem can clear." This has nothing to do with 2019. 2019 Mitch Garver had a 157 OPS+ with 31 dingers and a Silver Slugger with 4.1 bWAR in 93 games. We would be lucky to get that from the current catchers combined.

    1B/3B: Conveniently didn't mention Miguel Sano and his 139 OPS+ and 34 home runs. CJ Cron had a 104 OPS+ and 25 dingers. Sano 2.5 bWAR and Cron 1.4. We don't even know who is playing 1B for this team. Right now it is Kirilloff who has had two seasons in a row ended with wrist issues. He has also yet to this point even approach anything Sano had done offensively and obviously neither has Miranda. Let's not sit here and pretend we're counting on Miranda to be a massive defensive upgrade over Sano. We would be ecstatic if he did anything close to what Sano did offensively.

    2B/SS: This is where we could upgrade with Correa. However, 2019 Polanco was an All Star. Jonathon Schoop was a solid player and Luis Arraez came up and immediately hit as he does.

    OF: Byron Buxton 2023 is better than Byron Buxton 2019. Everything else is a clear downgrade on paper. 2019 Max Kepler is by far the best offensive version of Max Kepler to this point. His 4.0 bWAR in 2019 is almost as much as the 4.2 combined bWAR in his last two seasons. 2019 Eddie Rosario is miles better offensively than what we have seen from Joey Gallo the last 1.5 seasons. Gallo seems better defensively, but not enough to make up for him not making contact with the baseball.

    SP: Overall 2023's starting rotation should be better. "However, gone are Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, and Kyle Gibson." You mean 2019 All Star Jake Odorizzi? 129 ERA+ and 3.8 bWAR Jake Odorizzi? Or how about 113 ERA+ Michael Pineda? Kyle Gibson is the only clear upgrade over those three.

    Bullpen: 2023's version should be better. Trevor May and Taylor Rogers were fantastic that season. Duran and Lopez will hopefully be able to match that. On paper, Jax, Thielbar, and Moran should make this bullpen much deeper.

    I certainly hope the Twins in 2023 win 101+ games. We're counting on a lot of things to go right for that to happen. Not impossible, but to sit here and pretend this team is better than the 2019 version on paper is wild.

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    Tough crowd. 

    I see the optimism.  I think the Twins can be winners this year.  Avoiding Injuries is the key.  They have the best depth in baseball.  If they sign Gurriel it should be for a low base guarentee.  and that should wrap up the offseason.  at this point I hope they keep Kepler.  if they sign Gurriel it could become a 3 way competition for 2 spots for Gurriel, Kepler and Larnarch for DH and OF.  or DH and 1B .....

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    1 hour ago, gunnarthor said:

    I can't believe someone looked at this roster and then said to themselves "this is a 100 win team." Insane. Absolutely insane. This might not be a .500 team. We will see what it looks like when ST arrives but right now the biggest thing this team has going for it is that we play in - by far - the worst division in baseball. 

    But the division weighted schedule is gone right?

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    I have posted this elsewhere, but I  have to repeat because I am tired of hearing what a great OF Gallo is -  last year according to BR - as a Yankee he 0.1 Offensive WAR and -0.4 defensive WAR.  As a Dodger he had -0.3 Offensive WAR and 0.2 defensive WAR.  

    His Defensive WAR for 8 years was 1.6 - an average of 0.2.  

    This is a promotional piece and I am not buying it.  Let's see the outcomes.  Polanco is past his peak, the OF is filled with what ifs, Miranda has to get past the Sophomore slump and prove he can field at 3B.  Correa is great, but his good season last year could not save us from under 500.

    Mahle, Maeda, Paddock, Gray all have to stay healthy. 

    Pagan is still in the BP.

    Kiriloff has to stay healthy, Buxton has to stay healthy, Larnach needs to stay healthy.

    Someone has to get on base and it won't be Gallo.  

    Jeffers has been below par for two years and with the new larger bases his arm is going to be tested.  Vasquez is a good, but not great catcher. 

    I look forward to the new season, but let's not go overboard on projections and comparisons.

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    I think many comments on this story are mixing hindsight comparisons with what the 2019 team looked like going into the season.

    I believe the author is comparing the 2019 team before the season with the 2023 team as it currently stands.

    It's not really fair to compare this current team that have played 0 games to the results of the 2019 squad.

    This story is about comparing the potential of the '19 squad before the season with the current roster.

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    I'm probably not as down on the team as @mikelink45, but probably like him, I'd rather see some actual regular season games played (like 100+ of them) before I'm taking seriously any comparison to past teams that have played a full year.

    We probably haven't even the last of the trades (no way the Twins should be carrying this many OFs on the 40-man, and please, can we sign Fulmer before we have to trade another prospect for him at the deadline?), which might be a better preseason topic than a 'retrospective' comparison of the unplayed '23 season to years past.

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    4 minutes ago, PatPfund said:

    I'm probably not as down on the team as @mikelink45, but probably like him, I'd rather see some actual regular season games played (like 100+ of them) before I'm taking seriously any comparison to past teams that have played a full year.

    We probably haven't even the last of the trades (no way the Twins should be carrying this many OFs on the 40-man, and please, can we sign Fulmer before we have to trade another prospect for him at the deadline?), which might be a better preseason topic than a 'retrospective' comparison of the unplayed '23 season to years past.

    I am not as down on the team as you might think.  I just do not like promoting the team before the season begins.  Remember how we were going to win the division at All Star last year.  Well I do not like Gallo and I am very outspoken because I keep seeing comments I cannot agree with.  If he performs well (hits at least 220) I can take it, but I like the idea of Larnach and Buxton in the OF - Kepler not so much.  Taylor is good for the bench, but he is no longer as elite as his field once was and his bat is no better than Celestino. If we want to have a free swinger I prefer Wallner at DH. 

    I like Kiriloff's promise, but like Larnach he has not been on the field enough to count on - same with Lewis.  

    I think Polanco is a good trade candidate like Kepler.

    I prefer Gordon over Farmer.  

    I like Vasquez and wonder why Jeffers has not advanced.

    The starting rotation is the best we have had in a long time, but we are always waiting for the surgeon's knife and I want to see some young arms succeed for the future of the team.

    In the BP I am really down on Pagan and the new additions do nothing for me, but I do like Duran, Thielbar, and Alcala and I hope we fill the pen with young arms like Canterino.

    And Correa is great, but not enough to get us to the series.

    Hopefully you can see that like the Twins last year I am at 50/50, but I think there is a chance to move up quickly if health is present. 

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    2 hours ago, gunnarthor said:

    I can't believe someone looked at this roster and then said to themselves "this is a 100 win team." Insane. Absolutely insane. This might not be a .500 team. We will see what it looks like when ST arrives but right now the biggest thing this team has going for it is that we play in - by far - the worst division in baseball. 

    I also can't believe many people looked at the 2019 roster and then said to themselves, "This is a 100-win team."

    But baseball happens.

    I'm with those who suggest that Jan. 24, 2023, looks better than April 1, 2019, did, which is what I think the point of the article is. And interestingly, both the 2019 and 2024 teams were coming off 78-win seasons.

    We've also still got a couple months' worth of tweaking from a FO that has often good in the closing weeks of the offseason. In about three weeks, a couple more roster spots open, and I'd love to see them quickly filled by Fulmer, et. al.    

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    Zero mention of Sano on the IF. 

    Zero mention of Luis Arraez on the IF.

    Zero mention of Nelson Cruz.

    2023 Kepler is the same as 2019 Kepler?

    Gallo is an upgrade?

    We're using Garver's 2018 season as the benchmark but talking comparisons regarding the 2019 and 2023 squad?

    Zero mention of Tyler Duffey in the pen. Rogers, Duffey, and May were better than anybody in this current pen not named Duran. 

    Off the top of my head, those are just the most egregious takes. 

    "As a whole, it’s almost a sweep when it comes to groupings that look better in 2023 than in 2019."

    This article is so shockingly awful it has to be trolling. Those who frequent TD deserve better content than this. Pull it down....

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    41 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

    Um, wut?

    I'm optimistic about this team, but other than SP, I don't see how they are better anywhere other than SS at this point. They might be.....but I don't know how anyone can say that with any certainty. 

    Couldn’t agree more. The rotation is better. And Correa is better.  But that may be it. Just keeping it real. 

    Unless Buxton stays healthy and goes off, we probably have the lightest hitting OF in the majors. 

    Correa cannot make up for a declining Polanco and yet to be dependable Miranda and Kiriloff.

    Catcher is a good mix and should neither a plus or minus by much either way (but no at the plate production like Garv Sauce).

    DH? Please - we likely will be bottom 25% of the league in terms of production. Nelson ruled.

    If healthy, the rotation is deep and should be what carries this team.

    We shall see about the BP, but hopefully Duran and Alcala improve, but I’m worried about Jax and Lopez regression.

    In 2019, Rocco’s weaknesses were hidden by the long ball.  He will not have that luxury at all this year when manufacturing runs and playing good fundamentals will be at the forefront.

    Not even a close comparison….

     

     

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    1 hour ago, Mike Sixel said:

    Um, wut?

    I'm optimistic about this team, but other than SP, I don't see how they are better anywhere other than SS at this point. They might be.....but I don't know how anyone can say that with any certainty. 

    • C: 2019, in a walk. garver just raked, even if he only played 93 games
    • 1B: push? Cron wasn't impressive, Kirilloff is coming off a major injury
    • 2B: 2023. Polanco is better than Schoop
    • SS: 2023. Correa is better than 2019 Polanco, who hit less than Correa and isn't nearly the defender
    • 3B: 2019. Miranda could be great, but Sano had a big year.
    • LF: 2023. This was the start of "Overrated Eddie"; not great at the plate and awful in the field. Gallo is better
    • CF: 2023. Buxton wasn't Buxton yet
    • RF: 2019. Kepler had a fluke year, IMHO but it doesn't mean he wasn't great.
    • DH 2019. Nelson Cruz laughed at Father Time.

    Position players are pretty even head to head...YMMV on the aggregate?

    Rotation:

    • SP1: 2019 Berrios was excellent, gotta take him over Gray
    • SP2: 2019 Odorizzi had a career year. I think Lopez might be our 32?
    • SP3: 2023 I'll take Ryan over Pineda
    • SP4: 2023 Gibson wasn't that good and Maeda should be better
    • SP5: 2023 Mahle in a walk over Perez (blegh)

    Bullpen: A little hard to judge? 2019 was very good with its top guys: Rogers, Duffey, and May. but Duran, Lopez, and Jax aren't bad. i think 2023 bullpen is deeper with Thielbar, Moran, and Alcala over Parker (who got cut), Harper, and Romo?

    It's an interesting argument. They are very different clubs: 2023 has deeper pitching and much better defense. 2019 had a great offense and all the power in the universe. It's important to think about them in context; Rosario's .800 OPS would have looked great in 2022 and might be excellent for a corner OF in 2023, but in the juiced ball year of 2019...it wasn't impressive (OPS+ of 107, worse than Nick Gordon in 2022)

     

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    1 hour ago, Mike Sixel said:

    Um, wut?

    I'm optimistic about this team, but other than SP, I don't see how they are better anywhere other than SS at this point. They might be.....but I don't know how anyone can say that with any certainty. 

    Polanco vs. Schoop at 2B?

    Duran vs. Rogers at closer?

    To me, where I think they are better is in the "collection" of folks. As in

    • Gallo-Buxton-Kepler-Taylor-Gordon (+Larnach-Wallner-Celestino) feels better than Rosario-Buxton-Kepler-Cave-Marwin (+Wade-rookie Arraez-Ian Miller)
    • or Kirilloff-Polanco-Correa-Miranda-Farmer (+Gordon-Lewis-and others) vs. Cron-Schoop-Polanco-Sano-Adrianza (+Marwin-rookie Arraez-Astudillo)

    But you're right, there's still significant question marks in the '23 batch, such as whether Kirilloff will be legit, whether it's Gallo '21 or Gallo '22, etc. It just feels like they have way more possibilities for upside than the 2019 did going into the season.

    Said another way, since folks are into this language -- I think there's just as much likelihood for "ceiling" as the 2019 team had going into the season, but also a much higher "floor."  But hey, that's why they play the game on the field, not on the computer screen. 

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    9 minutes ago, IndianaTwin said:

    Polanco vs. Schoop at 2B?

    Duran vs. Rogers at closer?

    To me, where I think they are better is in the "collection" of folks. As in

    • Gallo-Buxton-Kepler-Taylor-Gordon (+Larnach-Wallner-Celestino) feels better than Rosario-Buxton-Kepler-Cave-Marwin (+Wade-rookie Arraez-Ian Miller)
    • or Kirilloff-Polanco-Correa-Miranda-Farmer (+Gordon-Lewis-and others) vs. Cron-Schoop-Polanco-Sano-Adrianza (+Marwin-rookie Arraez-Astudillo)

    But you're right, there's still significant question marks in the '23 batch, such as whether Kirilloff will be legit, whether it's Gallo '21 or Gallo '22, etc. It just feels like they have way more possibilities for upside than the 2019 did going into the season.

    Said another way, since folks are into this language -- I think there's just as much likelihood for "ceiling" as the 2019 team had going into the season, but also a much higher "floor."  But hey, that's why they play the game on the field, not on the computer screen. 

    I think the floor is 100% higher. The ceiling is about the same. It is all about health (and as in all sports, some luck).

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    3 hours ago, Richie the Rally Goat said:

    But the division weighted schedule is gone right?

    Right, but remember that it's also gone for everyone. That means there should be no difference in the chances of winning the division, although the Twins' overall win total will probably be less than it would have been with the old schedule.

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    12 minutes ago, Nine of twelve said:

    Right, but remember that it's also gone for everyone. That means there should be no difference in the chances of winning the division, although the Twins' overall win total will probably be less than it would have been with the old schedule.

    The odds of an NFL style below .500 division winner skyrocketed.

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