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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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    1 minute ago, Richie the Rally Goat said:

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

    That is most likely to happen when the five teams in the division are all below average but similar. If there's a disparity within the division it increases the chances that at least one team will stay over .500.

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    While I might agree that this article is a little optimistic (but not nearly as much as a lot of folks think), going into the season in 2019 there were VERY few people that would have predicted a 101 win team.  Some may have had a division winner in their prediction, but it took career years (and fluky ones -- 38 year old players with 40 home runs) for 101 victories to happen. 

    Barring the kind of injuries that the Twins had last year, the results should be substantially better.  In fact, I would argue that even WITH the kinds of injuries that were had last year, the floor has been raised substantially on the hitting, the fielding, and the pitching bench.  I think that a first place finish can and should be the hope.  Remember neither Cleveland nor Chicago are great juggernauts.

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    2 hours ago, KirbyDome89 said:

    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....

    Yikes. I may disagree with some of the comparisons, but the article is not that bad. The 2023 team emphasizes defense and that helps pitching. The 2019 team was all about homeruns.  There are two ways to win a baseball game: Score more runs than the other team, or 2) Do not allow the other team to score more runs than your team does. I like good pitching and good defense. It will be interesting to re-visit this article at the end of the 2023 season.

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    I’m happy they brought Correa back, but no, this team isn’t better than 2019.

    Defense wasn’t a problem last year, and despite that, they’ve sacrificed offense for more defense. Even backup defense. 

    Michael Taylor makes 2019 Jake Cave look like Ted Williams.

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    37 minutes ago, tarheeltwinsfan said:

    Yikes. I may disagree with some of the comparisons, but the article is not that bad. The 2023 team emphasizes defense and that helps pitching. The 2019 team was all about homeruns.  There are two ways to win a baseball game: Score more runs than the other team, or 2) Do not allow the other team to score more runs than your team does. I like good pitching and good defense. It will be interesting to re-visit this article at the end of the 2023 season.

    The Twins won 78 games last year. They've added Pablo Lopez, Joey Gallo, and Michael Taylor while subtracting Luis Arraez.

    Take a peak at just how insane the numbers are for so many members of that 2019 team before arguing that pitching health/effectiveness and defense is going to make up a gap of 20+ games. 

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    The more I think about it it’s a point I won’t dismiss. The starting pitching has the potential to be much better, and maybe the bullpen too. Still there is no apparent ace when you need someone to step up. Berrios pitched well but wasn’t and isn’t an ace.  But now they have Correa to solidify the lineup and leadership. 

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    1 hour ago, KirbyDome89 said:

    The Twins won 78 games last year. They've added Pablo Lopez, Joey Gallo, and Michael Taylor while subtracting Luis Arraez.

    Take a peak at just how insane the numbers are for so many members of that 2019 team before arguing that pitching health/effectiveness and defense is going to make up a gap of 20+ games. 

    They also won't be starting Archer and Bundy all year. They are also much deeper when injury occurs than last year. Also, Farmer and Vazquez say hi 

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    Never seen so many guys so hung up on what they think possible scenarios may shade into predictions if a particular analysis is applied to projections of potential in what could have been worlds which only statistics can actually adequately describe if dis-aggregated from previous analyses which no one can possibly contest.

    Ya.

    Go Twins.

    Let's have some fun.

     

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    1 minute ago, Mike Sixel said:

    They also won't be starting Archer and Bundy all year. They are also much deeper when injury occurs than last year. Also, Farmer and Vazquez say hi 

    Odds that Kyle Farmer outperforms the combination of Marwin/Schoop/Arraez?

    I actually forgot about Vasquez, but take his career high OPS and stretch it across this entire season in MN, he's 250+ points shy of Garver. Jeffers is 100ish points below Castro in each of his full seasons. C is a bloodbath. 

    Yeah I think the rotation is better as far as depth/upside goes. Gray/Mahle/Lopez can't match Berrios or Odorizzi as far as durability is concerned and Berrios is probably the best of the entire bunch, but if those three guys stay healthy and are productive Ryan + a warm body should be miles ahead of Gibson and Perez. Gray is good for 130ish innings and Mahle is probably about the same unless he's a beacon of health. That leaves roughly 100 innings that need to be covered (Berrios + Odorizzi) which you'd expect Lopez to hit, but he essentially was Dylan Bundy for 2/3 of last season, i.e. pretty damn meh, and he missed half of each of the two full seasons prior to that, so which Pablo Lopez are we getting? 

     

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    While I'm an eternal optimist, and liking this offseason more and more, I agree that Ted might be going out on a bit of a limb here. But then again, I think what he's trying to examine is the construction of both teams headed in to the season, and not declaring the 2023 Twins are prepared to hit or surpass 101 wins. There are a lot of IF's to be proven for the 2023 squad, but there were also a lot of them for the 2019 team as well. And while it's an interesting coincidence that both teams were/are coming off 78 wins the previous season, the 2022 Twins were in 1st place in the Central for most of the season until early August. And I don't think that can be easily dismissed as part of the equation. A more relevant point is how much better this team might be compared to the beginning roster of 2022. But, alas, that's a different topic.

    Regarding the roster to BEGIN 2019 vs 2023...as of today...along with potential production:

    CATCHER: A close push. Defense, game calling,  etc, probably similar. Vazquez is no slouch with the bat, and Jeffers has flashed what he can still be. Jeffers is still young and only about 550 ML AB. I doubt we see an offensive explosion like Garver had, but combined totals might end up close.

    EDGE: 2019

    INFIELD: Sano had a big year. Can Miranda start to fulfill all the potential we've seen the last 2yrs? He will probably be the equivalent defensively. Probably less HR, but better AVG. Correa is absolutely an upgrade at SS over Polanco, and that's not a shot at JP. And speaking of Polanco, someone stated earlier he's about done. PLEASE! He's only 29yo, a fine 2B, and was one of the Twins best producers in 2022 before injuries knocked him down and eventually out. He's a terrific player still. I know it's still a big IF hanging over the Twins head, but if the early reports about AK are accurate, we're going to finally see him start to reach his potential. Having Farmer as a really nice utility piece and Gordon able to slip in here and there offers a lot of flexibility.

    EDGE: 2023 with Correa, Polanco at 2B, and Kirilloff finally able to start playing up to his potential. 

    OUTFIELD: Buxton has begun to explode and is a better player now than then. As of now, Kepler is a "what" if he remains a Twin. Gallo is also a huge question mark. Is he the 2022 version? Or the previous 6 seasons before version? Larnach, Gordon, and even Taylor provide greater depth and flexibility than 2019 had. Rosario was good, Kepler had a special year.

    EDGE: 2019 for now. But the depth and versatility of 2023 is better. Gallo being his previous self, the improvement of Buxton, the potential of Larnach, having Gordon maturing and the addition of Taylor makes 2023 potentially as good, or better and deeper.

    ROTATION: With all due respect to Berrios...and I was a big fan...and others involved, the 1-9 of 2023 is just better and deeper. Enough said.

    EDGE: 2023

    BULLPEN: The Twins cobbled a 2019 bullpen together with a couple really good arms and duct tape and bailing wire. Romo was a huge addition at the break. Combined, they ended up with a good pen that supported the staff/team. But looking at the 2023 pen as of today, depth options, and the opportunity to maybe/probably add at least 1 more arm, this simply has the look of a better and deeper pen.

    EDGE: 2023

    The WILD CARD between the two teams, lineup/offensively is Cruz at DH. With no disrespect, I think his leadership is replaced by Correa, the growing Buxton, Vazquez, and even Gray for "taking charge" of the pitchers. And since the Twins won't have a FIXTURE at DH in 2023, there is no way to truly examine his bat in 2019 vs 2023 since a deeper roster will mean DH is given over to the collection of what is a deeper roster with greater flexibility to fill that role. And I'm NOT dismissing his production. But the 2019 Twins didn't have Buxton DHing, or have Larnach, or the POTENTIAL of Gallo, or a Gordon or Farmer filling in, etc, making DH a revolving position.

    Indiana Twin is 100% correct in stating games are played on the field vs a computer screen. But if you examine the 2 Twins teams, as offered up in the OP, the 2023 Twins are probably better defensively. The entire pitching staff is deeper from top to bottom even without any other additions. Offensively, how do you predict a season that hasn't started yet? On paper, the 2023 Twins look to have at least as good, or better, of a lineup and better depth than 2019. 

    If you choose to look at the RESULTS of the 2019 season, fun as it was, career years across the board, live ball in play, a HR record that may never be broken, then yes, the 2023 offense is going to fall short, possibly very short.

    I had some of the most fun I've ever had as a Twins fan for 50yrs in 2019 and 2020. And nothing will ever take that away from me. But things change, including the baseball....damnit MLB....and what we're really talking about is the construction of the roster between those 2yrs. As well as the construction of the 2023 roster vs the 2022 version. EVERY SINGLE YEAR is different than the year before. That's one of the beautiful parts of baseball. 

    I've stated my opinions because it was FUN to do so. We might as well have discussed the 2023 team vs 1987 or 1991 versions. But the ONLY thing that really matters is ARE THE 2023 TWINS BETTER THAN THE 2022 VERSION? And I'm sure we will have an OP on that very soon.

    FWIW, I think they are. Other than that, I'm looking forward, and not behind. 

    ***But it was fun to compare.

     

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    Neither Vasquez nor Jeffers are going to hit 36 home runs or produce nearly as much offensively as Garver did in 2019.

    Miranda, Kirilloff, Correa, and Polanco could certainly be one of the better infields. That being said, Cron, Sano, Arraez, and Polanco in 2019 is hard to match.

    I don't know about everyone else, but I hated the Gallo signing. It doesn't improve the outfield in any way, shape, or form. He most certainly will not produce like Rosario did in 2019.

    Who in the DH role is going to hit 39 home runs in 2019 as Nelson Cruz did?

    This offseason is not near complete. Falvine have much work to do to elevate this roster to the level in which I (and many fans) would be pleased with.

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    This years team will win division and finally Brest 18 game playoff losing streak. Huge and sky high expectations especially with the signings. We are loaded to do big things this season and set for years. Not if but when we win World Series!!!! I can’t wait for season to start!!!! Go twins!!!

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    12 hours ago, Old Twins Hat said:

    Never seen so many guys so hung up on what they think possible scenarios may shade into predictions if a particular analysis is applied to projections of potential in what could have been worlds which only statistics can actually adequately describe if dis-aggregated from previous analyses which no one can possibly contest.

    Ya.

    Go Twins.

    Let's have some fun.

     

    It is "fun " for me to think of possible scenarios and to predict what will happen this season. I really did not understand the rest of your concerns stated in your post above. But I am also excited for then coming season. I enjoy discussing then Twins here at TD because I do not know anyone in my daily routines here in North Carolina who is interested in the Twins. So I get my "Twins fix" here at TD. Thanks to everyone for the interesting and informative and humorous dialog. I hope to meet some of you in person at Ft. Myers at the Detroit, Baltimore and Dominican games and on the back fields and the batting cages under the stadium in 6 weeks. 

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    28 minutes ago, Peter said:

    This years team will win division and finally Brest 18 game playoff losing streak. Huge and sky high expectations especially with the signings. We are loaded to do big things this season and set for years. Not if but when we win World Series!!!! I can’t wait for season to start!!!! Go twins!!!

    This is the best post of 2023. Thanks Peter.

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    10 hours ago, cHawk said:

    Neither Vasquez nor Jeffers are going to hit 36 home runs or produce nearly as much offensively as Garver did in 2019.

    Miranda, Kirilloff, Correa, and Polanco could certainly be one of the better infields. That being said, Cron, Sano, Arraez, and Polanco in 2019 is hard to match.

    I don't know about everyone else, but I hated the Gallo signing. It doesn't improve the outfield in any way, shape, or form. He most certainly will not produce like Rosario did in 2019.

    Who in the DH role is going to hit 39 home runs in 2019 as Nelson Cruz did?

    This offseason is not near complete. Falvine have much work to do to elevate this roster to the level in which I (and many fans) would be pleased with.

    Was any member of the 2019 infield which you list here (Cron,Sano,Arraez at 2B and Polanco at SS) a better than average fielder? I don't think so. I contend the Twins 2023 infield is better at fielding at each position in the infield. This will make the Twins pitching better in 2023. The 2023 OF is one of the best, if not the best, fielding OF  in the major leagues. A Platium glove winner and 2 additional gold glove winners plus an excetionally good fielding Kep puts the Twins at the top. Gallo is a gold glove OF'er. That improves the OF in some way, shape or form. I agree that we do not have a 39 HR hitter at DH, plus Cruz was a positive influence on the whole team. Remember, when comparing 2019 to 2023, to discount the 2019 power numbers due to the juiced baseballs that year. I'll close my argument with 2 words: Jhoan Duran.

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    17 hours ago, Rod Carews Birthday said:

    While I might agree that this article is a little optimistic (but not nearly as much as a lot of folks think), going into the season in 2019 there were VERY few people that would have predicted a 101 win team.  Some may have had a division winner in their prediction, but it took career years (and fluky ones -- 38 year old players with 40 home runs) for 101 victories to happen. 

    Barring the kind of injuries that the Twins had last year, the results should be substantially better.  In fact, I would argue that even WITH the kinds of injuries that were had last year, the floor has been raised substantially on the hitting, the fielding, and the pitching bench.  I think that a first place finish can and should be the hope.  Remember neither Cleveland nor Chicago are great juggernauts.

    I don’t see the Twins as a juggernaut either, and Tigers/Royals are less of the pushovers they have been

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