After a 100-loss campaign in 2016, the Twins qualified for a Wild Card berth last season, a remarkable one-year turnaround. This year, fans in the Twin Cities hope to see continued improvement under popular manager (and St. Paul native) Paul Molitor. The front office made attempts at big splash acquisitions over the winter but lost out on the likes of Shohei Otani and Jake Arrieta; instead, Minnesota signed several second-tier free agents to shore up an already promising core.
The '18 Twins will have a bit of a Seattle flavor to them—new to the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes are several former Mariners, including first baseman Logan Morrison, starting pitcher Michael Pineda, and reliever Fernando Rodney. Also joining the club are pitchers Jake Odorizzi, Addison Reed, and Anibal Sánchez. The starting rotation was a weakness for Minnesota last year, and Odorizzi doesn't appear to offer much help, but the bullpen should be better.
The lineup doesn't feature any one standout bat, but does have some solid hitters in Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, and rising star Byron Buxton. Not exactly Murderers' Row, but generally enough to keep the Twins in the game.
Players to Watch
Fernando Rodney: The ninth-inning tension we came to know as The Fernando Rodney Experience comes to Minnesota, the latest stop on the 41-year-old journeyman's itinerary. Since leaving Seattle, Rodney was great in Chicago and San Diego and bad in Miami, then last year shot 39 save-arrows into the desert air with the Diamondbacks, proving he can still get it done despite an always-high ERA.
Byron Buxton: This is the guy Twins fans are most excited about. Possibly the fastest payer in the game today, Buxton would be a 100-steal man in another era. His speed shines in center field as well, and he wasted no time in earning his first Gold Glove in his first full season last year. He's still raw with the bat, though, and needs to learn plate discipline if he wants to be an all-around threat.
Miguel Sano: Minnesota's lone All-Star a year ago, the third baseman was in some hot water at the start of the year. Not only did he tip the scales at spring training with what Twins GM Thad Levine called "generous carriage," Sano faced possible suspension over a sexual assault charge filed by a photographer over an incident at an autograph-signing event, but escaped when the Commissioner's office found "insufficient evidence" to impose punishment.
Paul Molitor: The Hall of Fame player is now also a Manager of the Year—only Molitor and Frank Robinson share that distinction—after taking the Twins from last place to a Wild Card appearance basically overnight. And he's done it without much star power on the field, relying on young homegrown talent and middle-of-the-road pitching. A highly religious Christian, Molitor might credit God for the Twins' remarkable showing last year, but given that his squad was beaten by the Devil's Team, the New York Yankees, in the Wild Card game I have my doubts.
Logan Morrison: When LoMo was with the Mariners in 2014 and '15, he was expected to be a Jack Zduriencik special, e.g. a bulky home-run hitter that didn't offer much else. Instead, Morrison proved to be a capable first baseman with good defensive instincts and a halfway-decent batting eye as well as someone who could deliver occasional pop. He'll never be a superstar, but he should help the Twins as he splits time between first and DH with Joe Mauer.
|Minnesota Twins||(1961 - present)|
|World Champions:||1924, 1987, 1991|
|League Champions:||1925, 1933, 1965|
|Division Titles:||1969, 1970|
Lance Lynn: A mid-spring-training free-agent signing, Lynn brings the promise of stability to a weak Twins starting rotation. In six years with the Cardinals, Lynn averaged over 190 innings per season and a nearly 2½-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Michael Pineda: Once a prized Mariner prospect, Pineda was the cost in what was supposed to be a fantastic deal with the Yankees for Jesús Montero. To say that trade was a bust would be kind, but it wasn't all that great for New York either, as Pineda spent a lot of his pinstripe time on the disabled list and underwent a season-ending Tommy John procedure last year. He doesn't figure to be much of a factor this season, but the Twins signed him through 2019 in hopes of a comeback post-rehab.
Craig Breslow: Breslow is one of two Yale grads who appeared in MLB in 2017, the other being catcher Ryan Lavarnway (six games for Oakland). They are Yale's 23rd and 24th big-leaguers; the first was Edgar Smith (1883 Providence Grays), the best-known Smokey Joe Wood and Ron Darling.