2020 Record: 36-24
First Place, AL Central
Team ERA: 3.58 (4th)
Team OPS: .743 (15th)
What Went Right
For the second consecutive season, the Twins were crowned as American League Central champions. They went 7-3 against the division-rival Indians, 13-7 against opponents in the National League Central, and compiled a stellar 24-7 record at home in a fanless Target Field. Nelson Cruz led the way offensively, blasting 16 home runs in 53 regular-season games alongside a .303/.397/.595 batting line -- all at age 40. Kenta Maeda, acquired from the Dodgers in February, registered a 2.70 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and 80/10 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 innings (11 starts) en route to a top-three finish in the AL Cy Young Award balloting. Byron Buxton needed only one stint on the injured list and slugged 13 home runs in 39 games while delivering a career-high .844 OPS. Miguel Sano battled COVID-19 during the early part of summer camp but recovered in time for Opening Day and appeared in 53 of a possible 60 games, hitting 13 home runs. Michael Pineda returned from a 60-game performance-enhancing drug suspension in early September and put up a 3.38 ERA in five starts down the stretch. Rich Hill missed time with a shoulder issue but had a 3.03 ERA in his eight outings. The rotation as a whole combined for a 3.54 ERA, with the bullpen coming in at 3.62. In terms of run prevention, it was the fourth-best overall pitching staff in the major leagues.
What Went Wrong
It was another fruitless October, as the Twins got swept by the Astros in the best-of-three Wild Card Series, before the calendar even flipped from September. They’ve now lost a logic-defying 18 straight postseason games dating back to 2004, the longest such streak in North American sports history. Josh Donaldson, signed to a four-year, $92 million free agent contract in January, was bothered by right calf trouble for much of the summer and did not take an at-bat in the playoffs due to lingering discomfort. Mitch Garver, after enjoying a breakout season in 2019, stumbled to a .167/.247/.264 slash line in 23 games this year while fighting intercostal and groin injuries. Jake Odorizzi, who accepted a one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer to stay in Minnesota, threw only 13 2/3 innings due to a variety of ailments and allowed 10 earned runs. Randy Dobnak had a 1.78 ERA through his first six starts and an 8.27 ERA over the next four, which led to him being optioned to the alternate training site on September 16. Jorge Polanco batted just .258/.304/.354 in 55 games and needed a second surgery on his right ankle last month. Luis Arraez produced a .321 batting average when healthy but appeared in only 32 games due to knee and ankle issues. Marwin Gonzalez, in the final year of a two-year, $21 million deal, hit just .211/.286/.320. All told, the offense ranked 10th in the AL in runs scored, behind non-playoff teams like the Red Sox and Orioles.
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** Jose Berrios was the most popular Twins player on fantasy draft boards this spring and summer with an ADP of 79.7 in Yahoo leagues. His rate stats weren’t spectacular -- 4.00 ERA, 1.317 WHIP -- but it’s difficult to properly qualify those in such a condensed campaign and Berrios did put up a career-best 9.7 K/9, recording 68 punchouts in 63 innings. The 26-year-old right-hander saw a significant uptick in velocity (94.3 mph average fastball, compared to 92.8 mph in 2019) and should again be treated as a budding ace leading into 2021 despite the underwhelming back-of-the-baseball-card numbers.
** The most popular Twins hitter in Yahoo drafts was Eddie Rosario with an ADP of 83.9. He largely performed as expected, tallying 13 home runs and 42 RBI in 57 games alongside a .792 OPS, though there is talk now that the 29-year-old outfielder is likely to be non-tendered this winter with salary arbitration price projected to shoot up near $10-12 million. Rosario should have no trouble finding a starting job somewhere -- he could even return to Minnesota in the end -- but the fantasy outlook on him for 2021 is somewhat in flux.
** What to make of Mitch Garver? He was the fourth or fifth catcher off the board in most fantasy drafts for 2020 after posting a .995 OPS with 31 home runs over 93 games played in 2019. Then came a .551 OPS with two home runs in 23 games played this year. Injuries are partly to blame, and there is some small sample size theatre at play here, but combine that drastic dropoff with the arrival of Ryan Jeffers and Garver might not even be top 10 among fantasy options behind the plate for 2021.
** Taylor Rogers led the Twins in saves this season, as predicted, but the overall numbers weren’t great (4.05 ERA, 1.50 WHIP in 21 appearances) and manager Rocco Baldelli could do more mixing and matching with the closer role moving forward. Tyler Duffey should get some late-round love next spring coming off his 1.88 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 31/6 K/BB ratio in 24 innings this season. Dating back to the beginning of 2019, the 29-year-old right-hander boasts a 2.31 ERA over his last 81 2/3 frames.
** Young outfielder Alex Kirilloff made his major league debut in the Twins’ Wild Card Series Game 2 loss to Houston and figures to be in the running for an Opening Day roster spot in 2021, especially with the likely non-tender of Rosario and the chatter that Max Kepler might be a trade candidate this offseason. Kirilloff, the 15th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, has a career .317/.365/.498 minor league batting line with growing power and a bit of speed. He’s a name to watch.
Team Needs: A starting pitcher or two and a power bat for the DH spot, assuming Cruz is not retained. They could also use a utility infielder and a bit of back-end bullpen depth. In general, there’s a strong core in place. Better health for Donaldson would go a long way.