2016 Record: 59-103
Last Place, AL Central
Team ERA: 5.08 (29th)
Team OPS: .738 (13th)
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What Went Right
Byron Buxton appeared to figure it out in September following multiple demotions back to the minor leagues and finally looks ready to match the top-prospect hype. Brian Dozier slugged 42 home runs, the highest total for a Twins player since Harmon Killebrew hit 49 during his 1969 MVP campaign. Ervin Santana registered a 3.38 ERA in 30 starts, building on a strong finish from his PED-tainted 2015. German-born Max Kepler established himself as a possibly-viable everyday right fielder, tallying 17 home runs and 63 RBI in 113 games at age 23. Oh, and the Twins got the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft by virtue of finishing with the worst record in baseball.
What Went Wrong
A whole lot. 2016 was a lost cause for the Twins by the second weekend of the regular season. They went 0-9 in their first nine games and were staring up at a seven-game deficit in the American League Central standings by the time they notched win No. 1 on April 15 against the Angels. Young slugger Miguel Sano took steps backward offensively and defensively. Top pitching prospect Jose Berrios had a brutal 8.02 ERA in 14 major league starts, yielding 74 hits, 35 walks, and 56 runs -- 52 earned -- in 58 1/3 innings. Joe Mauer again finished with an OPS in the mid-700s and failed to summit the elusive 12-homer plateau for the seventh consecutive year. He’s owed $23 million each of the next two seasons. Veteran closer Glen Perkins landed on the disabled list April 13 with a left shoulder strain and never came off it, appearing in just two total games. South Korean import Byung Ho Park hit .123/.208/.236 in 30 games between May 17 and June 28 before mercifully getting demoted to the minor leagues. And that’s really only scratching the surface on the troubles in Minnesota.
** The fantasy focus with this team centers squarely around the present and future of Byron Buxton, who batted .287/.357/.653 from September 1 on and registered the fastest inside-the-park home run in the Statcast era in the Twins’ regular-season finale against the White Sox. The former No. 2 overall pick can absolutely fly, and he boasts a tantalizingly well-rounded .302/.380/.501 career batting line as a minor leaguer. It feels like Buxton is ready to explode as a fantasy commodity in 2017 -- what will be his age-23 season. He only had 10 steals at the major league level in 2015, mostly because he couldn’t get on base for the first four months. That might underrate his ability in that department leading into fantasy draft season in 2017. Billy Hamilton, Jonathan Villar, and Dee Gordon will have company for the MLB lead in steals.
** Brian Dozier slugged 28 home runs in 2015, but his second-half power outburst this year was still very much a surprise. The 29-year-old second baseman was batting .191 with a .617 OPS at the end of April and .202 with a .624 OPS at the end of June. From the first of July until October 1, he produced a .294 batting average and .989 OPS with 37 home runs and 82 RBI in 109 games. Dozier also swiped 15 bases in that stretch, finishing with 18 steals for the year. There is reason to believe that he’s made real and lasting adjustments as a hitter. Dozier put more balls in the air in 2016 than just about anyone in baseball, demolishing inside pitches. He’s probably not going to be a 40-homer guy again, but something like 35 seems doable. The biggest question is probably whether new front office boss Derek Falvey is going to trade him.
** Minnesota relievers combined for just 26 saves in 2016. Fernando Abad had one. Ryan Pressly had one. Kevin Jepsen had seven and Brandon Kintzler had 17. Glen Perkins’ labrum needed to be reattached to the bone in his left shoulder in late June and the longtime closer might not be fully rehabbed by the beginning of the 2017 season. He almost certainly won’t be saving games. This latest shoulder injury could seriously be a career-threatener for the 33-year-old Perkins, who tallied 102 saves for Minnesota between 2013-2015 alongside a 1.097 WHIP and 3.08 ERA. Kintzler is probably going to be remain the primary ninth-inning guy leading into 2017 -- rebuilding teams don’t usually make major closer upgrades -- but he doesn’t inspire much fantasy excitement after posting a relatively underwhelming 3.15 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 35/8 K/BB ratio across 54 1/3 innings this season.
Key Free Agents: Kurt Suzuki
Team Needs: Both starting and relief pitching, a future star with that 2017 top overall pick, some kind of player development potion, and a front office that is not afraid of math.