I really couldn’t think of anyone better to write about the
South Dakota Minnesota Twins than Fargo fan and expert John McGee. You’ll know exactly who John is if, like me, you’re a fan of the excellent Bat Flips and Nerds podcast. As a Red Sox fan, John is casting his net wide this season with a commitment to following the Orioles and graciously taking on the mantle as Bush League Ramble’s Twins previewer. Give John and Bat Flips and Nerds a follow on Twitter and do check out their excellent website too, as it is always stocked with great content.
Sometimes you want to try and discuss something without the mention of something obvious. But it’s there in your eyeline, sneaking into view, a spider on your brain, a growl in your stomach; yearning and coarse.
BARTOLO COLON PITCHED FOR THE 2017 MINNESOTA TWINS
So did Jaime Garcia, in case you’d forgotten. One game. One single, solitary game, before he was flipped to the Yankees.
The 2017 Twins were weird.
On paper, their 85 and 77 record was enough for the second wildcard spot, but tells less of their story than Garcia’s own status and the presence of Colon on the roster. The team over-achieved wildly, despite contending with the loss of ace pitcher Ervin Santana, only to see a loss of form the week before the deadline precipitate moves to flip Garcia and dispatch closer Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals.
And then they got good again, and for around 15 minutes they looked like they might finally win a game in New York. But they didn’t.
The 2017 Twins were a curio, a story behind the stats. The first team to go from 100 losses to a wildcard, but more than that, too.
OUT: Craig Breslow (Too cerebral for the sport)
The Twins are…err, good now?
Built around the young core of Byron Buxton, flame throwing starter Jose Berrios and corner outfield pair Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler, smart, cost-controlled additions in Lynn and Morrison significantly improve them on both sides of the ball. Morrison adds a real power threat to the middle of the line-up and Lynn papers over some of the cracks in a creaking and featherlite rotation that handed too many starts to Colon and Tyler Duffey last year to allow any comfort.
The loss of shortstop Jorge Polanco for 80 games for a failed PED test (cretin) takes the burnish off one of baseball’s most promising and exciting lineups, but the team should have enough in the tank to cope. The absence of Santana at the start of the season is also a blow after his career 2017 but surely wasn’t unforeseen of one so brittle.
The bullpen should continue to be a strength with Reed and Duke acting as ‘firemen’ before handing off to the wildest ride in baseball – Fernando Rodney. The great man’s performance will likely be an indicator of the Twins in 2018 – up and down, nervy, but will get the job done.
86-76 – a one-game improvement, but will miss out a wild card slot this time out as the AL West steps up. Will beat up on their home division, but won’t have enough in the tank without Polanco and doubts over the rotation remaining.
Buxton. The best player in baseball who you don’t watch (don’t pretend you don’t watch Votto, liars). In an AL which houses Jackie Bradley Jr and the ‘Air Kevins’ – Pillar and Kiermaier, Buxton took the 2017 AL Gold Glove for centre field with good reason – he was incredible. His 5.2 bWAR was built on his amazing coverage, ‘jump’ and athleticism. His swing is showing signs of improvement and he is on the brink of becoming the franchise star his place as the No. 1 overall prospect predicted; fewer strikeouts and he’ll become one of the game’s megastars, even in Minnesota.
One to watch
Trevor May – the quirky pitcher is coming back from Tommy John surgery and reports suggest the Twins are trending toward employing him as a starter, rather than hope his electric stuff plays up out of the pen and a lighter load improves durability. He holds four serviceable big league pitches, working off a 95-98mph ‘heater’ so you can see why. He’s also terrific value, a Dungeons and Dragons obsessive who makes a huge play of his distinctive eyebrows and has a page dedicated to his cats on his personal website. More players like Trevor, please.
Find my earnest drivel @batflips_nerds or www.batflipsandnerds.com – they let me talk a bit and make me write increasingly torrid parp about the Baltimore Orioles. At least give me the pleasure of your clicks.