Pop-Tarts Series: Minnesota Twins

Notice how the
Notice how the “Win” inside of “Twins” is underlined. Clever marketing.

Today’s Pop-Tarts Series continues with a comprehensive look at the Minnesota Twins.  The Twins have surprised everyone this year, including themselves, but is this success sustainable?

Overview:

Minnesota is currently a wild card team right now at 33-26, and only 2 games out of first place in the super-tough AL Central.  The Twins have been boosted by the impact of lesser-known players like Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe, as well as aging veterans including Torii Hunter.  The Twins are one of the many teams that could be for real, or could just be a tease.  How likely is it that Minnesota can reclaim a playoff spot for the first time since 2009?  Let’s find out.

Offense: The Twins’ offense has been led by Brian Dozier, a true top-10 second baseman.  Dozier has some power, demonstrated by his 11 home runs, and plays a solid defensive game.  Dozier, Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, and Trevor Plouffe make up the heart of the Twins’ lineup.  Mauer has struggled this year; he has smacked just two home runs and his trademark ability to get on base has failed him.  While Mauer has looked old, Torii Hunter has certainly not.  In what is likely to be his final season in the bigs, Hunter returned to Minnesota in a perceived PR move.  However, he has hit for a near .270 average and 8 home runs, a worthy middle-of-the-order bat.  Following those three is a sneaky-good slugger, Trevor Plouffe.  Plouffe has hit 20 homers in the past, and likely will this year as well.  The rest of the lineup is relatively weak.  Eduardo Escobar is a below-average shortstop, Aaron Hicks is mediocre in center field, and Kurt Suzuki has struggled to live up to his strong 2014 season behind the dish.  Factor in a weak bench, and the Twins aren’t so scary outside of their 2-5 hitters.  However, help is on the way in the form of consensus MLB Top Prospect Byron Buxton, along with top-10 prospect Miguel Sano.  These players will be fixtures by next season, so look out then.  As of now though, the Twins’ offense is a tad underwhelming.

Verdict: B-

Pitching: The Twins’ pitching as a whole is not that bad, although there are some obvious holes.  The biggest hole is in the starting rotation, where there is definitely no clear-cut ace.  Kyle Gibson and Mike Pelfrey have been good, but Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco have struggled to live up to their contracts.  Trevor May has been as inconsistent as any rookie starter this year, and Tommy Milone is just a 5th starter.  The bullpen is still a puzzle for first-year manager Paul Molitor.  Glen Perkins is a proven closer, and young setup men Blaine Boyer and Aaron Thompson have exceeded rookie expectations.  Don’t forget to add veteran bullpenners Casey Fien and Brian Duensing into the mix as well. It should be noted that due to the risky nature of relying on rookies, the Twins are in line for a bullpen collapse in short time. The Twins have the young pieces, but inexperience could cost them in the long run.

Verdict: B-

Overall: The Twins this year are going to be a fun club to watch come trade deadline time.  If they hang around in the mix until the end of July, some shrewd trades could turn Minnesota into a playoff team.  However, if Minnesota falters, they’ll have to wait until next year. This is a rebuilding team, but one that has proven to everybody that they can box in the same ring as the heavyweights.  The Twins’ lack of star power and playoff experience will likely catch up to them, costing them a playoff spot, but if the young pieces continue to grow and top prospects Buxton and Sano join the team in haste, the Twins could be a contender by as early as next year.

Verdict: B-

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