Minnesota Twins series preview: The season begins!

Mar 30, 2023 - 6:00 PM
Tampa Bay Rays v Minnesota Twins
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

The Twins won 101 games in 2019, and made the playoffs the following year in the COVID-shortened season. But both seasons ended in playoff disappointment, extending their record 18-game post-season losing streak. Despite making a push with some big moves the last two years, the Twins have been out of contention altogether, with losing seasons in 2021 and 2022.

The Twins return in 2023 hoping to return to the post-season to snap that losing streak. The Twins bring back star shortstop Carlos Correa, after an off-season of drama that saw him sign with both the Giants and Mets before those deals fell through over concerns over a leg injury. Byron Buxton is healthy for now, and if he stays on the field he could become a legit MVP candidate. The Twins will need bounce back seasons from Max Kepler and Joey Gallo, who was signed as a free agent this winter. Jose Miranda is a promising young hitter for the Twins, and Trevor Larnach is a former first rounder that could help as well. The Twins were hit hard with injuries last year, and will already begin this season without infielder Jorge Polanco and outfielder Alex Kiriloff.

Last year the Twins had a motley group of stop-gap free agents in the starting rotation who finished with the sixth-worst ERA in the American League as starters. This year the Twins upgraded by bringing in high-upside pitcher Pablo López from the Marlins. The 27-year-old is a fastball/change up pitcher who relies on a high groundball rate, but can also miss some bats. Sonny Gray returns after a solid season in his first year in Minnesota, bringing back his deep arsenal and propensity for getting ground balls. Joe Ryan had a terrific rookie campaign last year with one of the most effective fastballs in baseball despite topping out in the low-90s.

Manager Rocco Baldelli was known for having a very quick hook last year, something that irritated Gray.

“I feel like we had a group last year that was pretty content with going four innings, and [where] going four innings and five innings is considered a good start. I disagreed with that then, I disagree with that now.”

With an improved rotation this year, Baldelli may trust his starters to deeper in games, particularly since the middle relievers are pretty unproven. In the late innings, Baldelli can rely on former Royals pitcher Jorge López, who put together an All-Star season last year. He may be eclipsed by hard-throwing Jhoan Duran, who was one of the best relievers in baseball last year with his 100 mph fastball.

The Twins have a new look with some fresh new threads, but they return much of the same team that won just 78 games last year. Still, they underperformed their Pythag run expectancy, and with some pitching upgrades they could be a pretty formidable team in the American League.

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