It has now been over 30 years since the Twins World Series win in 1991. We won 6 division titles in 9 years from 2002 to 2010, but only managed to win 1 playoff series. From 2011-2016, the Twins missed the playoffs all 6 years. In 2019, we won 101 games but got swept in the Division Round by the Yankees, and in 2020 were bounced by the Astros in the Wild Card round.
There was plenty of excitement for the Twins going into the 2021 season, with most of the 2019 & 2020 roster intact. We started 5-2, then hit a 4-13 skid. We finished with a 9-15 record in April, including 0-5 in extra-inning games and 4 Blown Saves. The Twins were 39-50 at the All-Star break, and proceeded to trade away our top two players, Berrios and Cruz. We went 6-13 against the White Sox in 2021, who won the AL Central for the first time since 2008.
The Twins have been among the best power hitting teams the last 3 years. In 2019, we crushed an MLB-record 307 HRs, and were 6th in HR in the shortened 2020 season. In 2021, we hit 228 HR, 5th in the MLB.
In 2021, the Twins scored 4.5 runs per game, 14th in the MLB. The Twins best hitter over the last 3 years, Nelson Cruz, signed with the Nationals for 2022. In less than 3 seasons with the Twins, Cruz hit .304 / .386 with 76 HR, 191 RBI and a .984 OPS.
Going into the offseason there was uncertainty what the Twins would do with Buxton. On December 1st, the Twins locked up Buxton with a 7-year, $100 million deal. However, there were still big question marks around starting pitching and the shortstop position. On March 12th, the Twins traded Mitch Garver for SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa and RHP Ronny Henriquez. The next day we traded pitching prospect Chase Petty for veteran starting pitcher Sonny Gray. Later that day we flipped Josh Donaldson, Kiner-Falefa, and Ben Rortvedt to the Yankees for C Gary Sanchez and 3B Gio Urshela. The Yankees are taking on Donaldson’s $42 million salary over the next 2 years, giving the Twins more room to make big moves.
That big move happened on March 19th, as the Twins signed Carlos Correa to a 3-year, $105.3 million deal. The Twins were obviously in need of a shortstop, but signing Correa was still a surprise to most.
The Twins should be a top-10 lineup in the MLB in 2022. Arraez is one of the toughest outs in baseball and has a career .313 average (.334 vs RHP) and .374 OBP through 3 seasons. Buxton only played in 61 games in 2021, but had an MVP-type slash line with 19 HR, 23 doubles, and 9 SB. Last year’s team MVP Jorge Polanco had a monster 2021 with 33 HR, 35 doubles, 97 runs, and 98 RBI. Now we add in Carlos Correa, who has been an elite hitter his entire career and has phenomenal career stats at Target Field.
#MnTwins Carlos Correa is a .413/.443/.762 hitter with 16 runs, 26 hits, 7 doubles, 5 home runs, and 20 RBI in 15 career games at Target Field.— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) March 19, 2022
Sano should continue being the same, but it would be great to see him reach 40 HR in a season. I don’t care about the strikeouts if he’s hitting bombs and driving in runs. Kepler struggled in 2021, but look for him to bounce back in the 4th year of his 5-year contract.
Sanchez, Kiriloff, Urshela, Jeffers, Larnach, Gordon, Garlick, and Miranda will round out the bottom of our lineup. We know what to expect from Sanchez, low average but high HR rate. Jeffers, only 24 years old, should catch 80-90 games, and Sanchez should catch around 60. Urshela had an .889 OPS in 2019, an .858 OPS in 2020, but struggled in 2021 with a .720 OPS and only 14 HR. Hopefully we get the 2019-2020 version of Urshela this year.
The remainder of the AB’s will be a competition and rewarded to whomever produces and forces Rocco to keep them in the lineup. Nick Gordon can swipe pillows, which we desperately need, along with the ability to play multiple positions. Jose Miranda had a huge year in AA/AAA in 2021, totaling 30 HR, 94 RBI, and a .344/.401/.973 slash line. Look for Miranda to get called up soon, especially if he starts hot in St. Paul. Two Shortstop prospects to keep an eye on are Royce Lewis and Austin Martin. Lewis, the 1st overall pick in the 2017 draft, did not play in 2020 or 2021. Martin, who the Twins received in the Berrios trade, is another guy to keep an eye on in St. Paul year.
I expect the lineup to be deep and productive all year, however, the Starting Pitching will determine the outcome of the 2022 season.
Below are the Twins starting pitching ranks in 2021:
|IP by Starters||795.2||21st|
Oof. These numbers would be much worse too when you take away Berrios’ and Pineda’s numbers. Jose started 20 games before he was traded to Toronto at the deadline: 7-5, 3.48 ERA, 121 IP, 126 K, 1.04 WHIP. He signed a 7-year, $131 million deal with Toronto this offseason. In 6 years for the Twins, Jose went 55-43 in 135 starts, 4.04 ERA, and 779 K in 781 IP. He made 2 All-Star games and pitched in 3 postseason games for us (12 IP, 5 ER, 14 K). Michael Pineda signed with the Tigers for 2022. In 2021, he won 9 games with a 3.62 ERA in 21 starts for the Twins.
Kenta Maeda finished 2nd in the Cy Young in 2020, with a 2.70 ERA and 0.75 WHIP. Last year, he struggled a bit with a 4.66 ERA in 21 starts, and on September 1st underwent Tommy John surgery. The 34-year-old right hander has 2 years left on his contract, but won’t return until the end of this season, if the Twins are in contention.
Between Maeda, Pineda, and Berrios, the Twins will be missing 337 innings from 2021. No other pitchers on the 2021 Twins threw over 100 innings last year.
They have 2 potential young stars in Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober.
Joe Ryan, acquired in the Nelson Cruz trade, looks like he could be an ace in the MLB. He dominated the minor leagues and looked terrific in 5 starts at the end of 2021, including a 7-inning shutout and an 11 K game. Joe is an intelligent pitcher with great control, but he’s only pitched 26 MLB innings so we will see how he fairs in a full MLB season. Joe has been announced as the Twins Opening Day starter.
Bailey Ober made 20 starts with 92 IP in his rookie year in 2021. He finished with a 4.19 ERA and looked great in the 2nd half; allowing 3 ER or less in 11 of 12 starts. We will need Bailey to remain consistent and improve upon his 4.6 IP/start. Look for Ober to throw 120+ innings with around a 4.00 ERA in 2022.
Sonny Gray was a huge addition for the Twins, and in my opinion just as important as Correa due to our desperation for starting pitching. Gray is exactly what we needed; veteran high-end pitcher that doesn’t break the bank. 32-year-old Gray has 9 years of MLB experience, 82 wins, and a career 3.61 ERA. In his last 3 years in Cincinnati, he had a 3.49 ERA and 10.6 K/9; so he’s only gotten better with age.
The other starters will be Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer, Lewis Thorpe, Jordan Balazovic, Josh Winder, and Griffin Jax.
The Twins signed 29 y/o Dylan Bundy to a 1 year, $5 million deal. In 2020, Bundy had a 3.29 ERA and a 9.9 K/9, but in 2021 had a 6.06 ERA with a 2-9 W/L record. Let’s hope for around a 4.50 ERA and 120+ innings from Bundy. We need innings.
On March 28th, we signed Chris Archer to a 1 year, $3.5 million deal. Chris was one of the better pitchers in baseball from 2013 to 2017, compiling 1,008 strikeouts and 50 wins over the 5-year span. He did not pitch in 2020, and only threw 19.1 innings in 2021. He won’t be throwing 96 mph like he did a few years ago, but hopefully his fastball-slider combo is still effective.
Lewis Thorpe made 4 starts last year but will start the year in AAA St. Paul. 23 year old Jordan Balazovic, who had a 3.62 ERA and 9.5 K/9 in AA last year, will also start the year in AAA St. Paul. Josh Winder rocked a 2.63 ERA across 14 minor league starts in 2021, and looked solid in 2 spring training starts. Griffin Jax made 14 MLB starts last year, but stumbled to a 6.37 ERA.
We are taking a chance to see if Bundy or Archer can prove themselves as quality starting pitchers. Otherwise, whoever is hot in AAA will be filling in to make starts in the 4 and 5 spot in the rotation. Hopefully Gray, Ryan, and Ober can help the Twins lower their 2021 starter ERA of 5.18 (whoops) to around 4.20, and improve upon their 39-58 W-L record.
Here is my Twins 2022 Rotation:
1) Ryan 2) Gray 3) Ober 4) Bundy 5) Archer/others
Our main bullpen pitchers from 2021 will return in 2022;
Rogers (40.1 IP, 3.35 ERA, 59 K)
Duffey (62.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 61 K)
Alcala (59.2 IP, 3.92 ERA, 61 K)
Minaya (40 IP, 2.48 ERA, 43 K)
Thielbar (64 IP, 3.23 ERA, 77 K)
Couloumbe (34.1 IP, 3.67 ERA, 33 K)
Rogers should get most of the save opportunities with Colome and Robles gone. I’m most excited about Jhoan Duran, who pitched in St. Paul in 2021. He will need time to develop, but in spring training has consistently hit 100mph with his fastball. We signed 38-year-old Joe Smith, who has had a solid 14-year career in the bullpen, and Jharel Cotton, who pitched in the Rangers bullpen in 2021.
The Twins bullpen had a 4.39 ERA in 2021, 21st in the MLB, but we gave up 92 HR, 2nd most in the MLB. In 2022 the bullpen should be about average, but reliable with all the returning arms.
2nd AL Central
Before the acquisitions of Gray and Correa, I had the Twins as a sub .500 team. Trading for Sonny Gray grew my confidence in our pitching but I’m still not sure what we will get from Ober, Ryan, Bundy, Archer, and others across a full season. Ober and Ryan have potential to be very good pitchers but are still raw and inexperienced. Falvey and Levine have gone all in with Correa and Buxton, clearly showing that we are not in rebuild mode. In 2021, Correa won the Platinum Glove, was 5th in MVP voting, and finished with a 7.2 WAR. Obviously, Correa will be a huge boost for a team looking to bounce back from a down year. Buxton is a top-20 MLB player, he just needs to stay healthy. Our strong lineup should keep the Twins as an above .500 team.
Unfortunately, the White Sox have built a solid team and seem to be in control of the AL Central. Their lineup is stacked with Tim Anderson, Moncada, Abreu, Grandal, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jimenez. Their pitching includes Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Liam Hendriks, Craig Kimbrel, and Joe Kelly. The White Sox won 93 games in 2021 and seem like they will only improve in 2022. Hopefully the AL East will beat each other up a bit, as the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays are all potential 90+ win teams. Depending on how the East plays out, I think the Twins will have a legitimate shot at being the 6 seed in the playoffs.
- Starting Pitching: You can’t win in the MLB without starting pitching.
- Good April: Playing well for the first few weeks will be a huge boost for the team and the fans. Last year in mid-May we were 12-24. It’s pretty distressing to be out of the playoff race before the all-star break.
- Healthy Buxton: The Twins rewarded Buxton this offseason with a $100 million contract, we need him to stay healthy and be out there for >130 games this year. We have proof over the years that we win a lot more when he’s playing.
- Development of young players: The Twins will look to young guys Kiriloff, Jeffers, Ober, Ryan, and Larnach to step up this year. They will be essential to the Twins success over the next several years.
Hope for some asses in the seats, and many beers to be bought at Target Field this summer. Go Twinks!
— CJ Norseling (CHRIS)