The excitement of the Major League season is just beginning to unfold. While it is still too early to conclude, the puzzle pieces are beginning to take shape. No team has jumped to an early lead in the American League Central, so here are three reasons to watch the Minnesota Twins.
3 Reasons to Watch the Minnesota Twins
The Rotation Is a Serious Foundation
The Twins have established a well-rounded, deep pitching staff. The biggest name is Pablo López who was the main focal piece in trading Luis Arraez to the Miami Marlins. He has only had one poor performance this season with his recent five-run, four-inning outing against the Washington Nationals. Even with that blip on his stat sheet, Lopez is currently sitting with a 3.00 ERA and some impressive underlying stats. He is in the 98th percentile for chase rate which has led to 39 strikeouts in 30 innings. Through five starts, the amount of hard contact he is giving up is down from last year, as well.
Sonny Gray has the most impressive statistical performance of the rotation so far with a 0.82 ERA. However, his expected ERA is 3.25, according to BaseballSavant. Gray’s numbers might be set for regression, then, but he has a solid track record and will continue to keep games competitive for his team. He only has one start this season with more than five innings, a seven-inning, one-run outing against the Houston Astros. One notable aspect of Gray’s game is his peculiar pitch mix. His most used pitch is his curveball at 26%, with his 4-Seam fastball and slider following at 18% and 16%, respectively. His 4-Seamer has been hit hard so far with opponents hitting a .538 slugging against it.
Kenta Maeda is the only member of the rotation currently holding an ERA above 3.32. The rotation might not consist of many household names but do not underestimate the importance of a solid cast of starters. In a division where most of the teams will struggle to finish above .500, consistency is a critical factor in determining the division race.
The Stars Will Only Get Better From Here
Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa are extraordinarily talented, yet they have yet to find their stride in the early parts of the season. They are cornerstones of this franchise that will expect themselves to drive the lineup forward. They can carry this team when they are at their best, and they are quite the entertaining brand of baseball when they are.
Buxton has been fine so far, but his ceiling is much better than “fine.” He has been striking out more than usual with a 34.9% strikeout rate. His current 111 OPS+ would be his lowest figure since 2018. There should be no concern since it is still so early, but as he is now playing every day as the designated hitter, he has no defensive production to lean on when the bat is cold. Buxton is still an elite runner, but will he be stealing bases given the Twins’ desire to keep him healthy? His production should only increase from here and it will be must-watch television when it does.
Correa’s production, meanwhile, has been truly troublesome. He has a 78 OPS+ and his average exit velocity is in the 33rd percentile. On the positive side, his maximum exit velocity is still in the 96th percentile. His performance against fastballs has been uncharacteristic. In 2022, he hit .375 against 4-seamers with a wOBA of .453. This season, those numbers are drastically different. He only has an average of .222 and a wOBA of .284 against the pitch this season. Correa’s slow start could vanish if he locks in on the fastball again, the pitch type he has seen the most so far.
Role Players On a Roll?
The Twins have an exciting cast of role players, especially in the outfield. Joey Gallo and Max Kepler were recently activated from the injured list. Kepler has always been a case of tempting potential, yet now at the age of 30, he has not had an above-average season since 2020. His early form is worrisome with a batting average of .175 and 81 OPS+. How far removed is he from a 2019 campaign with 36 home runs and, more recently, 2021 with 19 home runs?
Gallo, meanwhile, has been performing well above his recent seasons. He has only played in 12 games, yet his slash line of .235/.350/.706 is all the Twins could hope for. Gallo’s 5 home runs in 34 at-bats are reflective of his talent when he is at his best. Any step up from last season’s paltry .160 batting average with a little power sprinkled in could provide great value for the Twins.
Jorge Polanco is another player who does not receive much recognition for his production at the plate. He is another member of the team fresh off the injured list who can provide above-average run production. He hit 33 home runs in 2021 and another 16 in 2022, despite only playing in 104 games. It will be players like Polanco, who has the potential to rip off a 20-home run season, that form the backbone of the roster around Buxton and Correa.
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