The 2019 Minnesota Twins weren’t expected to win the AL Central; they won not only the division, but 101 games as well. Now, going into a 60-game 2020, the Twins are projected by FanGraphs to have a 48.8% chance of winning their division, with PECOTA at a rosier 62.0%. By no means does this make the Twins a lock atop the Central, but they clearly do have a very good chance of ending up there after the season. As for the players that would get them there, the team looks as follows.
The 2019 version of the Twins crushed the ball, slugging a gaudy .494 with an MLB-best .224 ISO and finishing third in wRC+, at 116. They also hit an all-time record 307 HR. And the offense probably won’t stop in 2020. Going position by position shows the depth of this lineup. Mitch Garver, fresh off a 155 wRC+ season, will occupy the catcher’s box for the lion’s share of Twins game. While he will undoubtedly regress, ZiPS still projects him for the 4th highest wOBA among major league catchers.
Around the infield are Miguel Sanó (127), Luis Arraez (107), Josh Donaldson (127), and Jorge Polanco (109), all listed with their projected 2020 wRC+ by ZiPS. All four of these players should hit at an above-average clip, and in a diverse manner. Sanó is the masher in this group, while Arraez is a contact wizard. Donaldson walks and hits for power of course, and Polanco is a speedy shortstop with some pop. This lineup diversity while still maintaining elite production as a whole will serve the Twins well.
The hitting isn’t constrained by the edges of the infield dirt, however. Eddie Rosario may be better suited to DH, but he’s passable in left, and ZiPS thinks he’ll hit for enough power to offset his dreadful BB%, all adding up to a 107 projection. Byron Buxton is hurt again, but if he can hit somewhere near league average, like his 93 projection, he’s an All-Star caliber player, as his defense and base running are both in the single digit rankings for best in the game. The onus of making up for Rosario’s woes in left won’t be entirely upon Buxton, as Max Kepler is an elite defender in RF, and also projects to post a 115 wRC+. When adding in the ageless Nelson Cruz (130 projection) at DH, this is clearly one of the best sets of position players in the game. Even factoring in the bench, from which only Jake Cave and Marwin Gonzalez are projected to hit at a roughly league average clip, the Twins are clearly an offensive juggernaut.
The rotation for the Twins is not nearly as spectacular, but still fitting for a contender. José Berríos, as he always has, still possesses incredible upside, but even at his current level of performance he’s a legitimate top of the rotation arm. What follows is a glut of mid-rotation types; none of Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, and Homer Bailey are great, though all are likely better than league average, as are the currently suspended Michael Pineda and the depth arm Randy Dobnak.
This wealth of serviceable to good starting pitchers isn’t flashy in the least. In a playoff series no lineup is intimidated by having to face Odorizzi or Hill, though Berríos may be imposing due to his incredible breaking ball. Even so, all of it adds up to the Twins having the 10th best rotation in MLB, according to FanGraphs. The collection of good options leads to an overall asset.
Very similar to the rotation, the Twins bullpen has a clear leading man followed by a parade of competent to good pitchers. Taylor Rogers is the analog of Berríos, though even better, putting up a 56 ERA- and 62 FIP- in 2019. The other high leverage arms coming in for the Twins are likely Tyler Duffey and Trevor May, with some being thrown to Sergio Romo too if needed. This triumvirate is more than capable of sopping up late innings with solid performance, and should help this staff in general look the part of a division winner, as the 10th ranked rotation and 7th rated bullpen combine to a better total than one would expect from the blasé Twins staff.
My prediction for the Twins is not a bold one. In fact, it’s probably what everyone would say about them. I think that the Twins will win the AL Central, though the Spiders (I will speak it into existence) and White Sox will put a fright into them. Sadly, they’ll run into Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, and fall in the ALDS yet again. They will, however, be a lot of fun to watch, as they’ll clobber home run after home run, scuffing the seats for the fans who will occupy them again eventually.