Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

2017 Minnesota Twins Team Outlook

Senior Fantasy Baseball Expert Shawn Childs provides an in-depth look at the 2017 Minnesota Twins!

Minnesota Twins

After a two-year progression in wins, the Twins struggled in 2016 leading to their worst season (59-103) in franchise history. Their failure was tied to 189 more runs allowed (889). They did score more 26 more runs than 2015 (696). On the year, Minnesota finished 9th in runs (722) and 8th in HRs (200).

The only player lost to free agency was 3B Trevor Plouffe who signed with the A’s. The Twins signed Jason Castro to take over the starting catching job. The only other addition was SP Justin Haley who was added in the Rule 5 draft in December.

The starting lineup has an interesting blend of young players with upside while being anchored by veteran Joe Mauer. There has been talk of 2B Brian Dozier being moved over the winter.

Minnesota ranked last in the American League in ERA (5.08) with 221 HRs allowed. Their bullpen finished 26th in ERA (4.63) with 22 wins, 32 losses, and 26 saves.

The lack of development of rookie Jose Berrios was a big part of the Twins struggle in the starting rotation. Also, their closer Glen Perkins battled a shoulder injury that required surgery in June.

1. 1B Max Kepler

Max was unimpressive over his first 106 at bats in the majors in 2016 (.245 with three HRs, 15 RBI, and two SBs). His bat was very productive in July and August (13 HRs and 44 RBI over 198 at bats), but he only hit .242. Kepler finished off the year with a poor September (.207 with one HR and four RBI over 92 at bats). He struggled against lefties (.203 with two HRs and 14 RBI) with solid power production against RH pitching (.248 with 15 HRs and 49 RBI over 278 at bats). Max has a ground ball swing (47.2 percent) with a respectable HR/FB rate (15.2). Over seven seasons in the minors, he hit .281 with 35 HRs, 273 RBI, and 42 SBs over 1704 at bats. His walk rate (9.4) is strong enough to hit at the top of the Twins batting order with a league average K rate (20.8 – 15.4 in the minors). Maybe a poor man’s Grady Sizemore early in his career, possible 20/20 hitter with growth in batting average expected.

2. 2B Brian Dozier

The days of Dozier being an undervalued asset in Fantasy baseball appear to be over. He’s scored over 100 runs in each of his last three seasons while adding length to his hits in each of his last five seasons. This impressive growth led to a huge spike in power (42 HRs) while also having his highest CTBA (.346) of his career. His K rate (20.0) is just about league average (20.4) with a slight edge in his walk rate (8.8). As great as his final stats look, Fantasy owners regretted drafting him after his poor start in April and May (.202 with five HRs, 17 RBI, and three SBs over 173 at bats). His bat caught fire in June (.369 with eight HRs, 21 RBI, and three SBs over 103 at bats). Over the last three months of the season, Brian was one of the most productive players in baseball (.271 with 29 HRs, 61 RBI, and 12 SBs over 339 at bats) highlighted by an electric August (.302 with 13 HRs, 27 RBI, and three SBs). His quest for HRs did lead to a spike in his K rate (32.3) in September. Dozier’s swing path continues to produce a high volume of fly balls (47.7 percent – career high). His HR/FB rate (18.4) was also a career high with five straight years of improvement. This season Brian will be drafted in the first two rounds of 15 team drafts. His resume suggests a 20/20 season is reasonable floor with SBs having a chance to fall short of expectations. There is no doubt Brian had a great rhythm over the last four months of the season. His fly ball swing will produce many easy outs, which restricts the upside of his batting average. Let’s set his bar at .250 with 100+ runs, 25+ HRs with 75+ RBI and 15+ SBs.

3. 1B Joe Mauer

Joe continues on his negative path. His CTBA (.322) has faded in each of the last three seasons with a slight uptick in his AVH (1.488) over the last two years. His K rate (16.2) is above the league average while failing below his career average (12.7) for the fifth straight year. His walk rate (13.7) was the second highest rate of his career. Mauer flashed power in May (.253 with five HRs and 11 RBI over 99 at bats) plus he hit the ball well in August (.337 with two HRs and 14 RBI over 92 at bats). Over his other four months, Joe hit .241 with four HRs and 24 RBI over 303 at bats. He struggled with a quad injury in September, which limited his at bats (45). Mauer has a high ground ball rate (51.9 – 50.8 in his career) leading to a small fly ball rate (21.3). He finished with his second highest HR/FB rate (12.8) of his career. Joe would be a weak option no what position he played plus he doesn’t belong in the middle part of the batting order. Mauer also struggled against lefties (.224 with three HRs and eight RBI over 116 at bats). He needs 1174 hits to reach 3000 for his career, but his window for playing time is fading away. Put a fork in him. Without a chance in swing path or some JUICE in his bat, he’s losing investment in all formats.

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

4. 3B Miguel Sano

Just like Buxton, Sano has a massive K rate (35.8) in the majors while showing the ability to take a walk (12.9). Miguel hit .235 in April and May with 11 HRs and 27 RBI before landing on the DL with a hamstring injury. His bat offer consistent production in July (four HRs and 13 RBI), August (five HRs and 14 RBI), and September (five HRs and 12 RBI) while maintaining his low batting average (.236). He battled an elbow issue in August and a back injury in September. Sano is a fly ball hitter (44.3 percent) with a huge HR/FB rate (22.9). He hits the ball hard with he makes contact (CTBA – .398 in 2016), which was a step back from 2015 (CTBA – .469). His inability to make contact does hurt the upside in his RBI rate (14). Over six years in the minors, Miguel hit .277 with 107 HRs, 341 RBI, and 33 SBs over 1641 at bats with a 26.1 percent K rate. Free swinger with 40+ HR upside. His batting average will have risk for most of his career unless he has a drastic improvement in his ability to make contact.

5. 1B Kennys Vargas

Over eight season in the minors, Vargas hit .278 with 87 HRs, 373 RBI, and four SBs over 1966 at bats. He struck out 21.7 percent of the time with a high walk rate (12.4). When the Twins added Byung Ho Park before last season, Kennys was the odd man out to start the year. He flashed power at AAA in 2016 (15 HRs over 330 at bats) with a ton of walks (66 – 16.4 percent walk rate), but his batting average (.233) came in short while his K rate (22.1) was just below his career average in the minors. In the majors, Vargas hit .251 over his career covering 542 at bats with 24 HRs and 75 RBI. His walk rate (13.6) had growth with the Twins in 2016, but he had a career high K rate (32.2). His best value came against lefties (.378 with five HRs and 10 RBI over 45 at bats) with risk against RH pitching (.168 with five HRs and 10 RBI over 107 at bats). He had short term success in July (.333 with four HRs and 10 RBI over 60 at bats) before fading as part-timer over the last two months of the season (.163 with six HRs and 10 RBI over 92 at bats). His swing path delivered a high volume of fly balls (47.9) in Minnesota with a high HR/FB rate (21.7). His resume points to a platoon role against LH pitching. His skill set is high enough to become a 30/80 player with a full season of at bats. He needs to get his Ks under control to earn a full-time job.

6. OF Eddie Rosario

Eddie failed to repeat his rookie success in his sophomore season in the league. He struggled over the first six weeks of the season (.200 with three HRs, nine RBI, and three SBs over 115 at bats) leading to a trip back to the minors. When he returns to majors, Rosario was much better hitter in July and August (.313 with 30 runs, five HRs, 21 RBI, and two SBs over 179 at bats). His K rate (25.7) had regression in August (28.4). Eddie broke his left thumb in mid-September, which ended his season. He hit all of his HRs (10) off RH pitching (.270 over 259 at bats). Rosario played well at AAA in 2016 (.319 with seven HRs and 25 RBI over 160 at bats). Over seven seasons in the minors, Eddie hit .294 with 67 HRs, 310 RBI, and 75 SBs over 1972 at bats. He hits the ball hard when he makes contact (CTBA - .369). Tweener with a 15/15 skill set with potential upside in all areas with growth in his approach. His walk rate (3.4) gives him no chances to bat higher in the order and his path points to a platoon role.

7. C Jason Castro

Jason hasn’t turned out to be a viable C2 in deep league due to a rising K rate (32.7) with five straight seasons of regression. On the positive side, he did have the highest walk rate (12.0) of his career. His only reasonable month came in May (.268 with four HRs and 12 RBI over 71 at bats). He hit under .200 in three other months (April – .140, July – .196, and September - .163). His swing was dead in the water against lefties (.149 with one HRs and seven RBI over 87 at bats). Castro had a career high GB rate (45.8) with his second-best HR/FB rate (15.9). Possible 15 HRs with 400+ at bats, but his batting average has no chance of a correction without improvement in his approach at the plate.

8. SS Jorge Polanco

Polanco took over the starting shortstop job in August for the Twins. Over the last two months of the season, he hit .286 with three HRs, 22 RBI, and three SBs over 210 at bats. Jorge did nice job against lefties (.309 with two HRs and 13 RBI over 68 at bats). His K rate (17.0) was above the league average with a slightly below par walk rate (6.3). His success in batting average was helped by a huge LD rate (30.3). Over seven seasons in the minors, Polanco hit .286 with 34 HRs, 293 RBI, and 60 SBs over 2272 at bats. His K rate (13.3) was in a much stronger area in the minors. Improving player with more upside than meets the eye. His future is at second base while having the inside track at shortstop in 2017. His approach gives him a chance to hit first or second in batting order with possible a 10/15 skill set with 550 at bats.

9. OF Byron Buxton

Byron was a bust in 2016 due to his inability to make contact in the majors (35.7 percent K rate). Over 469 plate appearances with the Twins over two seasons, Buxton has a 34.5 percent K rate and 6.2 percent walk rate. In the minors, he struck out 21.1 percent of the time. Over his 245 at bats at AAA in his career, Byron hit .327 with 12 HRs, 32 RBI, and nine SBs while striking out 21.6 percent of the time. Over five seasons in the minors, Buxton hit .302 with 39 HRs, 182 RBI, and 101 SBs over 1259 at bats. These stats translate into a special player. Last year with Minnesota, he finished with 10 HRs, 38 RBI, and 10 SBs in what amounts to a half season of at bats (298). His production in September was impressive (nine HRs, 22 RBI, and one SB over 101 at bats), but he did whiff 38 times (33.6 percent). He struggled against both RH (.225) and LH (.223) pitching. Byron has an upper cut swing (43.3 percent fly ball rate). I don’t think I could hammer it home enough in his profile. Buxton needs to get his strikeouts under control to make the next step forward to make a Fantasy impact. He has electric speed with a swing that looks ready to deliver 20+ HRs if he can stay in the majors for a full season. I don’t believe he belongs at the top of the order for the Twins, but he does have the talent to take the job and run with it. Fantasy owners are still giving him respect in the early draft season in 15 team leagues (ADP – 147) as a OF3. His price seems too steep for me considering his swing and miss ability. On the positive side, Byron did his .372 when making contact in 2016 with Minnesota. Possible 20/30 player with batting average risk.

BN: 1B Byung Ho Park

Loaded with 105 HRs on his resume over the last two season in Korea, Park was a popular breakout player in the Fantasy world in 2016. He hit six HRs in April over 66 at bats, but Byung Ho only hit .227 with a high K rate (30.1). His bat regressed in each month in the majors (.205 with three HRs and 10 RBI over 83 at bats in May and .136 with three HRs and six RBI over 66 at bats in June) leading to a trip to AAA. He hit 10 HRs over 116 at bats in the minors, but his path looked the same as his major-league resume (.224 with a 25 percent K rate). His season ended in mid-August was a right wrist injury that required surgery. This season he’ll battle for playing time at 1B and DH.

Bench Options

C John Ryan Murphy – Headed into 2016, Fantasy owners had visions that Murphy would be the Twins top catcher in 2016. He played his way to the minors with no success over 40 at bats in April and May (.075 with no runs, no HRs, and no RBI). His bat was pretty much empty in the minors as well (.236 with three HRs and 39 RBI over 263 at bats). His best success came in 2013 between AA and AAA (.269 with 12 HRs and 46 RBI). Backup option with minimal upside.

IF Eduardo Escobar – The Twins gave Escobar a chance to be the man at short to start to 2016, but his bat pretty much came up empty in April and May (.252 with no HRs and eight RBI over 123 at bats). Over the next three months, Eduardo hit .259 with five HRs and 25 RBI over 166 at bats. He struggled against lefties (.207 with two HRs and 10 RBI over 111 at bats). As bad as he was, he did win me $70,000 on August 2nd when Escobar hit a meaningless two-run home run in a 10-6 game against the Indians. Backup player with a chance at double digit power with 450+ at bats.

OF Danny Santana – Over the last two seasons, Santana hit .227 in the majors with two HRs, 35 RBI, and 20 SBs over 494 at bats. His stats are well below his rookie season success (.319 with seven HRs, 40 RBI, and 20 SBs over 405 at bats). Over nine years in the minors, Danny hit .276 with 29 HRs, 248 RBI, and 126 SBs over 2322 at bats. His season ended in September with a shoulder injury. Fourth outfielder with some upside in at bats if Buxton trips up.

OF Robbie Grossman – The Twins gave Grossman plenty of at bats in 2016. He hit .280 with 11 HRs, 37 RBI, and two SBs over 332 at bats. He did a nice job taking walks (14.1 percent) while still having risk in his K rate (24.7). Over nine years in the minors, Robbie hit .271 with 49 HRs, 282 RBI, and 131 SBs over 2808 at bats. He’s a switch-hitter, which helps him gain some at bats against righties, but his best value last year came against RH pitching (.344 with six HRs and 18 RBI over 125 at bats).

1. SP Ervin Santana

Sometimes in the heat of battle in Fantasy sports; a Fantasy owner can lose track of players they don’t own. I must say I did have a double take when I saw Ervin’s final ERA (3.38). He threw the ball well in April (3.15 ERA) while pitching at poor level over the next two months (5.15 ERA and 10 HRs allowed over 57.2 innings). Santana found his rhythm in July (1.90 ERA) with continued success over the last two months of the season (2.80 ERA). His arm had almost equal success against righties (.244) and lefties (.247). His K rate (2.6) and walk rate (7.4) fell in line with his career resume. Ervin had his best fastball (93.6) since 2008. His slider was electric in 2016 (.211 BAA) with winning success with his sinker (.195 BAA). Santana throws a ton of sliders (36.8 percent in 2016 and 32.8 percent in his career). He rarely pitches well the following season after posting a low ERA. Solid major league pitchers with a chance at 175 Ks with 32 starts. His ERA will fall closer to 4.00 than 3.00 in 2017.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

2. SP Hector Santiago

Hector lost his command (3.9 percent walk rate) leading to a sharp decline in his ERA (4.70) and a huge HR/FB rate (1.6). Batters didn’t hit him hard (.245 BAA – .227 in 2015). He has almost equal success against RH (.245) and LH (.243) batters, but he had a poor strikeout to walk ratio (1.41) vs. lefties. Surprisingly, Santiago had a solid ERA (3.40) on the road even with weakness in walks (41 over 92.2 innings). His failure in May (6.75 ERA) was due to nine HRs and 14 walks over 29.1 innings. He pitched poorly in June (6.08 ERA) and August (0-4 with an 8.17 ERA and seven HRs allowed over 25.1 innings). Somehow Hector had a great month in July (6-0 with 1.78 ERA). Over the last two months of the season, he only struck out 37 batters over 61.1 innings. Santiago is a fly ball pitcher (50.0 percent in 2016 and 48.7 in his career). His HR/FB rate (12.0) regressed for the second straight season. Hector had more life on his fastball (92.1) than the two previous seasons (2014 – 91.5 and 2015 – 90.9). Batters struggled to hit his four-seam fastball (.229 BAA) while connecting on 23 HRs over 459 at bats. His changeup had a slight edge (.247 BAA) while all of his other pitches had risk (slider – .343, curveball – .283, and cutter – .269 BAA). Risk/reward type arm with his success tied to his command and his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. Solid chance at a sub 4.00 ERA with WHIP risk.

3. SP Kyle Gibson

Kyle was a disaster in 2016. His walk rate (3.4) faded for the second straight year while delivering a high HR/FB rate (1.2) and low K rate (6.4). Gibson had no answer for lefties (.326) with below league average success against RH batters (.273). He had a poor ERA in every month except July (3.69). Kyle landed on the DL in May due to right shoulder injury. His AFB (91.3) was career low while losing velocity in each of his last four years. Batters crushed his sinker (.315 BAA) and four-seam fastball (.500 BAA and .893 SLG). His slider (.239 BAA) and curveball (.091 BAA) has success. He allowed the highest LD rate (22.7) and HR/FB rate (14.5) of his career. Low upside arm that wasn’t healthy in 2016. Even with a step forward, Gibson will have plenty of disaster risk. I can’t imagine that he’ll have any Fantasy value in 2017.

4. SP Phil Hughes

Over his first four starts in 2016, Phil had a 3.91 ERA with 19 Ks over 25.1 innings. He pitched poorly in five of his next eight games (7.49 ERA over 33.2 innings). Hughes landed on the DL in mid-June due to left knee injury. It was later determined that Phil had a nerve issue in his right shoulder, which required surgery in late June to remove a rib. He maintained solid command (2.0 walks per nine) with continued fade in his K rate (5.2). His AFB (91.3) was a career low while losing almost two mph from his 2013 (93.3) and 2014 (93.3) seasons. Hughes only had success with his cutter (.220 BAA). Only once over the last seven seasons has Phil had an ERA under 4.00 (2014 – 3.52). Excellent command with HR risk (1.7 HRs per nine in 2016), but an uptick in velocity would do him well. Waiver flyer at best if he pitches well early in the season.

5. SP Jose Berrios

Berrios was a disaster in the majors last season. He allowed three runs or more in each of his first 10 starts with the Twins leading to a 9.27 ERA. He pitched better over his last three starts of the season (3.95 ERA). Jose struggled to throw strikes (5.4 walks per nine) with a huge HR/9 rate (1.9). Righties crushed him (.330 BAA and a .609 SLG) with losing value vs. LH batters (.290) as well. His AFB (94.2) had plenty of life, but batters hit .339 against it. He struggled with his changeup (.286 BAA) and curveball (.276 BAA). As bad as he pitched in the majors, Berrios dominated for the second season at AAA (10-5 with a 2.51 ERA and 125 Ks over 111.1 innings). In 2015 between AA and AAA, Jose went 14-5 with a 2.87 ERA with 175 Ks over 166.1 innings. Over five years in the minors, he had 46-25 ERA with a 2.89 ERA and 589 Ks over 551.2 innings. Berrios had solid command (2.5 walks per nine) in the minors. His rookie stats will keep plenty of Fantasy owners away, but this is the type of arm a Fantasy owner needs to gamble on. Excellent chance at a sub 3.50 ERA with 175+ Ks. He’s the best arm on Minnesota’s staff.

6. SP Tyler Duffey

Duffey threw the ball well in two starts in April (1.74 ERA). Over the next five months, he had an ERA over 5.50 in each month (May – 5.52, June – 7.18, July – 7.77, August – 6.66, and September – 7.64). I don’t know why the Twins allowed him to stick in the starting rotation that long. HRs were a problem in June (eight over 26.1 innings) and August (six over 25.1 innings). Righties hit .337 against him with 19 HRs over 276 at bats. His AFB (91.2) was in line with his success in 2015 (91.1) except batters drilled his four-seam (.345 BAA and .683 SLG) and sinker (.346 BAA). In addition, his changeup (.314 BAA) had losing value. It’s hard to believe this same arm helped Fantasy owners in 2015 (5-1 with a 3.10 ERA with 53 Ks over 58 innings with the Twins). On the positive side, Duffey did have growth in his command (2.2 walks per nine). Over five years in the minors, Tyler went 30-19 with a 3.18 ERA with 378 Ks over 458 innings. I can’t imagine him pitching this poorly again in 2017, but he’s undraftable.

7. SP Stephen Gonsalves

Gonsalves has been impressive over his four seasons in the minors. He went 32-12 with a 2.13 ERA and 396 Ks over 368.1 innings. In his first appearance at AA in 2016, Stephen had an 8-1 record with a 1.82 ERA with 89 Ks over 74.1 innings. Batters only have 181 hits over his last 274.1 innings. His fastball sits in the low 90s while featuring a solid curveball and a developing split-finger fastball. His only missing link is his command (3.5 walks per nine – 4.5 at AA). This season he should start the year at AAA with a call up to the majors sometime mid-summer.

CL Glen Perkins

Perkins lasted only two innings in 2016 due to a left shoulder injury that led to a decline in his fastball (91.6 – 94.7 in 2014 and 2015). He tried to work his way back to the majors, but Glen suffered a setback in late May. He had surgery in mid-June to repair a labrum issue. Perkins has been working his way back to the mound in the offseason and he has a chance to be ready for the start of spring training. When healthy in 2013 and 2014, Glen had a 2.97 ERA with 143 Ks over 124.1 innings while converting 70 of 81 save chances. He may need some time to regain his form so I would proceed with caution. Minnesota doesn’t have many live arms in the bullpen so Perkins should be in the mix for saves early in the season.

Bruce Kluckhohn / USA TODAY Sports

RP Trevor May

Over eight seasons in the minors, May had a 3.90 ERA with 906 Ks over 778.2 innings while making 142 starts. Trevor struggled in the majors as a starter (7-14 with a 5.61 ERA and 115 Ks over 126.2 innings). The Twins converted him to the bullpen over the second half of 2015 (2.87 ERA). Last year he threw the ball well in relief over his first 17 appearances (1.89 ERA), but he was bombed for 10 runs and 15 base runners over his next 3.2 innings covering five appearances. Shortly after, May was placed on the DL with a back issue. Over 14 appearance in July and August, Trevor allowing five runs over 15.2 innings with 18 Ks. Four of those runs came in one disaster outing on July 21st. His AFB came in at 94.8, but batter hit .292 against it. His slider (.200 BAA) and curveball (.143 BAA) had winning value. His season ended in September when his back injury reemerged. Dark horse for saves.

RP Brandon Kintzler

Kintzler had his first chance of his career to close in the majors in 2016. He converted 17 of his 20 chances. His walk rate (1.3) was the best of his career, but Brandon has a poor K rate (5.8). Over seven years in the majors, he has a 3.33 ERA with 169 Ks over 235.1 innings. His resume in the minors has 35 saves with a 2.94 ERA. His AFB (93.3) is about league average. Batters hit .264 against his sinker, .333 vs. his changeup, and .500 against his four-seam fastball. His only pitch of value was his slider (.217 BAA). His arm belongs nowhere near the 9th inning. I can’t trust him so I’d look for an arm with more upside in this bullpen.

References

Baseball America Prospect Handbook. (n.d.).

Baseball-Reference. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.baseball-reference.com/

Brooksbaseball.net. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.brooksbaseball.net/

Fangraphs. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fangraphs.com/

Roster Resource. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rosterresource.com/mlb

Rotowire. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotowire.com/

RotoWorld. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotoworld.com/

AL EAST

AL CENTRAL

AL WEST

Houston Astros
Los Angeles Angels
Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers

NL EAST

NL CENTRAL

NL WEST

Atlanta Braves - FREE
Miami Marlins
New York Mets - FREE
Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals
Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds
Milwaukee Brewers
Pittsburgh Pirates
St. Louis Cardinals
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
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