2020 Fantasy Baseball: Minnesota Twins Team Preview

Full fantasy baseball stat projections for Royals hitters and pitchers. What to expect from Nelson Cruz, Joe Berrios and more.
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Minnesota Twins

The Twins showed massive growth in their offense last year setting up their best regular season (101-61) since 1965 (102-60). They improved by 23 wins and made the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. The Twins have eight postseason appearances over the past 18 years. Minnesota has three World Series titles (1924 as the Washington Senators, 1987, and 1991). In the franchise’s 119-year history, the Twins made the playoffs 16 times.

Minnesota jumped to second in the majors in runs (939), which was 201 more runs than they produced in 2018 (738). They led both leagues in home runs (307) while ranking first in RBI (906). Their pitchers allowed 21 fewer runs than the previous year (775), leading to a 4.18 ERA (9th). They tied for the major league lead in saves (50).

In the offseason, the Twins added 3B Josh Donaldson to the middle of their batting order after losing 1B C.J. Cron. They also signed C Alex Avila, SP Homer Bailey, SP Rich Hill, RP Tyler Clippard, and RP Matt Wisler. Minnesota made a deal with the Dodgers to acquire SP Kenta Maeda for RP Brusdar Graterol.

In 2020, their offense will score plenty of runs, but regression should be expected in a couple of slots in the batting order. SP Jose Berrios hasn’t quite reached elite ace status, but he’s getting closer. The depth of the starting pitching staff behind him has just as much downside as upside, but Maeda does give them another major league arm. RP Taylor Rogers pitched well as the closer last year, but Minnesota needs more stability behind him in the bullpen.

Overall, the Twins will be in the hunt in the AL Central, but I expect a step back in wins.

Starting Lineup

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1. OF Max Kepler

Kepler underachieved his expected upside in 2017 and 2018 while showcasing an average hit rate (1.750 and 1.824) that projected 30-plus home run upside. In 2019, his AVH (2.061) had more follow-through setting up a breakthrough season in power (36 HRs). His RBI rate (20) pushed up to the big boys that hit in the middle of the batting order, but his RBI chances (296) remained low due to a couple of missed weeks and batting at the top of the order on most nights.

Both his walk rate (10.1) and strikeout rate (16.6) point to a higher batting average. For the second straight year, Kepler hit a high volume of fly balls (46.6 and 46.2 in 2018) while seeing his HR/FB rate (18.0) nearly double from 2018 (9.9). Before the All-Star break, he hit .263 with 21 home runs and 55 RBI over 323 at-bats. His failure came from an empty September (.171 over 35 at-bats with no HRs and two RBI) due to a shoulder issue. Just reaching the prime of his career with possibly a middle-of-the-order feel, but the Twins may hit him leadoff again this year. Not dead in the water in batting average if Kepler trades off some fly balls for line drives, but his contact batting average (.311) continues to have no pulse. His minor league speed (42 steals over 1,704 at-bats) is getting further away with no idea of upside in the majors.

With an ADP of 154, a fantasy owner can expect about 180 combined runs and RBI with a floor of 30 home runs with 500-plus at-bats. The coin flip here comes from his strength in batting average and speed.

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2. 3B Josh Donaldson

After an injury-plagued season in 2018, the street talk wasn’t positive after a slow start in April and May (.262 with seven HRs and 22 RBI over 183 at-bats). Donaldson found his power stroke over the next two months (.249 with 18 HRs and 44 RBI over 193 at-bats). He drove the bus home with a steady final third of the year (.266 with 12 HRs and 28 RBI over 173 at-bats).

Both his AVH (2.014) and CTBA (.360) held value while continuing to take a high number of walks (15.2 percent). Donaldson posted a strikeout rate (23.5) above his career average (19.8) for the third consecutive year. Most of his struggles came against lefties (.215 with seven HRs and 15 RBI over 121 at-bats). He hit 198 balls over 95 MPH (11th in the majors). His HR/FB rate (25.7) remains in an elite area.

With a new four-year $92 million contract, Donaldson looks positioned to have a productive season in runs, HRs, and RBI while slipping into a high-scoring offense from 2019. Start the bidding at .260 with a 100/40/100 with an ADP of 101.

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3. OF Edwin Rosario

The Twins gave Rosario a chance to bat cleanup up for just about the whole season in 2019, and he responded with a career-high in runs (91), HRs (32), and RBI (109). His RBI rate (20) supported his higher run-producing opportunity while making another push in his AVH (1.813).

For the third straight season, Rosario lowered his strikeout rate (14.7) while continuing to take minimal walks (3.7). His hard-hit rate (36.0 – 255th) doesn’t separate him from the field. Last year he played the best over his first 246 at-bats (.272 with 19 HRs and 52 RBI). After the All-Star break, Rosario hit .268 with 12 HRs and 49 RBI over 254 at-bats. His swing path has been fly ball favoring (42.2 percent) over the previous two seasons with a reasonable HR/FB rate (15.8).

Getting better, but I don’t see follow-through in his RBI rate or even power. I like his improved ability to make contact, but his CTBA (.326) is sliding to a weaker area. Possible .280 with 85 runs, 25 home runs, and 85 RBI with an ADP of 96.

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4. DH Nelson Cruz

Cruz has been at his best after the age of 32. Over the last six seasons, he hit .285 with 244 home runs and 630 RBI over 3,321 at-bats. In 2019, Cruz missed about a quarter of the year with a left wrist injury, costing him most of May (.229 with two HRs and 24 RBI) and some at-bats in August and September. He dominated lefties (.322 with 16 HRs and 29 RBI over 115 at-bats) and his best value came over the final four months (.326 with 34 HRs and 86 RBI over 328 at-bats).

Cruz posted an elite RBI rate (21) with a massive jump in his contact batting average (.437). His success last year projected over 550 at-bats would come to 98 runs, 50 home runs, and 131 RBI. He had the fourth-highest hard-hit rate (51.5) in baseball. His HR/FB rate (31.3) was the highest of his career. A pure basher who would have come off the best year of his career if he stayed healthy. His walk rate (10.8) is favorable, but Cruz set a new high in his strikeout rate (25.1) when receiving over 400 at-bats.

His ADP (90) is discounted due to his DH only qualification. Player well with plenty of talent around him in the batting order. More of the same – .280 with 90 runs, 40 home runs, and 110 RBI.

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5. SS Jorge Polanco

After missing 80 games in 2019 due to a suspension, Polanco had questions surrounding his upside in both power and speed entering last season. His AVH (1.645) came in at the highest level of his major league career, which led to a spike in home runs (22). He also set career-highs in runs (107), RBI (79), and batting average (.295).

Polanco had growth in his walk rate (8.5) with a favorable strikeout rate (16.5). He played at a high level before the All-Star break (.312 with 13 HRs, 42 RBI, and four SBs over 356 at-bats). His swing path added more loft (fly-ball rate – 44.4 and 41.5 in his career) with only a slight push in his HR/FB rate (9.6). Polanco had his best success against right-handed pitching (.306 with 16 HRs and 55 RBI over 435 at-bats).

Trending toward a .300 hitter with some underlying speed. His ceiling may be only 25 home runs with regression expected with a few fewer balls hit in the air. Only a steal piece to the puzzle with an ADP of 157 in the early draft season.

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Minnesota Twins Team Outlook

Pitching Staff

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SP1 Jose Berrios

Over the previous three seasons, Berrios went 40-27 with a 3.80 ERA and 536 strikeouts over 538.1 innings. In 2019, he broke the 200-inning barrier (200.1) for the first time in his career while showing improvement in his walk rate (2.3). Even with better command, his strikeout rate (8.8) regressed from 2018 (9.5) and he still gave up too many home runs (26 – 1.2 per nine).

Berrios had success but didn’t dominate right-handed (.254) or left-handed (.247) batters. Over his first 22 starts, he posted a 2.80 ERA and 133 strikeouts over 141.2 innings before disaster struck on August 6th (nine runs and 13 baserunners over 5.2 innings). He allowed two runs or fewer in just three of his final 10 starts, which led to a 5.83 ERA, 1.517 WHIP, and 10 home runs over 58.2 innings. His AFB (93.5) is trending backward while having about the same success with his four-seamer (.246 BAA), curveball (.241 BAA), and changeup (.244 BAA).

With an ADP of 89, fantasy owners will look to roster him as a backend SP2 or early SP3 depending on league size. His minor league resume (2.77 ERA and 628 Ks over 591.2 innings) points to upside while developing into a workhorse arm. Next step: 15-plus wins with a sub 3.50 ERA and 225-plus Ks.

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SP2 Jake Odorizzi

After the 2016 season (3.69 ERA and 166 Ks over 187.2 innings), Odorizzi had the look of a developing arm with edge upside. He struggled in both 2017 and 2018 (17-18 with a 4.33 ERA and 289 Ks over 307.2 innings) while averaging only 5.1 innings per start and a considerable fade in his walk rate (3.8). Odorizzi regained his previous form last year, leading to career highs in wins (15) and strikeouts (178). He finished with a winning ERA (3.51), but his WHIP (1.208) didn’t rebound as much.

His strikeout rate (10.1) was the highest of his career with a career average walk rate (3.0). Only twice in 2019 did he pitch more than six innings. Odorizzi allowed two runs or fewer in 18 of his 30 starts highlighted by a stretch from April 17th to June 9th (9-0 with a 1.07 ERA and 63 Ks over 59.0 innings). His correction came over his next seven outings (7.99 ERA, 1.714 WHIP, and ten HRs over 32.2 innings) with most of the damage arising on July 24th (nine runs and 12 baserunners over four innings). Odorizzi had risk against lefties (.277). He continues to pitch up in the strike zone (fly-ball rate – 44.4) while lowering his HR/FB rate (8.8 – 10.4 in his career) slightly. His AFB (93.0) was a career-best. Batters hit only .187 against his four-seamer. Last year Odorizzi threw a sinker (.235 BAA), slider (.293 BAA), curveball (.378 BAA), cutter (.255 BAA), and split-finger (.239 BAA).

Solid arm with respectable stuff, but he needs to throw more first-pitch strikes (58 percent) to make a bigger push in ERA. His ADP (198) is reasonable. Draft him with the idea of 3.75 ERA and some help in wins and Ks. If Odorizzi somehow pushes his walk rate to 2.0, his arm could make a big push forward. 

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CL/RP Taylor Rogers

I know I don’t talk enough about first-pitch strike rate, but there are times when a fantasy owner can see the impact of getting ahead in the count. Rogers started his major league career in 2016 with just a 56.4 percent first-pitch strike rate. That season he allowed a 3.96 ERA and more hits (63) than innings pitched (61.1).

If we fast forward to 2019, his first-pitch strike rate improved to 68 percent, which led to a career-low walk rate (1.4) and a career-high in his strikeout rate (11.7). His growth in his foundation skill set led to a closing arm. Over the first two months of the year, Rogers had a 2.16 ERA and 31 strikeouts over 25 innings while converting four of his six save attempts. He took over the ninth inning officially on June 2nd. Over the final four months of the year, he went 26-for-30 in save conversions with a 2.86 ERA and 59 strikeouts over 44 innings. Surprisingly, Rogers had more risk against lefties (.273) than right-handed batters (.208). His AFB (95.0) improved over the past two seasons. His edge is created by his slider (.198 BAA) and curveball (.121 BAA).

Minnesota will hand him the closing job again in 2020, and his direction points to repeated value. His save total may have lower upside as the Twins were more willing to use him in longer stints last year. An outside chance at 100 strikeouts with 35 saves while being drafted with the 109th pick in the early draft season.

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Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Minnesota Twins Team Outlook

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