Minnesota Twins Season Preview: Can They Slug Their Way to Another Division Title?

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Editor's note: Welcome to SI's MLB preview. Click here to view every team's outlook in 2020, including predictions, projections and, yes, a preview of the 2030 preview. Click here to read the Twins fantasy preview.

The Twins shocked MLB not just by winning 101 games and the AL Central, but also by how they did it: shattering the all-time record for home runs in a season with 307. Yes, the baseball was made of flubber last year, but, still, 300 home runs! Eleven Twins had double-digit home run totals, including 31 by catcher Mitch Garver, who had hit seven in 348 at bats before 2019, and 41 from Nelson Cruz, 39.

What might have been even more remarkable, though, was Minnesota’s staff, which struck out a franchise-record 1,463 batters, helped in part by the addition of Jake Odorizzi. The Twins have finally begun developing relievers who can put hitters away; lefty closer Taylor Rogers and righties Trevor May and Tyler Duffey combined to fan 32.1% of the batters they faced last year. The dingers got the attention, and rightly so, but the bigger change was the embrace of modern approaches under new pitching coach Wes Johnson.

The Twins bring back all of their best pitchers from last year. New righthanders Homer Bailey, who split ’19 between K.C. and Oakland, and Jhoulys Chacín, who pitched for Milwaukee and Boston, replace back-end starters Martin Pérez and Kyle Gibson. They will get help from GM Thad Levine’s big move: signing third baseman Josh Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million contract. He’s a huge defensive upgrade over Miguel Sanó and a huge offensive upgrade over Marwin González. There are worries about how long Donaldson, 34, can maintain this level of play—he had a .900 OPS last year—but in the short term he’s a great signing.

In the last year, Minnesota mashed dingers, struck guys out, won a division title and spent big money—all of these things almost unimaginable to a fan in the Twin Cities just four years ago. More of the same is coming in ’20 and beyond. — Joe Sheehan

Projected Record: 93-69, 1st in AL Central

The Twins set an MLB record with 307 home runs, then added Josh Donaldson, who hit 37 in 2019. More important, their rotation remains strong and their shutdown bullpen returns intact.

Key Question: Can the Twins win a playoff game against the Yankees?

Minnesota is good enough to make a deep postseason run this season. At some point though, it's likely the Yankees will be in their way. New York has won 16 consecutive playoff games against Minnesota. Unless another team knocks off the Yanks first, the Twins’ pennant hopes will go through the Bronx. — Matt Martell

Player Spotlight

Moving Up: Luis Arraez, 2B

Last year he rocketed through the Twins’ minor league system before a May call-up. After batting .334 (.399 OBP) he has the second base job. 

Moving Down: Marwin González, UTIL

The utilityman owned up to his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing— his ’17 breakout in Houston (23 homers, .907 OPS) now seems like a one-off.

Watchability Ranking: Please Watch

We’re not sure what the collective noun is for a group of home runs—a bushel? a barrel? a dingerdom?—but whatever it is, Minnesota will have them en masse, and there’s no feature more watchable than that. — Emma Baccellieri

Preview of the 2030 Preview

Royce Lewis, OF: The Twins’ success at the start of last decade—which included three straight division titles, and (finally) a playoff win over the Yankees—had little to do with their high picks of the 2010s, such as righty Kohl Stewart (No. 4 in ’13), shortstop Nick Gordon (No. 5 in ’14) and lefty Tyler Jay (No. 6 in ’15). The No. 1 selection in ’17, Lewis, 30, enters spring on the bubble after a couple of low-batting-average, 30-stolen-base seasons. (Good thing they stopped drafting guys with two first names.) — Craig Goldstein