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Minnesota Twins 2024 outlook: Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton key to continued domination of AL Central

Minnesota Twins
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Last season the Minnesota Twins won the AL Central and not one, but two playoff games, earning a trip to the ALDS. It was the first time since 2004 that the team had won a playoff game, and the first time since 2002 that they won a playoff series.

To celebrate, the Twins didn’t add much to their roster this winter amidst uncertainty with their RSN deal. That was recently resolved, but the offseason was done by the time the deal was struck for the 2024 season. The Twins reportedly received $54 million from their RSN deal last season, and a lack of knowledge about just how much they’d get this year fairly or unfairly played a role in the number of moves the team made over the winter.

Last year’s squad went 87-75, underperforming their Pythagorean record by six games. The Cleveland Guardians have a new manager in Stephen Vogt, the Kansas City Royals have been active in free agency, and the Detroit Tigers look ready to pounce. Did the Minnesota Twins do enough to keep themselves atop the division? Let’s take a look at some of the additions and subtractions the club has made, their outlook for 2024, and a player to keep an eye on for the upcoming season.

Minnesota Twins additions and subtractions

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One way to judge a team’s offseason is to look at how many wins above replacement (WAR) a team is seeing leave over the winter, and then judging that against how much projected WAR they’re bringing in. Of the previews that have been posted thus far, the Twins have the second-worst WAR difference of any team in the league. The only team worse is the San Diego Padres, whose owner died, and then saw Juan Soto traded to the New York Yankees as the club tried to get a hold of their payroll situation.

Minnesota has a WAR difference of -12.9 wins. Part of the reason for this is because they had enough talent last season to accrue those wins that are now set to play for other teams. The other part of that equation is that not much was done to replace the likes of Sonny Gray (5.3 WAR), Michael A. Taylor (1.7), Kenta Maeda (1.5), Donovan Solano (1.2), Emilio Pagán (1.1), or Dylan Floro (1.1). That’s a lot of pitching depth out the window, as well as the team’s best starter in Gray, who held a 2.79 ERA and finished second in the AL Cy Young voting.

In total, the team lost 14.5 WAR via free agency and trades this offseason and brought in a projected 1.6. The biggest addition, according to ZiPS, is Anthony Desclafani. The 33-year-old right-hander is projected for 0.9 WAR and a 4.56 ERA as the team’s fifth starter. Desclafani was traded twice in January, first in the Robbie Ray deal to land him in Seattle, then in the Jorge Polanco deal to get him to Minnesota. He FIP has consistently been lower than his ERA, so the Twins may be hoping that those stats match up a bit more closely in 2024. The hope is that he can be league average and provide innings.

Relievers Steven Okert and Josh Staumont, as well as DH Carlos Santana, are the only other players with positive WAR projections that have been added to the roster this winter.

Minnesota Twins 2024 outlook

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On paper, the Minnesota Twins took a few steps back heading into the season. That said, they played like a 93-win club last season and the second-place Tigers finished with 78 wins, so there was some breathing room. Now, that buffer is gone and the Twins will need to stay healthy in order to stay stop the Central.

The back-end of their bullpen is solid with Jhoan Duran in the ninth, and their rotation has both upside and question marks. Pablo López is projected for a similar season to last year, with a 3.68 ERA. Behind him, is Joe Ryan going to be roughly league average or will we see 2022 Joe Ryan? Bailey Ober turned in a 3.43 ERA last season across 26 starts, but he’s expected to have around a four ERA this season. Chris Paddack hasn’t pitched in the big leagues much the past two years and could burst onto the scene, but he could also be league average or worse.

The Twins held the fifth-best ERA in baseball last season at 3.87, and it’s just difficult to see them repeating that success in an improved division with fewer weapons.

The way that Minnesota can continue to dominate the division is if they can get more games and more production out of Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa in 2024. Buxton played in just 85 games last season and was roughly league average at the dish. Correa played in 135, but hit .230 with a .312 OBP and a 96 wRC+ (100 is league average). Those two guys are stars, and in order for the Twins to keep truckin’, they’ll need to shine.

It also wouldn’t hurt if they got a full season of Royce Lewis, who dealt with an oblique strain and a hamstring issue that kept him off the field at times. When he was in the big leagues, Lewis, 24, hit .309 with a .372 OBP and 15 homers in 58 games. With no minimums on how many at-bats a player had last year, Lewis was the team’s best hitter with a 155 wRC+.

If Correa, Buxton, and Lewis all contribute and the pitching staff comes together, this team could be some trouble, especially if they make a move or two at the Trade Deadline. There’s also a chance that they could finish second or even third in the division. For what it’s worth, Baseball Prospectus has them projected to finish with 89 wins, which is the third-best total in the American League.

Minnesota Twins player to watch in 2024

Minnesota Twins
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Royce Lewis is the guy to watch on the Minnesota Twins this season, because he came up to the big leagues and mashed when he got an opportunity during the regular season, and then knocked two homers in the Wild Card round against the Toronto Blue Jays, and another two in the ALDS against the Astros. The key will be keeping him on the field. The past two seasons combined he has played in 118 games, so it would be wise to have a backup option at third base ready to go just in case.

Kyle Farmer played 290 innings at the hot corner last season, while Willi Castro logged 219. Both players were a bit better than league average last year, but are projected to be roughly ten percent below offensively in 2024.

One name to keep an eye on at third base is Twins #28 prospect Yunior Severino, who logged most of his playing time at the position between Double-A and Triple-A last season. He’s a switch hitter and last year the 24-year-old slugged 35 homers, hit .272, and go on at a .352 clip. His defense grades out at a 40 on the 20-80 scale per MLB Pipeline, and he struggled a bit in Triple-A once he was promoted, but he has an intriguing profile with that power bat.

One big drawback is that he struck out 36.6% of the time across 153 plate appearances in Triple-A last season, which is ridiculously high. If he comes to camp and cuts those down, then he could be an upside option for Minnesota to consider if Lewis missed time this season.

Jason Burke covers MLB for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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