The Minnesota Twins have been all over the place of late. On the heels of back-to-back American League Central division titles, the Twins collapsed in 2021. They finished last in the division and were sellers at the MLB trade deadline, most notably moving Jose Berrios and Nelson Cruz.
This offseason, Minnesota made a 180, as they were one of the most active teams in the sport from a transactional standpoint.
Notable Minnesota Twins’ offseason moves:
- Signed Carlos Correa (three-year, $105.3 million deal)
- Acquired Sonny Gray and Francis Peguero from the Cincinnati Reds for Chase Petty
- Extended Byron Buxton (seven-year, $100 million deal)
- Signed Dylan Bundy (one-year, $5 million deal)
- Acquired Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ronny Henriquez from the Texas Rangers for Mitch Garver
- Acquired Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela from the New York Yankees for Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt
- Signed Chris Archer (one-year, $3.5 million deal)
Based on their offseason activity, the Twins view themselves as a retooling club, rather than a rebuilding one. With that in mind, here’s why starting pitching makes or breaks their 2022 playoff hopes.
Minnesota Twins have an electric offense
The Twins have sported one of MLB’s best offenses since 2017, and that should remain the same in 2022.
In the aftermath of them being sellers at last season’s trade deadline, the Twins maintained a sturdy positional core. Jorge Polanco is a formidable threat from both sides of the plate and coming off the best season of his MLB career. Luis Arraez frequently gets on base by means of being a consistent contact hitter. When healthy, Buxton has a smooth, line-drive swing and is a superb center fielder.
Miguel Sano is a respectable power hitter from the right side. Correa can be a lethal hitter and is an excellent defensive shortstop. Minnesota also has a handful of players capable of bounce-back seasons including a pair of players they recently acquired from the Yankees.
- Carlos Correa stats (2021): .279/.366/.485, 26 home runs and 92 RBIs across 555 at-bats
Urshela is sound at the hot corner, has a compact swing and is just a couple seasons removed from a breakout campaign. Sanchez at least poses a power threat. Max Kepler has had his moments when it comes to blasting home runs and being a plus defensive right fielder. Presumptive starting catcher Ryan Jeffers has flaunted power.
As a whole, manager Rocco Baldelli’s positional depth chart is a mix of budding stars and players entering their prime. It’s also a combination of line-drive hitters who have a track record of generating offense. This unit won’t be the reason why the Twins miss the postseason.
Minnesota Twins have a precarious starting rotation
Should the Twins’ starting rotation be better in 2022? Yes. Is it a given that their offseason pickups substantially move the needle, though? It is not. For starters, right-handers Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak begin the regular season on the 60-day injured list.
As for those present, Gray and Bundy are inconsistent forces. While he has been there, done that, Gray has also been up and down his entire career, not to mention he has dealt with a handful of injuries. After a pair of encouraging seasons with the Reds, Gray labored and struggled to keep them in games last season.
Bundy has been a shaky starter for the better part of his MLB career. In fairness, he was once a promising starter for the Baltimore Orioles and had a spectacular 2020 campaign with the Angels. That said, Bundy followed up his terrific 2020 by posting a 6.06 ERA in 2021.
- Sonny Gray stats (2021): 4.19 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 155 strikeouts across 135.1 innings (26 starts)
All the while, the Twins are going to be relying on young starting pitchers to round out their rotation like Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan. Now, it’s fair to expect at least one of Gray and Bundy to put forth a plausible season and at least one of their young starters to pitch admirably.
The aforementioned outcomes aren’t enough for the Twins to crack the AL Playoffs, though. This is a precarious unit that needs stability.
Starting pitching makes or breaks the 2022 Minnesota Twins
There’s no margin for error if the Twins are going to make the playoffs. Their offense has to hit up to its prolific billing, the bullpen has to hold its own and the rotation has to be a reliable force. The first requisite is likely, the second is feasible and the third hangs in the balance.
An extra playoff spot in each league enhances Minnesota’s playoff chances. Their best bet is the stiff competition in both the AL East and AL West eating itself alive, leading to a handful of fearsome teams finishing with a lower win total than expected.
As for their own division, the Twins have to find a way to stymie the Detroit Tigers, further buffer the Cleveland Guardians and put up a fight against the Chicago White Sox.
The Twins’ rotation has the potential to be a reputable bunch. Gray has a consistent, multi-pitch arsenal and finds success with his sinker. Bundy also has a multi-pitch arsenal and can deceive hitters with his delivery. When healthy, Maeda can be a top-of-the-rotation force. Ryan and Ober have produced images of promise.
At face value, the Twins should be a competitive team that’s playing for a winning record. Their starting rotation is the key to them pulling off a bounce-back season and being more than a mere .500 team.