The Minnesota Twins have been as difficult to figure out as any team in baseball in the three-plus years of Paul Molitor’s tenure. Nothing was expected in 2015, but the Twins won 83 games and contended to the very end for a wild-card spot. With expectations up in 2016, the Twins had a disastrous April and lost 103 games. Last year, the expectations were back down again…and Minnesota won 85 and made the playoffs. Now, with hopes of at least a return playoff trip and maybe challenging Cleveland in the AL Central, the Twins are struggling.
Minnesota is sitting on a 9-16 record, but they’ve been saved by the fact that the Indians are still mucking along themselves, barely over .500. Instead of being buried, the Twins are only 4 ½ games back. But as the calendar flips to May, there’s no time to lose in at least stabilizing the ship and there are three players in particular that the Twins badly need to get in gear.
*Brian Dozier has hit 76 home runs over the past two seasons, a period in which he has emerged as the best second baseman in the league. Getting power at a position not typically known for it has been a boon for the small-market Twins who can’t buy a big run producer on the open market. Dozier has had a tough April, with a meager stat line of .316 on-base percentage/.406 slugging percentage.
*Miguel Sano, the 25-year-old third baseman is one of the game’s brightest young stars and is about as ripped as any baseball player you’ll ever see. He’s also not hitting yet in 2018. Sano can be the kind of complete offensive threat that carries a team for a few weeks in the summer, and the time is coming when he’ll need to do just that.
*Lance Lynn has spent the last five years emerging as a stable starting pitcher in St. Louis, keeping his ERA consistently in the 3s. He came over to Minnesota in the offseason and after five starts, is staring at an 8.57 ERA. To say this needs to drastically change ASAP is an understatement.
There are positives for the Twins to build on. They have a trio of starting pitchers—Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorrizzothat have pitched pretty well. Berrios showed last year he’s capable of pitching like an ace. The actual staff ace, Ervin Santana, is currently on the disabled list, but might be back at the end of this month. The bullpen has been a problem but a manager as good as Molitor can often get that figured out after the early part of the season.
The Twins are an organization I’m generally supportive of, given their knack for getting the most from a low payroll. But those are the teams for whom seasons can get away from if a downward spiral begins, as a fire-sale mentality creeps in. If Minnesota doesn’t win 2018 to turn into a rerun of 2016’s nightmare, they need to stop the bleeding. And the surest bets to do that are Dozier, Sano and Lynn.