Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Spring Training Redux. How will the Twins do in 2016? Here is my prediction

With the Twins' Spring Training almost in the books and having spend about 10 days in Fort Myers following the Twins' closely (here are all my Spring Training articles in Chronological order,)  I am ready to make a prediction for the 2016 Twins.

This team has a few question marks left, but a lot of my concerns were answered:

  • Miguel Sano will be a moster with the bat again this season, and regardless of his size, he will be at least as good an outfielder as Torii Hunter was last season, when it all said and done.
  • Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson are men on a mission in the Twins' rotation and might be the best 1-2 punch the Twins' had since Jack Morris and Scott Erickson in 1991.  Phil Hughes is pitching better than last season and Ricky Nolasco is pitching like a man with something to prove, and he has to.   The only question mark in the rotation is Tommy Milone, who could be easily replaced by the likes of Alex Meyer or Jose Berrios, or even Taylor Roger, if the need comes.
  • Byung Ho Park is the real thing.  And he does not have an attitude about it.  In 2015 DH was the most productive position in the Twins' lineup, mainly because the promotion of Sano.  The Twins got .251/.338/.421 with 21 HRs from the DH position in 2015.  I expect this to be Park's baseline.
  • Byron Buxton has shown signs of improvement with the bat, albeit small.   His glove alone is worth +2 wins and much improved Danny Santana and Oswaldo Arcia (who is in tremendous shape btw,)  can pick the slack if necessary.
  • Kurt Suzuki also looks better and refreshed.  Will a smaller workload keep them getting close to his 2014 numbers?  I hope so.   
  • Joltin' Joe Mauer (sorry couldn't help myself) has an .802 OPS for the Spring, which beat his .756 and  .667 OPS the last 2 Springs, sunglasses or not.
More importantly this team looks like a team that wants to win, a team that wins and a team that has fun doing it.

The biggest question mark is the bullpen, and especially the closer.  If you find out that the out of shape closer, who fell apart the last 2 seasons, took up home brewing as a hobby in the off-season and his fastball and slider are a good 5 to 6 miles per hour below their peak, you have to be concerned.  On the other hand, if Perkins falters, the Twins have good options at AA and AAA, including righties JT Chargois and Nick Burdi who can have a part in the Twins' pen today, and lefty Mason Melotakis,  who is a few innings away from returning from TJ surgery as a dominant lefty.  

The pen was the Twins' biggest concern this off-season and it has not been addressed at all.   The 2016 Twins will go as far as their pen lets them go.   I hope that Ryan has a short leash on Perkins and does the right thing for the team when he has to.

Because of this, and my lack of trust in the Twins' GM and the Twins' closer, I predict that the Twins will finish the 2016 season with an 87-75 record.  90 wins will not be out of reach, with a couple of early season pen investments...

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