The Minnesota Twins are such an underrated franchise heading into 2019. After a successful 2017 in which they finished with 85 wins (their most in a season since 2010), they took a step backwards in 2018, winning only 78 in a somewhat forgettable year. So what makes them underrated you ask? They still won 78 games with many key players not performing to near their 2017 run or their 2018 potential, yet still finished 2nd in their division. Their struggles: Jorge Polanco was suspended, Brian Dozier was traded, Miguel Sano was demoted, Byron Buxton was hurt, Jose Berrios was inconsistent, and so many more. Yet through all of that, the Twins persevered, fought and clawed their way to 78 wins, and now hold a ton of optimism going forward. All that said, they are currently well back of the division winning Cleveland Indians and still have a ways to go to catch up, but they are on the right track.
The optimistic viewpoints come from the fact that their farm system seems loaded with talent, with some of it having the potential to be game changing. The Twins have done well in selling off their assets as high as they possibly could (see Dozier to the Dodgers) in order to load up youthful pieces to a puzzle that should be put together within the next year or so. Offensively speaking, they have some interesting players that have been progressing and developing either at the rate originally thought or better, making the future brighter than ever. Here is but a glimpse (in no particular ranking order):
Royce Lewis – At some point in 2019, Lewis will be ranked as the top prospect in all of baseball, as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez will be called up as soon as possible to start the year. What makes him so intriguing is that he has all of the tools needed to not just be the best prospect, but to stay the best prospect until he gets the promotion (probably) the year after. He can hit, run and field with the best of them, all while playing a position that raises his value. He truly is special.
Alex Kirilloff – His rise to stardom has happened so rapidly, that it caught some by surprise. After being sidelined with Tommy John surgery, it didn’t take long for Kirilloff to get back to doing what he does best: hit the ball. Not necessarily a power hitter, Kirilloff can spread the ball towards any part of the field, and could develop even more power than he currently has. 2019 could be his year to shine in the minors and become a household name.
Wander Javier – I think of Javier as sort of an Indie Rock band, in the sense that he’s not as well known (or remembered) as other prospects, but the fans that do know and remember him are very much big fans and love the potential. Unfortunately he missed the 2018 season with a torn labrum, so this makes 2019 an almost do or die year for him. There’s a lot of good to love about him, but he needs a ton of seasoning and work to go from good with potential to great with stardom. His raw talent gives him the edge to do more good than bad, and the scouts should take notice soon.
Nick Gordon – He reminds me of a college basketball player from the 90’s, where students would play all four years at the NCAA level, and would learn the intricacies of the game and season their craft. Gordon has steadily climbed up the ladder of the Twins’ farm system, done everything right, but feels like a bank investment with minimal interest. His stock rises as it should but seeing as how he is 23 years old, his time should be soon.
There are many other offensive talents that will be discussed too, like Akil Baddoo, Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker and Travis Blankenhorn. Where the Twins lack a bit up top is in pitching, as they may not have any true aces up their prospective sleeve. Brusdar Graterol is their best looking option on the mound, as he has a keen ability to control his scorching hot fastball, but he seems at least a year away. Stephen Gonsalves got a taste of the major leagues last season, but he’s not as flashy or with as much upside as others in various farm systems. And therein lies the problem with Minnesota Twins baseball. For years now they’ve been looking for that one pitcher who can step in on any day, against any team, and dominate. They thought they had that with Berrios, and they might, but there’s no guarantee that he will be that man. It is something that will need to be addressed, either through free agency or through the trading of an older player who can help out a contender so that they can acquire a pitcher and develop them.
All that being said, the future is bright for the Twins. As stated above, there are plenty of promising talents on their way to the big leagues, but, they also have a lot of youth that will take the next step this year and will hopefully live up to their promise of yesteryear. As it stands now they will probably finish 2nd in the AL Central again, behind the Indians, but my money says that they close that gap this season and make it a tighter race. Minnesota does not lack in talent and potential. They just need the time, patience and personnel required to harness that potential and turn it into something special.
And there you have it. The Twins farm system State of the Union according to this Twins correspondent.