Owner: Jim Pohlad, worth $3.8 billion
World Series Titles: 1924, 1987, 1991
Greatest Player: SP Walter Johnson
Division: AL Central
Payroll: 17th, $155,000,000
2022 Result: 78-84, 3rd place in AL Central
General Manager: Thad Levine
Manager: Rocco Baldelli, 41; Record: 288-258, 0 World Series Titles
Home Field: Target Field, Capacity: 39,504
Key Addition: SP Pablo López. The quickest way to describe the Minnesota Twins’ 2022 pitching staff is below-average. Twins pitchers accumulated the 20th-most Wins Above Replacement and put together the 19th-best ERA. Adding a front-line starter adds both depth and upside to a Minnesota staff that badly needed it. His arsenal is centered around tunneling his fastball, sinker, and change up, all above-average pitches. He may not start on Opening Day, but he’s their best starter.
Key Loss: RP Michael Fulmer. Once the prized possession sent in return for Yoenis Céspedes, Fulmer has churned out a nice career for himself in the middle of bullpens across baseball’s Central divisions. The problem for the Twins is that he’s now donning the Cubs’ pinstripes. He pitched to a 3.39 ERA, 3.78 xERA, and 3.57 FIP in 2022, slight increases from his career average. Their bullpen is fine, but losing 60 quality innings is never easy to replace.
Key Injury: SS Royce Lewis. The former first overall pick performed like one in 2022, at least for the short while he was on the field. He showed off both contact and power in the incredibly small sample size of 41 plate appearances. He also looked good defensively. The projection systems still like his bat a good bit, even if his 146 wRC+ last year wasn’t trustworthy. Knee surgery will keep him out deep into the season, leaving a hole at the bottom of the Minnesota lineup.
Prospect Alert: SS Austin Martin. Filling that aforementioned hole may, at some point, be Martin, a fellow top five selection. He’s got legitimate bat-to-ball skills and average speed, but struggled in AA last season. He’ll need to make a significant jump to play for the Twins in 2023, but a return to form would mean the world to Minnesota.
Scouting Report: This Twins team has legitimate 90-win potential, but it would take just about everything going right. They’ve only got three guys that can truly boast a “star” label, more acceptable starters than most teams, but a handful of question marks.
There’s no bigger question mark in this Minnesota lineup than Joey Gallo. His tenure with the New York Yankees was dreadful and the Los Angeles Dodgers weren’t able to turn him around. Can the Twins? An All-Star season from Gallo gives them a legitimate stud behind Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa, powering them to a playoff berth. Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Jose Miranda project as good, stable bats, but won’t be carrying anyone to the promised land.
The starting rotation offers less uncertainty. López, Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, and Tyler Mahle are all guys Minnesota can count on to see ERAs between 3.50 and 4.00, but anything better than that feels like house money. In the regular season, I’m confident it’s a winning strategy. A lack of truly elite starting pitching scares the hell out of me for their October prospects.
In the bullpen, there’s one name to know: Jhoan Duran. His million mile-an-hour splitter breaks baseball and physics alike; it has propelled him to stardom. He may not be the last man out of the bullpen, but he’ll be the fireman, getting outs in the most high-leverage situations, regardless of inning. The rest of this bullpen is a lot of “eh, maybe” and could take this team from .500 to contention.
Over/Under Wins: 84-78, 2nd place in AL Central
BetBasics Best Bet: One of the better bets for the upcoming Twins season looks to be their win total. A futures selection set at 82.5, I like the over on this one (-115). Are there holes and other uncertainties? Sure. But a lot went wrong for this squad in 2022, and they didn’t lose much Major League talent. They feel like a very likely candidate to find themselves with a mid-80s win total. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections have them at 87.8 wins and Fangraphs has them at 83-79.
Forecasting the rest of the AL Central may be lucrative, too. The Chicago White Sox don’t scare me, and the Cleveland Guardians won’t need to exceed expectations in order to win the division. DraftKings has +425 odds on a divisional forecast of Cleveland in first and Minnesota in second. Obviously there’s some risk involved, but less so than other divisions that figure to be more tightly contested.