2022 Season Preview: Minnesota Twins

Image: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Minnesota Twins

by Abbi Pelky

2021 Record: 73-89 (.451 win%, 5th in Division)

2021 Payroll: $120,084,606 (17th)

Projected 2022 Lineup:

1. CF Byron Buxton, .268 AVG/.317 OBP/.521 SLG, 4.5 fWAR

2. 2B Jorge Polanco, .276 AVG/.329 OBP/.456 SLG, 3.1 fWAR

3. SS Carlos Correa, .277 AVG/.364 OBP/.498 SLG, 5.3 fWAR

4. DH Luis Arraez, .299 AVG/.365 OBP/.405 SLG, 2.1 fWAR 

5. 1B Miguel Sanó, .225 AVG/.316 OBP/.465 SLG, 0.1 fWAR

6. RF Max Kepler, .234 AVG/.329 OBP/.448 SLG, 2.5 fWAR

7. C Gary Sánchez, .210 AVG/.307 OBP/.424 SLG, 1.2 fWAR  

8. LF Alex Kirilloff, .268 AVG/.323 OBP/.477 SLG, 1.6 fWAR

9. 3B Gio Urshela, .260 AVG/.308 OBP/.421 SLG, 1.5 fWAR

Projected 2022 Rotation:

1. Joe Ryan, 138.0 IP/4.36 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 1.7 fWAR

2. Sonny Gray, 169.0 IP/4.34 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 2.3 fWAR

3. Dylan Bundy, 163.0 IP/4.99 ERA/1.38 WHIP, 1.2 fWAR

4. Bailey Ober, 142.0 IP/4.50 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 1.8 fWAR

5. Chris Archer, 123.0 IP/4.97 ERA/1.41 WHIP, 0.7 fWAR

Projected 2022 Top 3 Relievers:

1. Taylor Rogers, 67.0 IP/3.14 ERA/1.12 WHIP, 1.1 fWAR

2. Jorge Alcala, 62.0 IP/4.03 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR

3. Caleb Thielbar, 62.0 IP/4.12 ERA/1.28 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR

Offseason Recap:

Coming off of a 2021 season that fell short of expectations, the Minnesota Twins had a lot of work to do entering the offseason. Most importantly, they needed to extend star center fielder Byron Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. On November 28th, Buxton and the Twins agreed to a seven-year, $100 million extension. Since breaking into the league in 2015, Buxton has put up solid numbers while being an elite centerfielder. 

During that span, however, he has only played one full season. By offering Buxton, their star player, a long-term deal, the Twins proved to have no intentions of entering a rebuild. Although this was the only significant move made pre-lockout, the Twins built upon this sentiment as soon as a new CBA was signed. 

In one of the first moves post-lockout, the Twins traded catcher Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers for shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa. At the time, it was believed that Kiner-Falefa would be replacing free-agent departure Andrelton Simmons at shortstop. Less than a day after his acquisition, Kiner-Falefa was dealt to the New York Yankees alongside Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt. In return, the Twins received catcher Gary Sánchez and third baseman Gio Urshela. 

Gary Sánchez hasn’t been great in recent years but definitely has the potential to be a solid backstop. Urshela, entering his age-30 season, is coming off of a 2021 season where he slashed .267/.301/.419. He has smooth hands and good arm strength, but may be considered a downgrade from Josh Donaldson. Trading Donaldson, an aging and expensive player, opened the door for the Twins to land one more big-name free agent.

With $21 million off of their books, the Twins spent BIG. In the early hours of March 19th, Carlos Correa agreed to a three-year, $105.3 million deal with the Twins. His new AAV will be $35.1 million, making him the highest-paid infielder in MLB. His contract is player-friendly, with opt-outs available after the 2022 and 2023 seasons. In addition to that, there is a limited no-trade clause for the 2022 season and a full no-trade clause for the 2023 season. The signing of Correa is a gamechanger for the Twins. He is a big bat in the middle of the lineup, and his elite defense will greatly help out the Twins’ pitching staff.

It’s not been out of the ordinary for the Twins in recent years, but their pitching is their greatest weakness.  To bolster their staff, the Twins signed Dylan Bundy to a one-year, $4 million deal with a club option for 2023. Bundy, once a solid starter for the Baltimore Orioles, is coming off of a 2021 season that was less than desirable. Almost as soon as the lockout ended, the Twins sent Chase Petty, their most recent 1st round pick, to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Sonny Gray. 

In 26 starts during the 2021 campaign, Gray went 7-9 with a 4.19 ERA. In 135.1 innings, he had 155 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.22. While many expected him to be the Opening Day starter, it looks like he’ll be the Twins’ number-two guy. In another staff-bolstering move, the Twins signed Chris Archer to a one-year, $2.75 million deal. Archer was serviceable last season, with opponents batting just .240 against him. 

The Twins took an unorthodox approach to the offseason, but it seemed to drastically improve their lineup and staff from a season ago.

2022 Season Preview:

The 2022 season will be an interesting one for this Minnesota Twins team. They spent the offseason putting together a solid roster, hoping to compete in an AL Central that is full of up and coming teams. 

In Gary Sánchez and Ryan Jeffers, the Twins have a catching tandem that isn’t necessarily eye-popping, but they’re serviceable. In 2021, Sánchez surrendered a league-leading 10 passed balls, and Jeffers failed to hit above .200. Lucky for the Twins, both of these guys are determined. After a change of scenery, Sánchez is looking to bounce back and become the catcher of the Twins’ future. Jeffers is young and eager to prove that he deserves to be a part of the future as well. This battery could surprise a lot of fans this year. 

On the corners, the Twins are rolling with Miguel Sanó and Gio Urshela. Miguel Sanó may not be the best long-term first baseman, but this Twins organization is loyal. Sanó hit 30 home runs and slashed .223/.312/.466 last season. That’s plenty good, but his defensive numbers are way below league average. Luckily, Sanó’s shortcomings shouldn’t hurt the man holding down the hot corner. Last season, Urshela only had three throwing errors. Urshela, who split time between short and third last season, should benefit from solely playing third base. 

The crown jewel of this team, the Twins’ middle infield, is strong. Jorge Polanco is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, slashing .269/.323/.503. On the defensive side, he gets the job done. Polanco has fast hands and is the perfect double-play partner for Carlos Correa. Like the highest-paid infielder that he is, Correa will be an above-average defender at shortstop. With these two up the middle, pitchers should feel at ease when throwing sinkers and splitters.

The outfield is where things get fun. The Twins are expected to start Alex Kirilloff, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler, with Brent Rooker brought on as the fourth outfielder. As spring training winds down, there appear to be three players in contention for that last spot. With this battle likely to go down to the end, Jake Cave and Kyle Garlick may find a spot on the Opening Day Roster. Starters-wise, the Twins outfield is solid. If Byron Buxton can stay healthy, he’s easily an MVP-caliber center fielder. 

Kepler is a lockdown defender in right, and his power numbers in 2021 were promising. Kirilloff, once the top prospect in the Twins organization, needs a breakout year. If he can be the player that the Twins thought he’d be, Buxton stays healthy, and Kepler builds upon his 2021 season, this outfield could be scary. At the same time, one ounce of bad luck and this outfield can be disastrous. Whether that be Buxton getting injured, or Kirilloff failing to develop, the Twins don’t have much depth. 

Pitching continues to be a sore subject for a lot of Twins fans. With Kenta Maeda likely to be out for the season, the Twins are hoping that Joe Ryan can step up. Ryan, acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays at last year’s deadline, was recently named the Opening Day starter. After making his Major League debut last September, it’s obvious that the Twins have a lot of faith in him. 

Sonny Gray, Dylan Bundy, and Chris Archer make up the newly-acquired section of this rotation. Sonny Gray is the ace-like pitcher that this rotation needs. Bundy and Archer, on the other hand, are both far removed from their prime. They still put up solid enough numbers, but the Twins would definitely like to see them pitch like they did years ago. The fifth and final piece to this rotation is none other than Bailey Ober. 2022 is expected to be Ober’s first full season, and the Twins are cautiously optimistic. He is projected to have an ERA just over four, and a WAR of 1.8- both of which would be gladly accepted by the Twins. There are a lot of questions regarding this rotation, and it is definitely a weak spot for this team. 

Led by Taylor Rogers, Jorge Alcala, and Caleb Thielbar, the Twins bullpen will be able to keep this team in games. With the starting rotation lacking pitchers who go deep into games, expect to see the bullpen guys often. Expect to see a lot from Alcala and Thielbar, in addition to Tyler Duffey and Joe Smith. Smith, signed via free agency, is only two years removed from the 2019 season in which his ERA was below two. Taylor Rogers was the most consistent arm in the Twins’ pen last year and is expected to fill the closer role. Barring any injuries, this bullpen should remain reliable throughout the season. 

The Twins have done everything they could to build a competitive team. If things go right, this team could challenge the White Sox for the AL Central crown. If things go wrong, the Twins are in the perfect position to sell at the deadline. Correa would most likely elect free agency, and players like Buxton, Urshela, and Kepler make ideal trade candidates at the deadline. After a year like 2021, this almost seems like an all-or-nothing year for the Minnesota Twins. 

Record Prediction: 80-82  

In what was supposed to be a contending year, the Twins ended the 2021 campaign in last place. After a busy offseason, there is no doubt that the Twins will improve upon their 73-89 record. The signing of Carlos Correa brings an established leader into the clubhouse, and additions such as Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela come with large amounts of upside. However, the starting rotation is still extremely weak compared to the rest of the league. In a division that is bound to surprise people, it may be hard for the Twins to win a substantial amount of games. Their pitching will likely hold them back, making finishing above .500 a tricky task.

Player to Watch #1: SS Carlos Correa

In his first full season since 2016, Carlos Correa put up great numbers. He batted .279/.366/.485, was the AL Platinum Glove recipient and had a WAR above 7. In what will be his first season with the Twins, Correa has made it obvious that he wants to win. If he can stay healthy, expect Correa to do everything in his power to get his team to the playoffs. His elite bat and glove will allow him to shine, and the possibility of being a free agent at the season’s end will only make him better. Carlos Correa just became the highest-paid infielder in MLB history, and he’ll show everyone why during the 2022 season.

Player to Watch #2: OF/1B Brent Rooker

A first-round draft pick in 2017, Brent Rooker has yet to have his “breakout” year. He hit .316/.381/.579 in seven games during the shortened 2020 season but was unable to match that in a rather unforgettable 2021 season. Although he will most likely be coming off the bench, Rooker’s ability to play multiple positions will help him get a good amount of playing time. He put up good numbers in the minors and even showed promise during his first stint in the Majors. If he proves that 2021 was a sophomore slump, Brent Rooker can become a permanent fixture in this Minnesota Twins lineup. 

Player to Watch #3: C Gary Sanchez

Gary Sanchez is a perennial “Player to Watch.” Breaking into the league in a big way, Sanchez batted .285 and hit 53 home runs in just over 162 games. Since then, his average hasn’t been above .232, and he’s struck out over 400 times. With an OBP that is consistently over .300, Sanchez isn’t a complete liability. He hits for power and can easily be a reliable everyday catcher. Maybe his first two seasons were a fluke, or the pressures of the Bronx got to him. Whatever it was, it will be interesting to see what Gary Sanchez can do in a Twins uniform.

Categories: 2022 Season Preview

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