2023 MLB Season Preview: Minnesota Twins


2022 Record: 78-84 (.481 win%, 3rd in Division)

2023 Payroll: $141,551,190 (16th

2023 Projected Lineup: 

1. 1B Joey Gallo, .188 AVG/.313 OBP/.395 SLG, 1.2 fWAR

2. SS Carlos Correa, .271 AVG/.351 OBP/.458 SLG, 4.9 fWAR

3. DH Byron Buxton, .239 AVG/.303 OBP/.486 SLG, 3.7 fWAR

4. RF Max Kepler, .229 AVG/.318 OBP/.406 SLG, 1.8 fWAR

5. 3B Jose Miranda, .266 AVG/.319 OBP/.436 SLG, 2.3 fWAR

6. LF Trevor Larnach, .228 AVG/.308 OBP/.377 SLG, 0.4 fWAR

7. C Christian Vázquez, .252 AVG/.301 OBP/.374 SLG, 1.8 fWAR

8. 2B Nick Gordon, .248 AVG/.297 OBP/.382 SLG, 0.4 fWAR

9. CF Michael A. Taylor, .236 AVG/.296 OBP/.362 SLG, 1.0 fWAR

*2B Jorge Polanco and 1B/OF Alex Kirilloff are both expected to miss the beginning of the regular season. If healthy, they would likely be starting. 

2023 Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Pablo Lopez, 171.0 IP/3.81 ERA/1.23 WHIP, 2.5 fWAR

2. Sonny Gray, 148.0 IP/4.01 ERA/1.30 WHIP, 2.1 fWAR

3. Joe Ryan, 166.0 IP/4.19 ERA/1.22 WHIP, 2.0 fWAR

4. Tyler Mahle, 166.0 IP/4.22 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 1.7 fWAR

5. Kenta Maeda, 150.0 IP/4.13 ERA/1.26 WHIP, 1.4 fWAR

2023 Projected Top 4 Relievers:

1. Jhoan Duran, 68.0 IP/2.62 ERA/1.10 WHIP, 1.2 fWAR

2. Caleb Thielbar, 64.0 IP/3.46 ERA/1.17 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR

3. Jorge Lopez, 70.0 IP/3.61 ERA/1.26 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

4. Jovani Moran, 56.0 IP/3.33 ERA/1.28 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

2022 Offseason Recap:

The Twins’ 2022 season sort of crashed and burned toward the end, but it was evident that they were only a couple of pieces away from being the team to beat in the AL Central. Levine, Falvey, and Co. spent the offseason bolstering their everyday lineup and sneakily adding what is probably the most depth the Twins have had in a long time. 

The Twins, almost by default, won the Carlos Correa sweepstakes for the second year in a row. He signed a six-year, $200 million deal after both the Giants and the Mets didn’t like what they found during the physical process. That was the biggest splash the Twins made, along with signing Christian Vázquez and Joey Gallo. 

Christian Vázquez has the chance to become one of the best catchers in Minnesota since Joe Mauer retired. Mitch Garver put up good numbers in 18’ and 19’, but since then the position has been a revolving door. Signed to a three-year, $30 million deal, Among catchers with 850+ innings caught, Vázquez was third best with 11 DRS in 2022 (for reference, Gary Sánchez had 1). He is also no stranger to the postseason, and the 2x World Series champion will be valuable if the Twins make a postseason run. 

The most surprising move of the offseason was the deal that sent All-Star 1B/DH Luis Arraez to the Miami Marlins. In return, the Twins received SP Pablo Lopez and prospects Jose Salas and Byron Chourio. While it is always difficult to say goodbye to fan favorites, this trade is beneficial in both the short and long term. 

The Twins desperately needed a starting pitcher who could win games and eat innings, and Pablo Lopez will do just that. Still only 26 years old, Lopez is coming off of a season where he started 32 games, tallied 180 IP, struck out 174 batters, and had a sub-four ERA. 

Jose Salas (Marlins’ No. 5 prospect) and Byron Chourio are both highly regarded prospects, and they are still only teenagers. Arraez’s stock was as high as ever following the 2022 season, and the Twins decided to capitalize on that. 

In a cluster of under-the-radar trades, the Twins were able to fill a few holes in their depth chart. They received INF Kyle Farmer from the Reds in exchange for SP Casey Legumina and shipped INF Gio Urshela off to the Angels for prospect Alejandro Hidalgo

They also acquired CF Michael A. Taylor from the Royals, giving Byron Buxton his best backup yet. His elite defense in centerfield will make it easier for Baldelli to pencil Buxton in at DH, and that in itself is valuable enough.

2023 Regular Season Preview:

In 2023, the Minnesota Twins are hoping they can finally put it all together. This is largely the same group that showed flashes of brilliance last season, and the new additions should help get them over the hump.

Christian Vázquez will be the everyday catcher for the Twins, and they have a trusty backup in Ryan Jeffers. They moved on from Gary Sánchez in the offseason and found the perfect replacement in Vázquez. His defense behind the plate is some of the best in the league, and his ability to get hits and get on base will do nothing but create opportunities for the top of the order. 

There’s a hint of uncertainty surrounding the infield at the moment, just because there are a handful of injuries to begin the season. Jorge Polanco, Alex Kiriloff, and Royce Lewis are all expected to find themselves somewhere within this infield as the season progresses, but we won’t see that fully play out just yet. 

In the meantime, the Twins are rolling with Carlos Correa and Nick Gordon up the middle. Correa will once again be the leader of the infield at short, and likely continue to put up stellar numbers. He regressed slightly in 2022, but injuries played a large part in that. He was still hitting the cover off of the ball (he was in the 96th percentile for max exit velocity), and will look to bounce back defensively, as both his DRS (20 to 3) and OAA (12 to -3) fell drastically in 2022. 

Until Jorge Polanco returns, Nick Gordon will be Correa’s middle infield buddy. Even after Polanco returns, Royce Lewis could enter the picture and shake things up. It’s now or never for Jorge Polanco, as Lewis could establish himself as the Twins’ second baseman of the future. 

The corners, like the middle infield, are subject to change- especially surprise 1B Joey Gallo. Alex Kiriloff was expected to be the go to at the position, which means Gallo may just be holding down the fort until Kiriloff returns from his wrist surgery. 

Until then, Gallo will surely be a defensive wizard at his new position. On the other side of the diamond, Jose Miranda is getting ready for his first full big league season. Barring any drastic changes, fans should get used to seeing Miranda occupy the hot corner. 

The outfield is going to get interesting down the stretch. With Buxton starting the season as DH, it appears as though Larnach, Taylor, and Kepler will be the starters. Buxton will surely get some reps in center field, and players like Joey Gallo, Royce Lewis, and Alex Kiriloff will all move around out there. Injuries have hurt the Twins in the past, but this year they seem to be prepared for the worst.

A Byron Buxton/Michael A. Taylor tandem in center field might be one of the best in baseball, defensively. Taylor had the most DRS among center fielders (19), and in half as many innings, Buxton compiled 8. Max Kepler has always shined in right field, and if his bat comes around he’ll be golden. It’s easy to look at this outfield and be somewhat underwhelmed, but it is full of potential and depth. It won’t be the key to winning, but it will increase the Twins’ chances a lot. 

On the pitching side of things, the Twins look to be in better shape than they were at the beginning of last season. Newly acquired Pablo Lopez, along with a healthy Kenta Maeda, will be joining Gray, Ryan, and Mahle in the rotation this season. The biggest priority for this group will be innings, meaning “pitch a lot of them”. 

Even though they were in the top half of the league in IP last season, they had 110 games in which they went 5 innings or less. Sonny Gray has been vocal about his displeasure with this fact, and it seems as though the others are ready for change. 

Kenta Maeda, the projected 5th starter for the team, is making his return from Tommy John surgery. Before he got injured in 2021, he wasn’t having the greatest season. During the shortened 2020 season, however, he was fantastic. He had a 2.70 ERA, and his K/9 (10.8) and BB/9 (1.35) were all within the top 10 among starters. If the new and improved Maeda is anything like that, the rotation is in good shape. If not, young stud Bailey Ober is knocking on the door. 

The bullpen will be led by Jorge López and Jhoan Duran, who will likely be sharing save opportunities this summer. López, acquired from Baltimore at the deadline last season, held batters to a .204 average on his way to 23 saves between the two teams. Jhoan Duran burst onto the scene last season, and the 6’5’’ flamethrower is hoping to remain dominant. 

Guys like Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Jovani Moran, and Emilio Pagán make up the rest of the bullpen. This is a group that had the sixth-best ERA last season, and should be rather reliable. Remember, the Twins have a group of starters that are motivated to go deep into games- these guys will barely get used.

Player to Watch #1: DH/CF Byron Buxton

When Byron Buxton was in the lineup last season (which was a nice improvement from years before!), he was a joy to watch. Before nagging injuries became a problem in 2022, he was one of the best players in the league. He slashed .426/466/.897 on his way to POTM honors in April, and while those numbers aren’t necessarily maintainable, it will be fun to see how monstrous of a season he can have if he stays somewhat healthy. Baldelli has already said that he will start the season at DH, a move that will hopefully lead to a long and successful year.

Player to Watch #2: INF/OF Royce Lewis

Royce Lewis has been a player to watch since he was drafted first overall in 2017, and this year is no different. When he returns, it will be interesting to see where he finds the bulk of his playing time. Shortstop seems to be the only place on the diamond that won’t be on the table, and he could find himself battling with Jose Miranda and Jorge Polanco for reps at third and second. 

Lewis seemed to have come back from his first ACL injury better than ever, and the hopes are that the second time around will be no different. If he is the player that he was for 12 games last season, 2023 might be the start of something great for the franchise as a whole (just imagine years and years of Correa-Lewis double-plays).

Player to Watch #3: 1B Joey Gallo and RF Max Kepler

The death of the shift is upon us, and Joey Gallo and Max Kepler are entering this season with a bit of extra pep in their step. During the 2022 season, they were shifted against 90% and 89.7% of the time- good for 19th and 20th in the league. In addition to the absence of the shift, Gallo now finds himself playing in an environment much closer to that of the one in Arlington, where he thrived. Before being traded to the Yankees at the deadline in 2021, Gallo had 25 home runs and was leading the league in walks (he also had 125 strikeouts, but that doesn’t really help my case so we’ll ignore that). If the change in scenery really does help, Gallo will be fun to watch in a Twins Uniform.

Max Kepler, in recent months, has been very open about how difficult last season was for him mentally. He admitted that his struggles at the plate last year left him questioning whether or not baseball was the right career choice, and left him in an overall dark place. Kepler is entering this season optimistic (thank you, shift), and had a stellar spring to show for it. 

He went 9-16 with 3 doubles and 2 home runs during Grapefruit league play and just looked good. Here’s to a season of happiness, health, and fans chanting, “MVP! MVP! MVP!” when Max Kepler steps up to the plate in late September.

2023 Record Prediction: 86-76

There’s a sense of optimism surrounding the Twins as we approach Opening Day, and who knows, maybe 2023 will finally be their year. They play in an AL Central that will hopefully be more competitive than in recent years, but it is still the same division that they led for nearly three months last season. If they get decently full seasons from Buxton and Correa, along with quality starts from all of their starters, this team should easily surpass the 78 wins they had a season ago. These poor Twins haven’t won a playoff game since 2004, and they haven’t won a series since 2002. This team looks good enough to make it to the playoffs, what happens next is between them and the baseball gods.

Categories: 2023 Season Preview, Articles, Season Analysis

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