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Royals series preview: The Minnesota Twins

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Here comes the Miguel Sanó Express. Watch out.

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Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox
He’s a bad, bad man.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Thanks in large part to having gotten to play the Royals enough and not being in a division where a team loaded with talent is off to a good start—looking at you, Cleveland—the Minnesota Twins are in the thick of the race for the AL Central crown, holding a one-game lead in the division over Cleveland and Detroit. It’s possible that they’re playing above their heads, but they do have a young core of high-end talent that could break out at any time. One of them already has.

The folks at numberFire—namely Alex McDonald—sent the odds for this weekend’s series at Target Field. They look like this:

In the first game of the series, we give the Royals a 46.71% chance to win tomorrow night.

In the second game, a 44.4% win probability.

And in the third game, a 45.64% win probability.

Game times and pitching matchups:

  • Friday, May 19, 7:10 PM CDT - Nate Karns versus Hector Santiago
  • Saturday, May 20, 1:10 PM CDT - Ian Kennedy (?) versus Adalberto Mejía (L)
  • Sunday, May 21, 1:10 PM CDT - Jason Hammel versus Phil Hughes

Royals at Twins pitching matchups

Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Nate Karns 8 40.1 48 28.4 13 7.7 4.46 4.35 3.24 3.20 0.3 0.4
Hector Santiago (L) 8 45.0 32 16.8 18 9.4 3.80 4.75 5.34 5.06 0.3 0.6
Ian Kennedy 6 35.2 31 21.8 15 10.6 3.03 4.47 4.87 4.53 0.3 1.0
Adalberto Mejía (L) 3 9.1 10 21.7 8 17.4 5.79 6.58 6.14 5.52 -0.1 -0.2
Jason Hammel 8 40.2 31 16.1 17 8.8 6.20 4.91 5.52 5.03 0.2 -0.5
Phil Hughes 8 43.0 26 13.6 9 4.7 5.23 4.64 5.15 4.96 0.3 -0.6

Hector Santiago has been much luckier in run prevention than his peripherals suggest he should have been thus far. A fly-ball pitcher, Santiago has been beneficiary of the Twins’ solid outfield defense of the future. His career BABIP has always been low (.267 career BABIP), but he has gotten a bit luckier than that with a .258 mark despite allowing the highest LD% of his career so far in 2017.

Both Ian Kennedy and Adalberto Mejía are expected to start Saturday, though both slots at time of writing early Thursday evening were still technically TBA. Despite Mejía’s underwhelming major-league stats thus far this season, he’s actually pitched quite well in the high minors for the last two years. Coming over to Minnesota in last year’s deadline deal that sent Eduardo Núñez to San Francisco, Mejía doesn’t come with the strike against him of having been developed by the awful pitch-to-contact oriented philosophy of the pitching development of the Twins organization that is just recently being phased out.

Despite similar profiles with Hector Santiago and a better K/BB rate, Phil Hughes has seen luck elude him. His FIP, xFIP, and SIERA are all lower than Santiago’s, but his ERA is 1.43 runs higher. Sometimes life ain’t fair. Of course, neither Santiago nor Hughes have pitched well, so it’s probably more likely that Santiago comes back to Hughes’s ERA than vice versa.

Twins position players

Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Miguel Sanó 3B 143 10 27 30 0 .287 .427 .643 .443 185 2.3 2.0
Jorge Polanco (S) SS 134 2 14 16 2 .248 .306 .364 .293 81 0.6 1.1
Robbie Grossman (S) DH 105 2 13 10 0 .241 .400 .361 .349 120 0.5 0.3
Brian Dozier 2B 142 5 16 12 6 .248 .359 .421 .342 115 0.4 0.6
Byron Buxton CF 112 2 11 5 3 .178 .252 .287 .242 46 0.4 0.4
Max Kepler (L) RF 126 3 16 13 2 .248 .341 .404 .327 105 0.4 0.9
Eduardo Escobar (S) Util 72 4 10 12 0 .234 .306 .462 .330 107 0.4 0.1
Chris Gimenez C 45 0 2 2 0 .189 .333 .270 .285 76 0.3 0.1
Jason Castro (L) C 102 3 9 11 0 .202 .304 .360 .296 83 0.3 0.8
Kennys Vargas (S) 1B/DH 58 4 7 13 0 .236 .259 .491 .313 94 0.1 0.1
Eddie Rosario (L) LF 127 3 13 11 1 .273 .294 .405 .300 86 -0.1 0.1
Ehire Adrianza (S) Util 8 0 1 3 0 .143 .125 .143 .110 -46 -0.1 -0.2
Joe Mauer (L) 1B 126 2 16 14 0 .256 .310 .350 .292 80 -0.1 0.0

It would be easy to say that as goes Miguel Sanó, so goes the Twins’ offense. Per fWAR, Sanó’s value has only been exceeded thus far by Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and the just injured Freddie Freeman. The 24-year-old third baseman has been positively dominant at the plate, and moving back to his natural position at third has moved his defensive contributions back into the positive. Robbie Grossman and Brian Dozier have both been solid—Grossman has walked more than he’s struck out—but their respective contributions are nowhere near where Sanó’s have been as he looks to be emerging as one of the game’s young superstars.

As a unit, the Twins own a .240/.326/.404 triple-slash with a .319 wOBA and 99 wRC+. They’ve been worth 5.7 fWAR, tied for tenth-best in baseball. These Wins come from their defensive value though. They have the third-best UZR/150 and fourth-best UZR. DRS loves them even more, valuing the Twins’ defense as the best in baseball.

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference through action on Wednesday, May 17.

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Poll

How will the Royals fare in Minnesota?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Royals sweep
    (31 votes)
  • 38%
    Royals take two of three
    (77 votes)
  • 28%
    Twins take two of three
    (57 votes)
  • 17%
    Twins sweep
    (35 votes)
200 votes total Vote Now