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Minnesota Twins Series Preview: The grind begins

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Like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, these Twins could be a force.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals
Sep 14, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jose Berrios (17) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports
Peter G. Aiken

The opening homestand continues with the first visit of the year from the Minnesota Twins for a two-game set. The Twins had a really solid offseason, adding talent pretty much everywhere and hope to be the beneficiaries of the Indians declining their option to get better this offseason (and having some injuries) along with the general malaise that is the American League Central. In Nelson Cruz, CJ Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez, they added some pop and hope to get a big rebound from Byron Buxton. If Jose Berrios can take the jump (and I picked him as my AL Cy Young), they might have a shot to win the Central.

Meet the Twins

Royals vs. Twins - 2018 Edition

Category Royals Twins
Category Royals Twins
Winning % .358 .481
Team wRC+ 88 95
Team xFIP 4.63 4.33
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 5.2 Eddie Rosario, 3.4

Twins Projected Lineup - 2018 Stats

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Max Kepler RF 611 .224 .319 .408 11.6% 15.7% 97 2.6
Jorge Polanco SS 333 .288 .345 .427 7.5% 18.6% 110 1.3
Nelson Cruz DH 591 .256 .342 .509 9.3% 20.6% 134 2.6
Eddie Rosario LF 592 .288 .323 .479 5.1% 17.6% 113 3.4
CJ Cron 1B 560 .240 .323 .493 6.6% 25.9% 122 2.1
Marwin Gonzalez 3B 552 .247 .324 .409 9.6% 22.8% 104 1.6
Jonathan Schoop 2B 501 .233 .266 .416 3.8% 23.0% 80 0.5
Jason Castro C 74 .143 .257 .238 12.2% 35.1% 39 0.0
Byron Buxton CF 94 .156 .183 .200 3.2% 29.8% -3 -0.4

Twins Projected Bench - 2018 Stats

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Mitch Garver C/1B 335 .268 .335 .414 8.7% 21.5% 102 0.2
Willians Astudillo C/INF 97 .355 .371 .516 2.1% 3.1% 139 0.8
Ehire Adrianza UTIL 366 .251 .301 .379 6.6% 22.4% 82 0.5
Tyler Austin OF/1B 268 .230 .287 .480 7.1% 35.4% 103 0.3
Jake Cave OF 309 .265 .313 .473 5.8% 33.0% 108 1.3

Twins Key Relievers - 2018 Stats

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Trevor May 24 25.1 4 1 35.0% 4.9% 3.20 2.46 0.5
Taylor Rogers 72 68.1 1 2 28.9% 6.2% 2.63 2.94 1.9
Blake Parker 67 66.1 2 1 25.4% 6.9% 3.26 4.04 0.0

Probable Pitching Matchups

Tuesday, April 2nd - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jose Berrios 32 192.1 12 11 25.4% 7.7% 3.84 3.89 3.3
Brad Keller 41 140.1 9 6 16.5% 8.6% 3.08 4.26 2.6

Off days early in the season allow teams to do some fun things with their pitching staffs, so the Twins can bring back Jose Berrios for his second start in their first four games. Berrios was outstanding against the Indians on Opening Day, allowing basically nothing, just two hits and a walk over 7.2 innings. He struck out 10 and looked absolutely dominant, making my above noted Cy Young pick seem smart after one day. While he’s been very good, I think it’s fair to say the stuff hasn’t matched the results early in his career as he’s been firmly above average in his first two full seasons, but not yet great. His curve is the moneymaker, and I think if it’s on that he might cause some problems for two of the Royals biggest forces, Jorge Soler and Adalberto Mondesi. He got five of his 10 strikeouts with that curve on Thursday.

Keller was almost as good as Berrios, trailing him in innings by 2/3 of a frame and in strikeouts by five, but matched the hits and walks. Their games are obviously very different, but both had fantastic first impressions. He had 10 whiffs in his start against the White Sox (thanks Eloy!) and seven of them came on his slider. That’s obviously a very important pitch for him. Yes, ground balls are his game, but look up at the strikeout numbers from the Twins bats. A good chunk of that lineup will swing and miss if you give them the opportunity. Keller had his first start against the Twins last year and then pitched very well against them in his only other outing against them, actually striking out 11 in his 10 innings of work. This is a different Twins offense with a lot of new additions, but the gameplan should be the same for him as last year.

Wednesday, April 3rd - 12:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kyle Gibson 32 196.2 10 13 21.7% 9.6% 3.62 3.91 2.8
Homer Bailey 20 106.1 1 14 15.2% 6.7% 6.09 4.65 -0.1

Gibson contracted E. coli on a charity trip to the Dominican Republic and Haiti in the offseason, so he had a bit of a late start to his spring and was held back a couple days in Florida to get ready for his season, but he appears to be close to his listed weight and is ready to go. The noted Royals killer (it’s actually not as crazy as you’d think; he’s 7-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 18 starts) bounced back from two straight subpar seasons to look as good as ever in 2018, adding strikeouts and keeping walks fairly close to previous seasons. He still gets a decent number of ground balls and limits home runs well enough, but a change in the way he threw his slider last year led to some extra swings and misses and has made his success a wee bit more sustainable.

Homer Bailey has two career no-hitters and is in the middle of a six year deal worth $105 million. He’s also coming off his third straight season with a an ERA above 6.00 and went 1-14 in 2018. I know win-loss record doesn’t mean much, but when it’s that extreme, it has some meaning at the very least. Bailey was actually okay in spring and was at his best in his last outing, so the Royals have some hope that maybe he can find the form that allowed him to be at least average in 2014, but that was five years ago at this point and that seems unlikely. So here’s to the Homer Bailey era, I guess.

Prediction

The Twins are the better team, a borderline playoff team and they get to go with their top two starters against the Royals because Gibson’s season debut was delayed by a few days due to his spring bout with E. coli. I think the Twins offense will be too much for the Royals, but they’ll be lucky and get out of this with a split of the two games.

Poll

Twins vs. Royals: What’s your prediction?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Royals Sweep
    (65 votes)
  • 34%
    Twins Sweep
    (124 votes)
  • 47%
    SPLIT!
    (168 votes)
357 votes total Vote Now