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Minnesota Twins Series Preview: The Royals would probably rather see Arnold and DeVito

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17 of the Royals final 94 games are against the Twins, so get used to these previews.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Minnesota Twins
Jun 11, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco (11) hits a RBI double against the Seattle Mariners in the eighth inning at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the season, most people believed the Twins had a shot to win the AL Central. Most picked the Indians, but the Twins had a shot after a very nice offseason that saw them boost their offense significantly. Nobody speaking honestly would be able to tell you they saw this coming. The Twins are running away with the division, and a lot of it is because they have the best offense in baseball by a pretty decent gap. They’re well on their way to shattering their team home run record of 225, but that’s small potatoes because they’re actually well on their way to shattering the MLB home run record of 267 set by the Yankees just last year. It’s crazy what they’re doing offensively. The pitching is actually pretty good too, with their biggest feat limiting walks as well as anyone, but man, that offense.

Even though some might not think it’s fair, I do think it’s worth noting that they are 22-5 against the Orioles, White Sox, Tigers, Royals and Mariners, but you can only play the games on the schedule and they’re doing what they’re supposed to. And even with that, it means they’re 23-17 against everyone else, which is pretty solid.

Meet the Twins

Royals vs. Twins Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Twins
Category Royals Twins
Winning % .324 .672
Team wRC+ 89 124
Team xFIP 4.75 4.30
2019 Head to Head Wins 0 2
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 2.3 Jorge Polanco, 2.9

Twins Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Max Kepler RF 266 .263 .342 .539 10.5% 15.0% 128 2.2
Jorge Polanco SS 290 .338 .397 .569 8.6% 14.5% 153 2.9
Nelson Cruz DH 181 .285 .370 .570 10.5% 28.2% 145 1.1
Eddie Rosario LF 270 .267 .300 .533 4.8% 14.8% 114 1.2
C.J. Cron 1B 246 .275 .337 .541 7.3% 21.1% 128 1.2
Miguel Sano 3B 83 .247 .325 .589 10.8% 36.1% 134 0.7
Jonathan Schoop 2B 232 .251 .306 .488 3.9% 22.8% 107 1.2
Jason Castro C 114 .263 .360 .566 11.4% 25.4% 142 1.4
Byron Buxton CF 225 .267 .323 .529 7.1% 22.7% 120 2.2

Twins Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Mitch Garver C 122 .321 .410 .679 10.7% 27.0% 184 1.6
Ehire Adrianza INF/OF 117 .276 .371 .418 9.4% 15.4% 114 0.6
Marwin Gonzalez INF/OF 238 .259 .328 .421 8.4% 23.5% 100 1.0

Twins Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Taylor Rodgers 24 28.0 2 1 31.1% 5.0% 2.25 3.06 0.5
Blake Parker 24 22.2 0 2 19.2% 10.6% 4.37 5.06 -0.4
Trevor May 29 23.1 1 1 22.3% 13.6% 3.86 5.26 0.3
Ryne Harper 29 27.2 2 0 24.3% 5.4% 1.95 3.66 0.7

Projected Starting Pitchers

Friday June 14th - 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 14 86.0 3 8 15.6% 11.5% 4.29 4.96 1.3
Kyle Gibson 12 67.1 6 3 24.8% 5.9% 4.14 3.44 1.2

Kyle Gibson has been...okay this year. The ERA isn’t bad, but he’s back to allowing a decent number of hits like he did in 2016 and 2017. He’s striking out a ton of hitters, which is a trend he started last year and he’s even limited walks, so that’s a good thing. He’s not the ground ball wizard he once was, which is in line with some changes he’s made to unlock the strikeouts, but he’s still very solid. He’s upped his slider usage the last couple seasons and it’s nasty with a .143 average allowed and .238 slugging percentage and it’s accounted for 36 of his 71 strikeouts. It has big time movement and it’s just so hard to hit. Where he’s been hurt this year more than last year is his sinker. Opponents have hit .314 with a .476 slugging percentage on it with 10 extra base hits. While he has famously done well against the Royals throughout his career, even when things were going bad for him and great for KC, he did get hit pretty hard in his only start against them this year, giving up six runs on eight hits in 4.2 innings with just two strikeouts, so they’ll always have that.

Things have really turned around for Brad Keller, and it all comes back to throwing strikes. He’s averaged seven innings per start over his last four and posted a 3.54 ERA with just six walks. The thing for Keller is just keeping the free passes down because he doesn’t allow home runs. His 0.4/9 ranks as best in baseball this season. In his last start, everything was working, but his slider was particularly nasty with eight swings and misses. The Twins will swing and miss, so if he can get that going, he has a chance to be their kryptonite, sort of in the way Gibson was for the Royals all those years actually. He gave up three runs in six innings against the Twins back in April, walking four in a late Royals loss, but if he can command his pitches and has his slider working, he has a shot.

Saturday June 15th - 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Glenn Sparkman 12 37.2 1 2 12.9% 5.5% 3.58 5.09 0.3
Jake Odorizzi 13 70.1 9 2 28.6% 8.1% 1.92 4.20 2.5

It’s been one heck of a season for Jake Odorizzi with an ERA below 2.00 and that being a mark he’s generally earned with his peripherals. He’s striking out more batters than ever and he’s dropped his walk rate considerably over the last two seasons. Oh and he’s been extremely hard to hit. What’s the secret? Rocco Baldelli gets him out of games. Inning for inning, he’s been arguably the best pitcher in the AL this year, but he’s only thrown the 70.1 innings in 13 starts. That means he’s averaging about 16 outs per game. He hasn’t even seen the lineup a third time in three of his starts. He’s only faced an opposing hitter for a third time 50 times this season, which is quite low. Historically, he’s paid the third time through tax heavily, allowing a .268/.341/.496 line after being much better the first two times, so now the Twins simply don’t let him get there or at least don’t let him get deep into the third time, and it’s working. So the plus is he’s not likely to last very long. The minus is he’s going to be awesome while he’s in. He’s faced the Royals five times since their title and he’s 2-1 with a 2.39 ERA in 26.1 innings, so he’s done well against his old organization.

I’ve been pretty impressed with Glenn Sparkman as a starter. He gave up a lot in that start against the White Sox, but some of that was Jorge Lopez not cleaning up a mess that he shouldn’t have even had to clean up. In his last two, he’s gone 12 innings and given up just three earned runs on 11 hits. The issue is that even though Sparkman can bring it in the mid-90s, he’s just not getting swings and misses. The results are there, though. Even with the short outing, he’s posted a 3.15 ERA in four starts with just three walks in 20 innings. He’s not Keller good at limiting the long ball, but he’s done pretty well throughout his minor and major league career with it, so as long as he can keep the free passes off, he has a chance to be successful.

Sunday June 16th - 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jakob Junis 14 79.0 4 6 20.5% 8.1% 5.35 4.55 0.5
Martin Perez 14 70.1 7 2 21.8% 10.7% 3.97 4.48 1.4

Martin Perez was sort of the talk of spring training as he showcased this new cutter that was fantastic. He was throwing harder than ever before with his four-seamer and looked like a huge find for the Twins. He’s still throwing hard, which is good, but he’s starting to slip a little bit. He’s gone 2-2 with a 5.59 ERA in his last six starts and while the strikeouts are still mostly there, he’s walked 17 in those 29 innings. That’s after walking 16 in his first 41.1 innings. He’s never going to have pinpoint control, but it’s been troublesome. Still, in his last start on Tuesday, he got 16 swings and misses from the Mariners in 95 pitches, which is a whole lot of whiffs. That cutter has been the source for 30 of his 67 strikeouts and has been a big source of his dominance of lefties, holding them to a .125 average with no extra base hits on it. He may be struggling, but this Royals lineup is too and I could see a whole lot of swings and misses here.

Jakob Junis is coming off his best start of the season. It was the first time all year he didn’t walk a single batter and he had his third best swinging strike rate of the season against Detroit on Tuesday night. He did allow two home runs, but by keeping the free base runners off, the damage was limited by them. This Twins team is a terrible matchup for Junis unless his slider is otherworldly, which it certainly could be. If not, though, their power hitting bats seem likely to wake up and bring some thunder. Twins hitters haven’t seen a ton of Junis over the last couple years. He’s faced them five times, but the most plate appearances anyone on the roster has against him is 13, so maybe that bodes well. Maybe.

Prediction

I think the Royals can sneak one by them in a three-game set. They actually don’t score as prolifically at home as they do on the road, so maybe that’ll help the Royals out. Plus, I like the way Keller is pitching right now, which means he’s going to get absolutely destroyed, but still, I’ll say the Royals take one and they’ll probably feel lucky to do that.

Poll

Can the Royals handle the Twins?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Oh yes, Royals sweep.
    (15 votes)
  • 50%
    Hahahahahahahahahahahaha seriously? No. Twins sweep.
    (106 votes)
  • 7%
    A series win! Royals take two of three.
    (15 votes)
  • 34%
    Well, it’s not that embarrassing. Twins take two of three.
    (72 votes)
208 votes total Vote Now