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Minnesota Twins Series Preview: These guys again?

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Is this the same series or a new one? It’s hard to tell because they’re Twins.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Minnesota Twins
May 28, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins right fielder Eddie Rosario (20) celebrates with third baseman Miguel Sano (22) after hitting a two-run home run during the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson
Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals played the Minnesota Twins just two times prior to their series in Minnesota last weekend. So yes, that means we’re going to be seeing a lot of Twins series previews over the next three months. It’d be more fun if the Royals were good and the Twins were bad, but that’s not the world we live in. The Twins have had more movement than we’d typically see with three days between a series. They’ve added Byron Buxton, Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza to the IL, so there are a couple of new faces even though it’s only been a few days. Otherwise, it’s full steam ahead for the presumed 2019 AL Central winners and the team most likely to get swept in the ALDS. I kid because I love, Twins fans.

Meet the Twins...Again

Royals vs. Twins Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Twins
Category Royals Twins
Winning % .338 .658
Team wRC+ 87 121
Team xFIP 4.81 4.29
2019 Head to Head Wins 1 4
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 2.3 Max Kepler/Jorge Polanco, 2.8

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 295 .277 .359 .570 11.2% 15.9% 141 2.8
Jorge Polanco SS 316 .326 .387 .543 8.9% 14.2% 143 2.8
Nelson Cruz DH 206 .278 .364 .561 10.7% 30.1% 141 1.2
Eddie Rosario LF 299 .269 .301 .519 4.7% 14.4% 111 1.2
C.J. Cron 1B 270 .276 .341 .527 7.4% 20.0% 125 1.1
Miguel Sano 3B 106 .217 .311 .522 12.3% 39.6% 114 0.6
Jake Cave CF 60 .176 .300 .216 11.7% 30.0% 48 -0.4
Jason Castro C 124 .239 .331 .514 10.5% 25.0% 121 1.2
Jonathan Schoop 2B 253 .258 .308 .475 3.6% 23.3% 105 1.0

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 140 .301 .386 .642 10.0% 25.0% 167 1.7
Luis Arraez INF 36 .393 .500 .571 19.4% 2.8% 186 0.6
Willians Astudilllo UTIL 125 .267 .288 .397 1.6% 4.0% 76 -0.1

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 27 31.0 2 1 30.8% 5.4% 2.03 3.18 0.7
Trevor May 31 25.1 1 1 22.5% 12.6% 3.55 4.96 0.4
Ryne Harper 32 29.2 2 0 24.4% 5.9% 2.12 3.75 0.6

Projected Starting Pitchers

Thursday June 20th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jake Odorizzi 14 76.1 10 2 28.3% 8.0% 2.24 4.28 2.4
Glenn Sparkman 13 42.2 1 3 13.0% 6.0% 4.01 5.26 0.1

It’s a good ol’ fashioned rematch from Saturday night’s game when Jake Odorizzi took on Glenn Sparkman, and Odorizzi wasn’t particularly good. He gave up four runs on seven hits and allowed home runs to Jorge Soler and Whit Merrifield, but got the win because the Twins offense finally got to Sparkman. This was mentioned last week, but Odorizzi typically doesn’t go through a lineup enough to find himself trouble. In fact, the 27 batters he faced on Saturday was a season high for him and the most he’s faced since he went through the Rays lineup into a fourth time on June 19, 2017. On Saturday, his fastball and slider were king while his sinker gave him some trouble, so it’ll be interesting to see if he shies away from that a bit in this one and goes with what worked before.

It was a mixed bag for Sparkman in that game as he did get more swinging strikes than he had at any point this season, but also gave up more runs than he had at any point this season. That Twins lineup is tough and he was able to get through it once, but when it turned over, trouble started. That doesn’t bode well for this start since it’s so soon after seeing him that they might not have that issue getting started against him. His changeup was filthy, though, so if he has that going, maybe it won’t matter too much.

Friday June 21st - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Martin Perez 15 77.0 7 3 22.0% 10.1% 4.09 4.33 1.7
Jakob Junis 15 82.2 4 6 20.7% 8.5% 5.33 4.65 0.5

It’s another rematch with Martin Perez challenging Junis in this one. Sunday was a weird game. Perez had 1-2-3 innings in the first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth, but gave up three runs on four hits in the second and then seemed to wear down a little bit in the seventh, giving up a couple runs on a couple hits that put the Royals on their way to putting the Twins away. He threw a season-high 105 pitches, which isn’t a huge number so there likely won’t be any issues from that and was actually excellent with pretty much everything but his curve, which he barely threw. It was such a weird outing to gauge because he was filthy in five of the seven innings he pitched in, but bad enough in the other two that he allowed the Royals to salvage a game in the series.

Jakob Junis had a real tough go of it, even though he only ended up giving up two runs. He just couldn’t put hitters away and the walks reared their ugly heads again. He threw 92 pitches and couldn’t get out of the fourth against a Twins lineup that really is a bad matchup for him. He was getting the Twins to chase his slider with six swings and misses on it, but his sinker really betrayed him with three hits allowed on it. That’s not terribly surprising as the Twins are one of the better teams in baseball at handling the sinker. This is likely to be another tough assignment for Junis, but maybe he can be a little more efficient and the Royals can get to Perez again to allow them a chance to get the win.

Saturday June 22nd - 1:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jose Berrios 15 97.2 8 3 23.7% 4.3% 2.86 4.03 2.6
Danny Duffy 10 54.1 3 3 19.7% 9.0% 4.64 4.97 0.8

Ahh, finally, some pitchers we haven’t seen before. Oh no, it’s Jose Berrios, who was once a complete lost cause in the big leagues but is now really good. I actually picked Berrios to take the next step and win the AL Cy Young this year, and while that seems to be a bit of a longshot, a good month could put him in the driver’s seat for that. He’s not striking out as many batters as last year, but he’s walking way fewer and has just been really good this season posing as the ace the Twins need. He’s been slightly worse away from Target Field with an ERA of 3.53 compared to 2.32 at home with walks and home runs being the biggest difference. Outside of a couple of Royals, those aren’t things he’ll have to worry as much about in KC. His times through the order splits aren’t indicative of much, but when he gets past 75 pitches, the Royals will have a shot. He’s allowed a line of .286/.324/.469 after getting to his 76th pitch, so a key here might be to work him a little even if it doesn’t go well early. They just don’t want him at 74 pitches in the seventh inning because by then it’ll be too late.

Danny Duffy fought it hard against the Mariners on Monday night and came away with a no decision after his offense bailed him out. He really wasn’t horrible or anything, but made a brutal pitch to give up a three-run homer in the fifth that gave the Mariners the lead. He threw 105 pitches in just five innings and really couldn’t ever find it, but he battled. He walked three, which maked the first time he’d walked more than two since May 19th against the Angels and he only had eight swinging strikes, but did have a season high with 28 strikes looking, which was really impressive. Some of the issues that have plagued Duffy his whole career were with him in that start, and this Twins offense is a tough one to get right against, so it’ll be a battle for him. The good news is he’s at least had a lot of success against some of the Twins biggest bats, so while the numbers are basically statistically meaningless, he should have some confidence in knowing he’s handled them before.

Sunday June 23rd - 1:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Michael Pineda 14 75.2 4 3 19.9% 4.5% 4.76 4.68 0.8
Homer Bailey 15 74.2 6 6 20.7% 9.6% 4.82 4.53 1.2

The Twins signed Michael Pineda last year knowing he wouldn’t pitch for them until this year. That’s a good bet for a guy with stuff like he has. He’s been okay for them with numbers pretty much matching his career numbers. He’s around the zone a lot, and some might say too much. He gives up a lot of home runs and a fair amount of hits, but he throws hard and can get hitters to look stupid when he’s on. His fastball velocity isn’t what it used to be, though that might come back. He’s down to 92-93 and it really doesn’t have much spin. I’m actually a little surprised opponents are only hitting .283 with a .507 SLG on it. He does get a lot of strikeouts with that and his slider. For some reason, the changeup isn’t really a strikeout pitch even though opponents are hitting just .179 with a .282 SLG on it with a 24.4 percent whiff rate. Righties have handled him quite well with a .282/.330/.512 line while lefties have struggled, so Hunter Dozier coming back for this would be good. Like so many of the Twins pitchers, you likely won’t see him in the seventh as he’s pitched just twice into that inning and has given up a .371/.385/.597 line the third time through the order.

Homer Bailey just had his best start since April with the Royals and threw his most scoreless innings since a three-hit shutout of the Giants on June 29, 2014. So yeah, he’s in a groove as he’s now thrown 13.2 straight scoreless (don’t pay attention to what the broadcast or game notes says, he isn’t at 16.2). It’s worth noting that he threw 121 pitches, which was the most he’s thrown in more than five years. The Royals and their bullpen badly needed it and he delivered, but there might be some trouble, especially against a very good lineup. That said, if his splitter is working, he can be trouble for any lineup. I just wouldn’t expect him to go more than five or six to give him a little break after his excellent performance in Seattle.

Prediction

I mean, yeah the Royals won a series on the road and have now won two of their last three, but the Twins are also much better than them. Maybe there’s a bit of a letdown after a tough opponent like the Red Sox. I’m feeling confident here (read: stupid), so I’ll say it’s a split. What do you think?

Poll

Yes, it’s the Twins again. How does this series go?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Royals Sweep
    (4 votes)
  • 16%
    Twins Sweep
    (13 votes)
  • 9%
    Royals Win Three of Four
    (8 votes)
  • 53%
    Twins Win Three of Four
    (43 votes)
  • 16%
    They split and waste all of our time
    (13 votes)
81 votes total Vote Now