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Minnesota Twins Series Preview: These guys again?

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Sweeping them in Kansas City wasn’t enough. The Royals have followed them home and want more.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals schedule is such that we’ll only be previewing two teams in five series as they alternate between the Minnesota Twins and Cincinnati Reds before getting back to at least a little variety in the schedule. They’re back facing the Twins, this time in a Friday to Monday series in Minneapolis. Since the Royals swept the Twins, they took two of three in Milwaukee and scored 20 runs in the process. Of course 12 of them were in one game, so the offense is still a bit inconsistent for them. Byron Buxton is heating up big time, though, and even though Miguel Sano is struggling, he’s good for a 450+ foot home run every so often. This could be a big series for the Twins as the Indians are heading to Detroit, and while the Tigers have surprised so far, the Indians have to feel like this is an opportunity to win some games and gain some ground on the Twins if the Royals can continue to beat them.

Royals vs. Twins Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Twins
Category Royals Twins
Winning % .421 .632
Team wRC+ 100 102
Team xFIP 4.42 4.19
Run Differential -5 33
Highest fWAR Salvador Perez, 0.7 Nelson Cruz, 0.8

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 76 .227 .316 .515 11.8% 18.4% 122 0.6
Jorge Polanco SS 77 .288 .325 .384 5.2% 11.7% 95 0.3
Nelson Cruz DH 79 .329 .405 .543 7.6% 27.8% 161 0.8
Eddie Rosario LF 75 .224 .307 .522 10.7% 12.0% 119 0.4
Marwin Gonzalez 3B 63 .304 .365 .429 7.9% 19.0% 120 0.4
Mitch Garver C 50 .167 .280 .238 12.0% 36.0% 50 0.2
Luis Arraez 2B 63 .236 .317 .255 11.1% 14.3% 65 0.1
Miguel Sano 1B 56 .137 .214 .412 8.9% 46.4% 59 -0.1
Byron Buxton CF 49 .298 .306 .638 2.0% 28.6% 148 0.7

Twins Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Alex Avila C 29 .238 .448 .381 20.7% 24.1% 146 0.3
Ehire Adrianza INF/OF 29 .214 .241 .250 3.4% 31.0% 33 -0.2
Jake Cave OF 33 .143 .273 .286 6.1% 33.3% 61 0.1
Ildemaro Vargas INF/OF 21 .150 .190 .150 4.8% 23.8% -6 -0.2

Twins Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Taylor Rogers 7 6.1 1 2 30.8% 0.0% 5.68 2.07 0.2
Sergio Romo 6 6.0 0 0 31.8% 4.6% 3.00 4.63 0.0
Trevor May 7 7.0 1 0 36.7% 6.7% 3.86 3.26 0.0

Probable Pitchers

August 14, 7:10pm - Jakob Junis vs. Jake Odorizzi

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jakob Junis 2 9.0 0 0 10.3% 10.3% 4.00 5.66 -0.1
Jake Odorizzi 1 3.0 0 0 13.3% 13.3% 6.00 6.67 -0.1

While the Royals will be running the same pitchers on the same days as last weekend, the Twins had an extra game, so they’ll start this series with Jake Odorizzi making his second start of the year. He didn’t seem especially sharp in that first start of the year against the Royals on Saturday, giving up two runs over three innings and threw 71 pitches. He did get 11 swings and misses, which is a good sign for him, but he’ll need to be better in this one as the Twins aren’t scheduled for another off day until September 3, so they don’t need their bullpen getting taxed in day one of that long stretch. As we mentioned last week, he likely isn’t going to be counted on for a ton of innings anyway, and one thing that I didn’t say last week is that after he throws 75 pitches, the problems really start. So if he’s the least bit wild, the Royals need to take some of their recent patience (11.7 percent walk rate in their last six games) and use it in this one.

The Royals will start this one with Ian Kennedy on the mound, likely to help get him some confidence back, but also because Jakob Junis is probably the best pitcher in the rotation to pair an opener with. Junis will pitch against the Twins for the second time in a week and probably will come in to start the third inning if all goes well. He looks like he’ll miss them in the third series next weekend with the four-game set keeping him out of the Minnesota cross-hairs. He was okay against them in Kansas City, giving up a not surprising pair of home runs, but they were both solo homers, which isn’t the worst thing against this team. What concerns me is that the slider wasn’t doing much for him, getting only three swings and misses on 76 total pitches. That could end up being a good thing if he just didn’t have it and does in this one as it means the Twins won’t have recently seen his “A” slider, but I’m a little worried that the Twins might have found something in their Wednesday win and they’re ready to tee off. He was hit fairly hard in one start last year at Target Field. Hopefully he can avoid that this time.

August 15, 6:10pm - Danny Duffy vs. Jose Berrios

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Danny Duffy 4 19.1 0 2 24.7% 7.4% 5.12 4.54 0.3
Jose Berrios 4 20.1 1 2 18.7% 9.9% 5.31 4.96 0.1

The Royals second look at Jose Berrios will be of a pitcher trying to find it. His command is off, his control is off and he just didn’t look right in Kansas City last week. Like Odorizzi, the swings and misses were there with 13 of them in 96 pitches, but it just wasn’t quite right. It feels like he’s never going to put it together to be the true ace he seems capable of being, but he can still be a very good pitcher. It’s worth at least mentioning that he’s had two good starts and two not so good with both of the good ones coming at home, so maybe that’s what he needs in this one. The sample is super small, but he’s just not putting hitters away. In fact, opponents are now hitting .286 with a .714 SLG against him when he’s ahead in the count. That’s an indicator that he’s giving hitters a pretty comfortable at bat right now, and that’s not what I’ve seen from Berrios in the past.

Danny Duffy has looked really good all season long with good strikeout numbers and much better command of his pitches, but he got hit hard against the Twins his last time out, giving up four runs in four innings with two homers allowed. He seemed to be willing to challenge hitters a bit more than he did against a very good Cubs lineup in the start before and that came back to bite him. It might behoove him to throw fewer strikes against the Twins and let his stuff do the work. That’s a risky proposition if you put guys on base, but he needs to have a different gameplan than he did last Saturday. Duffy gave up four homers in 4.2 innings last year at Target Field, which would not be an ideal situation if he did that this year.

August 16, 1:10pm - Brady Singer vs. Randy Dobnak

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brady Singer 4 20.0 1 1 26.5% 9.6% 4.50 3.71 0.1
Randy Dobnak 4 20.0 3 1 14.5% 6.6% 0.90 3.79 0.6

The Royals will finally see a guy they haven’t seen yet this season, and it’s Randy Dobnak of the 0.90 ERA, which I don’t quite understand. The Twins signed him in 2017 based off some YouTube videos and pitched well enough in the minors to get a callup last year and he posted a 1.59 ERA in 28.1 innings with the big club before getting clobbered in the postseason by the Yankees. He appears to have added a slider this season, according to Baseball Savant, and friends, it’s nasty. He’s allowed a .077 average on it and .115 SLG. But even with that, his dominance is one of those that is kind of hard to explain. His fastball averages just around 91 without anywhere near elite spin. His changeup only averages about five miles per hours slower and also don’t have a ton of spin. And yet, he’s consistently successful in the big leagues to this point. Now, he struggled with righties last season a bit, so that’s good for the Royals, but he’s also been much better against them this year. I don’t know that I can explain Dobnak, but he’s been really good and should be a test for the Royals offense.

Brady Singer will face a very big test here to face the Twins for a second straight start (and he’ll likely get a third one in a week unless the Royals adjust the rotation a bit. He bounced back from a tough one against the Cubs to have his third start out of four where he allowed two runs over five innings. He could have had more swings and misses, but I felt like his slider wasn’t quite as good as it had been in his first few outings. Like Junis, maybe that means the Twins haven’t seen the best of him and that could help, but maybe they just pick it up well. Whatever it was, it’ll be good to see how he reacts to probably needing his changeup even more than he did in that first outing.

August 17, 7:10pm - Kris Bubic vs. Kenta Maeda

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kris Bubic 3 15.0 0 2 24.2% 6.5% 5.40 3.82 0.1
Kenta Maeda 4 23.2 3 0 23.9% 4.6% 2.66 3.27 0.7

And to wrap the series up, the Royals will get their first look at Kenta Maeda in a Twins uniform. Acquired over the winter in a separate deal but really as part of the Mookie Betts blockbuster, the Twins got a good one. And he’s been very good so far by limiting hits, not walking hardly anyone and getting enough strikeouts to matter. I know I harp on swinging strikes a lot, but he’s had double digit swinging strikes in each of his last three starts while topping out at 85 pitches. Maeda might have his picture next to the glossary portion of “pitching backwards” as he’s thrown his slider 38.5 percent of the time this year, his changeup 30.8 percent and his four-seam fastball just 21.5 percent. He also hasn’t given up a single hit on that fastball in 14 at bats. He’s basically getting swings and misses on everything. He has started to look human when facing a lineup for the third time, so how deep he goes might depend on how the first three games went. If the Twins had to tax their bullpen, the Royals might be able to wait him out. If not, they might get him out before having to face Merrifield, Soler, Perez and Dozier a third time.

Kris Bubic had a rough outing against the Reds on Tuesday night, but showed quite a bit by staying in the game and settling in after giving up a couple home runs. He really refined his control and command gave the Royals some innings that they were hoping for and ultimately allowed them the opportunity to come back. With right-handed mashers like Cruz, Sano and Buxton and maybe even Garver if he can head out of his you know what, the Twins could give Bubic problems if he can’t get his changeup to work. That said, they have struggled with lefties this year, though again, they did just fine against Duffy in Kansas City. Still, it’s always good to see a young pitcher face a test against a good offense to get a read on how he can handle it and Bubic is in for a tough one in this one, both in responding to his first truly rough outing and facing a very good hitting team.

Prediction

The Royals swept the Twins in Kansas City, and I’m tempted to give them a split in this series. I think they have a chance to hit pretty decently in Minnesota, but I’m worried about the starting pitching lining up against this offense. You know what? I’m going to do it. I’m predicting a split here.

Poll

Will the Royals sweep again?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Absolutely!
    (6 votes)
  • 4%
    Nope, the Twins will though.
    (6 votes)
  • 25%
    No sweep, but they will take three of four.
    (31 votes)
  • 22%
    Not only won’t they sweep, but they’ll barely miss being swept and only win one.
    (28 votes)
  • 42%
    Time is but a flat circle and the two teams will gain or lose no ground on each other in a split.
    (52 votes)
123 votes total Vote Now