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Minnesota Twins Series Preview: The bomba squad is here to ruin your weekend

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The Twins score a lot and the Royals do not. Maybe that could be the whole preview.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Minnesota Twins Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll admit it. I didn’t think the Twins could be as good as they were last year. Sure they added Josh Donaldson to a ridiculous offense, but I thought they just wouldn’t have enough pitching even with the additions of Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Homer Bailey. They’ve done an incredible job in stranding runners, which isn’t likely to keep up at their current pace, but the pitching staff is definitely good enough to win in the regular season. And while they’ve taken advantage of the Pirates the way they absolutely should, they were also 7-2 against the White Sox, Cardinals and Indians before playing them, so this isn’t a fluke start to their season. What’s scary about the Twins is that their offense doesn’t seem to have hit on all cylinders just yet, so there might actually be another gear to this team that they can kick into when the pitching falls back a bit, as it is likely to do. This is a really good team, and the Royals are in basically no position to stop the Twins from pushing them around.

Royals vs. Twins Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Twins
Category Royals Twins
Winning % .286 .769
Team wRC+ 97 106
Team xFIP 4.18 3.99
Run Differential -11 29
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 0.6 Nelson Cruz, 0.7

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 53 .239 .321 .565 11.3% 18.9% 142 0.5
Josh Donaldson 3B 27 .182 .296 .318 14.8% 25.9% 77 0.1
Jorge Polanco SS 54 .294 .333 .373 5.6% 9.3% 102 0.4
Nelson Cruz DH 55 .373 .418 .627 5.5% 23.6% 189 0.7
Eddie Rosario LF 48 .238 .333 .500 12.5% 10.4% 129 0.3
Mitch Garver C 31 .125 .290 .250 16.1% 38.7% 64 0.1
Luis Arraez 2B 42 .216 .286 .243 9.5% 7.1% 54 0.0
Miguel Sano 1B 35 .147 .171 .471 2.9% 48.6% 70 0.0
Byron Buxton CF 25 .174 .200 .348 4.0% 28.0% 45 0.0

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 20 .200 .400 .400 15.0% 20.0% 139 0.2
Ehire Adrianza INF/OF 18 .235 .278 .294 5.6% 27.8% 63 0.0
Marwin Gonzalez INF/OF 38 .273 .368 .364 13.2% 21.1% 115 0.2
Jake Cave OF 24 .158 .333 .316 8.3% 41.7% 98 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 Rogers 5 4.1 1 1 29.4% 0.0% 4.15 1.56 0.2
Sergio Romo 5 5.0 0 0 33.3% 5.6% 1.80 4.00 0.2
Trevor May 5 4.2 1 0 42.1% 10.5% 1.93 2.43 0.1

Probable Pitchers

August 7, 7:05pm - Devin Smeltzer vs. Jakob Junis

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Devin Smeltzer 2 4.2 1 0 30.4% 8.7% 11.57 4.02 -0.1
Jakob Junis 1 4.1 0 0 11.1% 11.1% 4.15 4.74 0.1

With injuries to the Twins rotation, Devin Smeltzer will step in and get a start in this one. He had a nice debut in 2019 making 11 generally effective appearances. Never a top prospect, he consistently put up some solid numbers throughout the minors with good strikeout numbers and limiting bases on balls, which is pretty much what he has to do in order to stay effective in the big leagues. The stuff just isn’t eye popping, and that’s okay because you can succeed without it, but you need to do a lot of the little things. His fastball averaged a tick under 90 last year (and it’s been 87 in his two appearances this year...not good). His changeup can be a good pitch for him, but as we all know, it’s very difficult to base your repertoire around your change. It needs to play off a fastball typically, so if the fastball isn’t there, he’ll have trouble. Splits-wise, he gives up much more power to righties, but he struggles with keeping lefties off base more. He also has been abysmal outside of Target Field with a .337/.387/.663 line allowed on the road. He did shut the Royals down last year, but that was at home, so maybe this’ll be a different story. It’s kind of tough to think it will be, but maybe.

Jakob Junis gets the call for his second start of the year, and he was pretty okay in his first start against the White Sox. The biggest surprise for me in his 4.1 innings of work was that he didn’t allow a home run. I thought he generally looked good with a few good sliders and a couple bad. It’s a small sample, obviously, but his sinker got rocked by the White Sox on Sunday, and that’s a pitch that gives a slightly different shape to either his four-seamer or his slider. The Twins this year have struggled a bit with changeups and cutters, but everything else has been all systems go, so this might not be a great matchup for Junis. He was okay against the Twins last year, though, and did strike out 13 in 9.2 innings, so maybe he can pull out a decent start in this one.

August 8, 6:05pm - Jake Odorizzi vs. Danny Duffy

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jake Odorizzi (2019) 30 159.0 15 7 27.1% 8.1% 3.51 4.33 4.3
Danny Duffy 3 15.1 0 2 25.4% 7.9% 4.11 4.20 0.4

Former Royals pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi will make his season debut in this one after missing the start of the year due to a strained intercostal muscle. The Twins seemed to really figure out how to get the most out of Odorizzi. It’s not that he hadn’t had good seasons before, but he was striking out more and walking fewer than he had in his previous two seasons. The issue is that he just didn’t get deep into games, but that’s not the worst thing in the world, especially with expanded bullpens. He pitched beyond the sixth inning in just two of his 30 starts. But he was really good when he pitched. His fastball velocity was up by almost two full miles per hour. He also effectively used his cutter quite a bit more. And other than his four-seamer, his strikeout, swing and miss pitch was his splitter. So we’ll see if he can continue the big strikeout numbers into this year. He bet on himself by taking the qualifying offer, so with only nine or 10 starts left, he has a lot to prove. The Royals did hit him around a little last year in two starts with a .357/.391/.571 line, so they have that to think about.

This is the best Danny Duffy has looked since 2016, and the timing is great if the Royals are going to cash in on that with his trade value (which I don’t think they will). He handled a very good Cubs lineup for six innings on Monday in the series opener, looking like he was willing to dish out a walk or two in order to avoid damage, which is something he’ll likely need to carry into this start against the Twins. After getting just three swings and misses in his first start, he has gotten 20 over his last two and his pitch count got up over 100 for the first time in Chicago, so it seems to be all systems go for Duffy in this one. Lefties haven’t been terribly kind to the Twins, so Duffy has a chance to put up another nice start in this one.

August 9, 1:05pm - Jose Berrios vs. Brady Singer

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jose Berrios 3 15.0 1 1 20.3% 9.4% 4.80 4.50 0.2
Brady Singer 3 15.0 0 1 29.5% 9.8% 4.80 3.27 0.0

The Twins ace, Jose Berrios, gets the chance to close out the sweep in this one. Am I getting ahead of myself? Sorry about that. I thought he was going to take the next step last season and compete for the Cy Young, but he was basically the same guy he’d been for the two years prior to that. He did reach 200 innings for the first time, but he was the guy who struck out enough, walked few enough, gave up few enough hits but wasn’t truly dominant like the stuff sometimes suggests he should be. And after the break, he was actually pretty mediocre with a 4.64 ERA in 14 starts, though the strikeout rate did jump for him. Berrios works in the low to mid-90s with his fastball, and it’s a very good pitch, but probably not quite as good as his curve. In his first starts this year, the sinker has been a problem for him, so the Royals need to be hunting that out to see if they can do some damage on it and not get taken by the curve.

Brady Singer might have had his best stuff of the year in his last start against the Cubs while he put up his worst numbers so far with four runs allowed in five innings. He got 11 swings and misses on 93 pitches, but also left two very hittable pitches that got, well, hit. Those were the two home runs he allowed. While the stuff was good, the command was not, and even though he threw more strikes than he had in previous starts, the locations were not what you’d want, and the Cubs punished him for it. The Twins will absolutely do the same, but if he has that fastball and slider working for him, he can handle any lineup as long as the location is there. This is his biggest test yet. He’ll be pitching a day game in hot weather against a team that can launch a bunch on him. If he can get through this, he’ll be able to handle just about anything.

Prediction

So like the Cubs series, I think it’d be difficult to actually predict a win, but unlike the Cubs series, I’m going to say the Twins sweep this thing and put the Royals one weekend closer to Kumar Rocker joining their impressive pitching prospects.

Poll

How will this series end?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Royals Sweep
    (5 votes)
  • 30%
    Twins Sweep
    (27 votes)
  • 20%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (18 votes)
  • 43%
    Twins Win Two of Three
    (38 votes)
88 votes total Vote Now