clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Minnesota Twins Series Preview: It’s been a very slow start for the two-time division champs

New, 8 comments

But they’ve come on lately and are trying to claw their way back to relevancy.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Minnesota Twins Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to imagine the season starting off worse for the Twins. They just haven’t been able to get anything going really, but the Orioles are a heck of a cure for what ails you. Up until this week, they hadn’t even been able to win more than two games in a row at any point this season, but getting the Orioles in town really helped to get them going. And now they feel sort of dangerous. Sure they’re a fourth place team and face an incredibly uphill battle to really even get back into the playoff race, but many will (or have done this already) cite the Nationals and their 19-31 start as hope that a team that spends the first third of a season losing way more than winning can still fight back and not only make the playoffs but win it all.

And I think the Twins have the offense to do that, especially once they get Byron Buxton back (which may not be for a bit). They don’t have the crazy offense we saw in 2019, but they’re very balanced and can explode in any given game. Even their bench bats have been around league average or even better this season. When Miguel Sano started to get going a few days ago, it sort of felt like the light went on for this offense and the Royals will have a very difficult task ahead of them in shutting it down. On the pitching side, well, things aren’t quite so rosy. Michael Pineda came back on Wednesday, but Kenta Maeda is on the IL still other than Jose Berrios and Pineda, it’s really been a grind for their starters. The bullpen does appear to be rounding into form, though, with Alex Colome figuring some things out after an absolutely brutal April. Don’t let the record fool you. This team is pretty good.

Royals vs. Twins Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Twins
Category Royals Twins
Winning % .479 .408
Team wRC+ 86 106
Team xFIP 4.28 4.26
Run Differential -30 -15
H2H Wins 1 2
Highest fWAR Danny Duffy, 1.6 Byron Buxton, 2.5

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 CF 150 .215 .307 .431 10.7% 18.7% 102 0.6
Josh Donaldson 3B 148 .236 .338 .415 14.2% 14.9% 110 0.8
Jorge Polanco 2B 178 .226 .298 .371 8.4% 19.1% 87 0.5
Nelson Cruz DH 168 .286 .349 .524 7.7% 19.6% 137 0.9
Alex Kirilloff RF 70 .242 .271 .500 4.3% 25.7% 108 0.3
Miguel Sano 1B 135 .183 .304 .443 14.1% 37.0% 109 0.3
Trevor Larnach LF 62 .212 .339 .404 12.9% 29.0% 112 0.3
Mitch Garver C 121 .224 .314 .486 11.6% 35.5% 121 0.8
Andrelton Simmons SS 138 .238 .326 .320 10.9% 16.7% 87 0.2

Twins Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Willians Astudillo UTIL 96 .280 .292 .419 0.0% 8.3% 96 0.1
Nick Gordon INF 5 .250 .400 .250 20.0% 20.0% 101 0.1
Kyle Garlick OF 76 .260 .276 .493 1.3% 31.6% 108 0.3
Rob Refsnyder OF/INF 39 .400 .436 .657 7.7% 20.5% 198 0.6

Twins Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Hansel Robles 22 21.2 1 1 25.6% 14.4% 3.32 4.56 0.2
Taylor Rogers 18 20.1 1 2 33.3% 4.8% 2.21 2.09 0.6
Alex Colome 19 18.0 2 4 25.0% 10.7% 5.00 4.35 -0.4

Probable Starting Pitchers

May 28 - Kris Bubic vs. Randy Dobnak, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kris Bubic 9 38.2 0 0 18.3% 12.9% 1.52 4.84 0.3
Randy Dobnak 8 20.1 1 3 18.2% 5.7% 5.75 3.33 -1.0

Before the start of the season, the Twins signed Randy Dobnak to a five-year extension that looked kind of similar to the one the Royals signed Salvador Perez to before the 2012 season. The point being is that it was very cheap. And after showing an ability to be a valuable member of a staff, it made a little sense, I guess. But this year has been rough for Dobnak after a truly outstanding spring that saw him strike out 19 and not walk anyone. Mostly he’s been bit by the home run ball, which hadn’t been an issue for him in the past. He relies mostly on a sinker/slider combo with the sinker running in the low-90s and the slider a legitimate swing and miss weapon. He’s gotten in some trouble leaving the slider up this year and also with his changeup, in some of the few times he’s thrown it. He’s also probably seen his numbers balloon a bit because he’s really struggled with runners on and runners in scoring position. Those things tend to even out. Dobnak has been pretty good against the Royals in his career, but a weird quirk given the Royals lack of power is that he’s allowed five of his eight career homers allowed to them. Hard to believe that.

Kris Bubic’s ERA jumped well over 1.00 with his last start when he really labored through a tough first inning against the Tigers on Sunday, but I was encouraged. Things could have gotten way worse for him and he ended up limiting the damage to two runs. And then without his best stuff, he was able to get through five innings and not allow anything else from that point forward. It allowed the Royals to finally get back and get a win in the bottom of the ninth. I feel like that game could have easily gotten very out of hand last season with Bubic as a rookie and he was impressive in overcoming that. I’m a bit worried about Bubic in this one. His changeup is his dominant pitch and guys like Josh Donaldson and Jorge Polanco have punished changeups from lefties. That said, Sano, Nelson Cruz and Mitch Garver have struggled on them, so he should pick and choose his spots.

May 29 - Carlos Hernandez vs. JA Happ, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Carlos Hernandez 3 3.1 1 0 25.0% 25.0% 10.80 6.71 0.0
JA Happ 8 41.1 2 2 17.0% 8.0% 5.44 5.30 0.5

It’s been a tough for JA Happ as he fulfills his career-long destiny as a member of the Twins rotation. He hasn’t struck out enough batters and he’s probably walked too many, but on the bright side, his home runs are way down. A decrease in his fastball velocity is probably at partially to blame for his struggles. He’s averaging just 90.4 MPH on the pitch, which is down from 91.6 MPH last year, which was down from 92-93 for the five years prior. And he throws it more than half the time too, so if he doesn’t have his fastball working, he either needs to figure out something with one of his secondaries or just wear it. He did show something in his last start, though. After striking out no more than four in any of his previous starts, he got 10 Indians to strike out. He did still give up four runs over six innings, but his 18 swings and misses nearly doubled his previous season high. He’s been a bear for lefties this year as well, so I would anticipate a righty heavy lineup in this one.

It looked like this start might go to Jackson Kowar after the way he’s started at AAA, but Carlos Hernandez is on the 40-man roster and the organization still has high hopes for him. He’s struggled in his big league time, but he can work his sinker in the upper-90s, averaging 98.2 MPH this season. One area I thought he’d struggle was on getting swings and misses because sometimes his pitches straighten out, but he’s actually gotten quite a few swings and misses. The stuff has always looked better than the results, but there’s some very real talent in his right arm, and while this is a good Twins lineup, this is a chance for him to run with a rotation spot for a bit while the Royals are waiting on Danny Duffy’s return.

May 30 - Brad Keller vs. Matt Shoemaker, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 10 45.2 4 4 18.5% 9.7% 5.72 4.34 0.2
Matt Shoemaker 9 46.0 2 5 13.7% 8.8% 5.48 5.34 -0.3

I noted in the first series between these two teams that the Royals were linked with Matt Shoemaker early in the offseason before ending up with Mike Minor. While Minor hasn’t been great, it seems like they’ve dodged something of a bullet. His home run issue from last year that might have been exacerbated by playing his home games in Buffalo has carried over to this year. He’s not striking hardly anyone out and he has the highest walk rate of his career. He added a splitter a few seasons ago and it’s remained his number one, but he’s getting absolutely killed on four-seamers with a .357 average allowed and .536 SLG. His sinker is also getting crushed to the tune of a .310 average and .552 SLG. And yet, he’s throwing those two pitches a combined 41 percent of the time. Oh and lefties have also been killing him. He’s allowed a .308/.390/.549 line to lefties. You have to feel good about having Adalberto Mondesi back to add another lefty bat to the mix against a guy like Shoemaker.

Brad Keller is coming off his best start of the year. He beat the Rays, who were in the midst of an 11-game winning streak and had only scored fewer than six runs twice during that stretch. But he held them to one run over seven innings while striking out seven. In all, he’s now struck out 24 over his last 23.1 innings, which is very interesting to see if he can maintain that element of his game. He’s gotten back to ground balls as well and keeping the ball in the park, which is a welcome change from the start of his season. The big change has been utilizing his slider again, so hopefully he has that working in this one.

Prediction

I like the way the Royals are playing right now, but I also like the way the Twins are playing and with the Twins offense, I worry a bit about Royals starters. That said, I have a feeling that things go well this series and I think the Royals take two of three.

Poll

Can the Royals quiet down the Twins?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Not only quiet, but silence. Royals sweep.
    (12 votes)
  • 46%
    Absolutely, the Royals will take two of three.
    (46 votes)
  • 31%
    Maybe shush them once, but the Twins will win two of three.
    (31 votes)
  • 9%
    Not a chance. Twins get even louder with a sweep.
    (9 votes)
98 votes total Vote Now