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Minnesota Twins Series Preview: It’s like a whole new team up there

The Twins made a ton of moves to escape the AL Central basement. It hasn’t worked...yet.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Minnesota Twins Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins were a perennial playoff contender from roughly 2001 to 2010. After that, they fell on some hard times, but then surprised in 2017 by making it to the Wild Card Game and then won 101 games in 2019. They had a great 2020 in the short season but followed that up with a disappointing last place finish last year. Their restructuring of the entire roster started last year when they dealt Jose Berrios and Nelson Cruz, among others. But it was kicked into high gear as soon a the lockout ended. Here’s what they did:

3/12: Traded Mitch Garver to the Rangers for Isaiah Kiner-Falefa and Ronny Henriquez
3/13: Traded Josh Donaldson, Kiner-Falefa and Ben Rortvedt to the Yankees for Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela
3/13: Traded Chase Petty to the Reds for Sonny Gray and Francis Peguero
3/20: Signed Joe Smith
3/21: Claimed Jhon Romero off waivers
3/22: Signed Carlos Correa
3/28: Signed Chris Archer
4/7: Traded Taylor Rogers, Brent Rooker and Cash to the Padres for Chris Paddack, Emilio Pagan and a PTBNL

Those are the big moves they made. They also signed Dylan Bundy before the lockout. And at the end of the day, they’re rocking a 28-man roster that features 11 players who did not appear for them in 2021. That’s some serious turnover. Unfortunately for them, things haven’t gone great to start the year, but it is of course still quite early. Though they’ve got some injury issues already. Byron Buxton hurt himself a few days ago. He’s still day-to-day and might play in this series, but that’s not great for them. Gray left his last start with a hamstring issue and was placed on the IL. And Alex Kirilloff, who terrorized the Royals, is back on the IL with issues in that wrist that he hurt last season. I think I like their rotation more than most because I think Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober are solid, but they could still use another big arm, especially with Gray hurt. If you haven’t followed the Twins much, watch for Jhoan Duran in this series. That’s a lot of talent right there.

Royals vs. Twins Matchup Stats

Category Royals Twins
Category Royals Twins
Winning % .457 .451
H2H Wins 10 9
Team wRC+ 89 101
Team xFIP 4.52 4.44
Run Differential -102 -105
Highest Returning fWAR Nicky Lopez, 4.4 Byron Buxton, 4.2

Twins Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Byron Buxton CF 254 .306 .358 .647 5.1% 24.4% 169 4.2
Luis Arraez 3B 479 .294 .357 .376 9.0% 10.0% 103 1.8
Carlos Correa SS 640 .279 .366 .485 11.7% 18.1% 134 5.8
Jorge Polanco 2B 644 .269 .323 .503 7.0% 18.3% 122 3.9
Max Kepler RF 490 .211 .306 .413 11.0% 19.6% 95 1.9
Gary Sanchez DH 440 .204 .307 .423 11.8% 27.5% 99 1.5
Trevor Larnach LF 301 .223 .322 .350 10.3% 34.6% 89 0.2
Miguel Sano 1B 532 .223 .312 .466 11.1% 34.4% 110 0.4
Ryan Jeffers C 293 .199 .270 .401 7.5% 36.9% 89 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
Gio Urshela 3B 442 .267 .301 .419 4.5% 24.7% 96 1.0
Nick Gordon INF/OF 216 .240 .292 .355 5.6% 25.5% 77 0.1
Gilberto Celestino OF 62 .136 .177 .288 4.8% 22.6% 22 -0.7
Kyle Garlick OF 107 .232 .280 .465 5.6% 29.9% 98 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
Tyler Duffey 64 62.1 3 3 24.0% 11.0% 3.18 4.19 0.8
Jhoan Duran (AAA) 5 16.0 0 3 29.3% 17.3% 4.06 3.72 ---
Emilio Pagan 67 63.1 4 3 26.2% 6.8% 4.83 4.89 -0.4

Royals vs. Twins Matchups

April 19 - Chris Archer vs. Carlos Hernandez, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Chris Archer 6 19.1 1 1 25.3% 9.6% 4.66 4.79 0.2
Carlos Hernandez 24 85.2 6 2 20.7% 11.5% 3.68 5.00 1.0

I can remember fondly the days that people looked at Archer and thought he should be more than what he was, but in hindsight, he was pretty darn good for awhile with the Rays. But he struggled in 2019, missed 2020 and then came back last year and only threw 19.1 innings for the Rays. He was okay. He was solid for the Twins in his first start this year, going four shutout, walkless innings, but he’s not the pitcher he once was. He’s still fastball/slider heavy, throwing both a ton and while he had good results in his first start with the slider, he got pretty lucky with an average exit velocity on eight balls in play of 98.1 MPH. His fastball was at 93.2 MPH, though, which was a bump from last season, so that’s a good sign for the Twins. That’s a pitch that got hit in a limited sample last year, so for it to be as good as it was in that first start is something the Twins are definitely going to hope continues over the next five and a half months. His platoon split has been pretty big the last couple years, so I would hope the Royals find a way to get Kyle Isbel in the lineup, but I’m not hopeful.

Career vs. KC: 7 GS, 47.0 IP, 2-4, 4.02 ERA


Carlos Hernandez struggled with control early and then once he had gotten back on track, he made a mistake that resulted in a two-run homer. The Royals did come back to tie the game, so he didn’t put it out of reach, but he struggled to start, which was pretty much on par with his last spring start. Is that out of his system? Is it going to be an issue moving forward? We don’t know those answers obviously, but he was quite good in the first inning of games in 2021, which is a contrast from the rest of the Royals staff, so hopefully it was a blip on the radar. Hernandez still has fantastic stuff and any of five pitches he can lean on throughout games, so he’s a pitcher to watch, but he’s also struggled with command and giving innings in the past, so he’s facing a big test early in this season as part of the first wave rotation.

Career vs. MIN: 2 G, 5.1 IP, 0-0, 5.06 ERA

April 20 - Chris Paddack vs. Daniel Lynch, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Chris Paddack 23 108.1 7 7 21.6% 4.8% 5.07 3.87 1.8
Daniel Lynch 15 68.0 4 6 17.7% 10.0% 5.69 5.22 0.5

Paddack was the most recent addition on that list above as the trade was struck to acquire him actually on Opening Day. The Twins needed rotation help and Paddack has had big league success, though he’s regressed after a solid rookie season. He throws a ton of strikes, which is great, but he’s been far too hittable since looking like he might be a future ace in 2019. He relies heavily on a four-seam fastball that showed velocity way down in his first start, but after the short spring, that’s just something to monitor not be too worried about yet. His changeup, which is his money pitch, was not good against the Dodgers his first time. Again, I wouldn’t call it a worry, but it’s something to watch as he didn’t get the swing and miss on it he normally does. I wonder some if he’ll start to use his curve a little more as it’s been a solid swing and miss pitch for him. Paddack does a nice job of holding runners and limiting the base stealing game, so the Royals will likely have to string hits together to get it done against him, which hasn’t been their forte of late.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance


Daniel Lynch’s first start was a rollercoaster of emotions. He got swings and misses on his fastball, which is everything we’ve all been waiting for, but he left too many pitches in a hittable spot and the Cardinals punished them. Some of that is simply the growing process. Lynch has 73 career big league innings and is still learning. Some of that is probably a little mechanical as the 1-2 slider he threw that was hit for a three-run homer looked like he just kind of missed the grip on it a little bit. That’s at least fixable. Lynch has been dominant against lefties in his short career and has been hit quite hard by righties. The Twins will be able to go very right-handed heavy, so this will be a big test for him.

Career vs. MIN: 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 0-0, 6.00 ERA

April 21 - Joe Ryan vs. Zack Greinke, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Joe Ryan 5 26.2 2 1 30.0% 5.0% 4.05 3.73 0.6
Zack Greinke 30 171.0 11 6 17.2% 11.5% 4.16 4.21 1.3

The Twins picked up Joe Ryan from the Rays in the deal that sent Nelson Cruz to Tampa last year and he instantly made an impact. He only made five starts, but he showed an ability to get big time swings and misses. You’ll see the fastball up. A lot. His fastball heat map has the reddest spot in the upper third of the zone toward the right-handed batter’s box. That means that the righties will need to get their hands in quick and the lefties will need to be content with going the other way against him to have success. And the slider is scary. It’s a big whiff pitch for him. He has had some trouble with runners on in his brief career, so that could be a spot where the Royals can exploit him…if they can just get on base.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance


Zack Greinke has good results in his first two outings. He’s gone 11 innings and given up just three runs on 10 hits. But he’s only struck out one batter. He’s also only walked two, so there haven’t been many runners. While the Royals defense behind him is very good, that’s just not a great formula for success in 2022 baseball, so hopefully he can start to up his game on the swings and misses because the Twins lineup he’ll face is better than either the Guardians (their offensive explosions notwithstanding) and Tigers. The Twins have struggled a bit with sliders from righties since the start of 2021, so I do wonder if Greinke will go back to the slider like he said he would as that seems to be a way to get this Twins lineup out.

Career vs. MIN: 25 G, 21 GS, 134.0 IP, 5-9, 4.63 ERA

Royals vs. Twins Prediction

Both teams have struggled with the bats some (though the Twins may hae broken out yesterday) while Royals pitching hasn’t been as bad as it looks with one game greatly skewing their ERA (take away their best and worst game and their team ERA is 4.08). The Twins pretty clearly have a higher upside offensively and with the weather being a lot closer to hitting weather, I worry a bit about the runs the Royals will give up. I think their bats will come alive some, but the Twins will still take two of three because their bats will be…alive…r.

Poll

How many wins for the Royals this series?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    3
    (8 votes)
  • 41%
    2
    (57 votes)
  • 41%
    1
    (57 votes)
  • 10%
    0
    (14 votes)
136 votes total Vote Now