Thursday, December 29, 2022

Uncustomed Heroes of 2022: Twins


The Twins have done the '1st place team falls apart and doesn't make the playoffs' thing as recently as 2017. The Twins have done the 'Byron Buxton gets injured and the team shutters without him' thing as recently as last year. And the Twins have done the 'finishes low in a tight race but still doesn't make the playoffs' thing as recently as 2018. 

The Minnesota Twins by the halfway point were playoff favorites, and by the end of the season they were in third behind the exactly .500 White Sox. What a fall. It's not that it was a bad year, as Luis Arraez had an incredible year, and so many young pieces came alive. But two of the team's top 4 performers, Carlos Correa and Gio Urshela, will not be on the team as they suit up in...underwhelmingly-designed new uniforms.

Nick Gordon, after years of bubbling up, finally got a full year to showcase his skills in Minneapolis, and the 26-year-old hit .272 with 110 hits, 50 RBIs and 9 homers. Gordon seems to be a bit more versatile than his older brother [who bowed out with Washington this year], and can be useful as a power hitter, a contact hitter, an outfield bat and a speedster. And, as another one-up on Dee, he's not on any illegal substances.
2023 Prediction: Another full year, some more great production, and perhaps a nice extension of some sort?

Trevor Larnach, like Buxton, was excellent when he was healthy but bowed out too soon to aid the team down the stretch. In 51 games, Larnach hit .231 with 37 hits, 18 RBIs and 5 homers. The goal is for him to be more useful over the course of a full year, but we've never seen such a year from him so far.
2023 Prediction:  Kepler hasn't gone yet, but I reckon he will at some point, after which Larnach will get a ton more reps and a ton more eyes on him. I think he'll notch 20 home runs at least.

Several Twins starters this year fell into the category of 'how the mighty have fallen'. Dylan Bundy was a strikeout artist in his prime, and was a phenom for LA as recently as 2020. However, he struggled mightily last year, and this year he tried his damndest to not rely on throwing hard as much as he had. Bundy started all 29 games, and had a 4.89 ERA, an 8-8 record and 94 strikeouts. An improvement over 2021, but a pretty boilerplate year overall.
2023 Prediction: Minor league deal, maybe a few MLB starts, but the big stuff might be over for this guy.

Similarly, Chris Archer was an absolute stud for the Rays before he lost his footing and never picked it up again. He'd done well in Tampa last year with more control, but his hard stuff is sorely missed. This year with the Twins, Archer, had a 4.56 ERA, 8 losses and 84 Ks in 25 starts. Yes, fuller season than usual, but like with Bundy, the edge is gone.
2023 Prediction: I hate to say it, but I don't think anyone comes calling. Maybe he tries the international leagues.

Bailey Ober starts were fleeting this year due to both call-ups and injury, but he made the most of them, with a 3.21 ERA and 51 Ks spread across 11 starts. Ober is young, reliable, and coming into his own, and if the Twins' rotation wasn't so crowded in 2022, he could have proved it.
2023 Prediction: Thankfully the rotation will be a lot sparser next year, so he'll get 28 starts and be a top arm for this team.

The injuries got so bad at one point that the Twins called upon Voorhees, NJ product Devin Smeltzer, who they'd flirted with giving some starts to in 2019, for some integral starts. Smeltzer outdid expectations, with a 5-2 record, a 3.71 ERA and 40 Ks over 70 innings. Once some more arms got activated and dealt for, Smeltzer's role diminished, and after the year he was cut to make room for...somebody.
2023 Prediction: I really, really hope someone picks him up. You always want local kids to succeed, and he's pretty sharp.

Royce Lewis was the Twins first overall pick in 2017, and it's taken him this long, thanks to injuries and such, to make it to the majors. Ironically, his first ever MLB season was halted in its tracks by another injury, but until then he was actually doing pretty well for the Twins, hitting .300 with 5 RBIs and 2 homers in 12 games. 
2023 Prediction: Correa and Urshela are both gone, Farmer will get one infield position...maybe Lewis tries at another one, and plays more than 12 games this year.

As for the trade deadline deals, the Twins got saddled with some bad luck. Tyler Mahle was a great piece for them, as he'd been stellar in Cincinnati. Mahle only got 4 Twins starts, with a 4.41 ERA and a 1-1 record, before he was injured for the majority of the season. Meanwhile, Spencer Steer, who he was traded for, got some playing time in Cincinnati. 
2023 Prediction: My thinking is he stays healthy and pitches well enough for his own good, but not enough to make much of a difference.

Then, after a phenomenal year in the bullpen for the Orioles, Jorge Lopez landed in Minneapolis with the closing job basically his. The only thing that could stop Lopez was a third party getting in the way, and that's ultimately what Jhoan Duran did, though Lopez' 4.37 ERA and 2 blown saves didn't help either. Lopez filled in as a decent middleman, but was nowhere as dominant as he was in Baltimore.
2023 Prediction: An improvement, but I don't think he'll be used in the ninth as much as he was.

Tomorrow, more about that 81-81 White Sox team.

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