If you need to describe the Minnesota Twins season in one word, pick any synonym of the word “disaster.” Only five teams in Major League Baseball have a worse run differential than the Twins (who are -71). And of those teams, Minnesota had the highest expectations by far. While nobody really saw the Twins as a World Series contender coming into the season, many thought the Twins could make a push for a Wild Card spot. Obviously, that’s not happening. Between Prince‘s death and the catastrophic start to the season, it’s a bad time for Minneapolis. (At least things are looking up for the Vikings and the Timberwolves, right?) Here is your Minnesota Twins 2016 Midseason Report.
Twins 2016 Midseason Report
Byron Buxton, for all the wrong reasons. Regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball, Buxton arrived on fans’ radar a few years ago. Although far from a finished product, it’s hard not to feel disappointed with his performance this year. Still just 22, Buxton made the big league team out of Spring Training, but already spent a stint in the minors this year due to lack of production. He’s now back in the bigs. However, he’s hitting just .212 with an OBP of .253. Buxton still has plenty of time to put it all together, but he has looked supremely over-matched by big league pitching this season. Aside from players dealing with season-ending injuries this season, Buxton is probably the player most ready for the off-season.
All of ‘em. Yes, everybody. Only four players on the roster have a WAR over one: Brian Dozier (1.9), Eduardo Nunez (1.9), Ervin Santana (1.7) and Joe Mauer (1.6). It’s a difficult task singling out one player as the biggest disappointment when the bar is so low and so abundant. Go up and down the roster, it’s one disappointment after another. There are plenty of players on Minnesota’s roster that have a considerable amount of potential. But right now it’s a roster full of replacement-level players or worse.
Offensively, only one position player given regular at-bats has a batting average on the right side of .300 (more on that player later). Additionally, no starting pitcher has an ERA under three, and the bullpen has combined for a putrid 13 combined saves. Not good.
Eduardo Nunez. Leading the offense was the last thing he was expected to do. Heck, he wasn’t even supposed to be an everyday player. But Nunez was thrust into a major role because of injuries and poor performances on the left side of Minnesota’s infield. He’s third on the team in plate appearances (with 336), and is the aforementioned only player on the Twins hitting over .300 (Nunez is at .321). Additionally, he has 101 hits (nobody else has more than 84). He leads the team in stolen bases (22), is second on the team in RBIs (40), second in doubles (15) and has 12 home runs.
If one put a positive spin on the season so far, Nunez would have appeared twice in this article – as team MVP and biggest surprise. However, this Twins season hardly deserves a positive spin. Thus, Nunez appears here as Minnesota’s MVP by virtue of being about the only pleasant surprise on the team.
What to Watch For in the Second Half
Changes. The Twins are in a bit of a weird spot. Generally, teams that are 32-56 at the All-Star break are sellers. But the Twins have so many young players that it’s hard to imagine they would knee-jerk so badly; that they would sell low on many guys they have. There are a few players they be able to trade off for some prospects. Namely, any of the following players could all end up elsewhere before the end of the season: starters Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana, catcher Kurt Suzuki and infielders Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar. Everyone else is too young, too hurt, or too Joe Mauer (whose contract makes him borderline untradeable). The team’s MVP Eduardo Nunez might be the only player the team could deal and get market value in return.
Further, beyond trading players, it will be interesting to see if there is management turnover in the Twin Cities. The Minnesota Twins pride themselves on being loyal to “their guys.” But loyalty can veer into nepotism quickly. Terry Ryan is in his second stint holding down the GM position and manager Paul Molitor is a hometown hero who finished his Hall of Fame career with the Twins, for example. Most coaching and front office changes take place during the off-season. Although the Twins might not need to wait. Either Ryan, Molitor or both could leave or get let go between now and next season. Things are not good for the Twins. The franchise may need to purify itself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka and clean house.