This week we are starting our look to the 2016 Minnesota Twins season by asking this question. Who will be in the Minnesota Twins starting rotation to start the 2016 season? When I started to plan to write this article, I knew that this would definitely start some discussion with Twins fans who will agree or disagree with the choices mentioned below. Please feel free to discuss in the comments section at the end of the article on why you agree or disagree with my starting five and reasons why you feel that it should or will be different. Let's bring out some discussion and start talking 2016 Minnesota Twins baseball. Now on to who I fell will make up the Minnesota Twins starting rotation to start the 2016 season and why.
- Phil Hughes - Now I know that a lot of the Twins faithful are not happy with the drop in performance from Phil's 2014 season and I'm sure that Hughes and the Twins management weren't pleased with it either but with three big money contracts in terms of pitching on the roster, I only see the Twins being able to move one in the offseason and I also don't think the Twins want to get rid of Ervin Santana (see below) so the contract that the Twins will push the hardest to move this offseason will be the contract of Ricky Nolasco and that will take some crafty dealing to make that happen. Back to Hughes, even with the injury and the slide in the middle of the season he still ended up with 11 wins and a respectable 1.288 WHIP. The home run numbers need to come down and the strikeout to walk ratio needs to come back towards the numbers in his record 2014 but with the track of having three previous 15+ win seasons and the fact that there was some light at the end of the tunnel at the end of the 2015 season, Hughes will be back in 2016 to battle with Ervin Santana for the first or second spot in the Twins starting rotation.
- Ervin Santana - It really would have been nice to see what Ervin Santana could have done in a full season in 2015 but due to his suspension, that didn't happen. What the Twins did get to see is glimpses of what they hoped they paid for when signing Santana including 8 K's in his first start back against Kansas City and four more outings with 7 or more K's and two additional starts with 6 K's. Although inconsistent during the month of August, once pitching coach Neil Allen found the mechanical that was plaguing Santana, Ervin jumped back to solid form in September. Santana didn't allow more than two earned runs in any of his September starts and dropped his ERA by a full run in the month. The Twins aren't moving Santana and definitely want to see him in the rotation in 2016 competing for that number one spot in the Twins starting rotation.
- Kyle Gibson - Gibson is a young talent that the Twins count on being part of their starting rotation for years to come. Although Kyle had two fewer wins in 2015 then in 2014, there was improvement in many of his other numbers including innings pitched (15 additional innings in 2015 in one more appearance than in 2014), ERA (4.47 in 2014 to 3.84 in 2015), WHIP (1.310 in 2014 to 1.289 in 2015), and SO/BB ratio (1.88 in 2014 to 2.23 in 2015). The upside for Gibson is still just scratching the service and the Twins definitely still see Kyle as an upper half of the rotation starter. His contact will still be very fiscally easy to handle and isn't arbitration eligible until 2017 so Gibson should continue to be a solid part of this rotation.
- Tyler Duffey - Definitely one of the biggest surprises of the year for the Twins and my pick as surprise player of the year for the Twins, Duffey really shined for the Twins when they needed it most during the second half of the season. Many fans wondered when Duffey was called why it wasn't Taylor Rogers or one of the other Rochester starters but Tyler showed that the Twins front office knew what they were doing when they brought Duffey up from AAA. Duffey definitely showed enough at the major league level in 2015 that he earned a shot at being in this rotation in 2016. He was a huge reason that the Twins were able to sustain a playoff push until the last weekend of the season, going 5-1 with a 3.10 ERA to help solidify the back end of the rotation.
- Jose Berrios - The player that every Twins fan wants to talk about and there's plenty of reason why. You can start with the fact that Jose was named the Minnesota Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year and go on to the fact that he has dominated at all levels of the organization. In 2015, Berrios was 14-5 across the Twins minor league organization with a 2.87 ERA, .223 batting average against, and a 1.05 WHIP. His 175 SO/38 BB ratio also showed the kind of explosive prospect that Berrios is and why every Twins fan wants him here as soon as possible. I'm going on the record now in saying that he will be part of the Twins starting rotation to start the season in 2016.
- Trevor May (Wild Card) - May is the wild card in the Twins pitching scenario for 2016 as Terry Ryan has already told Trevor to start stretching himself back out to be ready to start in 2016 so if the Twins are able to make a second deal after Ricky Nolasco to also move Phil Hughes, that would be the way that I see Trevor starting the 2016 season in the Twins rotation. He could also battle Tyler Duffey for that rotation spot as well so I didn't want to completely leave May out of the conversation but need to see something happen to open that spot.