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Twins 2017 Season Preview: The position players

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The TV dinner of roster rundowns (one of the good kinds with cheesy rice, though).

Minnesota Twins Photo Day
You just barely made it, Danny.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Opening Day is exactly one week away! While the roster has not been officially set by the Twins yet, it seems basically set already.

Below are the position players I project, as of now, making the Opening Day roster, along with their 2016 numbers and their 2017 ZiPS projected numbers.

Without further ado...

Starting Position Players

Catcher: Jason Castro

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .221 .299 .374 43 79 11 42 1 1 2
2016 .210 .307 .377 11 69 11 32 2 1 1.1

Jason Castro, the pitch framer extraordinaire and biggest off-season acquisition by the Twins, will be the opening day catcher barring something truly horrible happening. As mentioned, he’s known for framing pitches well. That skill was why the front office pursued him, hoping it would help improve the team’s overall pitching.

First Base: Joe Mauer

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .262 .350 .378 59 122 9 51 3 0 0.9
2016 .261 .363 .389 68 129 11 49 2 0 1.0

Duh.

Second Base: Brian Dozier

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .255 .330 .485 96 148 31 82 15 4 4
2016 .268 .340 .546 104 165 42 99 18 2 5.5

Despite all the potential trade talk that went on over the off-season, Brian Dozier is still here (for now). Most baseball people believe he will not recreate his awesome 2016 season, and ZiPS regressing back to 31 home runs.

I’ll take it.

Third Base: Miguel Sano

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .235 .324 .471 63 105 26 72 3 1 3
2016 .236 .219 .462 57 103 25 66 1 0 1.3

The Twins said goodbye to Trevor Plouffe during the off-season, which means we get to say hello to Miguel Sano: Full-Time Third Base Guy. ZiPS projects Sano to only hit 26 bombs this year, which seems a bit low. On the flip side, however, they also project Sano at 180 strikeouts, which—given how his spring training is goingalso seems low.

The big questions for Sano this year are going to be if he can handle third base defensively and if he can cut down on the damn strikeouts.

Shortstop: Jorge Polanco

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .269 .315 .405 63 149 11 67 11 7 2
2016 .282 .332 .424 24 69 4 27 4 3 -0.1

The only reason Jorge Polanco is projected as the Opening Day shortstop here is because he’s out of options, the Twins don’t have a shortstop (what’s new?), and Polanco can sorta play the position. Really, Polanco is much better suited for second base, but since the Twins have Dozier there, we get Jorge Polanco: Shortstop.

Expect to see Joe Mauer scooping a lot of Polanco’s throws to first out of the dirt.

Left Field: Eddie Rosario

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .263 .291 .415 69 132 13 58 9 6 2
2016 .269 .295 .421 52 90 10 32 5 2 0.9

There was and is some speculation as to whether Rosario would get the opening day spot in left field, as he did last year, but I don’t really think it’s much of a competition. Eddie Rosario looked great in the WBC—especially defensively—and has remained red-hot upon returning to Twins camp.

Let’s just hope Rosario can work on his patience at the plate.

Center Field: Byron Buxton

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .259 .311 .444 72 126 16 64 16 3 4
2016 .225 .284 .430 44 67 10 38 10 2 1.7

Everyone is basically on the same page when it comes to center field for the Twins. It’s going to be former MLB number-one prospect and faster-than-crap Byron Buxton. He plays excellent defense, can cover a ton of ground, and finally started to look like he was turning the corner at the plate late last season.

Almost everyone is expecting Buxton to have a breakout year.

Right Field: Max Kepler

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .251 .323 .430 66 125 16 74 9 3 2
2016 .235 .309 .424 52 93 17 63 6 2 1.1

Max Kepler had a break out rookie season last year, even if he slowed down near the end. By all accounts, he’ll be the opening day right fielder. No real complaints here.

Designated Hitter: ByungHo Park

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .251 .321 .463 56 98 21 55 3 1 2
2016 .191 .275 .409 28 41 12 24 1 0 0.1

The Twins removed ByungHo Park from the 40-man roster right before spring training began, and he somehow passed through waivers unclaimed and remained at Twins camp. Well, since then Park has done everything the Twins could ask for to earn the Opening Day DH role, and though it is not settled for sure, I believe he will get it—especially considering Kennys Vargas’s recent injury.

The Twins will need to remove someone from the 40-man roster to make space for Park, however.

The Bench

Backup Catcher: Chris Giminez

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .218 .284 .342 27 51 6 21 1 1 0.1
2016 .216 .272 .331 17 30 4 11 8 0 -0.5

Let’s face it: John Ryan Murphy hasn’t really done anything to earn the backup catcher role during spring training beyond already being on the 40-man roster. Though the Twins will need to make space to add Chris Giminez (perhaps DFAing Murphy...?), I feel they like his veteran presence and game calling ability or whatever, and will find a way to do it.

Bench: Eduardo Escobar

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .254 .300 .388 43 100 8 45 2 3 0.9
2016 .236 .280 .338 32 83 6 37 1 3 -0.6

The Twins agreed to pay Escobar like $8 million some this year to avoid arbitration, so I highly doubt he won’t make the team. The fact he’s really funny and people like having him around doesn’t hurt either.

Bench: Robbie Grossman

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .249 .336 .379 61 114 12 49 9 6 0.5
2016 .280 .386 .443 49 93 11 37 2 3 0.7

Better than J.B. Schuck, and already on the 40-man roster. I fully expect Grossman to regress this year, though.

Bench: Danny Santana

Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
Year AVG OBP SLG R H HR RBI SB CS zWAR/fWAR
2017 ZiPS Projection .261 .292 .376 53 105 5 36 17 7 0.4
2016 .240 .279 .326 29 56 2 14 12 9 -0.7

Yes, I think Danny Santana will make the team. He’s out of options, and, I suppose, is versatile. Frankly, though, if Ehire Adrianza wasn’t expected to open the season on the DL with a strained oblique, there would be more competition here. So hats off to you, Danny!


What do you think of the projected roster? Think someone else is more likely to make the team? How accurate do you think the 2017 ZiPS projections are for each player?