The 2018 season is upon us, and there are plenty of reasons for Twins fans to be excited this year. If you’re not sure why, you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s some reasons why you should be tuning in this year.
1. We get to watch Byron Buxton
If you haven’t gotten the word by now, Byron Buxton is ridiculous — and I mean that in a very, very good way. When SB Nation asked me who the Twins’ “player to watch in 2018” was for their MLB season preview, I had a pretty easy answer:
Clearly the Twins player to watch in 2018 is Byron Buxton — if your eyes can even keep up.
The former top prospect who is now known as the fastest man in baseball, Buxton struggled to start the 2017 season, hitting just .147/.256/.176 in the month of April. His top-notch defense kept him in the majors, and by the second half of the season Buxton had found his footing, hitting .300/.347/.546 while sporting the best defense of any player in the game.
Watching Byron Buxton is like watching the MacGyver of baseball players, except the only thing he has to solve problems are the parts of his own body, which are all flying around at about 91 mph together in some kind of beautiful symphony. Legit five-tools, if not more. Incredibly athletic. I feel lucky just to have ever watched him run after a base or ball.
Hell, not like I’m going out there, but I’ll just say it now: I predict Buxton will be in the top five players in AL MVP voting next fall, at least — if he doesn’t injure himself flinging his body into the center field wall/ground with no mercy, that is (and that’s a pretty big “if”).
2. The starting rotation actually looks... okay?
I know that sub-headline isn’t the type that gets your lions burning over the Twins’ starting pitchers, and really, it shouldn’t. The starting rotation is still probably the Twins’ biggest weakness. However, unlike past years, the Opening Day rotation is actually built with (at least?) competent, major league pitchers, and as a Twins fan, I can get excited about that!
Though they aren’t exactly Cy Young contenders, the Twins added two much-needed, veteran starters over the offseason: Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi . More importantly, the team added both of these guys on the cheap, signing Lynn to a one-year, $12 million deal (MLB Trade Rumors had estimated he’d get a four-year, $56 million dollar deal) and trading a low-level prospect to the Rays for Odorizzi, who’s making $6.3 million this year. They may not be “Aces”, but at least the Twins didn’t do the equivalent of shelling out a record-breaking contract for Ricky Nolasco again. If these guys struggle, the Twins can easily shrug it off financially.
Meanwhile, the young Jose Berrios is continuing to show promise; Kyle Gibson can... hopefully hold it together like he did down the stretch in 2017; and Ervin Santana hopes to return to the rotation in early May after recovering from finger surgery. That’s a lot more than the Twins have had in several years.
3. That lineup
Over the past couple years, the lineup has been the Twins’ biggest strength. The 2018 season will be no different. Nearly every batter from the 2018 Twins lineup has returned, and those guys managed to rack up the 9th best combined fWAR last year.
Oh, except this time around, the Twins also have Logan Morrison. Like, an actual DH, one who hit 38 home runs last year, as opposed to Robbie Grossman.
4. Beating up on Al Central rivals
If you’e the kind of person who thinks the AL Central being “bad” somehow shows the Twins will still be weak: don’t read the rest of this.
To the rest of you still reading this: Hello. You’ve probably heard by now that most of the AL Central is going to be pretty bad in 2018, or is at least expected to be so. The White Sox, Royals, and the Tigers — oh, the Tigers — are all expected to be in some sort of stage of rebuild next year, and lose a lot of games. Considering the Twins play each of these guys like 18 times this year, guess who’s going to be doing a good amount of that beating?
Screw feeling bad! I relish the opportunity to watch the Twins beat up on (most) of their division rivals.
5. Joe Mauer
As a baseball fan, it was a bit of a rough offseason, watching franchise players like Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria be traded from their longtime homes (all to the Giants, for some reason). As a Twins fan, however, I feel a bit better, though, because we still have our Joe.
The 2018 season marks the Joe’s 15th in the majors, and also the last of the eight-year contract he signed with the Twins before the 2010 season (it didn’t kick in until 2011, mind you). He is the longest tenured player by a single team among all active players. Every single one of his 1731 games the future Hall of Famer has played have been in a Twins uniform. That fact by itself is special, but add on the fact Mauer is from this city (or “cities” I suppose)?
As Joe would say, that’s pretty neat.
What else has you excited for 2018, Twins fans?