Here’s five things we might have to worry about in 2018.
1. Miguel Sano’s defense and health
The Twins’ All-Star third baseman struggled with injuries last year. After sitting out several games with a hand issue, Sano returned in August only to foul a ball off his shin and miss nearly the rest of the season. In fact, Sano had to get titanium rod inserted into his leg to correct the lingering injury. That surgery kept Sano off his feet for a few months, causing him to show up to spring training rather... large.
The good news is that Sano looked good at the plate during spring training. He’s certainly one of the best and most feared hitters in the Twins lineup, and looks to remain as such to start the season. However, it remains to be seen how well Sano will be able to field third base, especially given his extra poundage. There were already questions about Sano’s defensive ability, and now there’s even more.
2. Fernando Rodney as closer
Don’t get me wrong — Fernando Rodney has a long and impressive career as a major league closer. He’s a 15-year MLB veteran, three time All-Star, and even came in fifth one time in Cy Young voting (I might be hallucinating, but that’s what it looks like Baseball Reference says next to his 2012 season).
However, Fernando Rodney is also 41 years old. He’s also always been a close who likes to make things a bit, uh, “interesting”, in the Eddie Guardado or Ron Davis sense of the term. Though he got 39 saves last year for the Diamondbacks, he did it with a 4.23 ERA and 26 walks over 55.1 innings.
The Twins proclaimed early on that Rodney would be their closer to start the season, but it remains to be seen how long that will last. Hell, the questions started far before the season, given the Twins signed reliever Addison Reed just a few weeks after Rodney, and, well, Reed looks like a better and more stable bullpen option at this point.
So I guess the question is, how long of a leash will the Twins give the pantomiming archer?
3. Current infield depth
One of the most discouraging things to happen to the Twins this offseason was having planned-on shortstop Jorge Polanco suspended for 80-games due to testing positive for PEDs. Though Eduardo Escobar should be able to fill in as a capable replacement, it leaves the Twins a bit thin in the infielder department. The team is starting the season with only one backup infielder on the bench — Ehire Adrianza — and literally no other infielders on the 40-man roster.
How much of a problem will this be? It should be fine as long as all of the infielders stay healthy, but we all know what happens if you’re banking on that. The Twins do have other options not on the 40-man roster — most notably, top prospect Nick Gordon, who should be making his MLB debut sometime this year — but it is a source of concern.
4. The Indians
When you look at the AL Central division in 2018, two things immediately pop out:
- Wow, a lot of these teams look really, really bad.
- The Indians are really, really good.
The Indians aren’t the best team in baseball (that would easily be the Astros), but they are up there. I mean, we’re talking about a team that won 102 games last season, including a record-tying 22 games in a row. Most of the same guys are back, including that dang rotation that minces lineups line a chef from the French Culinary Institute.
If the Twins can’t beat the Indians — and they probably can’t — their only chance of making the playoffs is as a wildcard team, and we all know how well that worked out last season.
5. Joe Mauer
No matter what stance you have on the Twins’ former catcher and current first baseman, he’s going to cause you concern this season. Is this the last season he will play in a Twins uniform? Can he hit .305 again like he did last year? Will he play Gold Glove caliber defense at first base again only to be treated like chopped liver by the BBWAA?
Look — Joe’s turning 35 years old in less than a month. Pretty much all of the projections say he will regress this year, back to the Joe we know from around 2015-ish.
Honestly, I don’t care about that crap. I am mostly just petrified this could be Mauer’s last year playing anywhere, and I’m just trying to hold it together.
What has you worried about the Twins in 2018?