Believe it or not, real, actual baseball is right around the corner. The spring games have already started, and Opening Day is just over a month away. After a few months of watching a lukewarm stove, its time to catch up with what’s going on around the division. I sent some questions around to folks from our sister sites in the SB Nation network for the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Cleveland Indians. They were kind enough to answer the questions, and we’ll run one team each day this week. Assume any editing mistakes are mine. And with no further ado, it’s time to pass the microphone to...
Minnesota: TJ Gorsegner, Managing Editor, Twinkie Town
That’s right, back to me! It’s only fair that I answered the same questions though, right?
What players and/or storylines should we be watching on your team this spring?
The two big ones are Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Both are coming off of injury-marred seasons, and both are very, very important to the future of the Twins. If they can get fast start, the Twins could be a very surprising team this season. If not, well, they could be surprising in a bad way. Buxton, in a way, has more to prove. His defense is absolutely phenomenal, but his bat, if it doesn’t improve, will be a massive limitation. Meanwhile, Sano has shown potential with the bat, and is better in the field than most think, but his health, attitude, and consistency are the bigger questions.
What is one more player personnel move you would like to see your team make before spring training ends?
Hmm... Craig Kimbrel is still available, and that move just makes so much sense. The Twins absolutely need more pitching to compete. They do have the makings of a decent rotation with a couple things breaking right, but the bullpen is relying on a lot of inexperienced pitchers. They do have Addison Reed returning from injury, and signed Blake Parker, but outside of that, they have a bunch of relative nobodies. The rotation could use an upgrade, and if Dallas Keuchel would take a three year deal, I’d be all for that, but he wants too many years from the sound of things.
What’s changed over the offseason for your team? What is new and good, what is new and bad, and what is just plain different?
A lot has changed, actually, The two biggest moves are Joe Mauer retiring, and Rocco Baldelli taking over as manager. Mauer has been the face-of-the-franchise for an entire generation of Twins fans, he was born-and-raised in Minnesota, and had a career that certainly warrants hall-of-fame consideration. Not having him around will be a huge adjustment. On a hopefully more positive note, Baldelli takes over from Paul Molitor as manager. While I liked Molitor a lot personally, he was hired by a previous administration, and the team struggled last season. There have been some questions raised about Molly’s ability to connect to younger players, and while he seemed open to them, he was not known as an “advanced stats” guy. Baldelli, meanwhile addresses all three of those concerns, and has already gone out of his way to build a relationship with both Sano and Buxton.
How was last season for you as a fan? What has been the general vibe around your team during the offseason, and how do you feel about the upcoming season?
Last season was a roller coaster. After a rough first few weeks, the Twins were in contention into June before fading away. There an optimist’s case to be made that injuries and suspensions were certainly part of the issue, and the team underperformed its true talent level. Overall, fans have been cautiously optimistic this offseason. No one thinks this is is an unstoppable juggernaut, but with a few breaks, this team could sneak into the playoffs this season, and build the foundation for being truly competitive the next few years. I’m excited to see what happens this year.
Who do you think will win the division, and why?
Obviously Cleveland is, and should be the favorite. They look more beatable than usual though, and I could see Minnesota and/or Chicago both having an opportunity to make a statement. I think that Cleveland will win the division, but it will be closer than people think. Maybe a game or two separating first and second place.
What other question should we have asked you but didn’t?
What’s the deal with Willians Astudillo? Lets be honest, that is the thing that most people care about with the Twins this year. Astudillo is probably the third man on our catcher depth chart, and could sneak into the end of the MLB bench due to his versatility. There is also a chance that he could outright claim the second catcher job. Let’s hope so, because he is tons of fun to watch!
A huge thank you, as always to Brett, Rob, Max, and Matt for taking the time to participate in this exercise.