A few minutes ago we provided the optimist’s take on the 2019 Twins. This post will not be nearly so rosy. In fact, It may be rather dreary. It really should not be read by anyone. If you insist on pressing onward, don’t say I didn’t warn you. The Twins have some reasons for optimism, for sure, but there are also a lot of questions and reasons for doubt.
1. Byron Buxton probably left his bat in Florida
We’ve seen this story before. How many times has Byron Buxton been on the cusp of a breakout, only to not hit, get hurt, or in the case of 2018, both? This is probably his third or fourth “breakout season.” Sure, he hit well in spring training, but that was against double-A level competition. We already know he can hit at double-A, but the Twins didn’t draft him first overall to be a double-A player. They need Buxton to be a superstar to succeed.
2. Miguel Sano is already hurt, again
Just like with Buxton, this is the same-old-song-and-dance. Sano somehow cut his ankle open celebrating a Winter League championship he didn’t even play the field for, and somehow the damn cut didn’t heal over the course of a couple months. For a player who has faced massive conditioning questions this is alarming—how well is really taking care of his body. Even if he does make it back to playing baseball games on the front office’s timeline, what kind of shape will he be in, and how long will it take him to get up to game speed? The guy hasn’t faced live pitching in months, and even at his best, he’s incredibly strikeout prone.
3. They’re counting on Michael Pineda and Martin Perez
Jake Odorizzi isn’t exactly confidence inspiring either. After a down year last season, Odorizzi pitched poorly this spring. Yet he’s still considered the Twins #3 pitcher by default, because pitchers number four and five are just that shaky. Pineda was a good pitcher with the Yankees, but he’s missed two years of baseball due to injuries, and he’s attempting his comeback on the wrong side of thirty. I’m thirty, and hurts to get out of bed in the morning. Martin Perez is also looking to make a comeback, but unlike the oft-injured Pineda, Perez is just trying to come back from being a shitty pitcher. His ERA last season looked like the interest rate you’d get on a car loan, if your credit report was just a macaroni picture. The Twins are confident they “fixed” Perez, but they also fixed Phil Hughes, and they haven’t even taken one of Perez’s ribs out.
4. Speaking of Pitching, who the hell is even in the bullpen
There’s like three guys in the bullpen you’ve heard of, and primarily just because they were Twins last year. They weren’t even good Twins. They were just sort of there. Like they are now. Meanwhile, the only guy the Twins added was Blake Parker, yet CRAIG KIMBREL REMAINS UNSIGNED. The Twins are also counting on a 30-year old MiLB journeyman named Ryne Harper, presumably because Matt Belisle already had tickets to a Jimmy Buffett concert this weekend. Matt Magill, Addison Reed, and Gabriel Moya are already hurt, and quite frankly that might make this bunch of misfits better.
5. Joe Mauer retired
I don’t think I’ve fully come to terms with this. Joe Mauer has been the constant on the Twins my entire adult life. Not only will there be a big, #7 shaped hole in our fandom, but the Twins are going to be without their long-time leader. Joe ran the clubhouse post-game, and occupied one of the critical corner lockers. The leaderless Twins will crumble when they first the skids. That first slump will break the young team’s spirit, and who has been there or done that enough to pull them out. Meanwhile, even at the twilight of his career, Joe still played gold-glove caliber defense at first (Eric Hosmer did not deserve it in 2017,) and was an OBP machine, while cracking a run-scoring double at just the right time more-often-than-not. Someone will have to prove they can do that, but until then, the Twins have a great big run-scoring, milk-drinking, mother-respecting hole in the middle of their lineup.