It’s been said before, and it’ll be said again, but this has been one of the greatest regular seasons in Minnesota Twins history. Just three years ago the Twins won 59 games. The year after that ended with a loss in the wild card game to the Evil Empire. Now the fans get to cheer for a team that is on pace for 100 wins and 300 home runs. They get to watch Rocco roll out a lineup where every batter can change the game with the swing of a bat (like Zach noted earlier, the days of Mauer/Morneau being the only power hitters are over.) They get to cheer for a team with World Series potential. As we prepare for the end of the regular season, I wanted to talk about five Twins players who took different paths to get to this point in their careers, their biggest moments of the year, and how they’ll contribute most during a potential postseason run. (Stats from 9/9/2019)
Max Kepler, OF (.252/.337/.522, 36 HR, 90 RBI)
The prized prospect from Germany, Max Kepler signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2009 for $800k, the largest signing bonus ever for a prospect from Europe. Kepler hit his way up through the Twins minor leagues, and showed flashes of his power the last three seasons in the MLB (17, 19, and 20 home runs respectively in 416 total games). After signing a $35 million, 5-year contract extension over this last off season, Kepler proved his worth with a 36 HR season, leading the Twins surge towards the MLB record for home runs in a season.
Biggest Moment This Season- The Max Kepler Game
Going into extra innings with the Boston Red Sox, Kepler re-tied the game with a solo home run in the bottom in the 13th, and then singled with the bases loaded 4 innings later to give the Twins their first walk-off win of the season.
Potential Playoff Contribution- Clutch Hitting
Combine the amount of bombas he’s hit with the fact he has two of the three Twins’ walk offs this year, and you’ll never be nervous with Max at the plate in a huge spot.
C.J. Cron, 1B/DH (.255/.316/.479, 24 HR, 76 RBI)
Picked up on waivers last November, Cron signed a one year, $4.8 million dollar deal after hitting 46 home runs the last two years with the Los Angeles Angels and the Tampa Bay Rays. Cron has turned into one of the more reliable right handed power hitters for the Twins this season, and has a .991 Fielding Percentage playing first base.
Biggest Moment This Season- Game-Winning RBI on Mauer Night
With Joe Mauer retiring after last season, the Twins honored one of the greatest catchers of all time by hanging his #7 up in Target Field. With three errors against the Royals, the Twins needed a Cron RBI double in the top of the 6th inning to squeak out a 5-4 win.
Potential Playoff Contribution- Power Depth
Add Cron to the list of players for pitchers to fear. With pitchers looking over the batting order, Cron is a player who will never be an easy out, but instead a batter who opposing teams will just try to keep in the ballpark.
Nelson Cruz, DH (.305/.384/.627, 35 HR, 92 RBI)
Last offseason, the Twins signed one of the greatest power hitters of all time to a one year, $14.3 million dollar contract with a $12 million dollar team option for 2020. Many Twins fans weren’t sure what to think about the then 38 year old, but he has silenced all the doubters while hitting the 2nd most RBIs and home runs. Although he has battled a wrist injury throughout the season, Cruz has made his presence known while in the lineup.
Biggest Moment This Season- July 25th-August 3rd
After hitting for 360 home runs before this season, Cruz had never hit three in the same game, and then he did it two times in ten days. In that ten day stretch, Cruz went 14/26 (.538) with 10 R, 3 2B, 8 HR, and 19 RBI, helping the Twins go 7-2 during those nine games.
Potential Playoff Contribution- Experience
During his 15 season tenure, Cruz has played in 9 postseason series, including three American League Championship Series’ and three World Series’. On a Twins team that, overall, has little to none postseason experience (besides the above-mentioned Wild Card loss), having a veteran leader with the experience Cruz has will pay dividends during October and early November.
Eddie Rosario, OF (.275/.297/.490, 28 HR, 94 RBI)
Drafted in the 4th round of the 2010 amateur draft, Rosario played in the minor leagues for four years before a positive drug test landed him a fifty game suspension before the 2014 season. Rosario made his Major League debut the following season against the Oakland Athletics, hitting his first pitch for an opposite field home run. Rosario has become one of the brightest spots in the Twins dazzling young core, batting .279 with 102 HR and 331 RBI while sporting a .976 fielding percentage with 49 assists in his career with the Twins.
Biggest Moment This Season- The Throw™
Facing the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Twins took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th inning. With Rafael Devers on first, J.D. Martinez cranked a high fly ball out to left field. Rosario, positioned perfectly, played the ball off one bounced and threw a one hop strike to catcher Jason Castro to throw out Devers at the plate and secured a 8-2 road trip for the Twins.
Potential Playoff Contribution- Batting Runs In
Out of everyone in this power hitting Twins lineup, Eddie Rosario leads the Twins in runs batted in. Yes, Eddie Rosario, I was surprised too. Another thing to note is that in Rosario’s only playoff game he hit a two-run HR off of then Yankees Ace Luis Severino. Rosario could be (will be) a guy opposing pitchers fear this coming postseason.
Sergio Romo, RP (3.71 ERA, 3 SV, 18/2 SO/BB with Twins)
The Twins traded for Romo on July 27th, acquiring him along with minor league pitcher Chris Vallimont and a player to be named later for first baseman prospect Lewin Diaz. Romo has been solid for the Twins since his acquirement, stabilizing a rather shaky bullpen. Besides providing solid pitching, Romo brings fires up the crowd seemingly with every pitch, building tension throughout an inning until it crescendos with a fist pump off the mound.
Biggest Moment This Season- First Save as a Twin
After the Twins’ other trade deadline acquirement, Sam Dyson, gave up three runs to the Kansas City Royals in the eight inning to make the game 11-9, Romo secured the last four outs (two by strikeout), to earn his first save as a member of the Minnesota Twins.
Potential Playoff Contribution- Experience
I know, I know, I used this with Nelson Cruz as well, but postseason batting experience and postseason pitching experience are two very different things. Romo is a three time World Series Champion (2010, 2012, and 2014, all with the San Francisco Giants). During the 2012 playoffs, Romo recorded three saves in the World Series, including the series winning save in a 4-3, 10 inning win against the Detroit Tigers. In a bullpen with limited experience, having Romo not only as a pitcher but as a mentor might be the key for a deep postseason run.
This Twins lineup has players that came from all over the place (signed, picked up from waivers, drafted, traded for, etc.). I understand most people reading knew a good majority of this article already, but I still wanted to write it for those people who are just getting back into following the Twins more closely and may not know how ‘rag-tag’ this team actually is. If you want me to do another article like this one, let me know down in the comments (you can even recommend players for me to write about). Thank you so much for reading, and go Twins!