Baseball is a game of sample sizes. What happens in April doesn’t necessarily mean anything for the rest of the season. Hot players will cool off, cold players will heat up. Despite that, we’re doing one of my favorite exercises: giving out awards based on tiny samples.
Every month, we’ll be giving out a few awards to the best (and worst) players, moments, and rally goats from the previous 30 days. Let the inaugural monthly overreactions begin!
The record: 12-9, First Place AL Central
After a slow start to the season and a Byron Buxton injury scare, the Twins ended the month on a hot streak, sweeping the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers on their way to a seven-game win streak. Buoyed by stellar starting pitching and bad starts from division rivals, the Twins ended the month with a three-game lead over the second-place Cleveland (not Spiders) Guardians.
April MVP: Byron Buxton
While the rest of the league struggled on offense out of the gate, Byron Buxton missed the memo. Buck hit .271/.340/.729 and demolished 6 home runs, good for a 1.069 OPS (109% above league average for the month!). Also, he’s still one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball. If Buxton stays healthy and plays like this the rest of the way, he won’t just be the Twins MVP, he’ll be the MVP of the entire league.
He only played in 13 of the Twins’ 21 games in April, but boy did he make an impact when he was on the field. When Buxton was in the lineup, the Twins were 8-5. Without him, just 4-4. The Twins need a healthy Buxton if they are going to keep up the winning the rest of the season.
Honorable mentions: Luis Arraez, Joe Ryan, Dylan Bundy, Richie the Rally Goat, Max Kepler and Kyle Garlick against lefties
April LVP: Miguel Sano
Did Miguel Sano just have the worst offensive month in Twins history? It’s a question worth asking. While Sano is usually a slow starter, he was another level of bad in April. The big slugger hit just .093/.231/.148 in the month, a batting line 82% below league average. Sano was just placed on the IL last night, but he may find himself out of the daily lineup upon his return.
Honorable mentions: Caleb Thielbar, Ryan Jeffers on offense, Max Kepler and Kyle Garlick against righties
April Cy Young: Joe Ryan
Ryan’s April was sensational. After (somewhat surprisingly) being named the opening day starter, he has lived up to the billing. In 4 starts, Ryan threw 23 innings of 1.17 ERA ball. He’s striking out more than a batter per inning, never allowing runners to get on base, and has been the Twins’ best pitcher by a wide margin, which is saying something given how good the starting staff has been. The Rays don’t lose trades often, but getting Joe Ryan for two months of Nelson Cruz is already one of the best trades in Twins history.
Honorable mentions: Dylan Bundy, Chris Paddack, Bailey Ober
Most Improved Player: Dylan Bundy
While you could make an argument that this should be another Byron Buxton award for going from “great player” to “hotter than the sun”, we’ll diversify a bit and bestow this honor on Dylan Bundy.
In four April starts, Bundy threw 21.1 innings with a 2.95 ERA, an identical 2.95 FIP, and a 0.938 WHIP, all drastic improvements over his 2021 results. Normally when you see this type of improvement from a pitcher, it’s because they made drastic changes from the year before. Increased velocity, altered pitch mix, the typical tell-tale signs of significant improvement. However, in Bundy’s case, he seems to just be doing the same things better. The soft throwing right-hander cut his walk and home run rates by more than half, and seems to be hitting his spots every time he throws the ball.
Honorable mentions: Trevor Larnach, Max Kepler, honestly any of the starting pitchers
Rookie of the Month: Joe Ryan
We may as well get ahead of ourselves and name this the Joe Ryan Memorial Award, or something along those lines. As long as he’s healthy, this is Ryan’s award to win each and every month. If he keeps up his April performance, he won’t just be the Twins Rookie of the Year, he’ll win the award for the entire American League.
2022 has an impressive crop of rookies playing big roles for teams. Julio Rodriguez, Bobby Witt Jr., and Spencer Torkelson all have the top prospect label, but Joe Ryan may be the best of the whole rookie class. He’s definitely the best looking.
Honorable mentions: Josh Winder, Jhoan Duran
Best Moment: Byron Buxton’s Walk-Off Moonshot
Do we need to say any more? Just watch it again. Bask in its glory. 469 feet to win it, off of Liam Hendriks. Appreciate the greatness of Byron Buxton.