Well, that was certainly a month. July wasn’t the Twins’ greatest month ever, as they went 10-12 and stumbled as the month went on. However, when the month began the Twins had a one game lead in the division, and the standings were exactly the same at the end. Minnesota may have struggled, but the AL Central is forgiving.
The pitching, in particular, struggled in July with a 5.30 ERA as a team, their first month without pitching coach Wes Johnson. Part of that can be attributed to expected regression from Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer, and Devin Smeltzer, but Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan also struggled, and the already bad bullpen dealt with injuries throughout the month.
However, we also saw the continued emergence of a new key player in the Twins lineup. Let’s get into the best (and worst) parts of July 2022.
July MVP: José Miranda
José Miranda had a breakout season in the minors last year, but I was personally never a believer. Now, he’s fully won me over. Here are the AL wRC+ leaders since June 1:
- Yordan Álvarez (254)
- Aaron Judge (183)
- Alejandro Kirk (179)
- José Miranda (171)
As the injuries have piled up and the offense has started to struggle, Miranda has become one of the best hitters in baseball. Carlos Correa called him untouchable at the trade deadline, and he was completely correct.
Miranda somehow got even better in July than he was in June, hitting .353 with 5 HR, 19 RBI, and a 1.008 OPS, earning him the AL’s Rookie of the Month honors. He doesn’t have to maintain that level of production forever, but the fact that he’s so completely turned things around since his rough first month is an excellent sign for the Twins’ third baseman of the future.
Honorable Mention: Luis Arraez, Gio Urshela, Nick Gordon
July LVP: Outfield Injuries
The Twins’ outfield situation got pretty dire very quickly. What used to be a crowded outfield with Buxton, Kepler, Kirilloff, Larnach, and Celestino has become a point of weakness, to the point where the Twins had to seriously consider trading for outfield help. Kepler, Kirilloff, and Larnach are all on the IL, Celestino is on the paternity list, and then Buxton is still managing a balky knee that’s kept him out of the outfield for portions of the season. On top of that, Royce Lewis, who was expected to pick up outfield playing time, is out for the year with a torn ACL, and Kyle Garlick has a rib injury that would land him on the IL if it wasn’t for the other injuries. The Twins have no more position players left on their 40-man roster!
So with arguably their seven top outfield options all hurt, the options are thin. Nick Gordon has continued his very solid season at the plate, but his lack of outfield experience has shown up at times. Mark Contreras, a 27-year-old rookie without any batting skills is in the lineup almost every day, and unfortunately, Jake has emerged from his cave. The good news is that Celestino should be back soon (if not by first pitch tonight), and Kepler should hopefully return this weekend as well.
Honorable Mention: Joe Smith, Devin Smeltzer
Most Improved: The Entire Organization
Okay, yes, you caught me. This happened in August, but it really can’t be overstated how important these additions will be to the Twins for the rest of 2022. And the Twins’ dire pitching situation in July forced the front office’s hand. Jorge López is the best non-Josh Hader pitcher that got moved at the deadline. Michael Fulmer is a solid reliever capable of taking on late-game situations. Their additions ensure that Tyler Duffey and Emilio Pagán never have to pitch in high-leverage games again, and now Rocco Baldelli can mix and match López, Fulmer, Jhoan Duran, Griffin Jax, and Caleb Thielbar based on usage and matchups. The two bullpen additions turned what was once a weakness into a strength.
Then there’s Tyler Mahle. If the Twins get the job done and make the playoffs, as I believe they should, there’s a good chance that Mahle is their game one starter. He’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball since May after a slow start and should be even better now that he’s in a more pitcher-friendly park with much-improved defense behind him. The pitching additions have turned the Twins from a team that may squeak into the playoffs to one that should compete with anyone in the field.
Honorable Mention: Emilio Pagán, Jharel Cotton, Gio Urshela
Rookie of the Month: José Miranda
If he’s good enough for MLB’s award, he’s good enough for mine as well. Since I’ve already waxed poetic about Miranda in this post, please enjoy his walk-off home run against All-Star closer Josh Hader on repeat.
Honorable Mention: Jhoan Duran always
July Cy Young: Unawarded
This isn’t a cop out, there’s just legitimately not a single pitcher I feel good about giving an award to for the month of July. Dylan Bundy, of all people, led the Twins in fWAR accumulated for the month with 0.3, but he also had a 5.92 ERA. Second was Emilio Pagán and Juan Minaya with 0.2 fWAR each. I can’t give it to Pagán because, well, you know, and Minaya pitched one game in July for the big league club. Jhoan Duran pitched well when he played, but the Twins weren’t in enough close games for him to have a significant impact.
Honorable Mention: Jhoan Duran, Trevor Megill and Jharel Cotton I guess
The Twins are significantly better now than they were on July 1st, while the White Sox and Guardians didn’t make any meaningful additions. The Twins outfielders should be back and healthy soon. They are still, somehow, leading the division. With 20 of 28 games in August at home, they’re in a good position to grow their division lead.