Minnesota Twins Relying on Their Prospects in 2016


The Minnesota Twins finished just three games out of the second wild card spot in 2015, but instead of going after big-name free agents or making a trade to acquire another piece, they have stayed the course and look to be relying on their talented young core to carry them in 2016.

The biggest splash that the Twins have made has been signing Byung-ho Park out of South Korea to a four year, $12M deal. Park’s home run total has gone up each of the last four years, culminating with 53 over 140 games in 2015 with the Nexen Heroes. Over those four seasons, Park has averaged just over 43 bombs a year, so the risk is relatively low financially while the reward could be quite substantial. However, this is the only real addition that the club has made this offseason.

What the Twins are banking on is for their young superstars to develop. That means that Byron Buxton will have to show improvement offensively, Miguel Sano will have to continue be a juggernaut, and some of their top pitching prospects will not only need to make an appearance, but also make an impact. A couple of months ago I laid out some optimism surrounding Buxton’s 2016 season, which basically boils down to this: If he can hit .260 or so with some pop while also providing stellar defense, he is well worth the roster spot and is on his way to fulfilling his potential.

Sano was on pace for 36 homers over a full season in 2015, so expecting 30 bombs from the slugger is well within reason. His bat, especially combined with Park’s potential power, give the Twins a nice one-two power punch in the middle of their lineup. One possible lineup for Minnesota to try would be to have Buxton batting lead-off, with Brian Dozier (.236, 28 homers, 77 RBI, 12 steals) behind him. Following them could be Park, which is a bit of a risky proposition, but if you slot Sano behind him in the four-hole, he receives the protection that could help his development along. Throw in Joe Mauer behind these four, and one could expect a pretty decent first five.

The other side of the ball should also see a boost. Last season the Twins ranked 19th in team ERA, with starters earning a 4.14 mark (16th) and the bullpen coming in with a 3.95 (21st) for a total of 4.07, or just above the league average of 4.01. The rotation should see an upgrade when Jose Berrios, second-ranked prospect behind Buxton, makes his Major League debut. After posting a 2.62 ERA over 75.2 innings in Triple-A, that debut could come in the first week of the season.

Another arm that we have mentioned in recent weeks is Nick Burdi, who is a hard-throwing right-hander that could find himself in the Minnesota Twins’ bullpen by midseason. The knock on Burdi last season was a walk rate, which was entirely too high at 6.6 per nine innings in Double-A. He seemed to remedy that in the Arizona Fall League, allowing one walk in eight innings while striking out eleven.

Next: What's Next for Heston?

While the Twins haven’t added a ton of payroll or any major names this offseason, there is still time to do so if they feel the need. At the same time, there will still be plenty of baseball to be played in the years that follow 2016, and the team may be willing to allow these players to develop instead of shipping them out to get high-priced pieces. It will be interesting to watch the Twins this season in what should be a competitive AL Central