Minnesota Twins: 2017 Season Review and offseason preview

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: Brian Dozier /
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What Went Right

Last offseason, rumors were rampant that Brian Dozier would be traded. One of the prominent spots he was seemingly headed was L.A., to play for the Dodgers. That deal never happened and Dozier went out and had another great season with the Twins that included 106 runs scored, 34 homers, 93 RBI, and 16 steals. Over the last four years, Dozier ranks sixth in the AL in Fangraphs WAR.

It took a few years, but center fielder Byron Buxton started to live up to his hype this season. Going back to before the 2013 season, Buxton was ranked #10, #1, #2, and #2 on the Baseball America Top 100 list. He struggled to hit in his first two attempts at big league play and continued to struggle for the first half of this season. From his major league debut in 2015 to July 14 of this year, Buxton hit .219/.281/.365 in 755 plate appearances. He struck out 33 percent of the time.

Just as the pennant race was heating up, Buxton caught fire. From August 1 to the end of the season, Buxton was on a whole different level. He hit .298/.342/.541, with an improved 27.5 percent strikeout rate. With hitting like that and elite-level defense in centerfield, Buxton was worth 3.5 WAR. This is the guy the Twins have been waiting for.

Another long-time, highly-regarded Minnesota Twins prospect, Miguel Sano, was having a good year until a shin injury sidelined him for most of the last six weeks of the season. He was limited to 114 games. When he was on the field, he hit .264/.352/.507 with 28 homers and 77 RBI. At last report, Sano was contemplating surgery that would involve inserting a titanium rod into his leg to stabilize the bone.

The pitching staff had two guys at the top who had good years. Ervin Santana went 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA. His 4.46 FIP suggests there was some good fortune in that ERA, namely a .245 Batting Average on Balls In Play and a high Left On Base percentage (79.5 percent). Based on actually runs allowed, though, Santana was quite good.

Young Jose Berrios showed a dramatic improvement from the ugly 8.02 ERA he had in his rookie year. He was 14-8, with a 3.89 ERA that matched up nicely with his 3.84 FIP. He improved his strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate, which are the three things a pitcher has the most control over. Berrios was a top-40 prospect prior to the 2015 and 2016 seasons who really struggled in his rookie year, but now looks to be back on track to become the impressive starting pitcher he was expected to be.

The bullpen had a couple of unknown-outside-of-Minnesota pitchers, Trevor Hildenberger and Alan Busenitz, who pitched well. Hildenberger had a 3.21 ERA in 37 games. Busenitz was even better, with a 1.99 ERA in 31.7 innings (but with a 4.20 FIP). Lefty Taylor Rogers had a 3.07 ERA (4.09 FIP) and led the league with 30 holds.