No team is positioned to suffer more than the Minnesota Twins if MLB realigns into the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues for the 2020 season.
One month ago, the biggest challenge facing the Minnesota Twins in 2020 was themselves. Could they come close to matching new expectations, after a 23-game improvement in 2019? Could they advance deeper into the MLB postseason?
One month later, and the Twins could find themselves lucky to even make the playoffs.
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That is if MLB does decide on realignment into the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues for the 2020 season.
Over the past week, we’ve taken a look at the makeup of two of the three Grapefruit League divisions that would exist under that plan, the East and North. As a Miami Marlins fan, the story of the East is just how crushingly unfair it is to the Fish and the New York Mets. As a baseball fan of a team that isn’t the New York Yankees, the story of North is just how absurdly easy New York’s postseason journey would be.
But that did get me to thinking about who loses out the most here. Sure, the Marlins would be losing 100 games again if this were going to be a full season. But they were expected to, while improving, ultimately still lose. And to be honest, still finish in the NL East cellar. They were just supposed to do it more competitively. The team that loses out the most needed to be a club that had big expectations, but is now facing dramatically more difficult circumstances.
Which makes the answer easily the Minnesota Twins, and brings us to the Grapefruit League South.
The Twins were scheduled to battle it out with the Cleveland Indians for the AL Central title, feasting on an improved but not elite Chicago White Sox squad, and two of the worst teams in baseball in the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. An exciting division race, but one in which whoever loses would almost certainly end up with one of the Wild Cards.
Now meet the Grapefruit League South: Minnesota, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays.
Three of these five teams made the playoffs last season. Another had a Top-5 offense and a winning record despite having, with the exception of Rafael Devers, an off-year. And then sure, the Baltimore Orioles. Horrible, but at least better than Detroit.
The only thing Minnesota still has going for them in a GL South reality is the fact there would still, just like the AL Central, be only one elite pitching rotation in the division. The Rays will be rolling out one baseball’s stronger rotations. Strong enough, actually, to keep them from earning the distinction of biggest realignment loser themselves as opposed to the Twinkies here. I’ll take any of the Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell, Charlie Morton trio over Minnesota ace Jose Berrios any day of the week.
The offensive firepower of the GL South could ultimately be the best in baseball. And while the Twins could be the best of the bunch at the plate, I just don’t see their arms keeping Ronald Acuna Jr. and J.D. Martinez in check.