Here are three Minnesota Twins players who could be first-time All-Star Game selections.
Heading into the season, the majority of experts weren’t too high on the Twins’ success. For example, Sporting News had the Twins finishing fourth in the American League Central with a 77-85 record. No site expert from CBS Sports had the Twins winning the AL Central and three had them finishing second in the division.
Like the rest of the MLB media contingent, I wish I could say I’m surprised by the Twins’ early success this season. Currently, the Twins are first in the division and it’s honestly not close (a 4.5-game lead over Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox heading into Thursday’s play). However, it’s early and things could change … but, prior to the season, I told you this was a playoff team.
There have been some surprise breakout players for Minnesota who have contributed to Minnesota’s early success. Who are some of those players that could become first-time all-stars this season?
Second baseman Luis Arraez
The month of May was huge for Luis Arraez. The infielder hit .376 with a .480 on-base percentage in 23 games throughout the month. Arraez is one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now, currently sitting fifth in the MLB in batting average at .351, and ranking first in OBP (on-base percentage).
It’s been 19 games since Arraez came off the COVID injury list and he is seeing beach balls on the mound right now. When I watch him play, it takes me back to “old school baseball.” Apparently, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli agrees stating, “There aren’t that many guys who have the type of approach Arraez has in today’s game. It sticks out like a sore thumb, reminding you of the types of at-bats that you remember from the past.”
An AL batting title is a realistic goal for Arraez at this point in the season. If he sustains this approach through the next couple of months, he will be representing the Twins at the 2022 MLB All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium.
Outfielder Byron Buxton
Someone, somewhere searched Google as soon as they saw this name. I had to double-check myself. Nonetheless, outfielder Byron Buxton has yet to receive an MLB All-Star selection. He fell just short in 2021, finishing fourth in outfield AL voting. Buxton has been the player the Twins have been waiting for since he was called up to the majors back in 2015. As of right, Buxton is 12th in the MLB with 11 home runs, His average is low sitting at just .203 but, as a counterpart to his teammate Arraez, they make quite the 1-2 punch at the plate for the Twins.
With an unmatched combination of raw speed, defense and power, Buxton has elevated his game and that’s the biggest reason the Twins are balling right now. Two-time All-Star teammate and new addition Carlos Correa told the New York Times, “He’s the best player in the world, no doubt about it.” Teammates love him, and so do the Twins right now.
Right-handed pitcher Joe Ryan
Joe Ryan has been lights out for Minnesota on the mound so far this season. The 25-year-old right-hander has been by far their best pitcher this season. With a 5-2 record, 42 strikeouts, 0.99 WHIP, and 2.28 ERA, Ryan couldn’t have had a better start to his career in the big leagues. He was drafted in the 2018 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays and played in the minors until he was traded (along with Drew Strotman) to the Twins for designated hitter Nelson Cruz. His first MLB start was last September against the Chicago Cubs in which he threw 5.0 innings and gave up three runs.
Ryan spent most of the offseason impressing manager Rocco Baldelli and was named the Opening Day starter for Minnesota to begin the 2022 season. That is a decision that at least so far as paid off tremendously.
Although, he is currently on the COVID injury list, when Ryan returns, expectations will be high for him. If he is able to keep this momentum going, Ryan will receive his first MLB All-Star selection. On top of that, we could be looking at an AL Rookie of the Year candidate as well, but that’s a long ways away.