30 Clubs in 30 Days: Minnesota Twins

The Seahawks traded stud defensive end Michael Bennett and a 7th rounder to the Eagles for a 5th rounder and wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Bennett’s 33 years old but he recorded 8.5 sacks last season which is typically around where he’s at year in and year out. The Eagles currently have an absolutely LOADED defensive front, as if they didn’t already, but that probably means somebody’s getting traded elsewhere, all signs are pointing to Vinny Curry. But I do think the Seahawks seem to have settled here. Bennett’s still a big name and I think he could’ve gotten them more than a 5th rounder and a receiver I’ve never heard of (though Adam Schefter reports that he runs a 4.3). However the Seahawks LOVE their late-round draft picks, hard to blame them since they’ve hit on them so often, but I still think they could’ve gotten as high as a third rounder for Bennett. Also, Richard Sherman is reportedly wishing teammates farewell. So are the Seahawks blowing it up?Anyways, let’s get to the Twins.

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2017 Results:

Record: 85-77, 17 games behind Cleveland Indians, won 2nd Wild Card spot, lost Wild Card game to New York Yankees

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Logan Morrison, SS Erick Aybar, SP Anibal Sanchez, SP Jake Odorizzi, RP Addison Reed, RP Zach Duke, CP Fernando Rodney, SP Michael Pineda

Notable Offseason Subtractions: CP Glen Perkins, RP Matt Belisle, SP Bartolo Colon, RP Dillon Gee, RP Buddy Boshers, C Chris Gimenez, RP Adam Wilk,

Best Offensive Player: 2B Brian Dozier

Best Pitcher: Ervin Santana

Depth Chart:

C-Jason Castro, Mitch Garver

1B-Joe Mauer, Logan Morrison (DH), Kennys Vargas

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Miguel Sano

SS-Jorge Polanco, Eduardo Escobar

LF-Eddie Rosario, Robbie Grossman

CF-Byron Buxton

RF-Max Kepler

SP-Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes

Bullpen-Fernando Rodney (CP), Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Ryan Pressly

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Paul Molitor (4th season with Twins, 2017 AL Manager of the Year)

Hitting Coach-James Rowson

Pitching Coach-Garvin Alston

1st Base Coach-Jeff Smith

3rd Base Coach-Gene Glynn

Bench Coach-Derek Shelton

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So I mentioned a couple of times that I wrote a paper for a column writing class where I previewed each team’s World Series chances. You may remember that as that time where I accurately predicted the Rockies would have a breakout season. Well in this paper, for the Twins, I wrote “LOL” and left it at that. I mean you can’t really blame me, they were coming off a season where they went 59-103 and they had done absolutely nothing in the offseason to make me think they wouldn’t repeat this futility. Well they made me look pretty stupid, didn’t they? The Twins went 85-77 last season and made the postseason as the second Wild Card team. It was really quite the turnaround. They had been fielding a team mainly of young upstarts and they all seemed to hit their stride at the same time in 2017. Hats off to AL Manager of the Year and MLB Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. Here’s how they’re projected to line up.

1. Byron Buxton-CF

2. Joe Mauer-1B

3. Brian Dozier-2B

4. Miguel Sano-3B

5. Eddie Rosario-LF

6. Logan Morrison-DH

7. Max Kepler-RF

8. Jason Castro-C

9. Jorge Polanco-SS

That’s a pretty talented lineup but pretty much everybody in that lineup is going to have to prove that 2017 wasn’t a fluke if they’re going to make a repeat trip to the postseason. Byron Buxton really caught on late in the season, which was huge for this Twins team. The former #1 overall prospect was dangerously close to being labeled a catastrophic bust before his bat finally started catching up to his defense and baserunning skills. Buxton hit .259 with 16 home runs, 29 stolen bases, and had a 3.5 WAR while winning a gold glove in centerfield. Miguel Sano was also a breakout star for the Twins as he was one of their most dangerous hitters, batting .264 with 28 home runs, though that number was limited due to injury. The biggest threat in this Twins lineup is Brian Dozier, though, who might be the strongest second baseman in the game even though he may not look the part at 5’11 200 pounds. He’s had 4 consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs, 2 consecutive of at least 30, and he hit 42 in 2016. Second basemen aren’t supposed to hit 42 home runs in a season. And it’s not like he’s some Dan Uggla-type player where he’s a big brute that somehow is playing second base. He’s a decent defender at the position. Despite his recent run of success, Dozier still doesn’t get the credit he deserves all the time and that may be due to the fact that pretty much all the best second basemen are in the American League right now, including reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve, Robinson Cano, and Dustin Pedroia.

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The pitching for the Twins is the part that might have me nervous. There’s some solid names in this rotation, but they’re also guys that haven’t been great of late. Ervin Santana is their ace, but he just turned 35 years old and he’s currently on the shelf with a finger injury and likely won’t be ready for Opening Day. They did acquire Jake Odorizzi and Anibal Sanchez in the offseason, however Odorizzi battled injuries last season while Sanchez hasn’t been a quality pitcher since 2014. Jose Berrios is a guy to watch, though. He’s one of the most talented young pitchers in the game and it appears that the Twins are ready to put their trust in him to be the ace of the future for them. He finished 2017 with a 3.89 ERA but had a 2.41 ERA at home and over 5 on the road. If he can level that out a little bit, I think the Twins will have that ace that they’ve been missing since Johan Santana.

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The Twins completely overhauled their bullpen in the offseason. They signed Fernando Rodney to take over their closers role. It seems like an offseason isn’t complete unless Rodney is signing with a new team to take over their closer position for one year. He’s usually either amazing or downright awful in that role. There’s never any in-between. Rodney turns 41 next week and he’s coming off a season where he was the Diamondbacks’ closer and carried a 4.23 ERA but a 3.03 FIP and had 39 saves while striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings. He won’t ever top his dominant 2012 season with the Rays when he had an ERA of 0.60 and 48 saves, but he can clearly still sling it. If he falters, though, they have Addison Reed as an option, who does have closing experience with the White Sox and Diamondbacks, though he’s done his best work as the 8th inning guy for the Mets and briefly with the Red Sox last season. After those two guys there really isn’t a whole lot to speak of with the Twins’ bullpen.

Overall I think the Twins overachieved last season but they’re very fortunate given the situation with the AL Central right now. They get to play the Tigers, White Sox, and Royals more than any other team, which will pad their win total, but they also get the Indians, who are going to run away with the division. Realistically the Twins will have to vie for the second Wild Card spot again but I don’t think they’ll get it. The first Wild Card spot will likely go to either the Yankees or Red Sox, whomever doesn’t win the AL East, while the Angels have done a lot to improve their postseason chances in the offseason to the point where I think they’re a much more probable candidate than the Twins. I don’t think it’ll be a bad season in Minnesota, but they won’t return to the postseason.

Projected Record: 84-78, 2nd in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the New York Mets, who look to finally stay healthy and return to the playoffs after a miserable 2017 season. Let me know what you think of the Twins’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians

Some NFL news to talk about before I get into the Tribe. The Lions are going to place the franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah, which is a smart move as there aren’t a ton of pass rushers for Detroit to pursue and they’re already thin at the position as it is. It was also announced that the Vikings would not tag Case Keenum, which would suggest that they may be holding out hope that they can land Kirk Cousins. Jarvis Landry and DeMarcus Lawrence will be getting tagged if they aren’t signed by the Dolphins and Cowboys, respectively, so that’s two more names off the market. At some point after the deadline to franchise tag, I’ll post a Top 10 NFL free agents blog in addition to that day’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Also, in baseball news, Tim Lincecum will be signing with the Texas Rangers. It’ll be interesting to see if he even has anything left in the tank at this stage in his career. Let’s get into the Cleveland Indians.

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2017 Results:

Record: 102-60, Won AL Central by 17 games over Minnesota Twins, lost to New York Yankees in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Rajai Davis, 1B Mike Napoli, RP Matt Belisle, RP Adam Wilk, RP Evan Marshall

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RP Bryan Shaw, RP Joe Smith, RP Craig Breslow, OF Austin Jackson, RP Boone Logan

Best Offensive Player: SS Francisco Lindor

Best Pitcher: Corey Kluber

Depth Chart:

C-Roberto Perez, Yan Gomes

1B-Yonder Alonso, Edwin Encarnacion (DH), Mike Napoli

2B-Jason Kipnis, Michael Martinez

3B-Jose Ramirez, Giovanny Urshela

SS-Francisco Lindor

LF-Michael Brantley, Rajai Davis

CF-Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin, Abraham Almonte

RF-Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer

SP-Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger

Bullpen-Cody Allen (CP), Andrew Miller, Matt Belisle, Adam Wilk, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Evan Marshall

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Terry Francona (6th season with Indians)

Hitting Coach-Ty Van Burkleo

Pitching Coach-Carl Willis

1st Base Coach-Sandy Alomar Jr

3rd Base Coach-Mike Sarbaugh

Bench Coach-Brad Mills

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I really thought for sure that last season was the Indians’ year. They won 102 games, including an American League (and debatably Major League) record 22 in a row. I say debatably for Major League record because the actual record of 26 held by the 1916 New York Giants included a tie due to darkness, since this was before any stadiums had any lights installed. But the Indians entered the postseason as arguably the hottest team in baseball and they even got out to a 2-0 lead in a best-of-5 ALDS against the Yankees. However, they blew that lead much like they blew their 3-1 World Series lead against the Cubs in 2016 and had to watch the Astros win their first ever World Series from their couches. But the Indians are in prime position to make another run this year as a loaded roster combined with a weak division (I believe the 3 worst teams in the American League all hail from the AL Central) should point to an easy path to another division crown. Let’s take a look at how the Indians could stack up.

1. Jason Kipnis-2B

2. Jose Ramirez-3B

3. Francisco Lindor-SS

4. Edwin Encarnacion-DH

5. Michael Brantley-LF

6. Yonder Alonso-1B

7. Lonnie Chisenhall-RF

8. Roberto Perez/Yan Gomes-C

9. Bradley Zimmer-CF

That’s a pretty dangerous lineup. While Kipnis had a down year in 2017, I fully expect him to return to form because when he’s on, he’s one of the best second basemen in the game. And I expect he’s going to get more opportunities to do so because following him in the lineup is some pretty dangerous company. Jose Ramirez was a beast last season as he hit .318 with 29 home runs, 83 RBI, slugged .583, and was worth 6.6 WAR en route to finishing third in AL MVP voting. After him is Francisco Lindor, whom many would argue is the best shortstop in all of baseball. Last season Lindor hit .273, clubbed 33 home runs, drove in 89 RBI and was worth 5.9 WAR while playing exceptional defense at shortstop. Then there’s Edwin Encarnacion, who may be the biggest right-handed power threat in the game outside of New York. Encarnacion has slugged at least .500 in every season since his breakout 2012 campaign and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep up that trend. And if Michael Brantley can finally get healthy and return to form, look out. The only position that’s not really set here is centerfield but they’ve been testing out their young talent. Bradley Zimmer has the most potential between him and Tyler Naquin and it helps that he has blazing speed to go along with some pretty good pop. If he ends up breaking out this year, the Indians could be challenging the 2001 Mariners’ 116 wins.

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One could argue that the Indians’ pitching is just as good, if not better, than their hitting. They ranked #1 in all of Major League Baseball in team ERA and were the only pitching staff to collectively strike out 10 batters per 9 innings all season. They’re spearheaded by reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who was once again dominant in 2017 as he pitched to a record of 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and struck out 11.71 batters per 9 innings. His sinker and breaking ball are two of the filthiest pitches in the Majors and will likely make him one of the favorites to win the Cy Young once again. Behind him is Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and while Salazar is injured and likely to miss the start of the season, there’s still Carrasco, a guy who would likely be the ace of most staffs. Last season, Carrasco went 18-6 with a 3.29 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are two other guys who could be big contributors to this rotation. Bauer went 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA and struck out 10 batters per 9 innings but his skill is so much greater than that when he’s not slicing his finger open on drones. If he can realize his potential, there’s a 4-headed monster in Cleveland’s rotation.

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The Indians also have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Cody Allen has been one of the better closers in in the game for the last three years, as he has had at least 30 saves, struck out 11 batters per 9 innings, and a sub-3 ERA in all three seasons. However despite being the closer, he’s not even the best reliever in their ‘pen. That distinction belongs to the left-handed Andrew Miller. Manager Terry Francona and his staff have carved out a unique role for Miller in today’s game. Miller will often set up Allen for at least 2 innings at a time and is probably the only reliever in the game who typically pitches more than one inning in any given outing. It hasn’t hurt his numbers either. Last season he had a 1.44 ERA while striking out over 13 batters per 9 innings. Absolute dominance. They did lose a quality reliever in Bryan Shaw to the Colorado Rockies in the offseason, but there is still plenty of depth in the Indians bullpen that ought to make Francona comfortable with a lead late in games.

Overall I would say that the Indians are the favorites to win the American League, maybe even the World Series. It will likely be a dogfight in the American League this season as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros all look like dangerous threats to the Tribe’s title hopes. The Yankees added the biggest slugger in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, the Red Sox added a guy who rivals Stanton’s power in JD Martinez, and the Astros lost nothing from a team that won the 2017 World Series. In fact, they added another ace to their already stellar rotation in Gerrit Cole. It’s going to be a tough road to the top for the Indians but they are more than well-equipped to try and win their first World Series since 1948.

Projected Record: 99-63, Win AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Colorado Rockies, who look to build on their breakthrough 2017 season, which was a surprise to everyone except me (as you may have known, I had the Rockies as my darkhorse team last season in a paper I wrote for a column-writing class). Let me know what you think of the Indians’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.