Monday, May 4, 2015

2015 Is A Far Cry From Past Twins Futility

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70-92, 66-96, 66-96, 63-99, those are the records of the Minnesota Twins over the past four seasons. At the end of 2014, Terry Ryan fired longtime manager Ron Gardenhire, and the Twins appeared determined to make a turnaround. While just a month into 2015, comments suggesting the Twins being lackluster and bad continue to be tossed around by the uninformed fan. It's time to realize the suggestion sounds clueless, and this club is proving you couldn't be more wrong.

As things stand, the Minnesota Twins are currently 13-12 on the year. They are sitting in third place in the AL Central and are just 3.5 games out of first place in the division. After experiencing a -20 run differential and starting the season off on a 1-6 note, the club battled through a divisional tilted schedule in April, and is ready to make some waves.

Despite having an atrocious pitching staff, and less than ideal outfield defense in 2014, the Twins were amongst the best in major leagues when it came to scoring runs. Thanks to uncharacteristic performances from Kurt Suzuki and Danny Santana, Minnesota was buoyed by less than predictable contributors. In 2015, the outfield defense remains a work in progress, the pitching isn't yet top-tier, and the offense has clicked. While the formula sounds the same, the result is trending in a completely opposite direction.

Twins teams of recent years haven't watched their records race towards 90 losses until the heat of the summer begins. As the season progresses, the Twins have generally dealt with declining play and injuries that have forced them into the doldrums of the AL Central. This time around, the 2015 version isn't waiting for the bottom to drop out, but instead, for it to rise to the surface.

Regression was to be expected on offense this season with a handful of players. As noted, Suzuki and Santana were key contributors a year ago, and likely would not repeat their performances. Santana struggled early and has since rebounded to a certain extent, while Suzuki continues to scuffle at the plate. Despite their less than ideal contributions, the Twins have seen positives from a handful of other players. Joe Mauer looks himself once again, Trevor Plouffe is off to a blazing start, and the lineup as a whole has held its own.

Outside of what is happening at the major league level, the Twins have some significant positives when it comes to depth. Top prospect Byron Buxton has bounced back from a slow start and has been absolutely on fire of late. While he still isn't likely an option until late summer at the earliest, Aaron Hicks has looked great for Triple-A Rochester. Missing out on the Opening Day roster, Josmil Pinto has positioned himself well in Rochester as well, and has turned his bat into a real asset. On the mound, Alex Meyer has struggled more often than not, but the Twins have plenty of options. Tommy Milone is a quality arm now on the farm, and he's joined by a lights out Taylor Rogers. Jose Berrios has continued to impress in the early going as well. No matter what way you cut it, the Twins depth from within this season is in a great place.

Previous losing seasons have been bookended by periods of competence and an unavoidable bottom falling out. This season, the Twins have the security blankets to make sure their current level of play remains at a consistent level throughout the season. Adding in prospects along the way, as well as the eventual addition of Ervin Santana, Minnesota will continue to turn heads.

It has become time to put the past four season of futility in the past and stop referring to this current club as a band of misfits. They've played their way into relevance, and the future prospectus is trending in an upward direction. Understand that this team isn't cut from the same cloth, and be better for it.

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