Wednesday, September 30, 2015

In 2015, He's The Most Valuable Twin

While there's a few games left in the Minnesota Twins 2015 campaign, we are now at a point in which we can look back and dissect how we arrived here. To be clear, here is a point that hasn't been reached in four years. It's 81+ wins, a .500+ record, a winning team, and an expectation of positive seasons ahead. Although Paul Molitor has been at the helm, it's been these players that have paved the way.

To quantify a team MVP for the Twins season is a much more difficult task than would be imagined. Considering there has been two lone winning months, and a handful of first or second half type performers, and players that have step up at the most important times, it is far from cut and dry. In an effort to recognize those deemed worthy, a top five seems the most effective route to take. Don't worry though, number one will get his due.

5. Kevin Jepsen

Somewhat of an interesting inclusion no doubt, but knowing where the Twins are now, they would not be there without the deadline acquisition of the former Rays reliever. Since joining the Twins, Jepsen has pitched in 27 games, owns a 1.73 ERA and a 2.68 FIP. He's struck out 8.0 batters per nine innings, and he's saved nine games for the Twins.

Glen Perkins had an amazing first half for the Twins, but he's been non-existent down the stretch. Jepsen came over in hopes of bridging to Perkins, but has instead shouldered the entire load on his own. Taking on the closer role, it has been Jepsen that has helped to save the bullpen from the train wreck it had become.

4. Eduardo Escobar

Before the season began, it looked as though Danny Santana was the deserving recipient of the starting shortstop gig. Forget the fact that regression was going to set in, Escobar seemed best suited to a utility role. 122 games of production later, Escobar owns a .759 OPS, has launched a career high 12 home runs, and has compiled a 1.3 fWAR making any notions of a Troy Tulowitzki trade seem silly.

With the Twins having more questions than answers at shortstop during points throughout 2015, Escobar has inserted himself into the heart of the discussion. He looks capable of holding down the gig going forward, and his late season surge has helped to keep the Twins on track in the midst of a Wild Card chase.

3. Miguel Sano

Given just under half a season to make a big league impact, Sano has done just that. In his time with the Twins, he has hit 17 home runs, the same amount of doubles, 51 runs batted in, batted .275, and compiled a .935 OPS. Forget the fact that he strikes out at an astronomical rate, his 45.6 hard hit rate is among the best in baseball, and he has tormented big league pitchers to the tune of a 2.1 fWAR earned solely at the plate.

Sano's full season numbers would likely have him in the league MVP discussion as much as they would have him running away with it for the Twins. Just 22 years old, he has entrenched himself as a cornerstone of the future, and 2015 was able to provide just a small glimpse of what is to come.

2. Trevor Plouffe

The Twins third basemen has followed up a breakout 2014 campaign with more of the same. After looking like a solid third base option a year ago, Plouffe has continued to do it on both sides of the game once again. His 22 homers are just two away from a career best, and his 84 runs batted in are a new career high. He also has set career bests in games played, runs, hits, and triples this season. On the defensive side, he's played as a league average fielder, and remains vastly improved over the shell of a hot corner defender that he was just a few years ago.

As I've continued to suggest all season, Plouffe should (and likely will) remain in the Twins plans going forward. An extension seems better served than a trade, and enjoying his late-blooming prime in a Twins uniform is something Paul Molitor could likely get used to.

1. Brian Dozier

In the first half of 2015, Brian Dozier looked every bit the frontrunner for the American League MVP. After his first All Star Game appearance, that narrative has changed, but his importance to the Twins has not. Pacing the club with a 3.8 fWAR, Dozier has produced across the board. The 28 year-old has set new career highs in hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and OPS. In year one of the new deal, he's given Minnesota every bit of value out of his 4 year, $20 million extension.

No doubt, Dozier's second half struggles have once again been a disappointment to what otherwise was trending towards a remarkable season. However, in 2015, the power numbers have kept up, and while it's been the strikeouts that have spiked, the greater whole has been something Twins Territory has not seen for far too long. With the addition of youth coming, and Brian Dozier pacing the pack, the Twins are in a good place as they look towards the future.

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