The 2017 Major League Baseball season has been one that's proven incredibly tough to read for the Minnesota Twins. After pacing the division for much of the first half, there's been multiple times in which the club looks to have lost all hope. As the summer draws to a close however, they've hung around, and it's been in large part to a handful of key pieces getting hot.
Coming off a franchise worst 103 losses, there should have been a massive expectation that this Twins would rebound. While they weren't a team destined for the Postseason, 2015 and 16 highlighted the volatility of young players. After surpassing expectations two years ago, virtually the same group failed them mightily last year. Once again on the upswing, this group is probably much closer to a settling in point.
The veterans in the lineup are doing their part to keep a good thing going. Chief among them, Brian Dozier, is once again experiencing his patented August surge. Recently written about at Twins Daily, Dozier has consistently turn in a strong month to round of the summer. Now through 12 games, he has six home runs and a .340/.375/.736 slash line. Dating back to July 14, the Twins second basemen has posted a .982 OPS, and is once again trending towards a strong finish.
On a much smaller scale, Joe Mauer has always experience a slump and a streak in August. After starting slow, he turned series against the Brewers and Tigers into a .321/.387/.464 slash line that has brought his batting average back up to .279. While he's no longer going to contend for batting titles, he's remained an asset against right-handed pitching, and is contributing at the best time possible.
Looking at youth, the continued emergence of Eddie Rosario has been a sight to behold. While you could consider him a bad ball hitter, the reality is more that he simply chases balls that he has no business swinging at. Arguably his greatest knock as a pro remains his plate discipline, and the amount of time he spends expanding the strike zone. As the months have gone on in 2017 however, he's continued to dial that reality back, and leads Minnesota in batting average because of it.
Now experiencing career best chase rates and swinging strike marks over the past two months, Eddie Rosario owns a .333/.376/.581 line since July 1st, and has put forth a 1.143 OPS in the month of August. In dialing back his approach, he's become arguably the Twins best hitter, and one that hits for both power and contact. Despite the defensive dip this season, he's been incredible at the plate.
On a lesser scale, Byron Buxton is again rounding into form. Since July 4th (and with a DL stint in between), Buxton owns a .371/.420/.500 line across 19 games. Dating way back to May 9, Buxton has played in 71 games for the Twins and has posted a .258/.322/.355 OPS, While that isn't going to do much offensively, combined with his Gold Glove ability in center, that makes him an incredible asset. Whether he continues to shape into a player reflective of the smaller or larger sample size remains to be seen, but the promise is still through the roof.
Unfortunately, players like Miguel Sano and Max Kepler haven't yet hopped on the streaking bandwagon. While each has seen their struggles down the stretch, the hope would be that each has a nice burst left to finish the year. It's absolutely promising however, to see such an offensive contribution from so many different parts of the lineup.
At the end of the day, the Twins probably still aren't a Postseason team in 2017. What the stretch run is showing us however, is that the expectation for 2018 should be a Postseason berth. Given the landscape of the division, and the emergence of this group, things are trending in the Twins favor. No matter what happens the rest of the way, Minnesota is on a better pace than the 2015 squad, and is going to play some really exciting baseball right up until the dust settles.