After appearing in the Wild Card game seemingly out of nowhere, the 2018 Twins have some heightened expectations. With warts on the starting rotation and in the bullpen, Minnesota has to have each area be better in order to compete with other foes in the American League. With both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels adding big time this winter, the Wild Card almost certainly isn't going to welcome a sub 90-win squad this Postseason.
Rather than dive deeply into the bulk of the projections themselves, I'd like to point out a few key areas of note, as well as adding some commentary. Again, you can find the full 2018 Twins ZiPS projections here. Anyways, let's get into it:
- Two Twins hitters are projected for 30 or more homers, both Brian Dozier (31) and Miguel Sano (30). Eddie Rosario is slated to have 21, with Byron Buxton clubbing 18. Kennys Vargas is projected for 25 across 506 plate appearances (which is not a mark I see him getting anywhere near).
- Sano is pegged for a 35.4% strikeout rate, which would be virtually identical to his last two seasons. His 116 wRC+ would lead the Twins, but come in lower than his 124 wRC+ from 2017.
- Assuming he gets 400+ plate appearances at the big league level, Brent Rooker is given a projection of 17 HRs with a .226/.288/.396 slash line for the Twins.
- Average still isn't something I'm certain Byron Buxton will ever call an asset, but a .246/.305/.426 slash line from the Minnesota center fielder would be more than welcomed. Adding in his defense, he'd likely get an MVP vote or two.
- Returning to the land of the .300+ batting average a season ago, ZiPS pegs Mauer for a .286/.368/.394 slash line in 2018. That .286 mark is expected to be good enough to lead the Twins, and contribute to a 103 wRC+ total.
- Here's some player comparisons ZiPS sees: Dozier (Ryne Sandberg), Buxton (Adam Jones), Mauer (Keith Hernandez), Grossman (Bobby Kielty).
- Coming in JUST under 9.0 K/9, Berrios is projected for 174 strikeouts in 176 innings. Unfortunately, that innings total is also expected to be the largest total for Twins pitchers.
- Regression is expected to bite Ervin Santana, as his ERA swells from 3.28 in 2017, to 4.10. Berrios checks in with a 3.92 ERA. The four best ERA marks are all attributed to relievers: Curtiss (3.46), Hildenberger (3.50), Duke (3.51), and Pressly (3.63).
- Jose Berrios' number one comparison is Dave Stieb, and he carries a 3.3 zWAR projection. That's over double the 1.6 zWAR projection he was given prior to the 2017 season. Stephen Gonsalves' 1.1 zWAR checks in as the highest mark among rookie pitchers for Minnesota.
- After having six players projected for 2.0+ zWAR in 2017, only three (Dozier/Buxton/Sano) surpass that total this season. Sano and Mauer are the only regulars with zWAR increases year-over-year.