Monday, October 8, 2018

Twins Nearing Some Key Crossroads

With the Minnesota Twins missing the Postseason in 2018, the 78 win campaign simply wasn't good enough. Although Paul Molitor isn't the sole owner of fault, he deservedly took the fall after being spared a season ago. Recently I took a look at a few players that began to develop in big ways for the organization. On the flip side of that, there's some players that are watching time run out.

As was the case going into 2018, the Minnesota Twins should be expected to challenge the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. With talented youth, and money to spend, there's opportunity to shake up the division at the top. If that's going to happen however, the players mentioned below need to become more known commodities as opposed to wild cards.

Miguel Sano

There's arguably no player wasting talent more right now than Minnesota's third basemen. Regardless of weight and conditioning issues, it's always appeared to be a work ethic situation for the Dominican Native. A healthy Sano could probably hit 30 homers in a full year without much effort. In his present state, that also likely comes with a record setting strikeout total and a hollow defensive effort.

For Sano to return as the All Star caliber player he was in 2017, Minnesota needs more. This offseason Miguel has to live and breathe his craft. Being involved with a sexual assault case, and more recently, an accident involving a police officer, the organization needs a character reset as well. At 25 years old, Sano isn't a kid anymore, and his actions have consequences. Sano becomes a free agent in 2022 and is arbitration eligible in 2019. You can bet he's already bleeding money, but the career arc needs a turnaround, and fast.

Byron Buxton

Unlike Sano, Buxton has never had a questionable work ethic. As a tireless competitor, and someone with a never ending drive, it's availability that has held Byron back. Over the offseason, and in the year ahead, Minnesota needs their centerfielder to stay healthy and get reps. Having endured what amounts to as a lost year, the Georgia native did little for his development in the past 12 months. That will need to change in 2019.

There's no denying Buxton will always be a significant asset in the field. If he can stay healthy through his exploits in center, it will come down to consistency at the plate. He's shown plenty of ability to hit during his rise in professional baseball, and there's too much talent to write that aspect off. That said, Byron is soon to be 25 and the clock is ticking there as well. Minnesota isn't in a spot to give up on either player, but as the current foundation of a promoted prospect group, they must come through.

The Bullpen

Naming a single player leaves too many variables out in this equation. It seems Minnesota has real assets in Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, and Trevor May. Behind them though, no one has stepped forward and that's a problem. Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Tyler Duffey, and a handful of others have gotten their shot but failed to capitalize. With numbers that look promising on the farm, major league success has yet to follow any of those arms.

You can probably expect Thad Levine to target at least a couple impact arms in relief this winter. Losing Ryan Pressly, though I agree with the premise of the trade, will need to be addressed. Although there's plenty of options internally, very few of them are looking like anything of consequence. At this point, the group mentioned above is rounding out some of their last opportunities before roster trimming begins.

Without going into every area or instance that could be improved upon, the above trio of suspects is simply more vital than the rest. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton have always had the ability to be franchise altering players, and their realization of potential is integral to sustained success in the near-term. Given the Twins draft strategy in the late years of the Terry Ryan regime, generating something of substance from the glut of middling relievers is a must at this point. Once that group is passed by, there's little to feel good about in terms of a return.

Over the winter, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will embark upon one of the most critical offseasons in recent memory. No matter what they do however, the emergence, development, and turnaround of the names above represents the largest piece to the puzzle.

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