Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Twins Poised For An Offensive Breakout In 2015

Twins infielder Eduardo Escobar hits a single against Tampa Bay pitcher Brandon Gomes in the fifth inning. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)
Last season, the Minnesota Twins finished in the top third of Major League Baseball when it came to offense. Although the lineup was makeshift more often than not, and contributions came from odd places, Minnesota plated plenty of runs. Early on in spring training, it appeared that repeating that success might be somewhat of a concern. At this point, the question has become just how much better the team can be?

To this point, the Twins have hit 14 home runs in spring training. A season ago, the club hit 16, and was led by Brandon Waring with two. Brian Dozier and Kennys Vargas both have hit three for the Twins already, with Eduardo Escobar adding his second in the form of a grand slam today. Torii Hunter, Oswaldo Arcia, Josmil Pinto, and Joe Mauer are all still without home runs due to their lack of playing time. What that suggests is that the Twins could actually be in a better position offensively than they were a season ago.
It's been noted plenty, but reminding you that Danny Santana and Kurt Suzuki are going to regress is something that's important. Santana simply cannot keep up with his .400+ BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and Suzuki put up some of the best offensive numbers of his career. While the Twins will miss players like those two being on base due to timely hits over the course of a game, they could be amongst the leagues best in longballs.

Looking at the players that should break camp on the Twins 25 man roster, the club has a handful of players that should push towards 20 home runs a piece. Last season, the Twins had just two players each that mark (Dozier 23, Arcia 20). There's no doubt that with the help of hitting coach Tom Brunansky, and the lineup construction of new manager Paul Molitor, that the club should see an increased power output.

There's still roughly three weeks of spring training left, and the Twins will continue to fine tune their approaches at the plate. As the exhibition season rolls on, expecting the power display to dull is probably shortsighted. Having nearly reached their 2014 mark with plenty of time left to play, expecting the Twins to double their spring training home run total from a year ago is a very real possibility.

When we head north, making sure that output carries over is the goal. Obviously Target Field presents somewhat of a heightened challenge considering it's dimensions. That being said, the Twins have hit very few home runs that have left the park with any doubt of their intentions. Seeing the power display being put on by players such as Eddie Rosario and Escobar only adds to the excitement.

If the Twins can in fact get their pitching in order as expected, the offense should help out to an even further extent in 2015. Should Molitor choose to tweak his lineup and allow Mauer to bat second followed by Dozier, the Twins could benefit from more multi-run round-trippers as well. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the Twins dispelling many of the early causes for pause this spring. The offensive output may have lagged behind from the get go, but there's no doubt this team has plenty of sluggers on it.

Spitballing somewhat here, this is what I see for the Twins home run leaderss when the dust settles:
  1. Oswaldo Arcia 31+
  2. Trevor Plouffe 25+
  3. Kennys Vargas 24+
  4. Brian Dozier 21+
  5. Josmil Pinto 18+