CHICAGO, September 18, 2013 — The Better Luck Next Year series has been looking at teams that are no longer in contention for the playoffs. Saturday’s article looked at the San Francisco Giants, who were unable to repeat. Today’s article looks at the Minnesota Twins and their failed season. Better luck next year, Minnesota Twins.
To read about all of the teams that have been eliminated so far, click here.
What Went Right: What once was thought of as a poor choice by the Twins, taking Joe Mauer over Mark Prior, has proven to be the correct decision. Mauer has produced another great season for the Twins with a slash line of .324/.404/.476 while producing 5.4 WAR, according to baseball-reference. Mauer saw two-thirds of his at bats at catcher while seeing the rest at first base and designated hitter. While he may continue to see more of his at bats at positions other than catcher, Mauer remains far and away the Twins best player and an anchor for the franchise that has talent on the way.
The Twins entered the season with the tenth ranked farm system according to Baseball America. Minnesota’s farm system is headlined by two of the top prospects in baseball, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Sano is considered one of the top power hitting prospects in the minors and posted a .280/.382/.610 line with 35 homeruns across two levels; A and AA. While it is debatable whether or not Sano can stay at third base, his bat will likely play well enough in the outfield if he does not.
Byron Buxton, meanwhile, has drawn comparisons to Mike Trout and Willie Mays, and while those comparisons are indeed lofty he posted a .334/.424/.520 line with 12 homeruns and 55 stolen bases across A and A+ levels. It is likely that Sano and Buxton will not make it to Target Field before September of 2014 or 2015, but their progress has Twins fans, and baseball fans, excited.
Although closers on a bad team are typically a waste of assets the Twins have Glen Perkins signed through 2016 at a reasonable rate. Perkins has been one of the best closers in baseball with an ERA+ over 160 for the third year in a row while striking out 32.2% of the batters faced and just a 5.7% walk rate. While Perkins could be traded for prospects, the return on closers is not really high and having Perkins at the back of the rotation may allow some of the Twins’ pitching prospects to feel the game is in good hands when they exit.
Finally, the Twins are out from under the Justin Morneau contract. While Morneau was once considered a cornerstone of the team, he has simply not been the same since suffering a concussion in 2010 posting a line of just .259/.315/.426 with the Twins this year. The Twins traded him to the Pirates at the trade deadline and will no longer be paying him $14-15 million per year.
What Went Wrong: Joe Mauer suffered a concussion on August 14 and has not returned to the lineup, as he is still suffering from lingering symptoms. It is likely, given the short amount of time left in the season, that he will not return until next year. It is an area of concern, as everyone recovers from concussions differently. Secondly, Kevin Correia logged the most innings, 173.1, on the Twins pitching staff this year. While Correia pitched near league average with an ERA+ of 95 (league average is 100), he is not likely to be with the team when they are contending again. The Twins have some pitching on the way and drafted Kohl Stewart in the draft this year, but he is likely years away. Kyle Gibson is one of the pitchers that the Twins have developed, but he struggled this year in his first trip to the majors, albeit in a small sample. Gibson threw 51 innings posting a 65 ERA+ while striking out just 12.2% of batters faced although he walked 8.4% of batters, which is close to league average.
What to Look For in 2014: The Twins are likely to struggle again next year as their impact prospects appear to be at least a year from providing an impact at the major league level. The hope will be that Mauer can come back strong from his concussion, the team can develop some pitchers as they have in the past, and that the prospects can continue to develop.
Free Agents/Options: Mike Pelfrey
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