What does the Minnesota Twins Future Hold?
The Future of the Twins
Putting the Talent in Place
For Twins' fans, the long awaited arrival of Miguel Sano will have to wait. The news broke recently, that Miguel Sano has been diagnosed with a torn UCL, and needs Tommy John surgery. The news is not all bad for Twins fans though, because this setback just aligns Sano's arrival in the big leagues, with the arrival of number one prospect, centerfielder Byron Buxton. Both will probably debut in early to mid-2015, as Buxton mastered the high A level last season, and the Tommy John surgery may cause Sano to miss all of the 2014 season. Sano had mastered the double-A level for the Twins last season, and was in line for a mid-season call up from triple-A this season, before the injury. This does not mean that Twins fans will not get a glimpse of their future in 2014, because their future goes well beyond just their top two prospects in Buxton and Sano.
This offseason, the Twins went out and signed two free agent starting pitchers, to be part of their future rotation. By signing right handed pitcher Ricky Nolasco on a 4 year deal, and right handed pitcher Phil Hughes on a 3 year deal.
The Twins also have two top prospects who will either break camp with the team, or be midseason call-ups. Kyle Gibson, a 6'6" right handed sinker-ball pitcher, and Alex Meyer, a 6'9" right handed pitcher with a power fastball.
Gibson made his major league debut last season at 26 years old, and did not fare very well. In 2014, he expects to have more success in the big leagues, with a better defense behind him and more confidence after learning how to attack hitters last season.
The Twins have developed Alex Meyer to be their ace of the future. His minor league strikeout rates and ground ball rates, support this argument, while his stuff allows him to look every part the ace he is expected to become. Meyer works in the mid to upper 90s with his fastball, and has secondary pitches that include a plus curveball, to go along with an above average changeup. The combination of these four pitchers, will make up the bulk of the Twins' rotation, in years where they expect to contend, moving forward.
Top 100 prospects, Kohl Stewart and Jose Berrios could join the previously mentioned pitchers, in the Twins' rotation, at some point in the future. However, for the immediate future, Dominican right hander Samuel Deduno will help to round out the Twins rotation. Placeholders Kevin Correia and Vance Worley, could also hold rotation spots for the Twins in 2014, until the ultimate arrival of Kyle Gibson and Alex Meyer.
The Twins infield appears to be the strength of their team, as they put pieces in place for the future. Twins fans know all about the star power provided by recently displaced catcher, Joe Mauer. Mauer moves to first base in 2014, in order to stay more healthy, so that his extremely productive bat can be in the lineup everyday. Mauer is under contract through 2018, so Twins fans will have the privilege of watching him provide excellent defensive play at first base, well into the future.
At second base, the Twins could opt to stick with Brian Dozier, who put up good numbers in 2013, or they could go with one of their top prospects at the position. According to mlb.com prospect rankings, the Twins have two second basemen among their top 10 prospects. Number five prospect Eddie Rosario, and number nine prospect Jorge Polanco.
The Twins shortstop of the future will be 23 year old prospect, Danny Santana. He is getting a long look in big league camp this spring, but he is unlikely to make the opening day roster for the Twins. He is a switch hitter, and he is ranked as the Twins' number 12 prospect, according to the mlb.com prospect ranking. He has the defensive skill, arm strength and range to handle shortstop, along with having the ability to hit well from both sides of the plate.
Miguel Sano could become the biggest star among this group of infielders, and when he returns from injury, he should take over the everyday job at third base for the Twins. Sano has an 80 power grade, and last season in the minor leagues, he did not hesitate to put that power on display. He hit 35 homeruns combined between the high-A and double-A levels of the Twins minor league system. Sano also has a great throwing arm, and some range as a former shortstop.
The Twins catcher of the future is Josmil Pinto, who has been putting on an impressive display at the plate this spring. As a rookie in 2013, Pinto also put on a show offensively, while displaying power and a solid ability to find his way on base. Pinto only had 76 major league at bats in 2013, but was still able to collect 9 extra base hits. Four of those were homeruns, and the other five were doubles.
The Twins right fielder of the future, appears to already be in place, as Oswaldo Arcia made his major league debut last season. Arcia will turn 23 years old in May, but still showed a lot of hitting ability with some power, as a very young player in 2013. The Twins are comfortable with Arcia's defense in right field, and while he posted a high strikeout rate, improvement in this area can be expected as he matures. Arcia hit 14 homeruns in just a little over half a season last year, and he posted a .430 slugging percentage. The promising tools that Arcia put on display last season, make him a strong candidate to hold down the right field job for the Twins, well into the future.
Byron Buxton projects to be the star of the Twins' outfield unit. He is their centerfielder of the future, and he should be in line for a midseason call up in 2015. Buxton is developing into a true five tool player, who could hit anywhere from the top of the lineup to the middle of the Twins' order in the future. His speed in centerfield makes him fun to watch, as he runs down balls hit to the gap, that appear to be potential extra base hits.
Natural centerfielder, Aaron Hicks, will probably have to move to left field in the future, to make room for future star, Byron Buxton. Hicks possesses some of the same spectacular defensive abilities that Buxton has, but so far, he has not had much success at the plate. Hicks made the Twins opening day roster last season and started in centerfield, however, injuries and lack of productivity at the plate, limited his impact as a rookie. Hicks will look to bounce back in 2014 and beyond, as he tries to solidify his role as part of the Twins' future outfield.
While it does not appear that the Twins will contend for a playoff spot in 2014, the free agents that they signed to boost the pitching staff, could help their team to take a step in the right direction. As outlined above, the Twins' team of the future, will have a chance to be a contender annually. How the players fill their roles, will determine how far they go, and they will have to have the pitching staff to win games for them in the postseason. Ultimately, the Twins future looks very bright, and the Twins soon could be winning more than they did when Justin Morneau was producing MVP caliber seasons for them.