Minnesota Twins Season Over/Under Wins 74.5
In 2015, the Minnesota Twins finished a respectable 8th in runs scored and 10th in team ERA in the American League en route to an 83-win campaign. Last season, the offense remained viable put the pitching staff was arguably the worst in the AL and coupled with an 0-9 start, the Twins bottomed out with a 59-103 record.
Pitching and defense are the obvious keys heading into 2017 and I believe both aspects will improve. The outfield, led by Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, has the goods to be an above average unit. Minnesota hopes to see improvement from their infield defense especially at shortstop with Jorge Polanco. Polanco had some struggles with errors early in the spring but has been much better of late. With a pitch-to-contact staff, having a plus-shortstop in imperative. Jason Castro is a massive upgrade at the catcher spot after the departure of veteran Kurt Suzuki. Castro is solid at the plate but more importantly decent in terms of throwing out base runners and above average at pitch framing.
Ervin Santana remains the de facto "ace" of the starting staff coupled with Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes and Adalberto Mejia. Mejia posted a 1.88 ERA and struck out 14 batters over 14.1 innings this spring. Santana is on the downside of his career but remains capable of chewing up innings. Santiago pitched well in the WBC after closing last year strong. Gibson and Hughes don’t offer much upside at this point but help could be on the way in the form Jose Berrios. Berrios has posted impressive numbers in the minors and is one of the few arms in the organization that can be considered "plus." He had issues with command last year when called up but should miss his fair share of bats. The bullpen looks to be solid as Brandon Kintzler proved to be very effective in the closer role last season after taking over for Glen Perkins who will begin the season on the DL. They brought in veteran bullpen arms Craig Breslow and Matt Belisle to add some quality depth. Ryan Pressly and Michael Tonkin both have potential to be serviceable pieces as well.
While keeping other teams off the scoreboard could prove tricky, the Twins project to be an above average AL offense. Brian Dozier is coming off a 42 home run, 99 RBI season. Miguel Sano had 66 RBIs in 116 games. Max Kepler was solid with 17 HRs and 63 RBIs in 113 games. Eddie Rosario and Jorge Polanco also both offer upside offensively. Buxton remains the key however; his speed and defense is clearly MLB-ready but his bat is still a work in progress. The good news is he has a .500 slugging percentage thus far in the spring and is showing signs of building off the 10 home run month of September.
The Indians appear the clear class of the AL Central but beyond that, the door is wide open. Detroit is projected to be around .500 while Chicago and Kansas City don't look capable of contending. It's the ideal situation for Minnesota to remain competitive for much of the season and go over 74.5 wins.