Optimism is running rampant as the Twins will have a sellout crowd to watch them play the Indians in today's season opener at Target Field.
It's been a rough 2018-19 sports year for Minnesota's men's teams, but count us among the hopeful who believe the Twins can save the summer and give sports fans something to cheer for. With that, here are five bold, yet somewhat realistic, predictions for the Twins.
1. Jose Berrios wins the AL Cy Young Award
OK, so Berrios would have to take a major step up this season, but it's not out of the realms of possibility.
The right-hander has pitched two full seasons in the big leagues and both were solid, and who's to say the 24-year-old right-handed isn't ready to break out in a big way in 2019?
Berrios had 202 strikeouts in 192.1 innings last season, and with a new pitching coach (Wes Johnson) getting rave reviews, Berrios could be poised for bigger strikeout numbers and a consistently dominant season.
Of course, the likes of Blake Snell, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Luis Severino will have a thing or two to say about the Cy Young Award, but Berrios has the talent to contend for it.
2. Byron Buxton nears 30-30 status
Buxton can run like the wind and if he's able to play a full season he should steal 30 bases. The second part of the 30-30 equation is home runs, and before you laugh, remember that when Buxton got red hot to end the 2017 season he smashed eight homers in the last two months of the season, including three in one game against the Blue Jays.
Buxton lit it up in spring training, hitting .410 with four homers in just 46 plate appearances. He's a freak athlete with power potential, and this could be the year it all comes together for him.
3. Twins send 3 players to the All-Star Game
Buxton, if he hits like we've boldly predicted above, and Berrios, if he pitches the way we've predicted, are both going to be All-Stars. Who's the third? Eddie Rosario, who was a big-time snub from last year's All-Star Game.
"What we saw last year was some exceptional months from Eddie Rosario," Twins GM Thad Levine told KSTP on Mar. 6. "If he puts together a full season at that level, he'll go down as one of the elite players of this generation."
Rosario hit .241 in April 2018 and then went bonkers in May and June, hitting a combined .350 with 15 homers, 19 doubles and 40 RBI.
4. Twins battle Yankees for AL home run lead
Slugging 250 homers in a season is quite the accomplishment, and the Yankees did it in 2018 with an MLB-leading 267 long balls. Minnesota might not lead the league in homers, but they have the power potential to keep up with the big boys.
From top to bottom of Rocco Baldelli's lineup, there is 20-homer potential almost everywhere: Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Nelson Cruz, Eddie Rosario, C.J. Cron, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop and Byron Buxton could all hit 20+ homers.
The lone exception in the starting lineup is Jason Castro. If eight starters all hit 20 homers, that's 160, and we all know Cruz is probably going to smash 30+ homers and that Miguel Sano is going to hit a bunch out of the ballpark when he's healthy.
After hitting 206 homers as a team in 2017, the Twins dropped off to just 166 last season.
5. Twins win the AL Central
Division titles have been hard to come by for the Twins, with their last AL Central championship nearly a decade ago (2010). The Cleveland Indians are the prohibitive favorites to win the division again, but if Minnesota can beat up on the Royals, White Sox and Tigers, they'll have a great chance to reclaim the crown.
Minnesota went 9-10 against the Indians last season, and something similar this year should keep the division tight assuming Minnesota does take care of business against the expected division bottom feeders.
Vegas has put the Indians' win total at an over/under of 91 1/2. The Twins' is 84 1/2, so Minnesota winning the division would be a surprise, but the Indians are facing injury problems in their batting lineup, albeit their pitching depth is as strong as ever.
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