It's been a long season for Twins fans. After a rotten April, the season was over shortly after it started and with over 50 players being called up to the major league roster, it's understandable if you haven't kept up over the final few months.
If you did tune out the Twins, here are some of the most encouraging things to happen to the team over the final few months of the season.
1. Joe Ryan's breakout party
It's been a long time since the Twins have had adequate starting pitching but the rotation took a step in the right direction with the emergence of Joe Ryan.
Ryan was one of two pitchers acquired in the Nelson Cruz trade and made his major league debut on Sept. 1. Ryan quickly asserted himself in the major leagues, flirting with a perfect game in his second career start and striking out 11 batters in a Sept. 22 win over the Cubs.
Ryan's stats (2-1, 4.05 ERA) are inflated after giving up six runs in his final start of the season but he looks like he belongs in the major leagues. With all five spots in the rotation up for grabs, Ryan is a lock to make the 2022 Opening Day roster.
2. Josh Donaldson stayed healthy
Since signing the richest free-agent contract in Twins history, Donaldson has spent more time on the injured list than on the field. But he stayed healthy over the final two months and looks like the player they thought they were getting.
Since Aug. 3, Donaldson hit .247/.343/.473 with 10 homers while playing in 51 of the final 56 games.
If the Twins have found a way to manage Donaldson's balky calves, having him on the field is a huge boost to the lineup. But it also serves the Twins if they want to trade Donaldson and use the $43.5 million remaining on his contract for pitching this offseason.
Whatever they decide to do, Donaldson's final stretch has to be encouraging for the Twins...or a potential trade partner.
3. Jose Miranda transforming into a top prospect
We'll forgive you if you didn't hear about Miranda prior to the season, but in 2021 he's making case to be a top-50 prospect.
Miranda has raked his way through the minors, hitting .306/.402/.575 with 30 homers this season. While his bat has been major-league ready, there are big questions about where he'll play defensively.
The 23-year-old has spent most of his time at third base, so it will be curious to see if the Twins make a move to clear a spot for him next season. Wherever that will be, Miranda should be a big part of the Twins' future.
4. Miguel Sanó's bat comes alive
For those waiting for Sanó's hot streak, it arrived in the final two months. Much like Donaldson, Sanó found a way to stay on the field and it resulted in a surge at the plate.
In his final 58 games, Sano hit .257/.355/.529 with 15 homers and 39 RBI. That type of production will do at first base but the biggest issue is his consistency.
Although Sanó has vowed to lose 30 pounds this offseason, that won't help with his plate discipline or his average defense in the field. HIs future with the Twins is a major question, but if he could put together six quality months, he'd be a massive threat in the lineup.
5. Jorge Polanco looks like an All-Star
Polanco started in the 2019 All-Star Game before an ankle injury hindered his performance in 2020 and led to a slow start this season. But after the Twins were out of contention, he flipped the switch.
In his final 54 games, he hit .263/.306/.573 with 17 homers and 44 RBI. Going back further, Polanco hit .288 since June 2 and set the Twins' record for most home runs by a switch-hitter with 32.
The Twins have already been connected to Carlos Correa this offseason but Polanco has proven he deserves a spot in the lineup. If he stays at second base, it could result in a monster 2022 season.
6. Byron Buxton looks like a superstar
Yes, the injuries have been frustrating. But when Buxton is healthy, he's the best player on the field.
Buxton finished the year strong after coming back from a broken hand, smashing eight home runs in his final 33 games. On the season, he finished with the highest slugging percentage (.632) in Twins history and was 18th among American League outfielders in wins above replacement (4.4).
If you're still hung up on Buxton's injury history, perhaps his stats over his past 162 games will swing you in the right direction: .275/.318/.575 with 41 homers, 47 doubles, three triples, 107 runs, 98 RBI and 22 stolen bases, all while playing all-world defense in center field.
Buxton is a superstar the Twins can't afford to lose and should be the biggest bright spot out of a disappointing season.