One month from today pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Fort Myers, Florida, but the real excitement awaits four days later when positional players report on Feb. 17.
Minnesota has done very little, so far, to upgrade its pitching staff, but additions of Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron give fans a reason to be intrigued about what the 2019 lineup is capable of.
In the spirit of optimism, we took at look at each projected starter's best season, and the numbers indicate a batting order capable of launching 200+ homers and being dangerous from top to bottom.
Of course, that's only if the likes of Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler start moving the right direction again.
Note: these are players I'd like to see win the starting jobs out of spring training.
Catcher: Willians Astudillo
Fresh off his first big-league season, Astudillo has a chance to win the starting job over Jason Castro and Mitch Garver. It's yet to be seen what new manager Rocco Baldelli is looking for in a catcher, but Astudillo might be the best all around backstop because he can defend and hit for contact.
Best season: 2018: .355/.371/.516, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 4 2B, 1 3B, 9 R, 0 SB, 2 BB, 3 K
First base: C.J. Cron
Cron is locked and loaded as the everyday first baseman having signed a one-year, $4.8 million contract as a free agent.
Best season: 2018: .253/.323/.493, 30 HR, 74 RBI, 28 2B, 1 3B, 68 R, 1 SB, 37 BB, 145 K
Second base: Jonathan Schoop
If Schoop can return to form of his All-Star season in 2017, then the Twins got a bargain when they signed him to a one-year, $7.5 million deal. Remember, Schoop finished 12th in AL MVP voting with the Orioles in 2017.
Best season: 2017: .293/.338/.503, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 35 2B, 0 3B, 92 R, 1 SB, 35 BB, 142 K
Shortstop: Jorge Polanco
Polanco was suspended for 80 games last season but came on strong toward the end of the season, just as he did in his breakout 2017 campaign. He projects as a very solid bat in the front third of the order, possibly even the leadoff hitter.
Best season: 2017: .256/.313/.410, 13 HR, 74 RBI, 30 2B, 3 3B, 60 R, 13 SB, 41 BB, 78 K
Third base: Miguel Sano
Still just 25 years old, Sano has played four MLB seasons filled with ups and downs. If he can put together a healthy, consistent 2019 season, he's capable of hitting 35+ homers and driving in 100+ runs.
Best season: 2017: .264/.352/.507, 28 HR, 77 RBI, 15 2B, 2 3B, 75 R, 0 SB, 54 BB, 174 K
Left field: Eddie Rosario
Rosario should've been an All-Star last season but was snubbed. Prior to a late-season injury he was far and away Minnesota's best offensive player in 2018.
Best season: 2018: .288/.323/.479, 24 HR, 77 RBI, 31 2B, 2 3B, 87 R, 8 SB, 30 BB, 104 K
Center field: Byron Buxton
Maybe a new manager and an angry approach to 2018 will benefit Buxton, who told reporters last month that he was "pissed off" when the Twins didn't recall him last September, ultimately keeping him from free agency one extra year (2021).
Best season: 2017: .253/.314/.413, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 14 2B, 6 3B, 69 R, 29 SB, 38 BB, 150 K
Right field: Max Kepler
Kepler had a down season in 2018 after showing signs of breaking out in 2017. Kepler has big-time extra base potential and could easily hit 25 homers and 30+ doubles, but he needs to make contact more often. Another year with a batting average in the .220s wont' cut it.
Best season: 2017: .243/.312/.425, 19 HR, 69 RBI, 32 2B, 2 3B, 67 R, 6 SB, 47 BB, 114 K
Designated hitter: Nelson Cruz
Nicknamed "Boomstick," he's the key ingredient to making the middle of Minnesota's batting order being as dangerous as its ever been. He's 38 years old and has finished in the top 15 of the MVP vote in four of the last five seasons, any one of which we could choose as the best of his career.
Best season: 2017: .288/.375/.549, 39 HR, 119 RBI, 28 2B, 0 3B, 91 R, 1 SB, 70 BB, 140 K
Now, let's turn these numbers into a fearsome batting order.
- Jorge Polanco, S
- Jonathan Schoop, R
- Miguel Sano, R
- Nelson Cruz, R
- Eddie Rosario, L
- C.J. Cron, R
- Max Kepler, L
- Willians Astudillo, R
- Byron Buxton, R
This lineup has Cruz batting fourth and serving as a protective bat behind Sano, perhaps limiting the number of low-and-away sliders that Sano is known to chase.
It's also loaded with power potential considering Astudillo is the only bat in the lineup without 20+ homer ability.
Lastly, it's a right-handed heavy lineup, but it's easier to hit the ball over the wall in left than it is to right at Target Field.