The calendar is ready to flip and it is nearly impossible to look at 2019 as anything other than a booming success for the Twins. Depth was key to their prowess, but who will be their biggest star in 2020? *All WAR numbers are calculated by Baseball Reference*
Jorge Polanco led the Twins with a 5.7 WAR in 2019, playing in 153 games and hitting .295/.356/.485 with 22 home runs and 40 doubles. Polanco represented the American League as the starting shortstop in the All-Star Game and looks like a perennial candidate to hold the honor. The five-year, $25.75 million extension that Polanco signed during spring training confirms his presence in Minnesota through 2025. If you’re looking to buy a Twins jersey that represents a key cog and core center point, Polanco may provide the stitches to sport:
If he can stay healthy, Byron Buxton should find himself in the league MVP conversation for his next three seasons as a Twin. Highly touted as a top prospect, it took Buxton almost six years to break out, but he is here. Despite playing in just 87 games, Buxton posted a 3.1 WAR and hit .262/.314/.513 with 10 home runs and 30 doubles. His Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games in center field was a pristine 15.7, ranking behind only Aaron Judge, Harrison Bader and teammate Max Kepler. Buxton’s absence from the lineup in the ALDS was a huge blow.
Kepler was crowned the 2019 Twins Daily MVP after posting a 4.0 WAR in 134 games. Kepler hit .252/.336/.519 with 36 home runs and 30 doubles. His barrel percentage jumped to nearly 9% and he hit the ball harder than ever. Kepler’s defense proved extremely valuable when Buxton went down as he posted a 2.8 UZR in 459 innings in center field. He also hit .293/.356/.524 off lefties after looking like a potential platoon player early in his career.
Impact starting pitching has been the buzz phrase this offseason, and rightly so. Everyone knows José Berríos is a king, but can he become an ace? He is getting there. In his four years as a pro, Berríos has posted ERAs of 8.02, 3.89, 3.84 and 3.68. Now coming off back-to-back All-Star Game appearances, Berríos is primed to take the next step. Consistency and endurance are seemingly the only pieces holding him back from stardom. He has a 5.30 ERA in 217 1/3 innings from August through October.
Today is the one year anniversary of the Nelson Cruz signing, a move that has paid dividends in unforeseen ways. His immense impact on the field is marginal compared to his outstanding leadership in the clubhouse. Cruz is entering his age-39 season and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. In his last three seasons, Cruz hit .284/.369/.562 with 117 home runs in 419 games. He ranked second on the Twins with a 4.3 WAR in 2019. Father time is undefeated, but Cruz, with his elite preparation and daily naps, will undoubtedly play a huge role next year.
Whether it is Josh Donaldson or Miguel Sanó, third base will be a position of production for the Twins in 2020 and beyond. Sanó showed us what he is capable of in 2019, hitting .254/.362/.578 with 21 home runs in his last 65 games of the season. He posted a 3.1 WAR in 105 games, which extrapolates to just under five in a full season. Prolonged slumps remain an issue with Sanó, but his .346 on-base percentage was his highest since his rookie season. He drew a career high 55 walks and posted an OPS+ of 138. Now entering his age-27 season, Sanó’s prime is perhaps upon us:
Mitch Garver posted a 4.0 WAR in just 93 games in 2019. With great plate discipline and a violent, compact swing, Garver won the Silver Slugger Award after hitting .273/.365/.630 with 31 homers. He fully broke out and Twins fans should be very excited about the "Garv Sauce" moving forward:
Jake Odorizzi: 3.6 WAR in 30 starts in 2019, All-Star with 3.51 ERA and 10.1 K/9.
Eddie Rosario: 1.6 WAR in 137 games, hit 32 homers with 109 RBI.
Luis Arraez: 1.8 WAR in 92 games, hit .334/.399/.439 with 25 extra-base hits.
Marwin Gonzalez: 1.6 WAR in 114 games, hit .264/.322/.414 with 15 homers.
Who do you think will be the Twins MVP in 2020?
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