What does the optimal Twins lineup look like?

No Miguel Sano? No problem.
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The Twins' lineup will likely be their bread and butter in 2019.

Even with Miguel Sano out indefinitely because of complications with a cut on the back of his foot, Minnesota still has the depth to be one of the better hitting teams in the American League.

Starting with their leadoff hitters, there's plenty of options. Keep in mind, I'm not manager Rocco Baldelli, but I am baseball-obsessed and love to tinker with lineup construction. 

Opening Day vs. RHP

  1. L. Max Kepler, RF 
  2. L. Eddie Rosario, LF 
  3. S. Jorge Polanco, SS
  4. R. Nelson Cruz, DH
  5. S. Marwin Gonzalez, 3B
  6. R. C.J. Cron, 1B
  7. R. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  8. L. Jason Castro, C
  9. R. Byron Buxton, CF

I like Kepler leading things off. He drew the most walks (71) on the team last season, including 58 against righties. Kepler also has the power to slug 20+ homers, something that's trending for leadoff hitters in the game today (see Mookie Betts, George Springer, Francisco Lindor and someone named Brian Dozier).

The top three in the lineup are pretty interchangeable when facing right-handed pitching but I have Polanco batting third and it shouldn't be a surprise. 

He hit .317 with an .845 OPS (on base + slugging) against righties last year. That's where he was down the stretch in 2017 and in the AL Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium.

Against lefties, he hit just .233, drew only four walks and had an OPS of .628.

Gonzalez is batting as high as fifth because he's a switch hitter. Cruz, Cron and Schoop are all right-handed, so to break that up, Gonzalez slides in the middle.

Schoop is probably the guy that has the most potential to move up in the lineup. He averaged 28 home runs per 162 games the past three seasons, but he had just 21 and hit .233 in 133 games in 2018.

If that's his floor, I'm cool with that as my seventh hitter. 

Castro and Buxton are no brainers at the bottom of the order given the state of their play and the rest of the lineup.

Lineup vs. LHP

  1. S. Marwin Gonzalez, 3B
  2. S. Jorge Polanco, 2B
  3. R. C.J. Cron, 1B
  4. R. Nelson Cruz
  5. L. Eddie Rosario, RF
  6. L. Max Kepler, LF
  7. R. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  8. R. Mitch Garver, C
  9. R. Byron Buxton, CF

Facing lefties was an issue for the Twins last season from a power perspective but the additions of Cruz, Cron and Gonzalez should sew that up.

Gonzalez moves all the way up to leadoff because he's a switch hitter and he hit .273 against lefties last season compared to .235 against righties.

Cron was phenomenal against southpaw's last season slashing .307/.376/.553.

Meanwhile, Cruz had a slugging percentage of. 559 against them, so there's two thumpers that can pile on extra-base hits at the coveted No. 3 and No. 4 spots in a lineup.

Rosario hit .281 against lefties and seven of his 21 home runs were from that side of the plate last season.

It's amazing that Kepler could be batting sixth against lefties in 2019 after being borderline unusable against them in his first two seasons.

  • Batting average vs. LHP in 2016-17: .177 
  • Batting average vs. LHP in 2018: .245

His .422 slugging percentage against lefties in 2018 was actually better than his .403 mark against righties.

The bottom of the order could get interesting. I'm actually tempted to move Buxton up. 

In 2017, Buxton slashed .282/.365/.427 against southpaws. If he replicates that, he should be moving onward and upward in the lineup. Hell, you could switch him and Polanco and the top half of the lineup could still mash.

But I'd like to see Buxton get comfortable, so keeping towards the bottom of the order before he's put in a position that he might be too much for him makes more sense.

Wildest fantasy lineup if baseball was a perfect sport

  1. L. Max Kepler, LF
  2. R. Byron Buxton, CF
  3. S. Jorge Polanco, SS
  4. R. Nelson Cruz, DH
  5. L. Eddie Rosario, LF
  6. R. C.J. Cron, 1B
  7. R. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  8. R. Willians Astudillo, C
  9. S. Marwin Gonzalez, 3B

I've already expressed my love for Kepler as a leadoff hitter. If Buxton can put it all together, I love him batting second.

Polanco mashes righties and when the Twins are playing their best, he's batting third. 

The middle of the order between Cruz, Rosario and Cron should result in three guys that hit at least 25 dingers.

Willians Astudillo, the most interesting man in the world, is batting eighth in this scenario and I'm a fan of having a quality nine hitter to turn over the lineup to Gonzalez.

When the Astros won the World Series in 2017, Gonzalez was batting at the bottom of the order and he had his best season of his career hitting .303 that year.

Go ahead and tweet me at @DexsTweets ripping me for knowing nothing about baseball, I'm open to your suggestions.

But I'm curious to see what the Opening Day lineup at Target Field looks like on March 28.

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