What should we know about NL Central teams the Twins face in 2020?

The Twins will face the NL Central for just under a quarter of their season.
Publish date:
Dylan Carlson

While a 60-game season will be odd enough for Twins fans, the amount of interleague games on the schedule will also be a change with the Twins playing nearly 25 percent of their schedule against the National League Central.

For fans who may not be familiar with the Senior Circuit's Central Division, we'll take a look at how each team looks heading into 2020 and their chances to play spoiler to the Twins' quest for another American League Central title.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are the reigning division champions in the NL Central, but they didn't dominate their division the way the Twins did in 2019. On the flip side, St. Louis has a solid team but also one that's getting up there in age.

FanGraphs' projected 30-man roster shows four players over the age of 30 in the Cardinals' starting lineup, but one of them is perennial All-Star Paul Goldschmidt. The Cardinals also have a promising prospect in 21-year-old Dylan Carlson (.292, 26 HR, 68 RBI, 20 SB), who projects to serve as the designated hitter.

On the mound, the Cardinals are led by Jack Flaherty (11-8, 2.75 ERA), who finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting last season. Behind him is a homegrown rotation, including fellow breakout candidate Dakota Hudson and veteran fixtures Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez and Miles Mikolas.

The Cardinals will have some issues to iron out in the bullpen, but if their veterans do not regress, they should have another strong team in 2020.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Twins will play a "rivalry series" with the Brewers both in Milwaukee and Minneapolis this year. Even though the atmosphere won't be the same without fans crossing the Mississippi, the Brewers are still a dangerous team.

Christian Yelich is the face of the franchise and cemented his status with a nine-year, $215 million contract extension this past spring. But the Brewers also lost a lot with Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Thames all departing in free agency. With four players projected to hit 10 or more home runs, the Brewers will be relying on winning games with a lineup that has five new starters heading into 2020.

The Brewers also have major questions for their pitching staff. Brandon Woodruff is projected to be their ace, but there's not much behind him in the rotation. The bullpen is strong, but they'll need a healthy return from Corey Knebel and another strong year from Josh Hader to be true contenders.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs seemed to be poised to be the next big dynasty in baseball after winning the World Series in 2016, but they haven't been back since. The nucleus of the team also seems to be in flux after the contract drama with Kris Bryant this offseason.

Those questions will be put to the side for now, but when games begin, they could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the permanent DH rule. With Kyle Schwarber, Albert Amora Jr., Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, David Bote, and Steven Souza Jr., the Cubs should be able to mix and match to put dangerous hitters around Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javy Baez in their projected lineup.

Pitching will be another question for the Cubs with all five starters entering this season over the age of 30. Yu Darvish has been a bust in Chicago after a big free-agent contract and Jon Lester has become average at age 36. The Cubs will hope that Craig Kimbrel settles in at closer after a mid-season signing last year, but with most of their pieces in place, they should be toward the top of the division.

Cincinnati Reds

When the Reds traded for Trevor Bauer at last year's trade deadline, it was a surprise to many that Cincinnati was the team that made the move. But after an active offseason, the Reds have a lot of new faces that should make them more competitive in 2020.

Cincinnati opened their checkbook this winter, signing Mike Moustakas away from the Brewers and Nick Castellanos away from the Cubs thanks to a second-half explosion at the plate. The additions along with Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez should give the Reds a strong lineup.

Cincinnati's strength should be on the mound, however. The Reds own three players that are within the top 18 in FanGraphs' power rankings in Bauer, Sonny Gray, and Luis Castillo. Raisel Iglesias had a rough year in 2019, but with a fastball that averaged 95.5 mph, he has the gas to slam the door if the starters can go deep into games, making the Reds a dark horse.

Pittsburgh Pirates

While the previous four teams mentioned have a chance at winning the NL Central, the Pirates are highly unlikely to make much noise in 2020. 

Josh Bell is the lone star on this team as he blasted 37 home runs for the Pirates, but it was for naught as Pittsburgh lost 93 games. Top prospect Ke'Bryan Hayes could help at third base, but the Pirates need a lot of work to field a respectable lineup.

The pitching situation isn't much better as Chris Archer is recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery and Jameson Tallion is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Fellow top prospect Mitch Keller will slide into the rotation, but there's not much to suggest the Pirates will make any leap in 2020.

Next Up