As we enter the dog days of summer, the Twins still remain one of the best teams in baseball. When you look up and down their lineup, there are eight players who have a slugging percentage of at least .500, which is absolutely insane.
Players like Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz have made their presence felt for the majority of the season, but there's a few others that we seem to forget about.
Here are three of the most underappreciated Twins this season.
Gonzalez's defensive versatility is what makes him so special. In 55 games, he's played first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field, right field and even designated hitter.
It's exactly why he remained in the lineup after a sluggish start to the year where he was hitting just .159 through April 30.
The Twins' patience paid off and since May 1, Gonzalez is slashing .306/.377/.500 with with five home runs, 14 extra-base hits and 14 RBI in that span.
Finally, Gonzalez is also the only player on the roster who's won a World Series, so if the Twins are indeed postseason bound, having a player who's been there and done that will pay dividends in October.
Entering his fourth season as a big leaguer, Kepler's finally putting it all together at the plate. Minnesota's primary leadoff hitter is slashing .264/.341/.536 through 220 at bats. His 15 home runs are the second most to Rosario (17) and his 26 walks are the most on the Twins.
Kepler's on pace to finish with 38 home runs and 101 RBI with an .878 OPS. Also, his glove has been superb and it's not talked about enough.
According to FanGraphs, Kepler's been the most effective right fielder in the American League in terms of Def with a grade of 3.7. Def is a sabermetric that measures the numbers of runs above or below average a player is worth when combining their fielding runs and positional runs.
For context, here's a rule of thumb for the grading system:
- Excellent: +20
- Great + 12
- Above Average +4
- Average: 0
- Below Average: -4
- Poor: -12
- Awful: -20
Only Cody Bellinger (6.4) and Bryce Harper (4.1) have higher grades among all right fielders so far this season.
It's a good thing the Twins inked Kepler to five-year $25.8 million contract extension, because that deal is going to be a bargain if that's his production going forward.
Harper made the team out of spring training, despite being a non-roster invite.
Fast forward through two months of the season and he's arguably been the most effective right-handed option out of the bullpen.
In 27 games this season, Harper's allowed just five runs in 25.2 innings, with a 0.935 WHIP, while striking out 26 batters and issuing just five walks.
Here's Harper's numbers compared to what league average relievers have done in the American League:
- League Average: 4.35 ERA, 23.8 K%, 9.9 BB%, .242 opponents batting average.
- Harper: 1.75 ERA, 25.7 K%, 5 BB%, .198 opponents batting average.
Harper's not a flame thrower, as his fastball averages just 89.7 mph but clearly he's been an effective reliever. Considering all the woes in the bullpen this season, Harper's been a breath of fresh air.
To be honest, this list could be pretty interchangeable.
C.J. Cron has been a godsend at first base and very well could start in the All-Star Game. Even Byron Buxton clicking at the plate isn't talked about as much as it should. Mitch Garver, who doesn't play every day, has an OPS over 1.000 in 31 games this season.
Regardless, this Twins team is so deep and talented that it makes everyone's contributions so much more important.
That's why it'll be exciting to see what the Twins do at the trade deadline to supplement a roster that's won 43 of its first 64 games.