COMMENTARY| For the Minnesota Twins, 2013 was the worst of seasons and it was the best of seasons. It couldn't have gone much worse on the field, but the future is bright thanks to a restocked farm system.
The problem is that future still feels so far off.
On Sept. 22, 2010, the Twins ended a remarkable streak. They played their first meaningless game since Sept. 30, 2007, the final game of the 2007 season. The Twins played 477 consecutive meaningful games thanks to losing Game 163 in 2008 and winning Game 163 in 2009.
The game on Sept. 22, 2010, was their first after clinching the 2010 AL Central title. The Twins still had playoff positioning to be determined, but as far as determining if the Twins would make the postseason, the games for all intents and purposes were meaningless.
The Twins haven't played a meaningful game since.
That's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Since ending that streak, the Twins have gone 201-299 in just more than three seasons.
The Twins were swept out of the 2010 playoffs by the New York Yankees, again, and started the 2011 season 17-37 and were 16 1/2 games back on June 1. The Twins managed to get hot and go 27-12 to get within 5 games of first place, but they would get no closer and finished the season on a 13-43 tailspin.
In 2012, the Twins went 6-16 in April and were never higher than fourth place in the standings after the second game of the season. The Twins had a better start in 2013, but they still never led the division and never got out of fourth place after being swept in a doubleheader on June 9 by the Washington Nationals.
It was an amazingly swift decline for a franchise coming off consecutive division titles and six in nine seasons. The Twins went from the best decade of regular-season success right to the worst three-year stretch in team history.
The 2011 season ended with 99 losses, but the minor league system was probably in even worse shape. The Twins simply did not have any high-upside prospects close to be ready for the major leagues. The Twins' best prospect, Miguel Sano, finished the season in Rookie Ball. Their best pitching prospect, Kyle Gibson, injured his elbow pitching in Class AAA and had to have Tommy John surgery, which delayed his major league debut for about two years.
However, the Twins have managed to turn around the farm system and now have what is widely considered one of the best minor league systems in baseball, if not the best. The best thing to come out of 2011 was the Twins being in position in the 2012 June draft to select Byron Buxton, a center fielder who is now the consensus top prospect in baseball and will most likely start his second full season in Class AA next year. He could be up to the major leagues before the Twins host the 2014 All-Star game if he continues to dominate the minor leagues as he has thus far.
Just as important, or even more important, the Twins have been able to bring in high-upside starting pitchers that they so desperately need. The biggest piece thus far has been Alex Meyer, who the Twins traded Denard Span to the Nationals for prior to the 2013 season. Unfortunately, Meyer came down with a sore elbow while pitching in Class AA, otherwise he might have been promoted to the Twins in September if not sooner. Fortunately, he showed he was healthy in August and will be pitching in the Arizona Fall League, which is usually reserved for top prospects.
Meyer is ranked third among prospects in the Twins' system, according to MLB.com. Just behind him is Kohl Stewart, whom the Twins drafted in the first round in the 2013 June draft. In fact, of the Twins' top 10 prospects, five of them are pitchers the Twins have added since the end of the 2011 season. Besides Meyer and Stewart, the Twins drafted Jose Berrios in 2012 and Ryan Eades in 2013, and they traded for Trevor May prior to the 2013 season. Unfortunately, only Meyer and possibly May have a realistic chance of having an impact on 2014.
That's the problem with turning around a baseball franchise through acquiring prospects. It is a very slow process. It's been a long time since the Twins played a meaningful game, but it could still be a while before these prospects could have a meaningful impact.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
More from this author:
- Sports & Recreation
- Minnesota Twins