Game Over: The 2016 Minnesota Twins
Sorry, Minnesota Twins, your World Series trophy is in another castle. And, uhh, it’s pretty far away.
The Twins were the first to reach the fate that so many other MLB teams will reach before the end of October. They were eliminated. There will be no postseason. No World Series. Just next spring and a chance for the Twins to start the game from the beginning.
Like we’ll do with every eliminated team in our Game Over series, we’re about to examine what went wrong for the Twins, what went right, what’s the best 2016 memory, what they need to fix and what the future might hold.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Where to start with the Twins? In just one year, they went from a surprise playoff contender to the first team eliminated. You can’t blame that on one person or one moment. It’s more of an all-around disappointment. The Twins had the second-worst ERA in baseball, so that’s obviously a contributing factor. And while the Twins scored runs, they only have one player at the time of this article with more than 60 RBIs.
The bigger failure was the philosophy: The Twins thought their young talent, namely Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, would take a step forward and they didn’t need to make many offseason improvements. Oh, how they were wrong. (Mike Oz)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
When it comes to the Twins, there’s one name that rises to the top: Brian Dozier. The 29-year-lifelong Twin had an unexpected breakout year for Minnesota, giving fans (and maybe even the players themselves) something to look forward instead of the near-constant losing. He’s hit .280/.353/.573, but more importantly, he’s whacked 41 home runs … 41! That’s second in baseball behind Mark Trumbo. Ervin Santana pitched his first full year for the Twins, and he was by far the best member of their rotation. He has a 3.38 ERA with 138 strikeouts, which should tell you everything you need to know about the rest of the Twins rotation. (Liz Roscher)
TOP OF THE FLAGPOLE (aka THEIR BEST MOMENT)
Dozier’s second-half home run surge has been a sight to behold and it at least gave Twins fans something to cheer about with their team well out of playoff contention. The pinnacle of power for Dozier was a three home run game against the Kansas City Royals on Sept. 5 in the middle of a remarkable streak of five straight games with a homer. Of course, that monster performance came in a loss. But in a season full of them where they all mostly blend together, Dozier’s three homers on the same night will still stand out, regardless of the final score. (Israel Fehr)
CHANGES THEY NEED TO MAKE
The Twins are in the process of reworking their front office. Once that’s sorted out, the focus must go on fixing the minor league system.
Thanks to several recent high draft picks, they’ve collected a lot of talent. That’s not the problem, Developing them into major-league players is where Minnesota has fallen short. Players like Byron Buxton, Alex Meyer and Jose Berrios were all expected to be contributors by now. It hasn’t happened. In fact, Meyer isn’t even with the team anymore after being shipped to the Angels with Ricky Nolasco for an average starter in Hector Santiago.
The Twins will never be a team that spends a lot of money. That puts an even greater emphasis on developing and filling out the roster from within. Until they get that back on track, they will struggle to compete on a year-to-year basis. (Mark Townsend)
WARP INTO THE FUTURE
The trio of Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano make up the Twins’ future. Of that group, only Sano has shown the ability to stick in the majors as an above-average contributor, though his inability to hit for average is a concern.
With that said, it would be incredibly foolish to give up on either Buxton or Berrios right now. Making contact and staying healthy have been big obstacles for Buxton thus far, but he was considered the best prospect in the minors just a few years ago. He’s also still just 22 years old. His star may be slightly dimmer than it was a few seasons ago, but he remains a high-upside prospect.
If you’re giving up on Berrios after just 48 2/3 innings in the majors, you’re beyond saving. His 2016 numbers are a disappointment, sure, but there’s just no reason to believe he can’t make adjustments.
Further down the road, shortstop Nick Gordon and pitcher Tyler Jay should also give Twins’ fans hope for the future. Jay made it all the way to Double-A in 2016, and could move quickly based on how well he performs. Gordon, son of Tom Gordon and brother of Dee Gordon, is much further away, but has immense talent. (Chris Cwik)
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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz