Think of the big names who patrol the outfields around Major League Baseball and you’ll get a who’s who of the game’s best players.
Mike Trout and Bryce Harper top the list. A pair of Adams in Jones and Eaton cover their ground with astounding efficiency. There’s Curtis Grandson, Giancarlo Stanton and Lorenzo Cain. And there’s a trio in Minnesota that just might be more dangerous than all of them.
That’s not to doubt the capability of the game’s biggest stars on defense. Individually they can go highlight for highlight with each other. And don’t be deceived into thinking hitting has any say in this conversation. Just look at the best defenders in baseball and find a more fearsome grouping right now than Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario.
You can catch them in action on Friday against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers (8-7) on our MLB page, the Free Game of the Day tab or right here in this post. First pitch is slated for 8:10 p.m. ET. MLB’s local blackout rules apply.
Evidence both anecdotal and statistical argue the Twins outfield demands attention. As do the myriad diving plays that these 20-something-year-olds make look easy.
What you’ll likely notice is that to beat Minnesota’s outfield, you have to hit the ball out of the park. The Twins (7-8) are leading the league in Defensive Efficiency Ratio at .749. And while it’s both early in the season and easy to pick on fielding statistics, Buxton, Kepler and Rosario make that number look relatively low.
They can beat you with speed, athleticism and agility on defense. And it’s a big reason why Minnesota won five of six games to start the season.
Even with Hector Santiago starting, the Twins will need more than just defensive prowess to take down the Tigers. Minnesota is batting a less-than-decent .233/.326/.362 as a team — but is tied for the league lead in walks (67) with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s not too inspiring when you have to face Verlander. Even with an ERA above five, the Tigers’ ace has stuck out 18 batters in 17 innings while giving up just five walks.
But for Detroit to come up with a victory, it’ll have to find a way to get the ball past a defense that’s proven to be one of the best in baseball early in the year.
The scary part here is that Minnesota isn’t even ready to contend yet. This is still a developmental phase for a rebuilding team. Consider that Buxton, Kepler and Rosario are 23, 24 and 25 years old, respectively. Their primes are ahead of them and their prowess in the field to start the year has been exceptional.
The Twins may not win a noteworthy amount of games this season, but their defense should frustrate plenty of hitters. Especially on any ball out of the infield.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – –