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Twins not getting nearly enough from second-year players

It's easy to forget now because of the way the Twins sprinted to the finish in 2023, but they were a subpar offensive team with a losing record (45-46) at the All-Star break last season.

That they were even within striking distance in the AL Central through mid-July was a testament to their dominant starting pitching and a weak division.

And then of course the Twins started to pull away in the division race, getting the benefit still of good pitching while the offense kicked things into high gear.

They went 42-29 after the break, a surge fueled in large part by offensive contributions from rookies Royce Lewis, Edouard Julien and Matt Wallner. Combined with the emergence of fellow rookie Louie Varland after he moved from the rotation to the bullpen, it looked like the Twins were well-stocked with young talent.

That still might be the case, but so is this: As much as contributions from those four players fueled a division title and the end of the longest postseason losing streak in North American pro sports history, their lack of production so far this year is a big reason for Minnesota's disappointing start.

I talked about that on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast.

Consider:

*Lewis, the Twins' emerging star and one of last October's playoff heroes, homered in his first at bat this season. Two innings later, he was lost to a calf strain that will keep him out several more weeks. While obviously not Lewis' fault, the Twins have quickly found out how much they miss someone who only has 282 regular-season MLB plate appearances.

*Julien started the year taking far too many called third strikes and entered Tuesday hitting .200. His power numbers are good (four homers) and he has shown signs of life lately, but he also made a key error Monday that put the Twins in an early hole.

*Wallner struck out in 16 of his first 24 official plate appearances this season before being demoted Tuesday to Class AAA St. Paul. The brought back Trevor Larnach, a more stable option with less upside than Wallner.

*Varland is 0-3 with an ERA just below 9 so far this season, showing that he might be better off in the bullpen again than in the rotation. The thing is, the Twins have less rotation depth and probably need Varland to get straightened out this year.

Add it up, these sophomore slumps (or in the case of Lewis, injury) are one of the key reasons for Minnesota's 6-9 start.