FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Minnesota Twins and their fans have reasons for cautious optimism heading into the 2017 season.
After a strong showing in 2015 that saw the team finish second in the American League Central, the Twins regressed in 2016, winning 24 fewer games and posting a 59-103 record, the worst in baseball. They also fired General Manager Terry Ryan, who was nearly five years into his second stint with the club. Thad Levine, a first-time general manager, now runs the front office, hoping to spur a turnaround.
The talent on the roster provides the greatest reason for optimism with the Twins. On paper, the team looks like a potential playoff contender. The results of this season lie primarily on the shoulders of several young players who have the potential to become stars. Third baseman Miguel Sano struggled in the field last year, missed time with a strained hamstring and underwhelmed at the plate. But the Twins have not given up on this once highly touted prospect. According to ESPN’s Derek Wetmore, Levine even offered to exorcise the 23 year old’s glove to improve his fielding woes.
Also of note is Jose Berrios, a 22-year-old starting pitcher. After he went 3-7 last year, the team expects more from the right-handed Puerto Rican. His last two seasons at Triple-A Rochester, he went 16-7, and the Twins are hoping he can match those stats at the next level.
More established players also show promise, and the best for the Twins is Brian Dozier, a veteran second baseman who last year hit 42 home runs, a league record for the position. The team MVP also struck for 99 RBIs. At only 29 years old, Dozier should continue to be productive for the next few seasons.
When spring training opens, all eyes will be on the Twins’ greatest reason for optimism, center fielder Byron Buxton. The 23 year old has spent parts of two seasons with the big-league club, and until the end of last year, failed to live up to expectations. In July 2016, which was his best month with the Twins up to that point, he batted .214, hitting zero home runs and sporting a .308 on-base percentage. In September and October, he broke through, hitting .287 with nine home runs and a .357 on-base percentage. Team personnel and fans alike hope he can continue producing these numbers.
The Twins begin spring training at CenturyLink Sports Complex on Feb. 15.