After having the third most improved record in the American League and fifth most improved in all of baseball, the Minnesota Twins are looking for more in 2016. They remained relevant in the American League Wild Card Race until the final weekend of the season, and this year the players, coaches and front office is expecting October baseball. For that to happen, there will be four players to watch all season to keep the Twins on pace to make the Postseason.
On July 2, 2015 the Minnesota Twins called up what would be the Twins’ best player. Miguel Sano, the 22 year-old Dominican Republic native, made a tremendous impact in the heart of the Twins’ lineup.
In only 80 games, the 6’4” slugger totaled up a .269 batting average, .385 on-base percentage, .530 slugging percentage, 18 homeruns and 46 runs batted in. That bat helped the Twins hover around the Wild Card hunt for the rest of the season, and with more games coming this year should only mean good news for Minnesota.
Sano has been said to have the power amongst some of the greats in the game, and his sophomore season will tell how well his development has come along. The third place finisher in Rookie of the Year voting will be taking on a different position then he is typically used to in 2016.
With Trevor Plouffe cementing his spot at third base and the Twins’ coaches and front office wanting Sano in right field. It has been a learning path during spring training, and will surely continue to be during the regular season. If Sano can learn the position as quick as he learned Major League pitching, he may be thought of as one of the best in the game. For the Twins to remain on the right path to success, they will need Sano to continue his development and producing at a high level in the batter’s box.
Brian Dozier may have had his breakout season in 2015, and it could not have come at a better time. Entering his fourth season, the 28 year-old will be looked at to lead this team along with Joe Mauer after the retirement of Torii Hunter.
The second baseman finally made his first All-Star game last season, and if Dozier can continue flash the leather and swing the bat well he may find himself in San Diego for the 2016 Mid-Summer Classic. As
Dozier said to media after the 2015 season, “A lot of people will congratulate me on a great season. I will disagree, saying it was a better season, not great.”
He and the rest of the Twins just want to win, and the youth movement is in full effect for Minnesota. Dozier finally has some punch around him in the lineup, which will take some stress of the Mississippi native.
Last season, Dozier led all second basemen in homeruns (28), runs scored (101), and extra base hits (71). This season, Dozier will work on cutting down the strikeouts, as he set the Minnesota franchise record last season with 148. His presence in the lineup makes everyone else looser and effective. It will be key to keep Dozier’s athletic ability and leadership on the field in 2016.
Labeled as the top prospect in all of Major League Baseball the past two seasons, Byron Buxton is poised to breakout sooner rather than later. His speed is unmatched, his glove has the potential to be great and his bat remains to become consistent. Once all his tools have reached their potential, some have compared it be along the same lines as superstar Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s outfielder Mike Trout.
The Twins would be more than willing to accept those facts, but Buxton should come into his own by himself. The Georgia native will be the Twins’ starting centerfielder, as it is his job to lose. In the scouting report for Buxton, he is poised to become one the top defensive players in all of baseball. His contact and power reports are on the lower tier, but still above average. Buxton came up to the big league club in August and struggled to maintain consistency with the bat. On the base paths and in the field, he has already shown how great he can be.
Along with the progressions that should soon come to the 22 year-old, his demeanor for the game is admiring. The maturity set within him and the hardworking attitude will get him to where he is aiming to be, which would only help the Twins more. If Buxton can piece together the player he is projected to be, he could be a terrific lead-off hitter with his speed and further advance the Twins’ lineup in the right direction.
Crazy to think the former silver slugger, gold glove award winner and 2009 MVP is now a veteran of this club. Joe Mauer will be looked at to lead the youngsters, as he is the longest tenured Minnesota Twin on the active roster. Mauer, entering his 12th Major League season, will look to find the magic he once brought the Twins in years past.
Ever since his concussions from the catching position, Mauer has been a shadow of his former self. Mauer hit .265 last year, which is his lowest batting ever in a season. He also set a career low in on-base percentage, which is Mauer’s bread and butter for success when standing in the batter’s box. The St. Paul native had a very impressive spring, which should translate hopefully into success for 2016.
The MLB Network interviewed Mauer, and they asked him what is next for his career.
“A ring,” was the simple answer for the 32 year-old, as that seems to be the stained mindset for every Twin.