Welcome to Razzball’s 2018 team previews. Over the next couple of months, we’ll be previewing all of the teams and talking to writers who represent those teams around the web. We want to provide the best and most in-depth fantasy projections to go along with the asking the most useful questions to those who know their teams best. We want to talk about the players in the first half of your draft and also the deep sleepers that make you log into google and start watching Midwest Single-A ball for hours. Just kidding, don’t do that, hopefully we don’t go that far…

The Twins shocked everyone in 2017 as they became the first team in the history of baseball to go from losing over 100 games to making the playoffs the following season. The new front office regime headed by Thad Levine and Derek Falvey are yanking the organization into the modern era and expanding their analytics department. I asked Brandon Warne of The Athletic Minnesota about some of the most hotly debated players on this ascending roster. Of course, the Twins continued to make moves late into the offseason, signing Anibal Sanchez and trading for Jake Odorizzi shortly after I spoke to Brandon. Sanchez should serve as a stopgap until Ervin Santana makes his way back from finger surgery, but Odorizzi provides some much needed mid-rotation stability. Let’s get Brandon’s take on some of the other players and situations of interest!

Dokken: Byron Buxton continues to be a hot topic heading into draft season. How much of his 2017 production do you believe in and what do you expect from him this year?

Brandon: A lot. If he continues to hit in the lower half of the order, he has the potential to be a 20-40 guy. He’s that fast, and the only time he was caught last year was when he overslid the bag against Baltimore. He’s certainly been a better real-life player than in fantasy — even last year in his quasi-breakout season — but even his final numbers were dragged down by what amounted to a dreadful two-and-a-half week start. He was hitting .082/.135/.122 after playing on April 20; after that, he hit .274/.335/.448 the rest of the way with 16 homers, 12 doubles, six triples and 28 steals. We don’t care about WAR from a fantasy perspective too much, but that’s a five-win player. The 162-game pace for that stretch was 21 homers and 37 steals, and it’s not unreasonable to think he’ll mix in some more doubles and triples. He could slug .500 solely due to his wheels, I guess I’m saying.

Dokken: Jose Berrios showed us that he could be a potential anchor for the rotation at times last year. However, he also had a bit of a rocky second half. What do you see him doing this season?

Brandon: Just leveling out more. That first full season where he wasn’t getting his butt kicked was nice for Berrios to have, even if the second half didn’t go particularly well. When weighing performance with age and skills, he’s already the best pitcher in the organization. ZiPS has him posting a 3.92 ERA this year, but the Fans projection at Fangraphs pegs him at 3.50. I’d split the difference around 3.65 with no hesitation. Bumping him to 180 innings shouldn’t be hard, either. Hell, he threw 185 between Rochester and Minnesota last year. He’s maybe not a true ace yet, but he’s damn good.

Dokken: Ervin Santana will miss at least the first month of the year, leaving some question marks at the back end of the rotation. Is there anyone that you think could step up and surprise us, either at the MLB level or from the minors?

Brandon: If they give anyone a crack at this it’ll be Adalberto Mejia. That’s not to say someone like Aaron Slegers, Felix Jorge or even more likely, Stephen Gonsalves couldn’t do this sort of thing. I just don’t think they’ll get the chance. Mejia flashed a pretty solid repertoire from the left side last year, but had iffy command and some issues extending deep into starts (averaging under 5.0 innings per). If he can get that figured out, he’s pretty interesting at just 24 years old. Those other guys are varying levels of interesting — but the rotation will be full, especially if the team adds a Lance Lynn/Alex Cobb.

Dokken: Eddie Rosario appeared to make some real changes last year, improving his approach and hitting for more power. Do you believe he’ll be able to repeat his 2017 performance?

Brandon: Something in that vicinity, yes. The changes made were something he was conscious about needing to fix, and something he worked hard with hitting coach James Rowson on implementing. They did drills on swinging at only strikes and on mixing things up in short toss to make sure that discipline was part of every decision he made as a hitter, and it showed in his on-field approach. Is further growth possible? Maybe, but even repeating last year would be a big step forward because sustainability can be hard to find for young players.

Dokken: Miguel Sano has had a rather tumultuous offseason. He had surgery to insert a rod into his lower left leg, and was also accused of some pretty horrible behavior. What are the chances we see a suspension levied this season, and is the overall risk too much for you to draft him?

Brandon: Between the strikeouts, fitness level and the fact that MLB might want to make an example out of him in terms of how players should not conduct themselves, I’m all the way out on him this year. He might be the unicorn we’ve been waiting for who can still hit while striking out 35 percent of the time, or play third base at 270 lbs, but I highly doubt he’s the unicorn for one of those — let alone both. He has some work to do — in myriad ways.

Dokken: The Twins brought in a few new names this offseason to improve what was a below average bullpen in 2017. Fernando Rodney has been tabbed as the Opening Day closer, but do you think he leads the team in saves come seasons end? Would you rather draft him or presumed handcuff Addison Reed?

Brandon: Probably Reed but I don’t say it with too much conviction. I think it’s going to be a fairly good team with save opportunities to go around, but I don’t know how solid the ground Rodney is on will be. He’s turning 41 in a few weeks and Father Time is undefeated. Draft with your head.


Projected Starting Lineup

Order Player Position AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP
1 Brian Dozier 2B 567 97 30 85 13 0.257 0.344
2 Joe Mauer 1B 454 66 10 57 3 0.282 0.367
3 Miguel Sano 3B 409 67 28 77 1 0.255 0.347
4 Eddie Rosario OF 539 71 23 83 10 0.276 0.316
5 Jorge Polanco SS 503 67 13 64 12 0.274 0.332
6 Byron Buxton OF 518 74 20 71 21 0.256 0.317
7 Max Kepler OF 433 59 18 64 6 0.263 0.334
8 Kennys Vargas DH 252 35 12 38 1 0.241 0.325
9 Jason Castro C 312 42 10 40 2 0.234 0.318

Projected Rotation

Order Player Position IP W SV K/9 BB/9 ERA WHIP
1 Jose Berrios SP 169 10 0 8.50 3.21 4.55 1.33
2 Jake Odorizzi SP 162 9 0 7.68 3.2 5.08 1.40
3 Kyle Gibson SP 168 10 0 6.76 3.24 4.55 1.43
4 Adalberto Mejia SP 113 7 0 7.35 3.33 4.77 1.41
5 Anibal Sanchez SP  123 7 0 8.29 2.79 4.92  1.36

Projected Bullpen

Order Player Position IP W SV K/9 BB/9 ERA WHIP
Closer Fernando Rodney RP 65 3 30 8.71 4.24 4.22 1.42
Setup Addison Reed RP 65 3 2 8.40 2.63 4.34 1.28

*All projections are courtesy of Steamer.


You can find Dokken on Twitter @NathanDokken.

  1. brettj72 says:

    Unfortunate timing for this article but it looks like Vargas may be replaced as the DH by Logan Morrison. I agree with Sano bringing lots of risk.

    • Dokken

      Dokken says:

      @brettj72: This offseason has been a real pain for posts like this. So many lineups can change substantially before the season rolls around since free agents have taken so long to sign. For the Twins, this LoMo signing gives the offense a nice cheap boost, and gives them Sano insurance in case he does get suspended or injured. Or if he keeps gaining weight and starts to look like Pizza the Hutt.

  2. Bterry says:

    I feel like steamer has everyone’s RBI too low across the board. 10% or so. Have you noticed them being the lowest of the popular projection sites?

    • Dokken

      Dokken says:

      @Bterry: Oh yeah, Steamer is notoriously conservative. I’d take the over on almost all those RBI projections. Twins scored the second most runs over the second half of 2017 and they’ve only upgraded with LoMo. They could very well be a top five offense in baseball in 2018.

  3. Morris Lester says:

    Calling Dr. Dokken, Dr. Fine, Dr. Dokken. What is your assessment of patient Rosario’s no-throw status? I have him on several fantasy teams – should I start looking for a backup to begin the season? If yes, long-term or short?

    • Dokken

      Dokken says:

      @Morris Lester: I’ve prescribed him 1 million CC’s of Graterol. I don’t have any idea what that will do, especially since Graterol isn’t a medicine, but I think he’ll be ok nevertheless. We’re still several weeks out from opening day so I wouldn’t freak out yet. If it’s something that’s affecting just his throwing and he can still hit, there’s also the DH for him should it linger into the regular season.

  4. Mark says:

    BUxton scares the shit out of me still. Those k’s are worrisome.

    • Dokken

      Dokken says:

      @Mark: It’s not pretty, but he was 23 and over the second half he lowered the K% to 27.6%. That’s permissible in these days, and puts him in the range of Wil Myers and Javier Baez strikeout-wise. He’s also got the speed to maintain plus BABIP’s to help counteract those strikeouts. I’m optimistic on him this year.

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