Through the first two months of the season, the Minnesota Twins have been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. They came into the year hoping to win a third-straight division title, but the conversation has shifted to whether they should be sellers at the trade deadline.
With June comes an opportunity to turn things around. The Twins should get several players off the injured list, and if the bullpen stabilizes, Minnesota could get back into contention. But that path begins with what will likely be the most crucial week of the season.
The Twins will begin a six-game road trip on Monday with a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles, then play four versus the Kansas City Royals. The six-game set will serve as a rematch from the last homestand where the Twins swept the Orioles but dropped two of three to the Royals. A 4-2 record isn’t awful, but the Twins will need to do better than that if they hope to get back into the AL Central race.
It starts with pitching. The Twins have been panned for pulling their starters too early, but they have begun to let their starters flirt with 100 pitches. Most of their starters have become six-inning pitchers, but recently Rocco Baldelli has been more willing to allow his starters to go deeper into games.
Randy Dobnak’s outing on Friday didn’t end well, but he had the chance to complete seven innings before Cody Stashak imploded in relief. J.A. Happ has been solid as long as he’s not pitching against the White Sox. And José Berríos and Michael Pineda have also been a stabilizing force at the top.
Even if Matt Shoemaker continues to struggle, the Twins have reinforcements on the way. Assuming Kenta Maeda doesn’t miss an extended amount of time with a groin injury, he could replace Shoemaker in the rotation. And if Maeda’s injury lingers, Jhoan Duran could be a fifth-starter option after blowing by opposing batters with 100 mph fastballs in St. Paul.
Minnesota’s lineup could also get a boost with the return of several players. Byron Buxton was playing at an MVP level before injuring his hip, and Luis Arráez has emerged as an on-base machine at the top of the lineup. There’s also the chance that Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach improve as the season goes along.
Miguel Sanó’s slump has caused some warranted consternation, but he has proven that he can go on a tear at any moment. By getting these players back, there’s no reason that the Twins can’t go on a run.
But everything comes down to the bullpen.
Although there has been the occasional hiccup, Minnesota’s relief corps has started to take shape. Taylor Rogers and Hansel Robles have settled into late-inning roles, and Alexander Colomé has improved after a brutal start to the season.
Should the Twins make another addition near the trade deadline, there’s a chance the unit could have an overhaul similar to what we saw in 2019 with Sergio Romo and a slew of young arms coming to Minnesota. But for this to happen, the Twins need to have a dominant week. The Orioles currently have the worst record in the majors, and although the Royals had early success, they’re a team the Twins could sweep on the road.
If Minnesota were to go 5-1 this week, it would put them at 26-32. While they wouldn’t be at .500, it would put them in a better position heading into a series against the New York Yankees and Houston Astros when they return home. But if they falter in Baltimore and Kansas City, the Twins could end up 10 games under .500 with two legitimate American League contenders coming to Target Field. That’s a scenario where things could fall apart, and they turn into sellers at the trade deadline.