With the calendar year 2021 winding down, many of us will sit down with a piece of paper this week and write down things we would like to change in 2022. While most of those resolutions will eventually go unfulfilled, it’s a good time to look back and reflect on the year that was.
The same thinking applies to the Minnesota Twins. 2021 was not a good year for the team, and with 2022 in limbo, it’s hard to sit down and give a list of New Year’s resolutions. But there are some positives that they can draw back on to give everyone hope for the future.
Jose Miranda’s breakout
Even the most die-hard Twins fan could not tell you who Miranda was when this year started. Miranda was coming off a 2019 season where he recorded a .671 OPS and looked like the type of player the Twins would expose in a Rule 5 draft.
But after a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Miranda came back with a vengeance in 2021.
Miranda’s breakout began in Double-A Wichita, where he hit .345/.408/.588 in 47 games. Prospects occasionally have a random burst of production, so the Twins decided to see what he could do at Triple-A St. Paul. He announced his presence quickly, hitting three home runs and driving in six in his first start with the Saints.
By the time the season was over, Miranda hit .344/.401/.572 with 30 homers and had one of the greatest seasons by a Twins prospect in 20 years. The performance earned him the organization’s minor league player of the year award and creates intrigue about where he’ll fit in on the major league roster.
If they trade Josh Donaldson after the lockout, the Twins could use Miranda as their everyday third baseman. Or Miranda could also be a homegrown version of Marwin Gonzalez with his positional versatility. Wherever he winds up, Twins fans should be excited when he hits the field in 2022.
Acquiring Joe Ryan
There were many disappointing elements to Minnesota’s 2021 season, including saying goodbye to fan favorites. Nelson Cruz was one of the greatest Twins hitters of all time. But with his advanced age and the team well out of the playoff race, Minnesota had to get what they could to rebuild the roster.
A deal like this usually leaves a selling team with a low-level prospect. But the Twins were able to grab two Triple-A pitchers, including Ryan.
His debut couldn’t have gone more smoothly for the Twins. Ryan went 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA in his first four starts. Even better, hitters couldn’t figure him out. Opponents hit .133 off him, and he took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning of his second career start.
Ryan gave up six runs to the Detroit Tigers in the final start of the season, but his first month in the majors has to be a success. With no real competition on the roster, Ryan should be a lock for the 2022 rotation and could be a fixture for years to come.
Byron Buxton’s extension
For years, Twins fans bickered about the value of Joe Mauer’s contract. Twelve years after Mauer signed his mega-deal, those fans can partake in a similar argument after Buxton signed a seven-year extension right before the lockout. Buxton’s detractors will list off his long list of injuries, but the upside is that Buxton looked like a player on the verge of superstardom when he was on the field.
In 61 games, Buxton set a career-high in homers, average, on-base, slugging, and OPS. He also did it with a swagger not seen from anyone on Minnesota’s roster. His performance was so outstanding that the Twins had to pay him and hope that the injuries would stop surfacing next season.
Buxton’s new contract is a risk, but one the Twins had to take. If he can stay healthy, the payoff could be an MVP-caliber player who could lead the team out of their current funk. That’s enough to excite Twins fans and give them hope for 2022.