How Much Can the Twins Lean On Their Lineup?

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins have had one of the most powerful lineups in baseball over the past three years. Since the beginning of the 2019 season, only the Los Angeles Dodgers (634) have hit more home runs than the Twins (626). But there’s a chance the real power show could occur this season.

Byron Buxton has evolved into an elite power hitter. Carlos Correa adds the superstar the Twins haven’t had since Kirby Puckett. Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela combined for 179 homers during their time with the New York Yankees. Add that to several holdovers from a 2019 team that hit an MLB-record 307 bombs, and you have a powerful offense.

A lineup this potent could carry the Twins to a deep playoff run. But they should ask themselves, at what point are they too reliant on their lineup?

We need to go back to the end of last season to answer this. Minnesota’s rotation was in shambles. Kenta Maeda underwent Tommy John surgery, and Joe Ryan turned out to be the lone bright spot for the upcoming season.

Like many front offices, the Twins tried to make a big move before the MLB lockout began. The New York Mets landed Max Scherzer. The Chicago Cubs scooped up Marcus Stroman. The Seattle Mariners came down with Robbie Ray. The Twins…signed Dylan Bundy.

Then came the wait. Rob Manfred and the players association slogged through several months of negotiations before striking a deal in early March. The race was back on. But the Twins couldn’t land the big fish.

Twins fans knew how this was going to end. With every report that Minnesota was “in” on a free agent, they lost out to a better offer. It happened before the 2020 season when the Twins made a strong push for Zack Wheeler, but he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.

With time running out, the Twins had options. They could either scrape the bottom of the barrel for pitching or bolster their lineup.

They chose the latter option, signing Josh Donaldson to what was the largest free-agent contract in franchise history. While it didn’t work out as they had hoped, it showed that if the Twins are in a pinch, they’ll add as much offense as possible.

It also played out this offseason when they signed Correa to a 3-year, $105.3 million contract. While the deal is functionally for one year, it might be enough to push this team over the top.

Correa’s bat alone is worth the investment. He’s never driven in 100 runs in a season, but it was because he was batting sixth in the Houston Astros’ lineup. With elite hitters everywhere, Correa still produced a career-high 26 home runs last season.

The Correa signing also meshed well with the emergence of Buxton. A lot of the focus has been if Buxton can stay healthy. But we don’t talk enough about how much he’s developed as a power hitter.

Over his first four major league seasons, Buxton’s slugging percentage sat at .414. Since the start of the 2021 season, Buxton is slugging .634. Twins Daily’s Parker Hageman pointed out that percentage is the highest in Major League Baseball during that stretch.

The rest of the lineup speaks for itself. Last season, Jorge Polanco set a Twins record for home runs by a second baseman. Max Kepler is three seasons removed from hitting 36 homers. Miguel Sanó can heat up at any moment, and did I mention that Sanchez and Urshela can hit bombs?

But they could still be let down by their lineup. The Twins’ power disappeared at the end of the 2019 season. The result was another sweep at the hands of the Yankees. With the weather in Minnesota, it’s possible a lot of the fly balls that go out in July may not go out in October.

That’s where a strong pitching staff could come in handy. The Dodgers have complemented their lineup with a rotation that is the best in baseball. Adding Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias isn’t an option for the Twins, so they’ll have to lean on their strength to get the job done.

It’s not perfect. But if the lineup lets them down, at least the Twins have picked a good hill to die on.

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