The Minnesota Twins saw a cast of young players break out in a large way last season, so who’s destined to do the same in 2018?
The Minnesota Twins saw a cast of young players break out over the course of the 2017 season. Specifically, the likes of Byron Buxton, José Berríos, Jorge Polanco, and Eddie Rosario took huge steps forward. Better yet, there’s reason to believe each player can reproduce those kind of years or even improve on them moving forward.
Of course, Byron Buxton was the big name that finally showed signs of becoming the five-tool, All-Star caliber player he was projected to be for the Twins. Now, fielding was never an issue for the center fielder, but hitting and using his speed on the base paths was a different story. In stints with Minnesota in 2015 and 2016, Buxton struggled mightily at the plate and was a modest 12-for-16 stealing bases.
While the struggles carried into the first half of the 2017 season, Buxton lit up the stat sheet after the All-Star break. Notably, he batted .300 at the plate and slugged 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. Not to mention, he was a perfect 13-for-13 stealing bases and ultimately, broke the Twins record for consecutive steals with 24. Altogether, he had his best season, batting .253 with 16 home runs, 51 RBIs, and 29 stolen bases. In the process, he earned his first Gold Glove in center field, the first of many to come.
Along with Buxton, Berríos emerged and established himself at the top of the rotation. After starting 14 games with an 8.02 ERA in 2016, Berríos finished with a 3.89 ERA in 2017 to go along with a 14-8 record in 26 games (25 starts). While he had ups and downs throughout the year, the right-hander’s second year with the Twins was a year to build on. Undoubtedly, he has the stuff to become a dominant one or two starter in this league.
Additionally, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Polanco batted their way to the top half of the Twins lineup. Rosario was fairly consistent all year long, hitting .287 before the All-Star break and .292 after the break. But, he showed a power surge in the second half, hitting 17 of his 27 home runs, while driving in 52 of his 78 RBIs. Overall, he blossomed in his third season with Minnesota and showed that he can be more than just an average outfielder.
As for Polanco, he had a year much like Buxton where he went through a huge slump in the first half. In fact, it was so bad that many fans were calling the Twins to cut bait with the 24-year-old shortstop. Fortunately, they didn’t. By season’s end, he was arguably the hottest hitter in the lineup as he earned time batting in the third spot of the lineup. A spot where he hit eight of his 13 home runs. For the season, he hit .256 with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs and likely sealed a spot in the middle infield for the foreseeable future.
With the help of breakout performances from these players, the Twins were able to put together one of their best seasons in a long time. A season that ended in their first playoff berth since 2010. A season that not only the team can build off of, but the players, as they strive to improve on promising campaigns.
Heading into 2018, Minnesota looks to add players via free agency and trade to improve this roster. But, as 2017 showed, the development of players within the organization can pay huge dividends on the eventual outcome of a season. As matter of fact, it was what carried this team to the playoffs last year.
Unquestionably, the Twins will need their 2017 breakout players to continue to develop, but also, see a few other faces break out to help this team take the next step in 2018. With that, let’s take a look at a few players primed for breakout years with Minnesota.