With the end of MLB's regular season coming this week, Bally Sports will review the performance of each club with an eye looking at what happened in 2021 and another at what could happen next season. Our next Exit Interview is with the Minnesota Twins.
What went right
• The Twins performed well on defense as measured by defensive runs saved, ranking 10th with a week to go in the season. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons ranks tied for ninth among all players at every position. Utility person Luís Arráez, strong at second base and left field, ranks just outside of the top 30.
What went wrong
• Byron Buxton sizzled on offense like never before at the start of the season, but his bad luck with injuries continued to haunt him, and he has been limited to 56 games. He’s not a free agent until after next season, but it also became public knowledge that he and the Twins cannot agree on a long-term contract extension. The Twins could very well contend again in 2022 if they make the right moves but if the opportunity comes to deal Buxton, they’re going to do it.
• Expected to be a strength, the pitching staff was a disaster, putting up one of the five highest ERAs in MLB. They still have a lot of good pieces, although right-hander Kenta Maeda was lost to Tommy John surgery Sept. 1. He’s under contract through 2023.
• Catcher Mitch Garver confirmed he’s a beast in the batter’s box by slugging .536, but he also has missed a lot of time because of injuries.
• Andrelton Simmons put up strong numbers on defense at short, but was a big zero in the batter’s box, hitting .224/.286/.277, which you can’t do no matter how good you are with the glove. Perhaps they should use Nick Gordon there next season.
• For the second time in three seasons, Jorge Polanco produced terrific numbers on offense (.271/.325/.504 with 31 homers, 35 doubles and 11 steals). He also played strong defense at second base.
• Right-hander Bailey Ober stands 6-foot-9 and made a good impression over 20 starts.
Reasons for optimism
• Right-hander Joe Ryan, part of the Nelson Cruz deal with the Rays, has been excellent in four starts.
• Slugger Alex Kirilloff dealt with injuries all season before being shut down, but in flashes he showed a lot of promise.
• They got a good return of prospects for José Berríos from the Blue Jays, though Berríos also would have been useful in 2022 before he turns into a free agent.
• Their farm system ranks in the middle, including three in the top 100 playing at Double-A. Shortstop Royce Lewis missed this season because of an ACL but he might be ready by the end of 2023.
• Manager Rocco Baldelli is as good as anyone to guide the Twins next season.
• He’s coming up on age 36, but Josh Donaldson is still a potent hitter and an effective defensive third baseman.
What needs work
• The Twins have a lot of good young arms, but they were saying the same thing before the 2021 season, and they didn’t produce much.
• They’re still in good shape for the long term, but need to make some additions in order to contend in 2022 — which is certainly possible.
• What’s the deal with Max Kepler, who had a breakthrough season in 2019 but has stagnated at the plate the past two seasons?
• Miguel Sanó seems like he could do more, but he’s only produced mediocre numbers for the past two seasons. And he’s not a good defensive first baseman.
Check out our earlier MLB Exit Interviews: