Inbox: Twins primed to sustain success?
Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers questions from fans
DETROIT -- The Twins have been one of the biggest surprises in baseball early this season, as they've won nine of 11 to improve to 18-14, after a 1-6 start.
It's been an impressive turnaround for the Twins, who have seen their rotation fare well, while the offense has started to get going. But the question is whether the club can keep it going, and it brings us to the first question of this week's Inbox.
What do you think is the biggest reason for the Twins' success this season?
-- Ben F., St. Paul, Minn.
After a slow start offensively, the Twins have picked it up, as they've scored 151 runs, which is the sixth-highest total in the Majors. The offensive output isn't exactly a surprise, though, as Minnesota finished seventh in the Majors in runs scored last year.
The Twins been getting it done with runners in scoring position, hitting .308/.386/.443 in those situations, but that success likely isn't sustainable. They can find other ways to score runs, though, as they still haven't hit for much power this year (tied for 21st in homers with 24).
It's the pitching that's been the biggest surprise, as Minnesota hurlers have combined to post a 4.07 ERA, which is tied for the 16th-best mark in the Majors. It's a marked improvement from their 4.57 ERA last year that ranked as the second-worst team ERA in the Majors.
But the Twins still have trouble striking batters out, as they rank last in the Majors by a large margin, with just 167 strikeouts in 283 innings. It helps that they've walked the seventh-fewest batters, but long term, it'll be tough for Minnesota to keep it up on the pitching side if the team don't strike out more batters -- especially with its troubles with outfield defense.
Trevor Plouffe looks like he's developed into a solid player. What is the plan for him once Miguel Sano comes up?
-- Nathan B., Duluth, Minn.
Plouffe's evolution into an above-average third baseman really started last year, when he finished ninth among third basemen in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). He hit .258/.328/.423 with improved defense, finishing ahead of players such as Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval and David Wright in WAR.
Plouffe looks even better defensively this year, and he's hitting .269/.358/.454 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 29 games. He's tied for sixth among third basemen with a 1.0 WAR.
So while Sano is still shaking off the rust at Double-A Chattanooga, hitting .211/.328/.453 with six homers in 27 games following Tommy John surgery, he's still considered a major part of Minnesota's future and could be called up late this season.
The Twins will have to decide what to do with Plouffe once Sano is called up, and the easiest solution would be to move Plouffe to the outfield. However, Minnesota still hasn't officially decided what the organization will do. It's a good problem to have, but now it's on Sano to start producing at Double-A.
Why did the Twins call up Eddie Rosario over Aaron Hicks when Oswaldo Arcia went on the disabled list?
-- Tom T., Maple Grove, Minn.
Hicks was definitely having the better start to the year at Triple-A Rochester, but the Twins simply wanted to see what Rosario could bring in the short term in his first taste of the Majors. They have already seen Hicks struggle in the Majors, so they wanted him to work on his consistency in the Minors.
Manager Paul Molitor is a fan of Rosario from their work together in the Minor Leagues, and he thought Rosario would respond well to the challenge of being in the Majors. So far, Rosario has held his own, hitting .263 with a homer and five RBIs in five games.
Hicks has been on fire at Rochester since then, as he's now hitting .330/.412/.553 in 26 games. So while Minnesota went with Rosario to replace Arcia, Hicks could force the club's hand and take over in center field if Jordan Schafer continues to struggle.
Byron Buxton has been hot in Double-A. Are the Twins delaying his arrival time to the Majors because of service-time reasons?
-- Rob M., Lakeville, Minn.
This question comes up a lot, but the Twins are simply keeping Buxton in the Minors because he needs more time to develop. He's still played just 29 career games at the Double-A level, and he played in just 31 Minor League games all of last season because of various injuries.
It's a good sign that Buxton is playing well at Double-A after a slow start -- he's hitting .270/.336/.486 with three homers and six triples in 28 games -- but Minnesota isn't going to rush him to the Majors.