MINNEAPOLIS -- With a young core of position players and an offense that finished seventh in the Majors in runs scored in 2017, the Twins likely won't look much different offensively or defensively in '18.Among the 14 Twins players who had at least 100 plate appearances last year, only catcher
MINNEAPOLIS -- With a young core of position players and an offense that finished seventh in the Majors in runs scored in 2017, the Twins likely won't look much different offensively or defensively in '18.
Among the 14 Twins players who had at least 100 plate appearances last year, only catcher Chris Gimenez is no longer on the roster, and there's a chance he could return on a Minor League deal.
How the offense fares this season depends on how youngsters such as Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario continue to develop, while they'll count on veterans such as James Dozier, Joe Mauer and Jason Castro. The Twins are likely to have a revolving door at designated hitter that's set to include Eduardo Escobar, Robbie Grossman, Kennys Vargas, Sano and Mauer.
Of course, there's still roughly a month until Spring Training, so things can change. But if the season started today, here's a look at what the lineup could look like:
LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Miguel Sano, 3B
Eddie Rosario, LF
Byron Buxton, CF
Jorge Polanco, SS
Max Kepler, RF
Eduardo Escobar, DH
Jason Castro, C
The strength of the lineup is the balance the Twins have, as their .434 slugging percentage ranked tied for 11th in the Majors, while they also ranked ninth with 95 stolen bases. They have a blend of power and speed to go along with a patient offense that ranked tied for sixth in on-base percentage. The depth of the offense showed itself when it didn't fall off late in the year despite losing Sano to a shin injury, with Escobar helping to pick up the slack. There's also plenty of upside in the lineup, as Buxton, Rosario and Polanco had breakout second halves, while Kepler has shown promise and Sano was an All-Star for the first time before his injury.
The Twins don't have a set DH, as they used Grossman the most in that role last year. And while he has strong on-base skills, Grossman doesn't have the power that's traditionally associated with the position. Escobar played so well in Sano's absence he could see more playing time at DH this season, while Vargas is out of Minor League options. Vargas, a switch-hitter, fits the profile as a slugging DH, but hasn't been consistent enough at the Major League level. The Twins also don't receive much offense from Castro at catcher, but they're hopeful prospect Mitch Garver becomes a capable backup catcher with power.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
The Twins could look to find a full-time DH and have been linked to veteran slugger Mike Napoli. Minnesota could use some more right-handed power to join Sano and Dozier, as their lineup has several left-handers such as Mauer, Rosario, Kepler and Castro as well as switch-hitters such as Polanco, Escobar, Grossman and Vargas. But it could be tough finding full-time at-bats for a player such as Napoli, as the Twins like to rotate their players at DH. The Twins were smart with Mauer's playing time last year, helping him to his best season since his concussion in 2013, while Sano is coming off surgery to insert a titanium rod into his shin. So while Napoli's power would help the lineup, it would also hurt their flexibility.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.