Consistency at plate could make, or break, Twins' season

July 13th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Do-Hyoung Park’s Twins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Boy, these Twins can really pitch. But will they ever hit?

It’s really that simple, as the Twins slumped into the end of a disappointing 45-46 first half, at the end of which, thanks to a historically weak division, they’re still right in the thick of things as they stare down one of the Majors’ easiest schedules in the second half.

And if they can weather the storm and make it into the playoffs, this elite starting rotation might give them their best chance in years to actually win a game. But they’ve got to get there first.

“I think we feel like we've got a good group,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “We've got to stay healthy. We've got to keep pitching the way we have. If we do that, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win a lot more games in the second half and hopefully put ourselves in a good position at the end.”

Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler have had down years. Jorge Polanco and Nick Gordon have been hurt for most of the season. Jose Miranda and Trevor Larnach have all but vanished.

Do the Twins have it in them to shake off this first half, start off anew from essentially .500 and finally put together the lineup and offensive performance they hoped to have on paper when this season began? It’s an open-ended question, and they’ve sought the answer all season without any success -- but can a break, improved health and an easier schedule help?

What we learned: The pitching is for real

This is the best Twins pitching staff in recent history, if not one of their best ever. It was jarring to many when the Twins traded defending American League batting champion Luis Arraez to Miami for Pablo López, but that served as the finishing move for a rotation that has exhibited both tremendous depth and a high ceiling.

The Twins lead baseball in rotation WAR, per FanGraphs, innings pitched by starters and rotation FIP, and they’re second in rotation ERA.

Trade Deadline strategy: Buy, but not aggressively

The Twins didn’t bring back Correa and extend both Buxton and López to sell around them when a playoff berth is within reach -- but Falvey has also indicated that the majority of the club’s offensive improvement will need to come from within.

With the farm system largely depleted by aggressive trades in the last two years, expect the Twins to be in the market for relief help and complementary offensive pieces.

Key player: Correa

If you really want to boil down the essence of the Twins’ second half into one factor, it’s this: Correa and Buxton need to start hitting consistently and take charge in the resurgence of the offense. If the two most important pieces to Minnesota’s offensive core can’t form a solid basis for that core, any other factors might not matter.

Correa has struggled to career-worst numbers across the board, hitting .225/.299/.401 while grounding into an MLB-leading 16 double plays. While his defense has been elite, there hasn’t been any sustained offense this year.

Prospect to watch: Royce Lewis

Lewis is expected to be down until mid-August with an oblique strain, but while he was finally healthy and performing as a big leaguer, he was a needed sparkplug in a Minnesota lineup that otherwise struggled to find hits and contact, hitting .326/.354/.474 with four homers employing a contact-oriented approach and high energy.

Lewis’ dugout presence is as significant as his ability to put bat to ball and find grass -- and he’ll provide a meaningful and needed boost down the stretch upon his return.