Twins hoping additions will boost strong core

Buxton, Dozier provide speed, power while new arms enhance rotation

March 25th, 2018

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After scoring the second-most runs in the Majors after the All-Star break last year and adding to the mix in the offseason, the Twins figure to feature plenty of offense in 2018. The pitching should be much improved, too, after the additions of Jake Odorizzi, , , Zach Duke and .
It's a potent combo for the young and athletic Twins, who have one of the best defenses in baseball and were recently ranked by Statcast™ as the fastest overall team in the Majors, led by , the fastest player in the game.
The goal remains to make it to the postseason for a second straight year -- and to make a deeper run after losing the American League Wild Card Game to the Yankees in 2017. Here's a look at Minnesota's projected lineup, leadoff hitter, closer situation, platoon options and notable injuries heading into the season.

Projected Opening Day lineup
1. , 2B
2. Joe Mauer, 1B
3. , 3B
4. , LF
5. Logan Morrison, DH
6. , SS
7. Max Kepler, RF
8. Byron Buxton, CF
9. , C
Key roles
• Dozier will remain in his role as leadoff hitter despite his power; he hit 42 homers in 2016 and 34 last season. Dozier enjoys that role and hasn't hit anywhere but leadoff in the Twins' lineup since July 30, 2016. Molitor knows Dozier isn't a prototypical leadoff hitter, but they've had success with him atop the lineup. He posted a career-high .359 on-base percentage last year to go along with his above-average baserunning.

• The Twins signed Rodney to a one-year deal to serve as closer after he posted a 4.23 ERA with 39 saves for the D-backs last year. The 41-year-old scuffled last April with a 12.60 ERA but had a 2.38 ERA over his final 50 appearances. If Rodney falters, Reed has extensive closing experience.
• The Twins are expected to adjust their lineup against lefties; could see more time at catcher against lefties over the left-handed-hitting Castro. Kepler also sat against tough lefties last year, and while the Twins want him to continue to improve in that area, the switch-hitting Robbie Grossman could get playing time against southpaws, although he hit right-handers better last year.

Injury updates
• Right-hander hasn't started his throwing program after undergoing surgery to remove calcium deposits from his right middle finger in early February. But the Twins say he's still on track to return on schedule, although it appears more likely he'll be back in early May instead of late April.
• Right-hander , who underwent Tommy John surgery last March, continues to make progress, as he's throwing 50-pitch bullpen sessions and is about two weeks away from facing live hitters. He's eligible to return from the 60-day disabled list in late May and could be a boost to the rotation or bullpen once he's healthy.
• Right-hander , who had Tommy John surgery last July, also remains likely to return this season, but it'll be in late August or September. Pineda appears more likely to return in a relief role, but he could be stretched out to start depending on Minnesota's needs late in the season.