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Twins will have 12th best offense in MLB, according to ESPN’s ‘way-too-early’ ranks

Look, we know it’s silly to have POWER RANKINGS every week, just as we know it’s silly to get worked up over them before spring training gets underway. We acknowledge that and ESPN would acknowledge that, too. But they’re also fun and sports are supposed to be fun so let’s get into it. And, for what this is worth, the piece in question was put together with a clear amount of thought and effort, so I figured we’d talk about it today, shall we?

ESPN published their offensive rankings and acknowledged as early as the first words of the headline that the rankings have been decided ‘way too early.’ The Twins, reigning home-run record setters, scorers for 900+ runs, and new employers of Josh Donaldson, ranked 12th.

Does that seem a little low to you, Twins fans?

He’re are a few thoughts on the rest of the teams on the list. 

1. Astros (last year’s wOBA rank: 1)

Are we going to ding them for cheating? Even if we fade them, that’s a talented offensive club.

2. Dodgers (last year’s rank: 4)

Yeah, this adds up. They’re a very deep team with some great top-end talent, and people are rightfully excited about Gavin Lux and Alex Verdugo. Oh, and if they trade for Mookie Betts we’ll have to dust off the Larry David memes.

3. Mets (last year’s rank: 11)

This one surprised me a little bit. Although I do have a healthy respect for Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, among others. The system is rating teams based on projections in categories like contact, patience, power and speed, and in those sense, they view the Mets as a team with no lineup holes.

4. Angels (last year’s rank: 17)

If you’re an Angels fan, you just wish there was more pitching. That lineup, which will include former Twin Jason Castro, should be some kind of fun this year. Add back a healthy Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and then add in an Anthony Rendon and eventually a top prospect like Jo Adell? Giddy up.

5. Cubs (last year: 8)

OK, so they’re not trading Kris Bryant?

6. A’s (last year: 10)

I do like some of their bats. Last year was a terrific season for Guys You Maybe Didn’t Know Were Stars like Marcus Semien, Mark Canha and Matt Olson. Interesting note for Twins fans to follow: ESPN projects the A’s as the best homer-hitting team, controlling for ballpark, in 2020.

7. Braves (last year: 7)

Great offensive club a year ago lost Josh Donaldson, added Marcell Ozuna. I think that will hurt them offensively,  but maybe Ozuna will be solid again and join the forceful trio of Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Ozzie Albies.

8. Red Sox (last year: 5)

OK, so they’re not trading former MVP Mookie Betts?

9. Yankees (last year: 3)

Feels a tad light.

10. Padres (last year: 26)

If you say so.

11. Nats (last year: 6)

Reigning World Series champs and I won’t take that away from them. I still feel like collectively we might be underestimating the loss of Rendon. I don’t think you can replace a superstar by hiring some steady veterans and hoping they band together and just don’t get worse with age. Juan Soto does look like a star, and if there’s more in the tank for Victor Robles, then good on them.

Personally, I just don’t think the Eric Thames-Starlin Castro-Howie Kendrick-Asdrubal Cabrera-Ryan Zimmerman group is more exciting than what the Twins have going. Two things we love: nit-picking and lists!

12. Twins (last year: 2)

Here’s an excerpt from the ESPN piece on the Twins:

While the system doesn’t see a repeat record-breaking power outbreak from the Twins, it does see another group with a lot of power and patience. With Donaldson and Cruz anchoring the lineup, the Twins are clearly in win-now mode. The prospect of roster-wide regression and the possibility of age- or injury-related declines from Cruz and Donaldson does make you a bit more nervous about the Twins than you’d normally be. … Overthinking aside, the Twins look well positioned to repeat in the AL Central.

OK, fair play to them. And I’ll note right up front that whatever projection system this is pulling from is probably a lot more sophisticated than my hunches. As you scribble out napkin lineups and allow yourself to think about the best-case scenario for a roster full of players, the Twins stack up really well against even the best lineups in the league. Even in a middle-case scenario, I believe the Twins will score a lot of runs in 2020. That doesn’t feel like a hot take to me.

Donaldson’s addition raises the ‘ceiling.’ And just as importantly for the Twins given where they’re at in the AL Central, it raises the ‘floor.’ If one or two of the guys in the everyday lineup don’t pan out the way you’d hoped, or a couple take a step backward this season, you should be OK. You’ve paid for a bit of stability with Cruz, Donaldson, Kepler and Polanco. If you get great outcomes from those guys and add in a healthy Byron Buxton, Miguel Sanó, and Mitch Garver continues to be a star hitter …

Like I said, projections over hunches any day. But to my eye the 2020 Twins lineup looks pretty stacked.

13. White Sox (last year: 24)



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