Well, there’s no getting around it at this point. You’re sad. I’m sad. There are bigger problems in the world right now. And still, it’s OK to admit that we’re all missing baseball.
Thursday would have been opening day for the Twins, and after winning 101 games and signing Josh Donaldson they had their eyes set on high marks in 2020. That won’t happen in a full-season capacity, we now know, and we all wait to see how much of a schedule will be played this year — with guesses ranging anywhere from 65% to 0%.
So, with that in mind we just wanted to share one version of a projection Opening Day lineup for the 2020 Minnesota Twins. This takes into account recent performance, matchup information, the new 3-batter-minimum rule, some reporting and most importantly some guess work.
So here’s my lineup and few words to explain myself:
Luis Arráez, 4
Josh Donaldson, 5
Jorge Polanco, 6
Nelson Cruz, DH
Max Kepler, 9
Miguel Sanó, 3
Eddie Rosario, 7
Alex Avila, 2
Byron Buxton, 8
José Berríos, 1
All right, there you have it. Pick it apart and tell me where I’m wrong. But do give me a second to justify some of this.
Arráez – I like this guy at the top because he’ll be on base all the time when the Twins’ best hitters come to the plate. For years we talked about Joe Mauer as a great leadoff candidate if only he (and the Twins) would have been more open to it. Now, the Twins have a guy who ran up a .399 on-base percentage in the big leagues as a 22-year-old rookie, and I for one would like to see him in the classic table setter role.
JD – Donaldson is just a monster of a hitter and the Twins will have the good fortune of writing his name in the lineup as many times as feasible this year. You want him up in this pivotal spot, and in theory, you’re expecting that 2020 will be his best year with the Twins.
3 spot – This is a place in the order I juggled a little, and it’s at this point that I’ll bring up something important to the whole exercise. I built this lineup on an important assumption — and Mitch Garver fans have probably already called me on it. There’s a chance that the Oakland A’s would have given the opening day nod to starter Sean Manaea, a lefty. But in this thought exercise I decided to go with baseball hero Mike Fiers on the mound for Game 1, and he’s right-handed. Max Kepler has strong consideration to bat early in the lineup either way, but for this make-believe game, I went with the switch hitter Jorge Polanco to hit third.
Cruz – Might actually just be an age-defying juggernaut. Not sure yet.
Kepler – Last year the Twins had a few ‘base’ lineups, and alternated pretty strictly based on which hand the other team’s starting pitcher uses to throw a baseball. Kepler led off quite a bit, and as has been pointed out to me recently, that experiment seemed to work out all right.
Sanó – When you consider the consistently forceful contact this guy makes, I don’t know that you’d have to stretch too much to envision a monster season. The fact that he’s hitting sixth isn’t a commentary on him but the lineup.
Rosario – Pretty good situation for the Twins when this guy is your No. 7 hitter.
Avila – Why no Garver? He’s the clear-cut starter and just turned in a star-caliber season. Longtime readers and listeners can assure you, dear skeptics, that I’m not down on Garver. I put Avila on this Fake Opening Day lineup card because he was hried to be the other side of the catching platoon, and he’ll get a lot of his plate appearances with a righty on the mound. I’m not here for the traditional decorum of ‘putting your best’ out there on Day 1 just for the ceremony; I’m here to win (imaginary) baseball games, dang it! They all count. And especially in the event of a condensed schedule with tons of doubleheaders, the handling of catcher rest will be a significant matter to track with the Twins.
Byron Buxton – I’m assuming a healthy recovery from labrum surgery because why wouldn’t you?