Current articles are released on Tuesday (Minnesota Wild) and Thursday (Minnesota Twins). Coverage of inactive teams is released as news breaks. Our archive covering the 2018 Vikings and 2018-2019 Timberwolves seasons can be found on our blog page.
In our special Opening Day article, Minnesota Sports Ramble god-king Erik Ritland and Twins/Wild analyst Peter Ripka talk Spring Training, the lineup, pitching, and predictions.
Thanks for your support!
Who surprised you most this Spring Training?
Erik: Although he had a great year in AAA last year, 30-year old journyman relief pitcher Ryne Harper was still a longshot to make the team coming into Spring Training. But thanks to pitching 11 scoreless innings with 14 strikeouts - and perhaps because of some injuries - he's earned a shot in the big leagues. Good story. I hope he succeeds.
Peter: There aren't high expectations for him, but Willians Astudillo had a surprising statistic this spring: other than a scrimmage against other Twins players, he had zero walks and zero strikeouts. His personality, versatility, and ability to get the ball into play will hopefully help him stay on the big league roster long-term.
Your Opening Day starters and lineup:
1. Kepler (OF)
2. Polanco (SS)
3. Cruz (DH)
4. Rosario (OF)
5. Cron (1B)
6. Gonzalez (3B)
7. Shoop (2B)
8. Castro (C)
Does this inspire you? How well do you think they can do through a whole season?
Erik: Not really. Kepler, Polanco, Rosario, and Buxton still need to prove themselves. Although getting older (but aren't we are?), Cruz has stayed consistent, but who knows when he'll fall off. Schoop is looking to rebound but is far from a guarantee of greatness, Castro and Cron are average, and Gonzalez will be the best utility player around once he isn't filling in for Buxton.
In short, it's mediocrity and question marks all around. A lot of things will have to come together at once to be successful.
Peter: It looks like a decent lineup, but it would be a lot better with Sano in it. If the kids improve and play well, both in the field and at the plate, this team could put up a team record for runs and homeruns. That's a big if, though.
The bench: Garver, Astudillo, Adrianza, Austin, Cave. Your thoughts?
Erik: The bench might be the best part of the Twins this year haha. One good thing about this team is that they have a lot of depth. If our everyday starters are out, we have a bench that can fill in well short-term.
Peter: Not the sexiest part of a team, but a good bench is certainly important. Ours is above average. The only name that excites me gives me is Astudillo. His work ethic is inspiring and does a lot to help this team, especially the younger guys.
The Twins starting rotation is pretty predictable: Berrios, Gibson, Pineda, Odorizzi, and eventually Perez (who will start in the bullpen but start when needed). Anything in their springs make you re-evaluate your thoughts about them before the season?
Erik: Not really. It's still a sketchy rotation. When you only have one good pitcher - and one who would still be a #2 on most teams) - you're asking for trouble.
Like the rest of the team, the rotation is all "ifs." If Gibson can continue his good run from last year, Pineda can return to the thrilling days of yesteryear, and Odorizzi and Perez can...umm...not be an embarrassment, the Twins can stay competitive.
Peter: Perez surprised me this spring. Last year he was throwing 91 mph, so I figured he was going to be another under-powered Twins pitcher. But in his last start this spring he was consistently at 94/95 mph. Earlier in the spring he was clocked as high as 97. If he can continue to maintain that speed he'll be a pleasant surprise.
And the bullpen: Rogers, May, Parker, Hildenberger, Mejia, Harper. Without Reed, Magill, and Moyer (all injured), this is a bit different than we may have anticipated. Your thoughts?
Erik: The Twins needed to beef up the bullpen this off-season, and they didn't. Going into the Spring the relief staff was thin, and with the injuries things could get brutal. Like the starting staff, there isn't a huge drop-off from their starters to the "next in line" since most of the staff is only average anyway. It's not like Reed, Magill, and Moyer were saviors or anything.
Peter: Something tells me this teams success (or lack thereof) is completely dependent on this group being solid. Rogers, May, and Hildenberger have proven to be good pieces, Mejia is a very good long man, and Parker and Harper each have upside. If they are managed better than in the past, and we don't end up with tired arms, this could be our best bullpen in a few years.
Any other questions/comments/concerns about your 2019 Minnesota Twins?
Erik: I'm about at the end of my rope with Buxton and Sano. If they aren't successful this year, trade them for a bucket of balls.
If Berrios went down, the season would basically be over, unless they actually went out and got another good pitcher. That isn't a good harbinger for how well the team will do.
Peter: Rocco baldelli came out and said that Kepler will be be the lead off hitter. He isn't your typical lead off guy, so it will be very interesting to see how he handles the new role.
What will the Twins record be and who will win the Central?
Erik: The AL Central is an incredibly weak division. If the Twins overachieve and the Indians fall off, each of which could happen, they have a chance. But I'd put it at, like, 15%.
I don't think the Twins will win the division. My official prediction: they win 75 games.
Peter: The Twins will end up with 78 wins this year and will finish second in the Division to the Indians. The Indians starters are too good, and the Twins don't have the star power to take them over the hump.
Who will meet in the World Series this year?
Erik: I'm going to go Yankees/Dodgers. Usually I wouldn't like to see big-name, high-spending teams like this, but it's romantic, isn't it? In a day in age with so many are sucking the life out of the game, at least we still have our legendary teams. That still makes it fun.
I'll take the Yankees in seven games, with the game seven going into 14 innings and Aaron Hicks getting the winning hit.
Peter: The Red Sox are good, but I'll pick the Astros to represent the AL. As far as the NL goes, the Padres, Dodgers, and Phillies will be in the mix. I'll pick the dark horse of those three and choose the Padres. The Astros will win in six games.