The Minnesota Twins suffered through four straight losing seasons from 2011-14. But the club showed incremental improvement in the standings, and had some solid young prospects coming. It all seemed to be adding up to real overall improvement on the field when they put together a winning 83-79 campaign in 2015.
However, it all collapsed this season. The Twins finished not only in last place in the American League Central Division, but their 59-103 record was the worst in all of baseball.
It was the first time since 1982 that the club had lost more than 100 games. It was also the highest loss total for the franchise since the 1949 Washington Senators lost 104 games.
Manager Paul Molitor is a Hall of Fame player and a beloved native son from St. Paul, but he is squarely on the hot seat for 2017. The team would appear to have nowhere to go but up at this point.
Some of the Twins players did produce solid numbers. Miguel Sano, who the club is still waiting to explode, split his season between third base, right field and the DH spot. He was second on the club with 25 homers and 66 RBI.
Robbie Grossman signed as a free agent after being released by the Cleveland Indians in mid-May. He provided the Twins with a .280/.386/.433 slash line with 11 homers and 19 doubles in 389 plate appearances.
23-year-old right fielder Max Kepler‘s 17 homers and 63 RBI were each third on the squad. Prior to a trade deadline deal that sent him over to the NL’s San Francisco Giants, Eduardo Nunez hit .296 with a dozen homers and 15 doubles in 396 plate appearances.
An intriguing September was turned in by perennial prospect Byron Buxton. From September 1 onward the speedy 22-year-old center fielder hit for a .287/.357/.653 slash line with nine homers, 22 RBI, and 24 runs scored.
On the mound, 33-year-old veteran Ervin Santana led the rotation with a 7-11 record, 3.38 ERA, and 1.219 WHIP. He had a 149/53 K:BB ratio, allowing 168 hits over 181.1 innings.
Santana was the only decent arm in that rotation this past season. Out in the bullpen, Brandon Kintzler saved 17 games, and Michael Tonkin struck out 80 batters in 71.2 innings. 27-year-old righty Ryan Pressly may have been the club’s most effective all-around relief pitcher.
The top player overall on the Twins during this disappointing campaign was an easy call. The honors go to second baseman Brian Dozier. Dozier led the lineup with 42 home runs , 99 RBI, 35 doubles, and 104 runs scored. He and longtime iconic first baseman Joe Mauer were the only position players to appear in more than 116 games.
Dozier will turn 30 years old in May of 2017. He is owed just $15 million over the next two seasons as well. In other words, he would be an interesting and attractive trade candidate for a contending team.
“You aren’t going to back up the truck for Dozier,” one NL executive said per twincities.com’s Mike Berardino . “It might make sense to try to trade him now, but nobody expects him to hit 40 homers again. You can count on him for 20 to 25, but that means you’d probably get two top-10 prospects for him. Or maybe a big-league arm and a prospect.”
There is a very real possibility that he has played his final game in their uniform. But for the 2016 season, Brian Dozier is the Minnesota Twins Player of the Year.