There haven’t been many exciting years lately for the Minnesota Twins and their fanbase. That is until the 2019 season came around and the “Bomba Squad” was born. This year the Twins have given the fanbase something to cheer about. They are on pace to shatter offensive records (just 15 away from breaking the MLB HR record) and are hitting dingers left and right. After viewing the last decade of eyewash Twins baseball, it may seem that this is the peak of the franchise’s success. However, the best years of baseball in Minnesota will be sustained for years to come. An already established young core of Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, and Miguel Sano to go along with the recent submergence of hitting machine Luis Arraez will soon pair with minor league studs in every position. Twins fans should be excited for the rest of this season, but should also expect this feeling for the next decade.
One of the biggest reasons to be optimistic is the rise of the Twins’ young core seemingly at the same time. Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, and Miguel Sano are all having career years or close to it. Kepler is having a historic season, as he broke the record for home runs hit in a season by a European-born player. According to Baseball-Reference, on the year Max is slashing .256/.337/.537 and has reached career numbers in homers with 34 and runs batted in with 84. The same can be said for Eddie Rosario, who has always been a fan favorite and has consistently put up great hitting stats. This year Eddie has also eclipsed his career best marks in homers with 27 and RBIs with 85. Polanco has also be nothing short of amazing himself. Reaching career numbers in essentially every category, Jorge has put up great numbers as he is slashing .296/.358/.498 to go along with 66 runs batted in and a career high 19 home runs. These numbers helped Polanco reach his first all star game as the starting shortstops for the American League. Perhaps the most intriguing and refreshing is the years that Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have had.
The two young guns were supposed to lead the Twins back into contention when they were called up, but they struggled mightily at times and fans were getting anxious. But this year, the two are showing the tools everyone thought they would. While Buxton has dealt with injuries this year, when he is on the field he is a huge difference maker. His unbelievable play in the field to go along with a now respectable bat has been a huge factor in the Twins’ success this year. The Twins will go as far as Buxton’s health will take them, as when Byron plays it is clear that the Twins are a much better team. Another huge reason for the Twins being so fun to watch this year is the reemergence of slugger Miguel Sano. Sano had a decent start to the season, but then went into a woeful slump that left many fans in doubt. But, with a few tweaks, the slugger has gotten back to mashing baseballs and putting up absurd numbers. Just take a look at this thread of tweets from Aaron Gleeman.
Perhaps the most surprising addition to the Twins’ success is stud rookie Luis Arraez. Arraez seemingly came out of nowhere as he was a mid-season callup that not many fans knew much about. But he quickly became a fixture on fans’ radars, and let them know that he is in the big leagues to stay. The rookie is putting up absurd numbers as he is slashing .346/.413/.452 along with three homers and driving in 20 runs. What is even more impressive is the fact that Luis looks like he has been a pro player for years, he is constantly putting together tremendous at-bats and is quickly becoming a fan favorite with his eagle eye and his spraying ability. Perhaps one of the coolest moments for the Twins this season was Arraez’s insane at-bat against Mets flamethrower Edwin Diaz, where he entered as a pinch-hitter and was already down 0-2 in the count and worked an eleven pitch walk. Just take a look at his stats in the clutch opposed to other Twins’ second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
The only thing better about the Twins’ young stars breaking out seemingly at the same time is the contracts they all have. Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco are both having career years and were both signed to team-friendly deals before the season. According to Fox Sports North, Kepler’s contract in total is five years where he will make approximately $35 million and a $10 million club option in 2024. Polanco’s deal is similar, as he will make $25.75 million over five years and also has a 2024 option that can also become a 2025 option. Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, and Miguel Sano all have essentially the same contract situation. Buxton will have three years of arbitration until becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2023. Sano and Rosario are in a similar boat, hitting arbitration just one year earlier than Buxton. Luis Arraez is playing like he should be getting MLB big bucks, but lucky for the Twins he is on a rookie deal, making the league minimum of $550,000.
Perhaps the biggest reason for a future Twins dynasty is the abundance of potential in the minor league systems. The two headliners (outfielder Alex Kirilloff and shortstop Royce Lewis) will not be discussed as I have written about their future stardom in a previous article that you can view here. Besides the top two prospects, the Twins still have many impact players, specifically the pitching corps. Besides Jose Berrios the Twins don’t have any starting pitchers under contract for the future. But lucky for the Twins, four potential game changing pitchers await in the minors and their times could be coming sooner than later.
The first pitcher is 21 year old Jhoan Duran, who is a current member of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the Twins’ AA affiliate. Duran came over in the Eduardo Escobar trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and had been struggling in his early minor league career. His numbers in the minors this year have been solid, as according to Baseball Reference he holds a 3.85 earned run average and a 1.20 WHIP to go along with 130 strikeouts in 110 innings. In his latest outing with the Wahoos, Duran was magical, as he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, only surrendered two hits though eight innings and struck out 11. Duran’s stuff is electric, and will surely help the Twins in the near future.
A similar pitcher in the Twins organization to Duran is flamethrower Jorge Alcala, who was acquired in the Ryan Pressley deal with the Houston Astros. Similarly to Duran, Alcala has struggled in his early stages as a minor leaguer, and hasn’t been great this year with a 5.65 ERA. But, like Duran, he has really picked it up as of late. Jorge has had a spectacular month of August, where he was transitioned into a reliever. Since the move to the pen, Alcala has only given up two earned runs in 11 innings of work this month and has accumulated nine strikeouts opposed to just three walks. Alcala has great stuff, he throws a high-90s fastball and has the breaking pitches to keep hitters off balance. His latest stint with the AAA affiliate Rochester Red Wings have people optimistic he will be helping the big league club soon out of the ‘pen.
The youngest stud pitcher of the Twins top prospects is Jordan Balazovic, who currently pitchers for High-A Fort Myers. Unlike Duran and Alcala, Balazovic has done well in essentially his whole minor league career. In four seasons with the Twins minor league affiliates, Jordan has posted an 18-12 record with 3.40 ERA while striking out 243 batters in just 220 innings. He has been especially impressive this year, compiling a 2.84 ERA between Cedar Rapids and Mort Myers and striking out 120 batters in just 88.2 innings. Balazovic is a high-strikeout and low-walk pitcher who has commanding stuff and is being noticed as he was unranked as a prospect coming into this season and has since jumped into the top 100. He now is featured at #85 according to Baseball America’s list and #80 on MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. Jordan also recieved a future’s game appearance this year for his excellent season.
The prized prospect for the future of the Twins is 20-year old pitcher Brusdar Graterol. There really isn’t a better way to put it other than Graterol has all the qualities to become an ace pitcher in the MLB. With a fastball that tops out at almost 104 miles per hour to highlight a four-pitch arsenal that also includes a wipeout slider, Brusdar has the stuff every pitcher wants. Graterol has flown through the Twins’ minor league system while flashing some gaudy numbers. According to Baseball Reference, through 210.2 innings, Graterol has posted a 2.39 ERA, 226 strikeouts, and an outstanding record of 18-6. In AA Pensacola this year, Brusdar was a perfect 6-0 with a 1.71 ERA to go along with 50 strikeouts in 52.2 innings. The Twins hope that Graterol is up to help the big league club as soon as possible, most likely in the ‘pen. However, his long-term status projects as a top of the rotation option for the hometown nine.
The Minnesota Twins are poised to contend for awhile. The young major league talent is coming together all at once and they all have affordable contracts that will allow them to keep the main core intact for years to come. The offensive pieces are already there and have a few reinforcements on the rise as well. The only question mark for the future is how the pitching staff will look. With starting pitching prospects such as Brusdar Graterol, Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic on the rise, the Twins should be able to form a formidable starting four with Jose Berrios to go along with potential go to reliever in Jorge Alcala. The Twins have the pieces in place to contend for years, and if all goes well, a potential Bomba Squad dynasty could be on the rise.