Cleveland Indians: Learning more about the 2018 Minnesota Twins

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Twins may provide some real competition for the Cleveland Indians in 2018, so we decided to learn more from the team at Puckett’s Pond.

The Cleveland Indians are aiming to win a third straight American League Central crown, but will be faced with some legitimate competition in 2018.

The Minnesota Twins enter the season fresh off a postseason berth and they may be even better than they were a year ago. To find out more, we caught up with Nate Palmer of Puckett’s Pond and asked him a few questions.

1. What are your expectations for the Twins this season? Are they legitimate contenders to win the Central?

NP: The Indians are still clearly the team to beat. From this side of the equation there is a lot more optimism than there was going into the offseason. The subtractions of Carlos Santana, Bryan Shaw, and even Jay Bruce makes it seem like the team lost some of their dominance. Of course, there still is Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, Francisco Lindor, et al to contend with.

At the end of the day, the Twins at least have the pieces to compete with the Indians. Which was not the case at the beginning of the offseason. Now it is time to see the Twins prove if they truly can.

2. Who is one under-the-radar player Indians fans should know about?

NP: This is a bit of a hard question since so many of the Twins young players hit the majors in a big way last season. So many are widely known at this point. With the Jorge Polanco suspension, a player I am excited to see get some time is Ehire Adrianza.

What many may not realize is that Adrianza actually had a better slash line than both Eduardo Escobar and Jorge Polanco, although in fewer games. Adrianza also has the best glove out of the trio at shortstop. He is my pick for a player who could have a impactful season for the Twins. He just needs to prove he can keep up his level of performance over more games and at-bats.

My co-expert, John Geiger II, picks Max Kepler. If Kepler can prove to hit lefties he will turn into a very solid right-fielder and fend off any conversation about platooning. There are times is swing honestly reminds me of Justin Morneau. If he starts to click, look out!

3. Who is the one player that will give Indians fans nightmares in 2018?

NP: I think this is a question where the obvious answer is the answer. It has to be Byron Buxton. I have to imagine the minute every new pitching addition signed the dotted line or saw the trade go through to the Twins they just had visions of Buxton diving in the outfield.

His value starts there with his defensive ability that put up a 24 DRS last season. Statcast has him as the fastest player in the league and he uses that speed well as a very smart base runner. Before he ever picks up a bat he has been a huge value to his team.

He finally looked like he figured things out at the plate in 2017. If Buxton did, he is in for a phenomenal season. In the second half of 2017, Buxton slashed .300/.347/.546 and hit 11 home runs and eight doubles. The best defender in center field receiving both the Gold Glove and Platinum Glove last season, plus a .300 hitter. That will keep any opponent up all night to avoid the nightmares of the day to come.

4. Which new member of the Twins will have the best season in 2018?

NP: Each of the additions this offseason came with a high level of excitement. The player that I believe will have the best season is Addison Reed. Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi are hopefully next on this list, but Reed has the chance to impact a high amount of games. I truly wonder how much Derek Falvey sees Reed as a potential Andrew Miller type reliever for the Twins bullpen.

While Fernando Rodney will get the closer reps, Reed is clearly the best pitcher in the bullpen and will be utilized in the highest leverage situations. I didn’t realize until the signing that Reed has pitched over 70 innings each of the past two seasons. Making him a durable and effective reliever for the Twins.

5. Where will the Twins finish in the division and what will be their final record?

NP: The Central is basically a two-horse race at this point, right? Part of me does worry that somehow the Kansas City Royals will stick around. Maybe even somehow Chicago or Detroit jumps out like the Twins last season.

Next: Corey Kluber season preview

I am high on optimism right now though so I will go 90-72. Still think that will put the Twins second in the AL Central but in line for another Wild Card spot.