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2016 Team Previews: Minnesota Twins

Throughout the long, cold offseason, I am doing team by team previews to get you ready for the 2016 fantasy baseball season. Today it's the Twins.

The Twins and Byron Buxton have youth and upside all over. Who will reach that upside?
The Twins and Byron Buxton have youth and upside all over. Who will reach that upside?
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my 2016 fantasy team previews. I will be breaking down 2016 prospects for the relevant fantasy players on all 30 teams, one team at a time. Check back throughout the offseason for new team previews. You can catch up on old ones in my archive (here) or in the section (here). Because there are 30 teams to cover in limited time, I have to get started now, even though there will certainly be some trades that move players around and open up larger roles for existing players. Also, free agents and guys that moved midseason will be analyzed with one of the teams they played for, even though they likely (or definitely) won't be on that team in 2016 so they don't get missed. Hopefully you can bear with me on those issues and remember that these were written before those trades occurred.

I am starting at the bottom of the standings and working my way up. In each team preview, I will attempt to follow the same layout. First, there will be two tables of stats for hitters (showing stats acquired while playing for this team; traded players will be missing some stats) followed by quick analysis of the most fantasy relevant of those hitters (relevance at my discretion). After that, two tables for the pitching stats and some pitcher analysis. I will then present one breakout player (aka sleeper) and one breakdown player (or bust, if you prefer) for the team. Got it? Ok, let's get started.

Minnesota Twins

Hitters

Name Position PA HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Joe Mauer 1B 666 10 69 66 2 1 10.10% 16.80% 0.265 0.338 0.38
Brian Dozier 2B 704 28 101 77 12 4 8.70% 21.00% 0.236 0.307 0.444
Trevor Plouffe 3B, 1B* 632 22 74 86 2 1 7.90% 19.60% 0.244 0.307 0.435
Kurt Suzuki C 479 5 36 50 0 0 6.10% 12.30% 0.24 0.296 0.314
Chris Herrmann C 113 2 13 10 0 0 6.20% 32.70% 0.146 0.214 0.272
Kennys Vargas DH, 1B* 184 5 18 17 0 0 4.90% 29.30% 0.24 0.277 0.349
Miguel Sano DH, 3B* 335 18 46 52 1 1 15.80% 35.50% 0.269 0.385 0.53
Aaron Hicks OF 390 11 48 33 13 3 8.70% 16.90% 0.256 0.323 0.398
Torii Hunter OF 567 22 67 81 2 5 6.20% 18.50% 0.24 0.293 0.409
Shane Robinson OF 197 0 28 16 6 1 6.10% 14.70% 0.25 0.299 0.322
Byron Buxton OF 138 2 16 6 2 2 4.30% 31.90% 0.209 0.25 0.326
Eddie Rosario OF, 2B* 474 13 60 50 11 6 3.20% 24.90% 0.267 0.289 0.459
Eduardo Nunez SS, 3B* 204 4 23 20 8 4 5.90% 14.20% 0.282 0.327 0.431
Eduardo Escobar SS, OF, 2B*, 3B* 446 12 48 58 2 3 6.30% 19.30% 0.262 0.309 0.445
Danny Santana SS, OF* 277 0 30 21 8 4 2.20% 24.50% 0.215 0.241 0.291

Name BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB SwStr% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Joe Mauer 0.309 24.10% 55.70% 20.20% 10.30% 6.20% 16.50% 54.30% 29.20% 2.73
Brian Dozier 0.261 22.60% 33.30% 44.10% 13.10% 9.00% 18.90% 52.20% 29.00% 5.80
Trevor Plouffe 0.274 18.20% 41.10% 40.70% 12.00% 8.70% 18.10% 48.50% 33.50% 3.72
Kurt Suzuki 0.265 19.40% 43.00% 37.70% 3.50% 5.40% 13.80% 61.50% 24.70% -0.97
Chris Herrmann 0.203 16.90% 47.70% 35.40% 8.70% 15.90% 25.40% 49.30% 25.40% #N/A
Kennys Vargas 0.319 25.60% 51.20% 23.10% 17.90% 13.70% 23.10% 48.80% 28.10% -2.27
Miguel Sano 0.396 24.70% 33.30% 42.00% 26.50% 15.70% 11.70% 45.10% 43.20% 2.11
Aaron Hicks 0.285 22.90% 41.80% 35.40% 11.10% 8.70% 19.80% 55.60% 24.70% 2.04
Torii Hunter 0.258 17.30% 48.40% 34.30% 15.40% 11.30% 18.10% 53.20% 28.70% 3.14
Shane Robinson 0.296 15.80% 52.00% 32.20% 0.00% 6.70% 23.90% 53.60% 22.60% -1.48
Byron Buxton 0.301 13.90% 43.00% 43.00% 5.90% 13.50% 24.10% 48.30% 27.60% -3.12
Eddie Rosario 0.332 20.30% 39.10% 40.60% 9.60% 14.50% 18.20% 52.80% 29.00% 3.47
Eduardo Nunez 0.314 16.10% 56.80% 27.10% 9.50% 7.50% 22.40% 52.80% 24.80% -0.14
Eduardo Escobar 0.301 19.30% 42.00% 38.70% 9.50% 9.40% 16.70% 54.90% 28.50% 1.70
Danny Santana 0.29 19.90% 54.10% 26.00% 0.00% 12.90% 21.00% 53.00% 26.00% -2.02

*Will lose this eligibility in 2016

**The ESPN player rater is based on a player's standard 5 x 5 category performance relative to average. A score of 0 is replacement level and negative values mean the player is actually hurting your team. Values in the 1-2 range generally are for your worst starting player, unless you are unlucky. There are no positional adjustments, though, so shortstops and catchers will often have very low scores relative to everyone else. It is normalized so that guys with little playing time can be compared to guys that played all year.

Analysis

Joe Mauer hasn't been fantasy-relevant for a while now. He was great as a catcher, but pretty useless as a first baseman.

Brian Dozier is a rock solid top-10 second baseman that is usually in or near the top 5. His power is elite for the position and he has enough speed to be an asset there as well. He has now contributed for multiple seasons and can rack up solid four category production. His average is the lone issue. That's just part of the package. You can bank on him putting up a similar season in 2016.

Trevor Plouffe doesn't wow you with his stats and doesn't have upside, but he continues to put up average production at the third base position. He is consistent and boring, but that can be OK as a corner infielder or in deep leagues. He finished at #20 in ESPN leagues among third basement. He could easily do that again in 2016. He's more consistent than guys like Brett Lawrie, Danny Valencia, and Yunel Escobar, who are all third basemen that finished in the 14-24 range. Those guys have too much variability in their performance history for my taste. Plouffe is much more predictable. It's like getting socks for Christmas, they aren't exciting but they are practical and they get the job done. His biggest problem is that Miguel Sano plays 3B, too. If Plouffe doesn't get full playing time again, then his value really drops off, so pay attention to how the Twins are using these two in the spring.

Kennys Vargas always seemed to be a DH-only player with poor plate discipline. This team's 1B/DH rotation is already crowded, so I don't see much room for this guy. He has power, but I don't think he will have a chance to show it again.

Speaking of power, Miguel Sano makes Vargas look like Joe Mauer. He has 35 HR power and had a very successful debut. So, there is no way he is maintaining a 0.396 BABIP, but he hit 18 HR in a partial season. His 35% K% is a big issue and when the BABIP drops, the average is going to drop hard. I see a period of adjustment as pitchers exploit his aggressiveness and his average hovers around 0.210-0.220. The power should still give him fantasy value (25 HR is realistic, maybe more). That Hard Hit % is nearly off the charts and is a great sign. It should be an interesting season for the young Dominican. He is a risk/reward pick at third base (he will need to earn back that eligibility in ESPN leagues).

Aaron Hicks is now in New York and will be in some sort of time share in the outfield. He had one of his best offensive seasons and still was only just useful in fantasy. He put up stats that could lead to a 15/15 season, but his power doesn't offer much upside beyond 15 HR yet. I think he will be splitting time with Gardner or Beltran and not get enough bats to be useful in fantasy. He doesn't offer enough upside to overcome those concerns.

Uber-prospect Byron Buxton didn't look good in his first taste of the majors. However, he has missed a ton of development time due to injury. He barely played at the AA level. He is still so young and talented that it would be foolish to write him off after just a small sample. I'm still a big believer in his speed and hit tool, so don't be surprised if he puts up a 0.280 average with 25-30 steals this season. He should get plenty of opportunities with Hicks and Torii Hunter gone. The power will probably be the last thing to develop, so I don't expect anything more than 8-10 HR this season. Now that the top prospect hype is gone, you should be able to get him cheap. There's tons of risk after what he showed us, but I'm trusting the scouting reports here.

Eddie Rosario did some very good things in his first full season. He showed surprising power and good speed. Like Buxton, Rosario did not walk much, swung and missed at a very high rate, and carried a high strikeout rate. They also both had low hard hit %, which isn't good. At least Buxton can claim a very small sample size. Rosario is a fine player and the power/speed combo is enticing, but I'm not buying a repeat in 2016. If the BABIP drops and the lack of power catches up to him, I think he's more of a 10 HR, 15 SB, 0.240 hitter, which isn't great for an outfielder. I would much rather have the upside of Buxton.

The Eduardos and Danny Santana shared the SS at bats. If I had to pick one to be useful in fantasy, it would be Eduardo Escobar. He showed some decent skills and nothing looks particularly weird in his numbers. His power increase over 2014 seems to coincide with more fly balls and a better HR/FB ratio. The other two have some issues (Santana has a lot of issues). Unfortunately, they are all in a time-share, so Escobar would have to take firm control of the job to be a fantasy starter. Still, SS is so shallow he might be of use in deep leagues. You could definitely do worse.

We don't know much about Korean 1B Byung Ho Park, but he should be in the mix for DH/1B at bats. He's 29 and hit 53 home runs in the Korean baseball league. Those don't translate directly to MLB homers, so don't get so excited. There isn't a way to know exactly how that power will translate, but I would guess 25 HR is well within reason, given enough playing time. He racked up 161 Ks in the Korean league, so that should go up in MLB. There is real risk that he turns into Chris Carter or other high K slugging first basemen stuck in time shares. Don't go nuts over this guy in dynasty drafts or regular drafts. There are safer, better options at first base.

I want to focus here on just three prospects. Jorge Polanco has already played in the majors in an emergency call-up, but he's still developing. He plays SS and 2B and could be called back up in 2016. He doesn't have power or speed, but does have an above average hit tool. Nothing too exciting with him, I guess. Max Kepler is the biggest name to know. He showed decent power and an excellent hit tool in AA. He plays mainly OF and is likely to be called up this year. His power is still developing, so 15 HR would be a stretch, but a high average is very possible. It's possible he is called up very early in the year, depending on how the OF shakes out. Finally, Adam Brett Walker is an all-power all-whiff hitter that has more power than any Twin not named Sano. He is already striking out 25% of the time in AA, so he is a big work in progress. 2016 might just be another year of development as he learns to improve contact and make use of his great power. Still, we love homers in fantasy so he is someone to keep tabs on. He is another outfield prospect to compete with Kepler.

Pitchers

Name Position IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BABIP LOB% GB% SwStr%
Kevin Jepsen RP 28 1.61 2.56 3.78 0.89 0.224 84.80% 40.80% 12.00%
Blaine Boyer RP 65 2.49 4 4.36 1.25 0.27 77.00% 47.60% 7.80%
Ryan Pressly RP 27.2 2.93 2.85 4.29 1.41 0.318 76.90% 47.00% 9.00%
Glen Perkins RP 57 3.32 3.82 3.76 1.19 0.297 84.80% 33.70% 11.00%
Michael Tonkin RP 23.1 3.47 5.02 4.18 1.29 0.258 86.60% 57.10% 6.60%
Casey Fien RP 63.1 3.55 3.45 4.27 1.09 0.272 71.00% 36.60% 8.70%
Brian Duensing RP 48.2 4.25 5.02 5.11 1.38 0.265 73.40% 51.30% 8.00%
J.R. Graham RP 63.2 4.95 4.69 4.08 1.48 0.323 67.90% 49.00% 10.70%
Aaron Thompson RP 32.1 5.01 3.91 4.93 1.33 0.28 59.70% 36.50% 11.10%
Ryan O'Rourke RP 22 6.14 4.77 4.74 1.41 0.236 59.70% 40.40% 13.40%
Tyler Duffey SP 58 3.1 3.24 3.64 1.31 0.315 79.60% 49.70% 9.80%
Kyle Gibson SP 194.2 3.84 3.96 3.95 1.29 0.287 73.00% 53.40% 9.80%
Tom Milone SP 128.2 3.92 4.3 4.22 1.27 0.279 71.50% 41.60% 8.10%
Ervin Santana SP 108 4 4.17 4.42 1.3 0.285 73.90% 40.90% 9.50%
Mike Pelfrey SP 164.2 4.26 4 4.45 1.48 0.334 70.50% 51.00% 5.60%
Phil Hughes SP 155.1 4.4 4.7 4.31 1.29 0.304 78.10% 35.30% 5.50%
Ricky Nolasco SP 37.1 6.75 3.51 4.01 1.71 0.392 55.90% 40.70% 9.30%
Trevor May SP, RP 114.2 4 3.25 3.76 1.33 0.34 73.50% 39.00% 10.50%

Name SV HLD K% BB% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Kevin Jepsen 10 2 22.90% 6.40% 18.20% 49.40% 32.50% 3.61
Blaine Boyer 1 19 12.30% 7.10% 22.20% 52.80% 25.00% 0.74
Ryan Pressly 0 4 18.50% 10.10% 12.90% 56.50% 30.60% -0.69
Glen Perkins 32 3 22.70% 4.20% 21.30% 46.00% 32.80% 4.49
Michael Tonkin 0 5 19.20% 9.10% 17.10% 42.90% 40.00% -1.36
Casey Fien 0 18 16.00% 3.10% 16.80% 57.20% 26.00% 0.80
Brian Duensing 1 6 11.50% 10.10% 23.10% 55.00% 21.90% -0.88
J.R. Graham 0 0 18.70% 7.40% 18.50% 56.60% 24.90% -2.17
Aaron Thompson 0 9 12.40% 8.00% 14.70% 62.40% 22.90% -1.81
Ryan O'Rourke 0 0 24.70% 15.50% 32.80% 43.10% 24.10% -2.19
Tyler Duffey 0 0 21.90% 8.30% 15.40% 59.80% 24.90% 0.61
Kyle Gibson 0 0 17.70% 7.90% 17.70% 55.00% 27.30% 3.13
Tommy Milone 1 0 16.80% 6.60% 18.30% 55.70% 26.00% 1.89
Ervin Santana 0 0 17.90% 7.90% 15.80% 56.70% 27.50% 0.94
Mike Pelfrey 0 0 12.00% 6.30% 18.90% 55.20% 25.90% -1.16
Phil Hughes 0 0 14.40% 2.50% 17.10% 51.70% 31.20% 1.45
Ricky Nolasco 0 0 20.20% 8.10% 20.30% 53.70% 26.00% -2.46
Trevor May 0 7 22.40% 5.30% 15.30% 54.80% 29.80% 1.36

*If they were outside the top 550 pitchers on the player rater, they will show up as #N/A

Analysis

Ervin "Erv" Santana took a big step back in 2015 after his suspension and looks like his former self (when he was bad). He was good for two years in Kansas City and Atlanta, but that seems to be gone now.

Speaking of taking steps back, Phil Hughes reverted to his former self. The strikeout surge in 2014 is gone and an extreme fly ball approach without strikeouts to strand runners can result in lots of home runs and lots of baserunners driven home by those bombs. I'm going to avoid him in 2016. He needs to have a strikeout rate at least at 18% or more to be viable, even with elite control.

Trevor May looked about average or slightly better between the rotation and bullpen. He gets whiffs and doesn't walk many, but a 1.33 WHIP and two-pitch repertoire make him more of a bullpen guy. He's no better than a streaming starter.

Kyle Gibson showed promise, despite the FIP and xFIP near 4. The swinging strike rate is at least about average, the strikeout rate is a career high, and he still has that great grounder rate. If he can get his strikeout rate up to 20%, he would suddenly become Dallas Keuchel-lite. If he does that, his ERA could be around 3.5. I have no idea if he can increase his strikeout rate for the fourth straight year, but that's the upside. He's probably not draftable, but might be ownable at some point during the year.

Tyler Duffey debuted after doing well in the minors. He actually led the team in xFIP, relievers included. If he can maintain what he did in 2015, he's a better version of Gibson, actually. He already had a 21% K% and 49% ground balls. He's got the ingredients to be the best pitcher on this staff, but there is lots of risk since we have only seen 58 innings. If I have to choose one guy, I'm picking Duffey over Gibson. Gibson's had opportunities to develop and change and hasn't quite figured it out. Duffey is still new to MLB and already has more strikeouts (although the same SwStr%).

Down in bullpen land, the always reliable Glen Perkins struggled through injuries and didn't pitch like himself. He probably should have been DL'd sooner than he was and it would have saved a few games for the Twins. Back problems can creep up at any time, but I would be surprised if he wasn't healthy all of 2016. He has a great health track record. With good health, I don't see why he couldn't go back to being a very reliable, good closer with great job security. Draft him with confidence, hopefully at a lower price due to the injury.

Behind him you have Kevin Jepsen, who was healthy and didn't pitch much better than Perkins, looking at the advanced stats. He's just another setup guy, nothing too special. Don't be fooled by that 1.61 ERA while in Minnesota. The 3.78 xFIP tells the real story.

There are a number of great pitching prospects that could debut in 2016. Jose Berrios is at the top of the list. This rotation is terrible, especially after the top three, and he could have a role in the summer. He has the potential to push Tyler Duffey for the best pitcher in the rotation by 2017. Berrios is ready and has all the pieces to be fantasy-relevant right away. Alex Meyer is still technically a prospect, even though he has played for the Twins. He could be a great setup man or closer with a dominant fastball and slider. He is stuck in the 'pen due to his very inconsistent delivery. The dude is so tall (6' 9") that he just can't keep his limbs moving consistently.

An even better version of Meyer is Nick Burdi. He throws 100 mph heat consistently and has a devilish slider as well. His fastball gets the very rare 80 scouting grade. He will certainly challenge Meyer and even Perkins for the closer job at some point. He will likely fit somewhere in the bullpen this season. I expect lots of strikeouts for him. Finally, recent draftee Tyler Jay could be called up to the bullpen this year or stay in the minors to develop as a starter. He has great stuff and has the control and three pitches to start, but his Twins career started as a reliever in A ball, so we will see what path he goes on.

Breakout

Byron Buxton

This team is packed with young talent with lots of upside but I'll go with the biggest talent of them all. Remember, this guy was once compared to Trout as a once-in-a-generation talent. He received overall scouting grades of 70 for years. His hit tool is considered plus plus and his speed is Billy Hamilton level. If the hit tool comes to fruition this year and his power starts to come through as he fills out (he's a skinny 22-year-old now), you are going to be mad you didn't stash him. His spring performance will determine if he starts the year in AAA or not, so watch out for this rare talent. Scouts are certainly wrong, but I haven't seen enough to declare that yet for this guy.

Breakdown

Byung Ho Park

If he gets fooled by Korean league pitchers, he's going to be in big trouble in the MLB. Combine that with limited playing time and I think the hype will go too far on this guy. Let someone else draft him in your leagues.

Check back soon for the next team preview as we keep moving up the standings. Tschus!