What we know (and don’t) now that April is in the books…
If you think about it, one game over .500 is about right. The Twins finished April 12-11 under the following circumstances:
Ervin Santana was unimaginably good as the staff ace and Santiago and Hughes were better than most expected, but Gibson( now the 4th starter) and Mejia as #5 were not good.
The bullpen was mostly good with Brandon Kintzler being the sigh of relief highlight after the staff blew 10 of their first 18 save opps last year. As some may recall in my season preview post I mentioned that Kintzler saving at least 85% of his opps would be a major part of the Twins ability to challenge the .500 mark (and beyond) for the year. So far so very good: 7 for 7 for Brandon.
Sano was a beast. Kepler very solid. Polanco held his own and drove in some huge runs. At the same time, Dozier hasn’t got it rolling yet (that streak is in there somewhere), Mauer wasn’t Joe yet, Rosario broke from the gate very slowly and Buxton was, well…
So, yeah, one game over .500 seems about right.
The positives that seem sustainable:
Sano. Watching him challenge (and defeat) fences in all parts of ballparks is wonderful to see. The more that happens the more I’m convinced that he will adopt this approach–which means we will all be able to exult in this wonderful talent for a full season (and career). And, I believe the solid to spectacular defense he has played at 3b is a precursor to his becoming a fine defensive player.
Santana. His command of his 3 outstanding pitches is as good as he’s ever had. Can’t be this good for a full year, but certainly ace-worthy and appears so solid as to be full year kind of success.
Overall defense. Terrific in the outfield. Strong up the middle (see Polanco below). Dozier is great. Maurer is excellent at 1b. Castro, especially, and Gimenez have made a big difference behind the plate. Sano will have some oops, but he will become a solid player.
Polanco defense. He is learning and improving more each day–and making the routine plays as he refines his understanding of the SS position. His combination of offense and defense will be a full year plus.
Great stuff still to come:
Dozier–we know some huge offensive streaks are coming.
Kepler–he’s just going to get better and better.
Rosario–I still believe he’s going to be a very solid Big League hitter.
Great signs, but don’t know for sure yet:
Starting staff after Santana. Key figure: Phil Hughes. Twins need him to combine with Santiago for 24 wins.
Bullpen. Key figure: Taylor Rodgers, especially finding the ability to get RH hitters out.
And just plain don’t know:
Gibson. 5th starter.
And…Buxton. It’s starting to look better, but I can’t stress enough what this team will suddenly look like when he starts swinging the bat the way we all think he will. The whole complexion of the team will change.