MINNEAPOLIS — In a season shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Twins will never know if they could have matched last year’s club in slugging.
Last season, the Twins shattered the single-season home run record. And with most of the “Bomba Squad” returning and the offseason addition of Josh Donaldson, Minnesota was poised to challenge that record.
Could they have done it? Twins outfielder Max Kepler thinks he has the answer.
“I (thought) we were maxed out last year offensively. And then we added guys like Donaldson and now the sky’s the limit,” Kepler said. “… I think if we had a chance to play a full season we’d break the record we set last year. Because offensively, power wise, I mean, I couldn’t have imagined a team before I stepped into this one with more power. I don’t think there is.”
When the Twins step on the field Friday for Opening Day in Chicago, they’ll boast an offense even better than their record-setting lineup from last season. And that could be a problem for opposing pitchers.
Just ask Twins reliever Trevor May, who has had to toe the rubber against his teammates for the past couple weeks.
“Its gunna (sic) be awesome to not have to pitch to our lineup,” May tweeted Wednesday.
The Twins finished last season with 307 home runs. While they lost C.J. Cron (25 home runs) and Jonathan Schoop (23) during the offseason, they added Donaldson, a slugging former MVP, and have a healthy Miguel Sano.
Donaldson, the team’s $92 million free agent acquisition, has hit particularly well during his career at Target Field, racking up a .373 average with 10 home runs in 22 games as an opponent.
Summer camp has given Donaldson, who had 37 home runs last year with the Braves, a chance to get further acquainted with his new ballpark.
“I’ve played some games here in Minnesota, but it’s still nice to be able to practice, play some scrimmage games against each other, to get used to the backdrop, to get used to everything that’s kind of going around, to get used to the field and the surface, how groundballs are happening and what not,” Donaldson said.
His new manager, Rocco Baldelli, has not tipped his hand when asked about his batting order. Baldelli has said he’d feel comfortable batting Donaldson and 40-year-old designated hitter Nelson Cruz back-to-back or apart. There’s no wrong answer for Baldelli.
“They’re going to hit in prominent spots in the lineup, right where you would expect to see them,” Baldelli said. “Looking at it and saying second and third, third and fourth, second and fourth, I don’t think there’s a bad answer there. I think those are all pretty comfortable spots and places where we can expect those guys to be hitting in our lineup.”
The powerful lineup also returns Kepler (36 home runs), Sano (34), Eddie Rosario (32), Mitch Garver (31), all-star Jorge Polanco (22), Luis Arraez, who could threaten for a batting title, and dynamic center fielder Byron Buxton. Newly acquired veteran pitcher Rich Hill, who has been around some powerful lineups in the past, called the Twins’ nine “one of the best in baseball.”
“I think it’s a blessing, the team we have right now. It’s even better than we had last year, on paper,” Arraez said.
And while they had a short ramp-up to the season — about three weeks as opposed to the six they typically have for spring training — Baldelli said his lineup has been locked in and they’re ahead of where he thought they would be at this point.
Translation: Look out for the Bomba Squad.
“The competitiveness of the at-bats we’ve seen throughout our games is very apparent to anybody that’s watching. It’s interesting to hear one of the pitchers actually say it because a lot of the time a pitcher might not want to concede anything like that. But I think the quality of at-bats are exceptional,” Baldelli said. “Truthfully, if you do make a mistake or if you don’t make the pitches you want to make, I think our hitters have been locked into the point where you’re going to see it.”