It is really tough to figure out what’s going to happen in a baseball game, and who will eventually come out on top. It is even tougher to prognosticate who will win the World Series at the start of the season. In 2014, Sports Illustrated took it one step further; they decided to run a story predicting which team would win the World Series…three years in the future: 2017. So far, they are looking really smart. Saturday night, the SI pick, the Houston Astros, defeated the New York Yankees to punch their ticket into The Fall Classic. AMAZING!
The article was somewhat tongue in cheek, but based in logic. The Astros had come off a string of terrible seasons, which allowed them to stockpile high draft picks. With so much young talent on the roster, the writer’s analysis was that the team would all gel at the same time, and have a powerhouse three years into the future. Of course, the writer didn’t project they’d acquire Justin Verlander, but that’s a different discussion. Putting George Springer on the cover of that magazine in 2014, with that truly AWESOME orange uniform, and proclaiming the Astros to be the 2017 Champs, is a pretty cool feat…win, lose, or draw against the Dodgers.
I thought it would be a fun exercise to predict the 2020 World Series champion. Anyone can predict the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, or Red Sox; but that’s no fun. What made the Astros pick so amazing is because of where they were at that time, coming off of three consecutive 100 loss seasons, losing an stunning 111 games in 2013.
I looked at some of the recently bad teams to see if any of them can replicate what the Astros have done. The Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, and Atlanta Braves came to mind; but I don’t think any of them have done enough to put together a contender going forward. There really aren’t any teams who have the type of dysfunction and failure that the Astros had from 2011-13. But there is one team which has built through the draft, with a tremendous nucleus of young players, and looks like they are ready to take off over the next few years.
I give you…THE MINNESOTA TWINS-YOUR 2020 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS.
As I said, they have not had the same type of record that the Astros had. This past season they even managed to win 85 games and make it into the Wild Card game against the Yankees. But remember, that was a surprise to even the Twins brass. Two weeks before the trade deadline, they traded for Jaime Garcia in a push to go for it. A week later they traded away Jaime Garcia, along with their closer, Brandon Kintzler; thinking they were out of it. In 2014 they lost 92 games, and in 2016 they only won 59 games. So although it’s not an exact comparison with the Astros, the two are fairly similar.
The Twins boast a ridiculously young nucleus of players. The core of their team is all 25 or younger, with only Eddie Rosario older, entering his age 27 season next year. Third baseman Miguel Sano will be 25, as will shortstop Jorge Polanco, and right fielder Max Kepler. Centerfield phenom Byron Buxton, who FINALLY appears to be coming into his own, will still only be 24 years old next season: which is scary. And, potential ace Jose Berrios, will also only be 24 next season. In only his second season he posted a 14-8 record, with 139 strikeouts in 145.2 innings; a 3.89ERA and 1.23WHIP.
All six of these players are under team control through the 2021 season.
Longtime favorite, Joe Mauer’s contract runs out after next season, so the Twinkies won’t have that albatross around their necks after 2018. That will be 23 million off their books heading into the 2019 free agency market which many are saying will have the best group of talent in history. And although I don’t envision them breaking the bank for Bryce Harper, Charlie Blackmon, or Clayton Kershaw, they will have the money to pick up a player or two to round out this young nucleus. In fact, as of today, the Twins have zero dollars allocated beyond 2019 for ANY players. That’s correct, other than their arbitration eligible players, they have no players under contract beyond the 2019 season.
As I said in the opening, it’s tough to predict a champion. This can happen for many reasons; another team puts together their own competitive group of players, or injuries happen to your team, or players just have sub-par years. When the article came out, it didn’t say that with 10 seconds left before the waiver trade deadline on August 31st, Justin Verlander would accept a trade to the Astros…nobody could have predicted that. But, in looking at the lay of the land going forward, and seeing the nucleus the team had put together, picking the Astros made sense.
Although I obviously can’t pick what trades they may make to propel them over the top; I do have a couple suggestions for them. Second baseman Brian Dozier will be a free agent after the 2018 season. He’ll be 31 heading into the 2019 season. The Twins should move heaven and earth to keep him on the team.
And, in looking at the other crop of players who will be free agents after next season, one name is intriguing; Carlos Santana. With Joe Mauer’s contract expiring, the Twins will need a first baseman. Santana probably won’t cost the world, and they’d be snatching him away from their divisional rival, Cleveland Indians. At age 32 heading into free agency, Santana is the type of player the Twins can afford.
At the other of the spectrum, there are two young arms who should be ready to help the team in 2020. Top prospects, Stephan Gonsalves who’ll be 26 in 2020, and Fernando Romero who’ll be 25 should each be in the Twins rotation behind Berrios. Add to that, 22 year old Nick Gordon, brother of Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, who’ll potentially be the Marwin Gonzalez of the team, able to play multiple postions.
So there you have it, an absolute monster of a team, built mainly internally, sprinkled with a free agent here or there, and led by the perfect manager for the job, Paul Molitor.
You heard it here first, and remember who told you: The Minnesota Twins are your 2020 World Series Champions!
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