Twins Can Be Optimistic About 2016, But Still Have One Concern

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins made incredible strides of improvement last season, and are very optimistic about their chances to continue improving. After finishing in last place with a record of 70-92 in 2014, the Twins improved by 13 wins (83-79, 2nd place) in 2015. While the big leap was mainly due to their strong first half (49-40), the Twins can still be very hopeful about this next season. 

Minnesota has a very strong roster overall, but my one concern in the starting pitching. In 2015, the Twins had nine different pitchers make at least one start, and they combined for a 4.14 ERA (16 in MLB among starters). Here's a look at those nine:

1 - Phil Hughes projects as the Twins 2016 Opening Day starter, and he is a very respectable arm to have. However, the nine year vet is hardly a number one starter. Hughes went 11-9 with a 4.40 E.R.A. last season, and also allowed 29 homeruns (Tied for 4th most in baseball). Let's also keep in mind that Hughes was not even healthy for the entire season, and only appeared in 27 games (25 starts). 

2 - Ervin Santana was limited to only 17 starts in 2015 due to a PED suspension. He went 7-5 with an E.R.A. of four, but the Twins can expect a little better showing out of him in 2016. He is 33 and declining so they shouldn't expect much, but they can expect a decent season from him. 

3 - Kyle Gibson went 11-11 with a 3.84 E.R.A. last season, and at 28 years old with three years under his belt he may improve this year. 

4 - Tommy Milone made 23 starts (One relief appearance) for the Twins in 2015, in which he went 9-5 with a 3.92 E.R.A. Health has been an issue for the lefty, but if he stays healthy in 2016 he could have a very nice season as a bottom of the rotation guy. 

5 - Tyler Duffey made only 10 starts in 2015, but it was certainly enough to impress the Twins. Minnesota already had high expectations for him, and his 5-1 3.10 E.R.A. certainly didn't hurt those. 

6 - Mike Pelfrey went 6-11 with a 4.26 E.R.A. last season in Minnesota, but signed with the Detroit Tigers this offseason. It is not a huge loss to the Twins, but with their questionable staff they still have he may have been a nice piece to retain. 

7 - Ricky Nolasco continued to make the Twins regret the contract they gave him in the offseason of 2013-2014. In an injury limited season, Nolasco went 5-2 with a 6.75 E.R.A. While he projects to be a bullpen pitcher in 2016, he is still an option for them. 

8 - J.R. Graham has been a starter throughout his career in the minors, but served as mainly a reliever in his first MLB season. The former #17 prospect in the organization went 1-1 with a 4.95 E.R.A. in 39 games, making only one start. 

9 - Trevor May is another former top 20 organizational prospect (#8 in 2014) who was a starter coming up and has switched mainly to the bullpen in the major leagues. In 2015 (Second MLB season), May went 8-9 with an E.R.A. of 4.00 in 48 games. He was also not very impressive in the rotation, going 4-8 with a 4.43 E.R.A. in sixteen starts. 

While the Twins may have only lost Pelfrey out of the above mentioned, they have not made any rotation additions this offseason. The choice to not add another arm or two, I believe, will be what keeps them out of the postseason in 2016. The rest of the AL Central is just too tough for a team with mediocre, at best, starting pitching. While they do have a few nice pitching prospects close to making an impact, it just won't be enough in 2016. The overall youth of this team does project for a nice future, but the lack of good starting pitching will be the thorn in their side this year.