LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: Minnesota Twins
For this series, LOD writers will pick three players from each MLB team that we feel are players to watch in the 2023 season.
The Minnesota Twins will be a team to watch this summer as they shocked the Free Agent market when they were able to resign Carlos Correa after he was surely not going to return and sign with another club. Correa was destined for the San Francisco Giants, but after he didn’t pass their physical, the New York Mets swooped in and snatched him up. But again, Correa didn’t pass the Mets physical either, so the Twins made the decision that they would overlook what the other clubs doctors were concerned about and decided to sign him to a six year deal. The cause of all the drama, was an ankle injury and surgery he had when he was 19 years old and since he has never had any issues. So the Mets and Giants pulled out of the deal, allowing the Twins to add a piece to a puzzle they hope will take them to the postseason in 2023.
All eyes will be on Carlos Correa and some may be on his ankle, but after eight seasons without much of an issue, the biggest issue will be if Correa can help the Twins get back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2020 season when they finished in 1st place.
The Puerto Rican native was the #1 overall pick by the Houston Astros in the 2012 June Draft. Three seasons in the minors before his MLB debut in 2015, Correa put up decent power numbers as he advanced through the system. The big day came on June 8, 2015, as he made his MLB debut with the Astros. He went 1 for 4, recording his first MLB hit. Then a day later he recorded his first MLB home run. Correa finished the season with 22 doubles, 22 home runs and 68 RBIs, while batting .279. He also walked away with the Rookie of the year award in 2015.
Two years later he was part of an Astros squad that won the organizations first World Series Championship.
The 2-time All Star and Gold Glove winner elected free agency in 2021 and signed then with the Twins. He had a good year batting .291, with 24 doubles, 22 home runs and 64 RBIs. .
Look for Correa to step up and show the whole league that the ankle won’t be an issue in 2023.
Alex Kirilloff was a 1st round pick with the Twins back in 2016 out of Plum High School in Pittsburgh, PA. In the minors , he showcased his ability to put the bat on the ball as he batted .306, with nine doubles, seven home runs and 33 RBIs through 55 Rookie ball games in 2016.
After missing the 2017 season due to having to undergo Tommy John surgery, he bounced back with an enormous 2018 minor league season. Between Full season A ball and High A, he batted .348, with 44 doubles, seven triples, 20 home runs and 101 RBIs through 130 games played.
In 2019, he was marred by injuries again, but still had a good season with the Double A squad, batting .283, with 18 doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 43 RBIs.
On September 30, 2020, Kirilloff made his MLB debut and made history as the first to do it as a position player. In 2021, he finally got his 1st MLB at bat on April 14th and his 1st MLB hit on April 26th and didn’t stop hitting until May 23, stopping his nine game hitting streak. Impressive start for the rookie.
But once again he was plagued by injuries limiting his time on the MLB field in 2021 and 2022.
Last August, he underwent surgery to shorten the ulnar bone in his right wrist and clean up scar tissue and expected to be ready for Opening Day.
Look to Kirilloff to have the season he and Twins faithful have been waiting to see.
Pitching is just about the key to most teams winning. Yes if they have great offensive lineups they can put the runs on the board, but without a good pitching staff, it doesn’t matter how many runs they will score.
The Twins have a good mix of young and older pitchers who have had success in the majors. The key will be putting it all together for a run at the division. One of many, but Joe Ryan stands out to me as one to watch for 2023.
Ryan, who was drafted in 2018 by the Tampa Bay Rays, was traded to the Twins on July 22, 2021 along with RHP Drew Strotman for Nelson Cruz and RHP Calvin Faucher. Ryan dominated in the minors, especially in 2019 when he recorded 183 strikeouts through 123.2 innings pitched between Full Season A and High A ball.
He made his MLB debut on September 1, 2021 and even though he lost his first game by giving up three runs on three hits, in five innings, he bounced back in his second start and was dominating. Ryan tossed a one-hit shutout, through seven innings, without allowing a walk and struck out four batters. He ended the season at 2-1, through five starts and recorded 30 strikeouts in 26.2 innings with opponents batting just .168 against him.
In 2022, and a full season with the big club, he won 13 games and recorded 151 strikeouts through 147 innings as opponents batted just .211 against him.
Ryan will be a pitcher to watch and see how he responds in his sophomore year on the mound.