Monday, April 3, 2017

2017 Minnesota Twins Awards Preview

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Another regular season is upon us and that means that it is prediction time for a lot of writers across the inter-web. There will be surprise teams, surprise players, and even some other surprises along the way. The unknown and unpredictability of baseball is one of the most enduring qualities of "America's Pastime."

The Twins have an interesting year ahead. Who will stand out? Who will take the next step? It's time to predict who will shine for the 2017 version of the Twins.

Each of the awards below has been named after someone that optimizes that award for the Twins organization. There are legends from the past and all have had a significant place in Twins lore.

Harmon Killebrew MVP: Brian Dozier, 2B
Ideally, the Twins hope there is a young core of players that battle Brian Dozier for the team's top award. Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, or Max Kepler could all take big steps to put themselves in the end of the year discussion.

That being said, Dozier is coming off a monster year and he has the opportunity to show that these numbers weren't a fluke. It's hard to imagine him clubbing 40+ home runs for the second straight year and he has been prone to offensive slumps in the past. I've also been critical of Dozier's defense in recent years. All of these things could hurt his chances.

If there was a betting line in Las Vegas for this award, the money would be on Dozier to win.

Johan Santana Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Gibson, RHP 
Two years ago, Gibson looked ready to be a mainstay in the Twins rotation. Last season, he took a step back while dealing with multiple injuries. To counteract some of these issues, Gibson took on a unique throwing plan this off-season. Reports out of Fort Myers have his slider looking great and this pitch could help him to reach the next level. 

There will be other pitchers in the discussion as well. Ervin Santana was the team's best pitcher a year ago by posting his best ERA in three seasons. He's 34-years old and there's no guarantees that he will be on the roster after the July trade deadline. It would also be great to see Phil Hughes return to form or Jose Berrios have a breakout season but my money is on Gibson. 

Rick Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the Year: JT Chargois, RHP
The Twins bullpen is thoroughly unimpressive to start the season. Minnesota is bringing 13 pitchers north and JT Chargois isn't one of them. This still doesn't mean he can't be the team's best relief arm by season's end. Chargois has been dominant in the minor leagues even though he hasn't found a lot of big league success. I think he's ready to take a big jump while being used in high leverage situations. 

Brandon Kintzler will start the year as the team's closer but he hardly has a strangle-hold on the position. The hope is to get former All-Star Glen Perkins back at some point this season but it's hard to know what he will look like when he returns. Rule-5 pick Justin Haley could provide some value and Taylor Rogers is another name to watch this year. 

Rod Carew Rookie of the Year: Daniel Palka, OF/DH
Minnesota has seen a lot of big names use up their rookie eligibility over the last two seasons. This leaves a wide-open race for the 2017 Rookie of the Year. Palka destroyed the ball in the minor leagues last season and he could battle his way into the Twins long-term plans. This would likely mean an injury to one of the club's corner outfielders but a lot of things happen in a long baseball season. 

Tyler Jay's shift to the bullpen could mean he ends up in Minnesota at some point this summer. If he has a big impact on the team's second half, he could end up in the discussion as well. With a lackluster bullpen to start the year, there will be other names that could slide into the conversation. Other top prospects are a little further away from Target Field so Palka has a good chance to make his mark in 2017.

Who would be your pre-season picks? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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