Colabello, a first baseman/outfielder, spent seven years playing independent baseball with the Worcester Tornadoes before the Twins finally signed him prior to the 2012 season. He had a breakout season in 2013 with Triple-A Rochester, winning the Independent League’s Most Valuable Player. But Colabello’s first season in the majors was a bit of a disappointment as he hit just .194 in 55 games. Now through the Twins’ first 18 games of the season, Colabello has not only been the team’s best hitter but has been swinging one of the hottest bats in all of baseball. His .353 average is second-best in the American League, and his 20 RBI are the most in the AL and second-most in the majors. Colabello was by no means a guarantee to make the 25-man roster out of spring, but the offense he’s provided early is a big reason why Minnesota has won nine games.
Tony Dejak/Associated PressTony Dejak
Patience has paid off at the plate
No team in baseball has done a better job of drawing walks than the Twins, whose 96 walks through 18 games are easily the most of any big league team. By comparison, Oakland is in second with 86 walks drawn in the same number of games. Minnesota’s on-base percentage of .354 leads the majors as well. As a team last year, the Twins had an OBP of .312, more than 40 points lower than it currently is. Minnesota’s ability to get on base via the walk was magnified last week against Toronto, when the Twins drew a whopping eight walks in a six-run inning (and 12 total in the game). Drawing so many walks has resulted in more opportunities for hitters to drive in runs with men on base, and Minnesota’s bats have come through in those situations.
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsBruce Kluckhohn
Kyle Gibson’s miniscule ERA
Minnesota had four of its five starting pitchers essentially set in stone entering spring training. Gibson was not one of them. He was instead in a battle with several other pitchers to try to win the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation. After a solid spring, Gibson broke camp with the Twins to make his first Opening Day roster. His start to the 2014 season is no doubt a small sample size, but Gibson has been sharp each of the three times he’s taken the mound this year. He’s gotten better in each start, too, going 5 ⅓, 6 ⅓ and eight innings, respectively. In his eight-inning start, Gibson surrendered just four hits and didn’t allow a run, dropping his ERA on the young season to 0.93 -- sixth-lowest in the majors. The Twins hope Gibson’s strong start can be a spark for the rest of the rotation moving forward.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY SportsJesse Johnson
Jason Kubel 2.0 is hitting like Jason Kubel 1.0
The Twins signed a familiar face this winter when they inked Kubel to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. The two parties were very familiar with each other, as Kubel spent his first seven years in the majors with Minnesota. He provided power in his first stint with the Twins while also hitting for average. He did the same thing in 2012 with the Arizona Diamondbacks as he launched a career-high 30 home runs. But injuries plagued him last season and he played in just 97 games. Through the early part of 2014, however, Kubel is swinging like he did the last time he wore a Twins uniform. His 11 RBI are fourth on the team, and his .328 batting average trails only Colabello. Minnesota had hoped that Kubel could return to his old form, and he’s been able to do that through the first three weeks as he’s been one of the Twins’ best hitters.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY SportsJesse Johnson
Sound defense -- and the occasional highlight-reel play
One of the trademarks of the successful Twins teams in the 2000s was that they were fundamentally sound. That not only meant making routine plays in the field, but also doing the little things like hitting the cutoff man or throwing to the correct base. For the most part, Minnesota has done that through the first 18 games. The Twins have committed just 10 errors, the fifth-fewest in the American League and seventh-fewest in the majors. Minnesota’s defense has also turned 17 double plays in 18 games, tied for fourth-most in the AL. Second baseman Brian Dozier -- who leads the team with five home runs -- has put together a number of highlight-reel plays already. As a team, the Twins have had a few miscues here and there defensively, but defense has not been a concern at this point in the season.