StaTuesday: Twins slugging their way to the top early
Individually, the Minnesota Twins‘ offseason moves weren’t particularly flashy.
A veteran slugger here, a waiver claim there, all of it amounting to three relatively low-key additions, plus one guy nicknamed “boomstick:” First baseman C.J. Cron, second baseman Jonathan Schoop, utility man Marwin Gonzalez and designated hitter Nelson Cruz.
Together, those four accounted for 104 home runs last season.
For the Twins, who hit just 166 home runs in 2018, well below the major-league average of 186.2, it was a pretty clear statement of intent.
So far, their focus on firepower is paying off, even if the new guys are only part of the equation.
The Twins rank third in the majors with 50 home runs through 26 games (nine homers behind top-ranked Seattle) and lead baseball at 17.56 at-bats per home run.
Their 5.1 home run percentage and .835 OPS also lead the majors.
And reinforcements are on the way.
Third baseman Miguel Sano begins a rehab assignment with Single-A Fort Myers on Tuesday after missing all of spring training with a foot injury.
New manager Rocco Baldelli’s Twins have been particularly aggressive at the plate.
They’re seeing just 3.77 pitches per plate appearance, the fewest in the majors, and striking out just 19.5% of the time, which ranks third.
Minnesota has scored 53.2% of its runs via the long ball, and 64% of those via solo homers.
It’s a potentially volatile mix: Lots of solo shots, short at-bats and a handful of games against lowly Baltimore, the source of 23 of those home runs in just six games, all wins.
But then, it’s not their only path to victory either.
The Twins managed just one home run Monday against Astros ace Justin Verlander — via Ehire Adrianza, his first of the season — but held on for a 1-0 win after starter Jake Odorizzi, Taylor Rogers and Blake Parker held Houston to just five hits.
All of that translates to a 17-9 record, a 2.5-game lead in the AL Central and a major boost to their postseason prospects.