This is the most surprising regular season in the Twins’ 59-year history, when it comes to winning. A huge factor has been finding a group of 15 position players who are legitimate big-leaguers and relying on them completely.
The Twins have managed this even though nine of the 15 have spent time on the injured list, including Byron Buxton three times and now long-term, and Willians Astudillo twice and also long-term.
Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron had two shorter IL stays. Miguel Sano missed the first seven weeks of the season. Eddie Rosario, Mitch Garver, Ehire Adrianza and Marwin Gonzalez had single IL stays.
Jorge Polanco, Jonathan Schoop, Jason Castro, Max Kepler, Luis Arraez and Jake Cave have not been on the injured list. Arraez didn’t join the party until mid-May and was sent back to Class AAA Rochester once, and Cave was up and down from Rochester three times.
The overall reliance on these 15 has been phenomenal: Entering Saturday, the Twins had 5,285 plate appearances from position players, with 5,276 from the 15, and nine combined from LaMonte Wade and Tyler Austin.
The 2019 Twins have been more injury-annoyed than injury-plagued. And no matter the wear of those injuries, manager Rocco Baldelli has been able to send out nine guys who fit in a big-league lineup.
On Thursday in Chicago, Baldelli was missing Kepler, Sano and Gonzalez with nagging injuries, and his limited lineup promptly scored eight runs as White Sox starter Dylan Cease, a hot prospect, was getting six outs.
We’ve complained about Cave, and he responded with a great August. We celebrated when rookie Arraez took over for Schoop at second, and then the veteran went on a tear.
Arraez gave a major boost when he came back to stay on June 18. That gave Baldelli three play-all-over guys — Gonzalez, Arraez and Adrianza — and the ability to handle most any short-notice injury situation.
To paraphrase a Yogi Berra quote on the Yankees:
“The Twins have deep depth.”
• South Dakota State graduated quarterback Taryn Christion, giving the Gophers a redshirt freshman to rattle in Thursday’s key moments. One more year for Christion and it would’ve been Jackrabbits by two touchdowns.
• Scalding hot take: Royce Lewis will be the Twins’ starting center fielder in 2021.
• More on depth: In 1986, Otto went 3-1 as a fill-in for his injured brother Uga IV as Georgia’s bulldog mascot. Coach Vince Dooley praised Otto by saying, “We’re deep at dog.”