The Twins will be winners this summer, our four columnists predict. How much they win and who helps them win those games — that's where they differ:
Chip Scoggins' forecast
Final record: 93-69. The call here is that the Twins and White Sox battle until the final week for the division crown. Flip a coin on the winner. The defense will be improved, which will help their pitching staff, the strength of last season. Their rebuilt bullpen is the wild card. If that group comes together and the lineup bounces back, this season should feature another postseason appearance.
Best-case scenario: Health will be a huge determining factor. The lineup looks completely different when Byron Buxton and Josh Donaldson are healthy. If those two can avoid lengthy absences and be available at the end of the season, the Twins have a chance to win a playoff game. Let's stop there because they have to first prove they can conquer that mountain.
Worst-case scenario: Kenta Maeda regresses. Buxton and Donaldson miss significant time because of injuries. The lineup sets a record for whiffs. The bullpen falters. The team barely makes the playoffs, then gets swept to extend its postseason losing streak. But we're just spit-balling here.
La Velle E. Neal III's forecast
Final record: 93-69. There will be injuries and they will likely have to address the bullpen during the season, but Rocco Baldelli's Twins teams know how to grind through a season. After bringing in proven veterans such as Josh Donaldson and Kenta Maeda before the 2020 season, they've worked on building depth this past offseason and it should help.
Best-case scenario: Maeda and Jose Berrios form one of the better one-two punches in the league. Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler have bounce-back seasons. Donaldson and Byron Buxton stay relatively healthy and perform close to expectations.
Worst-case scenario: Berrios doesn't take the next step in his development. Donaldson and Buxton are limited through injuries. Nelson Cruz's inevitable decline begins. Sano breaks Mark Reynolds' season-single strikeout record while struggling to catch up with good fastballs.
Jim Souhan's forecast
Final record: 96-66. They won 101 two years ago despite a number of injuries and a midseason bullpen meltdown. They won at almost the same rate last year despite key injuries. They have flaws, but their strengths and depth will prevail again, with Andrelton Simmons' fielding making a big difference.
Best-case scenario: They have another strong season and enter the postseason healthy, with Byron Buxton and Josh Donaldson playing like All-Stars, and finally win a playoff series. Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios duel to be the staff ace and the team's pitching depth pays dividends.
Worst-case scenario: The youngish hitters — Buxton, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, Mitch Garver and the left fielder — don't mature, strike out too much and leave the team reliant on its oldest player (Cruz) and a guy with an iffy calf (Donaldson).
Patrick Reusse's forecast
Final record: 87-75. Sorry. I refuse to accept idea that what we've witnessed in Florida means nothing. The Twins' feeble effort as hitters in exhibitions means something when you remember the pitching had to carry the Twins' subpar hitting in the 2020 mini-season. Those Twins were ninth in batting average and 10th in runs scored in the AL. These Twins in spring training will be 30th out of 30 teams in batting average and on-base percentage. With Sano, Kepler leading the way, the hitting has been too futile to ignore. The rotation and Jose Abreu's greatness leading the lineup will give the White Sox the AL Central by a half-dozen games.
Best-case scenario: Watching Josh Donaldson this spring, he makes everything a mission, a monster of preparation. Byron Buxton makes his team 20% better — and he's also the true speed on a slow team. Andrelton Simmons has magic hands at shortstop. Let those three all start 130 or more games — plus Jose Berrios tap into his full talent — and the Twins can return to the postseason.
Worst-case scenario: Donaldson pulls a calf muscle. Buxton breaks a bone. Simmons' ankle problem of the past two seasons returns. Berrios allows a couple of bad starts to turn into an August funk. Then, the Twins lose more than they win.