FORT MYERS, Fla. – Josh Donaldson was 29 when he turned a good career into a great one, piling up 84 extra-base hits to carry the Blue Jays to the AL Championship Series and win the American League MVP award.
Now he’s 34, with a couple of injury-riddled seasons in the interim. Yet the newest offensive weapon in the Twins’ lineup doesn’t buy the theory that his best season is behind him.
“I definitely feel like [MVP-level production] is attainable again,” Donaldson said confidently as he prepared for Monday’s first full workout with his new team. “I definitely feel like I have those type of years left in the tank.”
The Twins, who agreed last month to pay Donaldson $92 million for the next four years, are banking on it.
“Injuries always give you pause, but the bounceback capability he displayed last season was convincing, obviously,” Twins General Manager Thad Levine said. “He remains a complete player, one of our foremost defensive infielders and also a formidable bat, a middle-of-the-order contributor. It’s no stretch to predict he’ll remain a significant contributor for the entirety of his contract.”
Donaldson had 33 doubles and 37 homers last year for the Braves, and walked 100 times — all that, he said, after battling to find his swing early in the season. “The first month and a half, I was still trying to get my legs underneath me from missing pretty much all of 2018. And then I really kind of got my legs and everything fell into place,” he said. “My offensive numbers were more like they were in the past. I feel like if I can go do that for six months instead of four or 4½, then you’re looking at a different season.”
The third baseman said he’s particularly impressed by the Twins’ emphasis on using technology to help players develop their skills. Minnesota is the only team using a force-plate mound — equipment that hitters and coaches use to analyze swing mechanics — and Donaldson said he was thrilled to test it on Saturday.
“Understanding the numbers is intriguing to me. It’s something new and seems to be pretty cool,” he said. “I definitely think exit velo[city] plays. It’s something I like to see, how hard I’m hitting the baseball. The more times I can hit the ball hard, the chances of success are going to be there.”
Did he reach any conclusions during his brief trial?
“I can generate a lot of force,” Donaldson said with a smile.