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Yankees 2019 potential playoff opponent: Minnesota Twins

The two hardest-hitting clubs on one field.

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With each passing day, we see a clearer picture of what the first round of the postseason could be for both leagues. The Houston Astros hold the tie-breaker over the Yankees, so it’s becoming less likely the Bombers will enjoy home-field advantage in a possible ALCS matchup.

That leaves the Minnesota Twins as the most probable ALDS opponent, reigniting a series that gave us one of the most exciting games of the year. You know, the one that ended on an amazing Aaron Hicks sliding catch. We saw them have a slugfest in Minnesota, and the two clubs in a home-run race could clash again.

The Twins currently rank first in isolated power, and even though they accomplished the feat together, three hitter stand out as major power threats. Considering all hitters with more than 350 plate appearances, Minnesota currently has three of the top six hitters in ISO according to FanGraphs.

One is the ageless Nelson Cruz, who put together his fourth 40-homer season and is enjoying his second best offensive season with a 161 wRC+. That places him just in front of Cody Bellinger, landing in fourth place making him not only one of the most dangerous hitters on the Twins but the entire league.

Accompanying Cruz are Mitch Garver and Miguel Sano. Even though a wRC+ of 135 is still impressive, it leaves Sano as the choice to pitch to of the three sluggers, because of a 36.2% strikeout rate. That mark is well over the league average of about 23%, making him vulnerable to the likes of the Yankees’ bullpen.

Garver, on the other hand, is boasting a wRC+ of 155, helped by his league-leading .360 ISO. Together these three hitters form the heart of the Twins batting order and look to inflict damage against any pitching staff coming their way during the playoffs.

Along with the sluggers, Luis Arraez, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco plan on making some noise as well. Arraez is currently having an underrated rookie season, and that’s understandable as Yordan Alvarez tears the cover off the ball. This 22-year-old, however, cannot be ignored. With Kepler currently injured, Arraez has moved into the leadoff spot proving he can cause trouble for pitchers with an on-base percentage of .405 and an 8.2% strikeout rate. He doesn’t hit the ball too hard, with a current ISO of .099, but he doesn’t need to with the pop hitting behind him.

Kepler and Polanco have not only helped the Twins lead the division this far into the season but both signed five-year contract extensions hoping to keep the trend going after 2019. Kepler has been the usual leadoff hitter for the Twins this season, taking his production to the next level. After being a league-average hitter for his first three full seasons, Kepler has been able to hit for a 119 wRC+ in 2019, making the extension look like a sound investment so far. Polanco occupies the two-hole as the pair are meant to the set the table for Cruz, both producing below average strikeout rates of about 16%.

The Twins might not have household names taking the mound for them, but Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi will look to prove they can go against any pitcher come playoff time. Both rank among the top 10 starting pitchers in the American League per FanGraphs. Berrios relies on a fastball and curveball mix producing a 3.70 ERA over 194.1 inning so far. Odorizzi relies heavily on his fourseam and cut fastballs. His fourseam fastball has been so devastating against hitters this season that FanGraphs named it the best heater of this season.

Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey have been their best arms out of the bullpen all year, while the slider-slinging veteran Sergio Romo has been a nice trade acquisition. Rogers and Duffey have produced the highest K/9 rates for the Twins bullpen, at 11.78 and 12.61, respectively. Rogers meanwhile, takes the closing duties, sporting a 50.3% groundball rate and low 1.32 BB/9 mark. Duffey does have the lowest ERA in their bullpen at 2.26, but with a low groundball rate of 38.8%, the Yankees could put a few balls in the air that don’t make it back.