The Moneymaking Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins have been one of the pleasant surprises in baseball this season. After a disastrous 2016 campaign, they’re in a virtual tie for first in the AL Central with the Cleveland Indians. From a betting standpoint, it’s even better—the Twins are (+$558) in game-by-game moneyline wagering and if you believe in this team, the opportunity is not going away.

In spite of the nice start, Las Vegas is cool on Minnesota’s chances of sustained success. To wit, Cleveland remains the top-heavy (-500) favorite to win the Central. You can bet the Twins to take the division at a healthy 13-2 price. Even if you don’t want to go that far, that disparity in odds is a good indicator of the value you’ll find with Minnesota on a nightly basis.

On the one hand, the skepticism is understandable. After all, the Twins lost 103 games a year ago, their pitching is mediocre and the offense ranks 12th in the American League in runs scored. Isn’t a decline inevitable?

Perhaps, but there is another side to the coin—the Twins are just two years removed from contending for the playoffs. That was the first year under current manager Paul Molitor. Is it possible that last year was the fluke, a season that got away from a small-market team early and just couldn’t be recovered?

It’s also possible the so-so offensive production is a fluke too. The Twins rank fourth in in the AL in on-base percentage and sixth in slugging percentage. Given the paramount importance of these numbers, it’s reasonable to say that they’ll eventually end up higher than eighth in runs scored.

If Minnesota is going to continue competing for a division crown and cashing single-game bets consistently, it’s fair to say the following things likely need to happen…

*Brian Dozier needs to add some pop to the offense. The second baseman was one of the team’s best hitters in 2015-16. It’s not as though he’s been bad this year, but the .421 slugging percentage needs to be elevated if Minnesota is going to score more runs.

*Miguel Sano needs to be the real thing at third base. The 24-year-old has been a revelation , with a .411 on-base percentage and 13 home runs. Asking him to continue that pace might be unrealistic, but the Twins can’t afford for him to fall off the edge of the earth.

*Max Kepler and Robbie Grossman have been steady producers in right field and at DH, with OBPs of .345 and .409, while slugging .434 and .432 respectively. That’s not an unsustainable pace and they each need to keep it up.

*Finally, this team needs starting pitching. Right now the rotation is either pitchers performing at levels of unsustainable excellence (see Ervin Santana’s 1.75 ERA) or simply not performing at all (how about Kyle Gibson’s 7.85 ERA). Molitor is going to have hope that young arms like a Jose Berrios, who has been effective in four starts, can give this team a lift.

I have my own view of how the Twins will fare the rest of the way. Of course my conclusions have to be reserved for clients and I invite you to become one by enrolling in my Best Bets Baseball Service.