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Know your enemy: Minnesota Twins

This team always seems to lurk just under the radar.

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Hammond Stadium, spring home of the Twins
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

KEY ADDITIONS: J.A. Happ, Andrelton Simmons, Kyle Garlick, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Romine

KEY SUBTRACTIONS: Rich Hill, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Avila, Trevor May, Tyler Clippard, Eddie Rosario

While the “sexy” 2021 pick for the AL Central is the White Sox, the Minnesota Twins would likely like to remind you — in a “Minnesota nice” way, of course — that they have won the division the last two years and in MLB’s last full season, 2019, won 101 games.

Even with some of the departures listed above, this is still a strong lineup and rotation. DH Nelson Cruz is back for another year and even at 40, seems productive. J.A. Happ replaces Rich Hill in the rotation and Matt Shoemaker replaces Jake Odorizzi. That might be a slight downgrade, but the Twins will back that pitching with solid hitting that includes Cruz, Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson and Max Kepler.

Remember when the Twins took Byron Buxton second overall in 2012? That was right after Carlos Correa and four picks before the Cubs chose Albert Almora Jr. and if you think Cubs fans are hand-wringing over the Almora pick, imagine how Twins fans feel about Buxton, who was supposed to be a superstar. Injuries have held him to just one MLB season of over 100 games, and he added 12 pounds of muscle this offseason in an attempt to keep healthier.

The Twins are ably managed by Rocco Baldelli. Baldelli was thought by some to be a bit over his head when he became the youngest manager in baseball at age 37 in 2019, but that 101-win season silenced most of the detractors. Baldelli could wind up managing in Minnesota for a very, very long time.

These guys will have a lot to say about who wins the AL Central. Just anointing the White Sox champions ahead of time ignores reality.

The Cubs and Twins are scheduled for a pair of two-game series in 2021, oddly, both in pennant-race crunch time:

August 31, September 1 at Target Field

September 21-22 at Wrigley Field

This concludes the “Know your enemy” series for 2021. Hope you’ve learned something about each of the Cubs’ 19 opponents this year.