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Around the Horn with Twinkie Town

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TCB talks with Twinkie Town managing editor Maija Varda aka KirbysLeftEye.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Minnesota Twins Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins come to Houston for three games. The Astros swept a series in Minnesota already during their 11-game winning streak. TCB talks with Twinkie Town managing editor Maija Varda aka KirbysLeftEye about the Twins and old friends Robbie Grossman and Jason Castro:

Have the Twins turned it around?

Well, it depends on what you mean exactly by "turned it around". Are they better than last season? Oh yes, definitely, but that is easy when your team lost an MLB-leading 103 games last season. That was literally the worst Twins team of all time, though a lot of them being THAT bad was a whole lot of bad luck too. It would be more astonishing if the Twins weren't better this year than if they were.

The Twins haven't had quite so much bad luck this year. They are also even still quite a young team. Being a year older and having a year more experience means top-prospect guys like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, Max Kepler, etc. are improving and helping the team more. I still don't think any of those guys have reached their full potential yet. The new front office has been making pretty smart moves and improved a lot of aspects throughout the organization. So I would say yes, the Twins are turning it around, but it's still a work in progress.

What has been the key to the hot start in 2017?

There have been many things helping the Twins marked improvement. First, less bad luck. Second, as mentioned, the young, big-name prospects are getting older and starting to figure things out more (I mean, Buxton is still only 23 years old!) Third, VASTLY improved defense. The Twins learned the hard way last season that it's bad to have a pitch-to-contact strategy when you're also throwing guys like Miguel frekain' Sano in right field. The starting pitching was also surprisingly competent-looking for awhile there, though they are starting to regress back to sucking.

Are the Twins buyers or sellers at the deadline? What do the Twins need to add to improve their roster?

Pitching, pitching, and pitching. Mostly starting pitching. They need someone who has years of control so they'll still be around when all the young guys start hitting their full potential.

But don't all teams kinda want that? Hence, I don't think the Twins are really buyers or sellers, and GM Thad Levine has sorta said as much. Obviously, they'll listen to offers and consider moves that might make sense, but I would not be surprised to see the Twins basically stand pat. IF there is a market for Brian Dozier, maybe move him, but he's regressed a lot this year and I doubt teams would be willing to give up too much for him at this point.

Who has surprised you this season for the Twins and why?

Jorge Polanco. He basically won the shortstop position by default, because the Twins didn't really have a shortstop and Polanco was out of options. There were some serious concerns about his defense, particularly his arm, but those concerns never really materialized. He's been doing a surprisingly great job out there. Some of his throws to first still go in the dirt, but Joe Mauer has been helping out with that, playing gold glove caliber defense over there this year (he's currently on the DL, though).

Five years from now, who will be the Twins biggest star?

That's a tough one. I know it sounds cliche, but I would say either Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton. The problem with that is that five years from now will also be the first year both of those guys are arbitration eligible. I imagine the Twins will work to keep at least one of them if not both, so which ever either of those guys the Twins keep. If they keep both... I don't know, gah! Can I just say 2017 first overall draft pick Royce Lewis? That's easier.

What have you thought of Jason Castro's skills behind the plate?

Thad Levine said right away that one of the major reasons the Twins signed him was for his pitch framing skills, and I think that was a good idea because the Twins pitching needed all the help they could get. I think it's been paying off. I don't have the exact numbers on it, but our pitching overall has been doing a lot better this year for the most part. That could be the improved outfield defense, though. But yeah, I thought the Jason Castro signing was smart and approve of it.

What has Robbie Grossman done to keep a job in the major leagues after failing to catch on with the Twins? (Sorry about holding onto Grossman instead of J.D. Martinez -- I know he's probably been a thorn in your side)

Grossman really kinda came out of nowhere. I still don't understand it. Basically, he's around because he has a .379 OBP, which is pretty good. They just stick him in the lineup ahead of Miguel Sano somewhere and cross their fingers. It's been working well enough, I guess. It's still weird that Robbie Grossman was our Opening Day DH, though.

What is one question you thought I should have or wished I had asked that I did not, and what's the answer?

What do you think of the Twins' new front office?

Last year, mid-season, the Twins very surprisingly fired long-time GM Terry Ryan. The Twins are sort of known for being very loyal and having the same guys around forever--not to mention the owner, Jim Pohlad, insisted less than a month earlier he would not fire Terry Ryan--so it was shocking. The Twins didn't just hire a new GM, either, they actually restructured their whole front office, creating an overarching Chief of Baseball Operations position and a GM. They hired Derek Falvey, a young guy from the Indians front office, to be the CBO and Thad Levine from the Rangers front office to be GM. Those guys then hired a lot of new coaches, expanded the analytics department, and made a lot of other changes.

So far, I have been a big fan. I didn't really have anything against Terry Ryan, but it was time for a change. Falvine seems to be very smart--they did a great job in the MLB Draft and have been really keen on roster management and getting the most out of their players. I used to know what to expect with the old front office, because they had been around for so long, and now things are new and exciting. I don't feel like the Twins are behind the curve on things anymore.