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Minnesota Overcame Double Dose of Sophomore Jinx to Contend for Championship

by Doug Poe

posted in Recreation and Sports

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The two most surprising teams in the American League pennant race are the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins. Although both clubs have recently hit rough stretches that now jeopardize their postseason chances, the season must still be considered a huge success for them.
Most spring previews had Minnesota finishing in the basement of the A.L. Central, while even more considered Houston a lock for the cellar in the A.L. West. The two teams combined for over 200 losses last season, and neither one made many changes in their lineups over the winter.
The success of the Astros, in spite of the fact that they lost more games than the Twins in 2014, has been believe it or not less surprising. Houston has, for the most part, avoided the dreaded sophomore jinx.
The two Houston players who made the 2014 All-Rookie team of Baseball America, outfielder George Springer and pitcher Collin McHugh, have followed that success this season. Springer's batting average has risen considerably from his .231 mark of last year, and McHugh has sixteen wins so far compared to the eleven he notched last year.
In Minnesota, though, the Twins quickly fell victim to the sophomore curse. The two players who made the 2014 BA All-Rookie team as Twins, shortstop Danny Santana and first baseman/designated hitter Kennys Vargas, both struggled so much this year that they were demoted back to the minor leagues.
Santana's average fell over 100 points, from .319 in 2014 all the way down to .211 this year. Vargas also saw his average drop, though not to the drastic extent as Santana. Vargas did suffer a dramatic dip in power, the tool the Twins were counting on to anchor the middle of their batting order.
The odds of both of a team's rookies suffering a sophomore jinx is almost nil, as a look at the rest of the 2014 BA All-Rookie team will verify. Chicago's Jose Abreu followed up his debut season with a little more power and just a small drop in average. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud of the Mets raised his average 40 points while also boosting his power numbers. Boston's Mookie Betts hit .290 again, but he tripled his home run total with fifteen this season. Nick Castellanos of the Tigers showed more power in 2015, and Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier has put up numbers almost identical to those of last season.
The fact that Minnesota was able to overcome the struggles of their two rookie sensations speaks volumes about the depth of their farm system. Rookies such as third baseman Miguel Sano and outfielder Eddie Rosario have stepped up to fill in for Santana and Vargas, while manager Paul Molitor has gotten the most out of a relatively unknown pitching rotation.
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