Minnesota Twins @ Kansas City Royals Game Preview and Pick: Season Starts With Pitchers Duel

Well, it’s official, baseball fans. The MLB is back! The season starts with exciting matchups across the league and even features inter-divisional matchups. One of those matchups will be an AL Central battle with the Kansas City Royals playing host to the Minnesota Twins. With Opening Day bringing out most team's aces on the mound, I’ll break down why offense could be hard to come by in KC.

Game Preview

The start of every new season offers a clean slate for every team in the league, which allows for optimism and hope. The Kansas City Royals are one team hoping to take a big step forward this season. Last season, the Royals finished in last place in the AL Central with a 56-106 record, but with youth on their side, the potential is undoubtedly present in that clubhouse.

It’s been a while since the Royals have had a surefire leader of their pitching staff, but that won’t be the case this season. Kansas City acquired left-hander Cole Ragans last season in a deal that flew under the radar. However, many baseball fans quickly became aware of Ragans after he went 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA and 89 strikeouts in his 12 starts with the Royals.

Ragans finished last season in the 84th percentile in xERA and 83rd percentile in whiff percentage, which put him on the fast track to start Opening Day. By striking out 21 hitters in 17.1 innings of work over Spring Training, the young lefty officially secured his spot at the top of the rotation and will now face a Minnesota Twins team that advanced to the second round of the postseason for the first time since 2002 last year.

Minnesota won the AL Central last year with an 87-75 record, and for the most part, their starting lineup will look about the same. The Twins did not have a loud offseason, but they did acquire Manuel Margot from a trade and Carlos Santana through free agency.

Getting the ball for the Twins to open the new campaign will be veteran righty Pablo Lopez, who pitched to a 3.66 ERA with 234 punchouts in 194 innings last season.

Pick for the Game

For a Thursday in March, Kansas City's weather will be much better than many would expect. Regardless of the temperature, though, both sides have a brutal pitching matchup in front of them, so with the total set at 8, I’ll be on the under. Unfortunately, due to Missouri sports betting legislation, Royals fans won’t be able to tail this pick.

The Twins lineup has potential if they can remain healthy, but this is still a Minnesota team that was slightly below average against left-handers last season. According to FanGraphs, the Twins ranked 19th in wOBA, 19th in OPS, and 15th in wRC+ against left-handed pitching last season. Once Ragans comes out of the game, the Twins will face a Royals bullpen with more of a veteran presence this season and one that could see improvement in their numbers.

Bobby Witt Jr. will lead Kansas City’s offense, and while there are young bats in the lineup who could take the next step, the Royals have struggled with Lopez in the past. In his most recent start against KC, the right-hander worked a complete game shutout with just four hits allowed. Once Lopez is done for the day, he will hand the ball to a Twins bullpen that had the 3rd best xFIP in the league over in the last 90 games in 2023.

Pick for the Game

  • Under 8 (-102) on DraftKings

*odds subject to change

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