Of the seven players I have on my list, two were existing players on the roster from last year, two were off season acquisitions by Billy Eppler, two came up from AAA Salt Lake, and one more was acquired through an in-season trade. That's a pretty good variety and shows you all the work that Eppler put in to build this team. For my list I kept it to people who played a significant amount of time and players who really stood out. Recent pickups like Cody Ege and Andrew Bailey were pleasant surprises as well, but they both threw less than 12 innings so the verdict is still out in my book.
C.J. Cron may be at or nearing his peak potential, but for year over year for 3 years in a row now, he has shown improvements - though his fielding still leaves something to be desired. From 2015 to 2016 you can see his numbers in this table.
Cron was a beast at the plate. He hit better, took more walks, and even struck out less. All good trends that you want to see. Cron also became just the fifth player in history with 6 hits, 5 RBIs, and 5 runs in one night during a 21-2 blowout in Boston back on July 2nd. Cron went on a tear before suffering a broken hand and in 8 games in July he hit .364 with 5 homeruns and 17 RBIs. Would have been interesting to see what kind of numbers he would have put out without all that time on the DL.
Eppler traded Kody Eaves for Marte in the off season. Eaves hit .222 in 106 games for Detroit in AA this year. 25-year-old Marte showed some flexibility and willing to play other positions (like left field) and had one heck of a bat.
The difference from last year is staggering. In 2015 Marte only had 80 AB vs. 258 AB in 2016, but those numbers had a huge change across the board. Marte has showed 30+ homerun power as he belted 15 of them in less than half a season worth of at bats. He's a keeper and Eppler appears to have killed it on that trade. Eaves who?
Saying that Shoey carried the pitching staff in 2016 is no understatement. The entire pitching staff had a WAR of 3.1 an Shoemaker had a 3.4 all by himself.
Look at that difference from 2015! The kind of performance Shoemaker had in 2016 looks like what he did in the second half of 2014, and makes that seem more like his ability rather than a fluke. Shoemaker is arbitration eligible this off season and he can expect a nice bump in pay for the 500K he's currently making (which was a huge steal for the Angels this year).
No one expected Nolasco to perform as well as he did for the Angels and most thought he would just eat some innings and that the trade was all about getting Alex Meyer. Turns out Eppler basically fleeced the Twins as Meyer had been decent, Nolasco has been great, and Hector Santiago has been a huge dud in Minneapolis.
Indeed, Nolasco was a different man in Anaheim, and a lot of that can be credited to pitching coach Charles Nagy. The difference in numbers is a bit mind numbing, and probably pretty painful if you are at Twins fan looking at his 5.58 ERA, 1.418 WHIP and 0.2 WAR.
Bedrosian has been called up now for three years in a row and all the hype around him finally started to make sense this year. Keep in mind that he still allowed 44% of inherited runner to score, but when he pitching clean innings he was throwing like a top tier closer.
Cam's numbers in 2016 were pretty insane - especially compared to his historical pitching in the big leagues. He figured something out this year and he did it will. Too bad his season was cut short, but hopefully he gets used in a clean 8th or 9th inning role in 2017.
Guerra pitched 16.2 innings for the Pirates last year and Eppler snagged him in the Rule 5 draft. He's another guy who seemed to thrive when changing teams, and maybe another by product of Charles Nagy.
Guerra's walks AND strikeouts per 9 were down this year but he also gave up a lot less hits and homeruns. He did allow 46% of inherited runners to score, but overall he was a pretty pleasant surprise, especially if you take out his last month were he seemed to struggled a bit and had a .375 BAA during September.
Last but not least, Bandy has been biding his time in the minors, waiting for guys like Carlos Perez, Chris Iannetta, and Geovany Soto to make room. Fortunately for Bandy, Soto just couldn't stay health and Bandy stepped in and impressed with a 0.7 WAR in his first pro season (in only 231 at bats). Bandy's OBP left something to be desired at just .281 but as a defensive-first catcher, he put up a decent .673 OPS. Bandy also threw out 40% of would be base stealers. Bandy was also the only catcher on the team this year to end up with a positive number of +calls at 8. Graterol was -3, Soto was -8, and Perez was at -28.