Monday, March 26, 2012

Minnesota Twins Preview/Prediction

Now that we got the division predictions done it is time to dig a little bit deeper.  Between now and the opener in Japan each team will get their own prediction/preview.  I am going to go in alphabetical order.

Our next post takes us to Minnesota where they still have Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and... Well little else. With Morneau's head and Mauer's knees up in the air, this could be a team that is out of the race in a hurry. Let's take a look.

Infield:  Joe Mauer at catcher, Justin Morneau at first base, Alexi Casilla at second base, Jamey Carroll at shortstop, and Danny Valencia at third base.

Joe Mauer is the biggest mystery in the American League this year.  I could see him hitting .300 with 25 home runs again, and I could also see him playing only 25 games at catcher before his knee gives out.  I don't think it will and I hope not, because I love watching this man hit a baseball.  He probably has the sweetest swing in all of baseball and he has so much talent.  It would be a shame if he goes down again.  The same thing could be said for 2006 Most Valuable Player Justin Morneau.  He has had concussions end his last two years early and that is an injury that can creep up at anytime.  I don't have as much faith in his return as I do in Mauer's and I don't think he will ever be the same hitter he was just a couple years ago.  Casilla was the shortstop on opening day last year, but has since moved to his more natural position of second base.  He did steal 15 bases last year and was only caught four times, but he needs to get more hits to get on base more.  He needs to improve on that lifetime .252 average or he will get replaced pretty quick.  Jamey Carroll is a fun player to watch, but he isn't an everyday player in my opinion.  He hasn't hit a home run since 2009, and he doesn't do anything at all that a minor league guy couldn't do.  That speaks for where this organization is right now.  Danny Valencia is another guy that probably shouldn't be handled a starting job, but he is the best option for the Twins right now at third base.  That's right Minnesota fans your best option is a guy who hit .249 last year and was only successful on 25% of his base stealing attempts.  Good luck.

Who will have the best season of these guys? Joe Mauer will play a full season, either catching, playing first base, or being the designated hitter, and will exceed all expectations.  I am expecting another season of him hitting over .320 and driving in 100 runs.  He will not hit for a lot of power, but he will get a lot of doubles and that brings in people just as well.

Outfield: Josh Willingham in left field, Denard Span in center field, and Ben Revere in right field.

Josh Willingham is your ultimate boom or bust guy.  He had 55 extra base hits last year, but also struck out 150 times and had a .246 average.  You know exactly what you are getting from him.  Power and strike outs with a low average.  If you are okay with that as a guy hitting in the middle third of your order you could do a lot worse.  Denard Span is another Twin who is coming back from a concussion that ended his season prematurely last year.  A career .285 hitter with good speed, I think he will come back from his concussion and return to that number.  I also think 100 runs scored is within reach for him.  Ben Revere is only 23 years old, and I think he will get most of the at bats in left field.  He can flat out fly as evidenced by his 34 stolen bases last year, and he makes good contact as well.  He needs to improve on that average but in his first full year hitting close to .270 isn't terrible.

Who will have the best season of these guys? I think Denard Span does get to 100 runs scored and gets close to 30 stolen bases.  Combine that with a .285 average and good defense in center field and you have your best player in the outfield.

Starting Pitching:  Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Jason Marquis.

I have to give Carl Pavano credit for one thing.  The man can grow a killer mustache.  Unfortunately that is where the superlatives end.  There is no way the guy should be in line to pitch opening day.  He went 9-13 last year and that warrants an opening day start?  No wonder the Twins are in trouble.  Liriano is more talented in comparison to Pavano, but he is also a much bigger question mark.  He threw a no hitter last year, but also went 9-10 and had an ERA over 5.  I do not trust him to come back to be the pitcher he was a few years ago, and I think those numbers will be pretty similar this year.  Baker is currently battling some elbow issues, but he should be ready to go as the #3 starter.  A fly ball pitcher could do a lot worse than pitching in Target Field half the time, but be wary whenever he pitches on the road.  Nick Blackburn gave up 183 hits in 148 innings last year.  He also only had 76 strike outs.  He needs to improve on allowing less hits and striking out more hitters.  I don't think it is going to happen.  Jason Marquis is the opposite of Scott Baker.  He is a ground ball pitcher who relies on his defense to get him through the game.  He allowed batters to hit almost .300 last year against him, and with the left side of the infield not being very good, I think that will happen again.

Who will have the best season of these guys?  This is one of the tougher calls I have had to make so far.  None of them are very good, but I am going to say Pavano has the best season of the five.  I don't trust Liriano's head, and I don't trust the stuff of the other three.  Pavano is the horse I am going to ride on this one.

Bullpen: Matt Capps, Glen Perkins, Alex Burnett, and Kyle Waldrop.

Matt Capps struggled last year and only got 15 saves, making the Twins regret the Wilson Ramos trade almost immediately.  This year he has the closer role because there is no one better on the Twins roster.  I think he bounces back a little bit this year, but doesn't come close to the numbers of a couple years ago.  Glen Perkins is the main lefty out of the bullpen.  Last year Glen Perkins struck out 65 hitters in 65 innings.  If Capps fails Perkins is the next in line.  I think he will get that chance this year, because if Capps is good they will look to flip him at the deadline, and if Capps is bad they will replace him.  Either way Perkins has a shot.  Alex Burnett is currently struggling to make the roster, and even if he does in 66 games last year he had an ERA of over 5 and a half.  I don't think he finishes May with the Twins.  Waldrop is a former first round pick by the Twins who made his debut last year.  At 6 foot 5 he is a big kid, and he showed flashes last year.  This year he will get a larger role in the bullpen, and we will see how he holds up.

Who will have the best season of these guys?  Perkins will have the best season of these four.  Like I stated above I see him as the closer at the end of the season, and getting to 20 saves is a very realistic possibility.

Record: 71-91, fifth in the American League Central

Next up:  New York Mets

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