Tagged: Minnesota Twins

2010 Minnesota Twins Preview

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Minnesota Twins primary logo.png2009 Record: 87-76, 1st AL Central

2009 Prediction: 87-75, 2nd AL Central

2010 Prediction: 2nd AL Central

 

Impact Player: Joe Mauer

Impact Pitcher: Joe Nathan

Top Prospect Player:
OF Aaron Hicks

Top Prospect Pitcher:
RHP Kyle Gibson

 

Manager: Ron Gardenhire, 9th Season
(709-588, .547)

 

Significant
Acquisitions
: 2B Orlando Hudson,
SS J.J. Hardy, DH/1B Jim Thome, RHP Clay Condrey

Significant Losses: SS Orlando Cabrera, 3B Joe
Crede
, CF Carlos Gomez, 3B Brian Buscher, C Mike Redmond, RHP Bobby
Keppel
, RHP R.A. Dickey

 

Since legendary manager Tom Kelly left after the 2001 season
at a low point in the organization’s history, Ron Gardenhire has guided the
team not only to respectability, but to back to being one of the most respected
teams in the Majors.  Last year the Twins
won their 5th division title in 8 years under Gardenhire thanks to a
ridiculous 17-4 finish that saw them storm back on the Tigers and beat them in
a one-game tie-breaker.  Since 2002, the
team has not finished lower than 3rd and has had just one losing
season.  All of this success has not
translated into postseason winning as the team has still not been to the World
Series since 1991 when they beat the Braves. 
The small-market Twins routinely win on a very tight budget, but with
brand new Target Field opening up, the team is opening up the pocketbooks a
little bit wider.  Franchise players Joe Mauer (any day now, anyway) and Justin Morneau are signed long-term and the team is starting to
bring in savvy veterans to be role players. 
Maybe a World Series contender isn’t far off.

 

Pitching

Joe_Nathan_Minnesota_Twins.jpg

The Twins weakness heading into this year looks to be their
pitching staff which remains largely unchanged from the unit that ranked above
only Kansas City, Cleveland and Baltimore in team ERA in 2009.  Scott
Baker
is the de-facto ace after posting 15 wins in 2009, but it may have
been misleading.  Baker was 7th
in the AL in run support (5.94) and posted a rather high ERA of 4.36.  He was also the only pitcher to record 200
innings on the staff.  Kevin Slowey was 10-3 last year and
still has a lot of upside at only 25, but he too posted a misleading ERA of
4.86, he’ll be the number 2 guy.  Carl Pavano was one of the feel-good
stories of the year in 2009 when he went 14-12 with Cleveland and Minnesota and
remained healthy for a full season for the first time since 2004, but he too
had an inflated ERA of 5.10.  Nick Blackburn is a solid number 4 guy
who posted 11 wins a year ago and the fifth spot could go to one of three guys:
Francisco Liriano who went from
future-ace to organization exit mat in two short years, but the Twins are
hoping he’s fully recovered from Tommy John surgery this time around; Brian Duensing who was very good as a 26-year-old
rookie and posted a 5-1 record with a 2.73 ERA as a starter; and lefty Glen Perkins who struggled last year
but apparently was never healthy.  He may
also fill a need for a lefty in the ‘pen.

 

The starters were the problem in terms of pitching last year,
the bullpen was phenomenal.  Joe Nathan is one of the game’s best
closers.  He was second in the AL with 47
saves in ’09 with a 2.10 ERA and 11.66 K/9. 
At 35 he’s certainly a risk to start declining, but the Giants once
thought he wasn’t good enough to pitch in the majors, so it’s hard to count him
out at any time.  The Twins boast one of
the best righty/lefty setup duos in baseball with Matt Guerrier and Jose
Mijares
.  The two combined for a 7-3
record and a 2.35 ERA in 2009.  Sidearmer
Pat Neshek is back after missing all
of last season with Tommy John surgery and was once one of the most effective
relievers in the majors, while Jon Rauch,
Jesse Crain, and offseason signee Clay Condrey are expected to fill out
the ‘pen.  Glen Perkins could get a look as the second lefty if he’s not
starting.

 

ROTATION

Age

B/T

Scott Baker

28

R/R

Kevin Slowey

25/6

R/R

Carl Pavano

34

R/R

Nick Blackburn

28

R/R

Brian Duensing

27

L/L

 

 

 

BULLPEN

 

 

Joe Nathan

35

R/R

Matt Guerrier

31/2

R/R

Jose Mijares

25

L/L

Pat Neshek

29

S/R

Jon Rauch

31

R/R

Jesse Crain

28/9

R/R

Clay Condrey*

34

R/R

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

Francisco Liriano

26

L/L

Glen Perkins

27

L/L

Mike Maroth*

32/3

L/L

*=newly acquired

 

 

Lineup

joe-mauer.jpg

One problem the Twins don’t have is scoring runs.  They ranked 4th in the AL in that
category last year and they were 3rd in batting average.  Yes, they move to an outdoor stadium this
year which may not be as hitter-friendly as the Metrodome, but there’s no
denying that this lineup can and will hurt you. 
With the acquisition of Orlando
Hudson
to hit second behind centerfielder Denard Span, the Twins believe they have the perfect table-setters
for one of the best 3-4 hitting tandems in baseball; Joe Mauer and Justin
Morneau.  The corner outfield spots will
be played by Delmon Young (left) and
Michael Cuddyer (right).  Young is considered by many to be overrated
because he always hits for a decent average but his OPS is never too special (just
.733 in ’09).  He’s also below average
defensively.  Cuddyer bounced back after
an awful ’08 to post a terrific ’09, finishing .276/.342/.520 with a team-best
32 HR and 94 RBI.  Jason Kubel will get some time in rightfield, but will be the main
DH.  He broke out in 2009 with a .300
average, 28 HR and a team-best 103 RBI. 
When Kubel isn’t DHing, the Twins signed Jim Thome to provide some veteran leadership and a powerful bat off
the bench.

 

Morneau is back at first base after hitting 30 HR and
driving in 100 last season in spite of missing the last month of the year with
an injury.  The Twins will field an
entirely new middle infield this season with trade acquisition J.J. Hardy at short and free agent
signing Hudson at second.  Hardy is
looking to regain his form after an awful ’09 that saw him demoted by the
Brewers and Hudson is solid year after year and is one of the best defensive
two-baggers in baseball.  At third base
will likely be Brendan Harris who
struggled to a .310 OBP in ’09.  If he struggles,
Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla or Matt
Tolbert
could be options.  Reigning
AL MVP Joe Mauer is the catcher and is the best at his position in the
game.  After sitting out the first month
of ’09 with a back injury, Mauer stormed to his third batting title and became
the first player since George Brett in 1980 to lead the AL in batting average
(.365), On-Base Percentage (.444) and Slugging (.587).  It’s foolish to expect Mauer to put up those
kind of numbers again, but if he remains healthy, he may top his career high in
homeruns (28) which he also notched last year. 
Oh yeah, he also won a Gold Glove for his outstanding defensive play.

 

The bench will consist of 500-plus homerun man Thome as well
as utility-infielders Punto and Casilla who both struggled so badly in ’09 that
they go from platooning at second, to warming the bench.  Kubel will be the DH and extra outfielder
while Jose Morales is the
switch-hitting backup catcher.  In a
short stint last year, the rookie went .311/.381/.361.  He might be too good to be a backup and
therefore could be used as trade bait, possibly with Casilla for some pitching
help.

 

Pos.

 

Age

B/T

C

Joe Mauer

27

L/R

1B

Justin Morneau

28/9

L/R

2B

Orlando Hudson

32

S/R

3B

Brendan Harris (SS, 2B, 1B)

29/0

R/R

SS

J.J. Hardy*

27/8

R/R

LF

Delmon Young

24

R/R

CF

Denard Span

26

L/L

RF

Michael Cuddyer (1B, LF, 2B, CF)

31

R/R

DH

Jason Kubel (RF, LF)

27/8

L/R

 

 

 

 

 

BENCH

 

 

2B

Nick Punto (SS, 3B)

32

S/R

DH

Jim Thome*

39/0

L/R

INF

Alexi Casilla (2B, SS)

25/6

S/R

C

Jose Morales

27

S/R

 

 

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

27/8

S/R

INF

Matt Tolbert (3B, 2B, SS)

27/8

S/R

OF

Jacque Jones

35

L/L

 *=newly acquired

 

The Twins will need to have a lot of breakout years from
their just-entering-prime starting pitchers such as Baker, Slowey and Blackburn
in order to truly contend for a World Series. 
With their star hitters under contract for a few years, the Twins may be
ready to step into the realm of the truly elite in a year or two; for now, they’ll
compete and possibly win their mediocre division.

Final Prediction:
85-77, 2nd AL Central

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’09 Preview — Minnesota Twins

twins-logo.gif2008 Record: 88-74 (plus loss to CWS in one-game playoff), 2nd AL Central
2009 Prediction: 2nd AL Central

Impact Player: Justin Morneau
Impact Pitcher: Joe Nathan
Top Prospect: Aaron Hicks, OF

Significant Acquisitions: P R.A. Dickey
Significant Losses: OF Craig Monroe, SS Adam Everett, P Dennys Reyes, P Brian Bass, P Eddie Guardado

The Minnesota Twins are baseball’s model franchise.  It seems that every year they lose significant players and they continue to win with one of the best player-development systems in the bigs.  In ’08, they lost Johan Santana and still finished the regular season tied with the White Sox for first in the AL Central (they lost in a one-game playoff).  For the first time in years, the Twins DIDN’T lose anything significant in the off-season so expect good things from these perennial over-achievers in ’09.  This also marks the beginning of the final season for the HHH Metrodome; the Twins move into their new open-air stadium, Target Field, in 2010.

Pitching
The Twins enter ’09 with a slue of no-names but return most of a staff that was solid in ’08.  This should be the year that Francisco Liriano assumes the #1 role in this rotation.  He recovered from Tommy John surgery and went 6-4 with a 3.91 ERA in 14 starts last year.  If you remember, he was 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA in ’07 before succumbing to injury.  After him is Scott Baker who emerged last year as a true top-of-the-rotation talent going 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 28 starts.  Kevin Slowey tied for the team lead in wins with 12 and posted an ERA a shade under 4 and should be the teams #3 option.  Nick Blackburn led the team with 193.1 innings in ’08 and will look to improve on an 11-11 record as the #4 option and lefty Glen Perkins rounds out the rotation after going 12-4 last season.  This group of aces-by-committee will be tough in any 3 or 4-game series.

Joe Nathan continues to defy his critics by putting up unbelievable numbers year after year as the Twins closer.  Last year, Nathan led all closers with a 1.33 ERA and also posted 39 saves.  After Nathan, the Twins run out one of the best bullpens in the AL with set-up man and Toronto-native Jesse Crain and durable, although erratic in ’08, Matt Guerrier.  The loss of lefties Eddie Guardado and Dennys Reyes will be felt this year but 28-year-old Craig Breslow was outstanding in just under 40 innings last year posting a 1.91 ERA and figures to be the team’s main option against left-handed hitters.  Converted starters Philip Humber and Boof Bonser will get a chance in the ‘pen this year while Pat Neshek continues with his injury-plagued career; he will miss the entire ’09 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Young left-handed prospect Jose Mijares was outstanding in a September audition last year and could be in the mix as well.  Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey may also find his way onto the team after signing in the off-season.

Rotation (Handedness/Age on June 30, 2009)

  • Francisco Liriano (L/25)
  • Scott Baker (R/27)
  • Kevin Slowey (R/25)
  • Nick Blackburn (R/27)
  • Glen Perkins (L/26)

Bullpen

  • Joe Nathan (R/34) — CLOSER
  • Jesse Crain (R/27)
  • Matt Guerrier (R/30)
  • Craig Breslow (L/28)
  • Boof Bonser (R/27)
  • Philip Humber (R/26)
  • Jose Mijares (L/24)

Lineup
The Twins lineup won’t scare you…and that’s why they’ll hurt you.  Despite the fact that the Twins were dead-last in the AL in home runs, they managed to be 3rd in runs scored.  That might have been because they were 3rd in batting average, 5th in stolen bases and #1 in triples.  In the outfield, there are four players battling for three spots with Michael Cuddyer (who battled injuries in ’08), Delmon Young (who should eventually develop power to go along with his hitting ability), and exciting spark-plugs Carlos Gomez and Denard Span gunning for starting jobs.  In the infield, another Canadian, ’06 AL MVP Justin Morneau is the rock of the franchise at First and should put up another solid season.  At second will be Alexi Casilla who had 50 RBI in only 385 at-bats in ’08 and Nick Punto and Brendan Harris will battle for the job at short.  Punto is solid defensively, but Harris will provide more power.  At third will be a spring battle between Brian Buscher and youngster Matt Macri (who hit .324 in limited time last year); Harris could also be in the mix there.  The Twins return one of the best catchers in the game in Joe Mauer.  Mauer may never develop the power people thought he would have, but who cares when you can field a catcher who might win a batting title, a gold glove, and only strike out 50 times a year?  Personally, I think he will develop that power eventually.  At DH should be Jason Kubel who is inept defensively in the outfield but hit 20 HR last year.  If he struggles, the fourth outfielder will see time there.

On the bench, the Twins have some depth with so many battles for starting jobs taking place.  Veteran Mike Redmond will backup Mauer again at catcher and the rest of the spots will be filled by the players who lose the starting jobs.

Lineup (Handedness/Age on June 30, 2009)
  RF  Denard Span (L/25)
  2B  Alexi Casilla (S/25)
  C    Joe Mauer (L/26)
  1B  Justin Morneau (L/28)
  LF  Delmon Young (R/23)
  DH  Jason Kubel (L/27)
  SS  Brendan Harris (R/28)
  3B  Brian Buscher (L/28)
  CF  Carlos Gomez (R/23)

Bench
  C    Mike Redmond (R/38)
 INF  Nick Punto (S/31)
 OF  Michael Cuddyer (R/30)
 INF  Matt Macri (R/27)
 INF  Matt Tolbert (S/27)

Outlook
The Twins success in recent years is remarkable when you consider the funds they operate with year after year but they still haven’t won a World Series since 1991.  There will never be any real pressure on the small-market Twins to win it all (maybe that’s part of their success) but eventually the regular season success will have to turn into post-season success otherwise the moniker “model-franchise” may disappear.  The Twins will definately contend in the AL Central this year but I don’t believe they have what it takes to overtake the Tigers.  Final Prediction: 87-75, 2nd AL Central