Team Preview: Minnesota Twins

By: Josh Wasserman – Chief MLB Writer.

In the coming weeks leading up to Opening Day, FSLR will be previewing the 30 MLB teams and their respective chances for the 2014 season. Continuing with the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins are up next…

AL Central:
Day 6: Kansas City Royals
Day 7: Minnesota Twins
Day 8: Detroit Tigers
Day 9: Chicago White Sox
Day 10: Cleveland Indians

Minnesota Twins

2013 Record: 66-96 (4th)
2014 Projected Record: 60-102 (5th)

​Right now, the Minnesota Twins’ roster is looking pretty pathetic. With very few threats on the pitching staff and even fewer in the lineup, the Twins will join the 100-loss club this year. No new acquisitions are looking to make a splash in the Twin Cities and the man who broached the .400 average mark, Joe Mauer, is on the downturn of his career. Mauer and Josh Willingham are the only potent hitters on the team and Twins fans must be grateful for the arrival of Ricky Nolasco because without him, their rotation might as well be comprised of a doctor, a few real estate agents, and a paperboy.

Somehow they managed to grab fourth place in the AL Central last year, but the way the team will shape up for 2014 should most definitely see them sitting in the basement this year, with no sight of the playoff picture except for the first week of April.

Projected Lineup:
1) Alex Presley, CF
2) Oswaldo Arcia, LF
3) Joe Mauer, 1B
4) Josh Willingham, DH
5) Trevor Plouffe, 3B
6) Chris Parmelee, RF
7) Kurt Suzuki, C
8) Brian Dozier, 2B
9) Pedro Florimon/Danny Santana, SS

​It’s hard to give the Twins any sort of high offensive ratings. In 2013, the team placed in the bottom eight in the league for all major offensive categories, racked up a meager 52 steals, and had the 2nd most strikeouts in all of baseball. A real issue is that the faces in the lineup haven’t changed much this winter. Byron Buxton, one of the top prospects in the game, is not nearly at the major league level yet and with the Twins looking like they’ll be out of contention, there is no reason for them to rush his progression by bringing him up early.

Anyhow, let’s return to the present and those who will be playing in Minneapolis within the month. As I mentioned before, Mauer is nowhere near his golden days besides posting a .324 average. Although he used to have a better team around him, his production has still floundered and his RBI total was halved from 2012. Josh Willingham has seen his power diminish as well, hitting just 14 home runs last year in the hitter-friendly Target Field after 35 in 2012.

Some foresaw Trevor Plouffe as having a breakout year last year. Those people would have been wrong though as his batting average hovered around .250 and knocked home about as many runs as Mauer. Not to mention this is the core, the heart, the pulse of their lineup. Surrounding those three are largely unproductive hitters who fail to contribute on-base percentage, stolen bases, or extra base hits.

Alex Presley and Brian Dozier are the only two who posted respectable campaigns in 2013, both hitting above .280. However, they don’t provide runs or score runs, so their value is not as important. In that aspect they join Oswaldo Arcia, Kurt Suzuki, and Pedro Florimon. The latter three players all put up sub .230 averages without providing any type of punch at the bottom of the order.

Without a presence aside from their 3-4-5 hitters, the Twins can’t expect to win very many games. Relying on a long ball from Mauer, Willingham, or Plouffe, or a pair of consecutive extra base hits along the way is a weak strategy to follow, and I can’t foresee the Twins’ offense shocking the league.

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Projected Rotation:
1) Ricky Nolasco, RHP
2) Phil Hughes, RHP
3) Mike Pelfrey, RHP
4) Vance Worley, RHP/Samuel Deduno, RHP
5) Kevin Correia, RHP

​An influx of new faces in the rotation is a welcoming sight to the people of Minneapolis. Ricky Nolasco is an above-average pitcher by league standards and is better than anyone the Twins have had since Johan Santana. Granted his situation is similar to the one he left in Miami, a change of scenery and an escape from the turmoil in Florida could benefit him (he had a short stint with the Dodgers in between).

Phil Hughes has ridden quite the rollercoaster the past few years in New York, rising from exorbitant reliever to rotation mainstay before sinking to unneeded starter following a string of major injuries. Luckily for him, he was able to catch on with the Twins with a surprisingly lucrative 3-year deal. Hughes will put in whatever work is needed to prove he belongs in Minnesota and put his disastrous 2013 behind him.

Another pitcher who will profit from some stability is the oft-injured right-hander Mike Pelfrey. Although his two good seasons are a few years removed, he should be an okay presence in the staff. Ironically, the most stable spot in the rotation should be the 5th spot, filled by Kevin Correia. After a series of disappointing years in San Francisco, Correia has put together a few consecutive solid seasons, landing him a spot on the Twins roster where he put together another nice year in 2013.

Worley has had a rough calendar year with his 2013 season seeing him lose his control and this Spring Training season starting very poorly for him. However, he proved in Philadelphia that he can pitch when he pulls himself together, so if he relaxes and finds his rhythm, he can be a nice addition.

The Twins’ rotation depends entirely upon stability. Nolasco and Correia should be fine, but the other three pitchers need to find their groove if the Twins want to appear competitive. If not, the bullpen is going to be called upon early and often, heralding an injury-plagued and disappointing year in the Twin Cities.

Projected Bullpen:
MR: Samuel Deduno, RHP/Scott Diamond, LHP
SU: Caleb Thielbar, LHP/Anthony Swarzak, LHP
CL: Glen Perkins, LHP

​To be honest, the Twins bullpen wasn’t nearly as bad as the rest of the team last year. Samuel Deduno and Scott Diamond, starters last year in the uncrowded rotation of 2013, had pretty good years and could find their way into the rotation if the starters at the beginning of the season collapse (as they are quite prone to).

The two setup men, Caleb Thielbar and Anthony Swarzak, posted sub 3.00 ERA’s while appearing in almost 50 games apiece. Though they won’t often be brought in with leads, they are a reassuring presence to have.

Finally, we reach Glen Perkins, the cornerstone of the pen. Formerly a starter for the Twins, Perkins was converted to a reliever in 2010 and has slowly worked his way to the closer role. Last year, in his first season as the starting closer, he dominated the American League (we shouldn’t fail to remark that he hasn’t posted an ERA above 2.60 since 2010). Converting 36 of 40 saves, Perkins easily solidified his status as an All-Star and deserved the recognition he received. Chances will be paltry for the left-handed gasser, but when he gets them, you can surely bet he’ll impress.

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