Siberian Baseball

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Minnesota Twins (83-79, .512, 3rd in AL Central)

The new hometown guys for me are the Twins and as the newest season ticket holder, I'm pretty excited to see these guys more often. At the least, I have a one-in-five chance of seeing Johan Santana (16-7; 2.87 ERA; 231.2 IP; 238 Ks) any time I go to the Metrodome, which almost makes up for the fact that I have to go to the Metrodome.


Joe Mauer has switched his name (a'la Michael Vick looking to go by Mike to avoid Googling stories about his STDs in the future with his fresh start) however, if Mauer doesn't start hitting like everyone in the Twin Cities expected him to do, it could get ugly. Then again, it is Minnesota, so they'd probably just stop clapping for him and hold up signs that politely asked him to request a trade.

Mauer hit .294 last year in 131 games, with 9 HRs and 55 RBi, which isn't awful for your everyday catcher, just not what you'd hope from the hometown kid you drafted ahead of Mark Prior. After injuries killed his rookie year, it's safe to say last year counted as his first season in the bigs and now it's up to him to start plating runs consistiently. I could really nerd out with some of the stats here (ie. his hitting .225 against lefties and .323 against righties and ending the season hitting .171) but when it comes down to it, he needs to start hitting and becoming more of a team leader. Is that asking a lot of someone who'll be turning 23 this spring? Yep, but that's what comes with the territory of being the franchise catcher.

The Twins cleaned up their outfield by cutting Jacque Jones loose to sign with the Cubs and freeing up a spot for fan-favorite Lew Ford. I have no idea what it is with these fans, but they love slew-footed outfielders like Tara Reid loves double bubble night at Senor Frog's in Cancun. Anyways, that leaves Shannon Stewart, Torii Hunter and Ford for the Twins and all joking aside, Ford is at least the same defensive player as Jones (slower, but gets a better jump) and with one less at bat, Ford hit 15 points higher than Jones (while being outgunned 23-7 in homers and 73-53 in RBI, which we'll chalk up to lineup positioning). The point is for less money, the Twins get roughly the same production while sacrificing some power. I'd take that if I were in the front office.

Here's where things get really iffy for the Twinkies - Jason Bartlett at short is being pencilled in as a starter with a whopping 8 games under his belt. Luis Castillo is the other half of the double play combo, who began in 1996 with the Marlins. Castillo had a career year in OBP last season and kept his average above .300 making him a solid addition. Defensively, Castillo had only 7 errors in 604 chances for a FPCT of .988, second-best in his career.

Tony Batista was brought in with fellow scrap heap refugee Rondell White and will start the season at third. If he struggles, look to Michael Cuddyer to bookend with fellow youngster Justin Morneau at first in the Twins' infield. Morneau found his stride last year after missing games following a beaning.

The Twins will need a bit of help from either of those two to replace the (minimal) power lost with the loss of Matthew LeCroy. OK, I just laughed as I wrote that.

Ending where we began, the pitching staff seems like a modern version of "Spahn and Sain and two days of rain" strategy used by the Braves. The only problem is the dome. Damn.

After Santana is Brad Radke, who is still holding up pretty well and a few passable arms. The Twins are watching Francisco Liriano and hoping he develops, but he's been slotted for bullpen duty for now. Kyle Lohse has seen declining numbers since cracking the bigs in 2001, but is still serviceable.

Leading the bullpen is Joe Nathan and few too many retreads for my liking. That said, they have found ways to win in the past few years, winning the Central three years running into last season. The theme for the Twins this season seems to be waiting to see how many guys step up.

If they get solid starts from the bottom of the rotation and the young guys keep progressing, they can give the Indians and White Sox are run for their money in what is one of the the top two divisions in terms of competition. Their big name players will produce, barring injury, and it's up to the role players to make or break the season.

Just having the potential to be a solid team puts them head and shoulders above the bottom of the AL Central.

Minnesota Twins

C: Mauer; Redmond; Heintz
1B: Morneau
2B: Castillo; Punto; Luis Rodriguez
SS: Bartlett; Castro; Punto
3B: Batista; Cuddyer; Punto; Castro; Rodriguez
LF: Stewart; Rondell White; Ford
CF: Hunter
RF: Ford; White
DH: White; Ford
SP: Santana; Radke; Silva, Lohse; Baker
CP: Nathan
RP: Rinconl Crain; Mulholland; Guerrier; Liriano



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home