For all the buzz he built up during spring training, it didn’t take long for Aaron Hicks to sour the widespread enthusiasm surrounding him. We’re barely over a week into the season and already we’re seeing calls for the rookie center fielder to be shipped to the minors, or at least the bottom of the lineup.
In fairness, Hicks has done his part. Through eight games, he has been flat-out overmatched, with two hits, two walks and 13 strikeouts in 32 plate appearances.
Since starting pitching was obviously going to be an unavoidable weakness, the Minnesota Twins knew they would need exceptional efforts from both the offense and bullpen in order to maintain a respectable record this season. We're only a week in, but thus far, both units have answered the call.
In their 4-2 start, the Twins have averaged 4.7 runs per game on offense and the relievers have been outstanding outside of one implosion (or Chris Davis explosion)
Welcome to the season’s first edition of Three-Bagger. In these occasional columns, I will examine three different ongoing Twins storylines worth following. Today, we’ll take a look at Mike Pelfrey’s remarkable return to the hill, promising early signs from some key hitters in the middle of the lineup and a growing dilemma at the shortstop position.
* I wrote earlier this week about the Twins’ low expectations, pointing out that they’ll need to find different ways to engage fans since
"Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he is never disappointed." – Alexander Pope
Have you ever gone to see a movie that was hugely hyped, only to walk out of the theater underwhelmed after deeming it just OK? Conversely, another film that was “just OK” might have impressed you if your friends had all told you it was completely awful.
Expectations can have an enormous impact on the way we perceive things. Which brings us to this year’s Minnesota Twins. Reality
In many ways, Ron Gardenhire’s present situation reflects the paradox faced by the 2013 Minnesota Twins.
After two straight 90-loss campaigns, the long-tenured manager has been put on notice. He enters this season without a contract extension in place. Several of his assistants have been reassigned or released, and it’s been made clear that his performance will be under stringent evaluation. If we don’t see tangible improvement over the last two miserable
Perhaps no group on the Twins suffered more as a result of the starting staff’s struggles last year than the bullpen. Success stories were overlooked, dominant relief outings were often wasted in losses and the unit as a whole was generally taxed and overworked.
That’s too bad, because the significant strides made in this department sort of got lost in the shuffle. One year after ranking last in the American League in bullpen ERA (4.51) and WHIP (1.46),
If ever there was a clear culprit for a ruined season, it was the Twins' starting pitching corps in 2012. While reasonably decent in the lineup and bullpen, the team stood no chance of competing thanks to an outrageously bad year from the rotation.
Pinpointing exactly what went wrong within that unit is more complicated. When you're talking about a group that ranked last in the AL in ERA, hits allowed and opponent OPS, there are obviously a multitude of factors in play. But if you had
Likely Starter: Chris Parmelee
2012 Stats: .229/.290/.380, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 18 R
Potential Backups: Darin Mastroianni, Wilkin Ramirez, Ryan Doumit
One of the big storylines for the Twins this year will be the trio of former first-round draft picks getting opportunities to prove their worth in the majors. Aaron Hicks is the headliner, and Trevor Plouffe has plenty of fanfare after launching 24 homers last season, but Chris Parmelee has slipped
Likely Starter: Aaron Hicks
2012 Stats (AA): .286/.384/.460, 13 HR, 61 RBI, 100 R
Potential Backups: Darin Mastroianni, Joe Benson
Those who were eager to see an intense and compelling spring competition for the starting center field job have surely been disappointed.
Aaron Hicks was the front-runner before camp got underway and then took firm hold of the job with his truly stellar exhibition performance. Joe Benson was demoted
Likely Starter: Josh Willingham
2012 Stats: .260/.366/.524, 35 HR, 110 RBI, 85 R
Potential Backups: Darin Mastroianni, Ryan Doumit
Since joining the Minnesota Twins last winter, Josh Willingham has been destroying long-standing conceptions in addition to baseballs.
There was a belief that prominent free agents wouldn’t sign in Minnesota. Yet Willingham, coming off a big season in Oakland, came aboard on a favorable three-year
Likely Starter: Pedro Florimon
2012 Stats: .219/.272/.307, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 16 R
Potential Backups: Eduardo Escobar, Jamie Carroll
On April 1, Pedro Florimon will become the Twins' ninth Opening Day starter at shortstop in 10 years. Will he be able to become the first player since Cristian Guzman to hold the title for consecutive seasons? Magic 8-ball says: outlook not so good.
The path that brought Florimon to the Twins is brushed
Likely Starter: Trevor Plouffe
2012 Stats: .235/.301/.455, 24 HR, 55 RBI, 56 R
Potential Backups: Eduardo Escobar, Jamie Carroll
Identifying a solution at the hot corner has turned into a game of hot potato for the Twins. Since Corey Koskie’s departure, the list of players who have had a hand on the gig is lengthy: Tony Batista, Mike Lamb, Joe Crede, Nick Punto, Brian Buscher, Brendan Harris, Danny Valencia and more. Unfortunately, in each
Likely Starter: Brian Dozier
2012 Stats: .234/.271/.332, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 33 R
Potential Backups: Jamie Carroll, Eduardo Escobar
From the outside, nothing about Brian Dozier’s career path suggested stardom was in the cards. In fact, there was little to suggest that he possessed the capability of turning into an MLB regular.
A Southern boy out of Mississippi drafted in the eighth round, Dozier debuted in 2009 with good numbers
Likely Starter: Justin Morneau
2012 Stats: .267/.333/.440, 19 HR, 77 RBI, 63 R
Potential Backups: Chris Parmelee, Joe Mauer, Jeff Clement
It’s been so long since we’ve seen Justin Morneau at his best, it’s easy to forget what “his best” even looked like. In the two-and-a-half seasons since his fateful concussion in Toronto, Morneau has shown only the occasion glimpse of elite hitting ability. Beyond the lingering effects of the head injury,