Why the Twins will win the Central.
by, 02-21-2012 at 08:54 PM (913 Views)
Why the Twins will win the Central
Many have already written the twins off for this year, ESPN has them ranked near the bottom of every power ranking. A team that two years ago was a favorite to reach the World Series as the American League representative, has been left for dead, destined for a rebuild. But when I look at the roster, I don’t see that much of a difference from two years ago. Sure, Minnesota had its problems last year, but could that just have been a chance for the younger guys to get some experience? Can we chalk last season’s debacle up to injuries and bad luck?
Gone from the twins of two years ago is a man without a position, Michael Cuddyer, who was overvalued because he could play everywhere. Cuddy had 34 homeruns in 2010/11 despite hitting 32 in 2009. He has never hit above .284, and his best season was arguable 2006 when he posted a .284/362/.504 slash line. What that doesn’t show you is the strikeouts in clutch situations, his disappearance late in games as well as his terrible line in the last half of last season, .263/.312/.438. Also missing is Jason Kubel, who all I can remember of him is one big homerun against Mariano Rivera and a bunch of strikeouts every other time. A liability in the field and a non-threat against lefties makes his loss even easier to take. Jim Thome hit 25 homers two years ago in only 276 at-bats; he also struck out 82 times. Now don’t get me wrong, Thome is a great guy and a wonderful teammate but 82 K’s out of 276 at bats, as well as his best defensive position being on the bench, I can live with his departure. Finally Delmon Young, who only did enough to keep from getting traded and always seemed to be striking out when he could have watched four straight pitches and walked.
Don’t even get me started on the pitchers, Nathan is gone and as great a regular season pitcher as he’s been, his horse like pffffffff before he throws a big pitch and the 2 horrid appearances in the 09 playoffs, I never felt safe with him closing the 9th. Jesse Crain is gone; he was the heir apparent to Nathan. I remember watching Crain throw gopher balls to the Yankees again in 2010, one appearance, one out, three hits and two earned runs.
But those are not the reasons why the twins will win the division; those reasons lie in the lineup and pitching staff.
1. Denard Span CF – One of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball, his job at the plate is to get on base and run. His career OBP is .361, and he is a lock to steal 20 bases if he plays 140 games. He will also benefit from #2.
2. Jamey Carroll SS – His defense has been called into question, but he’s been serviceable and has to be better than the poo poo platter we’ve been fed the last two years. His ability to move runners as a .278/.356/.358 hitter will benefit Span, moving him to second and third, and Joe Mauer who will be driving them both home.
3. Joe Mauer C – A Finally healthy Joe should be a force this year. I don’t see 28 homeruns in this park, but I do see double digit homers for the season and a ton of doubles. With Span and Carroll on base in front of him Joe’s RBI totals should skyrocket. This is the first year he’s had a decent #2 hitter who can set the table for him.
4. Josh Willingham RF – finally a right handed POWER bat. Michael Cuddyer was not a power bat; he was a guy who hit 32 homeruns once in a dome. Willingham can hit the ball out of the park and the M and M boys will benefit from having a right hander who can hit between them. I see 30 homers and 110 RBIs for Mr. Willingham.
5. Justin Morneau 1B – Here is hoping that Morneau’s concussions are behind him, other than Joe Mauer he is the most important part of this team. He has at times looked lost at the plate, but I’m hoping hunger and health give him one of his best seasons ever. He’s due.
6. Ryan Doumit DH – I’ve always liked Doumit and other than a terrible season in 2009, he’s posted some decent numbers. And like everyone above he needs to stay healthy. Maybe the twins shouldn’t have gone after free agents; maybe they should have gone after a training staff.
7. Danny Valencia 3B – sophomore slump? I sure hope so; if he can get his OBP up to the .320 range and keep hitting double digit homeruns then he’ll fit nicely here in the seven hole. But he has to stay out of Gardenhire’s dog house as far as defense goes.
8. Alexi Casilla/ Tsuyoshi Nishioka 2B – I have to think that the twins scouts that have been so good over the years knew what they were getting with Nishioka, and that last year was an aberration. A second year in the United States and with his twins teammates as well as playing with a veteran like Carroll should help. And if he doesn’t improve, there is always Casilla playing second and hitting number eight, which is much better than him hitting second. A .270/.320 line from here wouldn’t be too devastating.
9. Ben Revere LF – He’s got a great glove and range, but his arm is questionable. Needs to bring his average and OBP up, he’s not going to hit many homeruns but with a full season should steal 40 or more bases which will create opportunities for the top of the lineup.
1. Carl Pavano – He’s not an ace, and he’s not really better than average, but I feel like he’s the only pitcher on the staff that can really handle opening day besides Scott Baker. He looks like a 10-10 season with an ERA in the 4’s which might not be too terrible if the bats can hit.
2. Francisco Liriano – It seems as though he alternates horrible seasons with good ones and last year was a horrible season. So the way I see it he is due. Gardy has to learn to not leave him in, what cost the twins the 2010 playoffs against the Yankees was Gardy leaving Liriano in to face Teixeira. Double digit wins, 200 plus strikeouts and an era in the mid 3’s sounds great.
3. Scott Baker – He was on his way to possibly making it into the Cy Young award race when arm problems derailed his season. He wins games, he strikes out a few guys, and he needs to stay healthy.
4. Nick Blackburn – He’s really a fifth starter, he doesn’t strike out anyone, and he usually ends up with a .500 record. I’ve said enough about him.
5. Jason Marquis – The big free agency pitching pickup for the twins. He won double digit games every year from 2004 till 2009 but in 2010 injuries started taking their toll. If he’s healthy, he eats innings and joining him with Pavano to eat innings sounds good to me.
Matt Capps CL – Injuries are what derailed Capps last year, before that in 2010 he saved 42 games including 16 with the twins while having a 2.00 ERA after being traded for. The talent is there, the stats are there. He just needs to be healthy.
Glen Perkins SU – I always thought Perkins would make his way into a starters role, but that never happened and last year he ended up being the twins best reliever. If he’s able to continue progressing as a reliever, he could be very dangerous in the 8th inning.
Joel Zumaya MR – Another “if he’s healthy” guy, hopefully his arm doesn’t fly off in the middle of a pitch, he’s young, he has talent, and his a low risk high reward guy. He could flourish in the 7th inning.
Others – Alex Burnett, Kyle Waldrop and Brian Duensing are being given the nod by me here, but the twins have a lot of young pitchers waiting for another shot in the majors, here is hoping that those arms are hungry to prove themselves once again this year.
What you don’t see above is that the twins are young. More than half the players above are 28 years old or younger. They are in their primes and should be producing the best numbers of their career. There is no reason the twins cannot win the central and if things fall into place make a run in the playoffs. You have two former MVP winners, power in RF and 3B, Speed all over the place, as well as a potential Cy Young candidate and two guys who will eat innings. If the majority of these guys play a full season, it could be a wonderful year for the Minnesota Twins.