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  • 2013 Spring Training Preview

    Every year around this time the talk is about how hope springs eternal; how the slate is wiped clean and every team is 0-0; how every club is tied for first place.

    For these 2013 Twins, optimism is noticeably subdued. For most people, a realistic form of “hope” involves approaching a .500 record and avoiding the cellar for a third straight year. The Twins have more question marks dotting their roster than perhaps any other team in the American League.

    The odds are against them this season. Literally. Vegas set the over/under for Minnesota at 64.5 wins. Ouch.

    There's too much talent on the roster to call this team hopeless, but in order to be true contenders in the AL Central, the Twins will need several core players to put forth optimal seasons. They’ll need prospects to emerge and make an impact. They’ll need multiple injury flyers to pan out.

    Likely? Not especially. There's not much margin for error. But this is spring, so we can hope. Grapefruit League results and reports from Ft. Myers will give fans a window to the early progress of some players who could prove pivotal to this year's effort.

    Here are some of the key storylines worth following over the next six weeks leading up to Opening Day:

    1) Center field

    Fittingly it will be the center of attention in the coming month, as three contenders vie for the billing as starting center fielder and, in all likelihood, leadoff man.

    These are big cleats to fill. Nearly each man who has spent significant time roaming center field in Minnesota over the past decade – be it Torii Hunter, Carlos Gomez, Denard Span or Ben Revere – has gained notoriety with highlight reel catches and a dynamic offensive game.

    It seems clear that ultimately the next in that line will be Aaron Hicks, who has all the skills necessary to generate excitement in the same way as those listed above. The only question is whether he’s ready, with no experience above Double-A. As such, he’ll be under a microscope in camp.

    He’s likely the leading candidate right now, but if he falters the door will be wide open for Darin Mastroianni or Joe Benson. It will be interesting to see how Hicks responds to this pressure in what could be a defining point in his young career.

    2) Who rounds out the rotation?

    The new-comers are all but locked in. Kevin Correia and Vance Worley are sure bets to claim spots, and all reports indicate that Mike Pelfrey will surprisingly be at full tilt by the start of April. That leaves two rotation slots up for grabs, with organizational incumbents largely comprising the candidates.

    Scott Diamond would have probably been Opening Day starter if recovery from elbow surgery hadn’t pushed back his timeline, leaving his status for the start of the season in doubt. Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendriks, the Twins’ best MLB-ready pitching prospects, are the leading contenders for the final two spots if Diamond can’t go, but Hendriks’ struggles last year and Gibson’s surgically repaired arm could come into play. Beyond these three, there are a number of fringe contenders – such as Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Rich Harden, Sam Deduno and Cole DeVries – that cannot be discounted.

    3) Keystone questions


    We find four players in the middle infielder mix: Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar. It’s not a particularly intimidating assembly but the Twins seem comfortable with what they’ve got. At this point it appears that Ron Gardenhire favors Dozier and Florimon as starters, with Carroll and possibly Escobar serving in utility roles, but you’d have to assume that’s subject to change, based on the fact that neither Dozier nor Florimon has accomplished anything to earn the honor. No scholarships, right?

    4) Pen pals

    Every year there are a few spots at the end of the bullpen up for grabs and this year is no different. Beyond Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Duensing and maybe Anthony Swarzak, this unit appears to be wide open. Last month, I ran through all the candidates to fill those remaining spots.

    5) Rehab central

    The Twins gambled on several pitchers recovering from major injuries during the offseason. Pelfrey is the headliner, and while all signs have been positive that's almost always the case in February. Still, he remains a far safer bet than Rich Harden, whose shoulder woes have limited him to 174 innings over the past three seasons, or Rafael Perez, a formerly dominant left-handed reliever who underwent his own shoulder surgery in September and will apparently be tried as a starter.

    The chances of either Harden or Perez sticking in the rotation are extremely low, but both carry intriguing upside, even as potential bullpen options. The way they're throwing this spring should give us a good idea of what can realistically be expected.

    6) How will the Opening Day roster shake out?


    This will be dictated by health, performance and circumstance over the coming weeks. Here's my mid-February guess at how the roster and batting order will shake out on April 1:

    LINEUP
    CF: Aaron Hicks
    C: Joe Mauer
    LF: Josh Willingham
    1B: Justin Morneau
    DH: Ryan Doumit
    3B: Trevor Plouffe
    RF: Chris Parmelee
    2B: Brian Dozier
    SS: Pedro Florimon

    BENCH
    C: Drew Butera
    IF: Jamey Carroll
    IF: Eduardo Escobar
    OF: Darin Mastroianni

    ROTATION
    SP: Vance Worley
    SP: Kevin Correia
    SP: Mike Pelfrey
    SP: Liam Hendriks
    SP: Kyle Gibson

    BULLPEN
    RP: Glen Perkins
    RP: Jared Burton
    RP: Brian Duensing
    RP: Casey Fien
    RP: Alex Burnett
    RP: Anthony Swarzak
    RP: Rafael Perez

    Minnesota Twins spring training
    This article was originally published in blog: 2013 Spring Training Preview started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 41 Comments
    1. Grady Kruse's Avatar
      Grady Kruse -
      Good take, but I'd put Dozier in the two hole. Mauer is too good of a hitter to feel the need to pull the ball to move Hicks to third with nobody out. Let someone who is less of a hitter sacrifice to move the runner.
    1. Nate Haseman's Avatar
      Nate Haseman -
      If I'm Kevin Correia, I've got a huge chip on my shoulder about all the negativity my signing has caused and I've got something to prove. I bet he puts up career numbers this year. I like this rotation a whole lot better than last year's. I think all of those young guys who put up pedestrian numbers in 2012 come out and show what they are capable of in 2013. If we go at least .500 in April, I think this team has a shot to do some things. GOD I LOVE SPRING!
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Mauer is very well suited to be the #2 hitter, but Gardy won't put him there. History tells us he'd rather have one of his middle INF at the spot. But the lineup posted above is very strong 2-7. But if Hicks or Dozier can't hit/get on-base there's going to be a pretty nasty gap over 8-9-1.

      I agree the odds of the Twins succeeding this season aren't high. There are enough pieces there to make it happen, but as we saw last season when you have too many question marks the odds aren't good. I believe this lineup will end up scoring runs roughly equivalent to last season (which is good) and the bullpen should be dependable and reasonably strong. But there are loads of question marks all over the rotation.
    1. LewFordLives's Avatar
      LewFordLives -
      I wouldn't shed a tear if they cut ties with Burnett and/or Swarzak and gave a shot to one of the new guys they acquired (Pressley, Roenicke, Wood). I assume you included Perez only because you believe Gardenhire will insist on another lefty.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Good work. It will be interesting to see what happens when Diamond is ready. Probably Hendriks goes down until Gibson runs out of innings. But what if Hendriks, Gibson, Worely and Pelfrey shine, Correia tanks and Diamond is ready?
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by LewFordLives View Post
      I assume you included Perez only because you believe Gardenhire will insist on another lefty.
      Basically I just wanted to take a little bit of a leap since most of my picks were on the safe side. I think Perez will impress people and force his way into the picture. And yes, I do think Gardy will want an extra lefty, especially since Perkins is going to be a match-up guy.

      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Good work. It will be interesting to see what happens when Diamond is ready. Probably Hendriks goes down until Gibson runs out of innings. But what if Hendriks, Gibson, Worely and Pelfrey shine, Correia tanks and Diamond is ready?
      An interesting question and a very plausible scenario.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Good work. It will be interesting to see what happens when Diamond is ready. Probably Hendriks goes down until Gibson runs out of innings. But what if Hendriks, Gibson, Worely and Pelfrey shine, Correia tanks and Diamond is ready?
      If anyone tanks... They should be placed in the bullpen or AAA or cut... It's that simple. I'm hoping that Gardy and Ryan don't try to complicate it by letting players work through the tankings.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Cannot really see Hicks or Gibson on the opening day roster.
      For a team that isn't going to threaten for the division championship it just doesn't seem like losing a year of control is worth it.
      Still, I suppose it could happen...
    1. twinsfan214's Avatar
      twinsfan214 -
      The starting lineup doesn't look tooo bad but that bench makes me cringe.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      I see Wood and Roiencke pushing out Brunett (has options) and Swarzak (opens season on DL). Pressly is the dark horse. If those first two, of Fein, falters, look to DeVries to be a long man in the bullpen. Of course, if Perez becomes the 5th starter..... Would almost like to see a Thome on the bench, with Doumit getting more time in right and first.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      If anyone tanks... They should be placed in the bullpen or AAA or cut... It's that simple. I'm hoping that Gardy and Ryan don't try to complicate it by letting players work through the tankings.
      I would argue that it SHOULD matter who is doing the tanking, the nature of the tanking, and the severity of the tanking. There are guys I'd be more willing to let work through some things on the big league roster than others. (I'm thinking of a younger guy who may just need the experience of figuring out major leaguers as opposed to someone who's doing something mechanically wrong that could be fixed elsewhere.)
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Good work. It will be interesting to see what happens when Diamond is ready. Probably Hendriks goes down until Gibson runs out of innings. But what if Hendriks, Gibson, Worely and Pelfrey shine, Correia tanks and Diamond is ready?
      I think some of that will work itself out with Gibson's innings limit (and I haven't seen anything that makes it really clear to me when Diamond will be ready). But as Nick said, it's a pretty interesting question if you get possibly six or seven (or more) guys all performing at about the same level as starters.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oldgoat_MN View Post
      Cannot really see Hicks or Gibson on the opening day roster.
      For a team that isn't going to threaten for the division championship it just doesn't seem like losing a year of control is worth it.
      Still, I suppose it could happen...
      The Twins are coming off consecutive 90+ loss seasons. Ticket sales are luke warm at best. They need to get off to a good start. It makes no sense to come north with anything less than their best roster.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by jmlease1 View Post
      Mauer is very well suited to be the #2 hitter, but Gardy won't put him there.
      Should be noted that Mauer got nearly a quarter of his plate appearances batting second as recently as 2009. Obviously some things have changed since then, but I don't think it's out of the question given the likely roster construction.
    1. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      The Twins are coming off consecutive 90+ loss seasons. Ticket sales are luke warm at best. They need to get off to a good start. It makes no sense to come north with anything less than their best roster.
      The better of the two projections currently at Fangraphs has Hicks hitting .249/.329/.404 this season; the other projects .217/.298/.340. Aside from the possibility of a flukey hot start, we probably should expect about league-average on-base skill + light pop if things go well for him this year, but there's also a strong possibility that he's just going to look in over his head.

      Meanwhile, the same projections for Mastroianni have him between .256/.325/.350 and .235/.307/.329. If you plug him into CF for one month, instead of Hicks, how much of a difference to the team record is it likely to make?
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post
      I would argue that it SHOULD matter who is doing the tanking, the nature of the tanking, and the severity of the tanking. There are guys I'd be more willing to let work through some things on the big league roster than others. (I'm thinking of a younger guy who may just need the experience of figuring out major leaguers as opposed to someone who's doing something mechanically wrong that could be fixed elsewhere.)
      Yeah... Context is always a trump card.

      However... The only way that average pitching can work for a club is if everyone in the rotation is at least average.

      If starts are gobbled up by pitchers throwing up numbers like Blackburn and Marquis did last year. Any depth of potentially average pitchers that we have is marginalized.

      I'd hate to be the one to make that call... Who is just momentarily stumbling and who is in a deep i'm having issues funk. It's a thin line.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Quote Originally Posted by frightwig View Post
      The better of the two projections currently at Fangraphs has Hicks hitting .249/.329/.404 this season; the other projects .217/.298/.340. Aside from the possibility of a flukey hot start, we probably should expect about league-average on-base skill + light pop if things go well for him this year, but there's also a strong possibility that he's just going to look in over his head.

      Meanwhile, the same projections for Mastroianni have him between .256/.325/.350 and .235/.307/.329. If you plug him into CF for one month, instead of Hicks, how much of a difference to the team record is it likely to make?
      cmathewson had a reasonable business-based counter to my original post, but I agree with you, frightwig. In 2019 (or whenever it comes to be an issue) it will look pretty stupid that they gave up a year of control to try to salvage something out of the 2013 season.
      --
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Beyond these three, there are a number of fringe contenders – such as Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Rich Harden, Sam Deduno and Cole DeVries – that cannot be discounted.
      kind of a detail but Blackburn will not be ready until June.

      I just hope that Harden is healthy and ready and he got it, so he can be this team's ace. Otherwise these Twins are not going anywhere
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by frightwig View Post
      The better of the two projections currently at Fangraphs has Hicks hitting .249/.329/.404 this season; the other projects .217/.298/.340. Aside from the possibility of a flukey hot start, we probably should expect about league-average on-base skill + light pop if things go well for him this year, but there's also a strong possibility that he's just going to look in over his head.

      Meanwhile, the same projections for Mastroianni have him between .256/.325/.350 and .235/.307/.329. If you plug him into CF for one month, instead of Hicks, how much of a difference to the team record is it likely to make?
      Offensively, they might be comparable. But defensively, Hicks is the far better player.
    1. Mauerpower's Avatar
      Mauerpower -
      I would start De Vries, Hendriks, and Deduno over Correia.Correia has had one decent season in the national league. I hope he proves me wrong. I just wouldn't take the risk without seeing what these young guys have first. Aslo, Escobar over Florimon
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