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  • Finding Offense

    The vibe down here in Ft. Myers is that the pitching will definitely improve this year. Although Vance Worley's ugly outing on Tuesday may still be fresh in your mind, various coaches and media types have commented on how sharp guys like Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey and Ricky Nolasco have looked. Kyle Gibson and Samuel Deduno have both been cruising.

    There's less confidence that this club is going to score enough runs.

    Last year, the Twins tallied 614 runs to rank 13th in the American League. While they made large investments in the pitching staff during the offseason, their moves to address the offense amounted to getting rid of Justin Morneau ad Ryan Doumit -- who ranked second and third on the team in homers with 17 and 14 -- and bringing in a few rebound candidates on minor-league deals, along with light-hitting catcher Kurt Suzuki.

    Losing the possibility of a midseason impact from Miguel Sano hurts.

    In order to field a decent lineup, the Twins are counting on several players to either bounce back from down years (Josh Willingham, Jason Kubel, Aaron Hicks) or take the next step (Trevor Plouffe, Oswaldo Arcia, Josmil Pinto).

    That's not necessarily a reliable recipe for success. So let's get creative and take a look at some things the Twins could do to boost their offensive potential.

    Dozier Back to Short?

    It's been discussed before but can't be ignored. Brian Dozier played shortstop almost exclusively while coming up through the minors, and after a brief stint there in the majors in 2012, he was moved over to second base, where he has excelled.

    Yet, the Twins have some second basemen coming up through the minors who can hit. Eddie Rosario will be back from his suspension in a couple months, and Jorge Polanco figures to start this season in High-A.

    At shortstop, there's less to be enthused about going forward. Projected starter Pedro Florimon is essentially a lock to turn in an OPS around .600, and despite all the spring hype surrounding Danny Santana, he has a .712 career OPS in the minors and is erratic defensively.

    How nice would it be to slide Dozier -- who led the club in homers with 18 last year -- over to short, and finally have an offensive threat at the position for the first time since J.J. Hardy's departure?

    I asked Dozier about that possibility on Wednesday, and he insisted he's "extremely comfortable at second." However, he didn't say he'd rule out such an idea.

    "Obviously if they (Gardenhire and Terry Ryan) came to me and wanted me to play another position I'd be all ears," he said. "But for now I'm strictly second."

    Clearly Dozier would be a defensive downgrade from Florimon, and until Rosario is ready there's not even an obvious replacement available at second base. But it's a lot easier to find guys who can hit there than at shortstop, and from my view Dozier didn't look terrible defensively at short when he first came up.

    Ultimately, the Twins might have to make some hard choices and figure out what they're willing to sacrifice to improve the offense.

    Utilizing Pinto

    Initially my thought was that if Josmil Pinto wasn't going to be the regular starter at catcher, the Twins would be best served sending him to Triple-A so he can get regular at-bats. Now, I'm starting to think that they'd be better off keeping him in the majors and finding a way to get his potent bat into the lineup as much as possible.

    The best approach might be having Pinto start at catcher a couple times a week -- something like a 40/60 time share with Kurt Suzuki -- and having him fill in at DH against righties.

    This would help out with another key objective:

    Shielding Kubel From Lefties

    Asked about how he's felt facing lefties this spring, Jason Kubel said it's "coming along." But you can't ignore the numbers; the 31-year-old has had a rough go against southpaws over the course of his career and it's been especially bad lately.

    The Twins will be best off maximizing Kubel's greatest strength -- hitting righties -- and minimizing his greatest weakness. Whether that means platooning him with Pinto or someone like Chris Colabello, it'd be nice to see Gardenhire find a workable solution.

    Finding a Backup Infielder With a Stick

    After starting his spring with a mind-boggling 0-for-26 slump, Jason Bartlett finally got his first hit on Wednesday. Clearly the veteran's inability to so much as sneak a grounder through the infield or drop in a bloop single over so many plate appearances was a bit of a fluke, but there's not much reason to believe his offensive struggles in general have been a mirage. This is a guy who sat out last year after hitting .241/.310/.317 from 2010 through 2012.

    I didn't really expect the Twins to make any big offensive additions during the offseason but was disappointed that they didn't add an established bat to the infield mix. There will surely be some intriguing names hitting the waiver wire here as spring training winds down, and it won't be hard to find a guy with more punch than Bartlett.

    As things stand, the Twins are heavily relying on Dozier and Plouffe to provide production in the infield, and if one should fail or get injured, there's not much to fall back on.

    Signing Kendrys Morales

    Over the last two seasons, Morales has hit 45 homers and driven in 153 runs. Willingham is the only player on the Twins roster who can match either of those numbers, and it's solely because of his big 2012 campaign.

    I'm not convinced that Morales is worth giving up a draft pick to sign, but he's still sitting in free agency and would probably come pretty cheap.

    What are your ideas to deliver a jolt to this lineup? Share in the comments section.
    Comments 43 Comments
    1. brvama's Avatar
      brvama -
      Quote Originally Posted by brvama View Post
      The team the Twins took north in 2013 was:
      Position 2013 2013
      Catcher Mauer Suzuki
      1st Base Mornear Mauer
      2nd Base Dozier Dozier
      3rd Base Plouffe Ploufee
      Shortstop Florimon Florimon
      Left Field Willingham
      Center Field
      I am sorry this incomplete thought got posted. Had a long day yesterday.

      B/c of my limited time I will not go into detail, but I think that when one compares our 2013 roster with the possible 2014 roster, we might be surprised as to the potential. The bench could be much better than LY but that's not saying much either.

      My point is: I am concerned about our offense, but I certainly don't feel it will be as bad as LY. If Pinto replaces Doumit that's a plus. Suzuki is a downgrade from Morneau. More-experienced Hicks, healthy Willingham, Arcia replacing Parmelee, and an improved bench with Colabello should give us a chance to improve. Now that assumes the roster is made up of the best players we have available that are ready. Generally, I'm optimistic until proven otherwise.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by brvama View Post
      My point is: I am concerned about our offense, but I certainly don't feel it will be as bad as LY. If Pinto replaces Doumit that's a plus. Suzuki is a downgrade from Morneau. More-experienced Hicks, healthy Willingham, Arcia replacing Parmelee, and an improved bench with Colabello should give us a chance to improve.
      While far from perfect, Doumit was still a 96 OPS+ hitter last year in over 500 PA. As optimistic as I am, I think Pinto will be at best a modest upgrade over that (any rate improvement will likely be offset by less playing time).

      If things break right, we could bounce back to 2012 levels (when we ranked 10 in R/G), even with a few black holes in the order. Still a real possibility we will continue bottoming out, though (kinda like the starting staff last year) -- hopefully that would inspire more offseason remedies, though.
    1. EephusKnuckler's Avatar
      EephusKnuckler -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      Everything points to Hammer and Plouffe... In my opinion.
      Yup, it really comes back to these guys doesn't it? We need some big bats in the middle of the lineup and these are the guys to do it. Arcia will be in that mix too but obviously more is demanded from Willingham and Plouffsie and this point.

      The funny thing about that, those are two guys who are prime candidates to be traded if they start to perform at the plate. So that's an odd situation, but I think you have to do it in both cases. I'm not sure they would fetch much in return, though. So really, the Twins need to find some offense so they can flip it for future gains.
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