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Position Analysis: Designated Hitter

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Likely Starter: Ryan Doumit
2011 Stats: .303/.353/.477, 8 HR, 30 RBI, 17 R, 0/1 SB

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Potential Backups: Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer

No team has everything set in stone with two weeks left in spring training. For the Twins, with uncertainties surrounding several players, plenty is subject to change between now and Opening Day. For example, last week I profiled the three outfield spots, and over the weekend it was revealed that two of those positions will be filled by different players than previously thought.

Designated hitter is a particularly difficult position to analyze at this point. Ryan Doumit is expected to be the starter on April 6, and ideally he'll play there frequently so as to limit the exposure of his weak glove at various positions. Yet, his versatility was a big reason Doumit was signed, and there are a number of other players who figure to draw frequent starts at DH, making the position a likely revolving door.

There was talk from Twins officials during the offseason that the club might slot Justin Morneau at DH often this year in order to protect his health. The fact that he's playing very little first base in Ft. Myers with the season rapidly approaching would seem to raise the likelihood of that possibility. For his part, Morneau downplays the significance and says he still plans on playing the field regularly.

I suspect that if he's healthy, Morneau will spend a fair amount of time at time at designated hitter but will also play some first and will get plenty of days off. Doumit and Joe Mauer will likely be the other main contributors at DH. If Morneau and Mauer are swinging the way they're capable of and Doumit picks up where he left off last year, that gives the Twins three very solid hitters to rotate.

If one of those three becomes unavailable, or if Mauer and Morneau are lucky enough to spend most of their time in the field, it's possible that guys like Josh Willingham, Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes could get some starts at DH. These guys all bring enough upside with the bat to justify the assignment.

While the position may lack stability this season, that doesn't mean it won't be a strength. The Twins shouldn't have much trouble finding designated hitters who can hit.

Predicted Hitting Line for Doumit: .275/.345/.415, 12 HR, 50 RBI
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