After winning their division six times between 2002 and 2010, the Twins have finished dead last in the AL Central each of the last two seasons, winning a combined 129 games. Even so, the Twins have avoided making any big moves to try to improve themselves, opting instead to keep their payroll under $70 million, bring up young guys to fill holes, and sign a couple of cheap veterans round out the rotation.
After finishing with one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball, the Twins’ sole free agent acquisitions this year have been Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey, two pitchers who define mediocre. Hardly the types of moves that will keep your team from flirting with 100 losses for a third-straight season. They enter Spring Training with at least seven pitchers vying for rotation spots (eight if you count Rich Harden).
The lone bright spot is the amount of young talent the team has. With their aversion to high payrolls, the team has always focused on producing talent rather than acquiring it, but the Twins will need a lot of things to come together if they hope to be competitive once again.
2012 Team Rankings:
Runs: 16th Overall
Batting Average: 11th Overall
ERA: 28th Overall
WHIP: 24th Overall
Mauer will likely play plenty of first base but regardless where he plays he does well. Last season Mauer batted .319 with 10 HR, 85 RBI, 81 R, 31 2B, and led the league with a .416 OBP. That is right around where he has been his entire career. This success should continue if he stays healthy.
Doumit was a nice addition to the Twins lineup last season, adding a .275 BAA, a career-high 18 HR, a career-high 75 RBI, 56 R, and 34 2B. When Mauer plays catcher, Doumit figures to get some time at DH.
Morneau has really been bugged by injuries the last few years and his 134 games last season was almost as many as he played between 2010 and 2011 combined. Despite missing about a month, Morneau added 19 HR, 77 RBI, and 63 R. I feel he is no longer an elite first baseman but a full healthy year could help bring him back to the 30 HR, 100 RBI range in a contract year.
Parmelee is a former top prospect who figures to be a starter in the outfield this season. In his first 85 Major League games, Parmelee is batting .265 with 9 HR, 34 RBI, and 26 R in 268 at-bats. He has inconsistent power, hitting 17 HR in just 228 minor league at-bats last season but never hitting more than 16 in any of his full minor league seasons. I expect him to be around a .260-.270 hitter with the ability to hit 20 home runs and drive in around 90 if he pans out.
Carrol plays all over the infield and does a pretty good job with the glove but he is no longer the .290 hitter we saw in Los Angeles. At 39, Carroll batted just .268 last season with a .660 OPS and 65 R. He has a great K:BB ration close to 1:1 but he is a guy you put way a the bottom of your lineup at this point in his career.
Eduardo Escobar doesn’t strike me as anyone to get excited about. He is batting .217 with a .539 OPS in his first 138 Major League at-bats. He has spent six years in the minors, batting just .267 with a .660 OPS in 614 games. He has a bit of speed having stole 20 bases twice in the minors but that is about all he has to offer offensively.
Dozier has solid speed but his other abilities haven’t translated to the big leagues yet. In his first Major League action, he batted .234 with 6 HR, 33 RBI, 33 R, 9 SB, and a .603 OPS. In the minors, however, Dozier has a career average of .298 and OPS of .779 so if he can ever play like that in the majors the Twins may have their second baseman of the future.
Shortstop: Pedro Florimon, Eduardo Escobar, Brian Dozier – Grade: D
Florimon was plucked off of waivers from the Orioles last year and played just 43 games batting .219 with a .579 OPS. Why he is getting a chance to start at short is beyond me but I can’t see this kid, who has a career .249 BAA and .321 OBP in his minor league career, becoming a Major League level shortstop.
Trevor Plouffe had a breakout season in his first full season in the majors, hitting 24 HR with 54 RBI in 422 at-bats. He had never hit more than 15 homers in a minor league season and has a minor league batting average of .257, close to his MLB average of .235 last season, so I am not sure if Plouffe can produce year-to-year but he could be another Dan Uggla.
Willingham made good on the three-year, $21 million investment batting .260 with 35 HR (career-high), 110 RBI (career-high), 85 R, 30 2B, and a .890 OPS (career-high). If he can stay healthy again like he did last season, he can definitely repeat those numbers but more likely is a .260, 24 HR, 80 RBI, and .810-.830 OPS.
Mastroianni is a speedster who was picked off waivers from Toronto before last season. In his first Major League action he batted .252 with 21 SB and a .678 OPS in 163 at-bats. This kid has 214 career steals in 578 minor-league games and once stole 70 in 131 games. He can bat higher than .250 but for the most part he is a singles hitter who can draw a walk and steal his way around the bags.
Hicks has been a top prospect since 2009 and should jump from AA ball last season to the Twins’ fourth-outfielder role in 2013. Last season in the minors, Hicks batted .286 with 13 HR, 61 RBI, 100 R, 11 3B, 32 SB, and a .844 OPS. He has a lot of speed, with 92 steals in 478 minor league games, and can draw a lot of walks with over 78 each of his last two seasons. Unlike the kids in their infield, this kid is one that Twins fans can get excited about.
The Twins have a lot of arms vying for rotation spots and not one of them is particularly exciting. That includes Vance Worley who may well be starting Opening Day despite going 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA and 1.51 WHIP last season. Granted he has a career 3.50 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in his 46 Major League starts but he just hasn’t proven that he can be an ace for any team.
For a time there, people were excited about Kevin Correia. Those days are over after he put up a 4.49 ERA and 1.34 WHIP over his last two seasons with the Pirates (an improvement over his 5.40 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in his last year with San Diego). I expect numbers similar to what he did in Pittsburgh again this year.
Scott Diamond went 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in his first full Major League season. Only walked 31 batters in 173 IP which is best in the league at 1.6 BB/9 but pitches to contact so he didn’t strike out many either, 4.7 SO/9. He also gave up 17 homers and threw 10 wild pitches but if he can keep the ball where he wants it he could be a keeper.
Duensing looked promising after going 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 130 IP in 2010. Since then, Duensing is 13-26 with a 5.19 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in his last two seasons. If I were the Twins, I’d keep him as far away from the rotation as possible.
Hendriks looked even more promising in the minors, going 39-24 with a 2.85 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 508 IP. His first Major League action hasn’t looked as good as he has gone 1-10 with a 5.71 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 108 IP. He will have a chance to make the rotation like everyone else but at least the 24-year-old has a lot more upside than Duensing or Correia.
De Vries was a fairly mediocre minor leaguer with a 34-43 career record with a 4.03 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 672 IP and looks like a pretty mediocre Major leaguer as well. His 4.11 ERA and 1.21 WHIP are fairly solid but his 1.6 HR/9 and just 6 SO/9 aren’t particularly promising. That said, still a better pitcher than Brian Duensing.
Pelfrey could make the rotation if he is healthy after spending the last seven years with the Mets. He missed almost all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Between 2010 and 2011 Pelf went 22-22 with a 4.19 ERA and 1.42 WHIP rendering him a perfect match for a mediocre rotation.
After failing as a starter and putting up some rough numbers out of the pen, Perkins has settled in over the last two seasons and is now the Twins closer. Over his last two seasons he owns a 2.52 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, nearly 10 SO/9 and nearly a 4:1 SO:BB ratio with 18 saves. I think he could end up being one of the best closers in the league this year.
Burton looks like a great set up man as well, putting up a 2.18 ERA and 0.92 WHIP last year, giving the Twins a great eight-ninth inning combo.
Fien and Robertson played their first full Major League seasons last year but Fien did well (2.06 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) while Robertson looked like a Twins starter (5.40 ERA, 1.40 WHIP). Fien looks like he could be a very good pitcher moving forward.
Burnett and Roenicke have had their struggles in the past but both did solid with ERAs in the mid-3s. They are your average middle reliever that don’t particularly wow anyone.
Team Grade: C-
Fearless Prediction: 72-90, 3rd in AL Central