Trying to bring a little common sense to the game of baseball. But considering many of the people who read baseball blogs, I'm probably just pissing into the wind.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Minnesota Twins preview

The class of the division, they always seem to win it, or be in the hunt. Yet they never seem to have the team to compete with. Superstars are great, but just as it takes a village to raise an idiot; it takes an entire team to win a title. Gardenhire is the most successful ‘maligned’ manager since Billy Martin. Who oddly managed the Twins. They might or might not win this year, but the will be competitive.


Joe Mauer. The superstar. What can be said about him that hasn’t already been said before? He has a choice to make. Take the damage to his knees and try to become the greatest catcher of all time. Or move to another position and try to become one of the best hitters of all time. Tough choice. I think he should go for health and longevity, but he’ll do fine either way. No matter what happens, he has to learn another position for at least part time at bats to keep him in the line up.

Upside:  stays healthy and just does what he does

Downside:  the knee is a problem

Score:  + 2

First base:

Justin Morneau. No reason to think he can’t come back. If he does, it’s the M&M boys all over again. Even at less effective production, he’s still one of the better ones in the game. DH’ing him full time isn’t an option right now, as the position is blocked. There is enough talent around him that he doesn’t have to do it all. No need to press to prove he’s okay. Just go out and play. And take the day off when needed.

Upside:  no lingering effects from the concussion

Downside:  can’t stay in the line up

Score:  + 1

Second base:

Tsuyoshi Nishioka. A shortstop in Japan, he’s going to try and become a second baseman here. No Japanese infielder has ever really lived up to the billing, so he’s got a long road ahead. Hit okay in Japan, but it’s not a good indication of what he can do. Seemed to be a good fielder, so he should be okay at second, if he can turn the double play. He’ll need to be successful.

Upside:  more Ichiro than Matsui

Downside:  none, as he can’t be any worse than what they’ve had recently

Score:   0

Third base:

Danny Valencia. Not too bad in half a season, he’s got a good glove, and some numbers in the minors to back up his bat. The Twins are heavy with lefty hitters, so they need a right handed bat to help out. He doesn’t have to be a star, just steady. Good defense, a little power and solid production. And the ability to stay out there every day. Looks good so far if he can avoid the sophomore slump (if it really exists, who knows – it’s more likely a lack of adjustment).

Upside:  does what he did last year in a full season

Downside:  doesn’t make the adjustments

Score:  + 1

Short stop:

Alexi Casilla. A switchhitter, he’s not much with the bat or with the glove, but seems to be the default choice. Not bad for the position as a semi-regular two years ago, he’s been a part-timer the rest of his career. Most of those games came at second, so this is the second infield switch for the Twins. I don’t really get this. Leave the guys where they know how to play, even if it’s not well. A new position won’t help anything.

Upside:  gets back to his 2008 success – as it was

Downside:  proves he’s a utility infielder

Score:  - 2

Left field:

Delmon Young. Starting to put it all together. He needs to walk more, but he is cutting down on his strike outs. That bodes well for the future. Not much with the glove, but he doesn’t have to be a Gold Glover, just get the job done. Only 24, he’s still got room to grow, but a strong start this year would be a big benefit to the team. He might have to carry too much of the load if injuries are a factor, so that’s something to watch for.

Upside:  continues to get better

Downside:  he has become what he is

Score:  + 1


Denard Span. Like Austin Jackson, people need to stop worrying about his lack of power and just let him play his game. He has regressed so far each year, but he’s not been bad either. The man concern is his defense, but he can’t be moved because of the others out there. He gets on base well, and last year was most likely an off season. If he gets back to form, he’ll be one of the better ones out there.

Upside:  plays like Austin Jackson, minus the strikeouts plus the walks

Downside:  continues the slide

Score:  0

Right field:

Michael Cuddyer. Last season wasn’t far off of his career norms, or the previous season, minus the homeruns. He’s not really a power hitter, so that shouldn’t factor in. He’ll get moved around again, and will need to hit to keep a job. If not, he looks to be the super sub this year, getting a lot of starts at several positions. If he gets the full year in right, it’s because everyone else is healthy and they can use him there.

Upside:  stays where he is and doesn’t start to regress

Downside:  has to play everywhere because of injuries and lack of production

Score:  0

Designated hitter:

Jim Thome. The depth chart has Jason Kubel, but no way. Thome is the guy. He’ll get lots of days off, and I don’t think he can continue to produce like he did last year, but what do I, or anyone else for that matter, really know about it? Doesn’t really matter, because even a slow down for Thome is better than what a lot of teams will have. Added value is others can DH and keep him on the bench and even more effective.

Upside:  the run for 600

Downside:  age

Score:  + 1

Backup catcher:

Drew Butera. A disaster with the bat, and that’s a problem. Mauer shouldn’t go more than 120 games, which leaves him too many at bats. He’s good with the glove, but is it enough to validate his hitting when he’s in the line up. If he can’t hit at all, Mauer will spend too much time behind the plate. Nothing in the minors shows he’ll improve with the bat.

Upside:  Mauer will hit somewhere else when he’s playing, so there will be an offset

Downside:  Mauer has to catch 140 games

Score:  - 2

Backup first baseman:

Michael Cuddyer. With Jason Kubel playing right field. Not a bad trade off. Defensively it won’t matter, and it’s a righty/lefty type of situation. Cuddyer put in most of the season here last year, and can play the position when needed. If Cuddyer is here, then another quality bat is in the line up to replace him, so it’s okay minus the fact that Morneau can’t go.

Upside: Kubel plays right field

Downside:  Morneau is out of the line up

Score:  + 1

Back-up infielder:

Matt Tolbert. There are others out there, and they might have to carry a second infielder, due to the issues up the middle, but might not have room either. Tolbert is a switchhitter, and can play all three positions. His defense is no worse than others they have, and his hitting is what a middle infielder does. He won’t to into the starting line up, as Luke Hughes would come up and force position changes.

Upside:  gets better with the glove

Downside:  too many games as a starter

Score:  - 1

Back-up outfielder:

Jason Kubel. But this will be more than a back up role. Cuddyer will actually do a lot of moving around, and Kubel will get a lot of starts out here, and there possibly be a type of platoon arrangement. Doesn’t bring much with the glove, but is good with the bat, and they will need his bat in the line up. He can also play left when needed, and DH when necessary. But it would be better to give some a day off.

Upside:  gets lots of playing time and keeps Jim Thome effective

Downside:  the more he plays, the less some else is

Score:   + 1

Rotation (front 3):

Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, and Carl Pavano. It’s a good staff, but there are some issues. Pavano has had his Steve Stone year, Liriano has nagging injuries, and Baker had a down year. Doesn’t mean they aren’t good, just vulnerable. If everyone pitches to their normal numbers when healthy, this will be a strength for the team. They’ll need the strikeouts. A lot. Not much defense behind them.

Upside:  Pavano can do it again, and everyone else does what they are capable of

Downside:  injuries, age, and expectations

Score:  + 1

Rotation (back end):

Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey. That’s a good back end. One of them will be on the trading block, mostly likely for a short stop, but they can get the job done. Blackburn had a kind of down year, but this staff can afford that. All they have to do is be solid. 150 innings form both of these guys, of average or above pitching, and that’s all they need. If one of them steps up to the front three, there is no discernible loss.

Upside:  they both are on the team all year

Downside:  one or both are traded when they are really needed

Score:  + 1


Joe Nathan, Jose Mijares, Alex Burnett, Pat Neshek, and Jeff Manship. As Nathan goes, so goes the bullpen. If he can adjust, and be happy, being a set up man, the bullpen will work okay. If there are issues about who should close, there will be problems. The rest are unknowns who have never impressed, but will need to this year. They don’t have to be a great bridge, but they do need to be serviceable.

Upside:  Nathan settles into his role

Downside:  the seventh inning looks like a football score

Score:  0


Matt Capps. At least I think so. Nathan is going to want his job back, and if Capps falters, he’ll get it. It’s never good to be looking over your shoulder, so hopefully they play the team thing and everyone just does their job. Dissension is bad, but they do have a quality back up. Most teams don’t even have a good closer, let alone two.

Upside:  they have a back up plan

Downside:  everyone talks about it all year

Score:  + 1

Team speed (which includes base running):

Kind of. Span can run, and Young could. The others move around the bases okay, but they’re not going to be playing a speed game. Doubles, home runs, good base running, and no mistakes is what they’ll be relying on. They’ll need to get it. Nishioka could help once he learns the pitchers and the league. It won’t hurt, it won’t help.

Upside:  don’t really need it

Downside:  they keep getting slower

Score:  - 1

Team defense:

Bad. At least in my opinion. Remember when the Twins were known for their defense. Not now. The best defender can’t hit, but will get into games. Not good up the middle, and the corner outfielders are nothing special. The infield corners could be good, but it remains to be seen. It’s a good thing they have a good pitching staff, because there will be lots of extra runners.

Upside:  they trade a pitcher for a short stop with a glove

Downside:  lead the league in unearned runs

Score:  - 2

Team batting:

Should be better than last year. The new park effect probably had something to do with some down years, and should start to straighten out. That being said, Thome raked and the new guys had nothing to compare it to. Could be rebound years for some of the guys that suffered, but they are also a year older and might not. As Morneau goes, so go the Twins.

Upside:  the new park is a hitter’s park

Downside:  the outdoors expose them

Score:  + 1

Team pitching:

Good. Good starting pitching, with depth, a good set up man, and a good closer. The middle relief is something of a worry, but if the starters go into the sixth or seventh, they will be limited to what they have to do. The closer question could make or break them, but that’s a good problem to have for any team. They’ll have to be good, because the defense will frustrate them.

Upside:  everyone pitches the same as last year

Downside:  a trade hurts more than helps

Score:  + 2

Total score:    6

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