We continue the 2015 Team Previews today with the lovable basement-dwelling Minnesota Twins. Since he lives right down the street from them and was nice enough to write about the Twins for us (we wanted no part of the Twins), Corey is back at it again with another season preview. If you enjoy his preview and you’re a baseball fan, give him a follow on twitter.
Living in Minneapolis, I was lucky enough to enjoy some of the All Star festivities and I snapped this shot at the HR Derby. Unfortunately for Twins fans, there wasn’t much excitement at Target field outside of the All Star break. The Twins finished in the cellar of the AL Central with a 70-92 record and they appear to be in a waiting mode for some of the young players that make up one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. Will 2015 bring more hope to the Twin Cities or will it be another rebuild season with a dash of top prospects getting their cup of coffee late in the season?
2014 marked the end of the Ron Gardenhire era in Minnesota. Gardy managed the Twins for 13 seasons but was let go after a couple forgettable seasons. It’ll be sad to see him go as he was a good representative of Minnesota being a local guy who just seemed right for that job. Another hometown hero takes over the reigns though as Paul Molitor will get his first gig as a big league coach. Paul will have his hands full trying to bring along this young club.
The big free agent signing for the Twins was Torii Hunter, a local favorite up in MInnesota. This move is one to make fans happy and they can use Hunter as a bridge to some of those younger players making their way up. A real stand up guy, Torii can bring some experience and leadership to the young clubhouse.
The other significant move for the Twins was signing Ervin Santana to a four year, $54 million deal. Santana is the type of guy the Twins are hoping can come in and give consistent innings amongst a questionable rotation.
The Twins were actually 5th in the AL with 715 runs scored last year so the lineup wasn’t all that bad. They get all of those guys back plus the addition of veteran Torii Hunter so runs should be scored in Target Field again in 2015.
Danny Santana will be leading off and he is coming off a real nice rookie season where we saw him hit .319 with 20 stolen bases. The problem is he didn’t have a good BB% or K% and with a BABIP of .405, he’s a strong candidate to regress quite a bit.
Brian Dozier is looking to put up another 20/20 season where he also scored 112 runs. Dozier has settled in to the point where we can expect about a .240 average and 15+ HRs and SBs. Fantasy players will enjoy his contributions across the board, especially if you’re in an OBP league.
Joe Mauer, Kennys Vargas and Torii Hunter make up the middle of the order. Mauer will get his first year as the full time first basemen, a move that should help with the longevity of his career. He only hit 4 homers last year in 518 PAs so the power doesn’t appear to be part of his game but I believe he can keep his average up around .290+ for the foreseeable future. Vargas had a nice little debut and displayed some power the Twins hope he can build upon. Vargas is probably a .250-.260 type hitter who can put up 20+ homers in a full season as the DH. He’ll get his occasional day off against lefties. Hunter isn’t the same player he was last time he wore the Twins jersey in 2007 but he’s still got enough in the tank to be a productive hitter for 140 games.
Trevor Plouffe continues in the mold of what can be said about most of these Twins hitters, a good productive player who isn’t going to be mistaken for a superstar. Plouffe provides some pop and a decent average but you have to wonder if he’s just a placeholder at this point for big prospect Miguel Sano. I’ll get to him in a moment.
One of my favorite hitters on this club is OF Oswaldo Arcia. This guy packs a lot of power in that left handed swing that not even a spacious Target Field can contain. His struggles against lefties is real and that will keep him from playing everyday, but I still believe this is a 30 home run guy as soon as this year. Some minor injuries could bother him over the course of the year but if he can stay on the field, he’s a guy you want on your fantasy team.
The lineup is rounded out with the catcher spot and center fielder, two spots that will be shared by a few players. Kurt Suzuki and Josmil Pinto will split time behind the dish and are both serviceable guys. Aaron Hicks could get the start in CF but you could see Danny Santana play there quite a bit as well. When Santana moves to CF, you’ll see Eduardo Escobar get time at SS and he is a nice little player in his own right.
Down on the Farm
ou can’t mention the Twins lineup for this year without mentioning two guys who are waiting in the wings. Top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Both of these guys should get their first opportunities in the big leagues in 2015 and my bet would be on Sano getting there first. Sano has big time power, 80 grade type stuff. He missed all of last year after having Tommy John surgery but he’s back now displaying his power with a home run off Gerrit Cole today as I write this. It appears he can stick at 3B but a move to 1B down the road could be likely as well. I’m excited to see this guy play. Byron Buxton is considered the top prospect in the game by some but injuries have hurt his development a bit. He’s 21 years old now and has the tools of an all-star CF for years to come. I hope Buxton can stay on the field all season so we can these tools in action. A call up to Minnesota in September is very possible for this young man.
This Twins lineup is kind of fun. Like I mentioned, they didn’t have problems scoring runs in 2014. Once Sano and Buxton get involved, it could be a dangerous bunch. Minnesota fans deserve some good fortune and they have the type of young players who could bring that to them real soon.
Projected Pitching Staff:
This looks like your typical Twins pitching rotation. A bunch of guys who aren’t stars but will eat up innings for the team. They haven’t been able to get that big production from anyone within the organization in awhile so they’ve been out hunting some castaways. Grabbing Phil Hughes before last year proved worthwhile though as he put together a great campaign that included a record breaking K/BB ratio. It seems leaving the the big city of New York was all Phil needed to hone his skills. Hughes will be the opening day starter and I think it’s safe to say he can have another good season with an ERA around 3.50.
Ervin Santana returns to the American League after a one year stint with Atlanta. He had a nice year in a pitchers park and the same could be expected this year in Minnesota. He’s got some tougher lineups to go up against though and I think we’ll see an ERA in the low fours for him.
Nolasco, Gibson and Milone are the rest of the gang. What you see is what you get with this guys. None of these three are going to blow your socks off but the hope is they’ll use a big park to hopefully keep their solid offense in the ball games.
Alex Meyer is the young guy to keep an eye on as he should get his first look sometime during the 2015 season. Standing 6’7, Meyer has good stuff and a fastball that approaches 100 mph. I’ll be interested to see if he can make it as a starter because if not, he has all the makings of a good late inning relief pitcher.
Glen Perkins reprises his role as Twins closer and he’s a consistent guy who knows how to close out a ballgame. He’s starting to see some injuries creep up on him so the Twins hope he can be be that dependable 9th inning guy for another year. After Perkins, things get pretty questionable. The Twins don’t have any real dominate arms in the pen and with names like Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Caleb Thielbar and Tim Stauffer you can see where the concern is coming from. As I mentioned earlier, Alex Meyer could be a big addition to the bullpen if that is the direction the Twins management wants to take with him.
It’s obvious that the Twins pitching is the weakness of their team. Outside Hughes, the rotation isn’t going to do a great job keeping teams in check and it’ll force the Twins into a lot of high scoring affairs. The bullpen is a group of misfits that is in need of some homegrown talent. We could be a couple years away from seeing this Minnesota team have a pitching staff that makes it difficult on opposing teams to score runs.
Predicted Record & Finish:
73-89 Last place in the AL Central
I’ve been watching a lot of this Twins team being a resident of Minnesota and try to get to a couple games each year. Target Field is a spectacular place to watch a game and I recommend everyone try to come up for a game sometime this summer. They have an offense that can be fun to watch and with a young core of Buxton, Sano, Arcia, Vargas, etc. I think they’ll continue to be a joy to watch for years to come. Unfortunately, the pitching is lagging behind the offense quite a bit. This staff will have a hard time containing other lineups and that will ultimately be what leads them to another last place finish in a tough AL Central. I like them to improve by a couple games from last year but they are still a few years away from being true contenders within the division.
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