2013 Minnesota Twins Preview
The Twins have faltered in their last two seasons and it looks as if 2013 will bring more of the same
The decade of dominance is most certainly over. After winning six division titles from 2000 to 2012 the Twins are definitely in rebuilding mode, and they look to be staying there for a little while longer. The ball club has officially conceded the 2013 campaign in favor of trying to contend in 1014. They loaded up on prospects and will surely show signs of struggle in the first half, but how the team plays in the second half will determine just how far away they are from making a run at the playoffs again.
The Twins projected starting rotation consists of just two men with winning records last season, one of which will probably open the year on the disabled list. Kevin Correia (12-11, 4.21 ERA) will have to be their ace, but he is coming over from the National League so how well he will adjust to American League hitters remains to be seen. The other man with a winning record is Scott Diamond, who will eventually be their number three guy if and when he is able to start throwing again. Diamond is struggling to return from offseason elbow surgery to remove bone chips, but he could make his first start on March 18 th if all goes well. Any setback in his rehab is going to leave the Twins with a big hole to fill, as the rest of the guys hoping to make the rotation look pretty rough.
Vance Worley will probably pitch second; he went 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA in 23 starts for Philadelphia last season. Worley also has experienced bone chips in his elbow, and that was likely the reason for the drop off in his production last season, so if he can return to the 12-4, 2.86 ERA pitcher he was just two years ago, he could be a solid pick-up for the team as their number two guy.
Beyond those three, the rest of the rotation will be decided this spring, with Liam Hendriks (1-8, 5.59), Mike Pelfry (0-0, 2.29) and Cole De Vries (5-5, 4.11) are competing for the number four and five spots. Pelfry came over from the New York Mets this offseason and is coming back from having Tommy John surgery last April. He is a huge gamble, but if he is successful this season, the ball club got a great deal on a solid number four starter. Kyle Gibson, also returning from Tommy John surgery and Samuel Deduno could also figure into the mix this spring for the fifth spot but Hendriks has a leg up on all of them as he proved that he could turn himself around after being sent down to the minors last season.
The Twins saw some improvement in their bullpen last season, but it was hard to evaluate their success based on the failure of the starting staff. To top things off, they lost closer Matt Capp to a shoulder injury, but that opened the door for Glen Perkins to step in and try to turn things around. Perkins saved 16 of 20 games and lit up batters with an impressive fastball. With Capp now out of the equation, Perkins will get a chance to close things out full-time and should be fun to watch provided that the ball club has any opportunities to get him into save situations.
Setting up Perkins will likely be Jared Burton, who finished 3-2 with a 2.18 ERA, 5 saves and 18 holds. He had struggled through injuries the previous two seasons, but found his stride last year and if he can continue that momentum into 2013, the Twins will have a solid back-end to their bullpen.
The rest of the bullpen looks like it will be made up of lefty Brian Duensing (4-12, 5.12) and right-handers Alex Burnett (4-4, 3.52), Casey Fien (2-1, 2.06) and Anthony Swarzak (3-6, 5.03). The Twins bullpen struggled in the middle innings last season and with this group, they are likely to do so again this year. If by some chance their starting pitching can get consistently into the sixth inning, they should have enough stuff to get by, but if they get stuck into a string of long relief appearances, these arms are going to get very tired, very quick.
The Twins had no problem getting runners on base last season. They posted a .260 overall average which was good enough for seventh overall in the American League. They did even better in on-base percentage ranking fifth in the AL at .325. The trouble with the Twins was that once they got men on base, they couldn’t figure out how to get them home. The club did not hit for power, and they tied with Kansas City for dead last in total home runs with 131. To fix the problem, the Twins promoted Triple-A hitting coach Tom Brunansky to fill the same capacity in Minnesota. His first assignment will be to fix Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
Mauer, who has been mired by injuries in his career, managed to play in a career-high 147 games last season. He also set a career-high in strike-outs with 88 and he grounded into 23 double-plays, two things that will need to be addressed as he, Morneau and Josh Willingham make up the only real threat in the Twins offense. As for Morneau, he began to look like himself in the second half of the season; hitting .289 with 8 homers and 39 RBIs after the All Star break. Willingham won a silver slugger award last season and was the only power threat in the Twins’ offense. He hit a career-high 35 home runs and drove in 110 runs. If Mauer and Morneau are able to stay healthy, the club will sandwich Willingham between them and the Twins will have a powerful heart to their line-up.
From there, the Twins offense is still being figured out. They let both of their center fielders go this offseason, dealing away Denard Span and Ben Revere who were both quality lead-off hitters. They will now have to rely on either top prospect Aaron Hicks or utility man Darin Mastroianni to fill the void. The club would be better off with Hicks, who hit .286 for Double-A New Britain last year as he is younger and more versatile. However, he will have to do a lot of impressing this spring if he wants to make the jump from Double-A to the majors. Mastroianni has experience, but he has not proven that he deserves a starting spot either with a career average of .252. If Brian Dozier makes the Opening Day roster as the club’s second baseman, he has an outside shot at leading off as well, but if the spot goes to Jamey Carroll, expect whoever wins the center field gig to get the nod.
Third baseman Trevor Plouffe (.235), shortstop Pedro Flormin (.219) and right fielder Chris Parmalee (.229) will have to do something this season to improve on their averages in order for any of the Twins’ power hitters to be successful. They will fill out the offense along with DH Ryan Doumit (.275) who will see some time at catcher as well. Last season Doumit hit a career high 18 home runs after coming over to the American League from Pittsburgh. He could see that number increase this season now that he has a handle on American League pitching which would add one more big bat to the Twins’ line-up.
The Twins look to be moving in the right direction, but they are going to get there slowly. 2013 will be another frustrating year for the team and their fans as they sort through their roster and figure out who will stay and who will go from the 2014 squad. As a result, they will probably have another miserable first half, but get a little better as the season progresses. If the pieces start to gel by August they could finish 74-88, which will still be good enough for last place in the Central Division; but an 8 game improvement with this line-up would certainly be considered a big success.
By Robert Gonzalez