Before given you my Twins preview for the upcoming season, I apologize for not posting too much this week. Being on spring break, I’ve been really busy and it’s been really nice to be home. But I found some time right now, so here’s your Minnesota Twins…
Season Preview: Minnesota Twins
Projected MLB Rank: 22nd — AL Rank: 10th — AL Central Rank: 3rd — Record: (74-88)
When I look at the Twins, I see a pretty good young lineup with some average pitching. I think
that this team has the best chance to win the division out of the teams that I have ranked in the bottom ten in the league. The central is probably the weakest division in the league and with the lethal combo of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, you cannot go wrong.
Anchored by Mauer and Morneau, the rest of the lineup has some great young talent. Outfielder Delmon Young, who has been projected to be a great hitter, had a down year last year after driving in 93 runs in Tampa Bay in 2007. The good thing is that he is still 23 and still has time to develop. Speedy centerfielder Carlos Gomez can steal bases but wasn’t the top of the lineup hitter the Twins hoped for last season. He needs to raise his average and OBP if he wants to stay at the top of the lineup. I think that the other corner outfielder, Denard Span, will raise some eyebrows this season. He hit .294 last season with 47 RBIs in 93 games with the big club. He’s also got some speed (18 stolen bases in 08). They will definately get production from the DH spot, whether it’s lefty Jason Kubel or righty Michael Cuddyer.
Veterans Joe Crede and Nick Punto hold down the left side of the infield. Crede has production potential as he drove in 55 runs last season in only 97 games last season for the White Sox but has a career .257 average. Last season the 31-year old Punto raised his average significantly to .284 but he’s really only in the lineup for his glove at short. While watching Venezuela/Italy last night, I heard Punto (who played shortstop for Italia) described as, “one of the those guys you can win with.”
I think the big question last season was about Francisco Liriano, he wasn’t as dominant as he had been previously to his injury. In fact, Scott Baker goes into the season as the projected “ace.”
…and you wonder why I think the Twins pitching is average…
Baker had a great 2008, but he’s not an ace. Hopefully Liriano can regain that status with a nice year in 09. Kevin Slowey is great as the number three. Nick Blackburn is overrated and probably won’t reach 11 wins again this season. The projected fifth starter, southpaw Glen Perkins, had a scary September.
Joe Nathan is one of the top five closers in the league and the Twins will definately need him this season. He was 39 for 45 in save opputunities last season with a 1.33 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 67.2 innings. The rest of the bullpen, consisting of Jesse Crain, Jose Mijares, and Craig Breslow, will be reliable. But for Luis Ayala, that just makes the ‘pen worse after he was a nightmare alone in New York.
I’ve learned to never doubt Ron Gardenhire and team from the twin cities, so I won’t. I’m projecting them third in the division, and they can easily win it too. I just think that the division overall is weak, and that is why I have ranked them so low overall in the league.
The World Baseball Classic rosters are set. The United States roster looks more promising than last time. The US is in Pool C with Canada, Venezula, and Italy and opens up the tournament playing in Toronto.
The tournament runs from March 5th-23rd in anywhere from Tokyo to San Juan and ending in Los Angeles. (http://mlb.mlb.com/wbc/2009/schedule/brackets.jsp) You can find the official WBC bracket there.
The US roster consists of players from 21 different MLB teams and is one of only two rosters that are made up of all MLB players. Here is how I think the lineup should be:
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF Grady Sizemore
LF Ryan Braun
DH Chipper Jones
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF Brad Hawpe
3B David Wright
C Brian McCann
2B Dustin Pedrioa
However, I am not Davey Johnson and I’m almost positive that Derek Jeter will start at shortstop. Curtis Granderson would be the first pinch runner most likely and Mark DeRosa looks like he will be the infield utility guy. Chris Iannetta backs up McCann behind the dish. The starting pitchers featured on the roster are Jeremy Guthrie, Ted Lilly, Roy Oswalt, and Jake Peavy. The rotation may shape up to look something along the lines of Peavy, Oswalt, Lilly, then Guthrie.
The bullpen is probably one of the strongest in the whole classic. The US boasts established closers like Brian Fuentes, Joe Nathan, JJ Putz, and BJ Ryan. The bullpen features emerging closers like Jonathan Broxton, Matt Lindstrom, and Brad Ziegler. It also contains guys like JP Howell, Scot Shields, and Matt Thornton. In the ninth I would hand the ball to Fuentes to face lefthanded hitters and Nathan to face righties.
I am most excited to watch the US play and to see how Brad Hawpe plays among all stars and how Johnson utilizes the extremely talented bullpen he has.
In other notes, how great is it to see mlb.com with the games of the day on the left side bar again? I am so relieved to hear that everyday we are getting closer to the season. The first spring training games start tomorrow with most of them at 1pm or 3pm. However at 7pm the Twins take on the Red Sox as Tim Wakefield takes the mound.
In honor of the first spring training games, I will start to release my projections for this season (as I mentioned in the previous post). I will start from who I think will finish last in the league working my way up to the best record previewing the teams’ seasons along the way. Tomorrow I’ll release who I think will be at the bottom of the barrel and here’s a clue, it’s one of these four teams…