MLB Team-By-Team Previews 2009: Minnesota Twins

MLB Team-By-Team Previews 2009: How Long Can Joe Mauer Survive Behind The Plate?

3/26/09 in MLB   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3295 respect

Last season, the Minnesota Twins shocked many people in the baseball world by posting an 88-74 mark finishing in a tie for 1st place with the Chicago White Sox. After a 1-0 loss in the one game playoff at U.S. Celluar Field (even though the Twins won the season series – a rule that has since been changed in MLB), Minnesota is looking for more of the same with one of the youngest rosters in all of the Majors. 
 

Key Losses:
LHP Dennys Reyes

 
Key Additions:
3B Joe Crede, RHP Luis Ayala
 

Projected (Opening Day w/o Mauer) Lineup:

LF: Denard Span
2B: Alexi Casilla
RF: Michael Cuddyer
1B: Justin Morneau
DH: Jason Kubel
3B: Joe Crede
C: Mike Redmond
SS: Nick Punto
CF: Carlos Gomez
 

Projected Rotation:
Scott Baker
Francisco Liriano
Kevin Slowey
Glen Perkins
Nick Blackburn

 

Bullpen:
Jesse Crain
Matt Guerrier
Craig Breslow
Luis Ayala
Jose Mijares
Joe Nathan (CL)
 

Strengths:

A young rotation (averaging just 25 years old) with a number one guy in Scott Baker leading the team in experience, starting just his fifth major league season. Kevin Slowey has shown a lot of promise this spring, painting the corners as well as he was last season after a remarkable 24 walks in 160.1 innings pitched. Liriano is back, and while he will never be in his 2006 form again, Francisco has the possibility of being Santana Jr. if he stays healthy. Perkins and Blackburn to finish out the rotation showed some signs of a promising career, have another year under their belts and will have another season of opportunity to showcase their skills.

 

Weaknesses:

One of, if not, THE reason the Minnesota Twins did not make the postseason last year was because of a bullpen that faltered in the final month. Matt Guerrier, who pitched in a total of 76 games last year, ended up being entirely ineffective by the hind end of the season. Nathan was cooked, and the set up men in Jesse Crain and Craig Breslow were blowing any lead given to them. Jose Mijares, a late call-up who was the Twins only saving grace at the end of the year, has been atrocious this spring with an 11.25 ERA and questioned by both Pitching Coach Rick Anderson and Manager Ron Gardenhire about his attitude on the ballclub.
 

Players to Watch:

Francisco Liriano
Liriano is back after an off-season full of work with pitching coach, Rick Anderson, figuring out how to utilize his change-up that has been improving immensely, along with controlling the counts with his fastball. His delivery, which has caused many concerns as far as longevity is concerned, has been turned down and controlled a little bit more with a slider that could quite honestly be one of the top 5 most dominating pitches in the Majors.

Joe Crede
After a season full of injuries last year with Chicago, Crede looks to find some sort of redemption with his new team. The third basemen  spot is a lot deeper than most fans would think in Minnesota with backups Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris who will both be right at Crede’s heels for playing time.


Projected Finish:

90 wins and 1st place in the AL Central. With a team like Cleveland on the rise with perhaps the performance they did late last season, Detroit trying to find themselves all over again, Chicago continuing on with their same formula, and Kansas City always finding ways to improve, it should be a close battle with all four other teams all season long.


News and Notes:


For those who haven’t heard, Joe Mauer will probably not be starting Opening Day and perhaps a few weeks into the season with continued back pain and some complications from a kidney surgery done in the off-season. While Joe is still young (just 27 years old), he has what seems like a back of a 20 year veteran. Talks has always been around about Joe maybe moving to another position at third or first base, or just being a designated hitter for the latter part of his career. He will still be a catcher this season, and will be starting there as long as humanly possible. I still question how long exactly that is.
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10/7/09   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

Twins24 wrote:
Mauer is not even 26 yet, the pitching staff averages about 26 not 25.  Go-go is good enough to bat lead-off this year when Span is not in the line-up.  Young is a lot better this year, and unless in a national league park where Kubel will play left, Young will play mostly left.  Cuddy is a great arm in right, and keeps many triples or doubles to doubles or singles, and with Go-go, Cuddy's lack of range is made up for.  With Morales and Butera, we have some strength in catcher in the minors.  Remember there are very few catchers like Mauer out there.  Our minor guys would compare to some of the regular starters on many teams out there.  We have a great situation with Dickey having starting experience and able to pitch the long relief role also.  When Baker is back we need to trade Humber for a solid minor league SS or 3B, since in a few years we wont have Punto or Crede.  Mijares was told he has to earn his spot this year, and didn't believe it, but he worked his way down to triple A this year.  Good article, in the fact that the Twins will win the division, because they are the stronges team in the division (Detroit is rebuilding, Chicago is stuck between rebuilding and fading stars, Cleveland is the next strongest, but lost C.C., and have less power and skill than a year ago, and K.C., if they improve a lot, still will have a tough year) but lacking in fact, and research.  I like where you are going with it, but feel like I could go on and on about some of the mistakes made.

As I knew, Span WOULD be in the lineup every day and was probably the biggest steal in fantasy baseball along with Ben Zobrist

4/4/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3295 respect

Twins24 wrote:
I agree, it is all just guesses.  I didn't mean to come down on you the way it probably seemed.  I just had written something really long, and my computer crashed, and instead or rewriting it all, i hit some points too quickly without explaining more.  But like I said, it was good what you wrote, I just wanted to point out a few things that seemed wrong to me, as well as putting my 2 cents in on somethings that I thought were different, not necessarily wrong.  Again, I spent a good time writing something up, and got annoyed when I had to start all over and it was late after a long week at work.  I did not mean to say you were wrong on opinions.  Sorry about the mix up, hope you understand where I am coming from.  Wanted to correct a couple age things, as well as add my opinion on parts where we differed.  Go TWINS!

Fair enough.

4/4/09   |   Twins24

I agree, it is all just guesses.  I didn't mean to come down on you the way it probably seemed.  I just had written something really long, and my computer crashed, and instead or rewriting it all, i hit some points too quickly without explaining more.  But like I said, it was good what you wrote, I just wanted to point out a few things that seemed wrong to me, as well as putting my 2 cents in on somethings that I thought were different, not necessarily wrong.  Again, I spent a good time writing something up, and got annoyed when I had to start all over and it was late after a long week at work.  I did not mean to say you were wrong on opinions.  Sorry about the mix up, hope you understand where I am coming from.  Wanted to correct a couple age things, as well as add my opinion on parts where we differed.  Go TWINS!

4/4/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3295 respect

Twins24 wrote:
Mauer is not even 26 yet, the pitching staff averages about 26 not 25.  Go-go is good enough to bat lead-off this year when Span is not in the line-up.  Young is a lot better this year, and unless in a national league park where Kubel will play left, Young will play mostly left.  Cuddy is a great arm in right, and keeps many triples or doubles to doubles or singles, and with Go-go, Cuddy's lack of range is made up for.  With Morales and Butera, we have some strength in catcher in the minors.  Remember there are very few catchers like Mauer out there.  Our minor guys would compare to some of the regular starters on many teams out there.  We have a great situation with Dickey having starting experience and able to pitch the long relief role also.  When Baker is back we need to trade Humber for a solid minor league SS or 3B, since in a few years we wont have Punto or Crede.  Mijares was told he has to earn his spot this year, and didn't believe it, but he worked his way down to triple A this year.  Good article, in the fact that the Twins will win the division, because they are the stronges team in the division (Detroit is rebuilding, Chicago is stuck between rebuilding and fading stars, Cleveland is the next strongest, but lost C.C., and have less power and skill than a year ago, and K.C., if they improve a lot, still will have a tough year) but lacking in fact, and research.  I like where you are going with it, but feel like I could go on and on about some of the mistakes made.

Lacking in fact and research? Because I got Mauer's age off by a year and a few days, and the starting pitching staff is 25.8, yes, I tried averaging in my head and not using my calculator, and rounded down instead of rounding up..my apologizes.

All of these team write ups were made of an opinion by the fan. My opinion is that Gomez is not a leadoff guy, because you feel he can be, does not mean it is a mistake.

The lineup I had projected above is Opening Day, not for the season, not even for the first week of baseball, so yes; I do believe Delmon will get plenty of playing time in left, my lineup card above is not of that.

As far as the outfield goes, it still is up in the air, and probably will be all season long as long as all 5 guys are healthy. It's all about who preforms and who is hot...Young very well could be a lot better this year, of course you're only going by what you have seen in Spring Training, and numbers from there...your guess is factualy as good as mine, or anyones - being nobody has true "fact" of how someone is going to do in the future..unless of course you have a Delorean in your garage.

4/4/09   |   Twins24

Mauer is not even 26 yet, the pitching staff averages about 26 not 25.  Go-go is good enough to bat lead-off this year when Span is not in the line-up.  Young is a lot better this year, and unless in a national league park where Kubel will play left, Young will play mostly left.  Cuddy is a great arm in right, and keeps many triples or doubles to doubles or singles, and with Go-go, Cuddy's lack of range is made up for.  With Morales and Butera, we have some strength in catcher in the minors.  Remember there are very few catchers like Mauer out there.  Our minor guys would compare to some of the regular starters on many teams out there.  We have a great situation with Dickey having starting experience and able to pitch the long relief role also.  When Baker is back we need to trade Humber for a solid minor league SS or 3B, since in a few years we wont have Punto or Crede.  Mijares was told he has to earn his spot this year, and didn't believe it, but he worked his way down to triple A this year.  Good article, in the fact that the Twins will win the division, because they are the stronges team in the division (Detroit is rebuilding, Chicago is stuck between rebuilding and fading stars, Cleveland is the next strongest, but lost C.C., and have less power and skill than a year ago, and K.C., if they improve a lot, still will have a tough year) but lacking in fact, and research.  I like where you are going with it, but feel like I could go on and on about some of the mistakes made.

3/26/09   |   mitchpasse

Joe needs to stay heathy

3/26/09   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

Great writeup. Twins win the Central. Too much talent. Cleveland, if they can stay healthy, should be right with them.
Span will continue to impress and is a fantasy STEAL right now.

3/26/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3295 respect

The lineup is still just my projection, nothing from Gardenhire announcing how exactly the 5 OF's and only 4 available spots (including DH) is going to work out. I understand Span struggled for most of this spring, and is by no means "back to form" like the local paper was saying, but I still think he is the ideal leadoff man. Even if he's not hitting well to begin the year, his patience at the plate is what makes leadoff men great.

Gomez, while not a leadoff man because of his lack of patience, still does have the talent to be a starting CF in the majors and play every day. Speed kills, and to have guys like him and Span in the outfield, there's a good chance you probably wouldn't even need a third outfielder out there.

Cuddyer is supposedly "back" from all injuries, and if he stays hot, he will be staying out in RF. Lack of offense, or not playing well out on the field, he can easily be seeing bench time soon.

Kubel is the DH who can play in LF, but is DH first and foremost. Many projections are saying that this will finally be Kubel's "breakout" year, and could be looking at a 25+ HR year.

The only time I see Young getting playing time early is if one of these guys above is hurt, a lefty is starting (Gardenhire still doesn't believe Kubel can hit lefties, although never giving him a chance), or is not performing at the plate. Delmon is still young and has plenty of time left to prove himself, so hopefully for his and the teams sake, he can stay patient.

3/26/09   |   Boski93   |   375 respect

Excellent write-up. The piranhas will be in the thick of the AL Central Race till the end with the Indians.

3/26/09   |   primo   |   1 respect

this team is astonishing because of it's commitment to the fundamentals of baseball, pitching and defense. they get the most out of their talent and continue to be a good club even after Tom Kelly retired from there.

3/26/09   |   mrturk   |   20 respect

Joe says he wants to be the every day catcher, but usually tall, lanky catchers do not last behind the plate as long as short, stocky ones.  His bat is a big asset, especially with RBI men like Morneau and Cuddyer drooling at the prospect of good OBP men batting 1-2-3.   Twins have a couple decent looking catcher prospects grooming in the minors and can dangle one of their outfielders to fill whatever hole may develop (most likely a set-up man), and use Mauer as DH and fill-in C or 1B.  It is a pretty good situation all around and it would be surprising if they were not serious playoff contenders this year.

3/26/09   |   chicachericola   |   2 respect

The Mauer situation is a bit scary right now. When your team manager says he is concerned, it makes me take notice. However, he has been down this road with his knee before. He is very tenacious and I don't see him being down and out very long. Just like with his knee, he will put 110% into whatever it takes to get his body healed and prepared. I'm still holding out hope he will be behind the plate opening day. They need him to be. He did a phenomenal job last year and only progresses as each year goes on. I have very high hopes for him!