Apparently this baseball blogger has been pretty negative on Twitter lately, as Adam Krueger of The Bat Shatters pointed out to me yesterday morning.
In an effort to turn this frown upside down, here are 10 reasons to look forward to the 2012 version of the Minnesota Twins (in reverse countdown order, of course).
10. Tsuyoshi Nishioka is not going to be the opening day starter at shortstop. Hopefully he will not be the opening day at second base or anywhere else either. In Nishioka’s inaugural MLB season he hitt just .226 and slugged just slightly better than that at .249. This after a 2010 season that saw Nishioka win the batting title in the Japan Pacific League where he hit .346 and slugged .482. Over his career in the JPL Nishioka struck out about 3 times for every 2 walks, but in his first season against Major League pitching he struck out 102 times and walked only 36. His replacement is likely to be recently signed Jamey Carroll, whose veteran leadership and consistency at short stop will help anchor the middle infield in 2012.
9. After a sophomore slump in 2011 Danny Valencia will be much improved in 2012. In 2010 Danny Valencia played just 85 games after being called up during the early part of the year, but he made the most of his appearance with a .351 on base percentage and an OPS+ of 119 (100 is league average). In 2011 Valencia came back to earth hitting just .246 with an on base percentage on the wrong side of .300. His OPS+ dropped 33 points to 86, and that doesn’t factor in his lack of success in the field. After fielding 97.3% of all balls hit his way in 2010 (good for 6 runs above average), Valencia could only handle 94.9% of the action at the hot corner costing his team 18 runs compared to an average third basemen. The real Danny Valencia probably lies in between the 2010 and 2011 versions, and a slash line of .285/.310/.405 would not be surprising.
8. Denard Span will be back as the every day center fielder. With all due respect to Ben Revere‘s speed, the guy just is not cut out to play center field in the Major Leagues. He never learned to take great routes to balls in the outfield because of his speed, and his arm is suspect on his best days. He is not great at the plate, and for a guy who was penciled in at the lead off spot for much of the 2011 season, his .305 career OBP just doesn’t do it for me. By contrast, Denard Span gets on base at a .361 career clip, while slugging more than 80 points higher. In the spacious outfield of Target Field Span still has the speed to reach just about any ball hit his way and his arm will at least make opposing runners think before taking off from third base. Assuming he’s fully healthy after battling a concussion and dizziness for parts of 2011, Span will once again be a mainstay in center field and at the top of Twins’ lineups.
7. Francisco Liriano is playing in the Dominican Winter League this offseason. In 2011 Liriano threw only 134.1 innings, so the extra 30 or 40 innings that he will pitch in the DWL during the offseason shouldn’t add any undue stress to Liriano’s mighty left arm. Despite throwing a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox last year, 2011 was a season to forget for Liriano. His ERA ballooned to 5.09 and he walked 75 batters while only striking out 112. Liriano struggled with control for much of the 2011 campaign before being shut down for the tail end of the season. But there is hope for Twins fans! The last time Francisco Liriano pitched in the Dominican Winter League was the winter before the 2010 season. In that 2010 season Liriano was lights out for the Minnesota Twins striking out more than 200 batters and walking just 58 in 191.2 innings. The extra innings should keep Liriano in playing shape through the winter (something he failed to do after a successful 2010), and he should roll into spring training at the top of his game.
6. Terry Ryan is back! After only four years of the Bill Smith experiment Terry Ryan is back in charge of the Minnesota Twins. Ryan is best known for putting together scrappy teams and winning baseball games despite dealing with a meager payroll. This time around Ryan is working with $100 million and has an opportunity to really turn around a Twins franchise that lost 99 games in 2010. After coming on board in early November, Ryan got right to work, quickly signing free agents Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit. While some would argue that Ryan overpaid for these two free agents, each fills a big hole in the organization and their versatility helps the Twins going forward should Minnesota be bitten by the injury bug again in 2012. Let’s just hope that this time around Ryan doesn’t let another MVP just walk out the door (David Ortiz).
Come back tomorrow for five more reasons to be excited about the 2012 Minnesota Twins!
Don’t forget to check out Puckett’s Pond on Facebook