Happy New Year!
Are you wondering what’s going to happen to the Twins in 2012? Wonder no more, because I have 12 bold predictions about the year ahead. All 12 are guaranteed to be 100% accurate… unless they turn out to be wrong.
How credible are my predictions? Well, last year I predicted that two AL Central pitchers would throw no-hitters. A big thank you to Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander for proving me right. I also predicted that the Tigers would make it to the ALCS, and I was right about that, too. Of course, I also predicted they’d be facing the Twins, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
Without further ado, here’s what you can look forward to in 2012:
1. Brian Dozier will be an everyday player in the Majors by the end of the year.
No disrespect to Alexi Casilla and Jamey Carroll, but neither is a long term solution in the Minnesota infield. Brian Dozier was the Twins’ 2011 Minor League Player of the Year, hitting .322 at Ft. Myers and .318 at New Britain and stealing a combined 24 bases. His plate discipline is pretty good, too: 140 career minor league walks against 150 strikeouts. Look for him to start the season at Rochester and earn a call-up sometime in the summer.
2. Liriano will have the best season of his career.
He always pitches better in even numbered seasons. He did some work in the Dominican Winter League this year, and that is always a good sign. It’s also his last year before free agency. All signs point to Liriano having his best full season ever. Look for the lefty to make the All Star team en route to 15+ wins, an ERA below 3.50, and over 200 strikeouts.
3. For the 42nd consecutive season, no Twin will hit 40 (or even 35) homers.
Nobody on the Twins’ roster appears capable of reaching 35. In fact, it will be mildly surprising if any Twin tops 30 this year. Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau are the most likely to reach 30 – but only if they stay healthy. Reaching 35 is probably impossible.
4. The Twins will announce plans to retire Jim Kaat’s jersey number.
Some of us were reminded of Kaat’s accomplishments as a Twin when he narrowly missed getting elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Coincidentally, Joe Nathan, who had worn Kaat’s number 36 for the past eight seasons, is no longer with the team. It’s the perfect time for the Twins to put that number away for good.
5. Jason Bulger will make the team out of Spring Training and pitch 50+ games.
The former Angel landed with the Twins as a minor league free agent this offseason. He gives up a lot of walks, but at his best he is very hard to hit. I think he’ll have a good spring and become a valuable contributor to the 2012 bullpen.
6. Miguel Sano’s power numbers will drop, but he’ll still be the Twins’ top prospect.
At Elizabethton last year, Sano socked 20 homers in 293 plate appearances and accumulated a .637 slugging percentage. It will be much harder to keep those totals for Class A Beloit. If he does well at Beloit, he’ll go to Ft. Myers in the Florida State League, where the massive parks drain away home runs. Sano won’t have the same eye-popping numbers he did in 2011, but he’ll turn a few more heads and continue to climb the prospect rankings.
7. Ben Revere will steal at least 50 bases.
Revere swiped 34 bags in 117 games in 2011. I think he’ll play 140 to 150 games in 2012, so that number will rise. Additionally, a full year of MLB experience means he should be a little better at the plate. Look for his OBP to rise to the .330 or .340 range, giving him more opportunities to steal.
8. There will be fewer injuries, but at least one or two key players will spend significant time on the DL.
The Twins suffered a ridiculous number of injuries last season. Simple math says it’s almost impossible for the injury situation to be any worse. But no team is ever immune to injuries, so don’t be surprised if a couple key starters become injury victims.
9. On June 27th, the Twins will defeat the Chicago White Sox 5-2.
Okay, that last prediction was incredibly vague. Here’s a needlessly specific one to make up for it. On June 27th at Target Field, the Twins will close out a three game series by beating Chicago 5-2. Danny Valencia will hit a home run.
10. The Twins will draft Stanford right-hander Mark Appel with their first pick in the 2012 draft.
Minnesota has the #2 pick, so almost all the good players will still be available. The new CBA provides slot recommendations to prevent players from demanding exorbitant signing bonuses. There’s no excuse to draft another 90 mph pitch-to-contact guy, Twins! Mark Appel can hit 98 with his fastball, and he has drawn comparisons to Mr. Verlander. I know that a lot can change between now and June, but as things stand today, Appel looks like a future Twins ace (as long as the Astros don’t take him first).
The Vikings almost certainly won’t get Andrew Luck, but the Twins can make sure at least one Stanford superstar plays in Minnesota.
11. The Twins will be better in 2012 than they were in 2011.
There’s a historical precedent for this one. Ever since 2002, the Twins have improved their regular season record in every single even-numbered year, and they’ve been worse than the previous season in every single odd numbered year. It’s science, so you can’t argue with it. Of course, it would be hard NOT to improve on a 63-99 season. In theory, Minnesota could lose more than 90 games and still fit this pattern. Which brings us to the last prediction…
12. If the Twins lose 90 or more games again, Ron Gardenhire will be fired.
This may be the boldest prediction so far. For the record, I do not blame Gardenhire for the 2011 debacle. No manager could have won many games with that roster full of AAA players. And I don’t necessarily think it would be his fault if the Twins stumbled again. But when a team suffers a long string of disappointments, the manager has to fall on the sword.
The Twins don’t make a habit of firing managers. Tom Kelly stayed at the helm through eight consecutive losing seasons and didn’t get fired. But unlike Gardenhire, Kelly had two World Series titles under his belt. Another disastrous season would probably doom him. Don’t cry for Gardy, though – even if he gets fired, his resume is impressive enough to land him another Big League managing job.
Those are my predictions, and I’m sticking to them! If Fansided is still allowing me to write for them at the end of the year, I’ll revisit them and see how many I got right.