What will the Twins look like in two or three years? We do not know for sure, but thanks to normal roster turnover, we can assume that many of the current players will be gone. Joe Mauer’s contract lasts for seven more seasons, but he is the only regular guaranteed to be here for the long haul. Francisco Liriano’s deal expires this year, as does Scott Baker’s (notwithstanding an option year for 2013). Justin Morneau may be gone after 2013, and several other players may leave if the team does not offer arbitration. And there is always the possibility that the Twins could trade a veteran away. In short, we are fast approaching the day that a new generation of Twins players takes over.
That new generation consists of Ben Revere, Rene Tosoni, Trevor Plouffe, Joe Benson, Brian Dozier, Chris Parmelee, and Liam Hendriks. All of these players have either made their MLB debuts or are highly likely to do so this year. The good news is that given a little more time to develop, these players could form the young nucleus of a pretty decent team by 2013 or 2014.
That young core is strongest in the outfield. Benson is a five tool prospect who could be a very good hitter if he could cut down on the strikeouts a little bit. And his speed would combine very well with Revere’s in the outfield. Tosoni is not as gifted a fielder as the other two, but he has the potential to become a decent power-hitter at the plate. Plouffe and Parmelee have also gotten some work in the outfield, though their natural positions are elsewhere. In the infield, Dozier could be the first above average middle-infielder to come up through the Twins’ system since Jason Bartlett. And while Hendriks will never be a Cy Young winner, he has the potential to be more talented than most Twins “pitch to contact” guys.
Some people may read this and argue that it is too optimistic. After all, with the exception of Parmelee, none of the players has been particularly impressive at the Major League level. Plouffe, Tosoni, and Benson have MLB on-base percentages of .286, .275, and .270 respectively. Even Revere, who received some regular playing time in his rookie year, barely topped .300. On the mound, Hendriks got roughed up to the tune of a 6.17 ERA in four starts.
Don’t worry about that, though. Even the best MLB players rarely excel in their first stint in the Big Leagues. Yankee future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter hit just .250/.294/.375 in 1995. Kirby Puckett played a full year in 1984, and he did not hit a single home run. And now he has an awesome website named after him! It’s very reasonable to expect the next generation of Twins to improve this year and next. Who knows, one day you might be reading about the Twins on ParmeleesPond.com.
Back in the early 1980s, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, Frank Viola, and Greg Gagne were in much the same position as the players above are now. With the exception of Gagne, all had suffered through the dreadful 1982 season, the only year in which the Twins ever lost more games than they did in 2011. They did not necessarily look like winners at the time (Viola, for example, had a 5.21 ERA in ’82 and a 5.49 mark the next year), but they grew and learned from experience. By 1987, of course, they were champions. At that rate, we can expect the Twins to win it all again in 2016.
Some readers may have noticed a couple of names absent from this list. Levi Michael, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks, and Alex Wimmers are all promising minor leaguers, but they probably will not be ready to break into the big leagues for another couple seasons. Kyle Gibson almost certainly would have made this list if not for the injury that will deprive him of the chance to play in 2012.