I’m not sure if this disqualifies me as a purist, but in addition to my love for America’s pastime and the Minnesota Twins, I gots to play me some fantasy baseball each and every year. Now you can’t be too much of a homer when filling out your roster, but if you’re like me, you like to double down on rooting interest as if holding an 11 to the dealer’s 16. Moonlighting as pretend GM to players on your favorite team elevates you to a new level of fandom that entitles you to revel just a little more in all your team’s successes (fingers crossed).
You trust the Twins when your hard-earned cashola is on the line and that makes you the man. Of course no one but you will believe this, but you play fantasy baseball so there are a few screws loose already.
So anyways, if you’re down with the get down in having Hammer’s home run or Perkins’ perfect ninth not only bring home the W, but also increase your odds of a fantasy title; then please continue on and check out the Twins hitters worth rostering in standard seasonal leagues and where you will need to reach to ensure you snare them.
Joe Mauer (Round 5 / $18)
Seems like it’s been longer than three years since Mauer was going in the first round of drafts following his stellar 2009 MVP season (.365, 28 HR, 96 RBI). We all know the story from there: dismal seasons (by his standards) in 2010 and 2011 that were compounded by bilateral leg weakness and god-awful shampoo commercials. Suddenly, we were cursing the contract we once feared he would sign with the Yankees, and I know I’m not the only one who wished his life path took him by way of the Big Apple.
Thankfully, that bitterness is dwindling as Hometown Joe took the necessary steps to salvage his reputation in 2012 by starting a career-high 147 games, leading baseball in OBP (.416), and finishing first amongst catchers in R (81) and third in RBI (85). His uptick in durability came in large part to his 73 combined starts at first base and DH, but from a fantasy perspective, the fact that he probably can’t go a full season behind the dish is a great thing. We fake managers love multi-position eligibility, and even though he won’t generate the power you’re looking for from a first basemen, having that flexibility is always nice.
Long gone are the days of 25+ HR but you can expect Mauer to flirt with 15 long balls and 90 RBI, and of course challenge for the AL batting title. Buster Posey is the consensus #1 catcher falling off draft boards, but Mauer looks like he has his legs beneath him and is dialed-in at the plate (.429 AVG combined Spring Training and WBC). I like his chances to challenge Napoleon Dynamite’s doppelganger for that top spot, and if your league rewards walks or OPS, I would easily bump the sideburns up a round or extra $5.
Josh Willingham (Round 9 / $13)
I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner of your league had Hammer on their team. After going undrafted in most formats, Willingham quickly became the hottest grab on the waiver wire after an insane April where hit .347 with five HR and 15 RBI. A career .260 hitter, Josh’s AVG came down to earth as the days got warmer, but his power remained consistent throughout the duration. When all was said and done in October, Willingham had finished in the overall top 12 in HR (35), RBI, (110), and SLG (.524).
2012 was a career year for Hammer, but I wouldn’t expect him to improve on those power numbers. His previous high in HR was 29 with Oakland in 2011, and never before had he eclipsed the century mark in RBI. A 30 HR and 100 RBI campaign is certainly in the stars, but you never know, he could shock us all and shoot the moon again. He does look incredibly comfortable in a Twins uniform, and with a healthier, motivated Morneau offering more protection in the lineup, we could see our first 40 HR season since Killebrew poked 41 back in 1970.
Justin Morneau (Round 19 / $5)
There are three things that make 7/7/10 one of the worst days in Twins’ history. Those would be a Cuddyer chopper to short, a slide by Morneau to break up the double play, and then John McDonald’s stupid knee. Moments before that perfect storm of unawesomeness occurred in Toronto, the latter half of the M&M boys was in the midst of another MVP campaign – batting .345 (with an astronomical 1.055 OPS) and on a pace for 36 HR and 112 RBI.
Sadly again, we all know how the story unfolded after the dust cleared at second base. Justin walked off the field, albeit under his own power, but looking more dazed and confused than those partying at the moon tower. He did not play another game in 2010 (including another heart-breaking postseason loss to the Yanks), and our colossal Canuck hasn’t been the same since.
The lack of Morneau’s real presence in the heart of the order has been sorely missed. He was on his way to becoming one of the franchise’s all-time greats. At times there were glimmers of hope that the cobwebs had cleared, but he would always fall back into a slump that never resembled the Justin of old. So, is there any hope for this year? The answer is yes for the very simple reason that cash rules everything around us, and regardless whether he’s traded before the deadline, Morneau (who turns 32 in May) will be playing for a new contract that could possibly be the last he signs in his career.
As mentioned earlier, he looks motivated this spring (.372 AVG combined Spring Training and WBC) and claims he feels the best he has in years. We all know how athletes manage to dig deep and overachieve in their final year of a contract, and with that being said, I strongly advise taking a shot and buying low on our fallen hero. I feel somewhat of a resurrection is in order.
Aaron Hicks (Final Few Rounds / $1 – $2)
I long for the days of Torii pulling robberies like Affleck in The Town, but unfortunately the only experience we will have with old #48 moving forward will be watching him patrol right-field for rival Detroit (barf in mouth). Denard Span was no slouch manning the gaps after Hunter migrated west, but he wasn’t scaling the walls like our beloved version of Spider-Man.
Wait, why am I talking defense and fantasy baseball even in the same universe? I’m preaching D because I’m reminiscing about the best defensive centerfielder in his prime (suck it, Andruw Jones), and I want a superstar like that that also packs a little lumber the way Torii did. That wasn’t Span either, but Aaron Hicks down on the farm was the guy to answer those prayers.
Well, we waited patiently and the time has come. It was Hicks’ defensive prowess that was going to ultimately get him into the show, and the offense would soon follow with experience. He’s still the McCoy in the field, but the way things are going for the 23-year old down in the batter’s boxes of Florida, the buzz is rapidly building amongst fantasy baseballers. He currently ranks among the Spring Training leaders in HR (4), RBI (14), R (13), and SB (3).
Terry Ryan has stressed that the starting gig in center can still be won by Darin Mastroianni, but who’s he kidding, this has become Hicks’ job to lose. Let’s not forget the defense too. Aaron’s been stellar thus far with the glove and has made some plays that guarantee the time-honored tradition of Twins outfielders dominating the highlight reels will carry on. There’s your honorable mention, Ben Revere.
Trevor Plouffe (Final Round / $1)
This is a bit of a stretch but why not? Puff-puff Plouffe quickly became a favorite of mine because his last name is so fun and also because he rebounded from a horrendous start to mash his way into the national spotlight in June with 11 HR and 21 RBI. To put things in perspective, if you stretch that month’s production across the course of an entire season would yield 66 HR and 126 RBI. Now, Lloyd Christmas has a better chance of marrying Mary Swanson than TP putting up those kind of numbers, but he showed the power and plate discipline to someday be a .280/30/100 type player.
A thumb injury in late July sent him to the DL and derailed his breakout season, but he still posted modest numbers (24 HR and 55 RBI) for a guy that seemed destined for demotion in May. If Plouffe the Magic Dragon can stay in the lineup and recapture the swing that had him looking like the second coming of Mike Schmidt, then you my friend will easily be tabbed king genius of your draft. Don’t hold your breath – I’ll do it for you.