Opening Day has arrived! Over the past 10 days, I’ve been previewing the teams in the AL Central. You can read about the White Sox here, the Indians here, the Tigers here and the Royals here. Last up: the Minnesota Twins.
2012 Record: 66-96
Standing: 5th in the AL Central
The Twins enter 2013 with a revamped, although not much improved, starting rotation. With Scott Diamond starting 2013 on the DL, the Twins will roll out Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, Liam Hendricks and Cole De Vries to begin the season. Once Diamond is able to return, he’ll take the place of either Hendricks or De Vries. Top prospect Kyle Gibson begins his season in AAA Rochester, but should find his way into the rotation at some point. Samuel Deduno, who pitched well in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, could also see some time in Minnesota’s rotation later on. While not particularly strong, the Twins offense should be able to produce some runs with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit hitting in the middle of the lineup. Rookie Aaron Hicks, who will bat leadoff, provides speed and good plate discipline. Beyond closer Glen Perkins and set-up man Jared Burton, the Twins bullpen isn’t great.
Who to watch for:
Making the jump from AA, Hicks takes over centerfield for the Twins after the club traded Denard Span and Ben Revere over the offseason. Hicks finished a strong Spring Training leading the team in many offensive categories, highlighted by a 3 home run effort against the Phillies. Already seen by some as a favorite for AL Rookie of the Year, Hicks should see plenty of good pitches with Mauer hitting behind him in the #2 spot. His development is going to be a lot of fun to monitor over the course of the season.
Perkins is finally transitioning to the closer role full time and has a huge opportunity to prove himself. Finishing last season with a 2.56 ERA and 10.0 K/9 in 70 appearances, the transition should be smooth. However, can the Twins get the ball to him in the 9th inning?
This is a make or break year for Plouffe. A year ago, I was in favor of the Twins moving on without Plouffe, until he went on a 2-month homerun surge last season. He finished 2012 with 24 HR and 55 RBI in 119 games. Can he follow up and cement himself as the Twins starting third baseman? My guess is he does.
Willingham had a career year in 2012 finishing with 35 HR and 110 RBI. He’s 34, and it’s reasonable to believe those numbers may regress. He should have plenty of opportunities to drive in a lot of runs for the Twins with Aaron Hicks and Joe Mauer batting in front of him.
One of the nicer highlights of 2012, Diamond emerged as the ace last season going 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA. He’s more of a mid-rotation guy, but it is apparent that the Twins are relying on Diamond to be at the front. He starts the season on the DL but should debut April 12.
Morneau was able to go through his normal offseason routine this year and is seems to finally be healthy. After dealing with concussion and wrist issues in 2010 and 2011, Morneau bounced back in a big way in 2012. He still had wrist issues, but looked really good the second half of last season and finished the year batting .267 with 19 HR and 77 RBI in 134 games. He’s back batting cleanup; will he provide the punch the Twins need from their big man?
Ron Gardenhire, Manager
Gardenhire enters the season without a contract extension in hand and his job in jeopardy. However, GM Terry Ryan has said Gardenhire will be judged not by the win-loss record of the Twins, but overall motivation, energy, improvement and developement of the Twins.
Can the Twins win?
I’m an optimist. I always want to say my team can win. It’s baseball, a lot can happen. Beyond the Tigers, the AL Central is weak. The rotation will give up runs. The offense will be depended on to score runs, and that starts with Hicks, Mauer, Morneau and Willingham. I really, really want to think the Twins have potential to win, but it’s going to be tough. If things go well, the optimist in me says 4th place, at best.
2013 Predicted Finish: 5th Place, AL Central