The Twins will end their 2011 campaign on Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals, and they will probably do it with 100 losses. The Twins will end the season as the last place team in the American League Central, a spot normally occupied for the Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians. Being in last place is not all bad, it does, after all, lead to high draft picks. Both the Royals and the Indians have taken advantage of these draft picks and their teams are trending upwards, thanks to young guys like Eric Hosmer and Jason Kipnis. The Twins, however, are trending downwards, having enjoyed recent success and thus, do not have a stable full of young kids ready to teak the Major Leagues by storm.
Maybe the 2011 Twins were snake bit by injury, and maybe even while they were healthy the star players underperformed. But even if the Twins had stayed healthy and performed up to their lofty preseason expectations, did anyone really think that a playoff rotation that included Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, and Scott Baker or Brian Duensing really compete against the power hitting line ups that the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox (if they don’t choke against the Orioles) are throwing out there? Pitch to contact isn’t going to work even with the best defense (Tsuyoshi Nishioka not withstanding) when the other team has home run power in six of its nine line up spots.
Because the Twins have enjoyed so much regular season success their Minor League Affiliates are a little thin on star power. Sure, there are plenty of middle of the rotation starters and lots of young outfielders with “potential,” but there are no Bryce Harper type guys out there. No future Johan Santana types either, and the Twins’ best pitching prospect, Kyle Gibson, just had Tommy John surgery and is AT LEAST a year away from pitching for the Twins.
Ben Revere, Minnesota’s most exciting young player, has played most of 2011 with the Minnesota Twins, and his recent hitting streak have pushed his stats up to respectable levels, but he doesn’t have the same sort of upside in the batter’s box that he displays in the outfield. If he is not playing center field, where the Twins hope to have a healthy Denard Span in 2012, Revere’s bat makes him a huge liability at corner outfield position usually reserved for teams to sneak an extra power hitter into their lineup.
This is not to say that the Twins cannot turn things around in 2012. They can be competitive in the near future, and losing 100 games is not something that Twins fans should have to look forward to every year. The Twins need to use this offseason to sign a couple of solid free agents. They need to shore up their middle infield and find someone to play along side Alexi Casilla. They need to decide if Danny Valencia is really the answer at third base, and they need to find replacements for at least one of the two corner outfielders who contracts expire at the end of 2011 (Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel). They also need to find a top of the rotation starter to give the Twins a chance to rest what will undoubtedly be another young untested bullpen in 2012.
The offseason brings new hope, and Twins fans can look towards the future, but 2011, by any measure, was a royal disappointment.
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