I’ve been trying to be more positive about the 2012 Twins. It is not always easy, especially after a 2011 season in which the Twins lost 99 games and then announced they were cutting payroll back to only $100 millions dollars. But I’m trying. Yesterday I posted the first five reasons to be excited about the 2012 Twins, and here are the rest.
5. A healthy pitching staff. In 2011 Kevin Slowey, Jose Mijares, Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano (twice), Scott Baker, and Nick Blackburn all spent time on the disabled list. That is a pretty large portion of the Twins’ pitching staff dealing with injuries seriously enough to merit a stint on the disabled list. And throw in Matt Capps, who dealt with pain in his wrist for the majority of 2011 despite taking the ball whenever called upon. Twins pitching was so thin in 2011 that even Michael Cuddyer was called upon to pitch an inning of baseball (retiring the side without giving up a run). It would be unwise to predict that the Twins can go through 2012 without any injuries to their pitching staff, but for now all of their guys are healthy and look to have bounce back seasons.
4. Joe Mauer‘s knees. Despite playing in just 82 games last year, Joe Mauer’s knees benefited from starting just 47 games behind the plate, the first time since 2007 that he didn’t catch at least 109 games. And before that injury shortened season in 2007 Mauer had caught over 100 games every year except for the year he mad his MLB debut in 2004. All that rest in 2011 should pay off for Mauer in 2012 as he attempts to win back the hearts of so many Minnesota Twins fans that turned on him after a confusing year of mysterious leg ailments and a perceived lack of toughness. A healthy Joe Mauer means that the Twins won’t need to play Drew Butera (.167/.210/.239) nearly as much in 2012, and it frees up recent acquisition Ryan Doumit(who isn’t much of a catcher anyways) to fill in holes in the outfield left by the soon-to-be-departed Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer.
3. Glen Perkins. After a year transitioning to the bullpen Glen Perkins emerged in 2011 as the Minnesota Twins’ best option out of the bullpen. While Matt Capps and Joe Nathan struggled to close games behind him, Perkins was a model of consistency through the first 3/4 of the season before wearing down towards the tail end of the season. Despite a less than stellar last month to the season, Perkins finished 2011 with a 2.48 ERA and better than a 3/1 SO to BB rate. Perkins struck out more than a batter per inning last year, and if you can believe GM Terry Ryan’s recent comments, Perkins will be allowed to continue on in the set-up role he thrived with in 2011. With so many questions surrounding the 2012 bullpen, Perkins ability to shut opponents down in the 7th and 8th innings is a bright spot heading into 2012.
2. Justin Morneau will be another year removed from the concussion he sustained in Toronto, and should be fully healthy after a couple of surgical procedures derailed his 2011 come back. When healthy in 2010 Morneau was among the best first basemen in all of baseball. Before a concussion in 2010 Morneau was on pace for yet another MVP smashing the ball around Target Field to the tune of a 1.055 OPS. In 2011 Morneau was slow coming out of Spring Training, still nursing some lingering effects of the concussion and he never really got things on track before being sidelined with a wrist injury that would ultimately shut him down for the remainder of the 2011 season. Morneau hit just .227 last year and showed very little of the power Twins fans are accustomed to seeing from him. Morneau is set to make $15 million in 2012 and being healthy will go a long way towards helping him earn that money.
1. The number two pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Player Draft. The 2012 draft isn’t very deep, and there won’t be a Steven Strasburg or a Bryce Haper for the Twins at #2, but the second overall pick gives them an opportunity to draft an elite talent to help supplement a Minor League system that hasn’t yielded the talent the Twins front office had hoped in the recent past. At number two the Twins could be looking at Kenny Diekroeger, a short stop out of Stanford. Diekroeger could certainly fill a hole that Twins have had in the middle infield since dealing Jason Bartlett in 2007, and as a college player his path the big show would certainly be shorter than a HS prospect. Another middle infield option could be Arizona State’s Deven Marrero. Marrero is a short stop that has decent speed and great defensive instincts. He isn’t going to knock the cover off the ball, but he would certainly be an upgrade over anyone the Twins have in their Minor League system. The Twins just took college short stop Levi Michael in the first round a year ago, would they try again in 2012? If the Twins are looking for an arm in the draft, Mark Appel, RHP, also from Stanford will probably be available, and could be a solid contender at #2 if he can reduce his walks in 2012. It’s unlikely that Lance McCullers, RHP, will be available at number two, but if he is, the Twins would do well to snatch this HS pitching prospect from Tampa Jesuit (FL) and his mid-to-upper 90s fastball.
Those aren’t the only reasons to be optimistic heading into 2012, but they’re among the best reasons to put a smile on the face of many Twins fans.
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