Minnesota Twins Opening Day Projection: Starting Lineup
Catcher: Jason Castro
Last offseason as Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were getting settled in Minnesota they clearly made Jason Castro a priority free agent addition. Castro was brought to Minnesota on a three-year, $24.5 million contract for his track record as a good defensive catcher. Most important was his ability to frame pitches and hopefully bring added success to what had been a struggling pitching unit in Minnesota.
While Castro did live up to his billing as a good defensive catcher, he also added his best offensive season since his 2013 All-Star season. He hit .242/.333/.388 along with 10 home runs and 22 doubles. Those aren’t numbers like that of Joe Mauer during his catching days, but combined with Castro’s defense it was a solid contribution from the catcher in 2017.
Looking forward to 2018, Castro’s biggest responsibility is to continue to help the Twins pitching staff improve and get used to the several new additions to the staff. After that similar offensive numbers would be suitable and an improvement would certainly help the Twins as they try to advance further through the playoffs.
First Base: Joe Mauer
Joe Mauer enters 2018 in the last year of the contract that has been the thorn in the side of his public image ever since he made the move to first base due to concussions. 2017 appeared to be the first season in which Mauer started to get his vision and brain to work together in a way that he could hit the baseball in Mauer-like ways again.
On the season Mauer hit .305/.384/.417 and 36 doubles (his .384 OBP was 17th among qualified MLB batters). Mauer also started to prove that he has transformed into a quality defensive first baseman. Although we as Twins fans are often clouded by wanting to root for “our guys” it seems as he was robbed of the chance to win a Gold Glove this past season. According to FanGraphs, Mauer was good for 7 defensive runs saved which was sixth in the majors in 2017 and led the league with a 7.1 UZR.
If Mauer is able to replicate his 2017 in 2018 that will be a great season for the Twins first baseman. If he can even improve slightly more as continues to train his eyes and brain in his new reality, Wow! In either of those two scenarios the conversation about a new contract for 2019 will become louder and louder.