As a Twins fan, I know I am not alone in asking “Is it 2016 yet?”
What can be said about the 2014 Minnesota Twins? A team that has lost nearly 300 games in three seasons?
Terrible front office decision making? Absolutely.
New Management? Well, not so much.
The Twins decided to hang on to manager Ron Gardenhire, perhaps out of guilt and hoping he will hang on long enough to manage future teams. Either way, no one should expect a dramatic turnaround this season, but instead, modest improvement, especially in pitching, and young player development will very much will be a work in progress.
Projected 2014 Minnesota Twins “Go-To” Lineup
- Aaron Hicks, CF
- Brian Dozier, 2B
- Joe Mauer, 1B
- Josh Willingham, LF
- Oswaldo Arcia, RF
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B
- Jason Kubel, DH
- Kurt Suzuki, C
- Pedro Florimon, SS
- SP 1 Ricky Nolasco, RHP
- SP2 Kevin Correia, RHP
- SP3 Phil Hughes, RHP
- SP4 Mike Pelfrey, RHP
- SP5 Kyle Gibson, RHP
- Othesr: P Samuel Deduno RHP, Vance Worley RHP, Scott Diamond LHP
- Setup: Michael Tonkin, RHP
- Setup: Jared Burton, RHP
- Closer: Glen Perkins, LHP
Fantasy Studs: Glen Perkins, Joe Mauer
Glen Perkins was a top 10 reliever last season, and if it wasn’t for the 90-loss Twins he could have easily been a top-five closer. I personally don’t overvalue closers, or relievers, but when looking at acquiring one, Perkins is an affordable, and valuable option. Forty saves in 2014 isn’t a stretch and with a K/9 rate of 10.3 he adds plenty of value and potential for Fantasy teams this season.
Joe Mauer will be drafted within the first six rounds in most leagues this season. Primarily for his catcher eligibility. Although, he only fills two categories, runs and batting average. Mauer will play more this season at first base, and dual eligibility will lure plenty of owners. He makes a below-average first basemen, but still a top-10 catcher. His 20-plus HR season may have been flukey, but still some value here.
Breakout Candidate: Brian Dozier
What happens when a team is performing terribly each and every night? You lose fans, and players who are performing well, but aren’t extremely flashy, get overlooked. Last season, Dozier slid to second base after not performing well at shortstop. He went on to bash 18 home runs, steal 14 bases, and score 72 runs. Sneaky value for a guy at a scarce position, who provides double-digit steals, and potentially 20 home runs.
The catch is if he can improve his Walk Rate (8.2%) and Strikeout Rate (19.3 in 2013). He also struggles against righties but he can improve on all of these categories, since he is only 27 and is still developing.
I should stress this a “breakout” in the sense he could be a top-10 second basemen by the end of 2014.
Sleeper Candidate: Oswaldo Arcia
Oswaldo Arcia made a splash for the Twins last season as a rookie. A few injuries got in the way, and as a 22-year-old, he has plenty of things to improve and develop. His power is real, but his K rate is scary. A career 22-percent K rate in the minors, jumped to 31 percent in the majors.
In the cases he did hit the ball, his power is real. He hit 14 home runs in 351 at bats in 2013. He also tagged 17 doubles. Target Field tends to hurt left-handed power hitters, so his power largely comes from away parks. Either way, if he stays healthy, and improves his plate discipline a bit, 20 home runs, 80 RBI, and and .275 average is not out of reach.
Bust Candidate: Josh Willingham
His power is still real, but it disappeared last season. Willingham ended up needing knee surgery, and missed significant time, but the power seemed to vanish. One can hope it was simply because of the injuries, but at age 35, you never can be certain. I think he still has the potential to hit 25-plus home runs and 85 RBI, but that is if everything goes perfectly, and he stays injury-free. I can’t see that happening.
Top Rookie Candidate: Josmil Pinto
I am sure many of you are thinking “What? Where is Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton?” Well, that’s the thing — I am not certain either of them get the call this season, or if they do it won’t be until late. Pinto has a chance to play frequently, even with the signing of the veteran Kurt Suzuki, Pinto may force himself into more play time.
Pinto is a patient hitter who impressed after his call late last season, and his biggest weakness is his defensive ability. In Fantasy, that has no impact, but it could hurt his playing time until it improves. Fifteen home runs and a .280 average are very real if he gets at least 380 at bats.
What You Should Know
The Twins will not be in contention this season. They may also be looking to move some pieces around the trade deadline, to contenders such as Josh Willingham, or possibly Glen Perkins.
Joe Mauer’s move to first base should help prolong his career and he will likely stay on pace for his typical career numbers.
What people will be watching most is the stacked farm system and how they are progressing. With the No. 1 prospect overall Byron Buxton shredding in his first year of professional ball, he will look to continue this season.
Sano is another top 5-10 prospect, depending where you look, and he is closest to the majors. His potential surgery is a concern, and something to take note of.
If you have followed the Twins as I have for so many years, you know that the Twins do not rush their prospects, and sometimes they seem to pamper them. Think of Aaron Hicks or Chris Parmalee, who finally got the call (out of necessity) and disappointed.
This farm system is loaded, and the Twins should be in division winning discussions once again in a few seasons. In fact, they have eight prospects ranked in Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks “Top 101 Prospects of 2014”. Plenty to look forward to.
For now though, let’s see if they can avoid another 90 loss season…
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