Hello Twins fans, it’s time for my keys to the season and my predictions of how the Twins will do. We’ve certainly lost several key players either by free agency or trades. Let’s list the key departures from last year’s team.
Pitchers: Jessie Craine (White Sox), Jon Rauch (Blue Jays),Matt Guerrier (Dodgers), and Brian Fuentes (Athletics)
Infielders: Orlando Hudson (Padres), Nick Punto (Cardinals) and J.J. Hardy (Traded to the Orioles)
The only two key additions that are on the 25 man roster are Tsuyoshi Nishioka who was signed from Japan to play second base and left handed relief pitcher Dusty Hughes who was claimed off waivers from Kansas City. However, the Twins did get Scott Diamond from the Braves in the Rule 5 draft and have worked out a trade to keep him and Jim Hoey was acquired in the J.J. Hardy trade with the Orioles. Neither of these guys will be on the 25 man roster to start the season. However, I think they will be some of the candidates to be called up. I’ve also included some other names (see previous post).
Given the subtractions to the Twins roster this offseason, I actually believe that the Twins will still win the central Division. You can call me biased to the Twins, but I’m not totally convinced that the White Sox will win the division given the additions they got this offseason. I’ll talk a bit more about the Sox in my central division preview post that I’ll have up for sure by Thursday.
What will it take for the Twins to have a successful season?
I think the first thing would be that they need to have a 500 record against the Yankees given the fact that they have played them in 4 out of their 5 last playoff appearances. However, I’m not convinced the Yankees are as strong as in years past, but you can’t always think that the Yankees are not dangerous. I’ll also have a blog with predictions of who will win each division as well for you this week.
Another key for the Twins will be how the bullpen does given the fact that several key relievers have left. So far, the relievers that are on the 25 man roster have pitched solidly in spring training. Joe Nathan’s ERA is not solid, but it was because of a couple of shaky outings, one of which was the result of some bad defense from the Twins.
Another key to the season is how the middle infield does with Nishioka and Alexi Casilla. They both speak different languages from English so communication could be an issue. It should be noted that the Twins are hoping for speed from these guys on the basepaths.
I think another key will be how the Line up does. Let’s list the starting line up with last year’s stats.
Denard Span: .264 AVG, 3 HRs, 58 RBIs
Tsuyoshi Nishioka: (first year in Majors)
Joe Mauer: .328 AVG, 9 HRs, 56 RBIs
Justin Morneau: .345 AVG, 18 HRs, 56 RBIs
Delmon Young: .298 AVG, 21 HRs, 112 RBIs
Jason Kuble: .242 AVG, 21 HRs 92 RBIs
Michael Cuddyer: .271 AVG, 14 HRs, 81 RBIs
Danny Valencia: .311 AVG, 7 HRs and 40 RBIs
Alexi Casilla: .276 AVG, 1 HR, 20 RBIs
It should be noted that Span, Mauer, Kuble and Cuddyer had down years offensively. If these guys can get their offensive numbers up, we’ve got one of the best line ups in baseball. Casilla was mainly used as a utility player last year. if Nishioka can have a decent year offensively, it will be a big boost for the Twins. And if Justin Morneau hits like he was last year before suffering that concussion in early July, that would be a big help. Plus, we have a part time DH in Jim Thome who hit 25 HRs WITH 59 RBIs last year in 276 at bats. If he can do similar to what he did last year, I’d be scared to face this team.
Also, the starting pitchers need to do as well as they did last year. if Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn can pitch a little better, that would be a big plus. Last year, Baker had a 12-9 record with a 4.49 ERA and Nick Blackburn had a 10-12 record with an ERA of 5.42. I think if these 2 pitchers can lower their ERAs to around 4, it would help the team out.