I\’ve been wanting to sit down and write up a Twins preview for a couple of weeks now. However, there\’s been so much roster turnover and uncertainty, what with the whole trading Johan, losing Hunter and Silva, possibly trading Nathan scenarios, and so on, that I wanted to wait until we were closer to the final roster to take a crack at it. It looks like things are now settled enough that I\’m going to do just that. Read on past the jump to find out my take on your 2008 Minnesota Twins.
Main question: Is this year\’s offense going to be better than last year\’s?
Answer: I don\’t see why not.
I think it\’s pretty safe to assume that 2007 was a down year for Mauer, Morneau, and Cuddyer. They should bounce back, probably not to 2006 numbers, but enough that you can say they\’ll all do better this year. Torii Hunter is gone, but Delmon Young should come close to replicating his numbers. That makes for a middle of the order, two through five, of Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau, and Young. I call that an upgrade.
Jason Kubel and Craig Monroe will split time at DH, and as 4th/5th OF. This is an upgrade from the Rondell White, Mike Redmond, Jason Tyner, Lew Ford mishmash that was used last year. Also an upgrade.
In the infield, it looks like they\’re going to go with Mike Lamb at 3rd, Adam Everett at SS, and Brendan Harris at 2nd, with Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert in utility roles. The absolute worst-case scenario here is that this is the same kind of production from these roles as Punto, Jason Bartlett, Luis Castillo, Luis Rodriguez, and Alexi Casilla gave last year. I think it\’s going to be an upgrade.
And finally… Go-Go. That\’s Carlos Gomez, one of the players acquired in the Santana trade. Yes, he should probably stay in the minors this year. Yes, he\’s probably going to struggle to hit in the majors this year. But they say he\’s faster than Jose Reyes. (That\’s fast.) And he should be able to play CF in the Dome well enough. So why not let him play and see how things go? Who would you rather see, Denard Span? Jason Pridie? Monroe stumbling around center field? Even if he has an abysmal season, it\’ll still be better than the one Punto had last year. And at least you\’ll be able to say he\’s got time to improve. I\’m gonna take the glass-half-full approach. We could have a very exciting player on our hands here.
Bottom line, I think the offense is better this year. Of course, that\’s only half the story.
Can anybody here play this game?
The good news is that the bullpen looks outstanding. There should be news of signing Joe Nathan to a 4-year deal today. Put Pat Neshek, Matt Guerrier, Dennys Reyes, Juan Rincon, Jesse Crain, and Brian Bass in front of him, and that\’s a bullpen. The real question is, can these guys pitch 4-5 innings every day, because that might be what it takes with the starting rotation.
Speaking of. The holdovers this year are Scott Baker, Boof Bonser, and Kevin Slowey. I think it\’s cautiously optimistic to say they\’ll be as good as, or slightly better than last year, which puts them all three into the category of \”adequate pitcher\”. They\’re joined by Livan Hernandez, who I could best describe as \”somewhat equivalent to Carlos Silva\”. I suppose that means he\’s hovering somewhere around adequate as well, although I\’m well aware that that\’s debatable. So there\’s four starters. Who\’s fifth?
Mr. Francisco Liriano. When you last saw him, people were calling him F-Bomb, or Franchise. He was the guy you recall being really quite dominant through the middle part of 2006. He was the missing link who might have made a difference that post-season. Of course, the reality is that the last time you saw him, he was leaving a game with his elbow having fallen off. He got himself one of them Tommy John surgeries, and is trying to come back this year. No one really knows if he\’ll be the same… but if he is, he\’ll be well above adequate.
The other good news for the starters is that there\’s a cast of thousands (well ok, not quite that many) waiting in AAA for their chance. Nick Blackburn, Glen Perkins, Phillip Humber, and I\’m sure a few others who\’s names I can\’t recall at the moment are ready to step in and take their shot at getting guys out in the bigs. I can\’t say it\’s the best plan to rely on a revolving door policy for your rotation, but surely in an organization renowned for hoarding starting pitching there are five guys who can get the job done. As pitching coach Rick Anderson said the other day: \”it\’s their time\”.
The final analysis? I think the Twins are gonna be better than you think. Unfortunately, that might only mean finishing with a .500 record. If I\’m wrong, they\’re only gonna win 70 games and challenge for last place in the division. If I\’m right, though, it means they\’re well on track to being a contender in 2010, which would be a lot of outdoor excitement. Either way, I think they\’re going to be well worth watching this year.