2013 Record: 66-96 (4th Place AL Central, 27 GB)
It’s hard to think that the Minnesota Twins won 94 games, along with the AL Central, just 4 years ago. It feels like they’ve been horrible for much longer than that, because they’ve finished last twice and fourth once in the last 3 years. The Twins haven’t seen the playoffs since 2010, but that should all change soon.
The Twins main focus in the upcoming season needs to be on offense. They made great additions to the bullpen, but still need to add a strong bat to their lineup. The team only scored 614 runs last season, while their opponents scored a total of 788 runs against them. This may seem like a lot, but in reality that’s a little over one more run per game, which is significant, but not necessarily insuperable. Manager Ron Gardenhire will still focus on the defensive fundamentals, but needs to look at the plate for more production.
Minnesota made some huge additions at the mound that should add great depth and firepower to the rotation, and also added a few role hitters to the lineup.
RHP Ricky Nolasco (4yr/$49 million)
RHP Phil Hughes (3yr/$24 million)
OF/DH Jason Kubel (1yr/$2 million)
C Kurt Suzuki (1yr/$2.75 million)
Pitcher Ricky Nolasco won 13 games last year with 165 strikeouts, and should head the Twins rotation in the upcoming season. The Twins obviously see something in him, paying him just over $12 million per year for the next 4 years.
Phil Hughes is another great addition to the Minnesota bullpen, despite his struggles last year. Hughes only won 4 games last year, but in 2012 he went 16-13 with 165 Ks in 191 innings. Hughes, only 28-years-old, will see added time and hopefully help the Twins get more W’s this year.
Jason Kubel returns to the Twins and should add some offense to the lineup. Although he only had 5 homers last year, Kubel hit 30 home runs 2 years ago in Arizona. His homeruns and high RBI should help alleviate some of the run problems in Minnesota.
Finally, the Twins will utilize Kurt Suzuki as the new catcher and move Joe Mauer to first base. Suzuki only played 97 games last season, but should see a lot more time behind the plate in Minnesota. His stats have steadily declined due to his decrease in games played, but they should go back up to normal as the 30-year-old catcher becomes a regular in the lineup.
Justin Morneau played 127 games for the Twins before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, in which he hit 17 home runs and had 74 RBI. Even though Morneau has been extremely inconsistent over the last few years, his season with the Twins last year was a promising return. Although he hasn’t hit more than 20 home runs since 2009, he still hit significantly better last year than what he has been batting.
The Instant Replay-less Era is over. Although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the first instant replay call was upheld during the spring training game versus the Blue Jays. The new rule debuted when RF Chris Rahl was ruled safe at first base. Goodbye to the outdated, stubborn attitude against replays!
PLAYER TO WATCH
30-year-old Twin veteran Joe Mauer will see a new role, filling the first base slot after Justin Morneau’s departure. Although the MLB has enacted a new rule to protect catchers , the Twins moved Mauer to first to further protect him from getting another concussion, which held him to just 113 games last season. If Mauer stays healthy, he should contribute largely on offense like he has in the past, and this will be just another positive influence in the box score. Mauer is the All-Star the Twins need to become contenders in the AL.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
The rest of the rotation includes Kevin Correia, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley. Twins fans can expect a great improvement in the bullpen due to these additions, and should look forward to more wins next season. They still need to add a power hitter, though, to be contenders in the AL Central.