The Twins added a couple of aging veterans this offseason but remain largely a team of homegrown talent with a lot of former top 100 prospects manning the field.
The Twins owned a pretty impressive offense last season but their pitching destroyed any chance they may have had at being legitimate. This season, their offense may be even better with impressive youngsters growing more experienced but it’s hard to say the same of their pitching staff.
Can Minnesota overcome their four-year playoff drought in 2015 or are they doomed to remain in the basement of the AL Central?
Batting Average: 11th
Mauer dealt with injuries for the second straight season and saw his numbers regress across the board. He batted a career-low .277 while posting a .732 OPS, 4 HR, 55 RBI, 60 R, and 27 2B. We know Mauer is a better player than that and if he can stay at least relatively healthy this year he can return to his .300 BA, 30+ 2B, 80+ R self.
Unlike previous seasons, however, the Twins have a good bat that can step up if Mauer is absent. Vargas was very impressive in his first 53 Big League games as he batted .274 with a .772 OPS, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 26 R, and 10 2B. In the minors, Vargas owned a career .288 BA in 381 games and hit as many as 19 home runs and drove in as many as 93 in a single season. Vargas is a quality power hitter who needs at-bats and could be a steal in fantasy drafts.
The Bull-Dozier has consistently improved in his first 2.5 seasons in the league and has established himself as one of the better power bats at his position. He batted .242 with a .762 OPS last year while posting career highs in HR (23), RBI (71), R (112), SB (21), and 2B (33). He also walked a career-high 89 times, posting an impressive .345 OBP. With a solid glove to boot, Dozier is one of the best middle infielders in the AL.
Escobar can play all over the infield and was very impressive last year as he hit 35 doubles and posted a .721 OPS in his first full season in the league. He seldom walks but has an eye for the gaps and is one of the better utility men in the AL.
3B: Trevor Plouffe
Plouffe has really developed into a very solid third baseman and reached career-highs in RBI (80), R (69), BA (.258), and 2B (40) in 2014. His power is down from the 24 home runs we saw him hit three seasons ago but he is hitting twice as many doubles and walking a lot more, showing good signs of maturity and better roundedness than the .230 all-or-nothing hitter we saw in 2012.
With a good glove and improving fundamentals, expect Plouffe to man the hot corner for the foreseeable future.
At a weak position, few youngsters are as promising as Santana. In his first 101 Big League games last season, the 23-year-old batted .319 while posting a .824 OPS, 7 HR, 40 RBI, 70 R, 20 SB, 27 2B, and 7 3B. His 98 strikeouts to 19 walks were literally the only blemish on his stellar rookie year.
In the minors, he didn’t always bat for a high average but has great speed (30+ SB potential) and is developing a knack for hitting the gaps. Look for Santana to establish himself as one of the league’s top shortstops and speedsters this season.
Nunez has a solid glove and can play all over the infield. Unlike other backup infielders, he doesn’t hurt you in the lineup but isn’t anything to write home about either.
Suzuki developed into an All-Star in his first stint with the Twins, batting .288 with a .727 OPS, 61 RBI, and 34 2B. He doesn’t hit for power and he doesn’t walk much but he seldom strikes out and has developed into a very good doubles hitter. With a solid glove behind the plate, Suzuki is a very solid option at backstop.
Pinto entered last season as Baseball Prospectus’ No. 56 prospect and has shown glimpses of promise in both the minor and Major Leagues. Pinto batted .279 or better in each of his last three seasons in the minors but batted just .219 in 57 games last season. On the other hand, he’s great at drawing walks and finished with a .315 OBP.
Though he never hit more than 15 home runs in the minors, he flashed good power last year with seven dingers in 169 at-bats. He’s a work in progress, both offensively and defensively, but the 25-year-old has a good shot to be the Twins’ catcher of the future.
Oswaldo Arcia doesn’t walk, doesn’t hit doubles, doesn’t have any speed, and doesn’t play a great outfield. At the same time, outfielders who can hit 20+ home runs in this league are increasingly rare. His .231 BA, 57 RBI, 46 R, and 127 K last season leave a lot to be desired but his 20 home runs are nothing to scoff at.
In the minors he owned a very impressive .314 BA and .375 OBP so we’d definitely like to see some of that but through his first 200 MLB games, he’s batting just .241 with a .302 OBP. At 23, there’s plenty of time for the former top prospect to develop and he’s already proven a capable power hitter but he’ll need to work a lot on his approach to reach the next level.
Torii Hunter is the old man on a squad of 20-somethings but proved that he can still bring it last season. At 38, Hunter played 142 games and put up a .286 BA, .765 OPS, 17 HR, 83 RBI, 71 R, and 33 2B. Those stats have been about par for him over the last few seasons and there’s no reason to expect him to regress more than a little this coming season.
Aaron Hicks is a former top 20 prospect but has looked like anything but in his first two years in the league. Through 150 games, Hicks is batting a mere .201 with a .606 OPS, 9 HR, 45 RBI, 59 R, and 13 SB. That’s a far cry from the prospect who showed potential to hit .280+ with double-digit home runs, 30+ 2B, and 30+ SB. His glove hasn’t looked more promising than that either.
Perhaps this is the year Hicks stays healthy and becomes productive. Or, perhaps this is the year the Twins decide to cut their losses.
Jordan Schafer struggles to hit for a decent average but has good speed and a passable glove.
Phil Hughes posted ERAs above 5.00 in two of his last three years with the Yanks but looked like a completely different pitcher in his first stint in Minnesota. Hughes went 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 186 K to just 16 BB in a career-high 209.2 innings. If he can continue to keep the ball in the park and post staggering K:BB ratios, he should see continued success. Still, it’s not like Hughes didn’t show promise early on in New York, but he never stayed consistent or healthy.
Ervin Santana posted a 3.95 ERA last season, only because he surrendered a lot less home runs than he usually does. Over the previous six seasons, Santana averaged 27 home runs allowed, including a league-worst 39 two years ago. Last season, he gave up just 16, which saved him given his 1.31 WHIP. He’s never shown an ability to keep the ball in the park consistently and, at 32, it’s hard to see him as better than a guy who makes all his starts and keeps his ERA manageable.
Kyle Gibson posted a 4.47 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in his first full season but his 3.80 FIP suggests he pitched considerably better than those numbers indicate. He kept the ball in the park and improved his walk totals. We still haven’t seen anything close to the 10.5 K/9 – 1.9 BB/9 pitcher we saw in the minors but he’s a work in progress and will hopefully get that ERA below 4.00 this season.
Ricky Nolasco posted arguably his best season in 2013 between the Marlins and Dodgers but struggled mightily after getting a big pay day from the Twins. He went a career-worst 6-12, posted a career-worst 5.38 ERA, and a career-worst 1.52 WHIP. So which Nolasco will we see this season?
Look, he’s not the good pitcher we saw in 2013 but he’s not the horrid pitcher we saw last season either. In a typical year, Nolasco is good for an ERA in the mid-4.00s and a manageable WHIP. Can he rebound? Yes, but at 32, that’s far from certain.
Mike Pelfrey is 5-16 with a 5.56 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, and 111 K/71 BB in 34 games over two years for the Twins. Why is he still here?
Tommy Milone gives up too many home runs to be successful but he’s a pitcher similar to Nolasco that will keep you in games but rarely dominate any. Through three seasons in the league, though, he’s regressed more than improved.
Trevor May is a guy to keep an eye on as the former top prospect found his groove in Triple-A last season. After struggling for a few seasons, May put up a 2.85 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Of course, he struggled mightily in the Bigs, posting a 7.88 ERA over 45.2 innings and giving up seven home runs. He’s got a good strikeout arm and if he can improve his walk and home run totals he’s a better option for the rotation than Pelf or Milone.
Alex Meyer is expected to be the future of this rotation. Through 68 games in the minors, the former first-round pick and top-30 prospect owns a 3.15 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9. He needs to improve his walk totals but he keeps the ball in the park and has shown impressive consistency as he’s moved through the farm system.
Glen Perkins had a great run from 2011 to 2013, as he posted a combined 2.45 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 54 saves. He regressed considerably last year, though, as he posted a 3.65 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, gave up seven home runs, and blew seven saves, the second most in the league. Perhaps he can rebound but closers have a short shelf life and Perkins is going to need to quickly turn his regression around.
Casey Fien has proven to be a consistent 3.90-4.00 ERA pitcher. He’s not great but he makes a lot of appearances and keeps his walk totals down.
Tim Stauffer was brought in from San Diego but he is hardly a great reliever, owning a 3.71 ERA and 1.27 WHIP since 2011. He’s a tested veteran but he’s far from great.
Ryan Pressly looked solid last season as he posted a 2.86 ERA but he’ll need to do a better job of keeping runners off base if he wants to be successful.
Brian Duensing put up one of the best seasons of his career at 31, posting a 3.31 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 54.1 IP. Like the rest of them, he struggled to keep runners off but is a solid enough option.
Caleb Thielbar looked great in 2013 but was as mediocre as everyone else last season putting up a 3.40 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.
Defense: C+ to B-
Starting Pitching: D to C-