Joe Mauer is looking much better this spring so far.
A quick look at the Twins' projected starting lineup for 2012 poses one serious question: where will the runs come from?
So far this spring that question remains unanswered.
With only eight spring games played so far, there is plenty of time for things to fall into place. However, the results so far are not creating a lot of excitement for the upcoming season at Target Field, and it looks like the three-year-old ballpark will once again be the biggest draw for Minnesotans this season.
In their eight games the Twins have only scored 22 runs. At a time when supposedly the hitters are ahead of the pitchers, Minnesota is averaging less than three runs a game. At the same time they have been yielding 4.5 runs per game.
So far the 34 players the Twins have used this spring have a total of only 19 RBI. The projected starting lineup, with Ryan Doumit as the designated hitter, has only seven of them. Compare that to former Twins Michael Cuddyer with the Rockies and Delmon Young with the Tigers, who have combined for nine.
The long ball has consistently been a problem with Minnesota, and so far the team has hit only two spring training home runs—neither by any projected starter in the lineup. Young by himself has already hit two for the Tigers.
An argument can be made that spring training doesn't mean a whole lot, and that the results can be thrown out once the regular season opens.
However, a quick scan of the records for the American League Central teams so far aligns pretty close to how I expect the division to finish in 2012.
Where will the Twins finish in the AL Central in 2012?
There are some bright spots, however.
Second baseman Alexi Casilla is hitting .455 this spring, after struggling last year in Grapefruit League play, batting only .200. That struggle carried over into the season and he only hit .260 in 97 games.
With Casilla's strong spring, it means Tsuyoshi Nishioka is left battling for the Twins' utility infielder role. Nishioka, who leads the team with 18 at-bats this spring, is hitting .278.
Center fielder Denard Span looks to be fully recovered from concussion symptoms that kept him out of the lineup for a good portion for the season in 2011. So far in four games he's batting .500.
And while Justin Morneau is struggling with only one hit in eight at-bats, his likely successor at first base, Chris Parmelee, is batting .300 in four games, with one of the two home runs the Twins have hit.
Perhaps the brightest spot so far this spring is the fact that catcher Joe Mauer has played in four games and appears fully recovered from bilateral leg weakness that limited him to only eight games in all of spring training last season.
While the Twins will be improved over their 99-loss season from 2011, they still have a long way to go to get back to the 94-win season of 2010.