Minnesota Twins: 5 Players with All-Star Potential for the 2012 MLB Season

Tyler EssigContributor IIIMarch 13, 2012

Minnesota Twins: 5 Players with All-Star Potential for the 2012 MLB Season

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    The Minnesota Twins come into the 2012 MLB season coming off a 99-loss season and without their lone All-Star, Michael Cuddyer.

    Despite their struggles last season, the Twins are still a team that has quite a bit of talent.

    They are not about to overtake the Detroit Tigers and become the AL Central favorites, but injuries and bad luck were definitely big factors of Minnesota's struggles last season. 

    There is a variety of All-Star-capable players on the 2012 Twins roster. Some just need to be able to shake the injury bug, while others may need to finally reach their full potential.

    Either way, I have five Twins players I believe have realistic chances of making it to the Midsummer Classic in 2012.

Joe Mauer

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    Yes, when healthy, Joe Mauer is the best player on the Twins roster and is the most obvious choice of a potential All-Star.

    In the four seasons in which he has had more than 555 plate appearances, Joe has made the All-Star games in each one of those seasons.

    It is not a question of if Mauer will perform well enough to make the All-Star roster, but rather a question of if he will be in the lineup enough to show his batting expertise.

    If the highest paid player in Twins history can get in 130 games this season, it is almost a guarantee that he will be an American League All-Star.

Josh Willingham

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    Josh Willingham has the tough job of replacing Michael Cuddyer, one of the most loved Twins players and the team's lone All-Star from last season.

    In order for Willingham to become an All-Star in the 2012 season, he will need to do two things: continue to hit home runs at a high rate and hit the ball in play more often.

    In 2011, Willingham's 16.8 at-bats-per-home-run rate was good enough to rank him eighth in the American League. If he can keep that up and play around 150 games this season, he could potentially be a 35-home-run player.

    What Willingham needs to improve on for this season is his ball-in-play percentage. Last season he had a career low of only 56 percent of his plate appearances, resulting in him hitting the ball in play. That was six percent less than his average in seasons prior to last year. This dip resulted in Josh having career lows in batting average (.246) and on-base percentage (.332).

    If he can hit a little above his career average of .262 and rack up the bombs and RBI, Willingham should be a legitimate All-Star option in the outfield.

Ben Revere

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    Revere made his name known after making the play of the year against the wall and his somersault triple.

    This year it is going to be his play at that plate that makes him a household name.

    With a career .326 batting average in the minor leagues, Revere has proven that he can hit the ball. Despite last year's .267 average, he still proved that he can put the ball in play.

    Among players who had 450 plate appearances last season, the up-and-coming center fielder was second in all of MLB with an 85 percent ball-in-play percentage. He was also tied for fifth in strikeout percentage at 8.5 percent.

    If Revere can continue to put the ball in play and use his speed to get on base, he could potentially become a .300 hitter for the Twins this season. Add on his potential to have 50-plus stolen bases, and Revere becomes a realistic candidate to be an All-Star.

Scott Baker

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    Before an elbow injury sidelined him for the rest of the season, Baker was having a career year in 2011.

    The 30-year-old was the only starting pitcher with a winning record from last season for Minnesota. He won his games by keeping teams off the bases (1.173 WHIP) and striking out batters at a career-high rate (8.2 K/9).

    He also had near career lows in HR/9 (1.0), BB/9 (2.1), H/9 (8.4) and K/BB (3.84).

    If he can continue to drop those numbers and get some more run support from one of the worst offensive teams last season, Scott is poised for a breakout season.

Francisco Liriano

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    Following a promising 2010 season, many people thought that Liriano was about to live up to his outstanding potential that Twins fans had a glimpse of in his rookie season.

    Unfortunately, last season was a huge step back. He had a bad 5.09 ERA and 5.0 BB/9. He also had the lowest strikeout rate of his career, with only 7.5 K/9.

    The lone positive performance was Liriano's May 3rd no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox. Even in that game, he only recorded two strikeouts and issued six walks.

    Liriano has said that a shoulder injury was the reason for his problems last season.

    If his early success in spring training is a sign of things to come, Twins fans could be in store for a huge bounce-back season for the 28-year-old.

    In order for the former top prospect to return to a second All-Star game, Liriano will need to return back to his pre-Tommy John surgery form. Hopefully a healthy, accurate Francisco Liriano will be pitching well for the Twins in the 2012 season.