Minnesota Twins: Previewing an Electric Offense for 2009
All around the diamond, the Twins have high-flying speedsters or guys who flat-out bring the lumber. The lineup is not yet set in stone for the Twins, who are accustomed to platooning youngsters all around the field, because there has been an outfield logjam created by the emergence of Denard Span, and according to Jon Heyman, the Twins are also nearing a deal with third baseman Joe Crede.
Joe Mauer, catcher
No surprise with Mauer starting at catcher. He may not be able to hit for power, but the St. Paul native sure has some prowess it the plate. In the past three seasons, Mauer has hit .347, .298, and .328, respectively, also bringing home two batting titles. In 2008, Mauer was the American League's starting catcher in the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium (RIP), also bringing in a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. Mauer, whose production is very important to the Twins, finished fourth in the MVP voting last year. There is no reason at this point to believe that Mauer won't keep up the good work.
Justin Morneau, first base
While Morneau didn't hit as many home runs in 2008 as he did in the previous two seasons, Morneau is still keeping up great production and driving in runs. Since becoming a full-time player in 2005, Morneau set a career high in walks (76), doubles (47), and he also tied his career highs in runs (97), and triples (four). He also had a career low in strikeouts (85). Morneau also hit .300, with 23 home runs and 129 runs batted in.
Alexi Casilla, second base
Casilla had a great year in 2008. He saw his way into 98 games, collecting 385 plate appearances. In those at-bats, Casilla hit .281 with 108 hits, 15 doubles, seven home runs, 50 runs batted in, seven stolen bases, and a .333 on-base percentage. Casilla also boasted a 4.78 range factor at second base.
Nick Punto, shortstop
You never know what you're going to get from Nick Punto. He has had ups, and he has had downs. The 2008 season was an up for Punto, who finished hitting .284 with 15 stolen bases. At short, Punto boasted a 4.92 range factor, keeping up his reputation as a great defensive infielder. Unfortunately, Punto has never been able to follow up on a good season. After hitting .290 in 2006, Punto hit only .210 in 2007. After another good season at the plate in 2008, Punto's track record doesn't look to be in his favor right now. The Twins really need Punto to deviate from his track record this season.
Brendan Harris, third base
Harris, who has bounced all over the league, now finds himself with the Twins prior to being traded from the Rays after one season. Last year, Harris hit .265 with seven home runs and 49 runs batted in while playing at third base, shortstop, and second base. However, the Twins are very close to signing Joe Crede, giving another threat to an already great lineup. Crede would replace Harris as the starting third baseman.
Delmon Young, left field
Young struggled in 2008 to find his potential at the plate. However, he should rebound nicely in 2009 now that he is settled in to Minnesota. A former Rookie of the Year runner-up to Dustin Pedroia, Young drove in 93 runs with the Rays in 2007. The Twins need Young to build on this success if he expects to keep his job as starting left fielder, or to even stay with the Twins.
Carlos Gomez, center field
Go-go Gomez led the Twins with 33 stolen bases in 2008. However, Gomez posted a miserable batting average and on-base percentage. He was called on to bunt far too often, and if Gomez is allowed to swing away, he can raise those two stats. He has played great defense for the Twinkies, and he can become a threat in the lineup if he can reduce his strikeouts.
Michael Cuddyer, right field
Fan-favorite Cuddyer battled injuries in 2008, limiting him to only 71 games. In those games, Cuddyer hit .249 with three home runs. Obviously, Cuddyer would like to go back to his 2006 form, when all of the Twins seemed to be having huge years. With a Crede signing (hopefully) right around the corner, I am all but done with campaigning for the Twins to move him back to third base. If Cuddyer struggles or experiences more injuries in 2009, expect to see Denard Span get the majority of playing time at right field.
Jason Kubel, designated hitter
In 2004, Kubel ripped the cover off the ball in the minors. Between Class AA and AAA, Kubel combined to hit .352 with 22 home runs, 100 runs batted in, 96 runs, and 172 hits. Finally, after a string of disappointing seasons, Kubel finally started building on that minor-league success in 2008. Last year, playing designated hitter, Kubel hit .272 with 20 homers and 78 runs batted in.
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