Josh Willingham will anchor the middle of Minnesota's lineup for the next two years. He's third in baseball with 80 RBI and seventh with 27 homers this year.
If there’s one thing Minnesota Twins fans can take solace in this season, it’s that this team can hit the ball and will continue to hit the ball well for the foreseeable future.
The Twins rank in the top half of the league in many offensive categories.
Minnesota has the sixth most hits in baseball (963), 14th most RBI (448), runs (466), OPS (.732), 10th best batting average (.264), 10th most walks (340), fifth most stolen bases (86) and the sixth best on base percentage (.331).
Josh Willingham has 80 RBI (third best in baseball), 27 homers (seventh most in baseball), a .378 on base percentage (21st best in baseball), a .549 slugging percentage (16th best in baseball) and a .979 OPS (14th best).
He’s locked up for another two years, and is fully healthy.
Joe Mauer, for all of his problems with power, is the top-singles hitter in baseball. He boasts baseball’s 11th best batting average (.321) and the fourth best on base percentage (.417). Mauer is under contract through 2018.
Trevor Plouffe has come out of nowhere to be second on the team in homers (19), and his power appears to be genuine. He’s pre-arbitration eligible this offseason, which means Minnesota will pay him at least 80 percent of his 2012 compensation ($485,000) and cannot go beneath the league minimum. He’s arbitration eligible after the 2013 season.
Ben Revere is hitting .319 with 25 stolen bases. His contract status is the exact same as Plouffe’s.
Denard Span, despite my demands that the front office deal him, is a talented leadoff hitter with a contract keeping him in the Twin Cities through the 2014 season, with a club option for 2015. He’s hitting .291 with 12 stolen bases and a .354 on base percentage.
Which prospect are you most excited about?
Ryan Doumit has been a pleasant surprise for Minnesota. He’s been so well-received that the franchise gave him a two-year extension for $7 million total. He’s hitting .285 with 10 homers and 50 RBI, with the ability to play catcher, first base and outfield.
On top of those six big-league players, Minnesota has a plethora of hitting prospects stewing in the minors. Aaron Hicks, Eddie Rosario, Oswaldo Arcia, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano all could be MLB-ready by 2014.
Sano projects as a prototypical power-hitting third baseman, meaning he’ll strikeout his fair share but also bash many baseballs into the Target Field seats.
Hicks and Buxton are basically the same players: fast, defensive outfielders with the ability to hit for a high average and steal some bases with a little power. Buxton has more upside as a power hitter because his body isn’t as filled out at 18 as Hicks’s is at 22-years-old.
Arcia and Rosario project as line-drive hitters with the ability to hit 15 homers per season (maybe more) and hit for a relatively high batting average.
With those players on the rise, it would appear the Twins would need just a few pitchers in the minor league system to step up to the plate. The problem is the two most likely candidates are recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Minnesota’s 2010 first round pick Alex Wimmers underwent the procedure in the last week and Kyle Gibson, Minnesota’s 2009 first round pick, is currently recovering from the procedure.
Who is least likely to be in Minnesota in 2014?
Beyond those two, the pitching cupboard is bare in Minnesota’s farm system.
The big-league team has one healthy pitcher worthy of a spot in any other teams’ rotation: Scott Diamond (9-5, 2.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP).
Sam Deduno has shown glimpses of fulfilling his promise as Baseball America’s No. 11 prospect with the Colorado Rockies prior to the 2009 campaign, but still has plenty of rust to shake off.
The Twins may or may not re-sign Scott Baker this offseason (it may or may not be worth it depending on how his elbow recovers).
Minnesota’s starting rotation for 2013 shapes up as: Diamond, Deduno, Nick Blackburn, Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing. It doesn’t exactly get the people going.
Twins fans need to face a simple fact: The next few years aren’t likely to be your Twins of the 1990's and early 2000's.
These Twins will win and lose games on their ability to score more runs than the opposition. And not by playing small ball, but by hitting the crap out of the ball and making the opposition pay for pitches left over the plate.
Get ready Minnesota. A new era is coming.